Healthcare Abroad in Kenya – Kathleen Robinson, Honors Biology Major

Kathleen RobinsonFor her off-campus study, Kathleen accompanied students and faculty from the Nursing Department on their annual trip to Kenya. As she plans to become a physician assistant, the experience she gained on this trip was invaluable. She observed and assisted medical personnel with a variety of health situations, some of which are not often seen in the U.S.—if at all. She also learned to appreciate a different culture and how to adapt to different situations. Overall, her time in Kenya was a profound experience.

The first stop on the trip was a government-run hospital in the city of Kisumu. She and the other students from UM-Flint had orientation with Kenyan nursing students their first day at the hospital. Although she had known beforehand that the hospital did not have the technology and resources that hospitals in the U.S. had, she had not anticipated how much it would affect its practice and cleanliness. For example, they did not always have the supplies available to wipe down examination tables or clean their hands with antibacterial wash. It was very difficult for her to see that people were dying because they did not have the supplies necessary to help them. Her first rotation took place in the Emergency Department where a single nurse examined patients with the help of a few nursing students. People were lined up on benches waiting to be seen and even patients brought in by ambulance had to wait at least fifteen minutes to be examined. During one such drop-off, a girl passed away before she could be seen. Kathleen has encountered death in emergency situations before and thought that she would be prepared, but this case was different. She was sad that no one was able to examine her before she passed and that no one was with her. However, she did not blame anyone because she knew that the small staff was doing the best they could with the resources they had. She admired the nurse for her courage and perseverance. “It was amazing to see how these nurses practice and continue to want to work in those environments because, if she wasn’t there, who would help the patients?”

Kathleen also had the opportunity to spend time in a dispensary in a village outside Kisumu. She was able to help out in the pharmacy by counting medication and also in the immunization room where she was shown a variety of things such as how to measure, weigh, and record immunizations; how to administer immunizations; and how to check for malaria. The experience was very valuable and she felt like she was lessening the workload for the staff.Kathleen_Robinson_children

The second half of the trip was spent in Nairobi where she did rotations at St. Mary’s Mission Hospital and helped the nurses from St. Mary’s provide medical care at the Good Samaritan Orphanage in the slums. “The orphans and surrounding families lived in such meager conditions. However, these conditions that we may think would be horrendous and unlivable for us did not affect the happiness or love they shared. They were so joyous and welcoming towards our group. Just experiencing the love from these children showed me the innocence of these kids and how they are just like any other kid. They had such hope and happiness for the future. It was very inspiring.”

The experiences of this trip have significantly impacted her life.  First, it has helped her become more culturally sensitive. Second, it has taught her how to adapt to certain situations, which include a lack of medical supplies and communication barriers. She learned that, by opening yourself up and learning all that you can, you can forge connections with others. “I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone but, with that, I grew and now I have more confidence in stepping out and taking risks. I am so blessed to be able to experience this trip and I am excited to see how this will impact my future plans and job.”


International Business and East Asian Culture – Fatima Qureshi, Honors Business Major, Japan and Taiwan

Fatima QureshiOur first day was packed with tours and site-seeing. We received a rundown of the entire Taiwan experience as well as pointers and tips. We took a tour of the National Palace Museum and also went to the Taipei 101 Observatory. Both places were absolutely stunning and the information we received was fantastic. In Taipei, we were using public transportation or our feet. Even after going to only two or three places we were exhausted. In the days that followed, we attended several lectures on the Taiwanese economy and the booming business sector in Taiwan at the National Taipei Public University. We also visited the Tarako Gorge and the Tarako National Park in eastern Taiwan. At the park, I and three other participants climbed a hundred stairs to get to a temple in the mountains. It was breathtaking. On the last day of our trip, we went to visit the Bunun Tribe and the Kuanfu sugar plant. The day we headed back to Taipei, we were exhausted from three days of nonstop adventures.

Being a business student, I observed the marketing strategies all around me. The advertising was nothing like I had seen before. What I noticed was the use of bright colors in most of the advertisements, the cartoon-like mascots for practically everything (especially electronics), and their emphasis on the youth as spokespeople for some items. Because Taiwan is a leader in technology innovation and production, I saw a large variety of computers, cell phones, PDAs, etc. One unique aspect was the amount of customization available.Fatima Jumping

The next day, we were off to the airport to fly to Osaka, Japan. Here, we were staying in Hikone where the Japanese Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) is located. We attended a Survival Japanese class where each one of us was called on to answer a Japanese question in Japanese; the experience was full of laughs and embarrassment. The next day, we went on a day trip to Kyoto. We visited Nijojo and the United Nations World Heritage Site and we went to Kinkakuji. That night, we went to Gion Corner where we saw geishas and I was part of a tea ceremony, which was very cool. We were also part of the JCMU 20th Anniversary celebration where we met a lot of students and were exposed to many different cultural things. We also took a day trip to Nagoya where we took a tour of a Toyota plant. On our last day, we visited Hikone castle and attended a lecture on Japanese culture and history.

I am amazed at the experiences I had, the people I met, and the things I took back. Truly a lifetime experience.


Mass Transportation and the New “Informal” Regional Government – Adam Zettel, Honors Public Administration and Political Science Major, Scotland

Adam Zettel, EgyptI was fortunate to locate and liaise with members from the University of Glasgow’s Urban Studies Department. My primary contact and later advisor, Dr. Iain Docherty, aided me with developing my proposal. Dr. Docherty’s dissertation was an analysis of the regional governing deficiencies of the fragmentized southern cities in the UK with a comparison to the regional council of Glasgow. This would later be a great help concerning my project. With the counsel of Dr. Docherty and another contact from the University of Aberdeen, Dr. Jon Shaw, I was able to develop a project which would coincide with Dr. Shaw’s. This project was to be an analysis of the effectiveness of European transportation sustainability movement on UK cities. My function was to be primarily that of a research assistant.

During the first week, I became familiar with the city of Glasgow, shopped for necessary supplies, settled in at my flat, spent some time in the library, and consulted with my advisor. It was at this time that I realized that the project that I set up with Dr. Shaw would not be feasible because of new circumstances affecting Dr. Shaw’s responsibilities. I had to develop a project that was not dependent on anybody else’s work, and I had to do it fast. Dr. Docherty and I were then able to set up a completely new project that would be my own. Dr. Docherty’s advice and assistance were still a great help as well as the services of the department even though my project became an independent one.

I spent the next couple weeks completing a new bibliography and theoretical framework. Most of the books were recommended and even loaned to me from my advisor. These works and lunches with Dr. Iain helped give me the insight and knowledge that I would need later to complete the interviews successfully. The project was now to take place solely in Glasgow, studying the effects of the new, “informal” regional government using the sustainable transport issues as a guide to assessing the government structure and governance of those involved.

After a month or so of preparing and reading, I sent formal letters requesting interviews with public officials at the direction of my advisor. I had a good response rate due to the relationship these people had with my advisor. I performed the interviews over the next four weeks and transcribe them into electronic text. These interviews were very productive and contributed greatly to my project.

Cairo was a completely different experience with its own acquaintances and experiences. This I did with my own resources as a side trip that I had always wanted to take. The climate change was very extreme, going from sixty degrees Fahrenheit for a high in Glasgow to over one-hundred in Egypt, was quite extreme. I was able to take in many of the typical tourist attractions including the pyramids and the Egyptian museum. I was also lucky to meet a family from Giza that invited me to stay with them to see life in the countryside and even an Egyptian wedding. I was glad that I took the time to experience such a trip because it was unlike any other European destination that I have encountered.

I had a most excellent and academically beneficial time. I feel that I was able to find a good balance between enjoying the different opportunities offered by studying away from home; such as meeting new people, and developing and executing a successful undergraduate thesis project. I cannot think of a better way to spend three months. I was given the chance to perform research with the guidance of experienced and brilliant minds as well as see part of the world culture and the people that compose a large international community. This experience has undoubtedly changed the way I view life, people, and even my academic studies in planning, pubic administration, and politics. I am very grateful that the Honors Program at the University of Michigan-Flint has given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and prove myself academically for the betterment of myself and the public which I will one day serve.


History and Medieval Studies – Desirée Sharland, Honors History and Spanish Major, Great Britain

Desiree Sharland, StonehengeI was thrilled when I received my acceptance letter for the International Summer Schools Programme at Cambridge University. I could not have been more excited when I decided to research an aspect of the King Arthur legacy as I have always loved reading about him. One of the classes in the Medieval Studies Programme was on King Arthur and I was extremely interested in finding out what the British thought about him.

While studying at Cambridge University, I spent much of my free time collecting material that I could use for my research, either from books I found in the Summer School’s library, or directly from the professors of my classes. In addition to the information I learned in my King Arthur class, I also learned interesting facts that I did not know, such as the presence of a round table at Windsor Castle at one time. I learned this in a plenary lecture titled “Searching for King Arthur from Windsor to Tintagel” by Julian Munby.Desiree Sharland, Norwich England Cathedral

Studying in and traveling around the British Isles for two months was a fantastic experience for me. I not only learned a great deal from the classes I took, but I was also able to gather a lot of necessary information for my thesis. I discovered that King Arthur is an integral part of British culture. His legacy would have crossed my path many times, even if I had not been searching for it. This opportunity has without a doubt changed my life. While traveling around and in Cambridge, I met many people from all over the world. I learned a great deal about other cultures, and in the process I made some very close friends. This experience also gave me the ability to learn more about myself; I became more independent and extroverted, and I discovered a couple of careers that I am highly interested in. I also experienced the British school system and now I would love to pursue graduate school in the UK. I hope that I will someday be able to return to Britain.


Internet Marketing in the United States in Comparison with China – Danielle Linker, Honors Business Major

Danielle Linker, Great Wall Before my trip to China, I had little idea of what my experiences would hold. I set off with an open mind and a mission to compare marketing strategies used in China, particularly the internet, to those of the United States. To accomplish my goal, I began by asking a Chinese marketing teacher about his idea of internet marketing in China in comparison to the US. He felt that China has a long way to go to compare to the quality of the United States, but they are on their way. I feel they make up for their marketing in different ways. From catchy commercials and alluring advertisements, China still has a strong marketing field. During my studies, I saw many of the typical Billboards and posters in subways and bus stops. Marketing is still highly prevalent in China, but I feel their stronger powers are still in ways different than the internet.

Overall, the attitude in the workplaces in China was very positive. Workers seemed happy and thankful for their jobs. The work ethics exhibited were very good. I did not see anyone standing around waiting for things to do. People at work seemed to have well-defined tasks. I respect that the workers seemed to have a mind-set that working is a fact of life, and they were simply doing what they need to do, and happy to be doing it. I was also very impressed with how our group was welcomed into the businesses that we visited. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with warm smiles. I never felt that we were a nuisance or intruding on their workday. Instead, I felt as though it was a highlight in their day to be able to host us.

I was expecting a language barrier to pose a problem in my travels since I do not speak Chinese. The language could pose a problem at times, especially when communicating with taxi drivers, but overall, it wasn’t too bad. People were very helpful in communicating. It was very refreshing that the people were not impatient or annoyed with me for not speaking their language. I never felt unsafe in Danielle Linkerany of the places I visited, and if we ever got turned around and didn’t know how to navigate the area, it was easy to find people who were willing to help.

Something that is undeniably prevalent in China is their strong culture. It is obvious that Chinese culture plays a role in everything they do. I find it admirable that important cultural aspects are still being passed down from generation to generation. I could tell just from observing that there is a very collective culture. From the workplace, to the schools, to just watching people on the streets, you can see their collective nature. People are very close to each other, all around. Maybe it comes with their high population, but people are not afraid to be near one-another, even complete strangers. I feel that everything relates back to respect toward others and working together as a whole. Most people even talk to complete strangers as if they know them. Since the United States is very individualistic in most ways, this was something very different for me to see.

My trip to China had a big effect on my attitude and knowledge about international diversity. I can genuinely say that it opened my eyes to a new way of living. Going into this trip, I knew that things would be different, but it was a whole new experience to actually live it. I now have a great appreciation for Chinese culture. I admire their ability to hold onto their culture throughout many generations, and keep their focus on their desire for peace and harmony.


“Communicating Culture” – Elizabeth LeBlanc, Honors Spanish Major, Salamanca, Spain

Elizabeth LeBlanc and Elizabeth Houbeck, Salamanca CastleI went to Spain in the hopes of examining the influence of Spain on the Latin American countries. Using Carlos Fuentes’ illustration of “The Buried Mirror”, I planned to examine the roots of the cultures of the Latin American people I had come to know through my work in Rhode Island. Not only was I able to observe the influence of Spain on Latin America, but I was also able to see the influence of Spain on the culture of the United States.

It was Spain’s far reaching influences into my own culture that surprised and fascinated me. My fascination was fed by the excellent and comprehensive courses that I took over my six-week stay in Spain. I attended courses at the University of Salamanca five days a week for four hours a day.

In addition to daily classes, I also participated in daily cultural activities throughout the city of Salamanca. These included touring the Salamantine art museums, cathedrals and runes; viewing plays about the history of Salamanca; attending jazz and classical concerts throughout the city; and visiting various market places around the city. But the truest taste of the culture came from walking. I walked everywhere around the city until my feet were covered with blisters and my city maps were falling apart with frequent use. It was while walking that I was able to slow down my stay in Spain and take in every sight, taste and smell. It was also while walking that I was able to practice my Spanish more, speaking with local merchants, asking for directions and inquiring as to the importance of local statues, cathedrals and museums.Elizabeth LeBlanc and Elizabeth Houbeck, Spain

My studies, the cultural activities, and travel all added richly to my experience and served as endless material for the blog that I was working on. The blog was part of my final project for Honors, but also served as a way to really digest and understand the Spanish culture. “Communicating Culture,” the travel blog, examined the culture and history of Spain especially as it applied to Spain’s influences on other cultures.

In Segovia, there is a castle called the Alcazar that served as the inspiration for Disney’s castles in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. The story of the Alcazar made me realize the influence that Spain had on the culture of the United States and spurred a blog post about it. Living down the street from the site where Columbus asked for permission to go the New World allowed me to again touch on the significance of Columbus’ discovery on American culture and identity.


Influences of Synthetic Colloids, Both Oncotic and Haemostatic, in Normal Horses – Ariel Fray, Honors Biology Major, Sydney, Australia

Ariel FrayMy off campus study was an experience of a lifetime. I did not grow up in a family of travelers, and I assumed that my travels as an adult would take me no farther. I had never gone farther away from home than Florida, and the only foreign country I had ever visited was Canada. However, with the help of the University of Michigan-Flint Honors Program, I was able to go out and see the world as I assisted in research in Australia. With the help of Dr. Darien Freary and the vets at the clinic, and the friends I made on campus, this trip turned out to be a terrific adventure that will forever hold a place in my memory.

The first thing I noticed as I landed in Sydney and made my way to what I would be calling home for the next month was the hospitality and kindness of each and every Australian I met, Ariel Fray, Aussie Blue Mountainsespecially Dr. Darien, the vet I would soon be assisting. She picked me up at the airport, and with a big hug took my luggage and walked me out to her vehicle. She drove me to the University of Sydney’s Camden campus and got me started on the work that I would be doing for the research project. Right away I felt as if I were an important part of this study. After my work for the day was finished, I was introduced to some of the students who lived in my dorm. I quickly made friends with my dorm mates who, throughout my stay, always gave me company and allowed me someone to talk to.

All of the experiences I had were of a once-in-a-lifetime caliber. Even simple things like seeing a wallaby on an evening run around the campus were so enjoyable I had to constantly stop and thank God for having this opportunity. I would highly recommend any student at the university to get out and live in the world if only for a month of your life, because it will be a month you will remember for your entire lifetime. I feel so much more well-rounded and cultured and I am sure that I am a better person for having taken my off campus trip.


Volunteer Abroad in the Dominican Republic – Stephanie Chapman, Honors Social Work Major

Chapman PaintingThe idea of going to the Dominican Republic to help a few small communities became very appealing to me. I knew it would be a cultural immersion and it would definitely help to increase my cultural awareness and competence, which is something that is stressed in my chosen profession, social work.

Our task was to level the ground surrounding the Women’s Center in Las Palmillas, paint a mural, and help to prepare for a fence to be built around the center. We only had a few pickaxes and shovels, but we quickly learned to work with what we had. I got to speak with some of the women who emphasized the fact that we were empowering them. Because of all the hard work we were putting in and them physically seeing us make progress, they knew that they could also accomplish much. This was my first indication that I was making a difference in this community.

By the end of the week we had completed what we had set out to do and the Center looked beautiful. We also were able to put on workshops for the women and children on proper nutrition and hygiene. Later that night, I was asked if I wanted to spend a day at the clinic which is where some of the other students had been all week. I agreed because I wanted to see how their health care system differed from the system in the United States.

When I arrived at the clinic I was amazed at how many people were lined up to be seen. I was able to work in pediatrics in the morning and this was truly rewarding. I got to hold a baby and try to cheer the kids up who were sick. Many of the children just needed a simple antibiotic, but their family just could not afford it. In the afternoon I got to work on fitting people for eyeglasses. This was rewarding because something so simple as a pair of readers made a significant difference for these older individuals. They expressed much joy after they realized they could see clearer and read. They were truly grateful.Chapman Streets

I never imagined spending my off campus study in a foreign country, but I am so glad I did.

As I reflect back on my time and experience in the Dominican Republic, it is very difficult for me to narrow down all that I learned. First of all, the Dominican people are some of the most respectful, caring, and grateful people that I have ever come to know. They welcomed us every day, laughed with us, fed us, the list goes on. Most importantly, as they learned from us, I know we learned from them. Although a barrier, language didn’t matter. We related to one another as people with rights and worth. It was difficult for me to see that the women and children had so little when I have so much. The trip really allowed me to reflect on American culture and develop a sense of cultural awareness for other cultures that I am not familiar with.


Physical and Analytical Chemistry in Germany – Alexander Khobeir, Honors Biochem/Molecular Bio & Biotech Major

khobeir1“One saying I learned that I will never forget is ‘traveling is not for the rich but for the bold.’ As I live here in the United States, I will live what I learned; I will teach what I learned; and most importantly, I will share what I learned.”

Alexander spent nearly a year searching for an off-campus study location at universities around the world, but had no luck. Just as he was about to give up and stay at UM-Flint, Dr. Thum approached him with an amazing opportunity. “How would you like to go to Germany for the summer?” His answer was an immediate “Yes!”

For over two months, Alexander worked in Dr. Thorsten Benter’s Physical and Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at Bergische Universitat Wuppertal in Wuppertal, Germany. During this trip, he had his first experience with culture shock. “Although I knew conversational German, it was not on the level of native fluency. The first day there I was physically and mentally exhausted! Everything around me looked like America, but it was not America!”

The first day in the lab was nothing like Alexander or his lab partner, another Honors student, had expected. They had both taken a class on proper German etiquette before leaving, but it failed to take into account the unique personality of their professor. When they politely addressed him as “Professor Dr. Benter,” he laughed and said, “Who is that? I am Thorsten!” Having been exposed to the casual style of the University of California, Irvine, he preferred it over the formality of Germany.

khobeir2Dr. Benter and his research group made Alexander’s experience unforgettable. He noticed that people loved working for Dr. Benter and that everyone functioned as one cohesive unit. His assigned project was based on physical and analytical chemistry, two courses that Alexander had yet to take. He and his partner spent the first week taking a crash course in chemistry, reading scientific papers and asking questions. “Professor Benter sat with us the entire week and explained everything at the most basic level and worked his way up. I learned more in that week than I would in one semester of chemistry classes.” Alexander was assigned to Professor Hendrick Kersten’s project to develop, test, and calibrate an analytical and sensitive method to detect explosives, narcotics, etc. in the air, which would then be integrated into a product to be used in airports, schools, and medical offices around the world. His specific task was to test various chemicals and create calibration curves for each chemical. Although Alexander plans to attend medical school, what he learned can also be used in medical biotechnology. “I was in love with the whole process and task. In fact, I loved it so much that the professor noticed and asked me to stay longer.”

Studying and research were not the only things he did during his stay. He traveled to over 20 cities in Germany along with Paris, Rome, Vatican City, Amsterdam, and Belgium. “Rome was the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The history you experience as you walk up and down a block is astounding!”

Alexander has received a job offer from Dr. Benter for next summer and looks forward to working in his lab again.


Little Shop of Horrors

“The most important thing I learned during my off-campus trip is how significant the very act of going on an off-campus trip is.” Kelly’s topic for her Off-campus Project was “Designer Research Methods and Outside Influences, and Specific Scenic Design Research for Little Shop of Horrors, at the University of Michigan –Flint, Fall 2013”

Kelly Skyline

Kelly Burge, Theatre Major

Kelly and Assistant Professor Shelby Newport traveled to Chicago to see three plays, visit the Chicago Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The objective was to gather research for the fall 2013 University of Michigan-Flint Theatre production of Little Shop of Horrors. Kelly has been given the honor of designing the set as part of her Honors Thesis. “Student design opportunities are very serious in our department, and must be earned, so being given this opportunity is tremendous for me, and was sparked and made possible by my need for a thesis project in the Honors Program.”

“We chose Chicago, because I had never been there, and it was a great place to see a lot of art and theatre all in the same place. It also allowed for primary research of physical elements that could be included in my set design.” Kelly was able to see the contrast between an elaborate set with many expensive mechanical elements, and a simple set with limited props, and few design elements. She learned the importance of paying attention to every detail in order to get her point across to her audience.

“We also took the time to explore the neighborhoods of Chicago as an opportunity for first hand research. I took a lot of pictures of store front windows, signs, awnings, and of the decay of buildings, and other textural elements that I might include in my project.” Included in their trip were an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River and a tour of the midcentury masterpiece Farnsworth House in Plano, IL that directly linked Kelly’s off campus research to her in class work in one of Professor Newport’s courses, Modernism (THE 241).

Not only was Kelly able to gather artistic data for her project, but she was able to meet with professionals in her field. Professor Newport introduced her to friends and colleagues from the various theatres, and Kelly was able to talk with them, ask questions, and learn about their work and life. “It made me think differently about what I will do when I graduate next year.”

Spending time with Professor Newport was invaluable as well. “Everything I did on this trip, I did with her, and so was able to ask every question I could think of, and get her professional opinion/insight on everything we saw. Not to mention, when we were in the car together, I was able to talk through my project with her, from my ideas to my struggles, and she helped me come up with a lot of new ideas, and get through some mental obstacles I was having in this, the earliest stage of my project development.”

Professor Newport added, “My time with Kelly in Chicago was shelbykellyboat tourequally as enlightening and exciting for me as a professional designer; teaching a student to open their eyes to the world around them, and then to use all that visual stimulus for design inspiration is what I strive to do, so to watch it all come together for Kelly was really rewarding.  I also took tons of research photos and gained new ideas from the productions we saw; as designers we are always learning and always looking!”

Regarding her off-campus experience, Kelly stated, “I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the support of the Honors Program and the Department of Theatre and dance for making it possible.” See Kelly’s off-campus research at work on the stage of the University Theatre November 1-3, 9, 15, 17.