CISB Student

Welcome to Manchester!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Packing, London 182Hi all- My name is Maggie, and I’m in my third year at UW.  I’m studying Finance and participating in the CISB program while minoring in French.  So far I’ve spent 2 months here in Manchester and have no complaints—I’ve met great people, taken some amazing trips, and am in classes I enjoy.  There are about 85 other students in the business exchange program here from all over the world and the international society did a great job of having group activities arranged for us so that we could meet everyone.   It’s also nice that there are several other people from the program in every one of my classes, making it seem a lot smaller than it actually is (U of Manchester is roughly the same size as UW).

One of the hardest things about being outside of the States, for me, has been the lack of American sports.  I’m a huge fan of basketball and American football, so not having any games available to watch has been quite a tough pill to swallow.  A group of us did manage to find an Australian bar that was showing the Superbowl, however, the commentary was by Brits…Amsterdam, Cardiff, Liverpool 118 Just not the same.   We’ve also gotten student tickets to both a Man City and Man U game, and I was front row for Man City.  We were probably 10 rows from the top at Man  U, but it was still an awesome experience.  One of the other students has been a Liverpool fan since he was a kid so he got a few of us Liverpool tickets last Monday and it was one of the best sporting atmospheres I’ve ever experienced.  And most importantly, I’ve managed to find streaming video of the NCAA tournament so I can watch our Dawgs roll into the Sweet 16!  This past weekend in Prague I met up with 2 friends from back at the UW, and we watched the Huskies beat New Mexico together—it almost felt like home!

So far my main trips have been to Amsterdam and Prague, but this is the last week before Easter break and we get a 3-week long vacation before heading back to start studying for exams.  I’m traveling with my roommate who is from Western Ontario’s business school and we’re going to be hitting Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Greece for our break.  Sounds like an adventure and I can hardly wait the 36 more hours until we are free of school and on the road!

intoNATION

Monday, March 15th, 2010

In every country there is a learning curve, and this post will attempt to explain my experience with Chile’s learning curve thus far.

At this moment, I am sitting in a computer lab on campus, enjoying the internet for the first time since my last blog post.  As I write this, I am constantly hitting wrong keys and putting accidental accent marks of various sorts on letters, as this key board is very different than what I am used to.  I am still making a few mistakes here and there, but as I type more, I find that it is becoming easier and easier to avoid those wrong keys.  However I am not completely free from typos yet, as it takes more than just a day to erase years of practiced hand-placement on a keyboard.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

One thing I have found problematic here is finding my way around new parts of the city.  It is not the public transportation’s fault–if nothing else, the metro has been an absolute lifesaver.  The problem, I believe, lies in the Chileans’ ability (or lack thereof) to give good directions.  Those who do know how to point me in the right direction tend to give poor explanations, such as “it is on that corner,” said while waving in a vague direction, meaning my destination could lie at any one of six different “corners.”  Thanks.

And then there are those who don’t know the answer to my queries for directions.  However, as I have learned, it is cultural to just give an answer, albeit absolutely false, instead of admiting that you don’t know your way around your own city.  This has lead me down many an incorrect road.  I realized today, after having to ask 5 different people how to get to a certain building downtown, that there must be a way to tell who actually knows where they are sending me and who is just being “polite.”  My mission: figure out the difference; the small variations in intonation between those who know what they are saying and those who do not.  I am sure I will still be given lots of incorrect information as I continue to navigate the city, but with experience, it should become easier to find my way flawlessly across this unfamilliar city, this strange keyboard.

The literature class I am taking here gives assigned readings every week, and to get the readings one must go to a little photocopy shop on campus where all the classes’ readings can be purchased.  Last week I bought the readings for my lit class, intending to complete them this weekend.  Yesterday, I opened up the readings only to find that they were about Greek cultural history.  Quick check against the syllabus: suspicions confirmed.  The photocopy center had given me the wrong thing.  So today, despite not having any classes, I trekked my way down to campus to pick up the correct readings.  I had to wait in line for an hour just to get to the front of the line.  When I finally got my readings, I checked to make sure they were the real thing as I walked away.  Wrong again.  Turning around, I fought my way to the front to inform the guy behind the counter of the mistake.  Long story short, I had to wait another half hour just for him to correct the mistake.

Lesson?  Always check to make sure your photocopies are correct on the spot. One fewer typo to make as I go about my business every day here in Santiago.

I could go on and on with examples of how I have been slowly learning how things operate here in Chile, but they all tend to have the same moral at the end of the story.  Learning how to live in another culture takes time.  Now that I have been here going on three weeks, I have at least gotten to the point where I understand that the learning curve exists, and although I have learned a lot in the last few weeks, I have a long way to go.  I still find myself getting frustrated by Chileans’ horrible directions, as well as their overall lack of promptness and efficiency, but I have learned enough now to feel confident in my ability to figure out the rest.  But like typing on this godforsaken keyboard, I know it will take lots of practice before I am typo free here in Chile.

Living la Vida Loca

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I know it’s a lame title, but I couldn’t possibly keep a blog in Latin America without using it at least once.

After a weekend of searching, I am pleased to say that I have found a place to live!  It is located in Providencia, the area of town that was far and away my first choice.  The apartment is close to a metro station, and lots of nightlife.  The apartment itself is pretty nice–OK by U.S. standards, but way better than some of the other apartments I’ve seen here.  My room has access to an outdoor terrace where I can watch people walk by down below and get some semi-fresh air.  I will post pictures one I get a chance to move in, which will probably be tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a brief update on my activities so far:

Barrio Bella Vista. AKA, where the action's at.

Barrio Bella Vista. AKA, where the action's at.

A few nights ago I went out to experience Chilean nightlife at its best–in the neighborhood called Bella Vista.  Bella Vista is probably one of, if not the hub of activity here in Santiago.  To give you an idea, it is a neighborhood that consists solely of brightly-painted bars, discotecas and restaurants. Every weekend it is absolutely packed with people and interesting things to do. I went with a couple exchange friends, where we promptly met a large group of other Americans from Notre Dame (woot woot!) who are also here as exchange students.  We all decided to navigate the craziness together, finally settling upon a discoteca in which to enter.  To give you an idea of how Chilean nightlife works, our group of about ten people went into this club, and in doing so probably doubled the number of people inside.  That was at 2am.  The clubs here don’t even get busy until 3am or later.  Quite a different schedule than I’m used to all the way around, but I’m not complaining.

Since then, I have spent approximately 8 hours walking around Santiago looking at various apartments, following leads, etc.  Today was the lucky day, as this morning we finally found the right place.  And the best part?  It’s 5 minutes away from Bella Vista.

Today was the first day of classes for the PUC.  I didn’t have any classes today, but tomorrow the locura really begins (as if it hadn’t already).  I found choosing classes to take quite the challenge.  There’s no shortage of interesting classes, the only problem is that I’ve already taken the equivalent for most of them.  The classes I have left to take are either not offered here, or are classes that I don’t want to attempt due to their intensly quantative nature.  (Taking classes in a different language is a challenge, taking math and science classes in a different language torture.) After hours spent studying the course catelog, I think I have finally settled upon a few classes to take.  I am nervous, as I still feel that people here speak lightning fast and with lots of vocab I’m not familliar with.  But I guess that’s all part of the experience, eh?

Luckily this week is only three days long–two for me, since I didn’t have class today.  The reason is because a new president is assuming office on Thursday, so everyone here just decided to take Thursday and Friday off.  No complaints here.  I don’t think I could have chosen a more interesting time to be in Chile if I tried. Go figure…for once, I feel like I’m exactly in the center of the action, all the way around.

Earthquake!

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

My name is Katie Gray, and I’m a CISB student on exchange in Chile for Spring Semester.  Well, I’ve been in Santiago about 3 days and I’m already shaking things up!  Talk about making waves!

EarthquakeOk, enough.  First and foremost, I am alright, and so is everyone else I know here in Chile so far.  I am very lucky to be living in a nice part of town with solid architecture that was built with earthquakes (terremotos in spanish) in mind.  I am so grateful that I had the fortune to come across this family, who were not only level-headed, but were well prepared with loads of candles and a radio to listen to updates on, for when the power went out during the quake. However, all our thoughts go out to everyone who was not lucky enough to be in a well-built structure during the quake.  I know there isn’t a lot of damage here in this part of town, but everyone here is thinking about the people who were living in areas that may have gotten hit harder.

So, in case anyone is interested, here’s what happened.  I am still feeling like I’m on Tucson time, and for those who know me as the night owl I am, you can imagine that I’ve had a pretty hard time getting to bed before 4am here the last few nights (which is about midnight in Tucson time).  The family’s two sons, Rodrigo and Javier, were having friends over for a little get-together last night, and they invited me to come out and socialize with them.  So we were all in the backyard at 4am when the earthquake hit.  It took a few seconds to dawn on me what was happening.  There were about 15 or 20 of us in and outside the house, and everyone immediately rushed outside and huddled together in a circle and held hands while we waited for it to pass.  I’m told it lasted for 3 minutes, which is an incredibly long time to be wondering if the Earth is about to open and swallow you up.  The most fascinating image that I will remember until the day I die was of the pool in their backyard, which was twisting sideways back and forth like a mobius strip, emptying out probably half of its water in the process. Incredible.

They are saying that at the epicenter the quake registered at as 8.8, and I think here in Santiago it was an 8.0.  Thinking about this really makes me feel fortunate to have been in a place that is well prepared for earthquakes.  To give you a frame of reference, the quake that hit Haiti in January registered as a 7.0–so many tens of times less intense.  But the immense damage was sustained due to their poor construction and infrastructure.  Luckily, much like the Bay Area, Chile is better prepared than a lot of other countries for such disasters.  As Maria said, better it happen here than in somewhere like Bolivia or Peru.

Immediately following, everyone was pretty out of it for a few seconds, and then all of a sudden, it was like we all came back to life at once, and people started hugging each other and crying and getting on their phones to call their families.  It was then that everyone really started to freak out, because the power had gone out (on purpose–it’s one of Chile’s many earthquake safety measures), and all the phone lines were down, so no one could get in touch with their loved ones, and some people were getting really worried.  There was one guy at the party, who is easily big and tough-looking enough to be a bouncer, who was in the corner bawling because all his family lives in Conception, where the epicenter of the earthquake was.  My thoughts to him and his family.

All in all, I probably got to bed a little before 7am this morning.  I woke up at 1pm, noting that last night did not do anything to actually help me achieve my goal of setting my body clock forward a few hours…but then again, I just don’t think it was meant to happen last night.  Tonight however…

On a side note, last night during the 3 hours where everyone was just milling around and talking by candle light, it occured to me that I was incredibly hungry.  Like, emergency chocolate hungry.  Even after my post yesterday, I never imagined that I would ever actually have to use the chocolate for an emergency, but with the power out and not a lot of food to go around with such a full house, I decided it was time to use up the rest.  Luckily it did the trick, and now I have learned my lesson.  I will never take emergency chocolate for granted again. Amen.

Check natural disaster off the life list.

Que les vayan bien.

Au revoir France!

Sunday, December 20th, 2009
Place Royale in Nantes

Place Royale in Nantes

Well I’m finishing up my very last days here in France and am so sleep deprived I’m half delirious. But I can sleep when I’m in the states! There’s just so much I still want to do and see before I leave, how can I waste this precious time sleeping?! This last week has really been something special! First of all, it was finals week – I said special not necessarily fun! And as international students were starting to return to their respective countries of origin, nearly every night of this last week there was a goodbye party for my new friends (hence the lack of sleep).  Also something very special happened Friday morning – it snowed in Nantes! Something I was told almost never happens. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me and it was mostly melted away by the time I got out of my final. That’s one or two monumental photo opportunities missed because I did not have my camera with me. The other? A Heineken beer truck back up to Audencia and off loading – priceless!

But I brought my camera with me for my last day trip to Paris where there was still snow on the ground in the parks – another first for me! That was amazing, because I

A picture of one of the last school-wide parties. In here, there are 13 people representing 8 countries (France, Germany, Finland, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay, the Czech Republic and the United States).

A picture of one of the last school-wide parties. In here, there are 13 people representing 8 countries (France, Germany, Finland, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay, the Czech Republic and the United States).

was running on only two hours of sleep but had enough energy to run around the city buying the last of my Christmas presents, return to Nantes and at exactly 12am today ventured forth to the last “last party” in Nantes. As I said, we had a lot of those that week.  I honestly don’t know how I did that! The rest of today has been spent packing as I leave tomorrow.

I have to admit I’m looking forward to returning to the US for Christmas, but am immensely jealous of the international students I know who are studying in Nantes for a whole year. After Christmas, I want to come back!

Looking back on my whole experience, if I could pin-point the single best reason to study abroad with this program, it would be for the people that you get to meet, French and foreign. You learn about so many other cultures! Talking about political perspectives with people from Russia and Turkey, discussing philosophy with a guy from Finland, gossiping with girls from Belgium and Germany, mocking international accents with Moroccans and telling jokes with the French (or more accurately trying to understand the jokes told). You learn something from every interaction.  And while I don’t regret a single mile I traveled in Europe and look forward to exploring more in the future, some of my fondest memories of my experience here consist simply of long conversations over a café au lait.

Snow in Paris

Snow in Paris

Last week at NCCU

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

MorgannaIt’s my last week at NCCU and Taipei, and I’m currently scrambling to get all of my papers, projects, and exams done early this week.  I’ll still have to write a 5-page term paper when I get home (since my professor hasn’t assigned the prompt yet), but other than that, everything’s almost done.

These past 4.5 months abroad has been an amazing eye-opening experience.  As my second time studying abroad, my experience in East Asia has really solidified some of the epiphanies I had during my abroad year in Spain, while also opening my eyes to brand new perspectives on myself, my priorities, and the world surrounding me.

Unlike my first experience, which gave me sights into a future I hadn’t really considered, my exchange at National Chengchi University gave me the opportunity to delve back into my past and take the much-need time to reflect on myself and the path I’ve taken.   I’ve reunited with old friends and made lasting relationships with new ones.  I’ve surpassed all of the expectations I had in coming here and have also ended up with more questions.

With everything I’ve learned, what will I do now and who will I become?

It doesn’t take much to realize that only time will answer these questions. However, with everything I’ve experienced here, at least I know I’ll have the heart and state-of-mind to accept whatever answers life decides to give me.

I’ll miss my friends and the little life I’ve built here, but it’s safe to say that…

I’m ready to go home.

Stockholm

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

stockholm night 1Five days in Stockholm has taught me to appreciate the sun. It was fun (and cold and dark and depressing). Vance, a fellow Foster student in Milan, and his German classmate Michael were in Stockholm as well. We saw museums and several typical tourists sites. When we weren’t penny pinching, we powered up on hot dogs and a Thai buffet  (unfortunately, the Swedish Krona is valued even higher than the Euro). It’s amazing to be able to hop on a three-hour flight, and be in a place with a different language, different climate, and different way of living. Perhaps simply being close to the rest of Europe is the best reason to study in any European city.

On the other hand, traveling has its drawbacks. I only have two weeks left in Pamplona. I realized I have hardly been here. I have yet to see a game of Osasuna, the local soccer team, and I have not even been to the town’s market. Pamplona quickly became familiar to me, so I stopped exploring. And I realized, I live the same way in Seattle, never having to gone SIFF, the zoo, or anything else that makes our city unique. So, if living abroad has changed me in anyway, I hope this experience has inspired me to keep exploring.

stockholm group

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!

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