UW Exchange Program

Fun, Sun and Snow in Greece

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

For President’s Day Weekend I went with a couple of the girls to Greece. I had wanted to go to Greece for the longest time and that desire was only intensified after watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants where there are scenes of a lovely white town on the hill along the sea. I wanted to see a white city for myself. We arrived in the afternoon to a nice sunny day after settling down in our hotel room we set about exploring the area around Monastriki. We found ourselves near a cecilia1.jpgstreet that was lined with great shopping stores which we ventured into encouraged by the Sales signs on the windows. That night we went out to dinner and I had an amazing cheese pie, traditional meat plate and topped it off with dessert, a plate of warm baklava and macedonia ice cream. It was a great first meal.

Over the course of the next day we visited the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, the new Mall in Athens and had the most delicious gyros called Thanasis recommended to me by my friend Vicky back home. She was right and we went back for another round. The only thing that put a damper on our day was that a woman who we met mentioned something about a snow storm due to approach from Siberia and we just tried to brush it off because it seemed ridiculous to think that it could really snow after the incredibly nice weather we were having.

We woke up the next day and I got what I wanted. A white city. (more…)

Adventures in Florence and Pisa

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Since this is my first blog I believe it warrants an introduction. My name is Cecilia Velazquez and I am a sophomore business student studying abroad through the Honors Program at the UW Rome Center. This is my first study abroad celia2.JPGexperience and it has definitely given me a thirst for more. Right now my classes consist of taking History, Art and Italian all of which come to life more so because I am living in it. What could be more powerful than learning about the Trevi fountain, the Vatican and the Pantheon than getting the opportunity to see them for myself?

My class went on a field trip to Florence the third weekend into the quarter to have a change of scenery and experience another city outside of Rome. Florence, like Rome is also located by the river, but the fact that it is smaller made it more manageable. On our first day there we went to lunch as a group and were able to try some of the famous Tuscan soups. Ribollita, which is a vegetable soup, was by far my favorite. I never knew that a vegetable soup could have such flavor and taste so good. One of my favorite activities that we did in Florence was climb to the top of a hill on which there was a church. The church was linked to a monastery with monks who chanted at the evening mass. While we did not arrive in time to hear them chant we were treated to an almost bird’s eye view of the city below, taking in not only the historic center and the river but also the landscape that surrounds Florence.

The one thing that surprised me most about Florence was that when we went in the markets the street vendors all spoke various languages. Depending on what language they thought we spoke they would address us differently. At one belt shopcelia1.JPG the woman running it spoke to us in English and Italian but also knew Spanish and Portuguese in addition to knowing phrases in other languages to help her in her trade. (more…)

End of First Semester

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

As winter break approaches, it seems strange for me to not be packing up and returning home with all of the friends I’ve made here. Their semesters are over, but I still have one more remaining, so we are in very different places in life. This semester has been amazing, filled with trips and sights that I never thought I would see, but it has also been sort of draining. All of us American students are on a mad rush to see as much of Europe as possible, so school gets put on the backburner at times and money is thrown around for “time of your life” trips. I don’t regret booking trips to London, Stockholm, Athens, Paris or any of the smaller trips around Ireland; I just wish the dollar was stronger so that each trip didn’t hurt the wallet so badly! Although school has been fairly easy compared to classes back home, I was a procrastinator and it was a little stressful at the end when the papers are due and the exams are pending. I don’t know what to suggest to other students traveling abroad, except to not worry about taking out loans or borrowing money from your parents, because although it is spent very easily, it helps the semester really form to your ideal picture of what life is like in another country. Keeping my mind on the fact that I was in Ireland, I learned to not let the little stuff get to me and I had a great semester because of my mindset. I can’t imagine how next semester will go, or for that matter, what life will be like upon my return to the states, but I do know that I’m living a very lucky life right now and I aim to see as much as possible before coming home. After one more exam, I’m off to the south of France for Christmas with a high school friend and then a bit more traveling before classes commence for second semester. It’ll be a strange way to celebrate, without my family celebrations but this entire year has been out of the ordinary so far and I’m loving it!

3 Months in Spain

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

It has now officially been 3 months since I left Seattle.  That figure astonishes me.  I suppose I could now consider Granada as my second home, since I have never stayed three months in one place, other than Seattle and Renton.  The last month has been very eventful for me: I have gone on three weekend trips away from Granada, I finally found a group of guys to play soccer with, I aced my midterms, I have met lots of new people, I have eaten lots of tapas, I grew out a sweet mustache (which is gone now – sorry Grandma), I got my first Spanish haircut, and I have had a lot of fun!


On Friday Nov. 16, I took a train with some friends from Granada to Sevilla.  It was about a 4 hour train ride to the West.  We stayed in a very nice youth hostel, which was fun because we met a lot of cool young people from all over the place (Australia, Canada, Italy, US, Mexico, etc.).  Sevilla is a very beautiful city (more…)

Two Months in Spain!

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Hola Todos!

There are some days when I get really homesick for no particular reason, but in general life in Granada has been very fun. I have made some very good friends. I have been hanging out with my roommate Rissy and her friends quite a bit. They often invite me out with them and we usually have a pretty good time. I also still hang out with my friend Oli. We usually watch sports together (soccer and rugby mostly). School is going very well. I like all of my teachers, and most of the time classes are very interesting and I learn a lot. I find that my Spanish is most fluent right after school, because I’ve just been listening and speaking it for 4-6 hours. It is kind of strange that I feel totally confident with my Spanish at those times, but there are other times when I just feel totally lost. All in all though, I feel like my Spanish skills have improved hugely, and they get better and better each week. It’s a nice feeling. I think I might get put in place very soon though, because we have midterms in most of my classes this next week and up until this point we haven’t really had any graded assignments or anything. So, it looks like I’ll be hitting the books this weekend. I still haven’t adapted to the Spanish daily routine – and I don’t think I ever will. I can’t get used to the meal times, siesta time, bar and club times, etc. Most dance clubs don’t open until 3 in the morning! Needless to say, I haven’t been to many dance clubs since I’ve been here. I was very disappointed to discover that Halloween is not widely celebrated in Spain. However, some of my American friends from school had their own Halloween party so I threw together a last minute costume and went with some friends to their house. I guess it was better than nothing. (more…)

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.


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!


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.