Week 6: The Great Gatsby

Sep 23, 2014

On Saturday we were invited to the President's Tailgate at his residence. This tailgate was completely different than the one I wrote about two weeks ago. It was held in his beautiful lush garden. The tables and chairs were all white, the table cloths white and blue, the colors of the Nittany Lions.

There were lots of people there and at the beginning of the Tailgate the President introduced his special guests, and among the special guests were we - the Humphrey Fellows! Oh how proud and honored I was to be there wearing my Penn State T-shirt and waving at the other invitees.

After the cheerleaders' performance accompanied by the Blue Band we watched a stunning performance of the Musical Theatre group. They danced and sang the songs from the 1920s and the songs, the dance and the setting made me feel as if I was at a fabulous Gatsby's party. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books and I felt great!

After  lunch we were bussed to the President's private reception in his private lounge which is on the top  of  the Beaver Stadium. Our seats were in the first row and we immensely enjoyed the view, the food, the Berkey Creamery ice-cream, delicious chocolate chip cookies, chatting with other people, and the game of course. I'm not very much into football, but I believe I could go to games like this every Saturday. I even started to learn the cheerleading skills.

Apart from being introduced at the Tailgate by the President, we introduced ourselves to the Penn State faculty at two occasions - during the Fall Meeting of the College of Education and at the Comparative and International Education Program Brown Bag lunch.

Delicious food was served at all these events, but the real treat was Berkey Creamery. Their Death by Chocolate ice-cream is the best chocolate ice-cream I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot of chocolate ice-cream all over the world). No wonder it is the best, because, they say, only 4 days pass between milking the cows in the University's Dairy Production Research Center and selling the ice-cream in the University creamery.

As for the classes, this week I had a wonderful and long-awaited opportunity to try the Google Glass. It was an amazing experience and despite its many flaws, I could get used to wearing it and using it every day. If only it wasn't so expensive.

Week 5: More than a thousand words

Sep 15, 2014

We had our official photos taken this past week. Dress code was formal and we all spruced up for the occasion. After our individual photos had been taken we all headed for the Nittany Lion shrine where we took several official photos and dozens of silly ones, which we of course enjoyed very much.

The Nittany Lion has been a PennState's mascot since 1904 and the Nittany Lion Shrine is the most photographed site on the campus. The word "Nittany" most likely derives from a native American term meaning "a single mountain".  You can find more about all things Nittany here.

The official photos will be published on the Penn State Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program website. The credit for the "unofficial" photos above and the photos below goes to Jane.

On Wednesday evening we were invited for a dinner at Dean David Monk's home.  Dean Monk is the dean of the College of Education which hosts the H. H. Humphrey Fellowship program.  The food was delicious, the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable and it was great to be there talking with Dr. Michael Adewumi, Vice Provost for Global Programs, our mentors and college faculty.

On Sunday we were invited for a picnic at Tudek Park. This event was hosted by the Global Connections, a not-for-profit organization that offers support to international students and provides friendship host families to Humphrey Fellows and other students.

My husband and I went on a short trip to Pittsburgh where we visited the magnificent Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. With its 42 floors, the Cathedral is the tallest school house in the world. But this is not the only reason why this building is unique. There are 30  Nationality Rooms or classrooms that teach. They are gifts to the University from the city'c ethnic groups. Classes are still held in these impressive rooms that take the visitors on a trip around the world.

On the way back to State College we stopped in Punxutawney, a.k.a. the Weather Capital of the World where Phil, the famous groundhog, predicts the weather every February. We also stopped in some small rural villages where the Amish people live and bought some of their home-made produce and were stunned by the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.

Week 4: What's a tailgate anyway?

Sep 9, 2014

For the second week of classes we were assigned books and articles to read, resources to explore and then discuss in the discussion forums on Angel and Yammer before coming to class for further discussion and sharing.  So I dug into it and studied all the materials before the classes, but in spite of it,  I was stressed out before each of them, because I wasn't sure how it would go, since it's been ages since I was a student. And once again I was surprised to see how the professors easily managed to create a pleasant atmosphere in their classes and make us feel relaxed and at ease. No stress at all, but a feeling of confidence and eagerness to learn.

This week also marked the beginning of the football season. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions played their first home game and it seemed that everyone in State College went to the game and tailgate. Not that I'm a sports fan, but I wanted to see firsthand what a tailgate picnic looked like.  And it was a completely new experience, my first football game and my first tailgate party.

The game started at noon, but lots of fans came as early as 7 am in their RVs, vans, trucks and cars. They parked their vehicles on the parking lots all around the stadium and then put chairs and tables at the back of their cars. Some of them brought food from home, while others had a barbecue or baked pizzas.

The game started at noon. I had my big purse on me but they didn't let me in with it, so I went home and came back without it! The seating capacity of Beaver Stadium, where the Nittany Lions played against Akron, is 106,000, which is twice as big as the biggest stadium in Croatia. The stadium was packed, there were 97,354 people inside! And what's fascinating is that the population of State College is is only 40,000. This number doubles during the academic year, so that's 80,000 people. But, obviously, many more, alumni and other supporters came from all over the state and beyond.   The fans were so passionately supporting their team that it was easy to get carried away and cheer for the home team, even though I know absolutely nothing about the rules and how football is played. But I cheered and booed, and yelled and raised my arms for the wave. And was happy. Because my husband was there with me :-)

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