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6 posts categorized "Charles Wasson"

11/29/2010

Activities with Host Family

Being in the Liberal Arts program allows you to develop and improve your spanish skills very fast. I realized how much I learned today when I was with my Host family. I can completely hold a normal conversation about anything it feels like now and I have to say it felt pretty good. By improving on my spanish skills so much I feel like I was able to open up a lot of doors with my family. For example, with my spanish family we enjoy going out to get churros with chocolate, go to a local restaurant with friends to play cards, going to the spanish movie theater, helping my father with working in his country house garden, and much more.

(here is a pic of my pop delivering his olives)

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Today I was fortunate enough to go to the Olive oil factory with my father. It was really cool and fun to see how they produce olive oil in Spain and how natural it is! Also, it was a great experience to have with my spanish father because he is very passionate about growing and producing his own food. We drove about an hour out of Alicante, delivered the Olives, and left with a bunch of money (he decided to sell his olive oil this time). When we got home we put all the christmas decorations up as well to surprise my spanish brother when he gets home. Overall, a very successful day!

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CIEE Classes: Politics and Terrorism, Camino de Santiago, Spain Through its Popular Culture

This semester through CIEE I have been taking classes on Politics and Terrorism, the Camino de Santiago, and Spain through its Popular Culture. Personally, I have loved all of these classes and am very impressed/surprised with how much I have learned. The work load for each class varys in regards to homework, but each class has "major" assignments which all include A mid term, A large research paper, a presentation, and a final. However, each class is taught very differently.

Politics and Terrorism is a very hands on class. Each day in class you will be engaged in debates and discussions on various topics ranging from how to define a terrorist to studying every minor detail of the ETA. I really enjoy this class because it seems very active. Every day is different and there is hardly a feeling that you are being lectured. Also, it's interesting to hear other peoples opinions on a very important topic in todays age. Outside of the classroom we continue to discuss and debate through a blog where we can post different topics and current events. Also, after studying Islam and its politics (history and basic concepts) we visited a mosque and were able to spend two hours speaking to a muslum. Here we were able to ask questions about the treatment of women in Islamic countries and other questions regarding this religion. To say the least it was very interesting to hear from an individual like this because of  his different perspective of this religion. Our teacher, Jaime M. Nieman Gonzalez, is very knowledgeable about all topics discussed in class and enjoys having everyone participate in class. He is a great teacher and I would recommend this class to anyone because you will honestly learn a lot. 

The Camino de Santiago is a very worthwhile class to take as well. At first, I thought I was going to only learn about the religion of Spain, but in reality, I feel like I have also learned a lot about the culture and by participating in this class I think I have a better understanding of Spain, its origins, its importance on religion, and culture. The class itself is very interesting and never boring. This class consists of many powerpoint slides, video clips, lectures from the teacher, and also discussion. We also take group quizzes (they don't count, just to review and make sure we are understanding what we are currently learning) and I really like this since you learn A LOT during this class. The mock quizzes are actually really fun and it's rewarding to see and realize how much you have learned. Also, I have been surprised by how much I hear about the Camino de Santiago outside of class. My host father loves to talk about the camino de santiago because he completed part of it, there are a lot of movies/tv shows that incorporate it, and also it just seems to be a general topic in the streets or bars. Outside of class we receive occasional homework assignments that is to prepare us for our next class. Also, we recently went and saw a movie at the spanish cinema that was called "The Way" which was about the Camino de Santiago. It was really fun to go as a class and it was free (CIEE payed for it!). Our teacher Juan Antonio López Luque is incredible and is a extremely talented teacher. I was very surprised to learn today that this was his first year with CIEE! Thanks to him I have learned more than I could have imagined about the history behind the Camino de Santiago but also about architecture, the different caminos, life in the middle ages, feudalism, and the culture of Spain. I can also say that in general he is a great guy who really cares about what he is teaching and is very passionate about it. Overall, great teacher!

Spain through its Popular culture has of course been an incredible class. I love this class because inside the class we learn everything from the symbolism of the spanish flag to the music and fiestas of Spain. If anyone is going to be partaking in the liberal arts program through CIEE take this class! It's really rewarding/cool to learn about what really makes Spain what it is and then to see it everyday outside of class. This class has really allowed me to understand Spain a lot more and has actually made me feel more comfortable here since I feel more apart of the Spanish society. The class is taught by watching numerous spanish movies that capture different aspects of spanish society or history (for example sexism or machismo in spain), lectures, and powerpoint slides. Outside of this classroom we have gone to a nearby restaurant to have tapas and visited a museum that discussed the art and history of Alicante (all free and payed for by CIEE!).  The professor for this class, Luis López Belda, is awesome! A very friendly and outgoing teacher, I have obviously been able to learn a lot about the Spanish culture through Luis, but he has also taught me a lot of spanish slang words which has helped me with my proficiency in spanish.

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Granted, i can not speak on behalf of every class offered by CIEE, but these three classes have been incredible and I feel that I have learned a lot. Granted the area of studies are very interesting but I think what really makes all these classes so great are the teachers. They all are very different but all of my classes have a very relaxed and good atmosphere in which I can learn (even when everything is in spanish). All the teachers here are very patient and will do anything to help you succeed in and outside of the classroom, you just need to put in the time and effort. With this said, don't expect the teachers to take into consideration too much that you are not fluent in spanish, they grade just as hard here as they do in the United States even with the language barrier so be sure to leave a lot of time to study and to do the term papers.

11/08/2010

Sevilla Trip with CIEE program

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This weekend our whole program, including all the levels here in Alicante, visited Sevilla. We travelled by bus, a 7 to 8 hour bus ride, and arrived Friday night. We quickly checked into our hotel and went to a Flamenco show. It was incredible to see, it was great to view this performance since it really captures the culture of Spain. Following the show we had dinner (we didn't have dinner all together, but instead CIEE gave us 40 euros each to take care of our meals for the weekend) and then continued to explore Sevilla. The following day we visited many places, including palaces, churches, and other hot spots in Sevilla, all accompanied with a private tour (the tours are with your program alone so there is usually one tour guide for 20 people). Needless to say, the program trip to Sevilla was awesome and basically everything was included; flamenco show, tour guide, and the 40 euros given to buy food throughout the weekend, breakfast was included at the hotel. I really enjoyed traveling to another part of Spain with my program because I really felt like I got to see a lot of that place, rather than traveling alone and trying to organize events all on your own. It was nice to have someone else do that for me and just made the weekend that much more enjoyable.

10/09/2010

Life in Alicante, Spain (Homestay)

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(view from my apartment)

 

Deciding to live with a home stay can be a hard decision for some; it's very nerve racking to think you will be living with complete strangers you don't even know while having a language and culture barrier. However, for me, the decision to live with a home stay family was one of the best choices I've made here in Spain.

By living with a home stay family, you really get to live in a spaniards daily life. You see how spanish family members and friends interact with one another, you hear the spanish language constantly, you eat spanish dishes daily (lunch and dinner mostly, there really isn't "breakfast" here), and you get the opportunity to become part of another family.

My proficiency in spanish has improved drastically while living in my home stay family. Each day I learn new spanish words by either listening to my family or asking questions. Take advantage of your family, ask them how to say different sayings or words because they are more than willing to help. Also, remember that this family has agreed to have you, so they know you will not be fluent. Don't be afraid to ask them for help. I recommend bringing a small notebook, that way when you hear/learn new words, you can write it down with the english translation so you won't forget it later. It's a great idea because at the end of the program you can look back and see how much you learned as well.

From my experience, the spanish food is great in a home stay. You really get to try dishes that are not common to taste in the United States. I have had paella, shrimp, veggie burgers, fried vegetables, soup, many different types of fish and meat, pasta, cheese, eggs, beans, and bread. The difference in the food is that it is all fresh, or home grown. My family has a house in the country side where they grow many different types of fruits and vegetables (they also have hens for eggs). I really lucked out with my home stay considering my padre studied cooking in Italy for a couple of years (Sorry, but I don't think this is common for most home stays).

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However, it's very important to know that here in Alicante, seafood is VERY popular. If you don't like seafood it doesn't mean you shouldn't come to Alicante, but I would tell your home stay family if you don't like it or not sooner rather than later (same goes to vegetarians). At least try it though, because that is part of the fun while studying abroad, have a open mind. You never know, you might like it!

I think the most rewarding part of my home stay so far is that I feel apart of this family and not as a guest. I help the family with dishes and cleaning up after eating, I help walk the dog, and also am currently learning the family prayer which is stated before each meal. This may not seem really fun, but it makes me feel apart of the family and immersed in the spanish culture. My best advice is to just assume that this is your family in the United States and becoming comfortable in your house and around your spanish family will be a lot easier. Granted, David is right with the fact that in a home stay it is a lot harder to make spanish friends your age, but at the same time you have a family (you could also have siblings that are around your age which is really fun since they will take you out and you can meet their friends). With a family, you can learn all about their past, what it was like growing up in Spain, and you can also watch spanish home videos with your family (which is pretty funny). However, as for the night life, you won't be spending time with your parents out in the barrio or the puerta.

With that said, by becoming apart of a family, you need to realize you have responsibilities! This means that when you're brother or sister is studying for a test, you can't be blasting music in your room (for the most part the apartments aren't very big so your own personal space is really just your room). Also, it's very important to eat at home with the family for almost every meal (meaning you have to leave the university for lunch and come back to the campus if you have class again, which can be annoying). Furthermore, some friday or saturday nights you may have dinner with other families or friends from spain, so going out with your friends right away might not be possible (you can always meet up with them after).

Overall, deciding between the dorms and a home stay is a very tough choice, but in the end it is about what you want to get out of your experience in Alicante. As you can see, David and I had very different set goals before coming to Alicante, so that's why we chose different living conditions (despite this we are great friends).  Think about what you are looking to get out of your study abroad experience and I'm sure you will be able to decide easily (more or less).

10/05/2010

Vineyard Visit

The CIEE program offers many great activities while studying abroad here. There are water sport classes, cooking classes, dancing classes, trips to Granada, and trips to water parks (just to name a few). Also, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that come up around the city! I was able to see and even touch the World Cup trophy because it was traveling around Spain after the victory in South Africa (it took three and a half hours of waiting in line but it was worth it).

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For me, one of the most memorable activities I participated in was visiting a bodega (vineyard). We traveled by bus for about an hour and arrived in a very rural part of Spain, and to say the least it was beautiful! There were rolling hills, and of course, acres upon acres of grapes. When we entered we were provided a tour with one of the vineyard employees. The tour was extremely fun and interesting due to our tour guide. She was beyond friendly, very bright, and entertaining. In fact, she allowed everyone in our group to try different kinds of wine, and also allowed us to take one bottle of wine home for free for our home stay families! More importantly, she showed us the amount of work and time that goes into producing wine, and to say the least it was incredible to see. It was even more astounding to learn that there were only 5-6 employees at this relatively large vineyard! Overall, I will never forget visiting this vineyard. I think by visiting a vineyard I was really able to observe an important part of the culture of Spain, so in other words, if you study abroad in Alicante, visit the vineyard!! IMG_0280

09/30/2010

First Impressions of Alicante, Spain

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    I have currently been studying abroad in Alicante, Spain for roughly a month now and this will be my first blog entry. In this blog entry I'm going to address my first impressions I had when I arrived in Alicante, Spain.

    Like every student who studies abroad, I was of course nervous but extremely excited to begin this adventure. I felt a little overwhelmed with having to rely on my spanish skills to communicate with the program directors and staff; they mean it when they say there won't be any english! At first, this seemed very demanding and intimidating, but with an open mind, the tenacity to try, and not being afraid of making mistakes, this program has already aided me in taking large strides in improving my spanish skills.

I think the main reason why I have already learned so much is due to the program staff here in Alicante. The CIEE program staff here is INCREDIBLE. Francisco, Manolo, Beatriz, Eva-Lena, Jennifer, and the various teachers are all extremely supportive. They realize what it's like to be a foreigner trying to fit in and will do anything to help. They are very patient, kind, and encouraging when it comes to the language barrier as well, so don't be embarrassed when you take a lot of time trying to form sentences in spanish! Not only are they supportive with helping you learn, but they are really fun! Take advantage of talking to them during orientation, they know a lot about the city and fun things to do.

As for the city itself, I have found that it is obviously very different from any city in the United States. To me, the city of Alicante seems very arabic, it may because of the architecture, the forever looming castle that looks over the city, the street layout, or just the heat, but it is not your stereotypical european city. Personally, I love this because by being in Alicante I don't feel as if I'm just another American studying abroad in Europe. Instead, I am located in a city that is completely different from the rest of Europe, so that just makes Alicante more special to me. Also, the city is incredibly gorgeous and in a perfect location. There are many fountains and statues scattered throughout the various neighborhoods and you are directly on the beach. Take advantage of the beach and all it's activities when you first arrive (if you are studying in the fall) because when it gets closer to winter things start to slow down in this area.

As for the weather be aware that it gets extremely hot here! Before studying abroad in Alicante, Spain I had been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of other places in the world including Kenya, Tanzania, Cuba, Peru, and other various countries. I can honestly say that I have never been to a hotter place before.... the first couple weeks here I had a lot of trouble sleeping because of the heat. I guess you could say that the heat makes the beach that much better, but for me the heat really got to me at first. Definitely drink a lot of water when you arrive and continue to do so, it will make your experience here much more enjoyable if you do.

Overall, to sum up my first impressions of the Liberal arts program here in Alicante I believe I really lucked out with picking Alicante. To be honest, I initially was attracted to Alicante just because of the beach, but in reality this city has so much to offer. It is small enough that you won't have trouble meeting and keeping spanish friends (because you will see them often either in el barrio or at the beach) but also large enough that you won't ever get bored or feel as if you have seen and experienced everything in Alicante. So ultimately, my first impressions of Alicante and the CIEE liberal arts program are great!