Tag Archives: Culture

Taz: Making Big Waves in SD and Brazil

Name: Jose Tomaz de Alencar

Country: Brazil

Major: Communications with a minor in International Business

Languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English, French


 

996885_318972594905494_1632919081_n (1)“My name is Jose Tomaz de Alencar and I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Coming from a family of five brothers, all of which have double-names (“nomes compostos”), each one of us has a nickname, mine being Taz. I picked up English at a very early age through private tutoring. Likewise, by traveling to Spanish-speaking countries and befriending Spanish-speaking people I learned a mixture of Portuguese and “Español”; I call it Portuñol. I was also fortunate enough to spend my high school years at the American School of Paris, where I picked up a little bit of French. When I came to college I was uncertain of what I wanted for my future. After many conversations with my family and peers I decided to pursue a path of entrepreneurship. My major at the University of San Diego is Communication Studies, with a minor in International Business.

12050_10151473194731636_226494511_nWhen applying for colleges I knew I wanted to study in California. My brother was studying in UC Santa Barbara at the time, and after a couple of visits I knew this was the place for me. I wanted the sunny weather and firing waves that I had experienced while visiting California. When I arrived, I was not surprised to see that was exactly what San Diego had in store for me. At first, I was solely focused on experiencing the luxurious lifestyle of a Californian. However, as I matured and grew intellectually, I noticed that all of the tools I need to succeed in this life are in the same environment in which I sunbathe and surf. Here, I am surrounded by innovative minds that constantly challenge one another–I have multiple entrepreneurial friends who have their own start-ups and have begun to see profit. Everyday I am enlightened by brilliant professors who challenge me in ways that I have never been pushed before. For the first time in my life, I have started to see what my future might look like. I was no longer worrying about the next party or the next wave, but rather my next steps toward pursuing a successful career.
1013108_10151477115471636_1353255079_n (1)I decided to take a semester abroad my Sophomore year to return to Brazil and be with my family. I went to the International Office to explore my options and was presented an opportunity to study abroad back home. This gave me the chance to attain credits while being with my family through some tough times. The staff helped make the transition smooth and stress-free. Coincidentally, USD’s corresponding PUCE University in Brazil happened to be the same university at which many of my friends were studying. I would be walking around campus and run into some surprised friends, often exclaiming, “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be back in California?” It was intriguing to experience how different university classes were and a student life lacking an actual “community campus.” Overall, I loved experiencing the university in Brazil. More importantly, I loved being there for my family when they needed me most. I sincerely thank USD for the opportunity to studying ‘abroad’ when I needed to, as well as the opportunity to studying abroad here and experience the amazing Californian life.”

 -Jose Tomaz De Alencar

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(Photos by Jose Tomaz De Alencar)

All Faith Service: Water is Life, Solidarity

Many of USD’s International Students represented their home countries as flag bearers during this years All Faith Service. Ryan Blystone explains the beauty of the service as one of the many community building experiences for students of all faiths and backgrounds at USD to participate in.


From USD Magazine – Once a year, at the start of the University of San Diego’s spring semester comes a reminder of hope and of what’s possible when people come together.

“What I really like about this event is that it talks to my heart,” said Sarra Tlili, an Arab and Islamic studies scholar. “The dances, the music, singing, it was all so beautiful, so moving. The Jewish reflection was quite fascinating, reminding us of the humanity of basic relations. Really, each activity was different and had its own flavor, but each one contributed something.”

Tlili, a University of Florida professor, was basking in the emotions from both attending and participating in USD’s 22nd annual All Faith Service, Jan. 29 in Shiley Theatre. It was here that 600-plus among the USD campus community witnessed thoughtful and, at times, spellbinding reflections connected to the theme, “Water: A Sacred Trust.”

Each year the All Faith Service highlights a principle of Catholic Social Thought. This year’s focus, “Solidarity with the Human Family,” heralded water, which is an essential part of life and the ecosystem, as an opportunity to reflect on solidarity with others. Water holds a cherished place within the practices and beliefs of several faith traditions. Water symbolizes life and it cleanses and purifies. Devotion to water as a resource and inspiration for peace and harmony was displayed beautifully by Native American, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim faith expressions.

“I wanted to communicate that water is truly not just a SarraTlili-AFSinside2-230x300precious gift, but vital for our survival and for the survival of everyone,” said Tlili, whose Muslim reflection was the featured presentation. “Water is not just a physical thing our lives depend on, but there is a very important spiritual dimension linked to it. As a creature that praises God the way we praise God and, as a sign, we too are signs of God’s wisdom, creativity and power. Water shows us that. I also wanted to show that water is like when we awaken certain things we all know so well. In our scripture the same stories are told to reawaken us to life. If not, we start to take it for granted.”

From the moment the processional music, “Wayloyo Yamoni,” from Christopher Tin’s The Drop That Contained the Sea, played, the aisles were filled with USD student dancers, banner holders, flag bearers and following them was Rev. Michael T. White, C.S.Sp., USD’s resident university chaplain. Once all participants were on the Shiley Theatre stage, the engagement began.

“Diversity enriches us all,” said Father White during his welcoming address.

NativeAmerican-AFSinside3-244x300The Native American reflection was done by Lakota herbalist/educator Kathy Willcuts and Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe dancer-musician Steve Garcia. The duo presented “Wakan Mni Mni Wiconi.” Garcia played the flute flawlessly while Willcuts, with grace and precision, showcased the sacredness and life-giving qualities of water. Willcuts offered water to the Four Directions, as well as Mother Earth and Father Sky.

Upon completion, Monica Lopez Lacome ‘17 gave a Native American prayer of intercession and Founders Chapel cantors, Tori Berba ‘17 and Sarah Zentner ‘15, voiced a short chorus, “May the waters of the earth become our sacred trust.” This verse was repeated after each student-offered prayer, given by Audrey Miciano ‘15 (Christian), SOLES’ Kate Vosti ‘16 (Buddhist), Faisal al-harbi ‘16 (Muslim), Austin Jacobs ‘17 (Jewish) and Neha Chinchanikar ‘15 (Hindu).

The USD Choral Scholars, who made its first-ever appearance in the event’s history, performed the Christian presentation. Choral Scholars Director Emilie Amrein and students performed a AFSChoralScholars-insidephoto-300x214rousing rendition of a southern folk hymn, “Down in the River to Pray,” which talks about the act of a river baptism. At first, all members had their backs to the audience, but every few seconds a few turned to face the audience and it finished with the whole group singing as one powerful, united force.

Performing in the All Faith Service was a thrill for first-year students Haley Pugh and Alec Palmer, who are from Arizona and Connecticut, respectively.

“It hit me when we walked in how many people were there, wanting to be there and to be together,” said Pugh. “It was a beautiful event. Everyone’s performance was beautiful.” She specifically pointed out the Hindu dance by Bhavika Maniar and Noopur Mehta to “The Eternal River Yamuna.” Stated Pugh: “I really enjoyed their dance moves. I felt I could really see the water coming down when they made movements with their hands.”

Palmer said he appreciated being part of something bigger than himself and to continue bonding with his fellow singers. “It was so special to have the chance to perform in something like this, to be part of something that embodies the idea of peace. And to do it with a great group, a great community of people, was just amazing.”

The Buddhist reflection was a chant by the Venerable Phramaha Witchuphong Kanpanya, Ven. Phramaha Boontherd Thongmon, Ven. Phramaha Cherdchai Wannawan and the Ven. Phramaha Chaiya Kalapak. They focused on water and its purest form and the pouring of water is homage to ancestors and the souls of others.

Tlili’s reflection reminded the audience of everything water stands for — “every living thing. It sustains and nurtures life … water is sacred as life is sacred.”

AFS15Rabbi-insidephoto-221x300Jewish Rabbi Andrew Kastner told a riveting story of a great-grandfather, who lay dying, but provided life lessons in a final conversation with his grandson. He spoke of life as a unique combination of change and permanence; a mix of solid and liquid. “Seasons change, a beginning comes from every end, such as snow melting to provide water for rivers, leaves changing colors. Everything is balanced. Everything in the spiritual world has a counterpart.”

Father White provided a closing message of hope for greater unity and that water is a shared value. Through dance, blessing, song, chant, storytelling and the keynote reflection, “we should be striving for not what separates us, but for what unites us.”

Tlili appreciated that the service took place on a university campus and the audience for whom the majority was comprised — current students.

“As important as academics are, and the need to figure out things, to ponder a number of things is important, but what truly shapes us is when we get it across to the newer generation. Our attitude toward water is that everyone is wasting way too much. I’m not saying it is the young people. We all need to work on ourselves and remember that water is a gift, a precious gift, and we’re not treating it as well as we should be. I hope this message came across well because if it teaches us all to treat water with less wastefulness, that will mean everything.”

— Ryan T. Blystone


 

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To see more photos of USD’s International Student’s at the All Faith Service, click here.

Tips from Abdullah: Transitioning from Kuwait to a Master’s in Accounting at USD

Name: Abdullah Al-Owisi

Country: Kuwait

Major (s): I finished my undergraduate years with a finance major and an accounting minor. I am now finishing up my Master’s of Science in Accountancy (MACC)

Languages spoken: Arabic and English


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I picked the University of San Diego firstly because it was on the list of approved schools I could attend under the scholarship from the Kuwaiti Ministry of Higher Education. The list of schools I could choose from was rather broad but choosing a school in the beautiful city of San Diego, which I had heard a lot about was easy. I had never been the United States prior to my college career but I had a friend who started college in San Diego before me. So I consulted him about San Diego in general and the University of San Diego in particular, he told me I shouldn’t think twice about coming here, and the rest is history.

In terms of transitioning from Kuwait to the United States, I thankfully did not face as much of a culture shock as I initially anticipated. Academically speaking, I had attended an American school my whole life back in Kuwait and so the academic setting required almost no adjustment whatsoever. Culturally speaking, it was the college culture that was relatively new to me. I think this is the same regardless of where you go to school, the transition from high school to university always requires some form of adjustment. For me personally the biggest difference was living alone for the first time in my life, away from my family, my friends, and my country. I was truly independent for the first time in my life, and I flourished with this newfound independence.

I had always had plans to pursue higher education and not stop at a bachelor’s degree. So after completing my four years of undergraduate studies, I stumbled upon the MACC program at USD. Due to my solid academic performance in my four undergrad years, I had qualified for a scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree. At the same time the job market back home in Kuwait was flooded with recent graduates, especially with business majors like myself. I needed to go one step further to distinguish myself from the other recent graduates and stand out from the pack. I can’t say I had had enough of San Diego at the end of my four-year adventure, but on the contrary. I was eager to stay. And so I applied for the MACC program at USD, and I got in. Being a numbers guy, I liked finance and accounting, and I did very well in those classes, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to pursue the Masters of Science in Accountancy at my same school, USD.

The MACC program is only one year long so before I knew it I was staring at my last remaining months here in the United States. At this stage of my life, I had spent five years in undergraduate and graduate studies and was ready to enter the job market to apply all that I had learned. I welcomed the prospect of working in San Diego but acknowledged the potential difficulty regarding my international visa status. So I applied for the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT) and I am expecting to receive my card any day now. At this moment I am still engaged in the job search and I have accepted the obstacle set forth by my international student status. However, this does not discourage me any less to keep trying to find a job here and hopefully get the opportunity to prove myself in the American job market. If I feel I have a better opportunity to progress in my working career back home, then I am not hesitant to go with that. I had the disadvantage of starting my job search a little late as a piece of advice I would give to international students is to try and establish networking connections with employers early on in your academic career. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life and I thank the University of San Diego for being my home for the last five years.

I wish all the USD students the best of luck in their current academic careers and future employment. Go Toreros!

-Abdullah Al-Owisi

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Reflections from German Biochemistry Graduate and Researcher: Lea Kiefer

Name: Lea Kiefer

Country: Germany

Major: Biochemistry with a minor in Mathematics

Languages Spoken: German and English


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Hey! My name is Lea Kiefer and I used to be an international student at the University of San Diego up until recently (Dec 2014) when I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a math minor. I specifically picked USD for its great science department. The department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as the Biology department are very small and full of great professors. Undergraduate research is mandatory and is easily accessible to all students studying in the sciences. The professors are highly supportive when it comes to scientific work inside and outside the classroom. It is even possible that a professor will take you to a national conference to present your research or include you on a scientific article published in a prestigious magazine. The key, not just in the science department, is to get to know your professors early on. USD professors are generally willing to help you out and are great connections to have.

Besides the academic side of USD, I think it is important to get involved in student life on campus. A great organization to join is, of course, the International Student Organization (ISO). I joined ISO my freshmen year and got selected into the executive board at the end of that year. I have served on the board until I graduated and never regretted my time commitment to ISO. I found many of my best friends in ISO and it somewhat evolved into my family far away from home. Another great opportunity that USD bears is the Outdoor Adventures Club. They usually organize amazing camping and hiking trips to the various national parks close by. In addition, it is also important to join professional clubs and honors organizations to boost your resume.15993561985_c50764d742_z

Even though USD might not be one of the top schools in the country, it can definitely give you what most top schools cannot give an undergraduate student: lots of one-on-one time with your professors. So make use of that because it will give you an advantage over many other skilled applicants when you go on to graduate school or into the working field. If you decide to go to graduate school you should take the generalized tests necessary (GRE, GMAT) early on in the summer before your senior year. This will allow you enough time to find schools, apply and send the necessary documents. It is important to keep checking in with your faculty advisor while in the application process, since he or she will have a tremendous influence on your application through the letter of recommendation.

Overall, it is never too early to start thinking about future plans and the earlier you start the better prepared you are for what is about to come.

– Lea Kiefer

Students Display Creative Collaboration Research

From Inside USD – Want to get a true sense of what today’s students at the University of San Diego are studying? Want to see what moves them, what interests them, where their passion, emotion and curiosity take them? On Thursday, for two-plus hours, the 24th annual Creative Collaborations event, held in the Hahn University Center, was the place to be.

Inside the UC Forums, alcoves and the UC Exhibit Hall were more than 200 posters, artwork and projects with live elements and physical demonstrations of undergraduate student research showcasing many disciplines and work done with faculty advisement and encouragement.

“The name Creative Collaborations implies that the work done by students and faculty is a collaborative process, but here, students are treated as peers, their work is important and their contribution to the research is as impactful as our faculty,” said Sonia Zarate, director of USD’s Office of Undergraduate Research.

Students certainly took the lead on Thursday by giving presentations to a large and interested audience that included USD President Mary E. Lyons, Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez, a cross-section of faculty, visiting local high school students, and USD students, some of whom were assigned to observe the posters and provide feedback on student presentations.

Said Alex DeVito, a student in Ethnic Studies Professor Michelle Jacob’s class, about what he took away from viewing Katherine Pfost’s Communication Studies project titled, Mental Illness in the Media: Where is the Silver Lining? “The limited portrayal of mental illness in film and media limits our understanding and acceptance of real illnesses and many people fear seeking help because of this.”

Another presentation proved to be a learning experience for both the student reviewer of freshman Shanna McKenzie’s “Working Wonders: An Analysis of the Tensions Between Catholicism and Indigenous Culture” poster and for McKenzie (pictured, at right). The latter is a Native American student, a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, whose home base is in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains town of Bishop.

“Before I started, I had no idea there was a Native American saint [Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was bestowed this honor in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI],” McKenzie said. “This showed me a whole different side of my culture and opened my eyes more about Catholicism.”

McKenzie examined tensions and points of convergence between traditional indigenous culture and Catholicism and explained that Kateri’s saint status is important because of the skepticism that remains due to her canonization.

“It was very interesting, especially at a Catholic university,” said Jesse Frost in her review of McKenzie’s poster. “It was interesting to look at the tensions that exist, but also the ways in which they connect.”

Meanwhile, one project with a strong engineering connection, between Advantageous Systems LLC and electrical engineering majors Sergio Palacios, Moath Alzahrani, David Polo (pictured, top left) and Samuel Wood from the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, was on display in the UC alcove. The student group’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) temperature sensor has a visual cue that is set when a critical temperature is reached or surpassed. The RFID tag can be read with a field communication-compatible Android phone.

Psychology major Emily Knuutine (pictured, at left) took an interdisciplinary approach to her project. She did a survey with 302 participants for “Organic Food and Politics: How Political Affiliation Influences Perception of Environmental and Health Messaging Regarding Organic Food.” The project set to frame pesticides as being bad for human health versus bad for the environment to see if it would lead to significant changes in positive attitudes toward organic foods.

Her survey, which polled people between ages 18-72 and represented 44 of 50 states, drew two conclusions.

“Using education of any kind improved attitudes toward organic food; and political affiliation does not influence the presumption of the message,” Knuutine said.

There were numerous thought-provoking research projects displayed, too, including a sociology topic by Denise Ambriz(pictured, at right) called “Rethinking American: the Double Consciousness of Undocumented Students”; Nicholas Dilonardo’s English topic: “On Social Media, Subjectivity and Kanye West”; and a large group of sophomore engineering students who worked together on the project: “It’s Critical: Student Attitudes Toward Critical Thinking and an Assessment of a Lecture to an introductory Engineering Class.”

The latter project seemed particularly fitting Thursday. Understanding and being able to convey critical thinking is an essential skill for students who participate in Creative Collaborations. Undergraduate research is a hallmark of a USD undergraduate education and Thursday’s event showed once again that research can happen in any field of study.

For Zarate, who started in her leadership role at USD in January, she was pleased to see the students’ excitement. She was quite impressed with the proactive support campus-wide and appreciative of donors whose funding makes the research and the event possible.

“It was so beautiful to see,” she said. “You know that saying that it takes a village to raise a child? This is our village. This is our Creative Collaborations.”

— Ryan T. Blystone