Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Study Abroad An Important Part Of Education

Welcome back to school!  Many high school students have already been in school and most colleges started classes yesterday.  It can be a very exciting and overwhelming time for young adults.  Deciding what courses you want to take, what organizations you want to be a part of , and I hope, deciding when and where to take a study abroad opportunity. 

Learning about the world around you is a major part of character development.  Not to mention it is a very attractive skillset to be able to highlight on your resume!  Various studies show that students who have studied abroad find employment more regularly and earn higher salaries than their peers who stayed in the US throughout college.  (Source: http://studyabroad.ucmerced.edu/study-abroad-statistics/statistics-study-abroad#resources)

Visit with your high school counselor or your college advisor on when would be a good time to add a study abroad to your course plan.  It could be a semester away or maybe even a mini-mester trip sandwiched between full semesters.  Once you know when is the best time to go, opportunities open up for you through academic offerings as well as civic organizations.  Chances to travel with 4H, Sister Cities organizations, Rotary Clubs and maybe even a senior class trip are great ways to get started in finding your love for world travel.
BCS Sister Cities touring Germany in 2010.

I would love to hear your stories of Study Abroad and how you found this calling.  Please share in comments!

Another great first step is to take the opportunities to learn about cultures in and around your own community.  You might have a classmate from India and learn about their country and culture and decide that is a place you want to visit.  Or maybe you take it a step further and attend events and meetings held by the Mexican Student Association or other "country clubs".    You can learn so much right here in your hometown if you look around with new lenses!  Take the opportunities that are available!

Get your PASSPORT!  Passports are good for 10 years.  Since they can take up to 6 weeks in some cases to process, get it now and have it on hand ready when the opportunity arises.  If you are local in the Bryan/College Station area, the study abroad office at Texas A&M University has a passport processing office.  Visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html to find out what forms and id you must have to apply for a passport.  The fee starts at $80, but additional fees apply if you need it expedited.

And of course, Brazos Valley Worldfest is an ideal event to learn about countries around the world, practice your foreign languages and make connections that could grow into so much more. 

Make Brazos Valley Worldfest your FIRST study abroad experience!  Attend or consider volunteering for the festival this year on November 4 and 5, 2016.  With 70+ countries represented at the festival through culture displays, performances, food and arts and crafts, Brazos Valley Worldfest is an ideal way to learn about multiple countries in one day.  Not only that, but you have the chance to visit with people from those countries and get a unique perspective on their country. 
Students in Russia.

Check out the festival website over the next few months to find out which countries/cultures will be participating.  www.brazosvalleyworldfest.org

If you are ready to start planning your college study abroad now, visit www.Studyabroad.tamu.edu

TAMU Study Abroad Center in Costa Rica

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Value of Learning a Foreign Language

I am born and raised in Texas.  The one regret I have in my life is to not have learned a foreign language.  Of course, most Texans can understand some Spanish... About enough to greet someone, order a beer and ask where the bathroom is.  But there is so much more to learning a language.  It is an integral part of learning about a culture.

The younger someone starts to learn a second language, the more they are able to absorb, but anyone, at any age, can learn a foreign language.

What Opportunities Are There to Learn a Foreign Language?

Online and Apps-
Many people learn a language on their own.  There are many options online.  Some of these include Rosetta Stone (FEE) or www.learnalanguage.com (FREE).

There are also numerous apps you can download to your smart phone and have your learning with you 24/7.  A great app I've seen is AccelaStudy. you can practice up to 18 different languages.  There is a free and a pay version.  for only $7.99 you will get access to  more than 2,100 words.  While helpful, it is not necessarily ideal on its own since there is no speaking or writing practice.

College Classes-
Of course, we live in the Brazos Valley which has some of the best higher learning options in the country.  Blinn and Texas A&M University offer many foreign language courses that you can take for credit or potentially audit.  Not to mention universities across the country offering online course.

Spanish - 
TAMU Center for International Business Studies offers Non-Credit Spanish Courses each fall and spring semester.  Some courses they offer are beginner, but with most you must have some experience with Spanish, or have permission from the instructor.  The fee is typically around $100 for 2 months worth of classes.    http://mays.tamu.edu/center-for-international-business-studies/language-instruction/non-credit-spanish-courses/

Chinese - 
The TAMU Confucius Institute is currently offering Summer 2016 Chinese language and culture classes.

Beginner 1A:  Tuesday & Thursdays, July 5-August 18, noon-1 p.m. ($35+book)
Beginner 1B:  Tuesday & Thursday, July 5-August 18, 5:30-7 p.m. ($35+book) 

In addition to these classes, they also offer Tai Chi, Calligraphy, history & culture and brush painting courses.  Please visit http://confucius.tamu.edu/main-menu/classes for more information including registration.
** If you are a high school student, consider checking out their Discovering China Summer Program.  This program includes a trip to China from June 4-16, 2016, with many opportunities to learn language, visit historic sites, seminars on Chinese culture and more!

Chinese & Korean Summer Program for Kids-
TAMU is offering a FREE summer program for children to learn the Chinese & Korean cultures and languages.  The classes are set up for incoming 2nd and 3rd graders with no prior experience in Chinese or Korean.  The program will from June 1-24 from 8am-noon and will take place at Spring Creek Elementary School.  Get on line ASAP as the deadline is March 27.  https://docs.google.com/a/tamu.edu/forms/d/1Fm3fmZqXysUiFfslDpSvAdkJxhZIbCDBmIYCifSUjPs/viewform 

Turkish - 
Did you know we have a very active Turkish community center in in B/CS?  We do and they offer language and cooking classes throughout the year!  The Raindrop Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in Houston in 2000, but now has branches in 6 states.   Check out their website for course offerings.  Make sure to get on their mailing list to be aware of other cultural events they host throughout the year.  http://www.raindropturkishhouse.org/collegestation

Japanese - 
The City of Bryan is currently offering the full Japanese experience this spring.  https://www.bryantx.gov/parks-and-recreation/special-programs-and-classes/#japanese
Remaining classes run through April and May and are $30 for residents and $35 for non-residents.  Students will learn the basic Japanese language structure and communication skills in both the conversational and written format. 

The Brazos Valley Czech Heritage Society regularly offers Czech language and cultural classes and events.  They are currently offering classes at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bryan.  Visit their website to see other programs taking place, http://bvchs.webnode.com/.  

Conversation Groups-
No matter what option you use to learn a foreign language, you must "Use it Or Lose It".  There are many conversation groups at Texas A&M University and Blinn.  Get together with a group for coffee and practice your foreign language.  Many English as a Second Language speakers would love to practice English with you while you are practicing their native language.  https://eli.tamu.edu/eli-spotlight-conversation-partners/

Are you aware of other language opportunities in our community?  Please share!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What is Brazos Valley Worldfest?

Many of you, who are probably my personal friends, know what Brazos Valley Worldfest is because I have been talking about it for the last 11 years.  Some others of you may just be getting familiar with it.  Brazos Valley Worldfest started as a community initiative as part of the United States Department of State International Education Week in November each year.

In 2006,Texas A&M University took the lead in organizing a community-wide festival due to its connection with the more than 5800 international students from 129 countries.  The university established an initiative to create a more welcoming environment for its international students, faculty and staff and their families.  What better way to welcome them to the Brazos Valley than to give them an opportunity to share their culture and learn about that of their temporary home.  The mission of the festival was created - To promote and celebrate the international diversity and heritage of the Brazos Valley.

For the next year TAMU found community partners interested in fulfilling this mission by volunteering to create this first-ever festival. By November 2007, the first Brazos Valley Worldfest was a reality.  With 2 stages and 27 culture displays, 3000+ attendees began learning more about the world around them.

 2007 video

In 2009, the festival found its current home at Wolf Pen Creek as well as a great partner in the City of College Station.  The city wanted to have a signature event to make better use of their awesome facilities and Brazos Valley Worldfest filled that bill.  From 2009 to 2013 the festival continued to grow up to 50+ culture displays and attendance of around 13,000.

The university provided staff to organize the festival, but always wanted this to be a community event and for groups off campus to participate and take pride in calling theirs.  In 2010, Brazos Valley Worldfest became a 501(c)3 nonprofit.  The festival has always been self sustaining with sponsorships, but now this opened up the opportunity for more grants and revenue opportunities.

In 2010, festival planners began expanding its reach to more than just one weekend of activities.  We began sharing cultural awareness at other events around the community as well as organizing additional programs such as Storytelling in Schools, Culture in the Classroom and Zumbathon.  The ultimate goal is always changing and growing as the festival itself grows.  Hopes for more programs as well as scholarships are still on the horizon.


Since its beginning, Brazos Valley Worldfest has shared international awareness through culture displays, demonstrations, performances, food tastings, arts and crafts, storytelling and more with more than 65,000 attendees.  Each year, more than 80% of attendees surveyed have learned something new about a culture that they were unaware of before attending Brazos Valley Worldfest.

Our next festival will be the 10th annual Brazos Valley Worldfest and planners are already looking to make it bigger and better.  More culture.  More education.  More fun.  We are always looking for unique performers and individuals and groups interested in setting up culture displays.  If you are interested, please email me at contactus@brazosvalleyworldfest.org.  It is FREE to set up a display and we provide tables and tents!

Connecting Cultures.  Honoring Heritage.  Brazos Valley Worldfest has a tradition of celebration and we hope you'll be joining us!  Keep updated by following this blog, liking us on FB and also on our website at http://www.brazosvalleyworldfest.org.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lunar New Year - 2016 Year of the Monkey

2016 (on the Chinese calendar) is the year of the Monkey starting from February 8 and ending on January 27, 2017.  The Monkey is the ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chines zodiac cycle. 

DID YOU KNOW? In Chinese astrology, each year is associated with one of 12 animal signs AND one of the five elements?  Both the sign and element of your birth year are said to affect your personality and destiny.  The element of 2016 is FIRE.  Someone born in 2016 will be ambitious and adventurous, but irritable.

If you are a Monkey, here are some Lucky, and Unlucky things you need to keep in mind.  I hope you took advantage of your lucky numbers on the Powerball!  If not, you know now!! 

Other Years of the Monkey:
Fire Monkey                        2016, 1956
Wood Monkey                     2004, 1944
Water Monkey                     1992, 1932
Gold Monkey                       1980, 1920
Earth Monkey                      1968, 1908
The Brazos Valley community has a large Chinese population and celebrating the Lunar New Year is a highlight of their year.  Every year the Confucius Institute at Texas A&M University organizes a community Lunar New Year Celebration.  The Chinese culture will be shared through crafts for kids (of all ages!), calligraphy, Kickstart performances from area schools, musical performances using traditional Asian instruments and my favorite -- Lee's Golden Dragon Troup will once again share their incredible lion dance and acrobatic talents.  The event is free.  Brazos Valley Worldfest is again excited to participate with a table on chopstick demonstration.  Come test your skill level!

Sources:  http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/monkey.htm

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Welcome to my new blog!  As Festival Coordinator for Brazos Valley Worldfest I have realized how much culture affects our daily lives without realizing it. 
As a person who was born and raised in Central Texas and has lived in a 40 mile radius my whole life - and has yet to get a stamp in my passport -  you might wonder what I know about world cultures.  I don't profess to be an expert, but thanks to having worked in international programs at Texas A&M University for the last 15+ years I have had the opportunity to meet people from around the world and learn about their cultures.  I have hosted students from around the world to dinner in my home. I have planned award ceremonies for President's of 2 different countries.  I consider myself very knowledgeable about international flags and flag protocol.  All of this is to say you don't have to be a world traveler to appreciate other cultures.  There are ways you can learn about the world in your own neighborhood.  I look forward to sharing what I have learned and hope to create an interest in my readers on how we all fit together in this ever shrinking world. 

Merriam-Webster defines culture as: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc of a particular society, group, place or time.  I am not promoting one culture over any other.  I look forward to sharing how even though some cultures may seem very different, we still have commonalities.  How does our culture affect how we think about others?  How we decide what to wear each day?  What we decide to pack for lunch?

I could not even list all of the cultures I identify with - volleyball mom, family member, Mom to a teenager, Texas A&M Former Student (WHOOP!), Catholic, Dog Lover, Sandwich Generation, German heritage, Southerner, Female in her 40's (UGH...), just to name a few.  I bet you never thought of some of those as being a culture right?  But each category fits with the definition of culture.  And don't we as humans LOVE to put things in categories!! 

Through this blog I'll share the mission of Brazos Valley Worldfest as well as other interesting facts about culture and heritage.  Including but not limited to: holidays, music and arts, interesting cultural awareness programs, food, cultural programs and festivals and many other ways we can all learn to connect with the world around us.  Please send me your questions and comments.  I would love to hear your thoughts.