Monday, February 18, 2019

Bella in Spain!

I remember when the wheels of the crowded plane touched down on the runway of an airport in Spain. I nervously clutched my passport, trying not to look at the very unflattering picture of myself as we came to a full stop. Even though I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep during those seven hours in the air, I was much too excited to feel tired. I struggled to get my carry-on out of the overhead compartment, and with the help of a very kind flight attendant, I was soon on my way out the door to an adventure of a lifetime.
My name is Bella Clark and I am a sophomore at UNCG majoring in Spanish! Typically, you would find me on floor 8 of the Jackson Library, studying hard for my next exam (or occasionally watching Netflix to avoid my responsibilities) Now, however, I spend my days exploring the beautiful city of Granada, located in the Andalusia province of Southern Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I still find some time to binge-watch a series or two on Netflix, but you will more often find me downtown trying tapas or belting out Dímelo by Enrique Iglesias at the nearest karaoke bar.
Having never traveled to another country before, I have definitely been met with some culture shock, but after a few weeks, I am starting to adjust to the life of a Spaniard. For example, the milk is boxed and unrefrigerated and hamburgers are served rare. As someone who likes their burgers cooked well, this was certainly a surprise. Although this style of burger is a popular preference here in Granada, I have decided that trying it once was more than enough for me! Another thing that I have noticed is that stores will not offer plastic bags, and if they do, they will always encourage you to purchase a reusable bag before giving you a plastic bag. I first saw this as an inconvenience, but I am coming to realize that this city is very environmentally-friendly and I am hoping to carry this idea into my daily life when I return to the United States.
From the moment I stepped off my flight, I have been constantly learning new things. One of these is that even though I have spent many years studying Spanish, I still have a lot to learn. For example, if you are ordering juice, they call it zumo here instead of the very popular jugo that you would learn in Spanish 101. They will understand what you mean, but they definitely have no problem correcting you when you use improper Spanish! I have found myself lacking the occasional vocabulary word when asking for help in a store, and the result is almost always me playing charades with the owner of the store until we can finally come to an understanding of what I am trying to say.
In the same light, however, people here are eager to practice their English skills as well. I remember mentioning that I am from the United States in a little pandelería downtown, and while handing me my change from the purchase, with the biggest grin, the store owner said, “Thank you very much for your visit!” He was so excited to practice his English, and was very understanding when I made small errors with my Spanish. At first, I was afraid to practice my Spanish, but the natives here are so understanding and I know even if my Spanish isn’t flawless, I will still be met with kindness and an eagerness to help. After just a few weeks here, I am finding myself talking with the native Andalusian accent, leaving the endings off of some of my words and adapting to the popular use of vale. (Anyone who has taken Spanish 301 with Profesora Laura Lopez will be familiar with this one!)
Although my visit here has barely begun, I have already had so many opportunities to meet new people and to explore this beautiful country. Last weekend, I was able to visit the Sierra Nevada, a beautiful mountain range located just an hour away from Granada by bus. The 7-mile hike was definitely a workout, but with Daddy Yankee’s Dura playing from a loud speaker in the background, (the remix with Bad Bunny, of course) the walk wasn’t bad at all. I traveled with a group of about 50 other college students, and I was delighted to see that even miles into the hike when we were exhausted, they still wanted to sing and dance to the lively Spanish hits that were playing. I have noticed that any environment is the perfect environment to salsa dance and sing louder than the music that is playing. There is never a dull moment when you are around a group of Spaniards, and I think I am starting to fit in perfectly. From trying fried squid to learning a Spanish line dance, this experience has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I can’t wait to see the adventures that every new day brings me. I hope to write more blog entries which I will advertise on my Instagram page, @bella_rosina for those who are interested; but for now, I will say adiós. ¡Hasta pronto chicos!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Christian in London!

Hello! My name is Christian Cagle, and I am a third year Psychology major with a minor in Biology. Normally, I would be at UNCG staying on campus and being an RA; this semester however, I am having the privilege of studying at Keele University in the United Kingdom! Keele is the largest single-site campus in the UK with over 600 acres of nature trails, student housing, educational buildings, and historical sites. While I was initially nervous to be going on my own to the UK, it has been the most wonderful experience! Coming to a new place or country knowing nobody there and nothing about the area sounds terribly daunting but has been the best growing experience for me. Before I came to the UK, I had hardly ever used public transportation and had never gone far from home on my own. Now, I am able to moderately navigate how to get from place to place here (either with company or by myself), and while I may on occasion miss aspects of home, I have settled in quite nicely here. Some strange and funny differences or quirks I have noticed about the Brits/Keele in comparison to the US/UNCG:

  • A common greeting here (as opposed to “hello, how are you?”) is just simply “You ok?”. This was confusing to me at first because I wondered if they thought something was wrong with me.
  • They love a good “queue”. Seemingly called the “Great British Queue”, this essentially means they are very accustomed to waiting in line, and don’t mind it or complain nearly as much as many Americans I have observed.
  • The British are much less likely to complain and (when sober) are usually very polite and kind to anyone they meet. I added the sober part because when drunk personal space and manners are nonexistent.
  • Chips are not chips and fries are not fries and what even are crisps? Essentially, “skinny” fries are just called fries, “thick” steak fries are called “chips” and all chips are called “crisps”. This alone has been a great struggle when ordering or having a food-based conversation.
  • “College” is different from University. College for students here is held between 16 to 18 years of age and is a more specialized version of high school where they narrow down what their future University major will be down to a few topics and only learn about those things. University is the same as our college and is commonly referred to as Uni.
  • Most students can get an undergraduate degree in three years and they do not have to take general education courses (which saves both time and money!).
  • They love a good party and the chance for alcohol, and they have easy access to both. On campus, there is something called the Students’ Union (most universities have one here). Basically, they are student ran/focused buildings that contain food, lounge areas, a store/shop, advice, and…massive parties. Almost every night there is a party going on at the SU that cost a few pounds (money here) to enter. They have several fully functioning bars, two dance floors with DJs, pool tables, and lots of drunk people.
  • The drinking age here is 18, and so in addition to the SU alcohol is sold at the convince stores on campus and at campus bars/pubs.
  • Pubs are a common British gathering place. Different than the US bar, pubs usually serve good food and double function as a restaurant. They also can serve some families and are a great social space to hang out with friends or meet new people.
  • Most UK students DO NOT HAVE ROOMATES! For the same price or potentially cheaper, the students here get their own rooms in on campus housing. Where it becomes more expensive is when they add sinks or personal bathrooms into the cost, but that is up to how much you want to spend.
  • The textbooks here (at least where I am located) are much less expensive! In fact, I haven’t had to pay for a single textbook because the teacher either made the textbook available online or the library had it available for me to borrow. I will deeply miss this upon my return home.
  • Some classes have multiple instructors that teach them, and they take turns giving lectures.
  • Assignment frequency is so much different! Whereas back home I would have a test or quiz every week/couple of weeks and had homework constantly due, here most classes save assessments for the end of the semester and don’t give homework. If you do have an assignment or test, it is most likely an essay or project. 

As I was typing the above list (which is only a small sample of the overall environment), I realized I had much more to say than I originally thought, and could have kept going if prompted too. Most everything I would have to say would be positive, as this has been an incredible experience and I wish that I could keep my adventure going for longer. Coming here knowing nothing and nobody, and now about to leave feeling as though I could make a life for myself here, and being happy with amazing new friends is so surreal. If this experience has taught me anything, it is that we are capable of much more than we know; I now feel as though I could potentially move to another country I know nothing of and find happiness given the right motivation and environment. I cannot recommend study abroad enough! Try, something new, put yourself out there…the world awaits.
Guard exchange site in London

Telephone booth in London

Big Ben (under renovation) and parliament

Buckingham Palace with two good friends I met at Keele

Keele Hall at my University