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USF Sarasota-Manatee students, faculty catch travel bug

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 05, 2017) – Whether visiting family in China, attending an academic conference in Toronto or taking in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at the Globe Theatre [1] in London, USF Sarasota-Manatee [2] students and faculty made the most of their summers traveling, connecting with family and broadening their knowledge.

Dr. Feng Hao, an assistant professor of sociology, was among those hitting the road. As he does every summer, he and his wife, Dr. Weiwei Huang, visited Dr. Hao’s parents in Jinan, China, an hour and a half south of Beijing. In addition to sharing family time, the couple explored the city, dined at a few of their favorite restaurants and caught up with friends.

Before setting off for more of the same in Nanning, his wife’s hometown, Dr. Hao answered an invitation from the chair of the Sociology Department at Jinan-based Shandong University [3] to give a lecture to 50 students and faculty.

As the talk winded down, many of the students asked about study-abroad opportunities in the United States. Dr. Hao came to the U.S. in 2009 and earned a PhD from Washington State University in 2015.

“Students (in China) are very engaged,” he said. “They value the opportunity to learn and to travel abroad. Education is very important to them.”

Personally, the biggest adjustment since moving here involved lifestyle changes, he said. Chinese people seem more community-minded, while in the U.S. people value independent living, which took getting used to. One change to which he hasn’t adapted: the local Chinese restaurant scene. He said he misses his native cuisine, particularly dumplings. One U.S. destination comes closest, although it’s a hike from Sarasota.

“The best (restaurants) are in San Francisco.”

London engages students as they enjoy Shakespeare, explore city

USF Sarasota-Manatee students, faculty catch travel bug

Dr. Tim Turner

Halfway across the globe as Dr. Hao was visiting family and friends, Dr. Tim Turner, an assistant professor of English, was preparing to teach two USF study-abroad courses at the University of London [4]: Shakespeare from Page to Stage and Monstrous Fiction: The Gothic Imagination.

Like Hao, Dr. Turner is becoming a regular at international travel, having visited London many times. When not in the classroom, he enjoys scoping out coffee shops and book stores.

“I just love being in the city exploring the neighborhoods and seeing shows,” he said.

His students similarly immersed themselves in British culture over the month-long stay. They caught three Shakespeare plays – “Twelfth Night,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Much Ado About Nothing” – and took tours of Leeds Castle, Dover, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Canterbury, among other places.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students, faculty catch travel bug

Mariel Piper

“I’ve done a lot of fun things, but that was probably the best month of my life,” Mariel Piper, a senior English major, said.

She said she was amazed at London’s architecture, large and diverse immigrant culture and historic sites. Fifteen USF and USFSM students registered for Dr. Turner’s classes, though dozens more, mostly from USF, made the trip as part of the USF in London program.

Situated in the heart of London, the university offered an ideal base from which to explore places like Trafalgar Square, Kew Gardens and Westminster Abbey. Piper said she enjoyed the traditional tourist magnets but relished wandering the city, sometimes alone, to discover gems like the Borough Market with its eclectic mix of produce and street-food vendors.

“It was so diverse, all the different ethnic foods, the hustle and bustle, I loved it,” she said.

She also enjoyed seeing Shakespeare in the open-air Globe where audience members were free to cozy up to the action on the semi-circular stage. Some actors, only few feet away, used the opportunity to point out particular members of the crowd, much to the audience’s enjoyment.

Her only gripe, a mild one, concerned the modern spin injected by the Globe’s former artistic director. “I think Shakespeare is fantastic the way he is,” Piper said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students, faculty catch travel bug

Nicole Cunningham on the London Eye Ferris wheel.

Nicole Cunningham, another USFSM English major, was equally wowed by the trip. “It was fantastic. I didn’t want to come back,” she said.

Like Piper, she loved exploring neighborhoods and wandering through second-hand bookstores and funky clothing shops. Although massive, London’s numerous bus stops and tube stations eased any mobility worries and emboldened her to strike out on her own.

“I think of it as a big city, but in 10 minutes you can be anywhere across town. I loved the closeness and sense of community,” the Sarasota native said.

“There was so much to see. I loved exploring the different parks, Regent’s Park and Hyde Park. Some days I would pick a random tube stop, get off and just explore the area,” she said, adding she that visited Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle and rode the London Eye as well. “I appreciated being by myself and doing what I wanted to do.”

At the end of the program, and after a week each in France and New York, Cunningham returned to Sarasota energized for the fall semester but ready for another excursion abroad.

“I have the travel bug for sure,” she said.

A new book, a conference and a robotic butler

USFSM researchers: Online rebukes may bring opportunity

Dr. Katerina Berezina

Dr. Katerina Berezina, an assistant professor in the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership [5], was equally busy this summer giving “distance learning” presentations to students in Beijing and Vietnam and attending conferences, including one in which she received a welcome surprise.

While at the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education [6] conference in Baltimore, she was given a book, “Hospitality Information Technology: Learning how to use it” (8th edition), which she co-authored.

“I knew it was coming out, but I didn’t know when,” she said, adding the book, a gift from a fellow co-author, was the first in which she contributed. “I was so surprised.”

Berezina, a Russian native, said her mom was thrilled. “She doesn’t speak English and so she can’t read the book, but I sent her a picture of the cover with my name on it. She was very excited.”

Earlier, she accompanied two USFSM graduates and a student from the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership to Toronto to the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference [7] (HITEC).

USF Sarasota-Manatee students, faculty catch travel bug

Left to right, Izzy Sorathia, Nathaly Marin, Dr. Berezina and Clarissa Stafford at the HITEC in Toronto.

For USFSM hospitality student Nathaly Marin, 20, the trip was her first to Canada. The conference immersed her in hotel technology. One vendor displayed “male and female” robots that take water bottles, snacks and towels to guest rooms.

“The male one had a little bowtie,” she said.

In addition to Dr. Berezina, Marin was accompanied by recent hospitality graduates Izzy Sorathia ​and Clarissa Stafford. The three acted as hosts during the three-day conference, greeting and directing the thousands of industry professionals and academics to workshops.

Her favorite one was hosted by Dr. Berezina and concerned text messaging with hotel guests. The panelists explained the technology’s challenges and legal implications, but noted that many guests prefer texting over phone calls.

Normally this isn’t a problem, but it can be tricky at peak times to juggle texts, phone calls and in-person requests. Nevertheless, a poll during the workshop showed that most in the audience supported using the technology. In addition to hosting a workshop, Dr. Berezina served on a committee that planned the conference’s educational sessions.

Marin, president of the USFSM student chapter of Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals [8], said she was fascinated by the workshop, as well as rest of the conference. When not hosting, she was free to check out a seminar or explore the exposition hall’s many vendors.

“I got to do a lot of networking,” she said. “It was interesting to see how technology is becoming more and more important to the hospitality industry, just as it’s becoming intertwined with everything else in society.”