May 2011 Archives
There are these mosquitoes here -called mosquito tigre (tiger mosquitoes)--and they are eating me alive. Though I've never seen one, I hear they're huge and they can bite you through your jeans. It must be true because I have extremely itchy welts the size of golf balls all over my body. *make sure you bring hydrocortisone and bug repellent if you come to Spain.
Yesterday Kylee and I FINALLY began running participants...
Well, here we are--week four. I find it pretty unbelievable that I am this far along in my abroad experience already. And what a wonderful experience it has been! I am so happy that Lauren and I have had such great success with participants and availability of the rooms that we need. It really has made everything a lot less stressful on us knowing that have proper accommodations and many completed participants, with 26 more scheduled for next week.
Due to some more road bumps, I can proudly say I have written my own script for my main task. I have now learned how much time goes into actually making an experimental task, rather than just learning how to run participants and running through the motions. The detail and complicated rules and regulations are excrutiatingly tedious and frustrating.. my hat goes off to all who do this on a regular basis. However I can now confidently stand behind my experiment, knowing the "ins and outs" of Translation Recognition. Rosa has patiently taught me in 2 weeks more than I thought I would learn in 2 months, meanwhile Cornelia has provided me comfort sitting along side me to help combat the battle.
Today Rachel and I are running our first 4 participants. Thanks to Rosa's impressive recruiting skills, we have around 60 participants contact information.. now comes the waiting game..will they show up?
In addition to our research progess, Rachel and I have our very own pet.. Erwin - la lavadora .. at 2 tee shirts a time.. he is quite the charmer..
As more time passes, our time here in Beijing becomes less and less overtly unfamiliar. Sure, Ben's beard, my checkered flag backpack, and most recently, Nicole's mere presence still draw many double-takes from the locals. But every day, I learn more and more. Due to a complicated IRB application protocol, I am still not cleared to perform research here at Beijing Normal University. A predicament for sure, but my time has certainly not been wasted. Every day, I have been reading as many papers as I can get my hands on regarding age of acquisition and proficiency, and their connection to bilingual research.
The woman who's eye-tracker it is, Beryl Hilberink, has been the one training me in its operation. She's a professor in the Business Communication department here at Radboud University. She has been incredibly helpful and is a very nice soul, so I owe much of my progress to her!
- enhance communication in health services
- provide improved cross-linguistic access to health information for speakers of English and Chinese
- and design more intelligent bio-monitoring systems that can advise doctors and patients
- and others!
PDF available in PIRE repository, password required
After the past few days of craziness, Lauren and I have officially run 24 participants, 17 of which were done this week. I am actually quite proud of that number and I hope that we continue to work so efficiently during the remainder of our stay in Granada. We have a lot more participants scheduled for the upcoming weeks in order to fill our quota of 52 by the time we leave. However, knowing whether or not participants will actually show up is an entirely different story. In fact, the one participant that we had scheduled for today did not show up and actually that is pretty common here. Luckily though, most of the participants that we have had over the last week or so have been very good about coming at their assigned times. And actually, for the most part, we haven't had people coming too late either. The thing that has helped with our participants showing up is the personalized reminder emails that we send to each of them the day before they have to come in. I think if we were just leaving it to their memory, then our number would be a lot lower than it currently is. So, if you seem to be having trouble with actually getting your participants there on experiment day, I would suggest just briefly reminding them.
It is now day three of my stay here in Beijing, and I must give my experience here so far a great big thumbs up. Every meal thus far has been shared with kind, accommodating, and hardworking graduate students with impressive patience for my poor Chinese language skills. Don't get me wrong, many of the students here are quite fluently bilingual. They have at least enough skill to help me through my first Chinese restaurant, dining hall, or fMRI training session. Our challenges in communication don't seem to be a "language barrier" to me - more like a "language screen." We still communicate fairly well - about basketball, music, or the universal perception that Leonardo DiCaprio's appeal to the ladies since Titanic has significantly decreased. But there are some terms or concepts that simply will not transfer across our languages...
So Kylee and I arrived Saturday morning by a slightly delayed but overall uneventful flight (no screaming babies for once). The city was different from what we expected, but we are falling in love with it already and, making lots of great friends. Our favorite friend is this sweet old man that we asked for directions to the beach. Rosa (our advisor here in Tarragona) told us Catalan would be easy to pick up, so when the little old man began speaking in what I thought was Catalan I thought Rosa is so wrong...I can't understand a word he's saying, all I heard was playa. Then he told us he was Slovakian; playa must be a cognate.
Lesson 1: A. Catalan is very similar to Castilian Spanish and shares a lot of cognates; therefore you can pick up the basics easily. It's the grammar that is pretty different.
B. Never ask /refer to speaking Spanish when referring to Castilian Spanish in Cataluña. Specify with the word Castilian ("actual Spanish") or Catalan (the language spoken in this area) because they are both considered "Spanish".
Well, German keyboards are sufficiently confusing. The keyboard I'm typing on now could serve as a good analogy for my stay in this country so far. Overall, I feel fairly comfortable. A new city with new public transportation, grocery stores and neighbors, but overall everybody is friendly and personable and I can live a normal life.
Similar to how this keyboard is set up exactly as those at home, with some minor changes.
The language is the hardest thing to get used to. I should have listened to a few more German language podcasts, paid better attention in a few more German classes, or perhaps picked up a few more books written in German to decipher. However, I have faith I will become more fluent in the upcoming weeks. I know enough and am willing enough to learn that I am sure it will happen. Comparably, the z and y keys on this keyboard are switched. For a frequent and adept typer, this is a huge roadblock. Z is not a letter all too frequently used, but the Y is very common. There is enough typing in my future, however, that most likely by the time I get back to the states I will have difficulty remembering the old position of the y key (although hopefully, I don't have any difficulty remembering the English language).Keep Reading...
Last summer I studied abroad in Italy and I had no internet access for two months. Now, I almost wish it was the case. Every time I open my email, it is flooded with participant information. I am so grateful for the willingness, patience, and kindness of participants so far. We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm.
Hola a todos
Upon our arrival, Rachel and I experienced a few hiccups. Beginning with nuestro apartamento, Rachel and I realized that we would be getting a lot closer than we anticipated..we share a bed! No big deal to me, however if you asked Rachel she might say the opposite..
Although we have no hot water, no internet in our actual apartment, no place to do laundry, and one bed..the view of the sea makes up for it....[kinda, maybe].
Apart from the view, the pathway to the actual beach is not so bonita. At the entrance of the hotel one would believe the beach is 3 yards away.. Wrong! To our disappointment, this is not the case. It is quite deceiving. As soon as you reach where one would believe el mar to begin..there is a cliff..[not a little cliff - its quite a nose dive]...and then a high way...and then railroad tracks [which are in use] and then after a skip and a hop..one can touch the sand!! Took us an hour and a half [más o menos] to figure this crucial information out..after it was una adventura.
Today Rachel and I visited the University and Rosa helped us become acquainted with our new workspace. We are extremely fortunate to have her guidance, as well as her kindness.
We hope all is well in the States!
If there's one thing I've learned from the PIRE experience thus far, it's to expect the unexpected and always be on your toes. My title should be "Amber Evans: PIREfighter!" There have been so many little glitches that have arisen and my goal is to extinguish them all as quickly as possible. My hope is that you, the current PIRE students, have not been panicked and worried about these bumps in the road. We have tried to keep everything as smooth as possible, but life always throws curves and we just have to navigate the best we can.
Insights for next year:
Equipment: This shouldn't be as big of a challenge next time around as we now have the major purchases completed. One piece of wisdom is that the students need to make a plan with their adviser early on the semester prior to travel and communicate exactly what equipment they will require for experiments. We have been so fortunate to have Mark Minnick working tirelessly on this for the past two months. He has been a lifesaver as I do not know anything about computers and all of this equipment! Mark will be joining the Clinical Psychology program here at PSU in the fall, so we will not have his expertise for the next round. Mark, many thanks for the hard work you put into these purchases and congrats and good luck on your new adventure!
Yesterday, Lauren and I ran our first participant in our respective experiments. Overall, I would have to say that it went quite well. However, I should probably admit that we did hit a few roadblocks when running the participant. They really only occurred in our behavioral tasks though, which is a lot better than the alternative--a failure in the eye tracking portion. Basically it just boiled down to errors in the script and now we have fixed them for all of our participants in the future. Actually, on that note, we have seven scheduled for Friday and more ready for next week. I am pretty excited to have so many so soon and I cannot wait to see what results we get from them later on.
Probably the most challenging part about running the monolingual participants here is doing so in Spanish. I think that I am decently proficient in the language, but I think that I get nervous about them making potential mistakes simply because I was not that clear in the directions. But if yesterday was any indicator of the participants to come, I think that everything will turn out to be fine in the end. I feel like our first participant was able to understand everything that we were saying to her and when she did not understand, we were able to restate it in a way that allowed her to do so.
Other than running our first participant, Lauren and I have been working on recruitment of more participants. Some of the methods that we chose can be read on Lauren's post if you want some ideas. Hopefully everyone who is at their foreign sites has been having the same luck that we have been lately. And if you haven't left yet, good luck when you begin the recruitment process. It seems to be that most people are very energetic to help out with whatever you are doing here, especially if there is some money involved.
We have already run the experiment with one participant (woohoo!), but there are still many more to go. Here are things we've done to try to recruit participants:...
This past weekend, Jing Yang, who leads the research lab that got me started in the field of bilingual research invited the BLC lab staff (and the notorious Benjamin Zinszer) for a lunch of traditional Chinese food at her house. She made hot pot, which Beijing is famous for. It's basically a big wok of soup kept at a rolling boil in the middle of the table. The guests are presented with ingredients like beef, tofu, a variety of veggies, eel dumpling items ( I can't remember the exact name), and simply drop what they would like to eat into the delicious soup for a minute or two to be cooked. It's a particularly social dish, and we talked a lot - about China, the Chinese people, Chinese music and fashion, some phrases to remember when at a meal with friends, and much more. It was just one more thing to add the list that Jing has done to help me and Ben with our upcoming adventure to the other side of the world.
I always have some anxiety about plane flights, but it's something that's only begun to happen to me in the past three years or so. If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I'd say it's probably me projecting and anxiety about my travel and leaving home onto something more concrete. But as always happens, I arrived safely yet exhausted - at Schiphol Int'l Airport in Amsterdam.
Little sleep in the past few days (including none on the plane) had begun to give my surroundings an edge of surreality. This was compounded by the dawning realization that I was back in Europe, where I sometimes feel I left my heart during my last trip there.
First: Madrid Airport. Our flight to Granada got cancelled and then delayed, so our trip was extended even longer. But what can you do? We are lucky that Jorge still met us at the airport and got us to the apartment with no problems.
Second: Working in the lab of another university is very different. You are no longer in your own territory. We are in the shared space of intelligent international graduate students, and we have a million questions. We must wait on equipment, access, and confirmation. However, we are so very fortunate that we are surrounded by genuinely kind people.
While we may have to depend on others for help in many areas, it is ok. So far, everyone that we've met at the Universidad de Granada have been more than nice, helpful, and friendly. It is not unnerving and our queries are always answered.
I am thankful for their patience and help. I hope that all other PIRE scholars find the same kindness in their travels.
Staying awake worked well to avoid jet-lag, and I woke up on Monday refreshed and ready to do some work...
The last few days have been quite a unique experience to say the least. After leaving the States on Saturday for Granada, I embarked on what turned out to be a 27-hour trip to actually arrive at the apartment which I am staying in. However, I was lucky enough to be traveling with both Jason and Lauren, so when our flight from Madrid to Granada was cancelled on Sunday morning, at least I had people to talk to until our rebooking later that afternoon; although I don't think that I was much of a conversationalist, falling asleep on a table and all. The flight cancellation was a very new experience for me. Initially, I was very nervous because this was my first time traveling without my family, so I wasn't too sure what to do. But in the end everything worked itself out and the three of us made it to Granada. If I have one piece of advice for those unfamiliar with traveling alone and have not done so yet, however, it would be to make sure that you have the contact information of your host mentor ready in case something happens. Even if you're just making a simple change, letting your mentor know is always better than not doing so.
Read on for more...
Throughout the semester, I've tried to expose myself to the Chinese culture as much as possible. I enrolled in Chinese 197- All About China (one credit course), joined the Chinese Connection Club, bought an audio book to learn Chinese and became a conversation partner through Global Programs. All of these experiences, I believe, will help me adjust to the huge culture shock I'll be faced with this summer. I recommend to any future PIRE student to use the resources that are available to them at Penn State. Audit a class, talk to international students from the country you will travel to, try to figure out the cultural differences, etc.
Specifically, for the future PIRE student going to China, I would like to go into some detail about the things I've tried: