October, 2009

Barca-Barca-Barcelona

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I arrived in my flat around 11pm on August 22nd. I only stayed for 30 minutes to shower and pack all my things. I had met up with Jenna Jones and Daniel Ong; we were set to leave for Barcelona the next morning at 5am. I had met Jenna and Daniel on Facebook; a group was started and we planned a trip to Barcelona and La Tomatina over three different time zones.

I entered my flat in awe; the rooms were large and each with the exception of mine had a small rusty balcony. Our kitchen was modest with aging wood and furniture that was slowly dying. A random long couch sat in our narrow hallway; there isn’t a living room.

The bathroom is tiny. The bathroom is really tiny. The shower is a tiny box with the length of one of my arm.

But it is okay, because I am set to leave for Barcelona in 6 hours.

Once I arrived in Jenna’s flat, I passed out immediately. My nap was too short for soon enough, we were on the tram and then on a bus on the way to Bergarmo airport to take Ryanair over to Barcelona. Nausea was a strong sherryonepresence during my take off and the bright yellow and blue cabinets that adorned the interior of the plane did not help calm my mood. When we arrived, the entire plane clapped. I don’t know whether or not to be happy or terrified at the fact the entire plane clapped that we actually landed.

After arrival, we took an hour long bus ride from the airport all the way to Barcelona. I sat next to a man who spoke in Spanish to me most of the time. I liked him. I liked him because I got to practice my Spanish. It was pretty sweet, he actually understood me.

The first night at Barcelona we attended a FC Barcelona game. The stadium was packed with screaming fans going crazy for their team. The game and experience was so epic, thousands among thousands going crazy for futbol. It’s comparable to a husky football game but with 10 times more the spirited fans.

The next day we headed down to Las Ramblas. It was very very very hot, in the 90’s. There were a ton of street vendors selling los flores y los regalos y mas. In addition, theresherrytzo were moving statues; there was one dressed as Jason who came up to me and tried to scare me away. I love Barcelona. The entire city is breathtaking and if I could live here, I would be happy forever.

We took a two hour tour around Barcelona. I went shopping and got completely lost but managed to find a specific plaza where there was this Gaudi tour. I got to see three of Gaudi’s masterpieces. It was during this tour I fell in love with Gauid’s artwork. Looking up at his architectural masterpieces was incredible. My favorite part was the Gaudi Park with the famous mosaics.

No words can ever do justice in describing the brilliancy of this man therefore I leave you with these photographs.

In addition to the FC Barcelona game, all the sigh seeing, we also went to The Mediterranean. I got to swim in the clear turquoise water that tasted like it had a 5 to 1 ratio (salt 5 cups for every 1 cup water). I actually experienced my first sun burnt. I’m Filipino….I don’t get burn. But here I did.

After 4 nights in Barcelona, it was time to head back to Milano.sherrythree

Milano Life Part 2

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It is so hard to be consistent with a blog when on an exchange program.  That’s good though in a way because it means that I have been doing a lot, experiencing a lot, and meeting a lot of great people.  If you are reading this and are contemplating doing an exchange, my advice is…DO IT!  It will be the most unique, interesting and fun experience of your life.  Companies love it.  You become more cultured by just merely observing different people in different countries with sometimes completely different lifestyles from what you are used to.

One of the best moves I’ve made this year was to join a group of Italians in my Market Research class for a team project.  It was a bit hard at first since most of them didn’t speak English very well, but with the combination of hand motions and basic knowledge of each other’s language, communication became possible.  Being in this group is not particularly the best for efficiency or effectiveness purposes for the project we need to complete, but it is such a good way to meet more Italians and gives me a chance to hang out with them outside of class.  I went to Aperitivo (Italian-style buffet) with them and they introduced me to their group of friends.  We hung out in all the places where the locals hang out.  They showed me all the popular places where students get drinks and just chill at night.  I had the best time, and they were all so welcoming and friendly.  I look forward to hanging out more with the Italians.

I also have an amazing buddy though the Bocconi buddy system.  He actually does a great job of following through with things like showing us great Aperitivos and setting up soccer matches between us exchange students and the Italians.  We, of course, have beat the Italians every time so far, but it’s getting closer and closer each time. :P  I’m not good at soccer by any means, but I’m getting the hang of it.  I scored a few unorthodox goals, and my teammates have been really nice about being patient with me and have actually taught me some techniques.  We often times go to the pub across the street and watch soccer on the big screen.  It’s a good past time and bonding experience with the other guy exchange students.Vance (2)

A week ago we found ourselves in Rome with a great group of 10 people.  All exchange students from Bocconi, and the group was composed of really good friends we’ve made throughout these past couple of months.  We did an obscene amount of sightseeing in Rome for the 3 days we were there.  I was completely exhausted every single night in Rome.  The Coliseum, Pantheon, Palatine, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum, St. Peters Cathedral, Borghese Museum, Trevi Fountain, etc.  The trip was very artistic and historical, as well as tiring.  A highlight of Rome, aside from the sites, was having the chance to take the group to a Filipino restaurant there.  It was so great to have a nice sit down lunch with the group and to share with them a part of my culture.  Well until next time.  Ciao!

Milano Life Part 1

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

VanceRight now I am sitting in Anne Marie’s cabin on the outskirts (the woods!) of Warsaw, Poland in the afternoon.  We knew Anne Marie from UW’s Global Case Competition last spring as she and 3 others represented the Business School over here in Warsaw.  From the very beginning, Anne Marie has been the most amazing hostess.  She has graciously let us stay at her Mom’s beautiful house in a nearby suburb of the city center.  We really couldn’t ask for anything more, and don’t know what we did to deserve such great treatment, but we are so appreciative and hope that we can return the favor somehow in the future.  After we arrived and dropped our stuff off at Anne Marie’s house we headed for the City Center and walked along Anne Marie’s favorite streets.  Spontaneously we decided to have a food extravaganza in Poland and to try out all the best restaurants and cafés in the city center.  Thus far, the best and most successful food run (with sushi, croissants, drinks, and polish food) I’ve had in Europe, and that says a lot since I’m living in Italy.

We arrived here in the woods kind of late last night because of traffic, but it was definitely worth it. It’s a beautiful cabin in the middle of the woods which is peaceful and relaxing.  Definitely something I needed after always being out and doing things in the city.  It’s nice to relax, talk, and eat by the fireplace in the middle of nowhere.

So now I am going to try and summarize Milano, which is no simple task.  Adapting to living in Italy has definitely not been easy, but at the same time, hasn’t been too difficultVance (1) because of the great friends we’re surrounded with here.  One thing that you must get used to in Italy, besides the fact that no one speaks English, is how many things are so inefficient and unorganized.  It’s Italy though, and you just have to accept it.  Stores just don’t like to open on Sundays or Mondays.  There are no dryers for your clothes.  Cars drive on the sidewalk.  One thing that is always very organized here though are the parties put together by Bocconi.  Bocconi never fails us, and you can’t help but have fun and be happy here.  Bocconi just doesn’t allow you to be bored and not have fun.  They do a great job of organizing parties and events to meet people, eat free food, and get the best deals to the most prestigious places in town.  Because we are from Bocconi, we never wait in line anywhere and our always treated as VIP.  The group of friends we’ve established so far has been such a blessing.  I am so thankful to have met such a great and diverse set of friends.  Finland, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, London, France, Mexico, Norway… basically the EU.. etc.  Such a great group of people who I would already miss so much, if I were to leave now.  I hope to stay in touch with all of these people and to have a lot of them visit me in Seattle so I can show them around.

China’s 60 Year Anniversary

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Sophia2A month and a half has never flown by so fast in my life, and yet I still feel like I have so much of the city to explore. I would never be bored here. Living in Beijing, I came to realize that even if I went to see ten historical sites a day, I would still not be able to see everything within my semester here in the capital of China. The city is a mixture of the modern and the ancient. Of new-ideals and strong traditions. When talking to the younger generation of China, I noticed that their thinking contrasts so much with that of the older Mao-generation.

Just recently I had the pleasure of witnessing China’s 60 year anniversary. I’ve never been to another country quite like this one. The day before October 1st, the government launched chemicals into the sky so the whole city faced heavy rainfall all day. The next morning I woke up and saw that their plan has worked: Perfect weather. Beautiful blue sky, sunny, cloudless, warm, with a nice breeze. In the month I’ve been in Beijing, I have never seen such nice weather before. This lasted the whole week of the Chinese anniversary. The day of the anniversarySophia (1) the government closed off all of the city center and recommended all families to stay home. My roommate and I tried exploring the city, and it was uncomfortably quite. Not a single car driving past, no street vendors within eye sight, and nobody out on the street. We tried to go to Tiananmen Square where the huge parade was going on, but everywhere security guards stood across the street to block every intersection into city center. Later that day I heard that the Chinese government also canceled all flights in and out of Beijing’s capital airport. That was crazy to imagine. In total, they spent over 60 billion rmb on the parades, which equals to about 9 billion usd. On TV I watched the parades that lasted all day- from when I woke up 9am until midnight. Every public transportation I took, they were playing songs about the “great Motherland” and “I love China”. I couldn’t but help wonder how much of this was just for show.

Anyhow, it was a great experience to see this all take place, since it’s so different from what I’m used to seeing in the States.

Sophia1

No Pasa Nada

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

La playa en AlicanteHi everyone! My name is Andrew Swanson, and I am here in Pamplona, Spain for the quarter studying at the University of Navarra along with Sohroosh, Yvonne, and Daraun from the UW. So far my time here in Spain has been a blast. Last weekend I went to Alicante with my roommate because he was from there, and I got to see the Mediterranean for the first time and visit the local hotspots of the city.

School here is going very well. Tomorrow I have to prepare a presentation for my Marketing class, which is a normal Spanish class with normal students, so I am a little bit nervous to talk in front of them… but as we say here “no pasa nada” if I embarrass myself a little bit…I guess that is part of the experience. (haha) I am living with two Spanish guys so I get to practice my Spanish skills both in school and at home, and I am learning a lot. It is amazing to see how your skills improve in such little time being over here. Well, until next time!

First month in Manchester

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Kimi (1)Hey my name is Kimi, and I am currently a Junior studying abroad in Manchester this quarter. I have officially been living here for a month already, and the time has simply flown by.

It has been a great month. I arrived and got settled in with no problem. I live in a dorm called Whitworth Park, and I am really enjoying it. I have my own room, make my own food, and am about 15 minutes from all of my classes.

The actual university is kind of hidden within the city so there is no beautiful campus like there is at UW. While I miss the beauty of our campus, it’s interesting to walk to class with others who are walking to work and such. There is a large diversity of people living in Manchester, and I have met people from ALL over the world.

The classes themselves are pretty interesting and quite similar to UW in the sense that we have big lecture halls. There are some differences however. Here I am taking 5 courses consisting of a two hour lecture once a week, and my entire grade is based off of one essay due at the end of the semester. This basically means that the final month of my time abroad is going to be filled with essay writing. However, the international program that they have here is spectacular and there are always events going on within the school and outside of school. For one of the events we are going to be going to one of the largest indoor ski slopes in Europe! So there has been lots of time to get to know everyone and socialize.

KimiAs I said, there are always things to do in Manchester. So far I have been to several concerts (Manchester has two great music venues), enjoyed experiencing different English Pubs and even managed to get tickets to a Manchester United football game. Soccer is EVERYWHERE here! But I miss American football…

The best part about studying abroad in Europe is that I’m able to travel so easily. So far I’ve only managed to explore within the UK. I’ve been to Liverpool (home of the Beatles), London, Wales and the Lake District which was absolutely beautiful. But in the next two months I’m planning on going to Paris, Dublin, and Madrid. We also have a week long period where we have no lectures called Reading week starting at the end of October. For that time Alice (the other girl studying here from UW), and I are going on a weeklong trip to Italy. I can’t wait!

Kimi (2)The cultural differences between the US and England are subtle but everywhere. Different phrases and ways of asking things always catch me off guard and sometimes I don’t know how to respond. Some people can be rude when I tell them I’m from the states, but for the most part people here are really nice and are always interested about hearing about which part of the States I’m from and ask me about my time abroad in Manchester.

So it has been a great first month in Manchester. I feel so fortunate to be able to study here and meet all of these amazing people from all over the world. I’ve learned so much about all these different cultures and can’t believe how well we all get along. I also can’t believe how fast this trip is going by. I’m already a third of the way done, and there is still so much I want to see and do. We’ll see if I can manage to get it all done.

Shanghai in Construction

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

BAD NEWS: My trip to Tibet was canceled.

GOOD NEWS: I went to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing for ½ the cost of the Tibet trip.

Shanghai in Construction #2During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the first week of October, I was supposed to go to Tibet. However, for security reasons, the Government decided to have a quota on how many foreigners can enter Tibet during the national holiday. Unfortunately, we did make it in to the list. I was very disappointed because I’ve always wanted to go to Tibet, to walk around the Potala Palace, to see Mt. Everest’s with my bare eyes.

Since there is no other option, I decided to take a trip to Shanghai and the surrounding cities of Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing with couple of friends from the exchange program. We boarded the train from Beijing the day after my last class. After 14 hours of lying down on the hard-sleeper bunk, we arrived in Nanjing. Nanjing used to be theShanghai in Construction #3 Capital city of China, so it is rich with cultural relics. The following days we visited Hangzhou and Suzhou, which are known for their beautiful lake and river.

Finally, we spent the last three days in Shanghai. I really enjoyed Shanghai. There is a very long shopping street called: Nanjing jie, which is filled with designer’s stores but there are still affordable shops. However, with the upcoming World Expo, there is a lot of Construction to be done. You are able to see construction sites throughout the City. Even though I was in the middle of the construction, I really enjoyed Shanghai scenery, shopping, and Shanghai’s world-famous-dumplings.

Shanghai in Construction

Walking to Pamplona

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

caminoTired and sore, but also preparing for midterm exams, I just returned from a two day stretch of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage that tens of thousands of people from all over the world make throughout the year. There are many paths, but one of the most common starts at Saint Jean Pied de Port, in southern France, and winds it’s way across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. This route normally takes more than 30 days to complete on foot. A student from Honduras and another exchange student from Taiwan accompanied me from the small town of Roncesvalles, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, back to Pamplona. The bus ride to Roncesvalles took one and half hours, but the walk through small villages, highways, and hilly farmland took us about sixteen hours spread over two days. We shared sleeping quarters and the path with a diverse group of pilgrims: Aussies who were out for an adventure, a man from Barcelona who had a “compromiso” or a moral obligation to make the pilgrimage, as well as a trio from Valencia who were also taking the Camino a few days at a time.

Mid-Semester Break Adventures

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

After the ninth week of the semester, we had a week long “mid-semester break.”  (They don’t call it “spring break”).   I went on an amazing traveling trip with international friends.   Our destinations:  Gold Coast (particularly Surfer’s Paradise), Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, and the Great Barrier Reef.

SurfersParadise2Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast
We spent four days here and experienced the beaches, parks, shops, and a rainforest.  Coincidentally, going on in Surfer’s Paradise was “UniGames.”  UniGames is a week of athletic events with participating teams from universities all over Australia.  They don’t have collegiate sports in Australia, where unlike America, they don’t have teams from universities that play against each other season to season, sport to sport.

Of course, I had to go surfing at “Surfer’s Paradise.”  I bought a 2-hour lesson amongst a group of other students, and then surfed for the remainder of the day.   The first half of the day was SurfersParadise1brutal – the waves did not have mercy on the beginners.  I got into the swing of things after several hours and was able to stand up….every so often!  Note: 1) Since a child, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go surfing; 2) I did not know how to swim prior to coming to Australia.  I knew that I wanted to surf during mid-semester break, so I took swimming lessons at a nearby pool; and 3) after this experience, I decided that I would sacrifice eating for 5 weeks in order to invest in a surfboard that I could take home to Seattle. :)

Brisbane
We spent one day/night here.  Walked everywhere in the city:  Street Beach, Chinatown, Botanical Garden, across the River, through Queen St, etc.   Brisbane is the 3rd most populated city in Australia.  Although it was very modern and chic, the city was under major development and construction.   I found that Brisbane is much more laid-back and personable than Sydney.

Whitsundays3Airlie Beach/Whitsundays/Great Barrier Reef
From Brisbane, my friends and I took a 20 hour train ride to Prosperine.  We arrived to Prosperine a little after 4am.  The bus dropped us off at a McDonald’s in Airlie Beach because there was nothing else open.  Exhausted from the train ride, we took turns napping and purchasing orange juice at McDonald’s.

Later in the afternoon, we departed the Airlie Beach Marina on the Habibi sailboat.  For 2 days and 3 nights, we sailed past Whitsundays and through the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.   We made stops at Whitehaven Beach and along the coastlines of small islands to snorkel and look at corals.   Hands down, my favorite beach among all the other beaches I have been to (in Cali, Oregon, Hawaii, Philippines, Australia) was Whitehaven Whitsundays4Beach – it is beautiful, secluded, and seems untouched by humans.    The Habibi had 26 people on board (including the 3 staff).  There was a mix of students, backpackers, and abroad workers on break.

After our sailing trip, we spent 2 more nights in Airlie Beach.  We rested on the beach and jet skied, weaving through sail boats and kayakers.

Bonjour à tous

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

DSCN2488Nantes, France is famous for LU Biscuits and rain (although the weather has been very nice thus far). The city itself is easy to navigate. It is not overwhelmingly large, and you can master the tramway system on your first ride. There are beautiful gardens like le jardin des plantes and Beaujoire, historic hotspots like le Château des Ducs de Bretagne and an abundance of restaurants and bars.

Before coming here, I did not anticipate just how many different cultures I would meet. Here at Audencia Ecole de Management, there are foreign students from all over the world studying in French or English. I’ve meet students from Korea, China, Morocco, Ireland, Turkey, Russia, Portugal, Uruguay and of course France. The International Connection Team (IC Team) here really takes care of the international students and are always planning parties and social events. A few weeks ago I went to a bar party arranged by the IC Team and because of the mix of people and the different capabilities in speaking French (that range from fluent to none), at any one time, you had French, DSCN2477English, German and Spanish being spoken around the bar. It was quite an experience!

While the weather was still warm, I made some trips out to the smaller coastal towns (less than an hour away by train) to see the beaches. La Baule is a popular destination for students, and I’m not surprised! The beach was spacious and beautiful but more importantly, there were sea shells everywhere! I’ve never seen anything like it in Washington! There were so many shells that when the waves washed over them, it sounded like a rain stick!

A tout à l’heure!