Archive for September, 2011

Randall Knox spends fall semester in LA at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center

by   |  09.15.11  |  Honors Student Achievements

For those of you who don’t know, my name is Randall Knox, and I like to party. What does that tell you about where I’m traveling and what I’m doing? Absolutely nothing. I just thought you should know. For this semester, I’m spending my time at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, which, conveniently, is based out of (surprise), Los Angeles.

 

Let’s be clear about one thing right off the bat. Los Angeles is not located in Texas. I know this may come as a surprise to those of you who believe that the borders of our great state encompass every place that anyone would ever want to go to, I know it was for me. All joking aside, there is a definite difference here that is palatable in the air. Yes, it’s true, people aren’t as friendly here. No one is downright mean, of course, but you won’t see anyone going out of their way to greet a stranger. I’ve gotten a few strange looks for dropping a simple “Howdy,” to a fellow elevator passenger. What’s even more interesting is that I’m not even a “howdy” kind of person, but the fact that there are no “howdy” people here makes me want to actively do it more. If anything, my subconscious Texan is present more here than in Abilene. To be clear, I’m still in America (though I have to remind myself every now and then). There are a lot of familiar things all around. There’s a Quizno’s right across from the building that houses my program, and Chick-Fil-A is now beginning to build restaurants here (it seems the ACU Food Court has followed me).

 

Now, what is it exactly that I’m doing (other than committing the cardinal Texan sin of leaving the state for anything other than life/death necessity)? Well, here at the LAFSC, students from Christian colleges all around the country come and learn about the film industry, and get a chance to possibly get their foot in the door. We go to class two days a week, and work at a film industry internship during the other three. I think I once told someone that I would love for all of my classes to be the three hours, once-a-week format of ACU night classes. Well now that I know what that’s like, I really just want to go back to that moment and punch myself in the head.

 

I joke, of course. The great thing about this program is that I seem to have no problem motivating myself to do the work. This past year, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of reading again in both quality and quantity. Over the summer, I accomplished the marginally impressive feat of finishing 5 books (compared to my 12 year old self, I seem illiterate). However, since I’ve been here, I’ve finished 3 books already, and I’m in the middle of another four. Additionally, it turns out that it’s not only easier to read when you enjoy the content, but it’s also easier to do classwork. Every assignment I’ve had has been related to my favorite thing in life: movies. Put simply, it’s not hard to write a paper when that paper is about comic absurdity in The Big Lebowski instead of foreign direct investment in developing countries.

 

But most importantly, this program is not about classes and books. I could have Googled the “best books on screenwriting,” and gotten all of these on my own. Rather, this is an experience. While I haven’t yet been placed in my internship (I have an interview in two days), I expect that I will learn a great deal more by doing script coverage, making copies, and getting coffee for the brains of Hollywood than I ever could through Bill Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade. I’m spending time with dozens of interesting, intelligent people (both inside and outside the program), many of whom may end up becoming lifelong friends (or at the very least being the person who shows my script to the Coen Brothers). If everything goes as planned this semester, I’ll be graduated and well on my way to (gasp) becoming a naturalized Californian. We’ll see.

 

P.S. I saw John Williams direct a movie score concert with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl for free two weeks ago. If you’re thinking “that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard,” you’re wrong. It was a billion times cooler than that.

Christianna Lewis spends summer interning with Dartmouth Medicine magazine

by   |  09.02.11  |  Honors Student Achievements

During the final week of my summer internship with Dartmouth Medicine magazine I was asked to write a letter of advice for future interns. This activity really helped me to reflect on the principles that had been strengthened or instilled in me during the past ten weeks. Much of my education came through the most painful part in the writing process – editing. Here are a few of the words of wisdom I passed on to future science writers:

First, no one cares what the writer of a news article, science or otherwise, thinks about the subject matter they’re writing about. Of course an interest in the writing topic makes the task easier for the author and probably more enjoyable for the reader in the end, but the author’s job is to be a mouth-piece for the truth, not a commentator. Journalists are story-tellers, but they rarely ever tell their own stories.

So, this truth frequently implies that the finalized article will not be in the author’s voice. I’ve seen so many rookies who simply couldn’t cope with this truth, but as a news writer, I’ve had to reconcile myself to it. This summer, I watched my articles be conformed to the voice of the publication and realized this often brought improvement. The magazine editors knew their readers well, and understood how to communicate to them effectively. I learned to be content with a revision as long as the information conveyed was clear and interested to the reader.

Finally, science and news writers must understand what’s really worth fighting for in the editing process. My beautiful word picture or “exciting” adjectives are not worth a confrontation with those above me. However, accurate communication of the truth, of the subject’s story, and of the facts that are important to the reader is always worth fighting for. Scientific experiments are often complex, and even a few simplifications or rewordings can skew the reader’s understanding of what happened and what it means. The great thing about a publication like Dartmouth Medicine is that it places such a strong emphasis on accuracy, and I really didn’t have to fight for these values as much as I had to point out where miscommunications could lie.

So, in summary, this summer I learned that I cannot and should not go into science writing in order to “express myself.” I must go into it to tell the stories of researchers accurately and convey discoveries to audiences in clear and interesting ways. The good thing in my case is I have every confidence that scientific advances, and scientists themselves, are far more captivating than anything I could ever dream up. Truly, there was nothing I’d have rather written about this summer.

Studying Abroad in England by Rebecca Dial

by   |  09.02.11  |  Honors Student Achievements

My trip to England was an experience that I mostly enjoyed. Of course the best part was going on trips to different parts of the island. On our first trip to London, three of us went on a bike tour and got to see the sites that way and then experience some of them later up close as we visited them. We were able to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and enjoy that on the tour. I went to Westminster for Evensong and it is one of my favorite experiences of the entire time. Another girl and I went to Zoo Late Nights, which is an after-hours event at the London Zoo, and met up with Nick, one of my friends from back home in South Carolina who was also studying abroad in England while we were there. We got to see animal feedings and it was a fun time. My favorite feeding was that of the penguins because they were pretty active and it was neat seeing them swim around and jump out of the water.

The next week I went on a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland with four other ACU students and Nick. Before we left on the overnight bus, three other girls and I went to go see Wicked, which was a fantastic musical. Seeing shows was a highlight of my time in England. Once in Scotland, we went to Edinburgh Castle, which is at the end of the Royal Mile and sits above the city. From there, we had a great view of the city. We took the tour around it and got to learn about some of its history. We also went to the Mary King’s Close which is one of the few places left of what was once part of the town that is now underground. Scotland was beautiful and I really liked the scenery.

I also went with others on day trips to London. As a class we had gone to the Natural History Museum but I also went back another afternoon. The Natural History Museum was fascinating, especially the history behind it as well as its architecture. Two other girls and I were able to see Les Misérables. Another time a girl and I went to see Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at St. Martin in the Fields. I enjoyed my time in London and in all of England during my time studying abroad.

Austin Anderson shadows dentist in Leipzig, Germany

by   |  09.01.11  |  Honors Student Achievements

This summer I had the unique opportunity of traveling with COBA to study abroad in Leipzig, Germany and Oxford, England. As a Pre-Dental Biochemistry student with a minor in business, it was interesting tagging along with other ACU students who weren’t in my field of study. Going from study-intensive science classes to world-traveling hands-on projects was eye opening to say the least. God blessed me with wonderful Professors and an awesome group though. I was surprised at how easily I picked up on the material…and how universal the lessons were that I learned from the business classes I was taking.

 

One of the things I really wanted to do while abroad was to shadow a dentist in Germany. After working under several dentists back home in America, I was excited to compare and contrast German dentistry with our own. At first it was difficult trying to set up an appointment. I was given a contact number, but I had no cell phone. Trying to figure out how to use a German pay phone was definitely interesting (it consisted of me randomly pushing buttons until I heard a ring tone, while frantically putting in coins to keep the line open). When I finally connected, I was relieved to hear a woman speak English on the other end. Her name was Doris and she was a good friend of one of the Professors on the trip. Doris was kind enough to set me up with an appointment to shadow a German dentist who spoke some English. Later in an email she gave me the address, told me to arrive shortly before 8am, and to wear a white shirt, white pants, and white shoes. I didn’t know if she meant khaki pants and a white dress shirt or literally a white shirt and white pants (scrubs, maybe?). Either way, I had only brought khakis and dress shirts with me so I didn’t really have a choice! I didn’t think it would matter though, as long as I was close enough to the dress code. I was so thankful that Doris was able to get me this opportunity. Here’s what happened on my visit:

 

 

July 26 2011

I woke up at 6:30 this morning in order to give me ample time to get dressed and navigate my way to #8 Beethovenstraße before 8 o’clock. I planned out which tram I was going to take (the public transportation in Germany is awesome, by the way. Trams come about every 10 minutes or so), and began to make my way downtown. Along the way many thoughts raced through my mind. I realized I had many preconceived notions about what a German dentist office would be like. For starters, I assumed that much of their technology and methods would be outdated because East Germany had been isolated from the rest of the world under Communist rule for so long. Based on the level of English that the average East German civilian spoke, I also assumed that it would be very difficult finding a dentist who would be able to communicate with me easily. Boy was I wrong…

 

 

 

The front entrance of the office was beautiful and looked like something straight from Rome. When I walked inside, I was absolutely stunned. Everything was super modern, clean cut, and very nice. I introduced myself to the receptionist behind the counter (Stefanie), who was actually a dental assistant filling in for their normal receptionist. Surprisingly, she spoke very good English and we were able to carry on a normal conversation quite easily. She took me into all the rooms and answered many of my questions about  schooling, operations, and the office itself. She also pointed out that their lab was across the street, which is where chemicals were processed and patients went to have their teeth cleaned. Imagine how much money and time they must when the lab is 50 feet away! Smart thinking. Overall, German and American dentistry are very similar. While this particular German practice may have slightly newer and flashier equipment than the typical American practice, the fundamental methods used in both countries are pretty much the same. The major differences lie in the healthcare and schooling systems, however. For instance, a portion of a German’s salary goes toward state insurance, which covers basic healthcare expenses. Apart from that, you can purchase private insurance that covers extra fees such as ceramic crowns for around 20 Euro monthly.

 

As far as schooling goes, I learned that dentists are required to go to school for 6 years in Germany after passing their Abitur exam. The first 2 years are the same for both Medical and Dental students, then in the 3rd year they begin working on patients at their university. This means that people who can’t afford dental work will come to the university and can get discounted prices. Students must meet a patient quota though to pass, and must network with friends if necessary. In America, students must pass the DAT (dental admission test) in their third or 4th year of undergrad and get accepted into dental school, where they attend for 4-5 years. It was also very interesting to learn that to become a dentist in Germany it is not required that one receives his/or doctorate, unlike in America where nearly every dentist is a Dr.. However most German dentists who decide to specialize have their doctorate. From my business classes I had learned that it is customary to take off 6 weeks for vacation every year, and she confirmed that the two owners of the practice were out of pocket currently for that reason. This particular practice, however, served over 6,000 patients and was operated by 4 dentists (one of which I would be shadowing), so there were 2 on staff. I later learned that 6,000 patients is very large for a practice in Germany… nonetheless I couldn’t imagine the number of files they had on record. It didn’t surprise me that they were able to keep up with that much information though after seeing the equipment in all the operating rooms. Stefanie showed me through each of the 4 rooms where they worked on patients. Everything they had was state-of-the-art (High precision lasers, 3D dental CT scans, you name it…). In comparison to every American dental practice I had been to, this one had everything, and then some. Man, was I wrong about our technology being more advanced!

 

At about 9:00am Schümann (the dentist I was to shadow) came in to work. We greeted each other and he began talking to Stafanie in German while I just stood there. I knew they were talking about me, but I wasn’t sure what about. He then looked at me and told me (in English) that I had to be wearing all white in order to shadow him. Wow…so Doris really wasn’t kidding about the white clothes. Luckily, Schümann was nice and let me borrow a shirt and pants. Just my size, too!

 

I found out Schümann had been working for 6 years at 2 other practices before getting a job here, where he has been working for 3 years for a total of 9 years in the field. He did not have his doctorate, either. I got to observe him work on 2 patients, both older males. The first had a deep infected wound in his mouth that needed a chemical treatment. This procedure lasted about 20 minutes. The second patient was a great opportunity for me to see my first root canal. This procedure lasted the better part of an hour and half, and it was really interesting to see how he used the 3D x-ray imaging and dental laser. He was very open to my questions, and tried his best to answer them in his most proficient English (which wasn’t as good as Stefanie’s, but good enough). I stood there and took notes the entire time as he explained each procedure step by step. I could tell he had an enthusiasm for dentistry and longed to help his patients in whatever way possible. From my experience it seems that trait is common among all dentists, German or American. By the time the second procedure was over, it was time for me to get back to our flat to meet up with the group. I expressed my gratitude, changed back into my own clothes, and went on my way.

 

I’m so thankful that God has blessed me with this opportunity. In addition to the many memories and lessons I learned while studying abroad, being able to shadow a dentist in Leipzig has opened my eyes and given me a global perspective on a field that I express great interest in.

 

 

English in the Hills

by   |  09.01.11  |  Honors Student Achievements

Today is a cooler day in Chiang Mai, and I’ve spent the a!ernoon napping and sitting at one of the picnic tables on the Payap campus, smelling the bougainvillea and plumeria trees. We counted today and realized that we only have about nine days left in Thailand. But whatever profound thoughts or realizations I might have gained from the summer will probably come more in retrospect— maybe on, say, a 17-hour plane ride home. So for now, here’s just more of what we’ve been up to and why we probably won’t feel ready in nine days to get on an airplane.

On Friday we woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:00 so that we could be well-caffeined and in the cars by 6:00 to head up into the mountains to a village called Bakaew, where we spent the day teaching an English Day Camp for some of the students at the school. The drive to Bakaew was beautiful, even if it was along some unbelievably winding, steep, and half-paved roads while we sat scrunched together in the back of the car. But some of the sights along the way were fantastic— I think we happened to spend the summer in the most beautiful parts of Thailand, by the way (above).

For nearly all of the 500 some students at the school, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, English will be their third language; Thai is their second already, since they all come from a variety of hill tribes surrounding Bakaew, including the
Hmong. Several of the students were even dressed in their more traditional outfits.

We started the day with some big group activities, then headed to various stations for the groups of students to rotate through. Our students were mostly middle-school-aged, and all acted like middle-schoolers do when they meet adults: shy. Couple that with the fact that we were a big, loud group of farongs speaking English, and I think we all understood why they were hesitant to even look at us.

I taught at a station with Greg and Taylor, and we’d decided to teach body parts. We went well- equipped with Simon Says, the Hokey Pokey, Mad Libs, and a pin-the-different-pieces-of-theface-on-the-face game. The Hokey Pokey produced some good laughs—mostly at us and not with us—and Simon Says proved incredibly easy for them because, not speaking any English, all they had to listen for was whether or not we’d said “Simon Says.” So never play a non-English speaker at that game and expect to win. But the real success, at least in most groups, seemed to be the face game, which produced some hilarious and very “naa kleeat” (ugly) Picasso-looking faces.

The main reason for us being there was just to get them excited about and interested in learning English. Evidently, our groups have been going up every year for almost 10 years, and this school has always scored higher on tests than others in the area. Maybe it’s the day camp—likely it’s just good teachers.

Either way, it’s a day for everyone to have fun and to meet people who, at the surface, have nothing in common. But  neither language nor culture stopped us from being invited to games of tag and duck-duck-goose with the children, and by the end of the day we’d made several friends who waied us and waved at us as we were leaving. The day, as far as we could tell, was a success.

Oh, and in a gesture procuring the awed applause of his friends, one little boy even blew me a kiss as we were leaving.

Juliana Kocsis
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tuesday, July 26, 2011