Vox Student Blog

Janessa Romero: Miami as Text 2023

Encounter as Text

Pictured: Janessa Romero Photograph taken by Sergio Prieto (Paris, France 2022) CC/4.0

France as a First Gen

The opportunity to travel the world is a dream that many have in mind but never get to accomplish. For some, those dreams are easier to accomplish than others. In my case, my dream of traveling the world is a non-negotiable concept.

In my family, I was the first one to have the privilege to be born in the United States of America. My parents came from Cuba at the ages of 21 & 33 years old. They came to the United States without having any family here, no plans as to where they would live, and basically no money to give them a head start. Despite these circumstances, my parents worked hard to purchase a home, launch their careers, and establish a stable life for our family. The hard work and determination my parents carry with them are traits I have always looked up to and instilled in my own life. Nonetheless, with hard work comes sacrifices and my parents had to put aside their dreams of traveling the world to secure a wonderful future for our family. Luckily, those dreams were naturally passed on to me, and the moment that we learned about my opportunity to study abroad with the Honors college, there was no second-guessing it.

Choosing to study abroad in France over Spain or Italy was a no-brainer for us. My parents and I had the opportunity to travel around Europe this past summer. We visited Madrid, Barcelona, France Rome, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. While each city was beautiful and unique in its own way, Paris was the one city that left me truly wanting to visit again. We were only there for three days and tried to fit in as much as we could but it felt as if we only caught a glimpse. We visited the main tourist spots but didn’t get the chance to truly learn more and Paris and its history. This is why I am extremely excited to visit France for a month and truly get to know its culture, history, and lifestyle.

The French lifestyle is an inspiring one. Their relaxed and laid-back culture is one that I try to implement in my day-to-day life. As a first-generation individual, I tend to overwork myself and always have too many things on my plate. However, after visiting France and other European countries I have been implementing truly enjoying every moment and not overworking myself. Life only comes around once and if we spend every single moment stressed and working, we won’t have any memories and nice experiences to look back at when we are older.

Studying abroad is an opportunity that no one in my family has ever had the chance to do as no one has ever gone to college in my family. I hope to set myself as an example for all the other children and teens in my family as they grow up that it is important to enjoy life while also working hard towards your goals. Teaching them that no dream is unattainable as long as they envision and work toward it.

Kaeli Potts: Miami as Text 2023

Encounter as Text

Perspective By Mindset

By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

27 January 2023

            What do you believe your purpose in life is? What type of experiences and memories will you create to refer to down the line? Honestly, the circle of life contains an immense amount of opportunities and discoveries for any individual to solely acquire a singular purpose. Every element that life brings us plays a huge role in molding every individual into who they are. Without experience, life is meaningless. Without connection, life is hollow. And most importantly, without growth or change, life is stagnant.

            Referring to the opening question, I believe that there are multiple things that align with my overall purpose in this life. As there are some purposes I have yet to discover, I appreciate the unrevealed. Without discovery, an individual will lack growth. When I was younger, my comfort zone was my safe haven and familiarity was my best friend. It’s not a bad thing to feel comfortable, yet many individuals fail to visualize the amount of opportunity that is subconsciously blocked by this supposed comfort zone. Take a minute to think about a time when you pushed yourself to do something different. Visualize exactly who you were right before you made this decision. Now compare that individual to who you are now. What is the key difference? Growth. Resiliency. Strength. The point is an individual acquires a significant amount of attributes and elements every time they experience a period of change. The outcome of these changes is entirely dependent on the mindset of the individual.

            The FIU Honors study abroad program can be defined as the ultimate test of experiencing growth. I’m sure that every student in these programs has about ten different reasons as to why they enrolled. However, my ultimate reasoning circulates around a need for change. As there are many foreign destinations that would fulfill my purpose of growth, something in my intuition connected me to Spain. For the reason that I have never been to Europe, there are so many discoveries and adventures that I have yet to encounter. Pushing myself to enroll in such a program has already uncovered many benefits. Suddenly, I find myself more motivated into learning about different aspects of history. Although history was a subject that I despised in high school, something about actively exploring the area you’re learning about entices me. I am extremely unfamiliar with the culture and customs of Spain, which is why I am extraordinarily motivated to continue putting my best foot forward and experience a positive change of growth. Due to my constant strive for development, my mindset has become unstoppable. I know that I can achieve any vision that I genuinely want simply due to the fact that I am willing to do anything to earn it. Many individuals underestimate the power of their minds. They don’t realize that the second you begin to doubt yourself and/or consider external influences, your mind has already formed some sort of blockage between you and that goal. The secret is to never believe that you have a limit. There is ALWAYS room for growth. There is ALWAYS more to learn. And there is ALWAYS more to discover. Throughout this journey, I am extremely thrilled to not only learn about the contents of Spain, yet to also learn more about myself and further my connections with my classmates.

Stacey Bazile: Miami as a Text 2023

Photo by Stacey Bazile

Stacey is a Public Policy major in her junior year at Florida International University. She is passionate about environmental policies and hopes to ignite change in todays environmental crisis. Upon graduation she will attend law school and become an attorney that advocates for environmental legislation. Stacey also enjoys weight lifting, biking, and jump roping. Another one of her hobbies is eating (lol). She enjoys trying different cultures of food, her current favorite is Thai.

“An Escape”

By Stacey Bazile of FIU in Miami, January 27, 2023

Two things come to mind every time I think about this journey. The first is that I’ll have two months to myself, during which time Stacey will be going through a period of reinvention or at least that’s what I vision. The second is that, by the time this trip is over, she will be bankrupt.

Being a first generation Haitian American, my family has not really had the luxury of traveling across the world or taking much time off from work. Hopefully, I can persuade my mother to go with me a few weeks before so we can experience it together. Unfortunately, I have never been to Europe. I will actually be the first person in my family to visit there. Fortunately, I’ll be able to go with a group of people who share my interests and will be led by someone who is knowledgeable about Europe. Between you and me, I chose on France because I had an image of myself in front of the Eiffel Tower wearing a beret and perhaps a cute French boy by my side. As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s kind of how I imagined it: like one of those corny Netflix movies where the girl travels to a different country for a brief period of time, meets the love of her life, and decides to move in with him or pack up their belongings and spend the rest of their lives together. Regardless of how delusional it sounds, that’s my fantasy and I’m sticking to it.

All jokes aside, France has an important place in my history because it colonized Haiti, and as a result, much of our language and culture are influenced by it. It was only natural for me to choose France as the destination for my first trip to Europe. I truly want to understand French culture and connect it to the many traditions that Haitians practice, many of which I’m sure came from the French. I’ve actually started studying French; I suppose it counts as a refresher. I am technically an abomination to Haitian culture since I do not speak French very well. I speak Creole extremely well, but not so much French, so when family members speak French during gatherings, I simply shut up and nod. 

I anticipate having a memorable experience in the class, based on my first impressions of it. I anticipate that this course will fundamentally alter the way I view culture and history. The Versailles story is so captivating that I can’t wait to see it for myself and connect the dots in my mind between what I see and the story as a whole. I’m sick of seeing images, so I have to go witness for myself how much talent and culture are represented in Versailles. With all the walking we’ll be doing, I also anticipate it will help me lose some stubborn fat I’ve been trying to get rid of for the past two years as well. Due to my increased understanding of the underlying principles that support communities, what I study in this course will better prepare me to serve the public as an attorney.

Kelly Johana Diaz-Rios: Miami as Text 2023

Kelly Johana Diaz-Rios is a junior at Florida International University Honors who is majoring in International Relations with minors in International Communication and Political Science as well as two certificates in Pre-Law Skills and Middle East Studies. Born and raised in Miami, as a first-generation student she strives to attend law school to become an international human rights attorney. 

“Development of Perspective”

by Kelly Johana Diaz-Rios of FIU at Florida International University, January 27, 2023

Filled to the brim with culture and history, a study abroad in España will provide a different perspective on the ever-changing life Miami has built for itself. From the very first class one begins to understand the roots this city possesses as well as the foundation España has laid out for both Miami and the world to experience even to this day. Architecture and religion are notably evident when it comes to tracing back the origins of when these places were first colonized as a result of their perseverance still seen today. So much of Latin America and the Caribbean has been influenced by the españoles in ways that don’t seem inherent until one begins to recognize the signs. Growing up in Miami the evidence of old Spanish colonial structures is greatly demonstrated when it comes to Coral Gables. This style of architecture is found almost all across the LAC regions and leads to animate excitement when it comes to putting together this intricate puzzle piece of history. Recently I traveled to the Dominican Republic and was able to see the simplified Baroque architecture that is found throughout most of the churches in these regions. So when we travel to España, I am extremely thrilled about the prospect of being able to possess that comparison of Latin America to España. 

Always being fascinated with the cultures and histories of the world, I am delighted with all the activities that are planned out for the trip since we will be visiting various historical places. What I am most looking forward to is visiting the Mezquita-Catedral. As a student who is studying both Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, I am most enthusiastic at the opportunity of hearing from the guides about the background and the architecture of the mosque. For the past couple of semesters, I have taken various classes in regard to Islam and the anthropology of the Middle East but this is the very time I will be able to see the remnants of a mosque as well as gain insight into the development of the structure. 

Although I’ve traveled to the country before, it was just with my mom and we stuck to almost all the touristy locations. This is why when looking at some of the past activities planned, this is what mainly drew me into choosing this trip. Not only will we be visiting the historical aspect of the country but also immerse ourselves in the culture. As a little girl, I had always wanted to learn all the dances the different parts of the world have to offer and when you think of España, flamenco is one of the first things that comes to mind. Unparalleled, the complexity and emotions that this dance has to offer after years and years of the built-up immersion of various cultures coming together to formulate this are extraordinary. All in all, participating in the study abroad will enable us to become more informed and in a way more tolerant of other people’s beliefs and customs. Wanting to shift perspectives, I hope to gain a better appreciation for the arts because, at times, I feel like I take advantage of how the mind tricks us to believe in the simplicity of things when there is so much more. 

Stephanie Momblan: Miami as Text 2023

Photo by Stephanie Momblan

Stephanie Momblan is a 20-year-old junior student at Florida International University pursuing a degree in history. Following the completion of her undergraduate studies, she intends to pursue a law degree in order to achieve her dream of becoming an attorney. The hobbies that she enjoys include reading, watching movies, and socializing with her friends. Furthermore, she enjoys traveling a lot, and this will be the very first time that she will be traveling to Spain, so she is very excited about the opportunity.

“Encounter as Text” by Stephanie Momblan of FIU at Florida International University, January 20, 2023.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”

-Walt Disney

For me personally, there are a number of reasons why I always wanted to come to Spain in the first place, and why I chose to do it with the honors study abroad program at FIU. In spite of the fact that I have traveled to many different countries in the past, I have never actually been to a European country or even to a country outside the Americas in general. In light of this, I have always had a dream of traveling to one of the European countries including Spain, and getting to know its rich culture. In addition, as a Cuban-American woman, I believe that traveling to Spain is essential since I will learn a little bit more about myself and my culture. When I first saw that the FIU Honors program was offering a study abroad program in Spain for an entire month for such a low and affordable price, I knew that this was an opportunity that I could not miss.

At first, I was nervous about doing this study abroad because I had never really traveled on my own before, much less to a foreign nation. Despite that, as Walt Disney pointed out, curiosity always leads us to try out new things, and so my curiosity led me to participate in the study abroad program. I know that there are a lot of risks involved in participating in this program. The fact remains that I believe that it will all be worth it in the end, as I will be able to gain valuable experience from the experience. Even though I am a little nervous that I might make a mistake and do something that will ultimately ruin the trip, I have decided to put aside those fears so that I can enjoy it more than I might otherwise.

Despite wanting to visit Spain for years, I know very little about the country. As soon as I think of Spain, I immediately think of the flamenco dancers in Andalucia and their delicious paella (which I might add, happens to be one of my favorite types of food). Having listened to what my instructor has told me so far in class, I believe that I can also expect to see a lot of similarities between Miami and Spain based on what I have learned so far. I am certain that I will be shocked by how similar it is to my hometown, how similar it is to my Cuban cultural background that I developed within my own family, and how similar it is to the reality of my own life. I have no doubt, however, that this trip will be amazing due to all the things I will learn about this country during this trip.

Maria Cobian: Miami as Text 2023

Pictured: Maria Cobian. Photograph taken by Talyah Murow Roux (Mexico City, Mexico 2022) / CC by 4.0

Maria Cobian is a senior at Florida International University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Finance and a minor in Business Analytics. She aspires to become an attorney and is currently in the process of applying to law school. In addition, she is gaining real-world experience as a legal administrative assistant at a real estate and probate law firm in Coconut Grove, Florida. She is part of a large Mexican family and as a result, grew up immersed in the culture and language. She enjoys many different hobbies such as reading, drawing, painting, dancing, exercising, and trying new foods, and hopes that traveling becomes a regular adventure in her future.

France Spring Encounter as Text

Pictured: Maria Cobian. Photograph taken by Mercedes Cobian (Paris, France 2019) / CC by 4.0

First Impressions

by Maria Cobian of FIU, 26 January 2023

First impressions are significant and powerful. They are what form your opinions and perspective of a person, topic, situation, and in this case a class. My first impressions have left me anxiously excited for what is to come not only in this Spring course but in the adventures that lie ahead in France. In a way, I feel nervous about traveling alone in an unknown country with a language I do not speak but could not imagine missing out on this possibly life-changing opportunity. On the other hand, traveling alone is also an aspect of this course that I am excited to explore because of the freedom that it provides and the lessons that it will teach me, which I will end up taking with me forever. I chose France to study abroad because it was the one that most called out to me and interested me. It aligns with my future career and aspirations to become an attorney because of the human rights component that we will be extensively studying in the course. I am eager to learn how France and its revolution have inspired other countries, not just the United States of America, in their fights for liberty, equality, and fraternity and the people that ignited those conversations.

Furthermore, not only does France conjure visuals in my mind of the French Revolution and its long, complex history, but it also makes me think of elegance, art, music, and exquisite cuisine. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Paris before and I can, with all confidence, say that it did not disappoint. I was fascinated by the architecture, the streets, the food, and even their incredibly efficient public transportation system. I am interested in seeing Paris in a different light this time around and learning more about the sites and monuments I have already seen such as the Louvre Museum, Saint-Chapelle, the Arc de Triomphe, and obviously the Eiffel Tower. More importantly, I would like to explore the narrow, hidden streets and find the restaurants, shops, and small businesses that locals adore. There aren’t enough days that would allow the ability to experience Paris to the fullest and get to know every little corner. However, I look forward to being able to once again enjoy the luxuries Paris has to offer and immerse myself in the culture, history, language, and cuisine.

Additionally, I am looking forward to visiting all the cities and areas in France that I have not been to, especially the Alps. I believe that hiking in such an awe-inspiring gift of nature is an experience you might only have the chance to participate in once in your life and I am willing to push myself mentally and physically to live in the moment to the fullest. Ultimately, I expect to leave this course with a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of France’s politics, culture, and intellectual conflicts with the United States and the rest of the world with the hopes of becoming a more cultured and knowledgeable person, not to mention the connections and life-long friends I hope to leave with as well.

Camilo Rivera: España as Text 2023

Photo by Camila Rivera/ CC by 4.0

Biography

Camilo Rivera is a third-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Political Science and minoring in International Relations. He is a first-generation student attempting to study in the field of law. Camilo is passionate about learning knowledge, such as his favorite philosophers are Plato and Machiavelli. He is ambitious to be a member of the world and as a current student, his task is to learn about different cultures, history, and the order of society. Miami is an extravagant place to begin thy journey, but thy journey has already begun.

ESPAÑA ENCOUNTER AS TEXT

             I am extremely excited to go on a trip to España with my other classmates that are also taking the course. I met them all in our first official class and already socialized with some of them, but I am missing to communicate with nearly all of them. Yet there is still enough time and the ones I’ve already talked to seem to be amazing people. Thus, I am eager to go on a whole adventure in Europe with such an awesome group. I believe that a whole trip changes when you go with a group of people that are similar to you. Ambitious students that want to explore. For instance, I already went to Spain with my whole family but not to criticize, it was extremely boring. The weather was too cold and the only cool things were the architecture of the churches. I also want to say that I went at a young age when I was still immature and had a narrow definition of what’s beautiful in life. Now that I have this second chance to improve my perspective about España and accompanied by an amazing group of students around my age, and the best tour guide in the world Professor Bailly, it’ll be a memorable experience.

            To continue in order and answer the first question. I am in the España Honors Study Abroad to improve my perspective of the world. I want to grow my historical, cultural, and social knowledge. Everyone that I’ve met who knows about the Study Abroad programs had been a motivational push for me to take advantage and join a program. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, just like the prom dance in high school. It is an opportunity to take when it’s ripe because once time goes by, this opportunity will probably never show again. I also want to network with honor students and there is no better way to network with students, than going for a whole month to Europe in a group adventure. This is awesome! To think and type it down is making me more excited to go. The experience of going to Europe and learning a whole different culture can improve my perspective on how a society functions. I believe it is vital for my major career, to learn firsthand, how societies function together.

            I believe that my knowledge of España is very general. I am most informed about the Spanish-American war due to my Political Science classes. The most intriguing information that I hold about España is that they colonized Florida and we took it from them. Also, in the same war, we took the Philippines from them. España went into a hard decolonization era, from being one of the world’s most prominent superpowers to becoming a crumbling empire. Everyone has different opinions, but I believe that España was similar to the British downfall. Yet they are still significant players in the modern world, but they don’t have the similar influence as they once did. I am aware of the Cristopher Columbus voyage coming from the Spanish monarchal rulers’ decision, and it led to the whole history of America coming into place. I see Cristopher Columbus from a neutral perspective because he was an awful person for the number of horrific things he did to the natives, but thanks to the actions he committed. The timeline in history was able to take place, so Columbus needed to do as he did. Allowing the U.S. to grow into an anti-monarchical power and creating democracy in the world. Therefore, I want to learn more about the important trip of Cristopher Columbus, since it was a critical component of history that led us to where we are now in the world.

            Full-on honesty, when I think about España. The first image that comes into my mind is Don Quixote de la Mancha. I read the book in my high school years, and it is one of the first books that I truly enjoyed, also remember that I considered myself to be immature during those times. So, that is how special the book became in my life. I also had the best Professor for Spanish AP Literature, not to brag but she is the best. The beginning chapters develop his demise, fighting windmills, and concluding with his demise coming back to reality. His heavy armor shows that the physical body is just an excuse, but the strength of one’s soul or willpower is what drives people to their goals. I believe Granada or Sevilla, where the streets are full of antique shops and the roads are made of rocks. It gave me the Don Quixote de la Mancha vibes and I want to re-experience it. The other image that would come to my mind when I think about España is the food because I have the superpower of always being hungry. I’ve tried the Spanish Tapas here in Miami, but I am fully aware that it’ll be way better in España. For example, I am half-Mexican and the Mexican food people try to recreate in Miami, is not the same. Thus, I am eager to try the Spanish food system. How many times do they eat per day? Do they eat a lot in the morning? What is the most common dish?

            In conclusion, I expect to have a wonderful summer. Exploring in depth a whole new culture with student friends, savoring new foods, and learning new history. I want the program of España Study Abroad to teach me valuable information so that I can have an educated discussion in the future with someone from the experience I gained from this program. To become a well-cultivated person and be far away from being an ignorant person. I expect most from the program to network and become close friends with the other honors students going on the trip. I look forward to purchasing some Don Quixote de la Mancha merchandise, from its original creation. I look forward to learning more about the history of Christopher Columbus. I look forward to learning how España maintains its legal or political branches in order. Whereas I want to compare and contrast the U.S.A. and España systems of government.

Angela Stea: Miami as Text 2023

ESPAÑA SPRING ENCOUNTER AS TEXT

After experiencing the first day of class and officially seeing everyone that is going to travel with me in my first trip to España I felt a sense of relief, because everyone genuinely seems like great people, and a buzz of excitement to be able to experience this travel experience with others who seem to have the same excitement as me. I was happy to see how many other women were going to be on this trip because I genuinely believe that I can create some long-lasting friendships because of it. Continuing with the questions laid out I will explain why I am even in this class. If I am being completely honest ever since I was little, I have loved traveling and wanted to go to Spain, my first and only other time in Europe was in Paris and I truly cherish that trip and all its memories as I was only eight, so I had a very childlike view of the trip. To give you a view into me as a person, I have always loved food and many of my memories are attached to a meal I have had that altered my brain chemistry, one of those meals being a baguette sandwich that we found in a sandwich cart in the underground subway in Paris. All these little details do have a point as España is known for having an amazing cuisine, from their tapas to the delicious Gallego paella. Continuing, in 2020 my family and I planned a trip to Spain where we were going to visit multiple cities and I was going to experience watching one of my favorite soccer teams FC Barcelona. However, as we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic hit at that time, so we were not able to go.  Ever since then, I’ve felt at a loss of not being able to visit, because it has been one of my dreams for as a long as I can remember. Throughout my life my mother has always talked about studying abroad in college and that it is an opportunity that I must take when it is presented to me. When I saw that FIU Honors offered this program I immediately jumped at the opportunity. 

            Another influencing factor for choosing Spain specifically to do this program is my ethic background. I am Cuban and Venezuelan from my parents, however my grandparents are Italian and Spanish, and we are visiting my family’s hometown, Toledo. I really believe that traveling to Spain will help me connect to my roots and learn more about my heritage. I also believe that this class that Professor Bailey teaches will help me see the Spanish influence in my parents’ cultures as well as the influences that the Americas have given to Spain. Finally, I just really hope to gain a better understanding of the European culture and see what it would look like to live in Spain, even if it is just for a few weeks. I am really excited to visit Barcelona specifically because of all the history and architectural significance.

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