October, 2007

Italian School System

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

First of all, let me say that I do enjoy the classes here in Italy. I just think their school system is one of the most unorganized I have ever seen, and most Italians agree with me. It could be different at the other schools, but from my experience with the Universita’ di Bologna’s webpage, it is far more difficult to navigate than UW’s.

During the spring at UW I kept getting asked the same question, “What courses are you taking in Bologna?” I didn’t have an answer to that question until the last weekend in September, three days before classes actually started. The reason was because the class schedule isn’t posted until Mid August for the upcoming school year. Also, even if the classes are published, it does not necessarily mean that the hours are published. Here is where it got tricky though. Each department has their own webpage for classes and a separate webpage for hours. I was interested in taking class in the facolta’ di Economia and the facolta’ di Lettere e Filosofia. I had to go to both faculties websites to look for the classes, and to this day I have never found the page where the hours for i corsi di Economia are. (more…)

Comforts of Home

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

I thought that when I arrived in Europe there would be all new things to taste and try and while this is partly the case, many items are the same as would be at home. There is such a strong American influence here, on the television, in the music, and in the food at the grocery store. The interesting thing is finding these familiar items in slightly different packaging. Crisps are potato chips, chips are fries, and biscuits are cookies. Sour cream is much more watered down, Irish ketchup is sweeter than Heinz, Cup of Noodle is called Pot Noodle, and you can only find travel size deodorants on the shelves. No matter how confident I am when I walk into the grocery store, I continually find that I have to examine what an item is and whether or not the name of it is deceiving. How strange it is to buy a can of pop and find that it is two inches shorter than cans in the US. Even the McDonald’s Mcflurry is significantly shorter in packaging and I thought they had been used as a business example of standardization! I’m enjoying the fact that I can buy the things I need, and I get a laugh every time something has an entirely different name from what I am used to. (more…)

The Rain in Spain…

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Hola Todos, I have been in Spain for just over a month now, and the weather here in Granada has been about the same since I arrived. Most days are filled with beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. Within the last week or so the country.jpgtemperature has begun to fall. When I first arrived, coming off summer, the temperatures during the day were around low to mid 30′s Celsius, which is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Now the temperatures have been in the low 20′s C (70 F) during the day and about 5 C at night (low 40s F). Generally the days are still sunny though, even with lower temperatures. It has rained a few days since I’ve been here (in fact it’s raining right now). It seems like for every week or two of beautiful sun, we get one day of torrential downpours and thunder and lightning. Yesterday a friend and I went to visit some pueblos in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. When we started the day, the weather was sunny and a comfortable temperature (probably in the 60′s F). However, as the day went on, a thick fog rolled into the hills and the temperature dropped substantially. It rained for about five minutes, and then the sun began to peak through the clouds a bit. Overall the weather here in Granada has been quite enjoyable and comfortable.

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America-mura and more

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I visited Osaka which is the second largest city in Japan, Tokyo being the first. And after walking around downtown and various other shopping areas, I stumbled upon a very fascinating place. Just near the popular shopping district called Shinsaibashi, there is section called “America-mura” or America town. I found it quite interesting that much like the common “China towns” that can be seen all over the U.S., Osaka has an America town. The entrance to America-mura, or Uncle SameAme-mura as the locals call it for short, is over hanged by a large plastic clown head wearing an Uncle Sam type hat. America-mura consists of many shops selling American brands that are hard to come by in Japan such as Abercrombie or Hollister. Since they are quite rare the prices can get pretty ridiculous, I found a Red Sox hooded sweatshirt selling for ¥9,800 equivalent to about $83 U.S. dollars. But aside from the merchandise there’s nothing really American about the place.

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Day Tripper

Monday, October 15th, 2007

On the plane to Galway at the end of August, I met a boy from Wisconsin we really hit it off as friends. Since then, I’ve been hanging out with him and his flatmates, all of whom are from Minnesota. We had all arrived a week before school started and were finding our way around Galway together. It was an adventure everyday because the town was new to all of us and none of the Irish students had arrived at school yet. All of us international students wandered around together and explored the city and its surroundings. The day before classes started, my midwestern friends and myself decided road2.jpgthat we would go on a day trip to the nearby town of Cong, and explore the Connemara region, north of Galway. Little did we know this meant waking up bright and early in order to catch the bus in the center of town. We also didn’t expect the roads to be what they were. Apparently here in Ireland, more money goes into the stone walls that border all of the roads rather than the roads themselves. It was quite the stomach turner to say the least!

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Benvenuto a Italia!

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Ciao da Bologna! I’m currently a CISB student studying abroad in Bologna, Italy. I have been here for two months already and plan on staying in Europe for a full year (Academic and Calendar). The experience so far has been great at times and not so great. When I first arrived one of my roommates picked me up at the airport and brought me back to my apartment. This was great. What was not so great was that he told me I was going to be alone for five days. I was shocked. What was I supposed to do for five days by myself? I had initially been so excited to go to Italy that I never really thought about what I would do once I got there. It finally started to sink in that I was not going to see my family or friends until Christmas, and after that one trip not until August 2008. Luckily I had a friend in Perugia that arrived a week earlier and Napoli: Katie on the Leftshe hopped on a train and came to Bologna the following day to keep me company. As the days went by I started to feel more and more comfortable in this strange city that was now becoming my home.

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Weeks 3 and 4 in Spain

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Hola Todos, It has officially been one month and two days since my arrival in Spain. As expected, I am starting to get into the swing of things over here. I’m meeting lots of people, exploring more of the area, and learning more about the language and culture all the time.

School started last Tuesday, Oct. 9, and it has been interesting thus far. On Oct. 1st we took a placement test for the school and based on that we were split into to groups: Hispanic Studies, which is the more advanced program, and Culture and Language, which is the intermediate program. Since it’s been about a year and a half since my last Spanish course in college, I did bad on the exam and got placed in the intermediate program. Which is probably a good thing, because I would’ve been in way over my head in the advanced program, and I’m staying for two semesters so in the spring I can do the advanced program. I’m taking five classes: Grammar, Oral and Writing, Economy of Spain and Latin America, spain.jpgBusiness Spanish, and History of Spain. Each class is two hours long and two days a week. No one has classes on Friday, which is nice so we have longer weekends for possible trips! The classes are all taught in Spanish the whole time, and most teachers don’t let us speak in English. It makes it very difficult, but we will learn a lot I’m sure. The classes are very small (12-20 people), and most of the students at the school are American. I think the most difficult thing for me about school is my schedule. I have class at 8:30 everyday(Mon-Thurs), and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have class straight through with no breaks from 8:30 to 2:30. It’s like I’m in high school again, except it’s more real work. Generally we do get little mini breaks every hour or two hours for about 5-10 minutes. Anyways, school is school no matter where you are in the world. It sucks, but I suppose I’d rather be sitting, learning in a classroom than working 6-8hours a day in a real job!

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Ricky Arrives in Kobe, Japan

Friday, October 12th, 2007

First of all I don’t have internet in my room so I have to use the computer lab [link] at the school, which I am only able to utilize because my tutor was so kind as to provide me with his login and password, but I should have my internet up and running sometime this week. It’s a little inconvenient to make a 50 minute trip from my room to the school just to check emails and stuff, but on the other hand I enjoy riding the train as a Seattlite who has little train riding experience, and I get my fair share of “people-watching” which is always fun.

So for the first couple of weeks in Kobe I have been doing some sightseeing with some new friends from France and Germany. So far we checked out Sannomiya (sort of like “Downtown” if you will), the Rokko mountains, and a nice zoo. (more…)

Paris, Part Deux

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

The weekend before last I had the privilege to visit Paris once again, passing by a few quartiers for the second time and exploring some new scenes as well. Not getting out of class until five Friday night, I caught the evening train and arrived in Paris around 9:30… just in time for the end of the France v Ireland rugby match- for those of you who aren’t aware, the Rugby World Cup is currently taking place in France. I met up with my two American friends Ricara and Shay and we found the streets covered people screaming, everyone decked out in their country’s colors, waving flags, some only wearing a flag, etc. Since the World Cup started, I have found this to be the norm on game nights and accept the bleu, blanc, et rouge painted fans screaming in the streets gratefully as they never cease to provide entertainment!

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