December, 2010

When in Rome!

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Hey everyone my name is KJ and I am currently an exchange student in Manchester. Recently however I made a short trek over to Italy and have come up with a few words of advice for any of those planning to visit while abroad. I stopped first in Venice for a few days and then headed straight over to Rome to finish off the week.

KJ, venice Venice

 Venice is probably one of the most relaxing cities I have visited. While it is often extremely full of people due to its popularity everyone there is definitely there to chill out. The first word of advice I can give you t is try to arrive in Venice during the day if you can. As you will find out quickly the city is quite a labyrinth. Regardless of your sense of direction and savvy with maps you are guaranteed to get a bit lost trying to find your way around. Try to enjoy the experience and don’t hesitate to ask for directions. While your in Venice I also recommend that you search the backstreets as thoroughly as you can. Venice is full of tourists and so a lot of the better experiences are off the main pathways. This holds especially true for restaurants and cafes. The easier they are to find the more expensive and less authentic they will be. Finally, while you might enjoy weeks exploring the city you really only need a solid day or two to get a real feel for the place.

kj, 2Rome

First things first, Rome is humungous.  You could spend days and days trying to see al there is to see while you’re here. Luckily the city is equipped with a pretty decent subway system. It is comprised of two main lines that will take you to most notable sites within a few minutes. Another aspect of Rome was that it had a much better nightlife than Venice. If you head to the northeastern end of the city you can find some great places to spend a night out. Furthermore, its not a bad idea to go revisit some of your favorite sites during the night as well. Most are lit up beginning at dusk and provide for some pretty amazing pictures. The impressiveness of some of the fountains and buildings is more apparent at night. The main drawback of Rome is that the center of the city is a drive away from Rome’s main airport. That being said it might prove wise to set up a shuttle before you venture over. Overall, Rome has a lot going on so it is a great place to go with a large group. A final thought on Venice and Rome is that you must eat as much of the food as you possibly can. The food, wine, and deserts are all some of the best I have ever had.

An English Thanksgiving

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Alissa, Tower Bridge2Hi again, everyone! This past month has been full of fun travels, good times, and, of course, lots of learning both in and out of the classroom. My overnight adventures included trips to London and Dublin, and I’ve also had many opportunities to explore the city of Manchester even further. One of the highlights of this month, though, was celebrating Thanksgiving with so many of the friends I’ve made over here. All of my English friends wanted to experience a traditional American Thanksgiving, so that meant that I wound up cooking a full Thanksgiving meal for everyone. It was a huge task but was really rewarding since everyone who came, both Americans and Brits, had a great time eating loads of food and just spending time together.

 

Alissa, Xmas Market2I also really enjoyed wandering through the Christmas Markets, which is comprised of stalls and exhibits that vendors set up in designated areas around the city. There are multiples squares full of different booths and food vendors and streets lined with even more fun things to discover. Oh, and every booth/stall/vending location is designed in the traditional European Christmas Market style, so it’s a very cultural experience. You can get things ranging from Manchester souvenirs to a number of different foods and drinks, and a whole lot of things in between.

 

Alissa, Reading Room2Another fun discovery was the John Rylands Library. This library was built in the early 1900s and merged with the University of Manchester Library in the 1970s, but the original building is full of history and artifacts from all over the world. You’re not supposed to take pictures inside the exhibit areas, but it was almost surreal being so close to things dating back to the sixth century B.C. I also saw a display about how Manchester is credited as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution—I had no idea that Manchester was so full of history, but it’s awesome to be here in a place so full of great things to discover.

Fun in Manchester!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Alissa, post1Hey everyone, my name is Alissa and I’m a UW junior who’s currently studying in Manchester for a semester. I’m not completely sure of where to start, other than to say my experience so far has been absolutely amazing! Manchester as a city isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing place in the UK, but it has plenty of attractions to make up for it. For one, there’s the two massive shopping malls: Arndale Shopping Center, which is about a 15 minute walk from the main campus, and The Trafford Center, which I’m told is the biggest mall in the UK (I don’t know for sure that this is true, but I can vouch that it is definitely a bit overwhelming in size!). There are also a ton of art and science museums if you’re into those kinds of things. Plus it’s really easy to get from Manchester to other European locations for pretty cheap. I’ve been to Edinburgh and Bath, and I was able to see Stonehenge in person.  Tomorrow starts Reading Week, which is basically like the University of Manchester’s version of a mid-semester break. Most students go travelling over Reading Week, and I’m headed to London for the first half and Dublin for the second half of the week. Like I said, it really is easy to travel more once you get over here.

 One of the other things I love about Manchester is all the great people I’ve met. The business school here has a really awesome international society who sets up lots of events and makes it really easy to meet other exchange students from all over the world. Plus, I’m living in the university’s student housing, and the way my accommodation is set up is as a flat that I share with seven other people. There’s another American girl here from Arizona State University, and everyone else in the flat is from England which has made meeting ‘local’ people really easy, too. People here tend to love Americans and it’s been really fun learning their lingo and teaching them some of ours. There are so many little colloquialisms and different pronunciations that, at first, had me really confused as to what people were saying to me, but I picked it up really quickly and have come to enjoy all the little differences. 

Alissa, Stonehenge1 There are also a ton of other differences in things ranging from the way classes are structured to the way people shop for food here, but I think the biggest cultural difference I’ve noticed so far is the drinking age. Since the drinking age is 18 and Manchester is a college city, there are a ton of bars and clubs that make for a fun night out, even if you’d prefer not to drink a lot yourself. And I have to admit that it’s really nice being able to walk into any of the numerous pubs in Fallowfield (the area of Manchester that houses a lot of students) and relax with friends over good food and a drink. Which reminds me: we don’t really have pubs in the States, at least not in Seattle, but they’re pretty great. You know how you hear that pub food is, generally, really unhealthy but totally delicious? It’s true. Just another little detail that has made my time here so far amazing.

Integration Weekend

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Audencia2We had integration weekend last week with the IC Team. I paid 90 euros to go on a trip organized by some of the students at Audencia with two buses of international students. I had my doubts at first about whether it was worthwhile or not. It was! We went to Bordeaux and had a tour of the city and a small wine tasting. We were all pretty cold and I was feeling tired by the end of our time in town. We walked back to our hotel and then went to a restaurant where we had a three course meal. The next day was the most memorable though! We took a boat ride and went to a giant sand dune for lunch. After our picnic, we all climbed to the top and took lots of photos. Some people ran down the other side of it. Although I was tempted, I decided not to run down it because I knew how bad the walk back up would have been. It was lots of fun to watch everyone who did it though. The view was stunning. On one side we had the water, and on the other we looked out onto a forest. I also spent a lot of time talking to French students.

Thanksgiving in the Summertime!

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!Chile, Sara2

 Having never been responsible for an entire thanksgiving dinner myself, I would like to start out by saying that I am exhausted!  It’s much harder to celebrate family and food in a country where your family isn’t and with food that’s just not the same… but we made do and as far as I’m concerned our potluck style Thanksgiving was a complete success.

 Two other gringas and myself have been planning this meal since we got here in August (which was the middle of winter and seemed like a much more appropriate time to be eating turkey and pumpkin pie than it does right now since it’s about 90 degrees outside).  I even asked my parents to bring me some Thanksgiving essentials when they came to visit (Thanks you guys!) but that didn’t keep us from running into a few problems.

 Our first issue was the fact that turkeys are out of season in Chile at the moment.  As a replacement, we settled for BBQing every other kind of meet people could get their hands on.

 I myself spent the better part of the day trying to recreate an already untraditional pumpkin pie that my family makes every year.  What I ended up with was a really untraditional pumpkin pie a la Chile.  Besides the obvious aesthetic differences between my “pie” and the original, I lost track of how many alterations I made to the recipe.  It’s easy to say “Pop over to the store and get vanilla pudding mix, heavy whipping cream, and ginger”… but the execution of that HERE is a little tricky, given issues with translation and the fact that some of that stuff (specifically vanilla pudding mix) just doesn’t seem to exist here.  I think it must have turned out alright since there was none left by the end!

Chile, Sara1 Over 40 people ended up coming, and it wasn’t just Americans that wanted to celebrate either.  Folks from Canada, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Finland, El Salvador, and Chile (obviously) all showed up.  I don’t think any one person knew everyone that was there (not even Matt, who essentially hosted this whole event on the roof of his apartment building).  I certainly hadn’t met everyone before!  We left the invitation open so some people brought boyfriends and girlfriends from other universities in Santiago, some people brought cousins or host family members, some people brought friends they’d made at church, and of course there were classmates as well.

 Besides just being a really enjoyable evening and a nice break from studying, it was also a perfect close to the school year.  A couple people showed up with guitars towards the end so they played and we sang and it just felt like the end of camp.  Also, as depressing as this thought is, it was the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to a bunch of people that I’m probably never going to see again. 

 As unconventional as our feast was, I have to say it was probably one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever had.

Hokkaido Bound!

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Akita, Diana5Another holiday weekend meant another adventure for my friends and me.  With our hearts set on the supposed snow and the promise of fresh powder for snowboarding we headed off to Hokkaido for 4 days and 3 nights.  Though we ended up coming when there was no snowfall, we still made lemons out of lemonade and made the most of our trip.  Going to Sapporo, we did what most AIU students have done; sightseeing at the major tourist attractions.  Some of the places we ended up going to was:

 Sapporo Beer Factory: Obviously the namesake of Sapporo beer came from the city it originated from back in 1876.  With a unique chance to see the history of the beer and to do a beer tasting we jumped at the opportunity and it definitely did not disappoint.  A great place for omiyage (souvenirs), a restaurant that makes Genghis Khan-styled lamb, and a variety of beer to try, I was glad to experience a part of the Sapporo culture.

 Shiroi Koibito Chocolate: Coming here was vaguely reminiscent of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when I was watching the factory workers make the cookies they let visitors taste. The best part was trying out the other sweets they make and going in a group is extremely beneficial because you get to try a little bit of everything. 

 Susukino: We actually stayed at a inn in this area, and it was definitely a contrast to AIU life and even what Susukino looks like during the day.  Restaurants, bars, and billboards lit up the night and there was a surprising amount of people on the streets past 10pm.  If you want to experience the nightlife in a place other than Tokyo then this is what Susukino is known for.Akita, Diana6

 All in all Sapporo was amazing and it didn’t feel as rushed as my Tokyo trip, so it was the relaxing type of trip I needed so I could get to know my international friends a little bit more and practice my Japanese.  With less than a month left, I’m definitely feeling the pang of having to leave all of the friends I’ve made and go back to UW and finish up what’s left of my degree, but I certainly wouldn’t have given this up for a second. With that said, do what I did and try something different and study abroad at Akita International University and experience what I’ve experienced in Japan. Try the sushi, go to an onsen, and interact with the people.