Week 41: Working in DC

May 26, 2015

My working hours are flexible, I can come to my office on the 10th floor anytime between 8-9 am and leave anytime between 4-5 am. I like that because I don’t have to rush in the morning and worry if I’m going to be late even though I leave early, before rush hour really begins so I'm at the office at around 8.
On the bus there are the same people every morning, most of them with their heads buried in their phone screens. The metro is more crowded than the bus, but early in the morning it’s not too bad. I like when the Yellow Train suddenly pops up from the underground tunnel to cross the Potomac River. The early morning view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument is absolutely unbeatable. 

I get off at the White House.  This area is a bustling business district with high-rise office buildings with lots of restaurants. Tens of thousands of office workers work there. When the weather is nice, everybody eats outside in the parks – sitting on the grass or on a bench, it doesn’t matter – as long as it’s cosy and with colleagues from work. Food trucks that are especially popular with Washingtonians. Every day there’s a different offer of food  – food as diverse as this city, or as this country – Ethiopian, Jamaican, Mediterranean, just name it, Washington has it all. 

Especially popular with office workers is Farmer’s Market near the White House where local produce can be bought. I like it too, and my favorite is kale and green apple smoothie made of local produce. 

It may be over 30 C outside, but inside the buildings it's rather cold. Air conditioning is set so low that you need a sweater (and sometimes even a heater).

Week 40: Shopping

May 18, 2015

I've been in the US for 9 months now and people often ask me if it's cheaper or more expensive to live here in the US or back home in Croatia. Of course, there is no yes/no answer to this question, so here's a brief comparison of some of the bare necessities or so.

Clothes, shoes, accessories - you can find some great bargains every where every day, not only at sales. Actually, there are sales  almost all the time - next week for example, all the shops will have a three-day Memorial Day sale. If there are no holidays on the calendar then shop owners would just introduce a three-day kick off sale, whatever that may mean. Then there are outlets where you can buy some ridiculously cheap things, with discounts of 70%, like my new green bag below.

Fruit is much more expensive than at home, for example, 1 orange was 1 $ at one of the grocery stores this winter, whereas at home I can buy two pounds of oranges for 1 $. Milk is almost the same and so are the other groceries. Bread is more expensive, except at Walmart where they sell one loaf a $. Cosmetics are much cheaper here: decorative products, skin care, perfumes, everything.

Cars are much cheaper and gas is ridiculously cheap. Right now gas is sold at 2,59 $ a gallon. Car rental is easy and affordable - we recently rented a Mazda 6 for three days, paid 160 $ with all the waivers included, drove 400 miles and filled it up only once for which we paid 30 $.
Americans do love their cars.

My Croatian salary is three times lower than the salary of my American peer. So yes, she can afford much more than I can. Her purchasing power is higher when it comes to eating out, too - restaurants are more affordable for her than for me.

However, things get tough for her when it comes to  health care and higher ed. A doctor's bill can easily come up to several thousand dollars! How can a family afford to send their child to college, I have no idea at all, when a year in college costs 40,000 $ and more (and this is for tuition only). Higher ed and  health coverage are unfortunately out of reach for many.

Week 39: Professional Affiliation

May 10, 2015

After submitting all my class assignments, making the apartment ready for inspection, packing all my things (for some unknown reason there was much more stuff than when I first arrived in the US) and taking special, loving care of my newly acquired certificate signed by President Obama, I embarked on the second part of the Fellowship program - professional affiliation. PA is the culmination of our year - it is a professional development opportunity to meet and exchange information and share experiences with our American colleagues. 

I'm fortunate to be doing my PA at CoSN - Consortium for School Networking:

But CoSN is much more than that! CoSN is the amazing people who I have a pleasure to work with and learn from. They're all very knowledgeable, willing to share and very supportive. So over the next six weeks I'll be learning about educational technologies and the certification of education technology specialists, about global leadership and the digital leap, about connected learning and leading with social media and mobile technologies I'll be meeting and working together with district leaders and CTOs (chief technology officers) from all over the US. And upon my return home, I hope to share the knowledge I gain with my fellow teachers from across Europe.

Week 38: Signed by the President

May 2, 2015

This is my last week at Penn State. I'm writing this post in my apartment where there's nothing there, except the inflatable mattress that I bought upon my arrival here in State College 38 weeks ago. It's been an amazing experience.

The highlight of the week was the Year-End Banquet, which started with a video message by President Jimmy Carter, who congratulated the Fellows on a successful completion of the program year. Dr. Michael Adewumi, Vice-Provost for Global Programs at Penn State University also congratulated us and Mayor of State College, Elizabeth Goreham, proclaimed that we are now citizens of State College.

Receiving Proclamation

Emily Heddon from the IIE awarded the certificates signed by President Obama to all the Fellows. Here's mine and I'm especially honored and proud to have received it. I'll cherish it forever.

It was a great honor to receive my Penn State Certificate from Dean Monk, who is the Dean of the College of Ed. 

My PSU Certificate for Teaching and learning with technology
Brinda gave a wonderful emotional speech on behalf of all the Humphrey Fellows and after that the Community Service Awards were announced. I was thrilled when Talat announced that "the first prize for extraordinary community service went to .... ME! 
Herizal and Wafaa were also awarded for community service. All the three of us did our community service at the Mid-State Literacy Council, where we enjoyed working with English tutors and international students.

After the ceremony we took lots of photos and selfies and then had our last  potluck in my apartment. 

Tomorrow as we're leaving for other parts of the US,  we'll say goodbye to our coordinators, Leila, Talat and Jane,  to all our friends who we have met here and who have made our stay here a wonderful experience. I'm grateful to every one of them. Goodbye Penn State, goodbye Pennsylvania, I will never forget you.

And to my Humphreys: Be there on Tuesday 1pm  no matter where you are. 

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