Internationals at Auburn University

Many people who are familiar with Auburn University and it’s unique campus culture would recognize the name James E. Foy. The late dean of student affairs (1950-1978), has two places on campus that are named in his honor. The most widely recognized location is at the Foy information desk, located in the student center on campus, but there is one other place where his name is still honored — at James E. Foy Hall.

Many students visit this building on Auburn’s campus regularly, as it houses some of the most popular restaurants including Panda Express and Salsarita’s, but what many people do not realize is that a realm of intercultural diversity is also housed in this building. In the main lobby of Foy Hall sits the Office of International Programs of Auburn University. It is here that international students from all over the world come for help with permits, visas, ESL classes, and to meet with their advisers.

I recently interviewed Mary McConner, an employee at the Office of International Programs, and created a short documentary with more information about the office. You can view the video below, enjoy!



As far as the recording process went, it was very hard to avoid background noise since the building has lots of people that go in and out every day. The office desk was also a challenge to work around since it was very large and tall, but I tried to record shots at specific angles so that what was going on in the shot could be clearly seen. In my next video project, I think I will try to find a more secluded area to conduct my interviews. It’s hard though, to find a decently quiet place on campus when there are so many people everywhere!

Hot and Sour Soup

I’m not really sure what started it.

Maybe it was that one time I got sick  in 4th grade and went to a Chinese restaurant with my family. My grandmother told me I needed some something warm and ordered the hot and sour soup for me. I threw a few of those crispy fried wonton chips in there and I was sold.

Now every single time I come down with a cold, or the flu, or strep (which is a lot — my immune system suffers especially during finals week), I start craving a steamy bowl of hot and sour soup.

But I remember my freshmen year of college here in Auburn. The first semester that I got sick, I had to try three different Chinese takeout places before I found some hot and sour soup that was good enough to satisfy my craving! All because I didn’t know my way around Auburn enough to know where to find some good Chinese food.

With that in mind, I decided to make my first ever map using the Google Maps Engine website! My map has five different restaurants on it that are all located in Auburn, Alabama. Each restaurant serves a different type of international cuisine to satisfy whatever your international food craving may be! There are links to each of the restaurants’ websites or Yelp pages to help get a feel for what specific dishes they serve and the environment there.

The first restaurant on the map is Mandarin House. This Asian restaurant is located on Opelika Road in Auburn and is home to a wide assortment of Asian delicacies. They have everything from Japanese sushi to my favorite bowl of Chinese hot and sour soup. They even have a few Thai curry dishes for those of you who enjoy spicy foods!

Next on the list is Ma Fia’s Italian Restaurant. This gem is located in the quaint town of Opelika, right outside of Auburn, but it’s definitely worth the extra ten minute drive! The place is decorated in a classic, rustic sort of way and smells of homemade pizza greet you the moment you walk in. After you meal, look around in the local shops and explore more of historical downtown Opelika.

Representing the Greek Isles in Auburn is Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Taziki’s has grown into a popular chain in the southeast and is looking to expand in the near future to places like Colorado and Louisiana.  According to their website, they specialize in “wholesome ingredients with a dash of inspiration, served up by friendly folks right around the corner!”

This next restaurant on the map is so small, most people don’t even know that they serve food! Located in the Winn Dixie shopping center on South College Street, La Plaza is a hole-in-the-wall Hispanic grocery store and restaurant. Its menu may not be extensive, but the food and the people are as authentic as they come.

Finally, we have Pho Lee, a new addition to the Auburn community. Its dine-in and take-out menu offers an array of Vietnamese food including spring rolls, soup and rice and noodle dishes. Its clean decor, friendly staff and fresh soups have customers coming back for more!

Does anyone else have any international favorites here in Auburn? Be sure to comment with your top pick!


No, I’m not talking about that green stuff in plants. That would be chloroplast.

This is choropleth, AKA “A map that uses differences in shading, coloring, or the placing of symbols within predefined areas to indicate the average values of a property or quantity in those areas.

Thank you Oxford Dictionary.

In other words, a heat map. Like this:

I made this map of using Google’s Fusion Tables, with a little help from

In order to do something like this, I had to have two excel sheets with data for each individual state, it’s geographical location and their rate of sales tax. Thankfully, my professor already had these documents available for us to download.

Then all it took was a quick merging of the tables, setting up the legend perimeters and choosing some colors for the key and I was good to go!

Now all of that boring sales tax data is in something a little more interactive and fun to look at! Unless you’re like me and fall into one of those orange or red states with the higher rates…

Have any of you ever used Google Fusion Tables to make a choropleth?

Any tips or suggestions for us newbies out there?

This is just some practice for what will hopefully be my next blog post.
Be on the lookout for an international-related choropleth sometime in the near future!

How To Use Chopsticks

Praise the sweet Lord for Asian food! Am I right?

When I went to Thailand a couple of years ago, I ate my weight in sticky rice and red pepper chicken (and gained about ten pounds in the process!) Since I’ve been back, I’ve only been able to find a few places that serve authentic Asian cuisine, but whenever I’m on campus craving some rice and chicken, I just go to Panda Express! The fun thing about Panda? The have CHOPSTICKS!

Now even though I’ve been to Asia twice, and I have a good bit of Asian friends, I still haven’t completely mastered the art of eating with chopsticks. My friends and their children make it look so so easy, but sometimes, it’s really a struggle for me. Which is what prompted the idea for this five shot video sequence!

My friend’s daughter, Minjoo, is pretty soft-spoken, so make sure you turn up your volume if you want to watch it!

Like I said, she makes it look SO easy, and she looks adorable in the process.

The five shot sequence is made up of, wouldn’t you know, five video shots. It involves a close-up of the subject’s hands, a close-up of the face, a wide shot, an over-the-shoulder shot, and a different, creative shot.

The main problem I had in this whole shooting process was noise from being on campus and being outside, there were trains and people, and I just wasn’t in a controlled environment. That was my mistake of course, and I should have followed the outline written in Mark Briggs’ “Journalism Next” to help make this situation better. According to him, I should have thought about the sound and lighting first, before any other aspect of the video. Environment is so very crucial to video.

Another problem was setting up the camera at the right angle and adjusting all of the legs and equipment to make the shot level and not shaky.

Overall, I really did enjoy this project and I really liked the editing of it and they way that edits help control and cut out unnecessary time. Just like the article, How Journalists Can Improve Video Stories with Shot Sequences explains, these edits “help communicate more information in less time and create an overall sense of purpose.”


Spring Cleaning

As a few of y’all may know, I’m recently engaged! Well, as of about 4 months ago.

And as more than a few of y’all may know, planning a wedding is a unique experience. One that I’ve learned to love and to hate at the same time. There’s colors to choose and flowers to pick and caterers to hire and the list goes on.

But not only is there a lot that goes into planning a wedding, but prepping for the married life takes some work too. (And I’ve been told that you can never be prepared enough.) The stack of marriage books on my bedside table is a little embarrassing, and the little amount of free time that I have to read them is almost laughable, but still, there they sit.

So in the middle of all of this wedding reading and book planning or whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing, I’ve also taken it upon myself to do some Get-Rid-Of-Old-Embarrassing-Stuff-Before-You-Get-Married Cleaning. Cause that’s totally a thing, right?

Well now I’m (slowly) getting rid of old high school things that just take up space- like that keepsake pom-pom from cheer days, and those happy birthday cards from long lost relatives from when I turned 12 and even those Myspace selfies we all used to take (don’t deny it). Cause even though it had been years and I didn’t even remember that they were still on my ancient HP Laptop, there they sat, in a folder titled “Me.”

Anyways, in the middle of the computer cleaning process, I happened to open up some files from last semester, and although it wasn’t very long ago, I had a pleasant surprise. And I decided to share it with you, so consider yourself lucky.

Here it is, in it’s raw, early-journalism-writer form.

A feature piece that I wrote for my newswriting class.

And wouldn’t you know, it’s about an international family here in Auburn. What can I say? I’m predictable.

Video Stories

Next week on the Journalism 3510 syllabus is a 5 shot video sequence that I’ll, of course, be posting on here as soon as I finish. Just to help us students out and learn more about the kind of videos that we’ll be shooting, we were asked to research three documentary style stories and critique them.

The first video that I found was about Morocco’s ‘Mule Ladies’. The heros in this story is the group of elderly Moroccan women that strive every day and fight crowds in order to make a living for their families. There was an obvious hook to this story as the videographer cut from scenes of the women talking at home about their experiences with flashes of the mobs fighting for the huge packages in between. The result showed the absolute sense of chaos in these women’s work.

These women have the daily task of providing for their families, sometimes only making $10 a day to live off of. The videographer used the loud audio from the mob scenes well, in order to display the fight that takes place daily. The videographer also used interviews from government officials to show their side of the story and their opinions.

At the end, the videographer shows scenes of one of the women, Maria, talking about her daughters. She says that one day she hopes her daughters will finish school and be able to marry a man that can provide for them so that they do not have to work in the same “death” that she does.

In the spirit of keeping with my theme of internationals coming to America, here’s a video documentary on When Sudanese Refugees Come to America. Sometimes it’s so mind blowing to think about how the rest of the world lives, and this video gives us just a glimpse of how difficult it is for other people to adapt to our regular way of life.

The opening scenes of the video are the story’s main characters – a group of Sudanese men that are to come to America. They ask about simple things like what are apartments, and what does a shower look like. This proved to me to be a startling realization of how blessed we are here in America, and how we take simple things like running water for granted.

Watching these men talk about their struggle in America just grabbed my heart. It hurt to hear them talk about how the American life was difficult for them and how unfriendly they were finding American people. The videographer used their daily interactions with others, like them asking a baker was a doughnut was, to develop the story and make it interesting and informative.

At the end, the videographer chose to show a somewhat humorous interaction between one of the Sudanese and a group of children at a local swimming pool. This added a light tone to the end of the story, but left me still with the heavy realization of how difficult life for these refugees was.

Finally, I found this video – The Normal Kid

The video opens with natural sound and fades into a normal conversation between Noe Cabello, the hero of the story, and one of his classmates as they prepare for graduation backstage. They look at the program and talk about the ceremony, a seemingly “normal” moment for high school grads.

The voice over of Noe then begins, and we learn that he isn’t as normal as the opening scene makes him out to be. For Noe, graduation is more than just a diploma- it’s a chance at a life that his parents, from Mexico, never got a shot at. The emotion from the beginning of the video hooked me, and towards the end of the story, I’ll admit that I was tearing up.

The caption below the video tell viewers that Noe is on his high school soccer team, balances seven AP classes and has a part time job. Not only that, but he is also the first Latino valedictorian in the history of Reading High School.

The scene that really got to me was his valedictorian speech and his parents’ reaction. His father is shown crying out of pride for his son as he holds Noe’s mother’s hand.

Out of this batch of  three videos, this one was probably by favorite. I really loved the emotion that Andrew Hida, the videographer, captured in this five minute film.

Has anyone else seen any internationally based short video documentaries lately? Comment with the link and I’d love to check them out!


This morning I woke up to a Facebook stream full of links to this news article from WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama.

(For a little more background on the story, I suggest you go here and read also.)

Now I think that the main point of Alabama Rep. Alvin Holmes’ comments were about abortion laws and the hypocrisy that he has seemed to witness over the years, but I’d like to bring to the light the whole issue of integration in Alabama.

Those of you who have followed my blog over the past few months may remember that I posted a little while ago about integration and the steps that Auburn University took 50 years ago to desegregate its campus, but this news article should make us take a serious look at where we think we’ve arrived, and where we actually are.

The truth, in it’s most blatant form, is that we’re no where near where we should be in terms of racial integration. Well, not down here in the heart of the South anyways.

By no means am I saying that we’ve not made any strides – like I mentioned in my blog before, I grew up going to school with people of all different kinds of backgrounds, skin colors and religion, and most everyone, in my opinion, seemed to get along. Years ago, this wasn’t an option. Years ago, this was illegal. And years before that, this wasn’t even an idea that had been thought of yet.

So yes, we have absolutely made progress in this area, but we still have a long way to go.

The point I’m trying to make isn’t in the accuracy of Holmes’ comments, but in the fact that he had to make the comments at all.

Yes, I know that calling someone “black” or “white” is just a description of the color of their skin, but I think that by using those adjectives, and only those adjectives, you’re limiting people and classifying them based solely on their race.

So normally, I’m an advocate for color. Color is everywhere and color is beautiful. But at this moment, I’m advocating for colorblindness – for people to see others as simply people. No color labels attached.

Hyunhee Ban

In my first blog post on here, I talked about how my goal was to showcase the international people that live in Auburn, Alabama. Well folks, here it goes.

I’ve created an audio slideshow that focuses on a South Korean family that moved to Auburn two years ago. The wife/mother in this project is Hyunhee Ban, a personal international friend of mine.

The slideshow is short and sweet, but I did my best to capture their life away from their true home as best as I could. You can check it out here.

Don’t forget to click the small “captions” button in the bottom right hand corner of the video box to see my captions and learn more about this family’s story!

Let me know what you think!

Enduring Voices and A Powerful Truth

Those are the names of two audio-slideshows that I ran across the past few days.

Both slideshows are so saturated with culture, I just had to post them!

The Enduring Voices Project from National Geographic is “an attempt to cope with the language extinction crisis,” as stated by David Harrison, one of the project’s coordinators and one of the two voices and creators of the slideshow. Harrison is joined by partner Chris Rainier as they explain their part in the process of preserving languages and cultures from around the world. 

These guys did an awesome job putting this slideshow together! The pictures are amazing, which is expected from NG, and they sync really well with the explanations in the captions. They really break the project down into easy-to-understand lingo and the passion in their voices show that they really have a heart for preserving the languages around the world. All of the names of the people in the pictures are given along with the location and the name of the language that is being studied.

I found their project so interesting mainly because language is such a huge part of culture in the world. Each place has its own language or dialect of a language that makes it unique to that specific region. (Even here in the U.S., us southerners have a distinct draaawwwlll to our speech.)

The time and effort that Harrison and Rainier give to so many different languages and cultures around the world was really cool to me, especially the attention given to the Siberian couple mentioned at 2:23 in the slideshow. Their language was, of course, important to them as it was their spoken communication within their home, but to know that they are the last couple to speak the Chulym language in their home to each other made it that much more important and precious. And now, thanks to these guys, people will be able to learn about the language, even after its primary speakers have passed away.

A Powerful Truth by The New York Times also really stood out to me. The focus of the slideshow was all about women’s roles in society in all different countries and how times are changing around the world. Here in America, it’s sometimes hard to understand different cultures, lifestyles and traditions, and gender roles are a major part of that. Women are treated very different in all countries, but this slideshow talks about some specific women, their situations, and the good that has come from them.

The pictures shown were taken by Katy Grannon and the audio explanations are provided by Nicholas D. Kristof.

I liked that the slideshow included specific examples with pictures of each of the women that were mentioned. Each of the women’s stories include background information on their circumstances and are accompanied by the appropriate pictures at the appropriate time.

The stories in this slideshow were filled with determination and empowerment. Saima, Goretti, Claudine, Edna and all of the others were faced with adversity and what seemed to be hopeless situations, but with a little help, they were able to turn their stories into ones of success.

The slideshow talked a bit about all of the different organizations, such as Women for Women International, that assist people around the world in situations like these women were in. Have any of you heard of these kinds of organizations? If so, are you involved in any of them?

Thanks for sticking around to read all about these slideshows! I hope that they added a little bit more culture, color and perspective to your day.

Hey look over there

Not here.

Way over there. ——–>

At my Chinese Festival photo gallery! Those are just a few of the pictures that I took at the event, and they don’t even begin to capture all the cool things that I got to see that night. From rice to magic to singing to skits, Auburn University’s Chinese Student Organization provided the community with an amazing night of color and culture. The festival took place last Sunday night on Auburn’s campus and included performing acts from Chinese, Korean and American students.

So grab your take-out sesame chicken and click through some of my photos. 

Oh, and be sure to check out number 6. If adorable Chinese children don’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.