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14 posts categorized "Student"

11/08/2010

First Few Weeks of the Experience

September 2

OK,  I also take a siesta every day to supplement my evenings slight lack of sleep time...similar to my summer schedule, but dissimilar in that the lack of sleep time has not been from an excess of fun, but rather because I have been placed in the most intensive Spanish group out of the three that make up our program! Mucha tarea. This intensive course lasts one more week before regular classes start, and my espanol has been improving rapidly. Another reason for this is that I live with a sixty five year old widow and her thirty seven year old daughter. Both are great; include me and provide me with lots of food. We eat dinner late! 10pm is normal.

I brought one of those surchargers (I forget what they’re called but it’s so you can plug in multiple devices from a single outlet and is the one I use in Colorado)…and when I plugged it in, it nearly blew my hand off. Well ok, it was just a huge boom with a slight shock that turned off all of the lights and appliances in the near vicinity of the house.

Entonces…the first time I tried to go shopping (con Miguelito on Monday with a list of about 6 things to get which reminds me that I didn’t pack quite correctly for spending the semester at the Hampton Beach of Europe; I didn’t bring sandals or sunglasses and my best swim trunks are covered in pine tar…) included us struggling to communicate, realizing my debit card was frozen, getting slightly flustered, and proceeding to buy slippers (zapatillas to wear around my casa) for $42 euro when I thought they were $27 (what was I thinking with either of those prices?). Shopping ayer (yesterday) was great and I now own an international phone with $25 euros on it. In total it cost less than my slippers.

OK, I’m off to study up hard for the examen manana. Pictures to come!

Nick

September 4

I’ve been living in Spain for more than a week now. Poco a poco he aprendido la idioma (edit* el idioma).

Yesterday after the exam, a 20 minute tram ride north brought us to a part of the endless beach around San Juan. Blue sky, soft white sand, volleyball, not crowded, waves, ability to walk 50+yards into the ocean.

Below are a couple of photos from today’s group trip to Guadalest, a mountain estate from hundreds (didn’t pay enough attention) of years ago, in the countryside outside of the city. The landscape reminds me of southern Colorado/New Mexico. We also visited the small provincial village of Altea (where the church was) and went to a new beach. Things are going swimmingly!

-Nick

IMG_0297

  IMG_0299

 

September 5

This evening at 6:30, a multitude of study abroad students chose to attend una corrida de toros (bull fight). By 8:30, around half of them were in some other part of the city as the sixth and final bull collapsed (over/under was 6 departures, and the under never had a chance). It was a decently shocking experience. They really kill the bulls. They don’t die quickly.

On the micro outlook: we were watching the final ‘exam’ of ‘La Escuela Taurina,’ bullfighting school, and there were three circa 18 year old matadors competing for the title of top matador at the school. They were matched up against tenacious (maybe not quite full sized?) bulls. These young matadors have BALLS. After matador #1 finished a near flawless round, matador #2 came out and immediately went for the ‘behind the back cape hold.’ He got absolutely NAILED. #2 then proceeded to grind out the rest of the fight with what looked to be a broken hand and a mauled femur. All three had some sort of wildly dangerous contact with a bull at some point during the corrida.

On the macro outlook: I don’t think I’m particularly against corridas. For me, it might not even be as bad as supporting the United States’ large-scale CAFO-based meat industry (though it’s certainly a much more personal experience of support than eating a double cheeseburger at McDonalds).

 


 September 9

The inside of my head is fuzzy from all of the Spanish I have been studying this past week. Four hours a day! + Heaps of studying…and more to come this evening for the final exam manana. I digress. I’m actually mildly psyched on the amount of learning I’m trying to fill my brain with. Also psyched on chasin' that tan; not really too elusive in Alicante, Spain as it turns out.

Things should immediately chill out for me after tomorrow. I will be taking two business classes (need them as credits to graduate Spring 2012) at the international business school at the Universidad de Alicante along with regular CIEE Spanish class… and as it turns out the UA classes don’t start for another week and end in late November!

 

September 11

Yesterday, to celebrate the culmination of two weeks of intensive Spanish, the group took an afternoon trip to the Bodega de Santa Margarita, a winery about an hour’s drive out of the city. As it turned out, there wasn’t the slightest pressure to spit out our wine after tasting…and the good people at Santa Margarita happily brought out more bottles.L  ooking back, it was really a shrewd business move on their part; I’m judging that they sold 50+ bottles as we were leaving.

Additionally, with the wine, they served salchichon(sausage) that was from pigs raised right there at the winery. There was also cheese with our wine! And heaps of other delicious snacks! And excess quantities! I had a slight headache by the time we got on the bus.

Upon my return, the family wasn’t in sight so I immediately took a siesta for two hours. Waking up to some banging sounds and some loud talking. Walking into the living room, my second person plural greeting of ‘como estais’ was responded to by a ‘third person plural pointing to’ of the cast on my madre’s right leg and her informing me that she broke it ‘en la calle’ (on the street). She had broken a couple ‘fingers’ as my sister called them in her broken English (dedo means both finger and toe over here). Ileana (65 years old) was practicing walking around on arm-extension crutches and was giving reasons to believe she might break more bones before she went to sleep that night. Thankfully a far more stable walker was procured from her storage locker at a warehouse.

Elena (sister) was pretty stressed out, periodically hitting the back porch to have a cigarette…contrastingly, Ileana was the opposite of stressed and was practically making a point of trying to help me improve my Spanish. We had an enthusiastic conversation before I went out about the subtle differences between ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’. Fairly outrageous scenario.

On a different note: I returned from the beach today at about 6 and went straight to a café/bar with my friend Derek...we watched the Hercules CF vs. Barcelona game with lots of locals. We won! 2-0, a real miracle, with a couple of goals by Valdez.   Home game next weekend vs. Valencia. I hope to be there.

 

Some Ramblings-September 17

The refrigerator in my apartment is impressively unorganized. Containers of olives/olive oil all over the place and random food everywhere. My dad’s influence in me came out last night as I was trying to put away the salad bowl. There is now one small section of the fridge that is well put together.

This morning I made instant coffee with regular coffee grinds and micro-waved water. A small miscommunication with mi madre.

It rained hard (it's only drizzled once or twice before) for the first time today while a few of us were at the beach. Which brings up the point that I’m abandoning my goal of not talking to people about the weather (arbitrarily that is). My Spanish skills will need to become more creative before I can avoid ‘hace mucho calor’ in any normal conversation about my day.

I am debating the merits of having the next book I read be a Spanish one. As in, written in Español. Rate of chapters finished and nuances comprehended may decrease, but on the macro scale it should increase those rates (my life in figurative terms).(edit* this never happened)

Two of my buddies here are taking a class entirely on the ‘Camino de Santiago,’ a sacred Catholic Pilgrimage on which to take part you only need to step out of your front door and walk to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. I really enjoy the idea of such a trek and all of the history behind it.Thus, I’m getting daily secondhand lessons on the subject.  The class is actually going to be doing a mini-Camino de Santiago during fall break and it doesn’t sound too tame (120km in 5 days =24kms a day).

OK, hasta pronto amigos, Nick

September 21

I attended my first Hercules CF football game this Sunday con Miguelito.  The stadium is a short 15 minute walk from my apartment.  It was a derby game against Valencia (our close neighbor to the north), plenty of fun. I even learned a bit of colloquial soccer vocabulary which is kind of useful. ‘puta madre' in various contexts is used regularly for yelling at Valencia's team and fans, and also for any sort of unfortunate play, and also for complimenting our players...a bit confusing.   Hercules lost 2-1, but the crowd and players didn’t give up in any way. Not even when Valencia scored two early goals that were a class above what Hercules had to offer. El Estadio Jose Rico Perez was at 80%+ capacity(which is 30,000 or so). I live a 15-20 minute westerly walk to the stadium and Miguelito is even closer.

My other classes have been starting up this week. Human Resources Management, while it won’t teach me everything I might find interesting about Spain…is taught by a Spanish professor and it has an international feel to it that standard CIEE classes don’t have.There are fellow students from Norway, Finland (four blonde babybabes), Australia, Germany, England, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Greece, Gibraltar, Ghana, Netherlands, and Switzerland in addition to a handful of fellow Americanos. Quick trivia question; which one of the above mentioned is not a country? Why? Prize is the opportunity to spend 3 months with me working here, http://www.workaway.info/4617972854a8-en.html, in late summer/fall of 2012. I'm mildly serious.

I believe that the website workaway.info was brought to my attention early this year by my buddy Liam who was studying in Florence, Italy, but for whatever reason I never gave it a good look-over until yesterday. Such an awesome deal…you agree to volunteer 25 hours+ of your time each week and in return receive free room and board from ‘workaway’ hosts that are all over the world. Achieving my dream of working on a ranch in Mongolia never seemed so near. http://www.workaway.info/5343392244b5-en.html. Who doesn't want to learn to drink vodka the traditional Mongolian way?

-Nick

 

11/04/2010

Hi, I'm Dana Morano

Hi I'm Dana Morano, born and raised in Chicago and I attend the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). This is my first time in Europe and writing a blog. So let's get to it.

Needless to say I was very excited when I arrived in Alicante about 2 months ago. The weather was amazing (we were at the beach everyday) and the city was an adventure about to be unravelled. We stayed the first weekend in a sweet hotel and awkwardly mingled amongst the people who are now my cloest friends. We toured the city and were given advice about living in Alicante for the next four months and soon enough it was Sunday and we were shipped off to our living situations.

To my surprise most people chose to live with a homestay family while only five of us moved into the dorms. I chose the dorms because I have never went away to school and I figured that living in the dorms was the smarter decision. (Since most students do their first time away from home.) As all things do, it had it's pros and cons, and about a month and a half later I chose to move into a homestay family.

I pictured the dorms here as similar to the ones I had visited in the States. One room crammed with two beds, and two desks with barely enough room to breathe. The dorms are nice, speacious, and very private. You have your own room and bathroom (which was spacious as well), and a maid comes to clean your room once a week. The common area you share with your roommate is small, there is a sink, a small refridgerator (although my room never had one for some reason!) and a microwave. I never used them though. A pro was that my roommate was absolutely awesome! She was from France and spoke spanish fluently and was always more than willing to help me with my homework and everyday conversation skills. A con was that our schedules conflicted and I usually only saw her at mealtime when I was with mostly American students speaking english. Meals- huge con. The food, to put it gently, was unedible, and not to mention the rude workers responses when I would attempt to speak to them in spanish. (Although we did make friends with two of them!) As more time passed, I realized the other students in my class were understanding and speaking more english than me. During the first weekend here, we were told if we were staying in the villa (what they call the dorms) that we should reach out to the other students and try to speak spanish with them. At the time, it sounded easy, I'm a pretty outgoing person and don't have that much trouble talking with strangers so I didn't think much of it. How wrong I was. I grew much too nervous to attempt to speak my broken spanish to a bunch of college students who had been friends for quite some time. So I avoided it, and did not really put much effort into meeting the spanish students in the villa. The did hold a week's worth of "hazing" activities to get to know new students, but I'm not in a sorority and those really aren't my type of things to do. After debating for a week or two I decided to move into a homestay. Side note: The dorms are an unconvient 25 minute bus ride (not mention waiting for it) from Alicante.

I now live in the city. The apartment I moved into is in Plaza de Toros and I live with mi madre (an older woman who is AMAZING!). The firstbig difference for me was the food. For the first time in six weeks I finished a meal. The second was that my english became useless. If I needed something or just wanted to chat I was forced to use my spanish. Then there were the pros living at home per se, mi madre does my laundry and makes my bed and makes me bocadillos (a delicious sandwich) for lunch at school. I lucked out and have a balcony off my room from which I can see the el castillo de Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara castle).

In either living situation, it is what YOU make of it. The dorms were not a right fit for me. I was lonely and felt disconnected, but I went into it with a positive attitude and it didn't work out. I went into living in a homestay with a positive attitude and it did. Part of the reason living in the home was better choice for me because I my spanish was not up to par and I felt more comfortable learning in a less intimidating environment since it is only mi madre y yo.

Luego <3

10/20/2010

Nicholas Utter- First Post

Hello world!

My name's Nick Utter, I'm a junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder.   However I was born and bred in a fine area of the world called New Hampshire.  

I've actually been keeping up a separate blog outside of CIEE about my life here in Alicante, thus I'm going to post a plethora of my past entries to provide ya´ll with closer-to-immediate reactions to different things that I've been up to.  

-Nick

August 31, 2010

I arrived in Madrid Friday morning direct out of Boston to await a connecting flight to Alicante, Spain; Barajas is a HUGE airport, this makes it a large effort to find connecting flights considering the gates aren't assigned until within the hour of takeoffs.

Arrived in Alicante and got picked up by the CIEE folks.  Then a group of us were bussed to the orientation hotel which happened to be absolutely seaside and next to the main city beach. Went out to eat with my new friends that are in the program and had una pinta de Cruzcampo, not my best idea, with una tapa de eggs and potatoes. Afterwards my new friends wouldn’t let me sleep in the hotel room, and we were off to the beach… the playa was very crowded and we saw a significantly larger quantity of topless females (of all types and ages), than I've seen in my life up to this point. Looking back on it, my standard line of wanting to “go people watching” likely freaked out/estranged me from any prospective females in the group.

We went to el barrio that evening and had a few beers etc. Very tired and slept well. Three girls in the group stayed out until 8am! Great work out of them. The next day was orientation etc. and one more night at the hotel before we would meet our host families.We stayed out later on this night (with a nightcap dip in the Mediterranean for me and some others).  There was plenty of trepidation as the hour of meeting our host families drew closer.

~Nick

 

10/18/2010

Camino? More like Cami-YES

So here in españa, I am taking a course all about the Camino de Santiago, which is a Catholic pilgrimage route that ends in Santiago de Compostela in the Northwest corner of Spain. For the class, we got to actually complete the camino ourselves, walking more than 110 km from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela (that’s 70 miles for you Yankees) with just our backpacks.

The Atheist in me cringed at the idea of making this great trek to a gaudy Cathedral honoring a saint who was supposedly resurrected to slaughter Arabs by the thousands in the historic battle of Clavijo. That is, by the way, what he is most celebrated for– winning Spain back for the Spanish. There are depictions of St. James Matamoros (Moor-Killer, literally) in churches across the country, and for this figure almost a quarter of a million people wear down their feet each year, hoping to get the chance to hug his holy likeness and have their sins erased.

St. James Matamoros

However, the huge cultural significance of the pilgrimage and the lure of exploring northern Spain’s countryside and architecture won me over and I transferred out of an almost equally tempting class on Politics and Identity in Spain (incidentally, it turns out that I didn’t have to do that… details are irrelevant). So I packed my bags, broke in my new hiking boots, and prepared to make the camino.

As with most things in life, my experience matched almost none of my expectations. I had no idea how much I had missed the lush greenery of my home in the U.S. until I was walking through tunnels of trees covered in ivy, the morning mist just beginning to clear. I expected to get a lot of good, productive thinking done– about my academic plans, about my relationships, about my family– but what I was able to do was clear my mind completely, to walk and to not think at all. Much of the peacefulness of the journey came not from the more social aspect of the walk itself, but in the hours after we had reached our destination for the day, wandering the small towns as the sun set and just being quiet.

 Socks

One expectation that unfortunately (or not) was met was that getting to Santiago and beholding the great Cathedral of St. James was my least favorite part of the trip. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it by any means, it just didn’t compare to the days of walking with purpose through fields and forests and tiny villages. The sudden bustling town, combined with the knowledge that the journey was over cast a bit of a shadow over my arrival… not to mention my now almost non-functional right knee. The cathedral was very beautiful, and we met interesting people of all flavors along the way.

Churchiepoo

Ultimately, I said farewell to Santiago fondly; the journey was long but exactly the fall vacation I needed- a time for friends, the beauty of nature, and learning to appreciate a decent meal. It was a unique experience, and while many of my friends went to other exotic places in europe in planes, trains, and taxicabs, I wouldn’t have traded this trip for any other.

Sillhouette