October 30th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Brandi
Last Saturday morning I attended a stop racism protest in Newport, Wales. Even though it was rainy there still was a decent-sized crowd. I had never been to a protest before this one. My mother and grandmother were surprised when I told them I wanted to go. They kept asking me if I was going to be safe. Needless to say the demonstration went well.
It was wonderful to see so many people come together for equality. Later that evening I found out that my grandfather had died earlier that morning. I was so upset since I had just wrote him a postcard and was looking forward to seeing him when I get back in December.
Sunday was pretty much a slow day for me, since I was still mourning my grandfather.
Monday I got up went to my classes, even though I wasn’t really feeling up to it. When I came out of my 5′o’clock class it was dark outside. I was surprised. Then I found out that the time had changed the night before. Since my phone automatically updated itself I did not notice.
Tuesday and Wednesday I had no lectures. So I spent one day completing all my graduate school applications and essays. Then the next day I headed down to the city center to find an outfit for this big party in London that I am attending Friday Night.
After a few hours of walking from arcade to arcade I finally found something that I fancied.
Thursday, which is today I only had one lecture. After my Politics & Journalism class I decided to head down to the center to meet a friend for lunch at Starbucks It’s amazing how Starbucks cakes seem to taste different in the UK compared to the ones in the US.
Tomorrow I have two seminars. I have so much reading to get through tonight. I’m not sure how or why I waited to the last minute this week. Well let me get to it. I just wanted to give you an update.
October 23rd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Lauren
What a crazy life I lead! That’s the first thing I can think to say. The last few weeks and until the end of this semester I am traveling every weekend, and studying hard during the week. (Four of these trips are with IFSA, the rest are self conceived and funded.)
The Eiffel Tower of course!
Paris was beautiful and I finally was able to place buildings and paintings I’ve read so much about. Accordion music was the literal soundtrack. It was exciting to attempt to speak French, and feel surrounded by a language foreign to me. I was a little dissatisfied though with all the “tourism,” yet how could I return from Paris and say, “I didn’t see the Eiffel Tower,”? I saw what I knew I needed to see, to have said I had seen. I enjoyed getting to do things stereotypically French, like drinking coffee in the outdoor seating of a café. It was such a whirlwind of a trip though, and I didn’t feel like I got to know the city. (Although I do know the metro system well!) It made me appreciate living in Belfast.
The next weekend (last weekend) I traveled by ferry, train, and bus to Scotland. Edinburgh was an entirely different city from Paris. I saw one of the first skyscrapers, and the vaults beneath the city on a ghost tour.
The view of the Edinburgh castle from JK Rowling's table!
I toured the castle, where I discovered is the resting place of Scotland’s crown jewels. Edinburgh is one thousand years old, and it feels old. I felt history in Paris, but it’s too fancy to be described in that way. There’s an enchanting blend of archaic crumbly-ness and the pride that goes along with it. On a contemporary note, I also saw the café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, and being a big fan, I was giddy.
October 22nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Leah
Today marks two months of living in México. With the last two months having flown by, I feel much older than I did two months ago. I felt like I entered this study abroad experience very hopeful and with high expectations, but very naïve. I had Mexican friends back home, and expected the Mexico of Yucatán to be the same Mexico that they shared with me. I have to admit it has been hard to get past my preconceptions of what Mexico is and what it should be, but I feel I am finally understanding more of how Mérida works and operates and enjoying it for what it is.
After being here two months, I still have days where I feel hopeless, lost, and alone. And then of course I have wonderful days where I feel fully incorporated into the family and the society around me. Last week though was probably the most difficult week I have had since I arrived. I had a group project in my Mayan culture class in which my best friend Paige and I had to do all the work and the rest of the group put in zero effort. It was frustrating putting in so much effort without receiving any help from the other group members. However, my Dad reminded me that I can’t stay upset and that it is up to me to better my situation. That means that even if I am tired, it is up to me to look for new things to do and to make my own experience rather than thinking that the experience I want will just be there.
Despite a semi-rough week, I had a great time over the weekend and am really looking forward to the next few days. Friday we celebrated yet another birthday (one of five in October). Last Saturday, my friend Paige and I visited Izamal, a town about 40 minutes outside of the city. It is called La ciudad amarilla, or the yellow city as all the buildings are painted a golden yellow. Right smack in the middle of the city is a hill with a Mayan ruin. Clambering to the very top reveals a magnificent view of the Yucatan countryside. Gorgeous. Tonight I am going to my host sister’s bridal shower. Actually, to be honest I’m not sure exactly what it is because it’s technically for Rebecca (her Mom). Tomorrow my host Mom and I are having a pumpkin carving party with some of my friends and we are going to bake the seeds to celebrate Halloween. It should be a great time, as Rebecca has never carved a pumpkin. She really wants pumpkin pie, but I have yet to see canned pumpkin on the grocery store shelves. Friday we are teaching one of our friends, Lalo, how to bake cookies. No one bakes here. It’s too hot, but as the past few days have been cooler we are going to give it a shot. Should be a great time!
Celebrating Rebecca's birthday
October 12th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Lauren
The Botanic at 5:30 p.m.
My 21st birthday was on September 24th, and it was less a celebration than an adventure. It started in my kitchen with Mimosas at 4:30, or as the Canadians call them, “BAM and Orange.” Then we went to The Botanic for the Arthur Guinness Day Celebration. This was Irish New Years. In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the property his storehouse still rests on. The pub was packed when we got there. Two projector screens displayed the television program with a clock counting down to 17:59. There were cheers all around. The program had a few interviews afterwards including one from Bono. Everyone booed Bono. I’m not a big fan, but I was surprised the Irish hated him. Not only did they boo Bono, they went wild for Tom Jones. At this I laughed outright. “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone…dah dah dah dah dahhhhh!” My last four birthdays have been marked by music. My eighteenth birthday my brother flew into town and surprised me with Sufjan Stevens tickets. My nineteenth birthday my friends took me to Of Montreal. Last year I went to Austin City Limits. This year…Tom Jones. Fortunately the night and the music didn’t end there.
On a quest for live music we found the end of a set at The Globe. The Northern Irish love 90’s pop-rock. The other night someone was raging so hard to Eagle Eye Cherry that they broke their glass. This was the music of my childhood and I was surprised to learn I still have plenty of lyrics memorized. Because of this, my friends and I keep giving musicians the best shows of their lives.
The next leg of our journey involved traditional Irish music (flutes, fiddles, and lie-dee-dies) in a backroom of a pub. Traditional Irish bands always cover at least one Johnny Cash song and one Bob Dylan song. And they work! Reminds me a lot of school (home) in a sweet sad way. Next we walked to my favorite pub area. In a historical alleyway four pubs founded for sailors in 1865 meet. People pour out into the alley and mingle. So we took a break from sound and dance.
The last stop of the evening was our Irish friends’ apartment where a jam session commenced. They harmonized the song from “Once” together. Authentic. At 4:30 I looked at my phone and realized we had been celebrating for my birthday for twelve hours. We went home and in the morning we made French toast.
October 12th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Brandi
Classes started about two weeks ago. I’m still adjusting to the academia difference between my home university Alcorn and Cardiff Uni. One of the main differences is the fact that we spend less time in class, but are expected to spend more time outside of class time reading and researching for lectures, even though we do not have many physical daily or weekly homework assignments. I could have about 3 or 4 pieces of literature for each class per a week. So far my Conflict and Media is my favorite, because the lectures topics are very interesting. Since I’m not very familiar with British politics or race relations I would say my Politics & Journalism and Race, Nation, & Identity courses are bit more of a challenge. However, I’m very much up to conquering anything thrown my way. Last week the readings especially were somewhat hard for me to get through. But I know with time things will get better; the readings will become easier.
As it relates to the social scene, I’m still adjusting to that as well. Though there is a diversity of things for most students to do such as hang-out pubs, concerts etc., when it comes to events for minority cultures there is not as many options.
This experience is also teaching, really forcing me to come out of my shell and be less of an introvert. To help with this, I decided I would join a few societies (school clubs). Recently I joined the Fashion Society, and they hosted an event at House of Fraser last Thursday. After much deliberation, I decided to go and try to be more social. The fashion was great and I had nice time, plus everyone received goody bags. I’m looking forward to the knitting workshop in a couple weeks.
My weekend consisted of what I like to call Brandi’s London Adventures (lol). So Friday I went to London to visit one my friends who actually from Missouri. Friday went to a party at a nice club in East London. Saturday, we went to Central London to get new sketch books and paints as well fabrics. I really enjoy taking the underground subway every time I’m there. London is like my second home apart from Cardiff. I also decided that I want to venture outside of the U.K. So I booked me a ticket for Dublin and Milan (one of the major fashion capitals) next Monday.
This past week I also went to grocery store for the very first time. I was shocked when I went in and there no carts for you to put your groceries, just little hand held baskets. I understand why many places offer grocery delivery if you place your order online. Unfortunately, since my billing zip code is in the U.S. I can’t use this service. That just reminds me I bought some New York cheesecake while I was there. I will have to try it in a few.
Well it’s after midnight here. So let me get some rest.
October 7th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Leah
Group of nutritionists and other students from the IFSA program
Last Saturday I participated in the program “Hoy en tu comunidad” (Today in Your Community). A medical student in the UADY University system (the university through which I am studying here in Mexico) created the program five years ago. Since that point it has grown from ten people participating to over 200 students from all different majors taking part weekly.
But what exactly is “Hoy en tu comunidad” you ask? Well, if I may be blunt, it’s one of the coolest programs on the planet. In Mexico, rather than getting a general education in undergraduate school like in the U.S., you chose your major going into college and it is almost impossible to switch. For example, if I want to be a doctor, I apply to the Falcultad de Médicina. I would then spend the next five years taking very specific classes on the path to become a doctor. In “Hoy en tu comunidad” students participate from each facultad. The week I volunteered, 200 students with 24 different majors participated. The goal of the program is for each student to use his or her specific knowledge to assist a town’s population in Yucatan. Not only do the townspeople receive care free of charge, but the program also provides the opportunity for hands-on learning. Groups generally leave early Saturday morning and return late Saturday night. Absolutely no scholastic credit is given to these students for their help.
The day I volunteered we went to a small pueblo about an hour and a half outside Mérida called Tekit. When we arrived, all the various facultades began to set up their stations. The doctors began to set up their machines and tests, the psychologists arranged a private area for consultations, the artists found an area to teach kids about recycling and the environment and so on. A formal introduction was given on how the day was going to be run, and the program’s founder reminded the town that their tax money was funding the university student’s education and that this was the very least they could give back. As foreign exchange students, our skills were not as applicable to the various programs, so we wandered from place to place, unsure where we would best be able to help. Eventually I meandered over to the nutrition area where I was able to weigh and measure the various patients. After a day of assisting in the town, I was once again amazed by the kindness and generosity of not only the townspeople, but of the volunteer students as well. The students were just as eager to get to know us as we were to know them. They invited us to various dinners, to go bowling, grab a coffee, or go for a stroll in their favorite park. It didn’t matter if we were fluent or not in Spanish – we could connect over being young adults trying to figure out what to do with our lives. A smile always goes a long way to establishing a friendship.
All in all, I hope to be able to participate again in the “Hoy en tu comunidad” program, see another pueblo with a distinct culture from that of Mérida, and meet many more kind, enthusiastic, and driven students. Maybe one day we could even have a similar hands-on program in the United States.
October 7th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Leah
Today is the birthday of one of my friends in the IFSA-BUTLER program. I thought I’d surprise her with your typical Yucatecan birthday feast: el sandwichon. This monster of a sandwich is made in the following manner.
1. Take a can of cream and blend with cream cheese. Put in fridge.
2. Blend another can of cream with slices of American cheese. Add slices of canned red pepper and continue blending. Put in fridge.
3. Blend your third and final can of cream with slices of ham. (Normally you add peas with mustard to the mixture, but my host mom Rebecca didn’t have canned peas and didn’t like the taste of the frozen green peas. Gotta get your vegetables right?) Put in fridge.
4. Take your loaf of sandwichon bread (long, thing sliced white bread) remove the top piece (too hard) and set aside. Remove cream mixtures from fridge.
5. Grab the next slice, and soak with milk. Cover with the cheese mixture.
6. Place the next slice of bread on top, soak with milk, cover with jam mixture.
7. Slice of bread, milk, pineapple jam.
8. Repeat steps 5 and 6.
9. Cover all edges with the cream cheese cream mixture.
10. Add crushed pecans on top with thin slices of red pepper and a few peas for color and decoration.
11. ENJOY! (How could you not?)