Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Appointments Galore

Monday, April 21st, 2014

My second week of the prep course gradually got easier and easier. However, throughout the week, us exchange students had several appointments to attend for one reason or another. 

Our first appointment was for non-European students to purchase German health insurance. All would have been well if not for the fact that every American already had some sort of insurance previously provided to them. For instance, Nora, Jordan, and I each had purchased insurance from Mary Washington, but we were told it was better to get the German insurance since our coverage information was not clear. We emailed the study abroad office at UMW and eventually got it all figured out so that our original insurance is enough to cover us for our time here. 

In order to prepare for my next appointment, I needed a passport photo since I had forgotten mine at home. I met up with my tutor, Lukas, on Monday to set up my German bank account and get passport photos. We went to Deutsche Bank and ended up meeting with someone who spoke English so that I could fully understand everything about my account. Afterwords, we walked to a photo shop and both got passport photos since he needed them as well in order to come to Mary Washington in the fall. I was surprised by how many photos I was given for such a cheap price. We parted ways so that he could continue working on his paper he was writing and so that I could begin getting all of my paperwork together for the next appointment.

The next day, I brought all of my paperwork to the international office where I filled out my foreigner information so that I can later get a visa. Nothing eventful really happened there since all we did was make copies to save for an appointment for another day in the future. That afternoon, Lourdes and I went to a Steve Mccurry photography exhibit in the art hall in downtown Erfurt. 

Throughout the week, we learned more about the process of registering for courses and opportunities to speak and practice German offered to us around the Erfurt community. 

The registration process is much more difficult than I had ever imagined, and I now feel guilty to have ever complained about registering for classes at Mary Washington. Basically, you must pick your classes you want to take and register for them before they begin. However, if you want to receive any credit for them, then you must book the class after it has begun and visit your adviser provided to you so that he or she can sign it and give you the allotted credit points for the semester. After that meeting, I went back to pick my courses and just used trial and error, for the most part, to actually figure out what courses I wanted to take and where to find them. 

Nora and I met up that afternoon and went to the park outside of the Dubliner since we had recently discovered that there were trampolines.

Sadly, after those pictures, my camera decided to not work, but did Nora took some pictures of me jumping on a trampoline for the first time.

My weekend ended up as pretty average. I just went to the Dubliner (the Irish pub) with other exchange students on Saturday. There, karaoke was sung again and this times a few people had enough courage to actually choose songs and sing them with the microphone. It was comforting to know that I’ve become pretty close with all of the people there and that we were able to go out and just have fun with each other. On Sunday, it was a beautiful day, so my roommate Lourdes and I went to a nearby park and read. To my wonderful surprise, the park had hammocks right in the sun.  

Lourdes on her phone before reading her German book she brought with her. I sadly forgot my book, so I ended up studying for our test in the prep course and just enjoying the wonderful weather. 

I was starting to get used to life and studying in Germany, and I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with Lourdes. 

Diferente dos

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

I’ve been in Spain for two weeks now.  It definitely does not feel that way.  I haven’t been home sick, so that’s a plus! But here are more differences that I have noticed over the weeks.  I wanted to post these before I post the next blog!

1. The building floors began at 0 and go up positive and down negative. For example, a house in America can have a first floor, a second floor and a basement. In Spain, it would be first floor = 0 floor, second floor = 1st floor and basement = -1 floor. Yeah, it makes sense to me, but the whole 0 floor gets me all the time.

2. Beaches in Spain: women are allowed to go topless and babies can be naked. There are some nude beaches but you have to go find them haha. I think it would be cool to say that I’ve been to one, but not take part in it!

3. There are so many pigeons in Bilbao, like there are squirrels on the UMW campus. I prefer the squirrels, because they don’t poop everywhere and they cannot fly!! Also, you can get really close to these pigeons and they don’t fly away just walk faster.  Becka and Haley tried to grab one, I would definitely try it.  But I don’t want the locals to think I’m crazy or something…

4. Families and their kids play on the wide sidewalks throughout town, like in the city!! It’s like normal. Kids ride bikes with parents and there are numerous play parks for kids. I feel like it’s more accepted here, in this busy city than in most American cities. But I found out part of the reason is because a lot of people (adults—between 18-26) don’t have jobs so they go out and do things. The unemployment rate is 28.6% !!! That’s crazy and unbelievable!  They do appreciate their environment and enjoy it while they can.

  • Also, that’s what most host families become host families.  They cannot get a job so they get paid good money to care for a college student.  I could dig it.  I mean it’s sad, but you have to do what you can!

5. People tell me wifi is scare, but it doesn’t seem that way! There is wifi in plazas and in coffee shops and such. We just can’t do anything without wifi. America needs to step it up with free wifi in plazas or at parks (if this isn’t already a thing)!

6. People stare a lot. It’s kind of uncomfortable. They stare for a long time too, like I smile back and they look away like I didn’t catch them staring… Yes, it is apart of their culture like I stated in my earlier post, but it can get uncomfortable.  I’ve learned to say HOLA or smile.  One time I did give them a nasty look, but that wasn’t a good day.  They just know we’re Americans and want to admire and observe us! Different right?

7. There is no HUMIDITY here. It’s amazing. When we went to the beach it was nice not having my towel drenched in sweat! I’ve never experienced that before. So it’s so great! The downfall is iI’m dark-skinned so ash is noticeable on me and my skin gets so dry from no humidity.  It’s so crazy!

8. School is really cheap in Europe.  We talked about this in my IB class, which I found interesting.  It makes me want to move to Spain and go to medical school here!  Why not? WHILE IN SPAIN…..  The bad thing is that the job opportunity sucks here.  A fresh out of school doctor gets paid like €2.000 ( which is less than $2,000)

9. There is very little handicap accessibility.  It’s sad, the entrances to most places/building has a little step.  That is nothing.  I was surprised by this.

10. So let’s talk about the bars.  Some places with a bar do not open their kitchens until 8pm or 9pm.  So they serve pinxtos, which are basically small plates of food to go with your drink.  An example is, tortillas de patatas or a mini sandwich.  They are so good, but it sucks when you go with friends before your host mom has made dinner (remember they don’t eat till like 10pm) so you want to go out and look for food, we have to wait till places are open.  It’s a little different and sometimes stinks because you have not had food since 1pm… yep the ultimate struggle!

11.  The stairwell is backwards here.  Look at the picture and the upward stairs are usually on the right.  THEY’RE ON THE LEFT HERE.  I’ve ran into people because no one knows to walk up them.  We’re not use to this!image

12. Everyone smokes here.  Literally before class Thursday all the teachers were outside smoking! I just walked by all of them and said Hola… It has to be a European thing, because even Erin said people smoke out Italy too. I mean I guess it’s culture! I don’t know if you know this but in the UK they are trying to make a talking cigarette pack to try and make smokers stop smoking.  How crazy is that.  They mentioned it on Live with Kelly and Michael (yeah I still watch it when I have time)!

I kind of like it here…

Friday, July 5th, 2013

I really do.  Okay, so Bilbao is a city but it doesn’t seem as hectic or dirty as the cities in America.  I don’t like comparing, but let’s compare a few things.  

  • First, it is so clean here; yes they smoke a lot (it’s Europe) but the streets are pretty clean.  The metro is so nice, extremely nicer than the ones in DC (haven’t been on the ones in NYC).  The downfall is that it ends Sunday to Thursday at like 10:45pm and Friday and Saturday it runs all night.
  • People stare a lot and it’s a little strange.   I mean different; it’s part of their culture, which I can get use to because they’re basically admiring me (that’s what I’m telling myself!).  
  • Bilbao is near a river (Ria de Bilbao) and a 30 minute metro ride to the ocean/Bay of Biscay!  DC isn’t really near a body of water… 
  • DC is probably twice the size of Bilbao.  It also isn’t very well know, so when tourist visit they stick out like a sour thumb!
  • Continuing off that… DC is so diverse I love that so much!  You basically get food from everywhere.  I would never be homesick. 
  • Bilbao is pretty safe.  I think the professors keep telling us to not go to this part of town that is far south but other than that it’s quite safe!  Ehh DC is safe if you know people from there and familiarize yourself with DC.  Then you will know what parts are not safe, like the SW region!
  • Everyone in DC basically knows some kind of english.  Bilbao’s main language is Spanish or wait is it Basque? Yeah either way it is not my native language.  I could learn, but Basque is a whole other language! Wahh!!

I just adore cities.  The idea of walking around to a shop and saving money (that I do not have) sounds awesome and possible.  And cute shops are everywhere! I want to live in one after college! Who wants to join me!?  (:  Anyway, school here is really cheap but the job situation here sucks.  So I would love to go to Medical school there and then move back to the US and find a job!  That’s possible right? Yeah, let’s do that!