Stress Relieving Hobbies at UW – Video Story Telling

Blog Post 10 Reflection

1. Brief Summary of Assignment and Story

This final project was truly a culmination of the semester. The assignment incorporated bits and pieces of everything we’ve learned during the semester – and put it into a video.

We needed:

  • A story
  • A narrative arc for that story
  • Journalistic approach (feature, promotional, hard-news)
  • Editing of audio and video

Jordan (my partner) and I decided to do a feature story on stress relieving hobbies in preparation for finals. We wanted to make it interesting for the viewer so we avoided the typical ones like: Netflix binge, video games, and drinking.

So our video looked at:

  1. Water Polo – We interviewed some players and got footage of them in action at Corbett.
  2. Foosball – On Friday’s there is an unofficial Foosball club. It’s a group of foosball players who get together and celebrate the end of the week.
  3. Board Games – These guys don’t play Monopoly, Risk, Sorry, or the typical family games. Instead they get together with some heavy dark beers and compete for galactic domination in Eclipse, build an ancient civilization in 7 Wonders, or try and eliminate their friends in a game of Coup.

Our shots featured a variety of interesting perspectives, which helped make our video unique and stand out.

2. What I Enjoyed and Didn’t

I love making videos, its perhaps my favorite multimedia activity. In high school, I always opted for the video projects if we had the option. Drinking with Dave, a short film I made in high school, is still used for the Sophomore level health class when they give the unit on drinking.

So I loved every second of it, the filming, setting up the shots, the editing, all of it! I really did truly enjoy this entire project and it was my favorite one this entire semester!

*I did not conduct the majority of  interviews since I knew some of the people in the groups, instead Jordan did that portion, so we could get “real” and “raw” answers and responses.

3. What Surprised Me, and What Would’ve I Done Different

How great all the shots turned out honestly surprised me. Since we used my GoPro for the majority of the shots, we didn’t know how they would turn out. With the time restraints, we only could do one or two takes. But luckily we got perfect shots, angles.

Audio is a huge thing I would done differently. Having an actual microphone for the interviewing segments would’ve helped tremendously. After we introduce the interviewee’s face, having a clearer and more professional audio recording for the B-roll… I can only imagine, “shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

I am pleased with the video how it is, but professionally recorded audio never hurts.

4. How I See Myself Using Video in a Future Career

I want my future career to be about video, hopefully. I really do love it. Maybe I will pursue an environmental film career. I do love documentaries.

Finding my perfect dream job will be difficult, but I will try and search for it. As long as video and writing are incorporated I’ll be content. If I’m only producing one or two films a month, at least it’s something.

Recently my friends and I got together and talked about starting a videography firm focusing on action sports, like Teton Gravity Research. We would be different because we want to focus on amateurs and help them get recognized. Who knows, this might be my future career.

All I know is that this course provided me with the tools to pursue any career in Online Multimedia!

 

Nick

Teton Gravity Research: Higher (Live Tweeting Project)

Disclaimer: Before I answer the questions provided, I should be honest.

  1. I do not own a smartphone. Nor do I plan to own one anytime soon.
  2.  My kindle has problems with Wi-Fi.  I do not own a laptop either.
  3.  I’ve never used Twitter before this event and I don’t understand it. I know I want to go into a multimedia profession, but I don’t “get” Twitter.
  4. How can you report a thought or scene grammatically correct in only 140 characters? Are you supposed to tweet a link to the actual story or scene?
  5. I had to hand write my tweets while at a movie. I looked so awesome. Everyone wanted to be my friend.

Now onto the real blog post:

 1. Summary

The event I went and live tweeted on was the screening of a Teton Gravity Research film. It was Jeremy Jones’ Higher. It was hosted by the Student Activities Council (SAC) at the University of Wyoming on 12/3. SAC hosts free events for students on Wednesday nights to give them a fun activity to do instead of studying. Normally screening of films cost, but the University of Wyoming and SAC do an excellent job bringing in a wide variety of outdoor and adventure films all for free! The event started at 6 pm in the Union Ballroom. It was quite oddly set up because SAC was anticipating more people and had 3 separate screens, but only a handful of people showed up. I think it is too close to the end of the semester and students need to buckle down and study.

2. What did I enjoy about the experience

First off, the film itself. I’m a huge fan of Teton Gravity Research and their films. I usually go to screenings of the Banff Mountain Film Festival  (spring tour) each year. It is a topic and event I’m passionate about which kept me entertained. I wasn’t anxiously waiting for the end so I could go home. I was dreading it, because it meant real life and not cool outdoor adventures.

I sort of enjoyed being forced to tweet. I had to think of the most colorful parts of this amazing film and sadly condense it into 140 characters. It was hard to do, but good practice.

But overall, I didn’t like the tweeting part of it. I feel like it took away from the film. I was too busy trying to scrawl down some tweets and I missed some colorful quotes and shots on camera. But at least I didn’t have an LED device annoying my neighbors.

3. What did I learn? What surprised me? What did I wish I would’ve done differently?

I learned Twitter and tweeting is for me… I really don’t like it. It’s short, awkward, and weird. I read the @ and # symbols out loud and it confuses me..  At this point I’m hoping my parents and grandparents are correcting about it just being a “phase.”

If it’s part of my career, I will slowly embrace it.

What surprised me is how short exactly 140 characters is! Holy cow, I had quotes from students who went to the event but I could barely attribute them at the end. They had some cool things to say but I couldn’t fit it all.

And I was surprised that hashtag’s contribute to the character count. How is “over hashtaging” even a thing? Do people really just tweet hashtags?

I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently. I tweeted some interesting parts of the film and got my interviews. I didn’t intrude on other people during the film and distract them with my bright screen and the flash on my camera. As a late adapter, I am proud of myself, I used Twitter. I probably will not put it on my resume though.

 

4. How do I see myself using social media in a future career?

As made evident by my several rants above… the bare minimum. I now understand Twitter and how it works. Now I can narrow my career search and filter out real-time journalist positions (kidding, if there was a position open I would interview, but probably not get the job since I don’t have a smart phone).

I feel like an old person. I like Facebook for connecting with friends and family. It’s how I message my friends in Europe for free and swap pictures. It’s also how I share funny internet things with my siblings back home in Lander. That is my extent of it.

But if my perspective job wants me to utilize social media, I guess I can adapt. But hopefully I can avoid being forced to use it for work.

Yes, I realize I will be doing an internship with the UW Research blog, but I’ll be creating the multimedia content and hopefully I’ll receive help with marketing it. I am excited to make some videos and write some stories though!

 

Nick

Soundslides Analysis

Introduction

Bridging audio and visual storytelling was the focus of this assignment. To do that, we utilized the Soundslides program. Sometimes solely photos isn’t enough to keep the audience engaged, same goes with audio. Striking that perfect, delicate balance between the two was the purpose and goal of the assignment (not to mention familiarizing ourselves with Soundslides).  Photos complement audio segments and visa-versa.

 

Partner Reflection

Working with Jordan was a great experience. I am glad he was my partner. He’s a motivated individual who is passionate about Small Business Saturday and I think that shows in him “taking the reigns” (we did equal amounts of work, he just came up with lots of ideas and cool photos). We work well as a team. A funny little anecdote that might be slightly noteworthy was when Jordan was taking photos of Sweets and I was interviewing Audrey, we got this really cool shot… but my hand the recorder where in it. Luckily we just cropped the photo.

We capitalized on the provided work days since both Jordan and I were swamped outside of class. It also worked well because that’s when businesses downtown are open.

Soundslides Analysis

Soundslides the program was simple to use and straightforward. However, I found it slightly frustrating that it already puts the photos onto a timeline. I wouldn’t mind doing it manually. This is simply a minor inconvenience because moving the photos around is simple.

I didn’t mind using Soundslides and I enjoyed being exposed to a new program and learning how it works. But I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Is this really it?” I know that both iMovie and Windows Movie Maker allow you to add photos with captions and play audio in the background. If I were a media professional, I just don’t see myself paying $40 or whatever the exact amount is.

Problems, Difficulties, Struggles

Other than sharing a pair of ear buds, Jordan and I didn’t run into too many struggles. We were both committed and understanding. I felt free to voice my opinion during the audio editing and he asked me to double check and see if I wanted any changes.

Difficulties mainly came down to the photos. If we were to redo the assignment, I would’ve shot more photos. We ended up with around 25, which worked out. But our selection was slim and we ended up using certain photos that weren’t the best, because we lacked a better option. I blame the freezing temperatures that week.

Changes

The assignment was straightforward and simple. The audio editing took up the majority of the process, which was expected.

I would maybe change the requirements and have Soundslides as the preferred program but also allow students to seek out other programs such as iMovie or Microsoft Photo Story.

 

Nick

 

 

Final Audio Profile

Embedded below, is the final edited audio profile on my fellow classmate, Jordan Blazovich.

My Editing Experience:

To describe my experience in one word: repetitive.

What I mean is that I kept replaying the same two second or shorter transition pieces. When I would cut out a piece of the raw file that I did not feel fit in the final product, I would replay the transition pieces (beginning and end of the new clips) to make sure it flowed right and did not sound too jumpy. So I heard these clips probably hundreds of times as I cut off milliseconds and adjusted the fading multiple times.

These audio snippets will probably haunt me in my dreams tonight.

To edit, I used GarageBand for this assignment because it is on my personal computer and I think it was easier to save and work with the file than use the school computers. However, I do want to use Audacity and be familiar with it in the future.

GarageBand was nice because I could have several tiers of the raw file.  I dragged and dropped sections to the “official” segment. It was nice to be able to mute the different tiers when I wasn’t working with those ones.

I anticipated having difficulty trimming my 5 minute file down to 2 minutes. However, it went quite smoothly once I realized what my focus was. If it didn’t fit within my focus, it was cut. I’m pleased with my succinct and concise final product.

What I Enjoyed and Didn’t:

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. It’s fun to manipulate the raw file. And at the end of it all, you get a polished, tangible copy. It is rewarding to work hard on something and finish with a final copy that you worked on.

I enjoyed editing’s therapeutic value; building patience. It takes a long time, and I often found myself stuck editing a five second quote for several minutes. But in the end when the final piece flows and works, it’s worth it.

I didn’t enjoy little aspects of GarageBand. Whenever I would insert a new clip in the middle of two clips in my “official” segment, it would shorten the clips already there to make room for the new one. However, once I realized GarageBand does this, I could avoid it and it wasn’t too big of a deal.

Another part I didn’t enjoy were the transitions. It was hard to find transitions and make them flow smoothly. No matter how much editing I did, I feel like it can still be edited more. It would be nice if there was a pause between every word, but no one actually speaks like that.

Surprises:

As mentioned above, I was surprised how easy it was to cut down the interview to around two minutes. It felt daunting at first, but in the end it was easy. Now that I’ve finished editing, I think two minutes is long and it could be even shorter!

I enjoy editing! To me that’s a surprise. Normally I am the type of person who gets antsy if I’m working on one project for too long. I need little breaks and distractions. However, while editing, I’m in the zone and focused.

I gave myself a pat on the back for doing the entire edit in one sitting.

Would I Do Anything Different? What Could’ve Went More Smoothly:

A small thing I would’ve done differently; get a clearer self-id. I was still fidgeting with the recorder and its audible in the beginning. But there was nothing I could do about it. Once I placed the recorder on the table, there were no future sound problems.

An intro/outro sound bite in the beginning and end of the story would be cool. I just did not have the time to search for an appropriate and relevant sound or tune. Also, I don’t know if SoundCloud has a net of copyrighted and wouldn’t allow me to publish my profile if it contained a five second snippet from an artist. So this time, I kept it simple. But in the future, I want to experiment more ambient noises.

 

Nick

Raw Audio File

Here is the raw audio file for my interview. The total time is 5:13.

The interviewing experience went smoothly. I wasn’t nervous and since it was a classmate it felt relaxed and informal. This was the first time I was interviewing someone with an audio recorder. It honestly didn’t feel different than past interviews I’ve conducted (Branding Iron, Magazine Writing, independent essays). The nice part is that if this were to be a written story, I could get a raw and powerful quote the first time. Sometimes when I interview people and their quote is colorful, I ask them to repeat it because I don’t want to misquote them. So having the audio recorder is nice.

Being the interviewee was interesting. It was the first time in a long while I’ve been interviewed. I decided to talk about playing on the water polo club, since it’s a defining characteristic about me. Being audio recorded was really different because I could see the time and how long the interview was taking. Also I was overly concerned with my voice level. I seemed way too fixated on watching the sound waves go up and down on the device, more so than what I was actually saying.

As stated above, I enjoyed having every little thing recorded. It makes it easier because I’m not frantically scrambling notes while conducting an interview. I didn’t enjoy being distracted by the recorder. I guess the perfect solution would be to record the interview and not allow the interviewee to see the recorder’s screen. However, I will admit it is nice to see how long I was spending on a certain question or portion.

Doing something different, I wish I would’ve “controlled” the interview a little more. My interviewee was super passionate about his subject. He didn’t go into too much detail, just covered a substantial amount of information. I think I only asked two questions towards the end.

As my first audio interviewing experience it was so helpful. I learned I need to control the interview and know when to “interrupt” and refocus the interview.  However, I am happy that I did not interrupt the interviewee and there were no awkward little pauses during the interview.

 

Nick

Photo Journalism Assignment

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1. Title: Diving Into Level Seven

Caption: Lodon Ewers (on the right) and Luke (left) get ready for swim lessons at Laramie High School. Lodon hopes he can pass out of level six today and dive on into level seven.

*Sports-feature

2. Title: Rocking Out in the 307DCIM109GOPRO

Caption: Free Throw, a rock band touring across the nation, opens for the band Empire! Empire! at the Wyoming Union Thursday Oct. 16.  Members of Free Throw are: Cory Castro, Jake Hughes, Lawrence Warner, Justin Castro, and Zach Hall.

*Feature photo

3. Title: A Gallon A DayDCIM109GOPRO

 Caption: Zach Martinez, a senior studying engineering at UW,  just finished a physics study session. He carries around a gallon of water and finishes a gallon once a day.

 

 

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4. Title: Restringing

Caption: Justin Castro, of rock band Free Throw, replaces his strings after one broke during their set at the Gardens in the basement of the Wyoming Union.

 

 

 

5. Title: Planning the SessionDCIM109GOPRO

Caption: Andrew Webber, a student by day and coach by night, mentally plans his swim lesson plan about to happen in a few minutes. Webber aspires to be a swim coach in the near future.

 

 

Blog post Questions:

1. The title for my non-sports feature photo is Rocking Out in the 307.

The caption is: Free Throw, a rock band touring across the nation, opens for the band Empire! Empire! at the Wyoming Union Thursday Oct. 16.  Members of Free Throw are: Cory Castro, Jake Hughes, Lawrence Warner, Justin Castro, and Zach Hall.

I stumbled upon this photo and event because I was editing my other photos in the Union basement and heard music coming from the Gardens. It was my type of music (indie emo/punk rock) so I walked over and snapped this picture during their closing song.

While photographing this even I felt the energy of the atmosphere. Although not a well-known band, Free Throw rocked out and everyone was enjoying themselves.

Getting the shot was not too difficult. I wanted a different type of shot so I got a shot from the side, instead of straight on.

My creative device was viewpoint. The angle of being adjacent to the stage provides an interesting and unique viewpoint.

 

2. The title for my sports-feature photo is Diving Into Level Seven.

The caption is: Lodon Ewers (on the right) and Luke (left) get ready for swim lessons at Laramie High School. Lodon hopes he can pass out of level six today and dive on into level seven.

I learned about this sporting event because I am a former swimmer from Lander and I know Laramie Swim Club is growing their club this year, especially through their Swim America swim lesson program. The atmosphere was quite hectic as kids ran to the pool eager to swim, while the younger ones clung to the legs of their parents. I snapped this picture just as Lodon and Luke were about to warm up and get started.

This shot was fairly easy to get. However, I wanted to try something new and so I got on the eye level of Lodon, who was already in the water.

While photographing the event, I felt the same feelings I felt right before practice. The nervous excited jitters, yet not ready for the cold water. The coaches say the water is warm. It never is.

My creative device was rule of thirds. In the photo, Luke is in one third, Lodon, the middle, and on the white wall is the colorful American flag. The American flag is not the focal point but its mix of color and contrast on the dark wall attracts the eye.

*(Luke and his parents redacted his last name  but gave permission for him to be in the photo)

3. The title for my spot news photo was: Restringing

The caption is: Justin Castro, of rock band Free Throw, replaces his strings after one broke during their set at the Gardens in the basement of the Wyoming Union.

I stumbled upon Justin after the set in the Union. I really liked their music so we began chatting. He told me how his string broke towards the end of the set. And I pulled out my camera and got this really cool angle while he fiddled with his guitar.

The atmosphere after the show was quite mellow. Free Throw just finished playing and Empire! Empire! was about to play next. It was really cool to just talk with Justin, sometimes we tend to idolize musicians and actors, but in reality they are people too.

When photographing this event I felt the calm before/after the storm. They just finished playing while the next band was setting up.

This shot was fairly difficult since I wanted to try and get the entire guitar in the shot and Justin while he tinkered with his strings.

I felt Justin’s post show energy while photographing this shot. He had this “it was totally worth it” vibe.

My creative device: Leading lines. In this photo, the lines on the guitar draw our eyes towards the base of it and to Justin and his string. It worked out well I would say.

4. Yes! I few things did surprise me. I found it very hard to approach people at first. My first event (the swimming pool) made me very nervous. I was photographing children… it’s awkward being a college aged male asking to photograph children swimming. But after the ice was broken it worked out alright.

If I could’ve done something different, it would be find better lighting during the Free Throw concert. Out of the 50+ shots I took, someone’s face was always flashed out it seemed like. I would’ve gone onto the other side where the light fixture wasn’t aiming.

 

Nick

 

Creative Devices: 5 Unedited Photos

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Caption: Foosball fanatics, Gabe Chapeton and Zeke Denison, take a break in between classes. Gabe is lining up his shot in hopes to settle the score.

1. Title: Going for the Equalizer

Device: Symmetry and Patterns

This shot is filled with symmetry. There are two pool tables present, a symmetrical foosball table, two players on each side,  the pattern of the table itself, and the carpet squares.

Another device here is viewpoint. Here we can see the entire foosball table, both the players, and the awkward silent intensity of the game.

 

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Caption: A cold beer, sunglasses, and keys to a car that can take you on an adventure. That’s summer.

2. Title: Missing Summertime

Device: Color

Warm sepia colors fill this photo. The light hits the background and imitates the sun in the photo. The curtains in the background share the same tone. Even the shade of the sunglasses follow suite. Finally, the dark amber color of the beer matches the table.

 

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Caption: After a grueling two hour session of Agricola, Andrew Mittelstadt tallies up the scores, on a table cluttered with game boards and pieces.

3. Title: And the Winner is…

Device: Establishing Size

In this shot, the audience gets an up front view of the game pieces and the table. It shows how small each piece is, next to the normal sized card. It also contains the opposite, Andrew, looks quite small on the other side of the table and fairly distant compared to the tiny “animeeples” (the sheep, cattle, and boar pieces).

Another device is cropping. The center of attention is clearly the closest game board. However, my camera has a fish-eye lens and captures quite a bit, so this is the unintended final result.

 

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Caption: Water polo goal keeper, Omar Urueta hops out of the water to try and get a hand on the incoming ball. Can he stop the shot and be the hero?

4. Title: Incoming Shot! Block or Save?

Device: Viewpoint

In this shot, the audience is behind the cage anxiously waiting to see if the shot will go through or not. We get a view quite similar to Omar’s by being able to see everything: the players, the pool, and the ball flying straight towards the goal. Also this viewpoint is from behind the net, which is a little different than a typical athletic action shot.

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Caption: A faded gold bike sits in a line outside the Classroom Building at the University of Wyoming.

5. Title: Long Line of Bikes

Device: Creating Depth

The shot lines up various bike frames, creating a hole to see through the bikes down the row. This creates depth. We can see how many bikes are parked in this row. Also the building creates a nice background and helps establish size. The rack on the left side also helps create the depth and gives an interesting perspective and angle.

Framing is another element, the frame is on the bicycle frames. It’s the focal point of the frame and photo.

Home Sweet Rome; What is Home Anyway?

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Denison’s daily bike route in Malaga, Spain (Courtesy: Zeke Denison)

Zeke Denison sat along a concrete wall that scaled the sea. The sun was setting, and the ocean breeze kissed his face. He pulled out his camera and snapped a picture: his route to and from school.  Málaga, Spain was his home for the time being. Denison took a leap into the sea of unknown and went on a study abroad. This is his story.

Málaga, Spain: Denison’s Story

Born and raised in Laramie, Denison, a senior at the University of Wyoming (UW), traveled to Málaga, Spain this past semester (Spring 2014) with hopes to further develop his Spanish speaking skills and immerse himself in a different way of life. Málaga is located along the southern coast of Spain, near the tip of Africa.

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Denison and his friend Emily by the Sagrada Familia. Barcelona, Spain (Courtesy of Michaela Kline)

“It was the best time of my life, and one thing is for certain. I am definitely going back!” Denison said, “There is just something about living in a foreign culture, really immersing yourself in different way of life. Although everything is so foreign, you learn so much about yourself.”

On an average day, Denison would wake up and mosey over to class. When exactly was class? No matter, it was Spanish time; flexible. His major decisions were weekend plans: whether he wanted to journey to Barcelona and see the sights, or watch Real Madrid play live.

 

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Bruges, Belgium

However, there was substantial work before heading abroad. Finances, Universities, programs, and travel arrangements, are just a few things that needed to be sorted out before departure. It does not happen overnight, and in Denison’s case, it dictated his choice of higher education.

After high school graduation, Denison hit a fork in the road. Stay in-state for his education or seek out-of-state options. Ultimately, it came down to finances. Going to school in Wyoming was the economic choice for Denison. He could live at home while he worked long shifts in order to fund his semester abroad.

“I was… still kinda am… tired of Laramie. I’ve lived my whole life here out on the plains, man. Like, what is it like to live by the sea? I wanted to find out, first hand” Denison said.

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Denison along the northern coast of Spain during the El Camino. Itziar, Spain (Courtesy of: Zeke Denison)

Different Types of Study Abroad Programs

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Kalmar Castle. Kalmar, Sweden

The University of Wyoming contains several programs to go abroad. Consisting of: exchanges, study abroad, and faculty led programs. Sarah Robinson of the International Programs Office (IPO) explained differences.

An exchange program is where UW partners with an international institute.

“We send an American student and in return we receive an Austrian or Dutch student, for example,” Robinson said.

This could be advantageous because students pay UW tuition and fees. In addition, they can use their UW scholarships. However, exchanges are limited to only partnered institutions and countries.

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The Swiss Alps, with the Matterhorn in the background. Zermatt, Switzerland (Courtesy: Zeke Denison)

Another option is choosing to go through a third party organization such as the International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP). Denison went through International Studies Abroad (ISA), much like ISEP. The palate of available programs and schools is more colorful but students must work with the third party organization, a foreign institution, and UW. Also, students will want to be sure their credits transfer back to UW.

A third option, usually shorter term, is a faculty-led program. These typically occur during the summer or winter breaks. Last summer, Christian Bope, a Wildlife Biology and Environment and Natural Resources major, studied along UW professors in Kenya.

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Riga, Latvia

“The world is vast, and everyone should have the opportunity to explore it. The University of Wyoming has so many awesome opportunities, programs, and scholarships, making this dream a reality for countless students like myself,”  Christian Bope said, “The International Programs Office is a tremendous help. I know without their help with planning and funding, there is no way this would be possible for not just me, but many other students as well. For that I am beyond thankful.”

Costa Rica to Africa: Christian Bope

“Best. Time. Ever. It was stellar, first part of my summer in Africa was taking a field based course with professors. After the course, I conducted my own research via an EPSCoR grant,” Bope said, “With this, I studied vegetation and habitat patterns of lions. Seeing lions in the wild is crazy, hands down way better than zoos.”

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Bope in Kenya (Courtesy: Kate Finley)

Bope also spent a semester abroad in Costa Rica. Like Denison, Bope wanted to improve his language skills.

“I don’t know which experience I cherish more. In Kenya I was enthralled with the research and schoolwork,” Bope said, “In Costa Rica, I  further developed my Spanish skills and went surfing almost everyday after class. The two were so drastically different; incomparable really.”

Denison and Bope: Their Next Steps

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Berlin Cathedral. Berlin, Germany (Courtesy: Casidy Mittelstadt)

Denison became so enamored with being abroad he is already looking at studying in Germany at Pforzheim University during the Spring 2015 semester.

“Once you get a taste of it, you never want to stop… Germany is my next destination. After that, who knows? Asia, Africa, South America… the world is huge and I want to see it all!” Denison said.

Bope hopes to travel to the Canary Islands with the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources this winter break. It would be a faculty led program for several weeks.

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Alvesta, Sweden

Readjusting Back to Home

Both Denison and Bope are back in Wyoming, slowly readjusting. For Denison, being distant from his friends is one of the hardest parts of being back home. The time difference between Wyoming and Europe is eight hours.

“Being home is hard. I mean, what is home anyway? I think the world is my homeland now,” Denison said.

Despite: the costs, the planning, the 8+ hour long flights, the jet lag, and hardships of readjusting, both Bope and Denison said it was “absolutely worth it.”

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Denison and his friends at this “residencia” in Malaga, Spain (Courtesy of: Zeke Denison)

My Personal Experience

My name is Nicholas Robinson and until last year when I landed in Toronto, Canada on my way to Kalmar, Sweden, I’d never stepped foot outside of the United States.

I was born and raised in Lander, Wyoming and I lived in Wyoming my whole life. I’d only been to 8 states: Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, South Dakota, and California.

It all started in high school when my friend Kent decided to do an exchange and he moved to Switzerland for a year. He got back and told me about his experiences and shared his stories with me… when would it be my turn to do the same, I thought to myself.

And 4 years later it was the Fall semester of 2014. Many nights were spent procrastinating homework as I researched countries, universities, and cities. Where did I want to live? For some reason or another one country stuck out, Sweden. I went to the UW Study Abroad page, found Linnaeus University in Sweden, and looked at courses.

The next day, I filled out the necessary paperwork with the IPO and turned it in.

And I waited… and waited… and waited. During this waiting period I filled out scholarship applications. Probably close to half a dozen applications.

It felt like it took years for the university to finally accept me into their program, in reality it was a few weeks. I was up late one evening when I heard my email notification go off. It was morning in Sweden and they just sent out the acceptance letters!

The next several months were stressful and crazy. I had to apply for a residency permit (which takes up to 5 months to receive!) Yet you need to have your acceptance letter in order to apply for the permit. And you need the residency permit in order to arrive in Sweden, it’s a complicated system.

So I filled out my residency permit the day I received my acceptance letter. And I waited again. Only this time, I was more stressed out: I did not have a plane ticket, I did not know where I was going to live, I did not know if I could live in Sweden. All I had was an acceptance email… but what did that mean if I couldn’t live and study in the country. Not to mention, it was mid-November, I should be flying out in 2 months…

I was about to lose hope. Yet the helpful people at the IPO office kept me going. They gave me contact information for the Swedish Embassy and Consulates. It was a week of playing phone tag. But I think they got annoyed with hearing about Nick Robinson from Wyoming, because shortly after I received my residency permit!

I bought my plane ticket Thanksgiving Day. It was official, I was going to Sweden!

I’ll summarize my experience with some photos and short captions (since this has already been long enough)

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My group of friends and I at the Kalmar FF match. It was the first game of the season and we all got scarves for free! Cool souvenir that is now at home! (Kalmar, Sweden).
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Me, Krysy, and Peter working at the Student Pub. The student pub is a bar owned and operated by the student union at our University. Student’s volunteer to work at the pub and get to eat for free during their shift and learn some bartending skills! (Kalmar, Sweden).
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My friend Emilka and I working at the Student Pub (Kalmar, Sweden).
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My group of friends and I posing outside Student Pub one last time (Kalmar, Sweden).
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Entrance to Wawel Castle (Krakow, Poland).
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Cobblestone pathway my friends and I took to the pub (Kalmar, Sweden).
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My Austrian friend Anja and I (Kalmar, Sweden).

 

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The view outside my window at my apartment (Kalmar, Sweden).
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Kayaking in Dutch agriculture canals (Annen, Netherlands).
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Historic train station in Groningen, Netherlands.

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Usability Tests on Multimedia Story Packages

My personal usability test:

Website: http://www.overwaterunderfire.org/

After spending more than 10 minutes, I realized I explored the website in chronological order. I didn’t jump around, I followed the path set by the video. I enjoy rafting and the outdoors. In high school I took a NOLS course, where I kayaked and rafted for almost a month in Utah.

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My father was deployed to Kuwait when I was about 10 years old.

This site combined two things I am passionate about: the environment and war. Therefore I explored the site much longer than 10 minutes.

The layout of the page is interesting. It is a film broken up into specific parts. Each different part is like an educational intermission. I watched the films chronologically and read the information presented at the end of each. The information came in short and sweet snippets. There were links and “see more” buttons for those interested. I explored the page chronologically because it felt right. The page was telling stories. One about the Colorado River, and one about wounded veterans. I followed it in order. My reasoning was: when you read a book, you don’t start with chapter 5 and go back to chapter 1 after.

Navigation was simple and straightforward. It followed most of the rules posted on the blog post. Including:

  1. Keep navigation simple: Limit choices. Avoid scroll bars and drop-down menus. Avoid layers and layers of navigation.
  2. Integrate multimedia into text, so if users what to explore the multimedia while reading the text, they can take a detour. This is nonlinearity.
  3. Don’t change the position and location of links.
  4. Try not to offer more than 7 options for primary navigation. Exceeding 7 can overwhelm.
  5. Use clean, simple design so it is easy to read and view your content.

It limited choices and did not add unnecessary fluff to the page. However, I would say this simplicity caused several inconveniences. It did not label the different sections of the page. Instead it had little squares on the video timeline. It was hard to scroll back and forth, because the video needed to buffer. To sum it up, it was visually appealing and clean-cut, but lacked in several key features. But  the page contained several minor errors that could easily be resolved.

I personally thought it was annoying to click and drag a button in order to start the multimedia experience. A simple click would’ve sufficed in my opinion. This occurs several times on the page.

Finding contact information was difficult. On the page they have links titled: Staff Editorial, About Us, and Credits. To get contact information, you first need to click on the About Us link. This pulls up information about the organization. Next click the link at the bottom that says: See more about the staff here. You are redirected to a separate webpage. Once there, you need to click on the contact page. If I am counting correctly, that is three steps and a webpage change. It could very well be condensed to just one step.

Usability on my girlfriend Casidy:

Casidy’s thoughts:

“I don’t like where the text is on the page. It’s very conflicting. Am I supposed to be looking at the picture or reading the text? If the text is important, why is it in the corner?”

“I don’t like clicking and dragging, I just want to click.”

“It’s hard to navigate, because you cannot scroll through.”

“I like how the video paused and added links if you wanted to learn more.”

Casidy watched the first section of video before she realized she could move around at her leisure.

After that she explored a few of the pitstops along the video, she moved over to the Staff Editorial page and read about the creators. She noticed that some of the photo’s moved, but others didn’t. This might’ve been because of my browser, but I am unsure.

She actually found the contact page on her own. But she got very confused about where it redirected her. She asked: “Who is Powering A Nation?” This is a very legitimate question. She thought it was an advertisement, due to the positioning on the page. It appears like a banner add.

Differences and similarities:

Honestly, our usability tests were quite similar minus me being excited about the content and her viewing it more critically and analytically.

The places we spent our time were quite different. She really enjoyed looking at the Staff Editorials and the About Us pages. On the other hand, I enjoyed the actually content itself. I seemed to spend more time on material while she sought out information. She seemed more excited about the behind the scenes.

Navigationally speaking, we shared the same complaints. Especially the click and drag. It really seemed unnecessary.

Things they should not change:

1. The simplicity and limited options.

It was very nice to not be overwhelmed with content right off the bat and too many options. I enjoyed the simplicity.

2. The start-stop video progression.

Having a video that carries a story along with it is nice. But stopping every now and then to read and be able to research more is convenient.

3. The introductory video.

This video is a short sequence of cut scenes from the page. I really enjoy it because it hooks you in and provides a sort of taste for the content on the page.

Things they should change:

1. The “click and drag” button.

When both my girlfriend and I complained about this and proposed a simple solution, it should be changed. A button saying: “click to continue” would be satisfactory.

2. Add a contact page on the actual site.

Being redirected to a different site just for the contact page is too much for something that should be accessible.

3. Add labels to the sections of the video timeline.

Being able to foresee what is coming up on the video would be nice. It would keep visitors at the site longer because their interest might be piqued. This might help more than the lack of labels.

Nick

 

Nick’s News Diet

Looking at the big picture of my news consumption, I noticed an interesting trend. Almost all of it occurs online, whether that is through my friend’s Facebook updates or tweets. However, I do like to consume my local news in a more traditional sense through the Branding Iron. Overall, I usually browse reddit.com/r/worldnews for most of my news as a whole.

I browse reddit.com/r/worldnews about half an hour a day and find at least a couple stories I read into more. Having access to lists of headlines comes in handy. It reminds me of the New York Times Multimedia Page. It provides quick and easy access to a wide variety of content and I get to chose what to delve into further.

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I enjoy the format of Reddit. It allows users to “upvote” content that is of higher quality, or “downvote” content that is not as relevant. Content with more “upvotes” is placed higher on the page, therefore, more visible to readers. Another interesting quirk about reddit is that users submit news articles from all sorts of sources ranging from Aljazeera to Torrentfreak. This gives multiple perspectives on stories. I do tend to trust the more objective sources, like Aljazeera. So I receive my news from different sources depending on the article. Comment sections on the Reddit threads seem to be of higher quality, but that is just my opinion.  Most of my news conversations happen online between other users. This is for a variety of reasons:

1. I like my friends.

2. We have different political views.

3. I want to keep my friends friendly.

While online I can speak my mind without the risk of losing friendships. Yes, some comment sections can be a joke, but serious and deep conservations are out there.

Below is a screenshot from today.

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As we can see by this screenshot, there are links to different stories hosted by different news sources. The grey numbers next to the links are the net positive “upvotes” for that specific story. (Click on the picture to expand it)

In my opinion, being aware of current events is crucial in our day and age. In no way does that mean people need to be glued to a tablet or smartphone, but one should not be negligent of important and key happenings in their community and abroad. After all, we now live in an interconnected global village.

I believe digesting news from various sources can help a media consumer form their own independent views. Often times, consumers wear figurative blinders and ascribe to only a select few sources that align with their political stance. I think exposure to varying sources makes for a more educated news consumer. Although tedious, this ultimately leads to a more objective and well-rounded opinion.

Overall, I trust my news sources because I delve into different sources each time and try to read other points of view.

Fox for blog

 

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It is important for news and media consumers to get their content from different sources on occasion. Having a preferred media source is normal and fine. However, only subscribing to one news outlet and disregarding all others is not.

Like everyone, I do enjoy my fair share of celebrity gossip and updates. I frequent rottentomatoes.com to see trailers for upcoming films with my favorite actors and actresses. IMDb is a close second.  These sites are where I consume most of my entertainment news. I do more research than I should before I go to a movie in theaters. It makes it difficult for me to go to movies with my friends because I refuse to pay for movies with poor ratings.

I do believe that entertainment news can be beneficial because high profile persons can be philanthropic. Philanthropy can be tied to serious news. For example, Bill Gates’ effort to eradicate malaria. When celebrities help others out in the world, it is nice to know. Feel good stories are important.

More recently, stories such as Ray Rice and domestic abuse are important to be aware of as well. We should not over publicize these stories but people need to be aware. I am not much of an entertainment news connoisseur but I think Google News is nice. It is easy accessible and to the point. Google also seems fairly objective.

Tuning into more local and regional news could improve my news diet. On the news quizzes I am not doing well on the local and state level.

Here is a quick poll I made so see where my classmates go to for news.

Nick