Classes Across the Pond

Classes here are different than SUNY New Paltz. The classes only meet once a week instead of twice like at New Paltz. The students also know each other since they are in the major that the class is a part of. The workload is also less assignment heavy. I only have one or two assignments for each class along with some readings. They do expect you to actually do the work, so you cannot just skate by without doing the readings. The readings are helpful to me since I need to keep my mind busy in order not to miss my family. I am excited to take the classes I am though. They seem very interested. I am only taking half of the class because they have classes that run the full year. It is nice since you do not need to feel so overwhelmed with the entire classes curriculum.

I was a bit overwhelming for me since it was something else I needed to get used to. It is slowly getting easier, but it was difficult at first. The teachers and students are very nice and friendly; it was just something else I needed to get used to. It is only week two of classes, but I am taking it week by week and slowly my time here will have gone by. Having schoolwork to do helps me not feel as homesick (as well as Netflix). Besides classes, I have been Skyping with my family as much as I can so they know what I have been up to with classes and traveling. It stinks that I have to experience all these cool things without my family, but I am making videos and sharing videos of my pictures with them.

Academic Adjustment: Cardiff Style

I can’t believe I’m in my 8th week of classes! I only have three more weeks left until my classes are officially over and finals kick in. I remember how intimated I was on the first day. I didn’t know what to expect because I was so accustomed to classes in SUNY New Paltz.

In the beginning of the semester, I can already tell the difference between SUNY New Paltz and Cardiff University. I was only taking three classes (each count as 20 credits), Tuesdays became my off days, and the earliest class for me was 9 a.m. It’s also tough getting to classes each day, especially on Fridays. I’m so use to all the academic buildings being so close to each other that when I came here, I was in for a total workout!

It was beneficial to take courses that will count towards both my major and minor. So I decided to take two English courses called Graphic Memoir and Reading Old English. I’m also taking a Journalism course called The Making & Shaping of the News.

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This where I have Reading Old English. I’m always the first one in the classroom :p

I decided to take Reading Old English, knowing it was a challenge. I like to say it’s the most challenging class I’ve ever taken in my three years of college. I’m basically learning a whole new language that I didn’t know existed. The first time I saw the text, I already had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be an easy A.

I felt at ease knowing the people around me didn’t have a clue on  how to translate Old English. Without the guidance of my professor and the glossary provided in our textbooks, I would be lost. Thankfully I’ve been doing the coursework and taking my time to understand for the upcoming exam.

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Long hours translating Old English!

 

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Bute Building – This is where my journalism class is held.

When it came to The Making & Shaping of the News, I was learning about UK news, something I’ve never learned before. I was learning concepts that some students were use to since their freshmen year of university. It’s also cringe worthy to watch examples of ‘bad news’ coming from America. It doesn’t help that the professor looks my way every time America is even mentioned.

But overall it’s interesting to learn about UK news and the background information I wasn’t aware of with news in general. Although this class wasn’t my first choice, I’m glad I had a chance to take it.

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Tons of reading for class!

By the end of my week, I have Graphic Memoir. I wasn’t expecting to analyze graphic memoirs! All this time, I viewed them as comic books, but there’s so much more to these work of arts. It feels similar to the English classes in SUNY New Paltz when it came to analyzing literature. However, in this case, we’re taking a closer look on concepts we learn each week on books like Maus and Fun Home.

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This where I take my English classes!

Out of all my classes though, it’s weird to have Graphic Memoir on the same day at three different times. It’s different from SUNY New Paltz because Cardiff University breaks up their week by lectures and seminars. My lectures are in medium-size lecture halls, where we are taught in great detail the topic of the week. But, the seminars are small and intimate. Just like SUNY New Paltz, all three of my professors know who I am and it gives me a chance to interact with other students during the seminar time.

Overall, my classes have been great! It’s been informative, interesting, and overall fun! Although it’s weird being the foreigner in most of my classes, it’s great to interact with people from around the world.

Now final essays and exams are another thing…

Oh Wait I’m Here For School

Most beautiful college campus!

Most beautiful college campus!

Sometimes I really have to remind myself that I am here for school.  When you are jetting from place to place, eating the greatest food of your life, and living on your own it is very easy to forget that at the end of the day I am a student in this country.  However, I was very pleased with the gradual submersion into school at Cattolica.  I came to Milan a few weeks before classes started in order to take a pre-intensive Italian class.

My Italian pre-intensive class

My Italian pre-intensive class

Referring to this Italian class as a pre-intensive is highly accurate.  I have never taken any type of pre-intensive course, and the truth is it is quite intense to say the least.  The class is two weeks for three credits.  I am not one to have a great aptitude for languages but despite some initial resistance I went into the course as open minded as possible.

This class really did help me so much, I feel as though I have such a better grasp for the Italian language after this course.  Of course I am not fluent by any means however, I think more than anything I just feel a little more confident in my own abilities.  The trick is you must be willing to make mistakes.  This class could not have been any more openminded, and non judgmental.  Our professor, Andrea was just the cherry on top of the sundae!  I really felt as though we worked together to complete this course as one.  In no way shape or form was this easy for me.  This course meant waking up everyday early for hours of Italian.  I would be lying though if I said I regretted taking this course, I am very pleased with my decision.

Our Italian professor, Andrea, slicing an AMAZING cake his wife made for us

Our Italian professor, Andrea, slicing an AMAZING cake his wife made for us

Fellow classmate MK and I enjoying our cake

Fellow classmate MK and I enjoying our cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pre-intensive course just ended Friday, and we started real classes Monday.  That was a strange transition.  We went from studying a lot, taking a final exam on a Friday, to starting over on Monday.  I am very pleased with how my schedule worked out.  This being my last semester, I really had the free rein to take anything at my heart’s content.  I am focusing on my passions for the media.  My classes include:  Dramaturgy, Methods of Illusion, and Television, Advertising, Music.  Dramaturgy, and Methods of Illusion are being taught with the same professor, and a lot of my fellow classmates are taking both courses.  These professors seem so accomplished; I look forward to learning from them.  There are also many field trips & guest lectures planned for these courses, which I am beyond excited for.  My earliest class is 11:30 and I have no classes on Friday, so I cannot complain about that either.  The classes are long, but full of interesting content.  I am just looking forward to all this semester has to offer!

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Second Day of Classes

Today was the second day of classes and the first day of tutorials. I was a bit terrified with the tutorials. I had very little idea of what to expect or what was going to happen. But it’s basically a more interactive class like back in the States.

I met up with Thomas again; a German guy I met a few days ago who looks strikingly like my French teacher (who was ALSO named Thomas). It’s really cool meeting people from Germany and Norway. But I wish I was meeting more Australians (Chris, if you’re reading this, anything advice?).

The world, and I mean that literally, is getting a whole lot bigger. My perspective of the US is changing. I am seeing a whole new perspective of America; one from the outside. Apple has been used as an example of a successful company in most of my classes so far. I feel proud.

I noticed myself pronounce the word “I” differently today. I’m also using the European spellings of words like “centre” and “globalisation”. And today’s date is 29/7/10 (the day is written first here, then the month). I’m not resisting any of these changes; on the contrary, I welcome them. My only concern is that my reverse culture shock is going to be strong when I return to the US.

Speaking of returning to the US. The job hunt has commenced. Or rather it commenced last Friday when I got my class schedule. I have resumes printed; they do things differently here. Resumé first, then application if you get called. Several have already been distributed and I have other leads to look into. I will update here with many exclamation points when I get a job. Getting a job makes possible me staying here another six months. I have a goal of having a job by the end of next week.

Tonight I talked with Tom (one of the norwegian guys) online. I was typing in Norwegian (with the help of a translation website) and he was typing in English. I’m also attempting to learn a little Norwegian when I have the time through a podcast. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be attempting to learn Norwegian on my own, I would have laughed at them.

So for now, I’ll say goodbye in Norwegian, Hadebra.

Entry 13: Take Me Back Home

The past two weeks have been introverted and pensive at most. As strange as it sounds, the more acclimated I’ve become, the more ready I am of returning home. Not to say travelling abroad and living in the UK is boring (far from it), but eventually when the once “new and exciting” has turned into the routine and everyday, it’s time to move on to pastures new (or in this case old). I was reading theentryof another New Paltz abroad blogger in China last week who said he was missing home, and am finding myself in a similar situation. This was the first time my family celebrated Thanksgiving without me; and come the 16th of December I wont be around for my own birthday. I miss my friends as well and any opportunity I get of chatting with them on Skype or Facebook has become the highlight of my day.

On the topic of friends, it’s funny to see how the flat dynamic has changed since all of us have first met. In the beginning, we left most of our personality flaws at the door in lieu of trying to be as pleasant and un-offending to one another as possible. However, after living here for almost 3 months; the “new car smell” of new friends wears off after a while and you slowly revert into the comfort zone you’ve enjoyed back home. Although this shows  you’re secure in your surroundings, it comes at the price of shocking your flatmates and Scottish friends. Case in point, although I’m normally quiet and have been labeled “nice”, I do have a crude and cynical sense of humor which made everyone take a second look at me. Another habit of mine is eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (I know its disgusting but it can’t be helped, I dare you to try), which I’ve been accused of doing in front of people who are visiting, but I could care less. The most notable “change” in my personality has been my introversion. Since scoring badly on my last paper, solitary confinement with my work and books has become my new life; where before I would never pass up on an opportunity to go out or travel. My door that was once open for people to converse with me is now closed to distraction and like a virus it spread to the other people I’m rooming with. Then again with finals just around the corner, it’s a fairly common practice.

What tires me most is the work; or lack of it. The hurry up and wait attitude of deadlines and anticipating grades. Our classes are finished for the semester and we only have our finals left. I have two timed exams next week consisting of two essay questions for each that will count towards 50% of my total grade; needless to say I wont be leaving my room anytime soon. Just as my friends have found reason to question my eating habits and social skills, I’ve eventually started to question the education system in the UK.  On the one hand, Dundee is a great school with an excellent History curriculum whose instructors are very dedicated and show a true passion for the subject. However on the other, I’ve had a pretty rotten experience with one professor and the system of lectures and tutorials to me is redundant. At least in New Paltz, we have lectures that include time for taking questions and going over assignments; whereas in Dundee, it is clear you sit in silence throughout lectures and then wait for tutorial for questions to be raised and answered. Since many of the classes are taught by more than 1 professor, it is frustrating to get a straight answer (many of them argue amongst themselves in class) so I’m often left wondering what I should write and did they answer my question. There is certainly a distance here between instructor and student and if you need help but this is more of a personal flaw on the part of the instructor as opposed to the whole system. Depending on your instructor, they will either be very open to talk with you after class, and others will just bolt out the door after lecture or tutorial and ignore you completely. Recently a friend of mine from Scotland asked me about how the university system in the UK compared to the United States and if I preferred one over the other. My response was that in the U.S. you get alot of papers, homework assignments and pop quizzes, but the teachers are willing to give feedback and work with you to personally to improve your skills, and the constant work keeps you busy and motivated whereas in the UK, you’re left on your own to do most of the work yourself which does help in you developing thoughts and ideals independent of the professor. Personally I prefer the US method because of the above reasons; which is not to say I’m not opposed to the UK design, its just not the right one for me.

Hiking Lake Minnewaska near New Paltz

Hiking Lake Minnewaska near New Paltz

Living the glamorous life; doing laundry and not caring how bad I look!

Living the glamorous life; doing laundry and not caring how bad I look!