Friday, April 17, 2015

Former LDS missionary to return to Virginia as EFY counselor

By Sadie Hughes

On Aug. 9, 2011, Josh Barson returned from serving two years in Virginia as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On July 4 he will return to Virginia still as a representative of his religion.

“Ever since I got home I've looked for opportunities to go back to Virginia,” Barson said.

Barson, who is graduating from Utah State University this May, will arrive in Virginia with four others who will all be building counselors for the Especially for Youth program.

EFY is a weeklong program for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. The program is focused on building friendships and teaching principles of the LDS church. Barson has spent three previous summers as an EFY counselor, but this is the first year he will work in Virginia.

“Being an EFY counselor puts you in such a good position to impact teens’ lives,” Barson said.

As a building counselor, Barson will be in charge of observing three to 12 counselors who teach those attending the EFY session.

“I’m like a counselor’s counselor,” Barson said. Another duty will be to do a general overseeing of those attending and help with any of their needs throughout the week.

Barson and the other building counselors will also be responsible for activities scheduled during the session. These activities include a variety show, a game night, a slide show of the week’s events and others.

“It will be such a neat experience for him to serve those in Virginia and to be able to teach the Gospel out there again,” said Andrea Barson, Josh Barson’s sister. “Every year he always hopes that he'll get to go to Virginia, and this year he finally gets to.”

Andrea Barson said she has seen a lot of growth in her brother since he started EFY sessions and that going to Virginia for EFY will offer a special opportunity for him to grow even more.

“It will be different because with every area he goes for EFY he has had to get a feel for the culture and the people, but in Virginia he already has a deep love for the people there,” she said.

Andrea Barson said when he goes to Virginia as an EFY counselor, Josh Barson will have the same purpose he did as a missionary, which is to share and teach the Gospel of the LDS church. The difference, she said, will be the role he plays.

“Instead of having the responsibility to go and find investigators and people to teach, he will teach those that have paid the money to participate in EFY,” Andrea Barson said.

Each session is a week long, and Josh Barson will be a counselor for three sessions in Virginia.

“He's a great counselor because he genuinely cares about the youth,” said Katilynn Harris, another building counselor. “He's interested in their lives and concerned about their future.”

According to Josh Barson, he will also be responsible for helping any kids in attendance with various needs they may have.

“He can connect with them quickly,” Harris said. “He's found the perfect balance between silly and responsible to gain their respect.”

Josh Barson said he hopes to catch up with people he met on his mission while in Virginia and that he appreciates that EFY can pay for him to return there.

“I can go to Busch Gardens, hit up the beach, wear normal shirts, hold babies and roughhouse with kids,” Josh Barson said. These are things Barson wasn’t permitted to do as a missionary.

When Josh Barson found out he would be a counselor for EFY sessions in Virginia, he posted that information on his Facebook page. He said several people he met on his mission notified him and plan to meet up with him while his is in Virginia.

“I left a part of my heart in Virginia,” Josh Barson said. “It's so beautiful, and I love the people.  I built lifelong relationships with some of my favorite people in the world out there.”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Utah State student decides on internship location

By Sadie Hughes

Today Conor Flynn decided to make Guanajuato, Mexico his home this summer as he interns for La Colmena Radio Universidad de Guanajuato.

La Colmena Radio is a radio station for the University of Guanajuato.

As a student in the global communications department at Utah State University, Flynn is required to complete a practicum or internship to qualify for graduation.

Flynn’s experience with radio broadcasting influenced his decision to do the internship at a radio station in Mexico.

“I am the music director at Aggie Radio, so naturally I felt that working in radio to some capacity would complement my major,” Flynn said. “Radio is one of the biggest forms of mass communication.”

Flynn, who is minoring in Spanish, contacted various radio stations in Mexico and received responses from stations in Mexico City, Guanajuato, Guadalajara and Veracruz.

“It was really hard for me to decide because there are so many great things about all of these places,” Flynn said. “I wish I could visit them all and certainly hope to do so in the future.”

The level of safety, professionalism and organization of the radio stations as well as the cultural depth of the cities were factors Flynn took into account in his decision.

“Interning allows for students to come away from their program with more than just theoretical perspectives on global phenomena,” said Jason Gilmore, a USU professor of communication studies. “It ensures that they can add real world experience related to the field they want to go into to their resume.”

Gilmore said he is confident Flynn will be successful as an intern abroad because of his language skills and spirit of adventure.

“I learned Spanish while on my LDS mission in Arkansas, so I looked to go somewhere I could use those language skills,” Flynn said.

Flynn, a member of a local band called Kitfox, said he hopes to dedicate his life to music. “In the future if I need to secure my finances, a career in radio would be a dream,” Flynn said.

“This internship will make him a promising candidate with any radio station in the states that deals with both international and local minority populations,” Gilmore said.

No exact dates have been decided on, but Flynn plans to leave at the beginning of July and return at the beginning of August.

“I hope to learn and grow personally, as well as help the community I am a part of,” Flynn said.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Student to travel to China for help with thesis

By Sadie Hughes

Josh DeFriez, a Utah State University student, will travel alone in China for a month in the hope to develop ideas for his thesis on Chinese history. Though he has been to China twice before, he will be exploring new places.

DeFriez, a double major in economics and international studies with a minor in Chinese, will graduate from Utah State University in May.

He will begin schooling for a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in the fall. In order to prepare for writing his thesis, DeFriez will travel to the various places he plans on writing about.

“I will be starting in Chicago’s master of arts program in social sciences,” DeFriez said. “I’ll focus on 20th century Chinese history.”

Kathmandu and Zhejiang are the two areas where most of his time will be spent.

DeFriez has met with Leonard Rosenband, a professor at USU who has given him guidance on his thesis.

“I have a few ideas, but I want to visit the places I’m going to write about,” DeFriez said. “And I can learn about them firsthand.”

DeFriez has studied Chinese since high school and lived in China for two separate summers but has never been to Zhengzhou or Zhejiang.

“Whenever one is writing about events that happened in specific places at a previous time in human experience, it’s helpful to inhabit those places,” said Susan Cogan, a professor DeFriez took a class from.

“You can literally see the texture of the landscape these people lived in,” she said. “It helps you see them in a more complete way.”

Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang is a spot DeFriez said he is most excited about visiting.

“There’s a really important Buddhist monastery on that mountain,” DeFriez said. “That’s one of my research interests.”

Cogan said she was very impressed with the sophisticated manner in which DeFriez contributed to her course on medieval history in the fall of 2013.

“He was very good at thinking historically,” Cogan said. “It was interesting to see this coming so strongly from someone outside of our major.”

DeFriez can read, write and speak Chinese fluently. He plans on getting his doctorate and be a college professor of Chinese history.

“I’ll just be wandering around and talking to people,” DeFriez said.

DeFriez will fly into Salt Lake City on July 15 and will travel to Chicago in time to start his master’s program in the fall.

“I would just like to publicly congratulate him for his successful graduate application to the University of Chicago,” Cogan said. “Selfishly, I would like to keep him here, but he doesn’t need us anymore.”

“He needs to find out what the rest of the academic world can offer him,” she said. “It’s time for him to make his mark, and I think he’ll make a beautiful mark.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Activities coordinator hired for college in Africa

By Sadie Hughes

Alexi Trottier will travel to Mauritius, an island off the southeast coast of Africa, for the first time to be the activities coordinator of The Institute of American Higher Education, a college that will begin a trial year in Jan. 2016.

For now, Trottier said she is doing what she can to prepare by reacquainting herself with the French language and learning basic terms and grammar rules of Mauritian Creole. Both languages are spoken on Mauritius.

Trottier said the aim of the institute is to allow the people on Mauritius to become educated rather than traveling to another country for schooling.

Trottier will be responsible for coordinating any activities organized for the student body.

“When I think of Africa, I think of adventure,” said Alexi Trottier’s sister, Katelyn Trottier. “And adventure is Alexi's middle name.”

The institute’s pilot year is expected to have about 3,000 students.

“She is brilliant at connecting with, leading and uplifting youth,” Katelyn Trottier said. “She is also outrageously fun and dynamic, so acting as activities coordinator for students in college is right up her alley.”

Alexi Trottier said she is excited to build relationships with the people she meets and experience a culture that is new to her.

“She embraces people with her whole heart no matter where she is and no matter how long she's there,” Katelyn Trottier said. “Her stay in Mauritius will be no different.”

Alexi Trottier said she is also preparing for the trip by studying the culture of Mauritius.

“I’ve learned that the people there really like their holidays, and they really value education," Alexi Trottier said. "And it’s a really developed country compared to other African countries."

Alexi Trottier served an LDS mission in Singapore and Malaysia and said she worked with many people of Indian descent, so she believes this will help her understand the culture of Mauritius.

“The people there don’t consider themselves as African,” Alexi Trottier said. “Most of them are of Indian descent.”

Because Alexi Trottier hasn’t received specific details on what her duties will be while on Mauritius, she said she will wait to do preparation beyond studying the languages and the culture.

“She has shown great adaptability to virtually every kind of environment,” Katelyn Trottier said. “I'm confident that she'll fit right in and love it.”

More information is expected to be given to Alexi Trottier in the next few months, but definite planning won’t begin until later this year.

“Mauritius will become a part of her,” Katelyn Trottier said. “And that country will never be the same either.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Student to leave the US for the first time for business experience

By Sadie Hughes

Melissa Funk will leave the country for the first time on May 30 to experience real-life business situations. Funk is one of 17 students at Utah State University who will be going to Chile and Peru through the Go Global program.

“We want to give students an opportunity to really experience business and the cultural context of business in other countries,” said David Herrmann, the Go Global leader and adviser for the trip.

Funk, an economics major, will travel to businesses in Chile and Peru ranging from sewing shops to Goodyear.

“This will help me with my future goals because I will have experienced other cultures and seen how different political and economic theories work in practice,” Funk said. “Overall, I think this experience will help me better understand all the opportunities available in the world and how I can best pursue them.”

Funk hopes to eventually work in public policy or on Capitol Hill in a congressman’s office.

“I'm really excited to leave the country for the first time because I'll be exposed to so many new things all at the same time – new climates, new foods and new social norms,” Funk said.

In Chile, the students will also hear lectures from members of local businesses, visit the Embassy of Chile and go to a mining supply company.

 “The political and social environments in Chile and Peru are very different, so I'm excited to experience different cultures and better understand how different countries conduct business,” Funk said. “Understanding these differences will make me more educated and open-minded.

The last five days of the trip will be spent working with the Small Enterprise Education Development program. The students will be put into groups of three or four members and evaluate business plans of aspiring companies.

“They will verify the cost of the business plan and the price people are paying for that specific widget and try to decide if it will be profitable,” Herrmann said. “They will act as bank loan officers.”

After evaluating the business plans, each group will give a presentation explaining which companies they feel should receive loans from the SEED program.

“On the one hand they see how poor these people are and are trying to make it work for them,” Herrmann said. “But they don’t want to set those people up for something that’s going to fail.”

The loans range from $3,000 to $20,000.

“They have three options,” Herrmann said. “They can say yes, no or yes with these few changes.”

Funk has prepared for the trip by studying the history and business atmosphere of Chile and Peru as well as the cultures of both countries.

“While I have specific career goals, I think that this international experience will make me a better person,” Funk said. “At the end of the day my most important goal is to always be learning and growing.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Student stops theft while on vacation in California

By Sadie Hughes

Tera Zook stopped a theft while visiting Mission Beach on vacation in California during Utah State University’s spring break.

While lying on the beach with her aunt, Zook said she was surprised to see someone trying to steal a backpack from a few men who had left their belongings nearby.

Zook, a USU student, said she and her aunt had made friends with the two men who left their backpack behind.

“Their stuff was about ten feet away from ours, and they left it to go boogie boarding,” Zook said.

According to Zook, another man casually walked by the men’s belongings and picked up their backpack.

“He did it so casually that no one thought it was suspicious,” Zook said. “Except for me.”

Zook stood up and asked the man if the backpack belonged to him.

“Everyone on the beach stopped, turned around and looked at him,” Zook said.

The man replied to Zook that the backpack belonged to his friend, but Zook said she wasn’t convinced.

“That’s exactly what he would say if he were stealing it,” she said. “I asked him to point out who his friends were, and he got really mad.”

Zook said she told the man to put the bag back, so he threw it directly at her.

“That was fine because at least he didn’t steal it,” Zook said. “Our Arizona boys were super grateful.”

Zook’s aunt, Liz Zook, said she didn’t realize the situation until her niece stood and confronted the man.

“I ran straight to the guys in the water and told them someone almost stole their stuff,” Liz Zook said. “But my niece saved it.”

Liz Zook said she was scared and even shaking after the confrontation.

“It would’ve been nice to just hardcore chill the whole time,” Zook said. “That’s what we expected to do, but what kind of vacation is actually relaxing?”

Zook said she wished problems with stealing weren’t a problem in California, where she lives, but the experience made for a funny story to tell.

“Those are the things that will make this week memorable,” Zook said. “Tera was the hero of the day.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blogging used as a tool for study abroad

By Sadie Hughes

Twenty-one Utah State University students will go to Spain in July for a monthlong study abroad at FundaciĆ³n Universidad de la Rioja. The adviser of the trip, Joshua Thoms, decided to add a new element to the trip – blogging.

The students have been able to prepare for the trip with access to a blog created by Thoms. The blog contains information about each student going on the trip and will be used as a way to practice their Spanish.

“All of the students going got an email with a questionnaire about what music we like, why we’re excited for the study abroad, our hobbies and stuff about our family,” said Brooklyn Baldwin, a student going on the trip. “I can stalk people and get to know them before the trip.”

Thoms explained that one student going on the study abroad lives in California and is taking classes online through USU. Thoms felt the blog has been a way for her to still feel connected to the group.

“Some students were hesitant upfront because they didn’t know anyone else going,” Thoms said. “I thought the blog would be a good way for them to get to know people.”

Each student will be required to attend the two classes they'll be enrolled in Monday through Friday and will be housed with host families. Thoms said spare time can be spent exploring the area and learning more about the Spanish culture.

Students will also publish posts on the blog during their study abroad about what they are learning and experiencing. The posts will be typed in English and Spanish.

“I will be putting the students into groups of three, so each group will be in charge of seven blog posts about cultural aspects they see during the trip,” Thoms said. “I want it to get students thinking about what they’re seeing and experiencing.”

Thoms also said it will be fun for family members of the students to look on the blog and see what is going on.

“It’s a way to document the students’ development and allow them to reflect on their study abroad experience,” Thoms said.