Thursday, March 05, 2015

Theresa K - Oxford, England - Spring 2015

Hello CPP 250! I'm Theresa and I'm studying here in Oxford, England with the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS).
I imagined studying here in Oxford would resemble something like the Harry Potter films. Being an Oxford student reflects this, partly due to the fact that some bits of the films were shot around here. It is, however, still a college town, making Oxford a interesting combination of both old and new. Walk around Oxford and you'll get that feel. Old buildings that can predate the United States mixed with modern ones with solar panels.
Always make plans to explore because time is precious here. I don't know how the workload is at other institutions, but at Oxford, you're a student. Full-time. I have essentially four hours of class a week, but that doesn't include hours of reading and writing. My concept of time (and of the weekend especially) no longer works in days and weeks, but in stages of essay writing. The best part about it, too, the intensity of the work is the best though grueling part.
This is not to say that all of your time should be spent writing and reading. Remember The Shining. Everyone here knows how important it is to take a break. Budget your time and you'll be fine. Since you'd be a student with CMRS, you're an associate member of Keble College and of the University of Oxford as a whole. There are plenty of societies and sports and events to go to. Meetings are great placeholders so you can structure your week's workload and it's a fun way to kick back and relax if not with fellow CMRS students. I myself have been attending lectures around Oxford and have been able to listen to and interact with brilliant people speak. I've even joined Oxford's Astronomy and Space Society. There's something for everyone.
So come to Oxford. It's pretty awesome.

Marie S - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2015

Hello CPP 250!
My name is Marie and I have been studying in Barcelona, Spain for a little over a month now through IES. It’s crazy to think that in only 3 short months I will already be leaving this beautiful city to return back to the states, time really flies when you are abroad. Use it wisely! 

Going abroad was the biggest decision I have made in my entire life, but I can honestly say it has been the best one yet. I definitely had some fears going into it because I have absolutely no sense of direction, have never taken public transportation alone, and have never been that long and far away from home. When I very first arrived, I did experience some jet-lag for about 2 weeks getting used to food, keeping myself hydrated, and sleep patterns. I went through culture shock and all I wanted to do was go back to my comfort, my familiarity, so I talked to everyone from home continuously online, but I continued to feel a huge sense of homesickness because everything here was still very new and different (do NOT worry everyone has different experiences).  It is my opinion and after experiencing it, the way to overcome this is to go out and see things like popular attractions or neighborhoods, learn about where you are living (you will find out it isn’t as different as you thought even with a language barrier), and talk to the locals or other people in your program. I found out a lot of people were going through the same exact thing as me! Being a whole month in now, I can strongly say I feel intensely more comfortable, understand my “daily routine”, and have an overall sense of what life is like living in Barcelona. I am in a homestay, my two roommates and I live with an older women in an adorable apartment that is just a 15 minute walk from the IES Center. It has been a great accommodation so far and my Spanish language skills are picking up rapidly, even with the Catalán language being present everywhere. Class-wise, there are only two things I am semi-struggling with: the 15 credit minimum (I have 3 classes a day), and that many of the classes here have no homework grades, therefore all of the points rely solely on your participation and exams, just participate and pay attention and you will be fine J IES does a great job with the Spanish-Placement exams because I feel I was placed in the perfect class for my language level. I also thought taking another class in Spanish and taking two of my classes at a local university (UAB) was going to be difficult, but it is certainly manageable! It is so nice that we do not have class on Friday because it has provided my friends and I plenty of opportunity to travel, experience the night life, and site-see! I am enjoying my time here in Barcelona, it is the most beautiful and safe city I have ever been. Please let me know of any questions you may have and good luck on preparing for your time abroad, wherever it may be!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Aditya S - Vienna, Austria - Spring 2015

Hey there! My name is Aditya Sharma and I am studying Music at IES Vienna (Spring ’15). I don’t even know where to begin my praise for this breath-taking city. From grand, majestic museums that house Picasso’s and Cezanne’s to a plethora of Opera houses and performance arenas that regularly stage musical works that are in the least, spectacular, Vienna is a sparkling oasis to the weary traveler; a freakishly beautiful dream that you pray never ends. I flew into the city on the 8th of January where I met 80 other students from all across the United States. Our hosts then drove us to a quaint, charming town called Mariazell (in the district of Styria) for a 3-day orientation where we were taken through the history of Vienna (which is quite fascinating) and spent a lot of time getting to know one another which I suppose was one of the primary objectives of the event.

I am writing this post after completing 2 weeks of class and absolutely love every second of my time here. What I would recommend is brushing up on your German (assuming you don’t speak the language like me) because it will make it a lot easier to find your way around the city, especially in the first few weeks. About Vienna itself, it is layered with history, its residents are very accommodating and reach out to you if you look a little lost. All in all, it’s been a great experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me. Auf Wiedersehen!

John O - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2015

So its been just about two months here in Barcelona and I couldn’t be more happy! I love literally everything here. I have two roommates and we are in homestay with the most amazing woman I have ever met. Every morning she makes us breakfast sandwiches with bread she made from scratch…yea, from scratch. She also has us orange juice that she squeezes every morning from oranges she grows in southern Spain…I hit the jack pot for house moms. IES has also been incredible! There facilities  are great and are so helpful to all of us here. I can only say great things about this place and I can’t wait for my next adventures!
P.S. Traveling is very easy and SO awesome.

Deanna J - Suva, Fiji - Spring 2015

Well, getting here was a pain in the butt (I’m talking over 48 hours at airports or on planes) but I was thrown into the amazing culture here immediately upon arrival. I was greeted by a trio singing a welcome song after getting off the plane, and ISA’s site manager gave me a warm hug and kiss on the cheek; there’s certainly a reason why Fiji has been dubbed as the friendliest nation. You can’t walk anywhere without a loud, “bula” and a wave from the people you walk past (even if they’re on the other side of the road on their porch). So the people here are wonderful, and so relaxed. The islanders have something called “Fiji time” where everyone just goes at a slower pace. While traveling on a different island our group went out to eat at a restaurant. We were the only people in there but it took a solid two hours to get our meals after ordering. Lateness is just very much a part of daily life here, which has been a huge change for me; it was definitely frustrating at first, but I adapted. And there’s so much beauty everywhere on the island. I’ve seen reefs, waterfalls, jungles, swimming holes, mountain tops, and so many other crazy things. But it's not all rainbows and butterflies (even though I’ve seen those too). Fiji is not America, so there are a lot of things that took some getting used to. The lack of readily-available internet anywhere you go, the lack of air conditioning, the way food is prepared/stored/eaten/etc., and the roaches/centipedes/millipedes that find their way into my flat all threw me for a loop. I think that pretty much no matter where you go things are gonna be different. But that’s sort of the point of going abroad, right? If you can move past how uncomfortable "different" can be, then you’ll be able to enjoy your experience so much more.

Sarah A - Oxford, England - Spring 2015

Greetings from Oxford, England. I’m Sarah and I am studying at the CMRS program in Oxford this semester. So the first thing that I noticed when I got here was that it was uncharacteristically sunny for the first few days (which many of the native Brits pointed out). The sun came out to greet us foreigners! Anyways, it has been amazing here. Oxford is so interesting because it’s just a bunch of cosmopolitan people thrown on top of a town that has been here since before the 1600s. So everywhere is an eclectic mix of posh, chic shops and malls but then you encounter a building like the Bodleian library (a large castle-like complex full of cobblestones and spires). Everything is so beautiful and green here, all covered in ivy and full of life. The best thing that I have found here is the Cornish Pasties (something that is akin to a beef stew inside a puff pastry). I would eat those every day if I had the opportunity (and the money).

Currently, we are working on our third week of classes. The program involved two tutorials and a seminar, which we started not long ago, and then a research course, which we will start in about a month. The tutorials involve quite a bit of reading and just as much writing but they are all on topics that the students want to discuss. Having a one-on-one class with the tutor is especially helpful because you can really get constructive criticism on your writing and ideas. The only issue is that there is so much writing and reading to do that occasionally, you won’t have enough time to travel. This program really tests your time management and organization skills simply because there is so much to do that you are forced to plan out your work. Honestly, it is a challenge but it is completely worth it. There’s so much that Oxford, and England, can offer a person.