Christina Joell is a junior Creative Writing major. She is studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain for the Spring 2017 semester . She cant wait can't wait to explore the city and learn more about the culture there, as well as travel to different countries in Europe! We asked her a few questions about her study abroad and here is how she answered!
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Keeping up with Barcelona !
4. How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?
The education is different in smaller ways. All of my classes are much smaller than my classes in the US. Normally, my classes can be between 10-30 students at Susquehanna. I thought my Creative Writing classes were small, but here my largest class only contains six people! My smallest class only has three (including me). The classes are longer, too. Each class is two hours long and the teachers rarely believe in letting out the class early. My classes are typically an hour long to an hour and a half in the US. There’s an occasional three-hour night class, but that is only once a week. I think the classes are long because the duration of the program is much shorter than normal. On Monday-Thursday, my class schedule is from 11-6pm MW or 11-4pm TTH. There is a 40-minute lunch break built into that time-frame. One thing that is different that I love is that there aren’t classes on Friday’s. It makes it very easy to travel for the weekend! For the teaching style, it is very similar to my classes in the US. The structural aspects are where differences are drawn.
5. What is one thing that you will miss the most about your study away location?
The endless amounts of possibilities. Traveling is easy, the city is huge and there’s so many things to do. At my home town (even in my university town), there’s a limited amount of activities to do and things to see before you have done everything you can in the area. I am close to the city of Philadelphia in my hometown, but it’s an hour train ride that I don’t always feel like taking. In Barcelona, I am in the city. Barcelona is such a huge, beautiful city with so much to do. There’s many monuments to visit, places to shop, restaurants to eat in – the varieties of each are endless. I know at home and sometimes at school I feel bored because there isn’t much that is different, but I don’t feel that way about Barcelona. It’s too hard to attempt to get through the whole city in three months – even a year seems a little short.
9. What type of housing do you have (dorm, homestay, apartment)? What do you like about your living arrangements? Do you wish you had an opportunity for another one? Why?
I am doing a homestay, and I absolutely love the living situation that I am in. Originally, I chose Barcelona partly because it was one of the only programs in Spain that didn’t require you to live in a homestay. I was planning on living in an apartment with other students who were going to be in the program (i.e. most likely American students). However, I realized the benefits to having a homestay (improved language skills, provided meals, and laundry done for you) and I changed my mind at the last minute. I love my living arrangement and I would not trade it if I had to do it again. My roommate and I became very lucky that we were given such a fun, energetic host mother. She doesn’t speak any English, which I thought would be a barrier, but it is not as bad as I expected it to be. Even when it’s hard to communicate, it’s never awkward. She is so incredibly welcoming and I feel at home here.
Explain your first thoughts upon arriving to Spain. Be as expansive as possible and be sure to use as much of your background as you feel comfortable with sharing. (i.e. What you’re used to at home and how it differs, ethnicity, religion, gender etc.)
My main two emotions while arriving to Spain were fear and excitement. I have never been away from my family and friends for this long, so I was nervous, but I was also excited for all that I was going to learn and experience and see. My trip is one of the shortest study abroad programs, but that only made me a feel a little more eased. I was still going to be in a different country where I barely (and mediocrely at that) spoke the native language. They also speak Catalan in Barcelona, and I thought that was going to be more of a challenge than it turned out to be. Everyone speaks Spanish. It was still a scary thought to think that I would be in a different country for three whole months. At school, I had the comfort of knowing that even though I was away from home, I would be able to drive home whenever I wanted. Or that my best friends were on campus to be there for me whenever I needed them. However, I wouldn’t have the luxury of coming home whenever I wanted while abroad, and that was a thought that was dawning on me. What if I hated my homestay? What if I became really homesick? What if I had an emergency and needed to go home? The thoughts flooded my mind.
At home, I am close to the city in Philadelphia, but I was nervous to have to take the metro (subway) here every day. The subways/trains at home aren’t always the safest place to be, especially at night. This is mainly because there’s not a lot of people and it can be dimly lit. Here, I feel more comfortable using the train system than I do at home. It’s not only because of the safety factor, but I genuinely believe that the metro/FGC (another train line) is easier to navigate than the railways near my house. At home, using a car is the norm. However, here it is much easier to take the metro or a bus to where you need to go because they go to almost every section of the city. At Susquehanna, you need a car to get wherever you want to go off campus. Here, I can go across the city easier.
I am an African-American female and I heard (I’m not sure where, or what prompted someone to tell me this) that in Spain, I might experience some discrimination or racism because of my race. That was not the case at all. In fact, I feel safer and more accepted here than I do back at home. People tend not to look at me or acknowledge me, unlike I have experienced in the United States. If they do, it’s because I’m blatantly American and speaking English to my friends in the street. I even had experienced people look at me smiling because I was speaking English because they could understand me, which lead to some conversations about where I was from and why I was in Barcelona. I luckily haven’t experienced anything alarming in two months being here.
One of my biggest fears was how long I was going to take to be accustomed here, or if it would happen at all. Amazingly, I adjusted fairly quickly. I think it had a lot to do with my host mom being so hospitable and my somewhat city knowledge from living near Philadelphia. This entire city welcomed me in and I am not ready to leave it.
Meet Amrita Sood. She's a English Secondary Education major in her junior year. She is studying at NUI in Galway, Ireland for the spring 2017 semester! We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experiences and here's how she answered!
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Gals in Galway
1. ) Since you were involved with service on campus, explain what you are doing in Galway to help the community around you.
At Susquehanna I am very actively involved in community service work. Last semester I worked at the Center for Civic Engagement, while being on the executive board for Habitat for Humanity, as well as a brother in Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity. It is very odd to have so much free time on my hands this semester, and I miss having such an active role in the community, but I have found ways to fulfill my passion in Galway. NUIG has an amazing volunteer program called ALIVE, which connects students to various volunteering opportunities around Ireland, and even around the world. The program allows you to find ways to serve the community by finding the best match for each individual. Currently I have only participated in smaller volunteering options, as I have spent a lot of time travelling and exploring Ireland, but I am planning on being part of the volunteer team that helps set up and run the literary festival in April. ALIVE has many opportunities that range from a semester long obligation, to one time projects, with many of them relating to the education of younger children, and I hope to take advantage of that in the future. Unfortunately, it can be a long process for visiting students to get the proper clearances to work with children, so I have been unable to participate in these opportunities so far, but I am hoping that will change in the near future.
2.) What is your favorite food so far from your study away location? (include a picture if possible)It’s really hard to pick my favorite food, as there are so many options and they’re all delicious. If I had to pick one, I would have to say tea and scones. I know that that doesn’t sound very exotic or different from home, but tea is a big part of Irish culture. The best outings are when we go out for tea, my favorite being Cupan Tae, a little tea house. Usually one will have black tea with a little milk and a plain or raisin scone with jam and butter. While I’ve eaten a lot here, I don’t think anything will measure up to a simple cup of tea.
3.) What are some noticeable differences in culture that would differ from the United States?There are a few differences that I noticed right away, which surprised me, as I didn’t really think that there would be any major differences. The biggest one is really simple; the way people walk. In America we are conditioned to walk on the right side, whether it’s up stairs, on a sidewalk, or even in a store. Here everyone just walks wherever they please, which makes everything slightly more chaotic than necessary. Another thing that has really stood out to me is the number of things that students get discounts for. Almost everywhere we go there is a discount for college students, for clothes, meals, and trips. In America I have rarely come across student discounts unless it’s for a museum.
Another big difference can be found in the times that students go out. Many students go home for the weekend, so they go out during school nights. It’s not considered odd to go out every day of the week but Friday and the weekend. This was pretty shocking to me, and it’s still hard getting used to doing everything during the week, and just staying at home on the weekends.
The Irish way of talking is also pretty blunt, especially when compared to Americans. It’s not that they’re rude, they just enjoying teasing people and saying exactly what they mean. Even though they are very blunt in their manner of speech, Irish people tend to be very friendly overall.
4. ) How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?One very big difference that I’ve noticed is how much laxer college seems here. One reason for this is definitely because I am used to a smaller college, so attendance is a requirement. At NUIG, my lectures vary from smaller classes of around fifty students to ones that have around two hundred. That means that some of my classes don’t take attendance, even when it is obvious that many students aren’t present. In fact, it is normal to not attend lectures regularly, though students will keep up with the readings on their own. In addition to this, the semester itself is shorter, with only twelve weeks of classes, with seminars lasting only ten weeks. Not only is the semester shorter, but classes only meet for two hours a week. There is no set Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule that I am so used to, instead classes are scheduled randomly. For example, one of my English lectures meets from 5-6 on Monday, and 3-4 on Tuesday. This has been one of the oddest things to get used to, I still struggle to fully remember my schedule.
Breaks here are completely different than at Susquehanna. We get Easter Break, a week for Field Trips, and then a Study Week in April, one after the other. That means that we have close to three weeks without any classes right before finals. There are no other breaks within the semester like we have at SU, but the more open class schedule makes short breaks unnecessary. Many students go home every weekend, as most of their trips home only last a couple hours each way. So many students go home every weekend that there is a cloakroom open on Fridays for students to leave suitcases and bags while they have class. Many teachers extend due dates for a few weeks at a time, as they know that assignments tend to be given all at once. In this way the education system seems to focus more on the students’ wellbeing and stress levels than on a strict schedule, but the curriculum itself is still challenging.