Archive for January, 2014

Orientation

Monday, January 20th, 2014

For me, orientation has always been a double-edged sword.

(A brief preface to the writing below: I’m currently staying in a hotel ~1.5 miles from my apartment in a ritzy part of town. I’ll move into my apartment on Thursday.)

Honestly, it is nice to have time to meet everyone else in my program, learn cultural issues, learn about the program, etc. But it has also meant lots of time spent in a conference room, listening to people talk at me. This can be extremely frustrating, a sentiment I’m sure many people my age share.

However, between morning and evening excursions, I’ve managed to do a little exploring.

The first time I went out, I definitely had a “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, however Amman is gorgeous. I’ve been longing the last two days to leave and explore on my own, but I assume skipping orientation would be frowned upon. Oh, well. I have four months to explore.

The above photo is down the street from the front of our hotel. Please excuse the quality/darkness. It was early in the morning when I snuck out to take the picture.

The above photo is my favorite I’ve taken so far. As many of you know, I dislike malls (crowded, indoor buildings made for commercialism? No, thank you). However, the photo crushes many American stereotypes of the Middle East. Yes, Jordan has many malls and- as you can see- they’re just as big American malls. Moreover, the stores within the mall are remarkable similar to those you’d find in America, including a Caribou, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Häagen-Dazs. Globalization is here, my friends, and it’s affecting everywhere.

Orientation

Monday, January 20th, 2014

For me, orientation has always been a double-edged sword.

(A brief preface to the writing below: I’m currently staying in a hotel ~1.5 miles from my apartment in a ritzy part of town. I’ll move into my apartment on Thursday.)

Honestly, it is nice to have time to meet everyone else in my program, learn cultural issues, learn about the program, etc. But it has also meant lots of time spent in a conference room, listening to people talk at me. This can be extremely frustrating, a sentiment I’m sure many people my age share.

However, between morning and evening excursions, I’ve managed to do a little exploring.

The first time I went out, I definitely had a “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, however Amman is gorgeous. I’ve been longing the last two days to leave and explore on my own, but I assume skipping orientation would be frowned upon. Oh, well. I have four months to explore.

The above photo is down the street from the front of our hotel. Please excuse the quality/darkness. It was early in the morning when I snuck out to take the picture.

The above photo is my favorite I’ve taken so far. As many of you know, I dislike malls (crowded, indoor buildings made for commercialism? No, thank you). However, the photo crushes many American stereotypes of the Middle East. Yes, Jordan has many malls and- as you can see- they’re just as big American malls. Moreover, the stores within the mall are remarkable similar to those you’d find in America, including a Caribou, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Häagen-Dazs. Globalization is here, my friends, and it’s affecting everywhere.

Capri, Laundry, and Fresh Fruit

Monday, January 20th, 2014

This week in Sorrento has been a whirlwind of beautiful sights and fun nights.  Between classes, my internship, delicious dinners, and late-night gelato runs I’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone sleep.  This weekend I had the opportunity to go and explore Capri with a large group of the other students here.  After a late night seeing our Professor Marco Spiezia play at the Wine Bar, we met up at 7:45 to take the ferry over to the island.  Despite the early morning and the 4.5 mile hike (and partially thanks to some espressos) we were treated to truly breathtaking views.  Do yourself a favor: if you only ever take one vacation in your lifetime, go and see Capri.  Everyone was taken aback by how unbelievable the water was.  In the photos, it looks as though we’ve photoshopped a postcard onto a green screen.

L'isole di Capri e molto bella!

L’isole di Capri e molto bella!

 

At first, all of us were trying to capture as many pictures as possible to posses the unbelievable sights surrounding us, but slowly we all came to the conclusion that it was negatively impacting our appreciation of the reality of the island, and the cameras slowly were put down as we separated into corners of quiet reflection.  It only really hit me how amazing this experience has already been and will continue to be as I looked out at the hazy, almost nonexistent division between sky and sea.  It already feels like a dream, but I know that I am infinitely lucky to have experienced Capri, and that I have the opportunity to return before I leave.

Le mie Amiche Melissa e Haley con me a Capri!

Le mie Amiche Melissa e Haley con me a Capri!

 

On another note, I continue to be faced with new experiences that differ greatly from what I have become accustomed to in America.  Doing my laundry this weekend was far easier than I expected…that is, until I went to dry it.  There are very few clothes dryers in Italy, and we are expected to dry our clothes on a rack in the open air.  This is not necessarily problematic; on Sunday, when I did my laundry and put it outside it was overcast, but breezy, and I assumed they’d be dry by Monday morning.  Then it rained.  And rained.  And poured.  And then rained some more.  My clothes are still outside, sopping wet, because bringing them inside would create an enormous puddle in my tiny shared bedroom.  I was understandably frustrated by this, but after a good evening and a great gelato with my new friends, I’ve decided to pay to dry my clothes at a laundromat down the street tomorrow (it’s supposed to rain for the rest of the week) and chalk it up as a learning experience.  Next time, I’ll check the weather BEFORE I do my laundry.

I’ve finally found the fresh market and bought a bunch of fruit and vegetables fro 2.50 euro, which is far cheaper than the local supermercato.  The oranges are enormous and so delicious that I don’t think I’ll ever want to eat another orange in America again.  In other food related news, I can now drink straight espressos, so all in all I’d say I’m assimilating to the Italian lifestyle pretty well.

Un cappuccino al bar a Capri!

Un cappuccino al bar a Capri!

I’m planning a trip to Rome in the near future, so my next blog post will probably have to wait until after that, so for now I’ll leave you with this, a line from a popular Italian song that I feel describes my first week in Sorrento:

“Un bellissima spreco di tempo/Un’impresa impossibile/l’invenzione di un sogno/una vita in un giorno”

-”Baciami Anocora” da Jovanotti

“A beautiful waste of time, an impossible task, the invention of a dream, a life in a day.”

Arthur’s Seat

Monday, January 20th, 2014

I finished my first week here in Edinburgh by climbing Arthur’s Seat yesterday. It’s an extinct volcano on the edge of the city which upon climbing offers some incredible views. The International Student Center (ISC) led a bunch of us there. It was a much steeper hike than I anticipated! Also fairly muddy. (Protip: don’t wear converse while climbing Arthur’s Seat!) Definitely worth it though! There are ravens (or are they crows, I can’t tell) nesting in the sides of the cliff and they fly all around as you climb. I think I’ll be climbing Arthur’s Seat a few more times while I’m here. There are a ton of different peaks and cliffs to venture up and I want to explore it more.

 

The Second Week

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Social

Last Monday a few of us went to a pub where a band was playing. It was two older guys on guitar and a mandolin who have been playing locally in Cork for 15 years. It was very relaxing, folksy kind of music. The pub was tiny, we got there early and managed to get one of the three tables, but it was full by the time the music started.

The university hosts many international nights for students, pub crawls and admissions into clubs and such the past two Fridays (because most of the Irish go home for the weekend). The first one I went to and enjoyed but this Friday a few of us went out on our own to find a drink. Cork is very safe as long as you’re not stupid and we always come and leave together. I feel very comfortable in the city, although I still have trouble finding some things. On Wednesday one of my friends and I both have the day off from classes so we wander around the city, get lunch and explore during the day.

Coursework

Classes are still fairly low key, but I expect they will be picking up this week. On Saturday my International Management and Marketing class is going on a fieldtrip to Waterford. We will be visiting 3 companies. It sounds like it will be a lot of fun, I’ve wanted to tour these places anyway so to be able to tie it into school is fantastic. What’s even better is it’s free; they include transportation, guided tours, lunch and dinner.

Blarney Stone

the Ladies

I’ve been told that when I visited Ireland as a toddler we went to Blarney, but seeing the grounds and the castle I feel like I should have remembered something so beautiful. A larger group of international students went, about ten of us, and we didn’t think there was much more than the castle and stone to see there. We spent about three hours wandering around the grounds and gardens and meadows, stopping seemingly every twenty yards for another round of pictures.

view

Once we made it back to the castle we slowly made our way up, stopping along the way for pictures and (I’m ashamed to admit) for me to calm down a bit because the tight, narrow staircase that seemed endless being unable to see the top was a tad scary. A shout out to my father belongs here for carrying me up those steps eighteen years ago.

staircase

I knew you had to lie down and bend backwards a bit to reach the stone, and there’s a lovely gentleman there who helps you and talks you through it. There are bars underneath so you won’t fall out of the castle completely but even still, leaning backward like that and gripping the bars is a bit frightening. Everyone managed to do it though and we all took pictures of each other.

kiss stone group shot

Kinsale (Again)

I had such a good time at Kinsale that I went back on Sunday, bringing two other girls as well as the friend I went with last week. We ate at the Hamlet House again, and the food was still excellent.

We managed to walk up to the fort, Fort Charles, which was a long walk and uphill on the way there but downhill thankfully on the way back. It’s about 3 kilometers each way. On the way up the sun was shining, the tide was just coming in and we could see the ocean.

road we traveled

We must have stopped a dozen times for pictures. (The new header, the picture at the top was my first attempt at a panoramic shot. The fort is in the left corner and you can see the town, estuary and ocean.)

ocean from Kinsale View at Kinsale

Charles Fort is a star shaped fort, which apparently was common in the last seventeenth-century. It was designed in the 1600s and used as recently as the Irish Revolution in 1922-1923. There is the bottom walk, which is a gravel walkway on the ground and then another path of grass that is on the upper level, so you can see outside the fort. It is very pretty because the tops of all the stone work is covered in grass which makes it look less formidable than most forts.

me at fort fort map mosaic

Unfortunately about ten minutes after we had paid to get inside the fort it began to drizzle. We took a few more pictures and explored one of the corners of the fort at the top but ultimately decided that we did not want to make the walk back if the rain were to pick up, so we headed back down the winding hillside.

We finished the day at the Poet’s Corner, which if you recall from the previous posting, had the most amazing “sticky” hot chocolate.

It was quite a busy weekend and the constant walking hopefully worked off a few of the beers from earlier in the week. I am hoping to post around Wednesday or Thursday to talk about some places in Cork City that I’ve been to, as well the usual post next Monday.


A Couple of Things

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Well, folks, I made it.

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I left home at 8:30 Friday morning and arrived at my hotel in Amman at about 8:30 on Saturday.

So a quick couple of things before I go to sleep:

1. My phone does not work here, so if you call/text me, I will not get it.

2. If you want to contact me, send me an email, Facebook message, or message me over Line/Viber.

3. Excuse the lack of photos so far. I’ll do my best to take some good photos tomorrow!

A Couple of Things

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Well, folks, I made it.

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I left home at 8:30 Friday morning and arrived at my hotel in Amman at about 8:30 on Saturday.

So a quick couple of things before I go to sleep:

1. My phone does not work here, so if you call/text me, I will not get it.

2. If you want to contact me, send me an email, Facebook message, or message me over Line/Viber.

3. Excuse the lack of photos so far. I’ll do my best to take some good photos tomorrow!

The Journey Begins

Friday, January 17th, 2014

So here I am. Midnight, the night before I leave, and, in typical college student fashion, I’m still packing.

Tomorrow- or today, rather- I leave for Amman, Jordan. 

(A word of warning, I’m afraid this first post will not be amusing, instead filled with formalities. Bear with me, and I promise my posts will get better.)

First, for those who don’t know me, a brief introduction:

My name is Benjamin Hermerding. I am a junior, political science major at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I was born and raised into a family of eight in Brainerd, a small-ish town in central Minnesota. Unsurprisingly, given my major, politics is very important to me and will likely be a common topic throughout my writing.

Also, some answers to questions I’ve been asked repeatedly:

No, I’ve never been to the Middle East before. And no, I don’t know anyone with whom I’m going. Yes, I have studied Arabic and will continue my studies in Amman, along with some regional studies as well. And yes, I feel very safe and am VERY excited.

Am I nervous? Of course. I assume anyone who leaves their family and friends to go to a foreign country is nervous. But I am determined not to let my nervousness consume me and plan on making the most of my experience while abroad.

Finally, thank you for reading and following my adventures. I’m happy to take your questions, but ask not to ask anything too complicated yet. After all, my journey is only beginning.

The Journey Begins

Friday, January 17th, 2014

So here I am. Midnight, the night before I leave, and, in typical college student fashion, I’m still packing.

Tomorrow- or today, rather- I leave for Amman, Jordan. 

(A word of warning, I’m afraid this first post will not be amusing, instead filled with formalities. Bear with me, and I promise my posts will get better.)

First, for those who don’t know me, a brief introduction:

My name is Benjamin Hermerding. I am a junior, political science major at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I was born and raised into a family of eight in Brainerd, a small-ish town in central Minnesota. Unsurprisingly, given my major, politics is very important to me and will likely be a common topic throughout my writing.

Also, some answers to questions I’ve been asked repeatedly:

No, I’ve never been to the Middle East before. And no, I don’t know anyone with whom I’m going. Yes, I have studied Arabic and will continue my studies in Amman, along with some regional studies as well. And yes, I feel very safe and am VERY excited.

Am I nervous? Of course. I assume anyone who leaves their family and friends to go to a foreign country is nervous. But I am determined not to let my nervousness consume me and plan on making the most of my experience while abroad.

Finally, thank you for reading and following my adventures. I’m happy to take your questions, but ask not to ask anything too complicated yet. After all, my journey is only beginning.

The First Week

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

To start off, I’m going to admit I have no idea how to go about blogging as I have never done it myself. My plan is to just wing it and will try to find some sort of style/order as I go.

I am at junior at the University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia and I am studying at University College Cork in Cork City, Ireland until May 31st.

I’m planning on posting every Monday, give or take. Thanks in advance for reading!

First Day

This was a bit of a rocky start. Without any sleep I came into the city without the basics such as food, bedding, towels, etc. and it was cold, rainy and windy, which is a common day for Cork. I thought I had planned ahead by booking an evening flight, so I would come into Ireland in the morning after sleeping on the plane. Of course I didn’t sleep on the plane because who can while sitting up, being bumped into every few minutes, and day dreaming about being able to afford first class (where they give you slippers and a foot rest and even partitions between each seat). So I needed to push through the day without sleeping in the hopes I would avoid as much jet lag as I could. I managed to find a store with pillows, blankets and towels and bought a baguette and bottle of water as my first meal in Ireland. I managed to take the bus back to my apartment successfully. I managed to get connected to wifi to contact my parents and boyfriend back home that I got in safely. Then I managed to cry for an hour because my room was cold, my bathroom was dirty and I hadn’t slept in 35 hours.

The next day was incredible. I met an amazing group of people on my way to orientation (and who thankfully knew how to get to campus). At orientation I met people from all over the world, learned about UCC, the campus, classes, societies and clubs, talked with professors and had a great meal at a pub with new friends.

Social

I haven’t become close with any Irish students yet, the new school has a huge amount of international students. (Although a group of intoxicated Irish high schoolers wanted a picture of my friends and I because they were convinced all Americans were bound to become famous someday). I have met people from all over the US, Australia, Denmark, Germany and Italy. Everyone I’ve met has been incredibly friendly and I’ve never met nicer people than the friend’s I’ve made this last week. It has been so exciting to begin planning weekend trips to various places in Ireland as well as Europe.

Coursework

I am taking a variety of courses; marketing (for my major) as well as Irish Floklore and Irish History and all of them seem amazing so far. Classes here are hugely different than American classes, in good ways. They are much more relaxed first off. Most classes have a final paper and final exam, and all the professors refuse to answer any questions about either assessments (topic, requirements, sources, format, etc) until February, which is nice because the first day we just jump into the subject rather than be overwhelmed by all the coursework for the entire year in every class. Most of my classes only meet once a week, because the Irish students take 6-7 classes per semester while at my school at home 5 classes is the average schedule, give or take 1 class.

My Management and Marketing class has a different professor every week, so that each department member can teach their own expertise. We are also doing several field trips for that class in order to meet with management and marketing teams at companies like Jameson Whiskey, Waterford Crystal, the Titanic museum, among others.

In my Irish Folklore class, which meets twice a week, we have a different professor depending on the day. On Tuesdays we focus on old literature with one professor, and on Thursdays we focus on customs and traditions with a different professor (in a different building, at a different time).

Kinsale, Ireland

The weather was beautiful Saturday (Jan 11); I took a day trip to Kinsale, which is right on the coast. It was an inexpensive one hour bus ride from the city. Kinsale was such a cute town. Once it’s a bit warmer some of my friends and I want to go back to do either whale watching or rent a boat for the day. There is a star shaped fort there, which my friends and I did not see (it was about a three mile walk each way) and Desmond Castle, which was too small to be a castle and is closed in the winter. Most recently it was used as a work house during the Potato Famine. Desmond Castle

But there were some beautiful churches and lots of different shops and art galleries. Kinsale is known for their brightly colored houses and shops, which I thought was a joke but every building was so brightly colored it was like stepping into Munchin land after being in dreary old Kansas. We went it to an amazing café/book shop called “The Poet’s Corner”.IMG_1147 I had a “sticky” hot chocolate; where they give you a cup of boiling milk and a hunk of dark chocolate on a popsicle stick and you stir it in as it melts. It was very delicious, very chocolaty. I’d take the bus out again just for some more of that. (To be honest I’ve already made plans to go back this weekend)IMG_1137