Saturday, February 28, 2015

Scotland Week 6: Finally catchin' up on all that sleep Maryville College has stolen from me.

As I attempt to begin an essay for my wine studies class, it occurs to me I should most definitely write a blog about the structure of the academic system in Scotland. I’m still piecing the differences together, but I can give a solid over view.
First off, college and university are not interchangeable. I learned this through unimpressed reactions from classmates upon reveling I come from Maryville College. Over here, many time students will attend college for two years before moving on to university if their grades aren't up to par or to save some money. College here is roughly equivalent to community college back in the States.
And next, if a student progresses directly from high school to university, they can be super young. I live in a building that seems to be a majority of first year students around the age 17. It’s been strange being invited to birthday parties on the weekends only to find out that you’ve been hanging out with kids (literally) almost 4 years younger than you. And these kids party. Just as in America, freshman year is the easiest here and many times students only have class 3 or so days a week, which leaves much time for late nights. I’ve picked up the longer you’ve been in school, the more responsibilities stack up on you, and so the less you party (pretty similar to back home).
Wine Studies Diary
On a micro scale, I can describe my schedule. I was amazed upon arriving to discover I would only have classes two days a week (granted, I’ve been planning on studying abroad since I applied to Maryville College, and thus have worked my class schedules back home around this semester abroad.) I am enrolled in three modules this trimester, which is about normal here and considered full time. Wednesday at 11 I have Scottish Culture and Society for two hours with 90 other foreign exchanged students. Thursday I begin with Spanish 1 at 12 for three hours then have a break until Wine Studies (an actual class where half of the time is spend drinking wine) for another two hours. Scottish Culture and Wine Studies are both lecture style classes. We are presented with basic PowerPoints then expected to finish pre-assigned work on our own through much self-taught material. Spanish is more of a workshop style because the class is allotted three whole long hours. Over all, there is much more emphasis on self-disciplined learning over here. I don’t have nearly as many assignments as I would back home, but the ones assigned are weighted very heavily.

This being said, I love my schedule so much. While I am taking school seriously over here, it is wonderful having free time to relax and travel as much as possible. Classes only two day a week (and not even in the morning really) means I’m catching up on all the sleep I’ve lost the past two years studying at Maryville, and because I’m not constantly bogged down with school work, I’m much more proactive about material. Like I stated at the beginning, I am starting a wine studies essay this evening which is not due for another three weeks. If I’m being honest with myself, that would never happen back home. I enjoy the material being covered in my classes, I never have to wake up early, and I have a wonderful amount of spare time. I can physically feel residual stress from previous semesters melting away more and more every day.

Craiglockhart Campus is one of three campuses composing Edinburgh Napier
University. All three of my classes are located here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Orientation Week in Chle

Julieta Bautista-Lopez
Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Valparaiso, Chile

Alo amigos,

( Everyone here says that)

So, I just finished my first week in Chile, orientation week actually. Although orientation week was helpful getting up at 7am was not very fun or easy.


I woke up at 7am and had my first Chilean breakfast. We drank some tea and had toasted bread with butter, which I do not complain about because I always have a light breakfast. After breakfast I rode the buses or micro-buses as they say here. My host mom has been very helpful teaching me how to get around, I felt like I was back in kindergarten because she packed me a lunch and took me to school and picked me up. Public transportation here is essential and always crowded. I cost me 480 Chilean pesos so about $0.77 U.S for every bus ride. My first day at orientation was very informational, but I have made some awesome friends. After it was all done at 5:30pm I came home and then went out with Nancy, an international student who lives in the same apartment complex. Although it was only my second day here getting around has gotten much easier.

Tuesday- Friday

The rest of the week was very relaxed. We signed up for classes and got to explore the city of Valparaiso. The universities here are much different than in the states. Here the buildings are scattered all throughout the city of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. For example, my history course is in Viña on the top of a hill, but my Chilean Culture course is in central Valparaiso. It is very strange and being from such a small college I think I may be lost the first few days.

For those that do not know earthquakes are very common in Chile and I experienced my first one Tuesday morning at around 2am. It was only for a few seconds and had a magnitude of 4.9, but I definitely felt it. It was not the best thing to be woken up to, but I was later like aww my first earthquake. 

The rest of the week has been dedicated to exploring Valparaiso and all the beautiful street art. To end the week off, my friends and I decided it would be fun to go to the beach and tan. WORST DECISION OF MY LIFE. Although it is only 70 degrees here, I am so sunburned and we were only there like 2 hours. I usually never burn so bad, but I am literally a tomato. Other than that it has been an awesome week. Today we are going to a concert/ welcome party that our Chilean mentors put together for us. I am excited to meet some locals and hopefully ask if they can

Until next week!

It's Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies...

This post will be fairly short because its just a small one about some of the difficulties that I have faced here in Spain (It's a list much shorter than that of Taylor Swift's ex-lovers). 

When you head to a new place you expect a little bit of turbulence, a lack of easy, and a period needed for adjustment but you never know when these things are going to come. I have been so lucky to have had such a smooth sailing time in Spain so far. Finding my flat, easy, making friends, super easy. Its been a month of joy, fun, and excitement.

This about sums up my experience with Los Correos 
Its funny how frustration can hit you out of no where. Over a month ago, my aunt sent me a package and I still have not received it, because the Spanish postal service thinks that its imported goods for resale (of course this would happen to me!). I have been diligent in trying to work this situation out and today, I am frustrated. The directions have been so unclear, I have been told different things by every person I have talked to and finally today the woman on the phone was so rude that when I hung up with her I cried. Those of you who know me well will not be shocked by this, let's be honest, I cry all the time haha. But this was different. These tears were tears of anger.

The thing is, in situations like these, you can be upset, you can mope around, or you can just keep going and do your best to make it all work out. That's what I decided to do. And yes, maybe the bureaucratic system is different here, and maybe I will be frustrated sometimes, but its all part of the experience and I know that I will be better for it. Besides, moments like this give me the opportunity to practice Spanish in a new way, to say new things that I may not know how to say, but to express what I need to because really, there isn't another choice.

Anyway, moral of the story is that I had my first real turbulence, but I'm making it through, and hopefully within the next two weeks I'll have my care package and a little more piece of mind!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Never Ending Struggle of New Classes

In the wake of midterms being next week, I've decided that this post will be dedicated solely to my classes and 'university life' at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.
Who wants to study when you can travel?

As many of you read in my previous post, NOTHING HERE IS ORGANIZED!  It's all go-with-the-flow and do whatever, whenever...for the most part.

Professors here are sticklers about attendance...more so than at Maryville College, which I was VERY shocked to find out.  In one of my classes, if you're late, you're absent.  Ouch.  In another of my classes, you can't leave the classroom to get a drink of water or use the restroom. (Something I might add that was not discussed in the syllabus, so the professor basically embarrassed this poor kid because he got up to go to the restroom...poor kid couldn't come back to class.  Oops.)  In yet another class, you can only have two missed classes before it starts affecting your Maryville it's between three to five.  Welp...NOT MISSING CLASS! (Not that I would anyway!)
Snowed in...class not cancelled!

Now I'm going to give you a breakdown of the classes that I'm taking.  I'm currently in five classes, which in the grand scheme isn't that much, but I'm here to travel and experience travel, so some days I regret taking this many classes.  Ha!

Conflict in Contemporary Africa (MOST DIFFICULT CLASS I'VE EVER TAKEN): This class is looking into the 'more fragile' states of Africa and what makes them that way and human security issues of Africa.  VERY INTERESTING.  I really am enjoying the class.  It's probably my favorite.  HOWEVER, I do not have a working knowledge of Africa.  PERIOD.  I don't know which African states were colonized by which European states; the different tribes/ethnicities that reside in each country; or anything about their political or economic standings.  This class is basically me googling everything and anything my professor says after class...which can get hard because I don't know how to spell half the words that comes out of my professor's mouth.  Oops.
Example of Islamic Architecture

Islamic Art and Architecture (very interesting...most days):  This is another really great class.  It's probably one of my more organized class, and I know that my professor is obviously very passionate about the subject.  I'm learning a lot about architecture during the times of the Islamic Empire that expanded across the Maghreb, parts of Europe, the Middle East, and into East Asia.  It can get confusing sometimes though because my professor will randomly start talking in Arabic or French, and I'm just sitting there like... "¿Como?"

Beginning Arabic I (UGH...NEW ALPHABET THAT I STILL DON'T KNOW): This is the class I get frustrated in most for obvious reasons.  We still don't know the entire alphabet and half the letters sound the exact same (to my ears) as other letters.  There are three letters that make the 'th' sound, two or three that make the 'k' sound, and two that make the 't', 'd', and 's' sounds.  UGH.  However, I would like to point out, that I can now write my name in Arabic, which is a pretty big accomplishment if you ask me!  Haha!
Attempting to learn Arabic

History of the Arab World (NO ONE KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON!):  So this is a class that we are about two to three weeks behind in because the professor just randomly doesn't show up for class.  The school will be open, the roads will be clear, there won't be a sign on the door, there won't be an email in our inbox, and he won't show up to class...RUDE.  He's missed more classes than students are allowed to with no excuses.  Grr.  I'm so upset about it.  How inconsiderate!  But then I think about how different the culture is and how maybe that's a normal thing...but I don't know.  You're in a professional setting.  UGH.
Who studies when this is your view while studying?

Comparative Political Systems (Aka let's ask the Americans everything about everything): This is a really great class!  We've covered the UK and the US so far in class, so whenever students have questions about the US political system, the professor says, "Let's ask the American students."  Um...I'm not an expert on the political system of the United States.  We also talked about how democratic the electoral college is...that was an interesting conversation because no one thought t was  democratic...oops.  The United States is apparently undemocratic and shouldn't be promoting democracy when we're not democratic.  Odd.  Oh well!  I do love the new perspectives that I'm getting to experience here.  I knew that I would run into such thoughts, so it wasn't unexpected, just new really.

There are days when I really miss my MC classes
Now that you know what classes I'm taking, you have a better idea of what I'm dealing with here in Morocco.  I also have midterms next week, and I only know the dates and times of three out of five classes.  Well...hopefully, I'll know what the rest are before I have to take them!  OH! One more quick fact!  All of my classes only have like two or three grades: a midterm, a final, and one paper (or no paper at all).  So...these exams are worth 35% to 45% of my grade...AHHHH!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thanks for the Memories, They Continue to be Great!

I know its been a long time, but there has been so much going on here in Spain! I am still loving life and enjoying every moment! Part of studying abroad is getting to know a new place, a new culture, etc., but the best part of studying abroad that no on really talks about is all of the new people. Maybe I'm a corny cheese-ball, or maybe I am just lucky to be surrounded by the people that I have met here; but honestly, I can say that all of the good times that I have had during my time in Pamplona and in travelling have been made 1,000 times better by the great people that I have got to share them with.

Valentine's Brunch
Brunch Bunch
Valentine's Day is a day dedicated to love and mine was so full of love and friendship that it will honestly be one that I will look to fondly for the rest of my life. I started the day with brunch at the piso of one of my good friends. All of us brought different things. We sat around, preparing the food, eating, and laughing for hours before deciding to watch Bridget Jones' Diary (in Spanish, of course). We laughed, oohhed, and awwed together through the whole thing and after sat around and listened and sang to some of our favorite songs that they play in all of the clubs here. You haven't lived until you've jammed to El Taxi, Bialando, Travesuras, and Si No Te Quisiera! Really... look them up, listen to them, love them. Back to my Valentine's Day, for Valentine's Evening, I had some other friends over to my piso to hangout before going out for the night, we played games and laughed and giggled, maybe a bit too loudly because Maria, my flatmate didn't seem too pleased! Anyway when the time came we headed to meet all of the other Erasmus students for a Carnival party. They gave us free masks, which was great until I realized that my sensitive skin wasn't a fan. Needless to say, I had a VERY pink face for the rest of the night (and for 3 days to come....). Even pink face and all, it was still a great night! One to remember for sure because when you are Erasmus you don't simply go to one place for the night! We headed to a few other places and finally made it home in the hours of the next morning (I was quite proud of this accomplishment for myself, I usually bail early).
Me and my pink face!

Sometimes the time difference between here and home really sucks but this was one time when it did not, because as I was ending my Valentine's on the phone with some of my favorite people in the world, because thousands of miles can't hinder the love I have for my friends back home!

Last week. I finally got settled into my courses at the university and again I can't help but to be thankful for people I meet! In my courses, I am lost sometimes and sometimes the language barrier is hard, but there have been so many students who have taken time to make sure that I am on the same page and I have even been approached after class a few times by people who wanted to let me know that if I need help they are willing to help out. This makes being in a new setting, surrounded by a language that I am not a master in a lot easier! I think that I will make a lot of good relationships through this aspect of my time here too.

Another great experience I have had has been in an intercambio that I have with a girl here in Spain, we meet once a week and I help her with verbs, word structure, and pronunciation in English and she practices my Spanish with me! This is great, not only because we both get to practice, but also because we are getting to know each other and spend time together. It is amazing the power that language can have and  how important sharing and exchange is in improving.

Thursdays are better
 at Singular! Roommate and
Private Uni Friend!
We had another "Crazy Wednesday" and this brings me to another instance where people have made my experience here that much better. The Erasmus mentors have been nothing but helpful and nice from day 1. I don't think that I would be nearly as settled into my life here in Pamplona without Laura, Gabby, Pablo Simpático, and all of the other mentors who make sure that we have every opportunity to have fun and to have great cultural experiences. I have felt so welcomed and cared for by them.

I also have met students from the Private University here in Pamplona which is awesome since we are all here in one city studying abroad.

We really were their #1 fans
View in Bilbao
I ended the week and spent the weekend in Bilbao with a few friends. We took a 2 hour bus ride and spent the weekend exploring, shopping, and taking a much needed relaxing weekend. During our weekend, we encountered rain, an empty club, and an interesting hostel roommate, but those things were made up for by some delicious meals, great days of shopping, a free concerts, and nights spent giggling and having fun. We happened in to discotecca that our hostel gave us free admission into and it turned out there was a rock concert going on. By the end of the second song, we were the biggest fans in the room and we knew all of the words! "Don't go, don't go! Fallin' in love!". The next day another friend met us in town and we walked around and did some serious shopping! By the afternoon we were tired and headed in for the night. Although we had a creepy hostel mate, we made the best of it and I laughed more than I have in ages. We prepared an excellent dinner and dubbed ourselves the Bilbao Cookers, tacos are our specialty, and we will be in a city near you soon! After an interesting night, we headed out to the Guggenheim Museum the next morning and then back to Pamplona it was! The Guggenheim was quite impressive and some of the pieces were really beautiful and made me reflect.

I think that is all for now but back to my original point... the one thing I've learned on this journey so far is that any boring day or seemingly unimportant day can be made by amazing people and the life-long memories that you make with them! Laugh, smile, and appreciate every second, because time is flying!

Until next time,


Day Numero Uno/Dos

Julieta Bautista-Lopez
PUCV, Chile

Greeting from Viña del Mar,

Day # 1

Yes. Yes. I am finally in Chile and I still can not wrap my brain around it. I have only been here for a matter of hours, but I already feel so at home.

I should begin with my plane ride; which I thought was going to be terrible but I actually received a great seat. I had plenty of leg room and was given dinner and breakfast. Did I mention my plane was huge!!! After I got off the plane we met with the rest of the international students. We were greeted by a PUCV student whom they call "monitors". He will be our Chilean host or mentor.

After we left the airport we had a 1 and a half hour bus ride from Santiago to Valparaiso. I tried my best to stay awake during the car ride, but I eventually fell asleep. Once we arrived at the Casa Central, where the international department is, we waited for our host families to arrive. I live with a host mom and sister in an apartment in Viña del Mar which is about 20 minutes from campus. My host mom's name is Tatiana and my sister's name is Marcela. 

When I arrived I was fed a traditional Chilean meal which consisted of a soup that had chicken broth, carrots, and spinach. Then I had a chicken breast, a baked potato, and ground beef empanadas. Chilean meal times are a bit different. They eat a very light breakfast from 8-9 am like cereal or toast, and their heaviest meal is lunch which is usually 3 course meal and then a light snack around 9 or 10pm. I did learn that they eat a lot of bread and drink tea all the time. It will definitely take some getting used to because I am always hungry. 

After dinner I came to my room and unpacked my belonging and settled in. Then a fellow international student invited me to go to the beach and see the town. So we went out at around 9pm, which is very normal here because there are always people out. We walked to the beach and walked along like a boardwalk and bought some delicious fresh made churros. Apparently you can only buy them by the dozen so I received a dozen churros for about $4 U.S dollars. It was starting to get late so we walked back to my apartment and Kathryn and her host sister headed back home. 

I found it a little difficult to get to sleep because although it was midnight here, in Tennessee it was only 9pm so I decided to facetime with my boyfriend or as they say here pololo and then by 2am I was finally getting sleepy so I said goodbye and that ended my first night in Chile. 

Day # 2

After some much needed sleep last night I feel better, but thanks to the wonderful weather here ( 70 degrees) I am already getting a cold :(. Today I woke up ( at 1pm) but no big deal I needed to rest right. I ate lunch with my host family which was white rice and carrots and shredded chicken with corn. After that I went to buy a Chilean phone and I got some snacks from the local supermarket. To my surprise they have a lot of American products, most importantly they have oreos. The mall or shopping center here is very different. Inside they have everything you could need. There is something like a walmart, best buy, home depot, food court, and many shops. It is very convenient to have right across the street from my apartment. It is already 6pm here so I think that will be my only adventure today. Tomorrow I start my first day of orientation at 8:30am( not a morning person) but I am excited to meet new people. I have yet to take many pictures so hopefully once I know how to get around I can take my camera.
at the beach with my bag of 12 churros

my bedroom

my bedroom

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Royal in Italy for a day

Well I have finished my first class in Italy! I took a two portion test for my Italian language class and feel as if I am a natural.  With this new knowledge I have gotten around much better in Italy so I can ask questions and figure out main concepts.  Thank you! Life is a little easier.  Besides that my latest struggle is my Italian sim card not working in my Verizon phone.  I have been to the wireless store here and they say its Verizon’s problem, Verizon says it’s not their fault.  Ugh. Come on I can tell its Verizon’s issue.  So I am in the process of figuring all of that out.  Other than that it has been an interesting week and weekend. I went shopping for a purse and found a great place having a 50-70 % off sale on half the store.  So I got 2 bags, a wallet, and some gifts for my mom.  I love sales.  Then came my recent experience to Castello Sforzesco.  Which is a real life castle
which has been turned into a museum for the public to view the history of Milano.  It was very interesting.  I learned about the guy who the street I live on is named after. Via Michelangelo Buonarroti. I saw amazing ceiling paintings (apparently a huge trend in Italy).  As well as just the structure of the castle which is amazing.  Outside of the walls not even
500 feet is where the EXPO Gate stands.  In preparing for Expo 2015 which is in Milano.  Everything is happening, renovations, building, decorating, and placing
 of events.  After eating a late lunch or early dinner I guess we went walking just following the crowd through the city center and shopping strips. To realize that Saturday February 21st was the last day of Carnevale for Milano so the citizens were out in the City center to celebrate despite the rain.  They were out in
costumes, masks, throwing confetti, spraying silly string, and even shaving creaming each other.  After making it through the masses into the Duomo (which yes I have been to before), but never like this. From the masses of people we walked into a Mass in the Duomo.  That was a very interesting experience. It is a different world all together. It was amazing to see though. 
After listening for a while we headed back out to navigate the masses in the square.  After making it to the metro station I ran into some friends from my building that were out fighting the masses as well.  Only to end the night with a 4 cheese pizza that would make anybody hungry (including the dog I passed in the street).  As I look at my experiences so far I realize that this wouldn’t be possible without some people.  To start I want to thank my Mom from the bottom of my heart in believing in me with all my choices and supporting me wholeheartly.  Next would be my Dad and Grandparents for all the help and support they gave me. My dad for just letting me experience this.  Next is my friends especially my two best friends (Emily and Brad) for celebrating with me and putting up with me through the stress and supporting me.  Then now to the people who helped me actually get here. First Maryville College in general for my acceptance into the school which gave me the chance to experience this. As well as the opportunity they supplied me after accepting me into the study abroad program and scholarship opportunities.  Next is Dr. Gallagher for the last minute (at Christmas) Re-do of my approved course list for this semester.  Last but not least is Brittany Coats and Kirsten Sheppard who as the International Director and International House Intern at the time of my application.  For reading re-reading, helping me, distressing me, and just for the good vibes they gave me about this experience.  I appreciate each and every one of you like you don’t know. Without you I may have been a different person without this opportunity.  Now enough of the sapping stuff.  Back to the good stuff.  Italy is a dream come true so far and as my classes start on Tuesday and it’s a crazy schedule (classes from 9:30 am – 5:30 pm) seriously not kidding.  We will see how that goes on Tuesday.  I hope everyone is bearing the weather in Tennessee well. Luckily no snow here just rain and wind.  Sending love and sunshine y’all’s way. 

L’invio di amore!

Ciao Amici!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Scotland week 5: Now We're Cookin'

Before we were sent off to schools all around the world, Maryville College made sure that we did pretty in-depth research on our host country. We were made to find out the cultural differences whether it be food, language, spatial expectations, modes of transportation, body language, school expectations, or politics. Thus, most of us had an idea of what we would be exposed to and in turn what we might learn. This being said, I have fortunately run into an unforeseen benefit of studying away from Maryville College and Pearson's Dining Hall. I'm learning how to cook! Before departing, I knew Edinburgh Napier University would be allotting a stipend for food, and I did not expect I would become tired of microwave meals this quickly. Thankfully, my roommates have an idea of what they’re doing in the kitchen, so it hasn’t been too bad catching on. We’ve adopted a system of making healthy dinners in bulk for the whole flat in order to save a bit of money too. Each week we chip in so many pounds and make a huge load of food to last us through to next week. Vegetable stir fry with salmon on a bed of coconut rice, mushroom spaghetti, lemon chicken soup, avocado chicken raps, and baked fish have all been on the menu. Our food boards on Pinterest are being put to more use than I ever thought I would muster the motivation for. On top of saving money and eating healthy, delicious foods, cooking as a group is a really great way to unwind. We all get to hang around with a glass of wine and pitch in cleaning afterwards (which is so much better than doing all the dishes by yourself.) Last week we put together a make shift, pot-luck breakfast dinner for our flat and a few other guests, which was a huge success, now were planning a giant floor pot-luck in the near future.

 In short, eating dinner with my family back home was a normal occurrence, so I never quite realized how much it can bring a group together AND I CAN COOK STUFF NOW.

I cooked this! Salmon with lemon, stir fried vegetables,
 avacado and rice. 
I baked this! Banana nut bread completely
from scratch. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Are we there yet ?

Timing is of the essence: 

As my mother and I packed up the car to leave Tennessee on Valentine's day, we made impeccable timing. We missed the ice storm by a day and we were headed south for the Palm trees. 

My countdown calendar says 9 days left, but it's hard to believe. As I sit at home in Florida, perfectly avoiding the treacherous TN weather, the time seems to be ticking slowly.  I stay up all night watching Netflix, and wake up at noon to repeat the cycle. My parents go to work and I have to beg them to hang out with after a long day, guilting them saying "you'll miss me when I'm gone!!!" 

My friends are in denial that I even left school and still believe that I'm sleeping or delivering pizza and that's why I'm never around. This trip just seems like something I've always talked/dreamed about but now that it's actually rapidly approaching, its actually mind blowing.

I still have not unpacked my plethora of clothes from my move out of my dorm, but I have crossed a lot of things off my to-do list. I thought it would be winter when I arrived... But boy I thought wrong. It's actually summer there so my (lack of) florida clothes will come in handy for a short time at least (no pun intended.) 

I kind of want to cry thinking about the whole thing, but I'll save that for the airport and my boyfriends arms.

I felt the need to blog after reading everyone else whose already abroad; and so, the count down is on for the ARG....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Cast into the Theatre of the Absurd"


One day will look like this
I was just working on some homework the other night, doing some reading, you know, the usual.  My mind starts to wander a bit, and BAM! CULTURE SHOCK HITS LIKE A LIGHTNING BOLT.  And then...the water works start.  UGH.

Now, let me explain how this occurred.  For the past 5 weeks, I have been living in Ifrane, Morocco in Northern Africa, where it just so happens to SNOW ALL THE TIME.  That, in and of itself, has been annoying enough.  We get three feet of snow, it melts, we have a beautiful couple of days, and then it returns.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.  NOTHING IS CONSISTENT!

The next day like this :(
I am also living in a very TYPE B world, whereas I, as many of you know, am VERY TYPE A.  I like to know what's happening, when it's happening, blah, blah, blah.  For the most part, I've been able to act like a Type B; just kinda going with the flow, doing whatever, traveling, the fun stuff.  Where I'm having a difficult time is with school.  NOTHING IS ORGANIZED.  NOTHING.  I'M GOING CRAZY!
Some days I really miss my family

Most of my classes have syllabi.  Do we follow said syllabi?  NO.  Are there due dates for anything?  NO.  (Well, only one).  Are there exams dates for midterms?  NO.  (excluding again, the same professor).  Does anybody know when finals are? NO.  When I ask my professors questions regarding such topics, do I get clarified response?  NO.  I JUST WANNA KNOW WHEN THINGS ARE HAPPENING! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?  Apparently.

You guys...I can't cook, clean, or do my own laundry!  I know that most of you are probably like, AND...?  That's awesome!  WRONG!  Those things destress me after long days and allow me to focus on something that's not work or other things that are troubling me.  The other day, I was just frustrated after classes and was going to go back to my room and tidy things up...I got back...and EVERYTHING WAS CLEAN!  People had come into my room and cleaned up for me.  Needless to say, I was a tiny bit upset.  I also just feel weird about people doing my laundry...I drop it off and then I go back and pick it up.  I don't move it from machine to machine.  I don't use the option for them to fold my clothes, so at least I have SOMETHING I can do once every couple of weeks.
Workout to keep me calm

The harassment that I have experienced and that my friends have experienced is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.  I'm tired of it.  I'm tired of being a female in a male dominated society.   I'm tired of being an American and sticking out like a sore thumb!  I'M SO FRUSTRATED!

Working on that language barrier...
We can't walk down the street without being followed, cat called, whistled at, called names, or being groped at.  It's DISGUSTING.  We're told not to engage with the men who do these things, but it's difficult not to!  I'm constantly looking over my shoulder; my bag is always in front of me with a jacket draped over it; I'm watching out for my friends; and it's just exhausting.  I expected this to happen.  I KNEW it would happen, but OFF-CAMPUS.  Turns out, campus isn't so great sometimes. We're always stared at; people make fun of us; they call us names and laugh; and guys are pushy (not all! but some).  

Mom sends me pics when I have a bad day
Can you tell I'm annoyed?

Despite the fact that I'm experiencing some rather annoying facets of culture shock, I'm having the time of my life!  I'm getting to travel and see amazing sights with amazing people!  I'm making so many memories, and these obstacles are not going to stand in my way of having the best time!  I've been to Fez, Rabat, Meknes; this weekend, I'm going back to Fez, next weekend, we're going to Chefchaouen, and then I'm going to Europe with my mom and my aunt!  

I wish I could see my puppy!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meat Italy! A Comparison during Carnevale!

Well everyone,

My luck as turned around and is on a good path right now.  I got money and I got my Italian sim card for my phone.  Plus in our language and culture class we were informed that Milan celebrates Carnevale a week later than the rest of Italy.  So here is to Carnevale.  I have learned quite a bit from my pre-session class.  It is like I was semi understanding of a language I had never heard before.  Now I can at least make it through my day to day life with some Italian language. After a rainy and dreary weekend, the weather has somewhat cleared up and it is chilly, but beautiful.  It is a great day to start Milan’s Carnevale and I am loving it so far. It isn’t a huge party week, but everyone is enjoying the meats and pastries that are made only for Carnevale.  Speaking of pastries I had the most delicious pastry today. Chiacchiere (translation “little gossips”), they are so good.  They come in different flavors (I had powdered sugar covered ones).  They are called “little gossips” due to the sound they make as you eat them it sounds like people chatting.  They were so good (might just have to buy more).  This is one of my favorite foods so far.  It is wonderful! It sort of tastes like a crispy funnel cake (which those I love).  

Comparison Italy vs. U.S.:

·         Which in talking about pastries and food leads me to the differences between Italy and American food and restaurants.  In the U.S. when you go to the store to buy groceries and such and have a budget of $25 (say for one person for 3 days of food).  You could probably get close to the budget if you like ramen noodles and peanut butter due to the tax on everything at the register.  Here in Italy you could walk into the market (store) and add everything up by the price marked and get probably more than you would in the U.S. Due to the tax if any already added into the price.  As well in Italy you have to pay for your grocery bag if you need one (I advise just taking a backpack or your own bag). Restaurants compared between Italy and the U.S. is a huge difference.  In Italy if you choose to sit down (there is a fee), you are seated, 
bread and oil brought to your table, drinks ordered, then the waiter disappears for a few minutes for you to look over the menu.  After that time they come back take the orders and disappear until your bread runs out or your order is ready.  Then they will stop by a couple times to check how the meal is.  They are friendly, but know that you are there to eat and enjoy the food not to badger you.  In the U.S. you are either seated by a hostess or just seat yourself, given a menu, order a drink, and sit there patiently.  Once they bring your drink and you order it takes twice as long as it should to be done, then most of the time there is a mistake, then you make the cook and waiter mad (which is never good).  Then it seems once it is fixed and you can eat the waiter stops by to chit chat and ask how everything is now that you just want to eat.  Also Italian eat really late.  I mean like I eat early at 7 pm (1 pm EST time) most nights.  A group of us went out to eat last week and left at 10:30 from the restaurant when most people had just ordered or received their food.  Also Italians like to savor their food.  It is not uncommon for them to sit and eat and talk for 2 plus hours over a meal. 

In other comparisons:

·         Italians are very pet friendly.  Now this is how I know. First, dogs are allowed in restaurants, shops and stores (seriously and not petsmart).  I have seen countless dogs in restaurants.  Also when it is raining or cold outside most dogs wear coats and boots (don’t laugh I’m serious). Big to small they all wear raincoats or sweaters and little boots.  I have even seen one person walking their dog holding an umbrella over the dog.  I mean I love my dog, but I would never hold an umbrella for it over myself.  I actually am considering the coat and boots for my dog though (Blue beware).

·         Italians are very punctual when it comes to closing time or end of business.  They literally will close the door if the clock changes and the door was half way open in your hand (I know this from experience).  They also rush you if you are in the market 30 minutes before closing. They love their end of business time. 

·         Italians are always decently dressed.  I mean sweatpants are rare and I’ve only seen those who are playing soccer or working out wearing them out.   The popular trends seem to be skinny jeans or jeggings with ankle boots and a coat or jacket that has a belt around the middle.  Everybody wears this (and I mean everybody young, old, really old).  Also it seems that the black thick rimmed (nerd) glasses are very popular here.  Natural is also the way to go. Black and brown (tan, army green, white, and grey) are the colors most people wear.  Also natural in make-up and hair styles (straight, way, messy, curly, and pulled-up).  Which leads me to I wish I would have packed more of my boots and more tops to match the colors that are popular here and left a couple things at home.  Just means I need to go shopping!

·         Personal space. Oh how is it completely different?  Well Italians believe that personal space is approximately the 3-6 inches around your body.  Metros are crazy and the platforms at busy times is insane.  Even the stores and markets gets hectic when trying to get your stuff and people breathing on your neck.  Sidewalks (especially during rain) are crazy close. Like what is personal space any more.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the week. This is the last week of my pre-session language class and next Monday is the start of my classes.  May be I can get out and about more this weekend and share a slice of the beauty of Italy with y’all.  I miss home, but love Italy! I miss all my friends and family! Well wishes to all from Italia!

Ciao Amici!

Scotland: Week 4. Livin' with the Americans

Now that I’ve covered the more generic topics of settling in and blatant cultural differences, I think it’s a good idea to go over my living arrangements. Upon arrival, I discovered I would not be living with any locals, or even non-Americans. Bainfield student accommodation, my building, is currently home to dozens of other American exchange students. I, myself, am living with girls from Louisiana, North Carolina, Idaho, and Connecticut, and my first reaction to this discovery wasn’t super positive. Initially, I was upset at the idea of after spending so much time and effort on my application and looking forward to living a temporary Scottish lifestyle with locals that already knew the lay of the land, the good restaurants, where to go to watch decent local music, or the best pubs around that I was placed in housing with Americans just as lost as I was. In fact, not many of us Americans were too thrilled about living arrangements. As I read some of the first International blog entries from students staying with host families or living with natives I couldn’t help but feel as if I were missing out a bit, but thankfully, I very soon came to understand and love my living arrangements. Although it’s been a lot harder meeting locals, I now realize how comforting it has been to live with a bunch of students as lost as I am in this new city. All these American kids are also trying to figure out the bus routes, phone plans, currency exchange, which cafés to study at, where to buy peanut butter, what haggis is, how to survive the bitter winds, the local vernacular, and so on. I am so glad I’m not doing this alone. Moreover, once we all began to settle in, form familiarity of our surroundings, and get to know each other, it got even better. Being with all the American exchange students means I’m living with people just as excited to explore as I am. We haven’t been around long enough for the wanderlust to wear off (pardon the cliché). Every day I have a reason to get out of bed and explore, and on the days I’m feeling lazy, I have travel-enthusiastic friends motivating me to get off my ass and do something new with them. And finally, living with all these Americans means that when we head back home, I’ll have friends all over the country to visit and even more new places to explore.


Floor mates from left to right: Marina, myself, Maggie, Sophie, and Julie. The four took a day trip to the city of Stirling then a small trek to the Wallace Monument.

Before that, the four of us took day trips to explore St. Andrew's and Perth.

(left) Sophie, Julie, and I in an awesome burger joint we found in St. Andrew's

(right) goofing off in Perth