Archive for January, 2012

Hello world!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Hello fellow readers. I’ve FINALLY started my blog about my adventures in Italy (after being here for 2 days). In the last two days alone, I’ve had some interesting experiences. Remember when everyone said “Oh, don’t worry, everyone speaks English in Milan”? Yeah, that’s definitely not the case. I’ve had to get by on my very broken Italian (which is a little embarrassing) since being here. No one at the airport, cafe, or metro speak English which resulted in me getting very lost and losing a lot of euros. But as my dad likes to say to me on a regular basis, “It’s a learning experience.”

While the first day was a disaster all in itself and just made me want to go home, the second day was really exciting. I met a lot of international students, from France, Australia, England, and, of course, all of the Americans. Everyone seemed to be in the same place as I was too; some didn’t even have places to live yet! So I figured, I’m just going to put the first day behind me and start again. And what do you know? I LOVE MILAN! I experienced aperitivo for the first time, which is where you pay for one drink and get a free tapas buffet. And let me just say, it was so simple but so delicious! The Italians definitely know how to take something simple and make it incredible. I’ve even noticed that my Italian has improved in just one day. I’ve learned to say “Nice to meet you,” and “Where is…(insert every place I needed to go to?”

All in all I can tell that this trip is going to turn out to be the most incredible experience of my life.

Upcoming Posts!!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
  • Why I chose ICP..
  • Subway and street etiquette 
  • La cusine
  • Transportation in Paris 
  • Housing
  • & lots more! :) 

That freshman feeling all over again :p

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
l'Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP) 

Hi there!! Seeing as how this week I start my classes at l'Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP) I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate this post to giving an overview of the french university system-or at least the way it works in Paris. So far-ITS BEEN STRESSFUL!

Here are some things I already knew before I got here:
-in the states we receive a B.A. in 4 yrs whereas the French version of a B.A. is called a License that takes only 3 yrs to recieve
-universities in Paris or France are MUCH cheaper than the ones in the states
-classes dont meet as frequently as in the states but they are longer-you will have one class that meets only monday but that class may last three hours
-they do not have as much daily homework and have less grades for a course - so each grade is weighted heavier than in the states
-relationships between teachers and students are much more formal
-classes typically have both a CM (cours magistral) and a TD (travail dirigé) - a CM is just the lecture course  and the TD is the discussion or participation demanded part of the course
-the application process to french universities is much simpler (get good scores on your BAC [their version of the SATs] and you will be fine)
-universities in Paris do not have campuses-no  dorms
-no meal plans either -however there are cheap student cafeterias or restaurants
-textbook expenses are much lower than in the states

Now here's what I did not know and found out:
- les Grandes Ecoles and the universities or facs- what's the difference?:
*most universities in Paris are also referred to as facs ( the two terms are used interchangeably), the most well known of these universities is the Sorbonne, however, beyond these universities there exists a seperate group of universities known as les Grandes Ecoles. These are much more specialized institutions of higher education in which the application process is much more competitive. Les grandes ecoles are held to a different level completly than the rest of the universities in Paris.

-Condition of Paris Universities:
*Before I set foot in any university in Paris, I imagined that the interior of the universities would not be that much different from that of the universities in the states- relatively modernized, with a 21st century aesthetic, white boards, computers in every room, projectors, etc. My thought was this: I am going be attending a university in Paris- Paris, one the most cosmopolitan developed citites in the world along with London, New York ,etc-so the universities should be in about the same shape as what I am used to. Well not necessarily...
I do not mean to harp on about aesthetics, I mean being a student what is most important of course is the quality of education I am receiving, but this was honestly something that shocked me. La Sorbonne was the first university I went into and my what I saw there was about the same for the other universities thourghout the city. When I walk into the classrooms in this universities you get the sense you've traveled back in time to the early 90's or maybe even late 80's: the hallways are lined with bulletin boards posting the classes, exam scores, class times, classes availble. Not every classroom has a projector, but almost definitly a chalk board, the desks are old, and there are typically no computers in the classrooms -so bring your own if you have a presentation.
Granted, there are some differences from university to univeristy of course - the Sorbonne, because of its recognition,  and ICP, because of its recognition and luxury of being a private univeristy, are a bit more "modernized" than the rest. However, in any case this was just something that surprised me being that these are universities in Paris. I assume this is because the universities are funded by the government and there system is entirely different than ours.

-Signing up for courses:
*I'm in the middle of my first week at ICP and so far so good (fingers crossed)! Eventhough I have already started my semester here my schedule is not set in stone. At ICP, and most other universties in Paris, students do not enroll online. Furthermore, while the classes for the semester are available to view online, the times are most often not. Which means you have to go to the hallways of the department you are planning to take classes in and find the time for the class you want to take amidst the mess of papers on the board. (the next steps are how students attending ICP must do it) Once you have decided which courses you want to take you should have two week to attend and try out the courses you are considering before you decide to submit the appropriate paperwork, known in france as the pedogigal step, saying these are the courses you will be taking this semester. The pedogical step involves getting enrolled in classes either with the department secretary or directly with the professor by having them sign the appropriate form. While ICP gives its students two weeks to commit to their courses, the pedogical approach is the traditional french university system of enrolling in courses in is common in almost all universities.

*The most imortant thing to consider as a student studying abroad at a French university is ensuring that you are taking the necessary amount of credits - in my case I need at least 12 to be a full time student. Well the equivalent of credits in French universities are ECTSs, European Credit Transfer System.  (They use this system since exchanges under the ERASMUS program -student exchange throughout Europe- are really common) The total number of ETSs a course has varies depending on the number of hours that course meets for a week. It is important to note that courses at french universities, like ICP for example, meet once or twice a week at most, and that the number hours is determined by the total number of hours spent in the CM and TD portion of the course. So, for example if you are taking a  literature course that only meets once a week with one hour spent in CM and one hour spent in TD that's a total of two ECTS! So it's important to double check because those two hours spent in class will only total to two U.S. credits, the general rule is 1 North American credit = 1 hour in class, so don't necessarily bank on taking only 4 classes and getting your 12 credits worth - not all classes are created equal!
Note that if you are studying abroad under MICEFA you can take courses at least 1 course with MICEFA throughout the course of the semester and these are guaranteed to be 3 credits.
So as of right now I am signed up for one course with MICEFA, on the waiting list for another MICEFA course, and spending my days on the ICP campus this week trying out each course on my list  and am set on making up my mind by the end of this week.

-Les toilettes mixtes:
*yes, when you go to these universities in Paris do not be surprised if you have to use a toilette mixte aka: mixed gender bathroom. DO NOT BE SURPRISED if you walk by a urinal on your way to the stall. haha!

So so far I'm not doing bad -just working out my schedule. The professors I've had so far have not been as terrible as I have imagined and very sweet. I will post soon enough on the reasons why I chose ICP over the other universities in Paris soon enough. Bon soir!


Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

I’m sorry for the long absence—believe me it was not of my choosing!! But I’ll get to that in a second…I cant believe its been almost two weeks since I arrived in Paris ---so much has happened. (So I apologize beforehand if this is a long post) Now that I’m finally all settled in with reliable wi-fi (Thank God!!!) I can pick up where I left off….
                The last time I actually wrote a blog entry was the 6th of January and just as I went to publish it (I always start writing them on word first then copy and paste) google decided to inform me that it had deleted my gmail account and since, my gmail account was linked to my blog—poof!! BLOG DISAPPEARED!! Needless to say I panicked, double checked a hundred times, googled my problems and because I am paranoid came to the conclusion that someone muct have hacked into my google account used it to do whatever they liked and then deleted it. Terribly disheartened L I had to go blogless and contemplated making a new blog all over again and vowed to not use free wifi until a moved into my own room. However, my friend Pranav, being the tech wiz he is, assured me that the likelihood of a hacker having gotten into my account is slim to none—whooo! And just as we checked on my blog again – IT WAS BACK!! Needless to say I am ecstatic!! So, that is part of the reason for my long absence. The other explanation for my absence is that I was still living out of a suitcase and did not have reliable wi-fi but am now finally all settled in and am back on track!
                Now that there is an explanation I’ll pick up where I left off. Saturday the 7th marked the beginning of our cultural activities week with MICEFA. This week began with a walking tour of the 12th arrondissement with Michael Yarabinec a professor that lives in Paris. We saw many historical sites of the Terreur, la tombe de Lafayette, a bloulangerie famous for selling the second best croissant in all of Paris, and we passed through the largest marché I have ever seen in Paris. Anything you may be looking for you would find at this marché.
                After our tour at the arrondissement I went with my friends Michelle, to visit Notre Dame for the first time. It was incredible!! I think I may like it more than the Eiffel Tower. So breathtakingly beautiful! So after snapping tons of photos we headed off to lunch at a nice café and I enjoyed a lovely French onion soup!! Yum!  ;) Lunch was great and we got so carried away in our conversations that we didn’t realize how late it had gotten and almost missed our second scheduled activity for the day: A boat ride down the seine to see the Eiffel Tower (plus other sites) light up at night. It was the first I saw the Eiffel Tower and let me tell you-it is definitely ten times more gorgeous at night. After, our boat ride (which seemed to last all but 5 mins) my friend Michelle and I decided to walk over to it to watch it sparkle on the hour. And it was so beautiful! We went underneath the tower and saw street dancers dancing underneath—they were really good! It was a lot of fun and made for a great end to the night!
                The next day was Sunday the 8th, and while the goal had been to attend a service at Notre Dame-getting yourself up and out the door on your first free day from any activities is pretty hard. So I took that morning to catch up on some sleep. Once I was ready to head out I decided to call my Ayita to see what she was up to. She and another MICEFA student Marey would be living on the same floor I would be moving into and were gonna go explore our neighborhood. Once in the 16th they showed me that you can see theTour Eiffel from our neighborhood. OMG! I feel so blessed and fortunate to live so close to it. We walked a bit closer to an excellent point to stand and take pictures. After some picture snapping (which seems to be all I do now-my camera never leaves my side) we hopped on the metro to explore some more.  We stopped at a little café and got to know each other a bit more and then called it a night. I headed back to the 5th and met up with my friend Michelle and headed to the local café we had been stealing wi-fi from and split a yummy dessert and talked. Stopping at cafes just to talk and have small little something is very popular here.
                Monday we continued we started attending our cultural activities with our assigned groups.  As there are many students in the program it is easier to coordinate these activities and the our intensive language program classes by organizing us into 3 groups, group 1 being those with novice experience in the language and group 3 being comprised of those with the most proficiency in the language. This was determined by your written placement and oral placement exams. Thus, Monday was a free MICEFA acticity free day for me since, group 3 (my group) had nothing scheduled that day. Later that evening I helped my friend Michelle lug her luggage from the 5th to the 16th because she snagged the au pair job she was hoping to get it-yay!! 
                The next three days were filled with cultural activities for group 3. On Tuesday the 10th, we were to meet in the 4th arrondissement to participate in a singing exercise with a local French song-writer. It was pretty nice but singing is not my forte. After having fulfilled that activity, I headed over to the MICEFA office to take care of some business and use their computer haha! I headed back to the hostel eventually and then hoped on the metro to finally see one of my dearest friends Anne-Elizabeth J Annie’s family had invited me over for dinner that evening and I’d be lying if I said I was not looking forward to it all week! I was super excited to see my friend from home, to be in a family atmosphere and have a home-cooked meal. Annie’s family was so nice and her mom prepared an excellent dinner for us followed by two desserts! I was not expecting any desert needless to say two, but when in Paris one shold never be surprised by desserts. I talked to Annie and her family about everything from the problem with gypsies in Paris to UMW to adjusting to life in Paris. Eventually it was time to leave so I hugged Annie dearly and said goodbye to her family and wished her a safe flight back to the states. It was a weird feeling knowing that I would be the one staying  in Paris and she would be the one leaving.
                Wednesday, we had a reunion academique at la Sorbonne in the afternoon. There MICEFA presented a presentation that gave an overview of all the universities we could attend in Paris, the process of enrolling, signing up for classes with the Universities and MICEFA, credit transferring, etc. It was all really insightful but quite overwhelming, needless to say I had a lot to think about. Afterwards, I decided to head back to the MICEFA office and ask Dr. Prodeau her advice. She advised me to wait till I visited the campuses of the universities I was considering before I decided. So by the end of the day I knew I was between L a Sorbonne Nouvelle and l’Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP).
                Thursday was supposed to be a full day for group three starting with a cineballade bright and early followed by a tours de cuisine in the afternoon. The cineballade was supposed to be a walking tour  through the 9th of famous filming sites for movies of Paris but when we got there we learned that our guide couldn’t make it because she had to go to the doctor after falling down the stairs that morning. Dommage! So instead we went to a local café and got treated to either café, tea, or hot chocolate by our professor and just sat around as a group getting to know each other. After about an hour in the café our professor left us free to do whatever in the city till we had to meet in the 11th for our tour de la cuisine. Having not seen the Arc de Triomphe up close yet Michelle and I decided to go see it! That’s the beautiful thing about this city; the metro makes it easy to hop just about anywhere there and back to see such great sites.
                 The Arc de Triomphe was great and then we passed by the tour Eiffel again for another peak. I can’t believe I live so close to those great monuments. I am just dying for spring to come to really enjoy them!! Before we realized it was time to head over to the tour de la cuisine where we were taught and assisted in making the yummiest French desserts. (check out the pics below!)
                With the cultural activities done I took the weekend to both enjoy the city with friends and finally move out of the Hostel and temporarily move into my friends Ayita’s room till I could move into mine. I was so anxious to already be in my own room already and have my own space that I started counting down the days till the 18th but was so very grateful to have met such kind people already. Ayita lives in another chambre de bonne on my same floor so it was pretty convenient to move my stuff their already since I would just be moving down the hall.
                BUT WARNING! If you are coming to Paris definitely keep in mind how much you are bringing –because lugging two 50lb suitcases through the streets of Paris, through the metro, and up six narrow, wooden, winding flights of stairs is NOT FUN!!! (if you have lovely friends willing to help- thank you Ayita and Michelle!! – then you’re in better shape)
                Monday the 16th we started our Intensive Language Program with MICEFA which would last for the next two weeks. We would have classes in our designated groups at Monday through Friday at the Soubonne Nouvelle –Paris 8- from 9-11, break for lunch, and then from 12-2pm. This course is designed to give us a crash course into the kind of work we are expected to do at a French university so as to facilitate our transition. We did everything from go over grammar, writing homework, give presentations, and go over the latest newspaper headlines. After classes I would either head back to the MICEFA office to take care of some loose ends or go wandering through Paris with friends.
                Finally the day arrived when I could finally move in!!! At 6pm I went down to my landlord’s apartment to receive my key!!! And finally unpacked and made myself comfortable in my new home!! Earlier that week, I was also fortunate enough to meet up with Caroline, another dear friend in Paris, before she headed back to the states for school. She showed me around the 18th arrondissement of Paris where we stopped at only vineyard in Paris (which I can’t wait to see in the spring), a famous mural in a cute small park, and the amazing view from Sacré Coeur before saying good bye we took a moment to sit in the park and enjoy some fabulous yet MESSY chocolate crepes!
                I honestly can’t believe its been almost a month since I first here. It’s amaaazing how much you get done in one month. Today was my last class of the intensive program since I have mandatory ICP orientation activities to attend. I’m really excited to start my classes and am really looking forward to what I’ll learn tomorrow. I feel very lucky to have met such great friends here and am finally feeling settled into the city and can’t wait for February!
Our guide through the 12th ;)
Some goodies at the market in the 12th

Notre Dame!!!
le Tour Eiffel

under the Tour Eiffel-dancers!

while wandering I stumbled upon this gem!
l'Arc de Triomphe
Learning from the master how to make these....
My little home in Paris!
Sacre Coeur
the mural in the 18th-its supposed to say "I love you" in every language
the spectacular view from Sacre Coeur 

Finally in Prague!

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Just as the Spring Semester started up for every one at UMW, I headed off to grand ol’ Prague for the beginning of my very own European adventure! As I write this it’s technically Monday here in Prague (midnight) and NFL Sunday is well under way in the States….and everyone here is also enjoying the live streaming of the playoff games, its really great because it eases the homesickness that some (but not all) of us are feeling. My program is run by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) based in Las Vegas, Nevada which sounds insignificant, right? Wrong! The majority of universities in this consortium are based in the West/Midwest which means that when I arrived to Prague on Saturday afternoon I experienced culture shock on multiple levels. All of my classmates are American except for two girls from South Korea who go to Yonsei University (Yonsei is a USAC member) they hail mostly from like California, Iowa, and Idaho. There’s little….”ethnic” diversity among us….there’s little “ethnic” diversity in Prague….and since I’m Hispanic and heavily involved in activities at the James Farmer Multicultural Center throughout the year this diversity or lack thereof is a BIG deal to me and worth mentioning!

Onto first impressions on Prague itself, in two days I have walked around A LOT in the city, in the Old Towne Square area (ie, tourist central) the streets are small and winding and the sidewalks are made of cobblestone, its beautiful but I have been too tired to really enjoy it. Our program gives its students really great housing, I mean REALLY great housing and I would recommend this USAC program to anyone from UMW just on this fact alone. Our housing is apartments, so all the students live in 3 complexes all close to eachother, about a block from Metro, grocery store and a 15-minute walk to the Old Towne Square. The apartments have very spacious rooms, clean kitchens, and seperate shower and toilet, even a washer (no dryer though!)’s just a really great value for how much your paying and so far living in Czech feels very affordable.

Prague has been great on all accounts from what I have seen, however its weakest point for me has been the food! Czechs seem to like their food peppery, loaded with carbs, and LOVE their beer (beer capital of the world is what I’ve heard..and I’m not surprised). I’ve had two authenthic Czech meals: schnitzel (basically fried chicken) with fried cauliflower and something that looked like potato salad; the other meal consisted of a broccoli soup followed by beef in a gravy sauce with dumplings (tasted like mushy/soft bread) needless to say I hit the grocery store after our orientation and stocked up on all the fixings necessary for a sandwich, cereal, milk, and a little bit of fruit!

First day of school is today at 9 am and we’ll all be heading to bed after the excitement of NFL sunday winds down. Phew! It’s been an incredibly busy two days and I’ll be sure to share more as time goes on! I’ll post pictures at the end!


Fun Facts about Prague (that I’ve learned so far)
-urinating in public is not illegal
-beer is cheaper to buy than water

Lunch or dinner, anyone?

Wenceslas Square @ night


"Under the Horses Tail"

Em in Asia! 2012-01-20 01:57:49

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Turns out my baller VP had eye surgery, which is why he’s wearing sunglasses. I’m a horrible person.



Today I got a mint, a slice of dried mango, and some bread, all from 1st grade students. I also had students chanting my name as I walked into the 2.5 homeroom. It’s enough to make one get a big head, but don’t worry, I also had a kid in class 2.8 who attempted to derail my class today by pretending to be stupider than he is and yelling out random phrases and is just a nasty piece of work in general, so I’m not in any danger of feeling too confident. However, today was a good end to a pretty good week… all in all I’m glad I volunteered to teach this week, and I’m genuinely sad that I won’t see my kids until March. Already I feel like I have a stronger bond with this group of 2nd years than I did with last year’s… maybe because they already know me, maybe because it’s the beginning of the school year, whatever it is, I hope they’re this willing to talk to me when the actual school year starts. Anyway, a few of them asked for my email address, so hopefully I’ll hear from them.

<3 Changpyeong.

Em in Asia! 2012-01-19 00:10:19

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Walking to lunch a student (male) stopped to say “hi” to me, then pointed at his hair and said “Emily-style.”

Also, after class a student stopped to tell me, in English mind you, that he preferred my old hairstyle and with longer hair I was “a pretty girl.”

I don’t know if it’s because of my haircut or because they know me better, if this is what it takes to get students to willingly talk to me and say more than “hi” or “I’mfinethankyouandyou” or “TEACHER I LOVE YOU” then I’m going to start changing my appearance every week.

Em in Asia! 2012-01-18 22:47:35

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The girls in my 2.2 class just told me that with my new haircut I look like Jimmy Neutron.


My Baller VP

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I think during Christmas time my vice principal bought new sunglasses. Well, to clarify they’re sunglasses that attach to his glasses, meaning he doesn’t need prescription sunglasses. Because they’re clip-ons, they look sort-of like aviators, and I think he’s proud of them because for the last few days he’s been wearing them non-stop. Maybe it’s just that he’s scared of losing them, or maybe he enjoys looking like part of the cast of Top Gun, but for the last few days everytime I see him he’s wearing them, either with the suglasses part down when he first walks in, or with them flipped-up so that way he can see indoors.

My vice principal, by the way, is one of the nicest men I’ve met to date in Korea. He speaks a little English but now that he knows I can speak some Korean he’ll speak to me mostly in Korean. He also saw that I liked to drink tea, so on two seperate occasions he’s given me black tea from a nearby famous mountain called Jirisan (which, is not only very nice of him, but it’s difficult to find black tea in Korea) and a giant jar as big as my head filled with yuja tea (kind of like orange jelly – you take a spoon of it, mix it with water, and voila! citrus tea).

5 days in England and I am still jet lagged :(

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

I have spent the past few days trying to see as many family members as I could and traveled about an hour outside of London to see a family near the sea!  It is very lovely to see family members by myself since I normally have my immediate family with me whenever I see extend family members. I also enjoyed seeing friends who were in London on “holiday” or vacation as we say in America, and some that are studying abroad! I already got lost on the tube by taking the wrong line, but once I got onto the right line I found my way to where I should meet up with friends. I have also been wandering around London (almost aimlessly) but found a very cute vintage shop that I wanted to see on accident. We were in the right area but only found it when we were not looking for it. With Lara, we explored by the Thames River around 4pm in the afternoon which meant the sun was starting to set.  With the sun setting earlier, I begin to become tired about 6pm but then will not be able to sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning for the most of the days I have been here so far. Hopefully, I will get on a better schedule as my internship begins tomorrow, and I have to be ready to leave by 7am….this will be fun! I cannot wait to learn  the ropes and see what will be required of me! Luckily, my new best friend and I had a nap after going to the English beach today (which was well cold).   With that nap with my new best friend , I should be ready for tomorrow! Sleep well!

Lost Sightings:

-Lost on the tube

-My great aunt was under the impression that my family lost me in London and sent a cousin to find me. Sure, I didn’t know exactly where I was but I could most likely find my way back!