A tantalizer for the East Asia week…



Due Monday, February 15 by 10 pm CST. For those of you who are not in Central Time Zone, make sure you accurately know the time difference!

Discussion Question and Guidlines

There are three parts (A-C) to this discussion question. You may want to write roughly half a page (single-spaced) for each part.

Before responding, please complete all the assigned readings, lectures, podcasts and viewing (l’Auberge Espagnole) for the first three sections of the course (US/Canada, Europe, and Australia/NZ/South Pacific).

PART A: Identity (the ways you perceive yourself and how others perceive you) is complex, and can change both in concert and in contrast with your surroundings. Consider the many different components of your identity. What are 2-3 of these important elements (consider, for example, nationality, allegiances, political inclinations, belief systems, etc.)? Outline the ways, if any, these aspects of your identity or the way you think about them might change (or perhaps not?) if you lived in l’Auberge Espagnole (the Spanish apartment) for 6-12 months during an intense study abroad session in Spain/Europe. It is only a temporary stay, of course, but it is more than a weekend. Would your identity change more in concert or in contrast with what is around you? Don’t be shy about speculating, but also BE SPECIFIC and justify your answer based on the course materials. Be sure to tell us both HOW these parts of your identity would change and WHY you are making such a prediction (using course materials!).

Here are a few relevant links that provide some background information on the European Higher Education Area, and the EU’s Erasmus Program that helped fund the study-abroad students in the movie:

I should also note that l’Auberge Espagnole is “Rated R for language and sexual content.” according to IMDB.

Part B: Now, outline the ways, if any, these 2-3 facets of your personal identity might change if you lived in a hypothetical l’Auberge Canadian (the Canadian apartment) for 6-12 months. This is the same as Part A, but for Canada. Be sure to talk about both HOW and WHY, and use course materials to support your predictions.

Part C: Now think about the course materials assigned for Week 3, including the lecture and podcast. Consider how your personal identity might change if you lived in a hypothetical l’Auberge “Kiwi” (the New Zealand apartment)…maybe in Dunedin (while studying at the University of Otago) or Auckland (while at the University of Auckland). This is the same as Parts A and B, but for New Zealand.


Please clearly label your answers to Parts A, B, and C. Use 12-point font, and please single-space your document to make it easier for us to read online. Your final assignment should be 750-1000 words. Write succinctly, and make sure you are sticking to the specific questions!

Make sure to proofread: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and good writing DO count.
Please save the file using your last name and then Disc1. For example:

  • BOOTHBY_Disc1.docx

and then upload it to the dropbox.

As noted in ‘How to Write a Good Synthesis Assignment,‘ you will be graded primarily on how carefully and critically you considered course material in constructing your response. This said, we want to know your personal views, too. Think about these issues seriously, knowing that first-hand experiences in the world’s regions are exciting, scary, challenging, and rewarding. So be opinionated, express your views, insert your personality, and engage…just don’t only speak from the heart; also speak on the basis of the content you’ve been engaging with in this course.

Kris Olds & Rachel Boothby

The instructions for completing this assignment can be found both on pages 8-9 of the syllabus and on the discussion forum page where you’ll be posting your response. The instructions are fairly straightforward, but here are some additional tips and answers to common questions that might help. This FAQ has been updated as students ask more questions, as well as after grading the first two contributions.

A General Note on Reading Foreign Media

Most people are familiar with the biases or general attitudes of the main media outlets of their home countries (for instance, Americans in the course can think of the differences between NPR and Fox News). Keep in mind that the same is true for foreign media sources, so just because you are reading something published in a country doesn’t necessarily mean that it is representative of the dominant views of that country’s population. In fact, it may be especially non-representative if the media source is heavily censored either because a) it is a state-run media source, or b) because the government exercises more control than you might be used to over what non-state entities publish. Lastly, in non-Anglophone countries, English-language media cater to specific audiences, often these are: 1) expatriates (non-locals who live in the country) and 2) local nationals who have above-average education and perhaps different values and worldviews.

These several influences on the media you may be reading–state censorship, state sponsorship, and catering to specialized audiences–doesn’t make your reading less useful. It actually makes it really interesting, and provides you with specific things to look out for and possibly reflect on in your posts. If you’re interested, doing a couple of minutes of background research on a news source–is it run by the government? does it have a reputation for a particular point of view? is it based in a country known for censorship? are the expats in that country mostly aid workers, businessmen, oil and gas employees, politicians…?–can add a lot to your interpretation.

Q: How to I find a media source?

A: You should select an English-language media source so that everyone in the class can read the article that you choose (even though many of you know other languages!). If there is a particular country that interests you in the region, you will likely be able to find a media source by typing (for example) “Hungary English newspaper” into a search engine. For some smaller countries, there may not be any sources obviously available, but it should only take a second to figure this out!

Q: Is [this article that I found] an example of local media?

A: The piece of news that you select must be both: 1) FROM the region we’re studying that week, and 2) ABOUT the region that we’re studying. If you are unclear, double-check to make sure that the source that you have found is actually based in the region. You can often figure this out by going to the source’s “About Us” page or just looking for a Wikipedia page about the source.

Take your time and explore the website of the source you have found. Make sure that the article you choose to write about is ABOUT the region, and make sure that the author is a reporter who works for that source. Sometimes you will see that a website just re-posts news written by a news agency like the Associated Press (AP) or Reuters. See this example from the Times of India. It looks like it is a story from the Indian media, but it was actually written by the Associated Press (based in the US), which you can tell from the little “AP” next to the date under the headline. See another problem? It’s NOT ABOUT INDIA. Usually, if the article is about the same country where the news source is based, then it will be an original article by an employee of that source.

Q: Is [the subject of the article that I picked] a good topic to write about?

A: You are welcome to choose articles about ANYTHING as long as you fulfill the requirements of the assignment. However, keep in mind that a major part of the assignment is being able to contextualize and/or comment on the article using things that you have learned from some of our course materials (interviews, lectures, textbook, articles). Certain topics are definitely easier to do this with than others. By no means are you required to choose articles that directly relate to the lectures or articles. In fact, it’s much more interesting to try to find innovative ways to make legitimate connections between very different topics, but choosing a short, superficial article can make it almost impossible to add good commentary.

Q: What are you looking for in the commentary?

A: The keys to a good commentary are:

  1. You use some aspect of the course materials to react to the article. Maybe the article supports something we saw in our course materials. Maybe they contradict each other. Maybe the course materials give some background information that helps you reinterpret the article. Maybe you can use to course materials to say something about the potential biases or perspective of the author or news source.
  2. The way that you connect the course materials and the article is insightful. Just saying “Nick Lewis talks about New Zealand wine in his lecture and this also talks about New Zealand wine” is not satisfactory. But maybe you could find an article about New Zealand voting for its new flag, and maybe make an original connection between the flag and Nick Lewis’s discussion of New Zealand “branding” itself. Provide some relevant detail regarding the specific content in the course materials that your media story connects too – it’s not enough to say “the article reminded me of a key message in Chapter 12”. What part of Chapter 12, and in which specific ways did that section link in to your media commentary?
  3. Keep in mind Bloom’s Taxonomy and attempt to shift from recalling facts and basic concepts in the latter part of your response to the analysis and evaluation levels. And spend enough time/space on the analysis component of your commentary. It’s hard to demonstrate what you are learning if you just describe and/or assert vs explore in a little detail.Blooms
  4. Try and convey your interest in, and enthusiasm about, the topic you are exploring. In other words, don’t just communicate you’re ‘going through the motions.’ This point relates back to one above – you can choose articles about ANYTHING as long as you fulfill the requirements of the assignment. Choose a media story about a topic you are curious and passionate about.

We would really love to hear other insightful reactions even if they don’t pertain directly to the course materials. However, these writing assignments are the ONLY way that you can prove to us that you are consuming all of the course materials that are assigned. That is why it is so important to us that you reference them

Q: Do I have to connect my article to the lecture?

In the media commentaries you definitely do not have to cite all of the course materials for the region or any one in particular. This said, please make sure you do refer to at least one source from the class in your response (textbook, academic article, lecture, audio interview, or film). Note that we have different expectations for the synthesis assignments, where it is important to synthesize most, if not all, of the course materials.

Q: How are our media commentaries graded?

A: You will receive 0-10 points for each media commentary. It will not be too difficult to get a pretty good score if you do everything that is asked of you, but 10-point scores are reserved for only the most thoughtful and insightful assignments. Here is a very general sense of what the scores represent (though reasons for each individual score will vary!):

  • 4-6 points: You wrote something and posted it, but it did not meet basic assignment guidelines (e.g. not  a local news source).
  • 7-8 points: Met the most basic guidelines, but level of detail, care, or insight was lacking (e.g. not well-connected to course material, summary and commentary not well-developed, hastily written with grammar or punctuation errors).
  • 9 points: A solid assignment with all components completed. Commentary was clearly connected to course materials, with moderate original analysis and insight.
  • 10 points: Same as 9 points, but commentary showed original critical thinking and insightful connections, analysis, and evaluation.

You will lose 0.5 points (5%) per day for late assignments.

Q: Wait, I’m confused. Are we supposed to post these in the Discussion Forum or put these in the Dropbox?

A: BOTH! You must post in the Discussion Forum so that your classmates can read and comment on your media commentaries. Just paste the text of your answer in the forum. Don’t attach a file there.

You must put a file (.docx, .doc, .pdf, or .rtf) in the Dropbox so that we can grade your assignment and make sure your points get into the electronic grading system.

You must post in both of these places before the due date/time to avoid late penalties. Note, however, if you forgot or had upload problems, you can upload anytime…ALWAYS go back and upload the same text as what you posted in the discussion forum as we cannot give you a grade if it is not in a Dropbox (given the way grade recording works, technologically, in Learn@UW).

Q: Should we reply/comment on our groupmates’ discussion posts?

A: That would be great, but it’s totally up to you! You get a lot more out of classes when you can interact with your classmates about the material. That’s really hard to do in an online class, but we hope you will give it a try. Please read your classmates’ posts and respond in a thoughtful substantive way (even if it’s just a couple of sentences) if you feel compelled. In addition to such conversations being interesting, you may also earn extra credit points at the end of the semester based on your active participation in the forums beyond just writing the required assignments

Q: It’s 9:58 pm CDT on the due date and I’m freaking out and am wondering should I post before 10:00 pm or give up or post a little late (say 11:00 pm) or if I’m exhausted should I just sleep and post in the morning when I wake up and have the extra energy and fresh set of eyes (and a cuppa tea or coffee booster rocket)? Help!!

A: These are target deadlines and they matter, of course, but preserve your mental health and post in the next hour (10-11 pm) or in the morning…i.e., no staying up all night or falling asleep at the desk and waking up with neck-strain! It’s very important to plan your time, effectively, and meet deadlines (when you graduate your boss won’t be very understanding, trust us, if you miss deadlines) but university life has a lot of pressure associated with it so keep healthy (mental health included). And if you feel like you keep missing deadlines due to bad planning, come and see us and talk about the challenges you face and we’ll brainstorm some good best practices. We’re here to help you, OK!

CCTV headquarters in Beijing

1600Source: http://oma.eu/projects/cctv-headquarters




Hi everyone – here is Synthesis Question No. 2. You can also see the text below on the Course Materials by Region section to the left on the main course page on Learn@UW.

Religion and Identity in Three World Regions (Russia/Central Asia/Transcaucasus, Middle East/North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa)


Due Monday, March 14th by 10pm CDT. For those of you who are not in the Central Time Zone, make sure you accurately know the time difference!

Questions and Guidelines

There are three parts (A-C) to this synthesis assignment. You may want to write roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of a page (single-spaced) for each part.

This week’s assignment concerns identity and religion, with particular attention to Islam (in parts A and C). While Islam is also very prevalent outside of this week’s study regions (especially in South Asia and Southeast Asia—Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country), please think exclusively about this week’s three regions when answering these questions (see map on page 159 of textbook). Many of you will have acquired a wealth of background knowledge prior to the course because of your personal experiences or coursework. It is wonderful to integrate this, but please make sure to ALSO fit your prior knowledge in with the new information you’ve learned from the course materials.

Before responding, please complete all the assigned readings, lectures, podcasts and viewing for the relevant regional units.

Part A: Think about two types of diversity that you saw in these three weeks: a) the religious diversity of all three regions as a whole, and b) general diversity (economic, linguistic, cultural, social, political, environmental…) across the regions’ Muslim communities.

First, what are at least two things you learned related to either type of diversity that surprised you or contradicted your previous conceptions? Please use specific examples from the text, articles (e.g. Diener), lectures (e.g. Harris, Turner, Kaiser), podcasts (e.g. Brottem, Fleming, Alatout).

Second, explain why you think you previously had these conceptions.

Part B: Religious identity may unite certain groups, or individuals of the same religion may feel completely distinct for political, ethnic, linguistic, economic, or other reasons. What are some specific examples from the course materials that show how religion is an important component of group identity? What are examples that show how religion can be secondary to other types of identity?

Part C:
Sometimes people to refer to all Muslim-majority countries as “the Muslim World.” Based on your readings (especially from the textbook) and the information you gleaned from the interviews and lectures, do you think this is a useful and meaningful way to group these countries, or is this a misleading categorization? Or is it only useful sometimes? When? Using course materials, explain and defend your opinion.


Please clearly label your answers to Parts A, B, and C. Use 12-point font, and please single-space your document to make it easier for us to read online. Your final assignment should be 750-1000 words. You will likely find it difficult to fit all of your thoughts in just 1000 words. Write succinctly, and make sure you are sticking to the specific questions!

Make sure to proofread: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and good writing DO count.

Please save the file using your last name and “Synth2” (for example Olds_Synth2.docx) and submit the file into the correct Dropbox.

If you look at the grading rubric on the blog post about synthesis questions, you will see that you will be graded primarily on how carefully and critically you considered course material in constructing your response. This is even more true for this assignment than it was for Synthesis #1. That said, we want to know your personal views, too, as we are speaking about representational issues and preconceptions. So be opinionated, express your views, insert your personality, and engage…just don’t only speak from the heart; also speak on the basis of the content you’ve been engaging with in this course. It should go without saying that all submissions must be respectful.

Kris Olds & Rachel Boothby

An interesting and fun documentary that includes a stage in the world region we’re dealing with this week.

Hi there – on Monday morning, we’ll be posting the first discussion forum question on the Learn@UW course site. Here are a few responses to questions that are likely to emerge.

Q1: I can’t seem to find l’Auberge Canadian/the Canadian Apartment (the equivalent of l’Auberge Espagnole/the Spanish Apartment).

A1: This is just a hypothetical movie. In other words, once you watch the movie l’Auberge Espagnole, and had to imagine how you would change living in this Spanish apartment for 6-12 months, use your imagination and think through how you might change in a Canadian equivalent based in a Canadian city like Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver or Halifax or even smaller cities like Moose Jaw or Calgary or Winnipeg or Yellowknife). But only do this AFTER you have completed all the Canada/US and Europe readings, podcasts, lectures, etc.

Q2: I can’t find l’Auberge Espagnole on the Learn@UW course site.

A2: All you have to do is:

  1. Go to the Geog 340 course site on Learn@UW
  2. Click on iTunesU in the upper right corner of the main page you see.
  3. Follow the steps through to get iTunesU loaded up. These are self-explanatory.
  4. THEN, and this is the step that trips a few people up, go to the Europe tab (see below) and link to the movie there.


I should add, too, that iTunesU is only to be used for movies — podcasts, lectures, etc., are all available and best viewed/listened to on the main course site (you get the content in the Course Materials by Region link in the left column). In addition, please see the syllabus for further tips on using iTunes in this course.

Q 3: For part A and B, do we just simply state out our feelings as a student studying abroad or we shall also include information about the context (Europe/Spain/Barcelona + North America/Canada/city of your choice).

A3: You should do both…your transformation as a person will obviously be related to the Europeans you are engaging with in l’Auberge Espagnole but also by the Barcelona/Catelonian social, cultural, political, linguistic, food, environmental, etc., contexts you will be embedded in.  So learn a little about the city and the region/country before responding.  The same goes for the l’Auberge Canadian (the Canadian apartment). I would read about Canada (esp via the textbook) and then you should select a province and a city and then learn about these contexts via other sources you yourself identify via Google, the library, etc. But then imagine also living in the apartment with a bunch of Canadians and Americans.  Inevitably you’ll be influenced by their personalities and you’ll change just being away from ‘home’ (the purpose of study abroad) but the transformation you undergo living in Montreal vs Barcelona or Whitehorse (Google it…) vs Barcelona or Vancouver vs Barcelona will be different and similar…in what ways, perhaps? So I’d try and state your feelings as a student studying abroad but also discuss the places (the cities/regions/nations) you’re situated in.

Q4: When is my first (original) posting due again?

A4: One original contribution, no later than Friday 6 June @ 10:00 pm CDT


ps: two pics of Vancouver, my hometown, to get you into the mood!



Thanks for all of your participation so far! We have gotten to see a number of the introductions you have posted. If you have not done it yet, remember that your introduction and your update of your Learn@UW profile (including a photo) are due this afternoon at 5pm.

As you know, tomorrow evening you will have access to your first quiz. The quiz must be complete before 5pm on Thursday, 6/23/16.

I want to give you all an overview of what to expect:

  1. Complete all of the U.S. and Canada readings, lectures, and podcasts before you take the quiz.
  2. Make sure to use the provided note-taking guide on the U.S. and Canada page as you work your way through the materials. The guide will help you prepare for both the quiz and for the synthesis assignment coming up next week.
  3. The quiz will cover all of the session 2 materials. Use the note-taking guide to give you guidance on this, but also be aware that anything from any of the materials is fair game. There is a more emphasis on the textbook than the lecture/podcasts, but there are questions on all of them. Carefully read and take notes on the text. (Note that the synthesis assignments put a bit more emphasis on the lectures/podcasts, so work carefully on all of the materials now – you won’t have time next week).
  4. The quiz will be a combination of multiple choice and matching questions. This will include map questions. The questions are randomized, so you will not have exactly the same quiz as someone else.
  5. The quiz is timed and you will have 30 minutes to complete it. If you have official accommodations, you should let us know today or early tomorrow.
  6. The U.S. and Canada quiz will have two matching questions with a total of sixteen matches to make, and fourteen multiple choice questions (30 points total).
Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns. As the syllabus states, we are flexible when we can help you in advance of problems. As always, please email both Nicolle and me.

Dear Class,

Here are a few tips as you get ready for our first Synthesis Assignment. Note that if you scroll down you’ll see a detailed rubric that we’ll be using to grade all five of these assignments.

1) Read the question carefully, and make sure you’re answering what is being asked of you.

For example, the intention of our first assignment is to get you thinking about your identity. The question is not “what would you do in Europe” or “would you enjoy studying abroad in New Zealand”. You may address these things if they help you write about your personal identity, but always make sure that you are answering the question: how would your personal identity change.

Clearly answer each question posed in the prompt.  It is best to use sub-headings (Part A, Part B….).

2) Use course material when relevant, and cite it.

Your written assignments are the only way that you can prove to us that you are actually “attending” (viewing) the video lectures and completing the assigned readings. Because of this, referring to the readings, lectures, podcasts, etc. is a major part of getting a good grade for you answer. We will not be strict about citation format, as long as it’s clear what you’re referring to. If you are directly quoting a text, you MUST indicate the page number.

Here are some examples for how you could refer to the textbook:

In South Asia, tea has become “a catalyst of economic, social and political change” (textbook: 360). [Has direct quote. Need to put page.]

The textbook explains how tea has affected not only the economies of South Asia, but also the social and political landscape. [No direct quote, so no page needed. Clearly tells us that textbook is being used as evidence here.]

Note that many times the articles are written by the same people who give lectures or podcasts. Make clear which you are referring to. You could use parenthetical citations…

(Lewis, n.d.: 3), (Lewis, lecture), (Corbett 2013), (Corbett, lecture)

…or just give the citation in your sentence…

“Lewis’s article explains…”; “However, in Mark Cooper’s podcast we hear that…”

It is perfectly fine and welcomed to personalize your responses by including personal experiences as examples, especially considering the focus of this first prompt.  Keep in mind, however, you still need to show you can intertwine your personal experience with the material learned in the weekly readings, podcasts, lectures, and movies.

2b) Use a variety of course material–not just one source. When possible, put different sources in conversation with each other. Combining sources to form a single idea or argument shows a good understanding of the material and sophisticated thought. We understand that not every single source is useful for every question, and we definitely don’t expect you to use every single source for every question.

3) Be specific, and justify arguments/claims that you make.

This means answering “WHY” and “HOW” questions. If you claim studying abroad in Canada will make you feel more like a North American citizen rather than just an American, tell us WHY. If you claim that living in Europe would “change” how you relate to your country of origin, you need to explain HOW your relationship would change (and, of course, WHY it would change!).

4) You may use outside information, but this is certainly NOT required and we’re not asking you to do this. Completely cite any outside information that you do use (e.g. full name of book, article, full URL…).

Because we’re using these questions partly to gauge how much you are learning from course materials, using outside sources does NOT take the place of using course materials.

5) Try not to exceed 1000 words. If you make sure that every sentence is helping to answer the specific questions answered, this will be easier to do. Not a big deal if you go over a little bit, but if you are way over the limits, put on your editing hat and do some sentence surgery.

6) If you are not an American citizen, and especially if you are a Canadian or New Zealander or Spaniard, you can still complete the assignment! Just flag the fact that you are approaching the question differently given your identity/background (explain what it is so we know, OK!).  And keep in mind that even if you are Canadian, for example, spending time in Quebec City if you are from Moose Jaw is likely to be just like studying abroad given cultural differences across space in the country. So go for it – just explain how you’ll approach it.

Grading Your Assignment

As the syllabus outlines, the Synthesis Assignments forum activities total up to XX% of your final grade (X x XX%). To help gauge the quality of the response, we will use the following rubric (click to expand):

If you enter your dropbox submission, the rubric scoring will be found there.

Please note, to earn full credit, your response needs to be quite good. This means that it will likely be very difficult to consistently earn 100%. We will be assessing each response individually.

Happy writing!

Cathy & Nicolle

Welcome to the Geog 340 (World Regions in Global Context) course support weblog.


Please click here to download the Fall 2016 syllabus and schedule. The Spring 2017 version of this course will be very similar, though some elements of the course (especially the Q&A podcasts with students and alumni studying or working in various world regions).

Please contact the Department’s Undergraduate Advisor (Joel Gruley <jgruley@wisc.edu>) if you are a first year student and are seeking direct admission to the course. The Spring 2017 instructor will be Professor Stephen Young <sjyoung3@wisc.edu>. And please contact Kris Olds <olds@geography.wisc.edu> or Stephen Young if you ever need any form of information about the course!