In just one month in Spain, I have gone through orientation, met tons of new people (both American and Spanish), finished a two week intensive Spanish course, finalized my class schedule for the semester, and visited four different Spanish towns/cities. Yet, the lens that I viewed all of that through changed after reading an assigned article last week in one of my classes. The title of the piece is “The View from the Veranda.” The writing compares American study abroad students to colonial settlers. Years ago, settlers left their home countries to move to new colonial lands. They sought the adventure and excitement of travel and a new land. However, most only experienced colonial life through the view from their verandas: they engaged with the colonies enough to enjoy the excitement of something new, but they brought the amenities of their home countries and never immersed themselves into the native culture at a level that would be uncomfortable. Though I had never though of travel abroad in this sense, I see the truth in it. American students studying abroad expect the conveniences of home (internet, their own room, hot water, classes structured in American form, classes with the same dates as American semesters, etc.), even when it may not be the norm of the host culture. I definitely fall victim to many of these demands, as I don’t believe I could truly give up ties with my life back in the US. However, my goal is to strike a balance in which I leave my comfort zone on a daily basis. So far, I have accomplished this through my classes, my internship, and my travels.
My first week is Barcelona was amazing but exhausting! I fell in love with the city at first sight, with its beautiful architecture, wide streets, and location right on the Mediterranean. However, I had no idea how tiring it would be finding an apartment, navigating the metro system, and speaking Spanish. I cannot imagine trying to navigate Barcelona without any Spanish background, because of all the Spanish (not to mention Catalan) spoken and written on street signs, restaurant menus, etc. I have spoken more Spanish this first week than I anticipated, mainly because I (naively) thought English would be spoken here due to the abundance of exchange students. But obviously Spanish would be spoken in Spain, so I need to step out of the safety net of English and instead embrace the Spanish language.
Unfortunately, the classroom environment has not been all that I wish it could be. I have noticed that I am frequently disappointed with the caliber of the classroom content and the way it is taught. I understand that I am attending classes taught in English and that this may a have lot to do with why the quality of teaching suffers, however, I feel as if this school is not living up to the expected standards.
This past week has been extremely busy! My core class, European Business Strategy, is over now, which is bittersweet. I enjoyed learning about the EU and how its policies have such a huge impact on European businesses. However, I am happy to sleep in past 7AM on Mondays and Thursdays. The class concluded with presentations to Carlsberg. Our class had to develop a strategic plan for Carslberg throughout the semester, which was very similar to the structure of ICE last semester. However, I quickly learned that not everyone in my group had the same expectations and were not taught according to McIntire standards. It was weird to work with peers who didn’t know what a BLUF or SAS was; but definitely a good learning experience. We were all able to learn from one another, and I really appreciated having a diverse group with such different educational backgrounds. Our final presentation came out great and the marketing executive who we presented to really liked our idea. The presentation itself was much more relaxed than I am used to; it felt really conversational and I realized I was much more comfortable presenting in this type of environment. I also had to prepare for 2 presentations for my communications class; one individual presentation and one with my group. All of these presentations are really helping me overcome my fear of public speaking.
A few weeks back I attended an alumni event in Beijing, where I met a good friend, Vlad, who introduced me to his mixed martial arts fighting team. It is here that my most memorable trip in China began.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the things in Copenhagen I will miss when I go home. Last night, I was talking to my roommate about this and I decided that I wanted to start a list of all the little things about the city that I don’t want to forget. My plan is to add on to this entry throughout my remaining weeks in the city. But for now, here are some things I can think of off the top of my head:
- The fact that bikes outnumber cars about 100 to 1
As I was going through my previous blogs, I realized I haven’t mentioned anything about one of the most popular Cantonese traditions, dim sum. Dim sum is a style of Cantonese food that is served as bite-sized portions in bamboo steamer baskets (think: dumplings and spring rolls). Dim sum is traditionally served during breakfast and lunch hours, and Hong Kong is famous for having some of the best dim sum in theworld.
After spending a few days in Stockholm, Steve and I flew to Berlin. This was an experience that I had been looking forward to. Everything I had heard about Berlin was great; cheap food, cheap entertainment, cheap hostels, lots of things to do. The city did not disappoint. After arriving from Stockholm, we became lost on the train station to our hostel. Luckily, many of the local Germans were very kind and helped us find our way. The next day, we began to explore the city. The best thing I saw was the German historical museum. This covered the history of Germany from the historic times to the present day. To see everything would take more than an entire day. All of the exhibits were incredibly interesting and had a lot of artifacts. What struck me most was how non-biased the Germans are about their history. They openly discussed its pitfalls, Nazism, its history of imperialism and nationalistic aggression, and other uncomfortable topics. Not once did an exhibit attempt to gloss over a part of history, or attribute it to the morality of the time period. In fact, there were times when I felt that the exhibits were too hard on Germany and possibly biased against it. As a fan of history, this was amazing. Throughout Berlin, there are other weird museums that I passed on. This include the Museum for the History of Video Games and the Currywurst Museum, dedicated to all things currywurst-related. We then visited other must-see sights such as the Reichstag. After a while all big cities start to look the same, so we walked a lot to local parks and nature areas.
I am a little more than 2 month into my program at the University of Bath, and I have come to love living here. First, I’ve grown to love my surroundings. Bath is a small city with classic buildings all made of the same, yellowish grey limestone, called Bath stone. Walking home from class each day, I have a look into a valley with green hills on each side, the city made of stone with church towers reaching up from the town, and a canal running through the center. After a while, I almost start to take it for granted. I’ve also gotten used to the new way of living. I walk more and take public transport, and a small grocery store is around the corner. While I used to shop for multiple weeks’ worth of food in a single sitting, I now rarely buy food for more than 3 days, allowing me to have fresher ingredients. Having to do this used to bother me to no end, but I have started to enjoy it. Things tend to close down earlier, so I don’t put things off and plan my day out ahead of time.
Spring in Hong Kong is a lot like Spring in Charlottesville; the weather starts getting warm and you find yourself looking around asking, “Where have all these beautiful people been hiding all Winter?”