The Land of Ice Chronicles: Welcome to Limerick

It was about 9 am now and Rachel and I had just arrived in the City of Limerick. I can’t speak for Rachel but I was tired as hell; I literally wanted to sleep on the concrete… However, the fact that the school had arranged a cab to take us both to our dorms from the city kept me sane enough to stand up straight. My big plan was to get to my “new home” and just crash until my brain could function properly again. And I was literally laying in bed when I got the e-mail; there was an event happening and it was strongly advised that I go. This was my reaction:

Behold, here it is. This moment in time where I had to make a life-changing choice. Do I stay in and sleep? What would that mean for my social life in this country? Surely, if I stayed in bed things would go wrong. Wouldn’t they? I spent about 10 minutes in bed wondering what to do. Part of me was saying, “Go and make friends! Sleep is for the weak!!”. Another part of me was saying, “Screw everyone. Sleep is the fuel a person needs to gain energy. Just sleep and socialize another day”.

I kid you not, for a minute there, I was about to just pass out and give up on the world. Instead… I chose to go to this meet and greet event. I willed myself out of bed thinking I’d walk into something life-changing or whatever.

I should’ve stayed in bed

The minute I got to Eden Restaurant, I regretted my decision. Everyone had gotten there earlier and it felt as if there wasn’t really a place to fit in or a chance to mingle with new people. But it wasn’t even the lack of chances to meet people that frustrated me, it was the lack of brunch food choices. Since I arrived late half of the food was gone so I had to settle for a singular tiny crescent that had grown a bit stale. You have no idea how badly I wanted to be at HASBROOK (of all places). I had this huge epiphany and was so tempted to just go to a corner and cry; I didn’t realize how many things I took for granted about SUNY New Paltz.

But in the words of my Abuela, “How is crying going to solve anything?”. So I swallowed my stale croissant and tried to be friendly with the people around me. Luckily, I was rescued from feeling out of place with the opportunity to go into town and shop. I hopped on a bus that took me straight to a shopping complex and went looking for the things I needed. I bought all the necessities… and…

A bottle of Angry Orchards to get me through the rest of the day

Trust me when I tell you that is the one decision I made that day that I will never regret. Opening that bottle and sipping on it while watching “The Big Bang Theory” was one of the happiest moments I had in Limerick.

Call it self-medicating; Call it destruction; Call it temporary happiness; Call it my “Irish Blood”; Call it a one-woman welcome party; Call it what you may… One thing I am sure it wasn’t was a mistake.

It made me feel like I was back at home and it made me forget about the terrible weather happening right outside my window. It took away some of the home-sickness and within seconds I was waking up to a new day.

And that new day was a lot better than the one before. It was still freezing outside but something inside of me felt a warmth.

I knew the road ahead would be tough but I was 100% positive that I’d survive it and come out stronger.

Are you ready to see what comes next?

Then you’ll have to wait til next week’s chapter of “The Land of Ice Chronicles”

A Quick Guide to Understanding British Lingo

A common misconception about choosing to study abroad in an English speaking country is that you will not face any sort of language barrier. I’m here to tell you this is false. No, you won’t face a barrier the way one would when going to somewhere like Spain or Italy, but there are still a handful of words and phrases you definitely will not understand the first time seeing or hearing them. Often times their accents make it a tad difficult to understand words you actually do know. Yes, their accents are attractive, but they add to that language barrier everyone assumes you won’t have (plus, the more I talk to them the less difficult it becomes to understand them).

A lot of the words i’ve heard but did not know are used in everyday conversation. Some of them I did know but did not instantly understand the context they use it in. I’ve learned a lot of things here by analyzing the context of things, which isn’t as hard as it sounds, really. For example, instead of calling their trash can a “garbage” they call it “rubbish,” and the cans will say “litter” on them. Or they call the bar the “pub.” I’ve heard the word “knackered” and came to understand it means you’re exhausted, mostly used after a night out. As for school I didn’t hear others call it class, but a “lesson” or a “lecture.” It took hearing it a few times for me to grasp the context in how they use these words.

The most trouble i’ve had identifying what a word here meant falls under the category of food. For some odd reason, they take the names of certain foods and change it completely. As someone who loves food possibly more than anything this really grinded my gears because I would read a menu and have no idea what some of the ingredients were. Below i’ve comprised a list of all the words i’ve seen on a menu that made me pull out my phone and (frustratedly) type into Google.

  1. Rocket = Arugula
  2. Aubergine = Eggplant
  3. Chips = French Fries (but you probably knew that one)
  4. Courgette = Zucchini
  5. Bubble and squeak = fried cabbage with potatoes, sometimes meat
  6. Jacket Potato = Baked Potato
  7. Bangers and mash = Sausage and mash potatoes
  8. Burger Sauce = A mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup
  9. Crisps = Potato chips
  10. Pudding = Not really like our pudding, but more of a custard. You won’t find a snack-pack here.
  11. Black Pudding = Not really pudding at all.. it’s some sort of mixture of animal blood, fat, and oatmeal that many Brits eat with their breakfast. In my opinion, it looks as bad as it sounds. Taste is TBD (maybe).
  12. Biscuits = Cookies, crackers
  13. Double cream = Heavy cream
  14. Prawn = Shrimp
  15. Scone = Biscuit – their scones are really just a plain scone/biscuit so they can put some sort of jam or butter on it, whereas in American we can just grab a cranberry orange scone or something of the sorts.

Some of these may seem a bit self-explanatory, but you can never be too sure when you’re in a different country! It did take a few weeks to remember these new names for things, but I can proudly say I no longer need Google’s assistance every time I go out to eat now.

The Greatest Feeling

 

(Writing from 1st March, 2 weeks since arrival)
I’m walking on a wooden path when a sign warning me about venomous snakes appears. I amusingly laugh and take pictures before I head on my way. It’s a relatively short walk, but as I walk I reflect about this weekend. Over this one weekend I’ve seen wild kangaroos, gone surfing, played AFL, partied with newly made friends, and even came across a giant spider. Finally, I make my way to the Twelve Apostles, certainly a tourist trap but one that turns out to be well worth the visit. I gaze upon the sandstone rocks as my heart sinks to my stomach and my heart stops pumping for half a second. It’s not a fear of heights, I could care less about the hundred or so feet (meters?) between me and the ocean. But it’s a feeling unlike any other, that stops you dead in your tracks and makes you gasp in awe. It was this moment I realized I was in a whole new world, ten thousand miles from everything I ever knew. And I was in love.
Signing up for the Orientation Trip was one of the first things I knew I wanted to do right away, even before I left. As soon as I saw the email about it, I signed up. “Jon, this is the first trip you’ve heard about, you can’t just spend money on everything that appeals to you,” my family cautioned me. Perhaps they were right, I knew I would have to budget myself and my excursions, especially if I wanted to make it Sydney or Uluru someday. But, budgeting was a concern for later (NOT an ideal attitude while studying abroad, or going through life in general for that matter), and I signed up, eager to make friends and get out to see the more remote parts of Australia.
At first, I was a little anxious or even reluctant to go. I had to wake up early and was still pretty tired from jet-lag, and the weather for the weekend didn’t look too ideal going into it. It was a two hour drive to our accommodation in Anglesea, and I was still nervous about meeting new people. As it turns out, I made friends quickly, even though at times it was hard to remember everyone’s names and where they were from. I realized fairly quickly that despite not being a huge group (well, it was still big to me, around 50) there were LOTS of other people, all coming from different parts of the world I’ve only ever imagined. Friendly Canadians, Brits, Germans, Mexicans, Dutch… the list goes on. Seeing all these people shows you just how big the world is, and watching everyone interact with each other is really a life changing experience. Hearing everyone ask about where each other is from and what they do for fun and what brought them to Australia makes you realize that despite the geographical difference, there’s so much you can have in common with people from thousands of miles away. Really, we’re not all that different.
Going into the trip itself, first thing first was a trip surfing. Unfortunately, because our group was large, we had to split some of our group to go with another (meaning me, and one other guy). I’d never gone surfing, and was pretty certain I’d fail at it. But despite my somewhat low expectations, I was eager to try, and as I slipped on a waterproof suit and boarded up my confidence slowly grew. In the water, I lay on my board, experimenting and playing around with what worked and what didn’t. Most of it didn’t. But, I was determined to do it, and due to my persistence (and thanks to the help of the instructors) I tried, and tried, and tried, each time getting closer. Finally, I found myself on top of the board, riding a wave with the proudest smile on my face. It didn’t last long before I lost balance and fell into the water, but you know what? I did it!
Afterward, I walked along the beach while the rest of group took their turn at surfing. As I mentioned earlier, it was relatively easy to talk to people, even despite my shy personality. I made several friends throughout the day, spending a good portion of the night playing games and telling stories. In the morning, I ended up exploring the town a little with friends before joining altogether for an AFL game (Australian Rules Football, big in Victoria). Again, I knew I would be terrible at this sport, seeing as I’m not very athletically inclined or coordinated, but had an absolute blast. Shortly after that, a hike in the Australian bush. This was one of the things I was looking forward to most: seeing the natural landscape, watching kangaroos bounce about, witnessing the great beauty of a world yet to discover. But it was even more than I had expected it to be. I was astonished at how different the plants and birds looked and sounded, marveled at the views of the distant rainforest and waterways. But even more than that, it gave me the chance to connect with others, and I was overcome the entire way by this great feeling of happiness.
That leads me to the moment at the Twelve Apostles I mentioned earlier. I stood there, gazing across the turbulent Pacific Ocean waves crashing against these beautiful limestone rocks. I was here. I made it. I was in a world unlike any other, and it was no where near how I imagined it. It was so much more. This feeling, which I can only describe as both terribly anxious and satisfying, is a feeling like none other. To know that you, who two years prior would never have expected anything as great as this moment to happen in your life, were now at the top of the world. It’s the feeling of discovering a long sought treasure chest, of marrying the love of your life after years of loneliness, of triumphantly gazing across a kingdom as newly crowned. The feeling of discovering that there is so much out there in this world than you ever realized, and it’s even more beautiful than you imagined.
Just watch out for the snakes on the way out. This is Australia, after all.

Why I Travel Poem

to understand how others live

to realize that this world is so big, yet so small, and so universal

to learn how others communicate

to remember that other cultures and languages are not wrong, just different than my own

to speak a different language and become confident and comfortable with how it sounds on my tongue

to try new foods because food is part of culture

to meet new people who add to my life

to create friendships that may last a lifetime of memories

to make connections that are rare gems

to ask questions that foster an immense amount of growth

to solidify who I am with and a part from labels, and titles, and professions

to gain an appreciation for home

to grace another place and another people with my presence, my knowledge, my kindness

to see who still genuinely supports me from miles away

to test who still means a lot to me from miles away

to know what it is to be a part from all that is familiar

to challenge myself

to tell stories now, later, and forever

p.s. Disney’s inspired castle logo from Segovia, Spain. Wonderful town with an ancient history and aqueduct.

Week 2: Bacon?

Written (3/1/18)

Australia has been incredible so far. I still have not fully grasped that I am here! That being said there have been some adjustments I’ve had to make. One of the biggest adjustments is getting used to living with five people. Back at New Paltz I have had the same Roomate for almost two years so this is definitely different.

I thought Australians speak English this will be easy! I was wrong. While day to day conversations flow fine there are always a few words I don’t know or I misunderstand. For example, my first day I was given a tour of the residence hall (Unilodge@VU) and was told over there is the ‘lift room’. Now I know that some people call elevators lifts but when I heard lift and room I assumed it was a gym. I was like “wow you guys have a gym?!” In return I received a confused and concerned look. It was the first mistake of many but it is all part of the experience!

Now onto one of the most difficult things I’ve had to adjust to. Food. Don’t get me wrong Melbourne is known as the food capital of Australia and has many great offerings. However, bacon is not one of them. Their bacon is literally ham and it is disgraceful(just kidding). All jokes aside it has been rough trying to find bacon. Also it took me two weeks before I learned how to order pizza. I went to a pizzeria which sold pizza by the slice (which is rare here) and I asked for “a plain slice”. The guy looked at me perplexed. I then asked for a cheese slice. Once again he was confused. Then I said just a pizza with tomato sauce and cheese, finally he responded “we don’t make that here”. I left upset I couldn’t get pizza and thinking what kind of pizzeria doesn’t have a regular slice. Well long story short after talking to my classmates I learned I needed to ask for a margarita slice. I have however discovered that I love Indian food and that there is lots of it here in Melbourne.

It is strange being in a new country. After 20 years in New York City I can maneuver my way around the city, the culture, and the lingo extremely easily. Yet over here it is a whole new experience and that is exactly I was hoping for. People are extremely nice and often go out of their way to help you. One big difference I noticed when it comes to culture/dress is that people don’t go to class in sweats and a t-shirt the way we often do back at New Paltz. So it has been interesting actually putting on clothes for class everyday.

P.S Rice Krispies is known as Rice Bubbles here.

P.P.S You can make CUSTOM KIT KAT BARS!

Indian Dosa

Rice Bubbles

Custom Kit Kats

Where is everyone?

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Boarding the plane

“Today’s the big day! Today begins the journey to find truth through intense connection!”, I kept telling myself on the way to JFK airport. I was going to be in Limerick in just a few moments and I couldn’t be more excited. I was all packed and clenching my mom’s hand as we walked to get my boarding passes. I knew I was going to miss her like hell but I also knew that I was going on my very first journey to adulthood; I felt brave and confident to embark on this new journey. Despite studying abroad last summer, I’d never really done something like this before…

My mom came with me to Korea and stayed for a week so I guess in a way she might have been the reason I adjusted so quickly to the time difference. I also had tons of friends waiting for me in the land of miracles so I guess I was never really ALONE.

The thought of that made me feel liberated in a way. It meant that I would have all these adult responsibilities and have to manage them all on my own; it’s like a trial run for when I graduate and have to start doing all that stuff for real. I wasn’t scared at all and I had faith that I would make friends in Ireland and that it all would turn out okay.

So with my boarding passes in hand, I clenched my first and said: “Let’s do this”. I said goodbye to my family and got ready to step on the line to go through security check.

And that’s when it happened… EVERYTHING TURNED TO CRAP IN 0.4 SECONDS! My flight was DELAYED, which meant the connected flight was DELAYED which meant I had to stay in BOSTON for a DAY AND A HALF by myself to wait for the next one which WON’T GET ME THERE IN TIME TO GET PICKED UP or by THE GOD DAMN TIME I NEED TO BE THERE. 

What would you do if you were in my situation? Have a panic attack? Yeah, me too. I called the company I booked through, argued with airlines, cried, yelled, the whole nine yards. Thankfully my family was still there to help but that wasn’t changing the fact that I was so intensely screwed. It was at that moment I just wanted to go back home, take a semester off altogether, and just wallow in self-pity in the place I know best (NYC). But.. that clearly was NOT an option. The best option was the one the airline thought of, and it wasn’t even that great.

They put me on a direct flight to Dublin, which meant I would get where I needed to go in time… as long as I took a 4-hour ride on a bus from that airport to the University. It was an annoyance. On the bright side, however, I wasn’t the only incoming UL student that got screwed. I bonded a bit with Rachel as we sat next to each other on the plane and bus. Even though, something inside me had shifted. I wasn’t feeling that feeling that I felt before the whole delay debacle began. I felt defeated, I felt like I was on the wrong path. Needless to say, I felt like I wanted to stay home. My whole entire outlook was destroyed and I think it corrupted the beginning of my journey in Limerick.

But, as I would later learn…Experiences aren’t always meant to be amazing things that leave your heart full of joy. Experiences are meant to help you improve and grow as a person.

And that’s exactly what happened as I studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland. 

Ready to see how Ireland changed me?

Well you’ll have to wait until next week’s chapter of “The Land of Ice Chronicles”

The Land Of Ice Chronicles: Preparing to leave home

My journey to Limerick was just a week away and I was feeling a plethora of different emotions. I was excited and terrified all at the same time. I had studied abroad before and I absolutely loved it but I was unsure that I would feel the same about this country.

Ya see, I studied abroad in South Korea over the summer. That was a magnificent experience; I fell in love with everything the minute I got there and I absolutely had no problem adjusting to all the differences. It was like I was meant to be there. It was like I had found the missing piece I was constantly searching for; I’d found my home. That being said, leaving had me depressed for quite some time. It took a while to readjust to NYC but once I did, it was like I had this newfound appreciation for it. Yet, I also had this urge to explore everything else the world has to offer. I wanted to travel more and the effects of one study abroad trip were so grand, I yearned for more. I wondered if I could feel an even deeper connection in a country where my ancestors have actually been. And, on a whim, I chose to go to Limerick, Ireland and test that theory.

You can see why this would cause me to feel the plethora of emotions that I did. I mean I was building up the experience in my head thinking it would the most amazing experience I would ever have. I was thinking it would beat out Korea for the best trip ever. I was thinking I would have the time of my life and meet the love of my life. I was thinking I’d never want to leave Limerick and that I’d have this strong attachment to the country where magic, wonder, and little mythical leprechauns lurk around.

I was wrong; I was so wrong. 

Curious to see what I mean?

Find out in the next chapter of “The Land of the Ice Chronicles”

Living the London Life

My journey across the pond began with a very early flight leading to a very cranky me. It’s crazy to think I woke up to get ready to leave for the airport at 4:30a.m. and didn’t land in London until around 10p.m. Although, once I landed in the iconic Heathrow Airport, I was absolutely thrilled to finally be in London. I wasn’t sure what intrigued me more, the accents or the classic double decker red buses. I felt like a rescue puppy trying to soak in every little bit of its new home but being too excited to notice everything. After years of wanting to visit the city of London, I was finally there. For a solid 4 and a half months.

After a bit of a messy start to my dorm hall, I was relieved to have made a few friends and embark on a mini tour of Kingston Upon Thames led by someone at Kingston University. Walking through Kingston market gave me a Woodbury Common’s vibe, which both excited and comforted me. From Starbucks to TopShop to North Face, the stores seemed endless. I couldn’t wait to dive in head first.

Admittedly there wasn’t much culture shock. It’s a major concern for many students and parents that the differences in environment will overwhelm the student. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be badly affected by that because I thrive for experiencing new things. By coming into London with an open mind about the experiences and pushing and insecurities to the back of my mind, I was lucky to eliminate all those insecurities within the first few days of being here. My biggest concerns included finding friends, knowing how to get to my classes and to the campus from my dorm, and how to navigate my way into town. Thankfully I accomplished all these fairly quickly, giving me more time to focus on other aspects of adjusting to my new home. Like the coffee. In England, and I assume it is the same if not similar in surrounding European countries, you cannot just order a “coffee.” Everything to them is coffee. You want just a regular iced coffee? No, you want an iced americano. Don’t drink your coffee black? You want a white americano. However the worst adjustment for me, by far, was their cup size difference. Most of my motivation and productivity comes from my venti iced coffee, but the largest size at most places is equivalent to a Starbucks grande cup for iced drinks. So you can see what my struggle was for the first few weeks (okay, month. I like my iced coffee, okay?). It took a few tries to get used to ordering an americano, and even longer to get used to drinking hot coffee.

The only other thing I had to keep reminding myself was normal here is when someone says “are you alright” they’re basically asking “how are you?” The first few times I was asked I had to pause for a moment, wondering to myself “do I look extra tired today or something? Do I look sad? Why are they concerned?” only to snap back to reality and realize they’re just asking how i am. So far Kingston has been a dream. It somehow feels simultaneously calm and busy and I look forward to see what else it has in store.

 

Edit: I have recently discovered there is a venti size, but it is smaller compared to America’s. Have you ever seen a cat with stubby legs that looks all cute but it’s small because of them? That’s what the vent cup here reminds me of. Give. Me. My. LARGE. Iced. Coffee. 

Not How I Planned It, but Exactly How It Was Meant To Be

(Writing from 22nd Feb, 7 days since arrival)
Imagine the trip of a life time, landing into the beautiful new place to discover and instantly feeling at home. Imagine entering your new kingdom as a celebrity enters the Oscars, arms open wide to your arrival. Everything has worked out exactly the way you planned it, everything you’ve worked toward for several months, perhaps even a life time, has lead up to this special moment where you discover your destiny ahead of you.
Now take all of what I said, and scratch that under the rug. Then take the rug outside and beat it a couple times, uncovering the hard-wooden floor of reality. And that, is what it feels like once you first land. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that what I was embarking on was going to different. But mostly, I still had romantic hopes as I saw the sun rise over the Pacific on my long flight to Sydney. I thought that all my hopes and dreams had come true as I landed in Sydney, the great beauty of Australia, with the Opera House and Harbor welcoming me. Then I realized I was almost about to miss my flight to Melbourne, the poor man’s Sydney, and where’d I actually be spending my five months abroad. No matter, I knew Melbourne would be just as fantastic and full of adventure.
Getting off the plane there, I met my ride and set off to my accommodation. As the city slowly faded, I wondered exactly where my dorm was. Pulling up to the building, I realized that it was kind of in the middle of a dump, and not near what I had expected. After signing contracts and finding my room, much smaller than anticipated and without the shop pack I ordered in advance with my house supplies, I began to settle in. Because I got there after my roommate, he claimed most of the space in the room already, and I was stuck in the top bunk of the bed, using the highest shelves and the tops of cabinets and wardrobes to store everything (thankfully I’m tall). Then I met the man himself: my roommate, who although seemed nice enough, didn’t exactly seem like someone I’d form a friendship and actually enjoy rooming with (I admit, part of that was my hope to be with a real true-blue Aussie). We went out to get some basic supplies: milk, cheese, toilet paper, and what not, and ended up getting lost. By the time I made it back to the lodge, I decided enough was enough, and I needed to wander around on my own for a while.
This wasn’t at all what I anticipated. I was in a dumpy suburb, neither in the bush nor the city, without anything in my room in terms of supplies (no toilet paper, pillows, blankets, etc.) and stuck with a roommate who still struggled with English. I was exhausted, from nearly two days without sleep and near thirty hours of flights and layovers (note to self: if you go to Australia again, spend a day or two in Hawaii first, even if just to sleep. You’ll thank yourself later). On top of that, my phone, despite my efforts, didn’t work at all, and I had no way of getting in touch with my family to let them know I was alright.
What I ended up finding is, even though it wasn’t what I planned, it worked out exactly the way it was supposed to. Eventually, I did get my supplies (THREE days later), and I’ve adjusted to my arboreal life in the top bunk. I discovered I was actually kind of glad to be in the suburban area I was, with most everything I need local enough to walk to, as well as top-notch public transport system that can take you into and around Melbourne with ease (it’s especially nice that the campus is across the street, and the grocery store and train station going into the city are only 15 minutes away). The campus itself looks nice and not too difficult to navigate, and although I’m not excited for classes next week am sure it’ll be alright and I’ll adjust well. The thing I’m finding though, is that wherever you go in the world there’s always good people out there, and so far, there’s a lot of them in Australia. The security guard at Sydney Airport that helped me catch my flight, the staff at the lodge patient and understanding as I try to adjust, people on the street showing me the ropes with public transport and finding my way around, and even friendly blokes at the bar willing to help me figure out how to call home and let my family know I made it safely.
I’ve met the others here from New Paltz and other SUNY schools and they were all thrilled to meet me, and I was to meet them too. We’ve only known each other about a week, but we all get along and already have great and big adventures planned in the coming months. It’s relatively easy to befriend people and talk to them, even for me, and even if I don’t go out to great parties and events to mingle with people, so far I’m okay with that because I can already tell I’m making friends with this small group (still, it’d be great to meet some locals as well who can give tips and tricks on life in Melbourne).
Maybe this wasn’t exactly the way I planned it out to be. It rarely is, I think. But in my opinion, I’m fairly glad it turned out this way. Maybe there’s more to it than what I could have imagined. And I can’t wait to find out.

Academic Adjustment at UC3M Getafe Campus: Be Prepared to Ask Questions

Just like an interview, always have questions prepared about what you may venture in. I went to my orientation for UC3M for international students in the Hispanic Studies Program which meant most/all my classes would be in Spanish, and tailored to North American students to help enhance our Spanish language skills. That being said, this orientation was completely in Spanish, and tailored toward safety in Spain and advertising their facilities such as the gym, the library, etc. It would not have been helpful at all if I had not come prepared with questions. My first question was 1) How do we register for classes? Though their was a guide given online, I still wanted to clarify the process because the portal here was also new to me, as it should be for any incoming “first-year.” 2) Where exactly can I find x,y, and z buildings to take my placement exam for my Spanish level and pick up my ID/certificate to be here on campus? 3) Where exactly is the gym, the library, and the bookstore? After I received information about all of those things, I felt a bit more acquainted with how my days would look like at UC3M. There was not a carnival, or student movers, or people in bright blue and orange t-shirts asking if you needed help the way students are at New Paltz for freshman. New Paltz is so friendly, but do not expect the same customer service in Spain.

Moreover, I am taking 5 classes here at UC3M, which is about the same amount of courses and credits I usually take at New Paltz (14-17 credits depending on what’s available, what I need, etc.). Here, I have more group projects; 2/5 of my classes are based on group projects–my radio workshop course, as well as my Cultural Studies course. Also, 4/5 of my courses are in Spanish so that’s very different, and only 3/5 professors speak/know English with confidence. Check your syllabus often, and check Aula Global (portal similar to blackboard) often so you can keep track of when things are due. Most of my professors don’t send reminder emails about what is due and what isn’t. So pay attention to this, too. Overall, my classes are interesting. They are discussion-based, lecture-based, and group-work based–so a combo of everything. Professors come in on time or late (never early, seriously), and usually end early, too. They are usually in a rush to leave, so if you want to discuss something with them, catch them at the end of class or ask to meet with them another time. They always ask if we have questions, or to stop them if we don’t understand something, and I really appreciate that aspect of each course in the Hispanic Studies Program. In my only English class– radio workshop, a lot of the Spaniard students talk over the Professor, and that rarely ever happens at New Paltz without some sort of penalty or consequence. So just be mindful of that, too. I always sit in the front to avoid the chatter.

Other things to keep in mind: You have to the pay for the gym. It is not part of your tuition like at New Paltz. You also have to pay for printing in cash unless it is a significant amount to pay by card (3 or more euros I believe). So there is no printing quota here either. The bookstore here is so small compared to New Paltz (and New Paltz has way better stuff, I promise!). Regardless, budget, budget, budget. Using an excel sheet has been super helpful for me to keep track of my weekly expenses.

Extra curricular activities or clubs are not necessarily a norm here in Spain or Europe. Neither is having a job on top of studies. Most students bring food from home or go home for lunch. They are commuters (as I am, too), and their responsibility is to study. They don’t have debt as the government pays for much of their education as do merit scholarships. There is no such thing as a sports scholarship. Therefore, their reason for being in the university is different as well. American students go to the university to grow and become independent at a much faster rate than Spaniard students do. It’s all part of the cultural difference in education.

In addition, all  the trips are student-run and are mainly based around parties by Erasmus student organizations. Get on their Facebook page to see what events are interesting to you. I would recommend seeking other sites like travel organizations such as: Smart Insiders or City Life Madrid for other cultural outings. 

Overall, most professors are laid back, but still expect you to do the readings, do the homework, participate, be on time, and hand work in by deadline. Do as they say, not as they do, always!

p.s. The featured photo is me on the first day of classes on campus. I fit perfectly in that tiny tree! Beautiful campus. I can’t wait until spring so I can enjoy the quad and surrounding area more.