Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Aliki S. - Canada, Spain - Fall 2012

Hello!! I’ve been in Spain now for about a month and I’ve learned so much in such a short time. It’s hard to believe that it’s already October! But time flies, right? Spain is such a beautiful place with beautiful people. The lifestyle here is what you could call, more relaxed. The people move at a slower pace and really enjoy their time with friends and family...it’s wonderful! It’s hard to sum up all that’s happened over the past month into one blog and I don’t know exactly where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning and see where that takes us!
Upon arriving is Spain, I made friends with a group of five or six other students who were also studying abroad this semester in various areas of Spain. We met on the plane and then parted ways once we arrived in Madrid. A couple of us still keep in touch; it’s nice to have friends in different parts of the country that you can visit and stay with. My first obstacle was finding my apartment after arriving in Madrid. I am studying through ISEP, which is the most independent, study abroad program. I was responsible for finding my own place to live and getting there (on a budget). I took two Metros and a bus to my town (at the time) of Brunete which is roughly 40 kilometers outside Madrid’s city center. I think if I hadn’t been hauling an overstuffed suitcase, duffle and backpack it would have been a relatively easier trip (pack light!), but I’ll know for next time!! My university was in the next town over, Villanueve de la Cañada and after only four days of staying in Brunete, I moved into a house in Cañada (if something isn’t working for you, change it!). I’m now within walking distance to my university as well as the grocery store, restaurants, bars, the bank, etc. I did, however, buy a bike (arguably the best purchase I’ve made thus far) which I ride all the time. My house is wonderful! Although I do live will all guys -- one Hungarian, one Chilean, one American, and two Spaniards. The landlords also live with us, but they live in the basement.
When I was accepted and placed into my university here, I also became a part of the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) chapter at my university. This is a program available to students enrolled in universities within the European Union which allows students to study easily in other countries. The program is run, at least at my university, by upperclassman or alumni who have already studied in various countries through ESN. They are proud of their program and eager to help any of us with school, jobs, places to eat, parties to go to...anything! They’ve been so great and I’ve made friends with many of the student coordinators. Being a part of this program has been, so far, the greatest experience so far in Spain. We had a 10 Day Welcome “Week” where we learned about the university and registering for classes, took trips to Salamanca and Segovia, went on guided tours of Madrid, attended parties all over the city and met the rest of the study abroad students who would be attending my university this semester. It was a GREAT way to meet new people and to also familiarize myself with the surrounding area cost effectively! I would highly recommend staying as active as possible, not only to take your mind off of home, in order to get the most out of your stay. Erasmus connected me with students from similar situations around from all over Europe. I am so glad I chose to participate in every event possible. And...it was really, really fun!
One aspect of Spain that took some getting used to was the academic system. I had my preliminary registration form with classes I thought I might like to take once I got here, but wasn’t sure how to go about registering. Classes technically started September 10th, but I didn't have to register for classes until September 21th -- two weeks later. Within those two weeks, I had the opportunity to go to various classes and see which I might be interested in taking. However, many classes didn’t start until September 24th, so there wasn’t an option to do that. I’m just now, FINALLY, settling into my academic schedule. I’m taking:
-  Civilization and History of Spain
-  Geography and Politics of the World
-  Theory and Practice of Translation
-  Commercial, Administrative and Touristic Translation
-  Spanish for Foreigners
-  Translation from Spanish to English
-  Translation from English to Spanish
Seven classes may seem like a lot, but the courses here aren’t like the ones back home. Some meet for only an hour a week, while others are three hours a week. It isn’t anything too crazy, but just make sure you’re in contact with the right people (coordinators, registration, etc).
If you’re coming to Europe to study, don’t worry about getting around. The public transportation is great! We have a pretty efficient bus system in my town, and Madrid’s Metro system is easy, cheap and efficient!! If you’re using public transportation frequently, I would recommend getting a monthly transportation pass which allows you to travel an unlimited amount for a set rate each month.
One aspect that took some getting used to was the siesta. Every day between (depending on where you are) 2:00 and 5:00PM, everything shuts down. Banks do not reopen, but everything else usually does and stays open until 8:00 or 9:00PM. It’s great when you’re exhausted and need a nap! But sometimes can get a little frustrating when you’re in need of groceries. OH! And don’t expect anything to be open on Sundays except restaurants. I’ve had many Spaniards tell me that Sundays are reserved for drinking coffee, soaking up the sun, and spending time with family and friends. I think it’s absolutely wonderful! This practice is just one of MANY that I’ll be bringing back home with me come February.
If you have any questions, concerns or you just want to chitchat about the study abroad experience, I’d be more than happy to help! Feel free to email me – ask Alice for my e-mail address – or leave comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. You’re all in for an AMAZING experience!! I’m excited for you :)



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like an amazing experience!

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra B. said...

I am so glad you are having such a wonderful time! To think.. we almost went on this together! Glad to hear you got the important things figured out (for the most part) by now. Wow! You were definitely right - ISEP is super independent. How did you approach the many obstacles you came across? You spoke a little about registering for classes. Could you go into a bit more detail about how you narrowed down classes, and how/where you received help? Also, did you research all the transportation on your own?

Excited to hear from you soon! Fb me for any too-personal details! :) ¡Muchas gracias, amiga!

7:13 PM  
Blogger Biba Beckwith said...

Hi Aliki!!

Your experience sounds amazing. It sounds like your transition is gone quite smoothly. I'm planning on studying at Comillas, in Madrid, next semester! I'm pretty excited but also a little nervous. If you could come up with 10 tips that you wish you knew before going oversees, what would they be? Clothes, school work, essentials etc... What has been your most difficult obstacle and the most rewarding experience? And lastly, have you traveled out side or spain? One of my many goals for the semester is to try to visit Portugal, Amsterdam, France, England and many more- how do you recommend planning trips like that?

Sorry for all the questions but I would really like to see your perspective!
Thanks so much and hope you are having so much fun!!


6:10 PM  
Blogger Rachel Heller said...

Aliki! It sounds like you are having so much fun in Spain. I had no idea you were studying abroad in Spain at all when we were talking about it ( this is Rachel Heller by the way). I am so glad I will have someone to help me with all the "how to's". I am sure you will be hearing from me and I hope you are having an amazing time in Spain!

3:08 PM  
Blogger Mary Zizzo said...

Hi Aliki,
I hope you are enjoying your time in Madrid! I really enjoyed how you talked about having two weeks to be able to try out classes so thta you were able to ensure fully enjoying them and not being in a class you couldn't stand. I see that your ISEP program is really independent, those aren't things I even plan on doing soon in Chicago! I was wondering if you could tell me if it is easy to travel to other countries on the weekends and what you find important to bring when you do. Enjoy your trip!

1:15 AM  
Blogger asmith said...


Registering for classes was, how do I put this, a pain in the you know what. One thing I've learn from being here is that patience is extremely important. I know you're not going through ISEP, so I'm sure the process will be slightly different for you, but here's what it was like for me...

I had my list of classes from the preliminary registration form. For the first week I didn't go to any classes (because I'm a bad student, but also because it was my orientation week). The second week I tried to go try out some of my classes, but I found that many of them would not start until after the "trial period" was over -- which meant the following week. I have here an international coordinator and also a coordinator of my program, translation and interpretation. So, I tried to meet with my program coordinator because classes aren't posted online with the times and descriptions, room numbers and professors like they are at home. What happens is on the first day of school you need to find the "timetables" which are very confusing diagrams of when classes will be held and in what room. These are posted on various cork boards around the school (in different buildings). BUT, unless you know how to read them (which I did not, and still don't), they are not very helpful. It took me four days to meet with the coordinator of my program, but we met and she gave me the class times etc. for the classes on my preliminary registration form. I also added a couple more because I wanted to make sure I was taking enough credits to fulfill 4 credits back home. I had to fill out my "matricula" and take it to the international coordinator. The matricula is basically a learning agreement that says you commit to taking x, y and z classes, that you have to go to at least 50% of the classes to take the final, and that the final dates are nonnegotiable. I thought I was set after that, but it turns out that the following week when I tried to go two of my classes, they didn't start until the FOLLOWING following week. Talk about a big headache. There were other people here studying through ISEP from the US as well and we did a lot of Facebooking to try and figure out the craziness, but we did it! So, that was my experience...

Yes, I did research transportation on my own. The Metro system works just like the 'L' in Chicago, but the one in Madrid is way better. So, in Madrid, it's not difficult to get anywhere. The bus system is sort of a trial and error thing. I did a lot of asking people who were waiting at bus stops and the bus drivers if I was on the correct bus. It's not that difficult to maneuver once you've figure out how it works. There are bus schedules as almost every bus stop and they tell you where it goes. Also, when in doubt...ask someone!! That's the best advice I can give. It may seem intimidating, but people are nice and they are happy to help.

De nada, chica. Dime si tienes alguna dud! Besitos!


8:56 AM  
Blogger asmith said...


Ten tips, huh? I'll try :)

1. Bring transition clothes. I really wish I would have brought a jacket especially for in between weather. You can always buy things here, but depending on what your budget is like, those things add up...

2. Don't expect anything to be like it is at home. Convenience is not the main priority here. Being in Madrid, you'll have more access to everything than I do just outside of Madrid, but the statement still stands.

3. I know you're fluent in Spanish, but for me, I would have brought some resource books to study and review from on my own. I have one, but it's not the greatest.

4. As far as money is concerned, I had to open a bank account here because I have to pay rent. I don't know how you're planning on doing it, but bring more than you think you need. Better safe than sorry and there were unexpected expenses I ran into here, especially within the first two weeks of being here (before my account was all set up).

5. I'm a big reader, so I wish I had more books in English to read. Or a Kindle :) There are Spanish books here, but I read to relax, and reading in Spanish isn't necessarily something I would consider relaxing.

6. Do everything you can. If there's an opportunity to go somewhere new -- take it.

7. Make sure everything back home is taken care of BEFORE you leave. I'm in the process of applying for student teaching, graduation (which isn't really a big deal), finding an apartment, registering and studying for the content area test, etc. It's putting a damper on my experience here.

8. Apply for your visa yesterday!! I have only a 90 day visa because someone messed up at the consulate (I applied for a 180 day visa), but by the time I received my visa, it was too late to get it switched. Now I have to go through the process of getting a residency card, and dealing with law enforcement/foreign departments here is not the easiest of tasks.

9. Bring a lot of extra passport pictures with you. You'll find you need them for more than you expected. OH! and if you buy a Spanish phone -- don't forget your passport! They won't sell you anything without it.

10. The one thing I wish I had here that I can't find anywhere is Burt's Bees...yes, the chapstick. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I'm a dork and I love that stuff. If there's something you use everyday and it's not available in Europe, it's worth stocking up. Whatever that may be!

*11. Don't worry about bringing schools supplies and those kinds of things in your suitcase. They take up space and are heavy and you can buy them here. Their paper is also different sizes, so folders from back home won't do you any good anyway :)

*12. Make sure you have either a backpack or some sort of bag that you can take on overnight trips. I didn't bring a backpack and I wish I would have.

9:38 AM  
Blogger asmith said...

My most difficult obstacle has been trying to get my residency card. The first place I went (a police station) told me they had no idea what I was talking about. BUT, they sent me someplace else (on the other side of town). When I got there, they told me I, again, was not in the right place. They gave me a couple different places to go -- all of which were incorrect. I finally emailed the US embassy to get the correct information. I'm still in the process and have to go back at the end of October, but I have to also be a registered "citizen," so I have to now figure out where and how to do that. It's been so challenging and it's STILL not resolved.

My most rewarding experience is all of it. I can't say there's a specific experience because it's been a combination of everything that has shown me what I am capable of. It's really cool all the things you learn about yourself and your life while you're away. So, that may sound like a cop out...but it's the truth!

I have not traveled outside of spain...YET. One of my goals was to visit a bunch of other countries as well. However, my schedule for school doesn't really allow me to travel as much as I want. I have, technically, 19 days for winter break where I plan on taking a little tour of western Europe. I also have a few days in the beginning of December and I'm looking for flights to Morocco. Flights and trains are relatively cheap here, BUT...you need to plan in advance. Obviously, the closer you get to the departure date, the more expensive tickets are, so just keep that in mind. I would recommend getting your school stuff figured out as soon as possible and then start planning accordingly your trips accordingly. I know that Comillas offers group trips, just like ISEP where you can travel within Spain for cheap and I would take advantage of that. I'm headed to Saragossa this weekend for 25 euros which includes transportation to and from, lunch, dinner, hostel, and breakfast. Also, if you're stuck on how to get started or where to go...ask other people who are studying internationally. There are so many europeans in my program, and all of them are crazy excited to tell you about where they come from and what's so great about it. It's like you have resources from all over the world...really cool.

I hope this helps! If not, let me know and I'll try again :)

Buena suerte!!


9:38 AM  
Blogger asmith said...


Let me know what you need or if you have questions. I'll be more than happy to help :)


9:39 AM  
Blogger asmith said...


If you read what I wrote to Biba it'll give you a better idea of what it's like. I don't really have that much time to travel aside from winter break and ONE four day weekend (also in December). I take trips on the weekends within spain (day trips mostly), but not outside the country. If you're staying in a hostel it's important to bring all the essentials. Basically they give you a bunk bed with clean sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. but that's about it. When I go I bring a towel and shower things. I also make sure to have my phone charger and only enough clothes for the time I'm going to be there. When you travel overnight places you have to carry your suitcase everywhere until you check in to a hostel or hotel or wherever you're staying, so pack light and travel far :)

Let me know if you have any other questions!!


9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Aliki, Glad to hear your experience is going well so far. I am actually planning to go to Barcelona next semester. The only thing I was wondering was if the jetlag wasn't to much of an issue. Or getting used to different time zones. I was also wondering if in your experience you had time to chat with family or is the timing way off.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Arina Toropova said...

Hi Aliki,

Although some of your experiences seem to be more difficult than others, it sounds like over all the trip is turning out to be great! I'll be studying in Barcelona in the spring and I was hoping you could give me some tips when it comes to expenses and money. Other than rent, what would you say is your greatest money eater? I'm traveling with Arcadia so housing is included, however I'm not sure as to how much pocket money I'll need monthly... Are daily things expensive when compared to Chicago??

Keep having a fantastic time!

~ Arina T

10:57 AM  
Blogger asmith said...


I booked my flight to arrive a couple days before I had to technically "report" to do anything -- I wanted to give myself time to get settled, explore my town, go grocery shopping, find the bus stop, etc. So jet lag wasn't a huge issue, no. I took an overnight flight coming here and the plan was to sleep on the way, but I got wrapped up in a good book and read for six hours straight so I sort of forgot to sleep. I was up for 27 hours the day I travelled, but I made a full recovery in no time. Also, Alice's little helpful hint (if she hasn't told you yet, she will -- and if not, ask her) about recovering from jetlag really helps!!

Chatting with family depends on what you have available to you. If you have a smart phone back home, I would bring it because a LOT of places here offer wifi. Personally, I use an app called Viber which allows me to make calls and text in any wifi area for free (and I'm sure you'll have wifi in your house), so it makes communication with family not too difficult. The only catch is that the person you're calling/texting has to have the app too. Skype makes things easy and the time difference isn't too hard to maneuver.

Don't hesitate if you have any other questions :)


1:32 PM  
Blogger asmith said...


I can give you specifics if you want. I know it's unorthodox to talk about money with people you don't know or whatever (especially on a public forum), but I wish someone would have talked numbers with me (specific numbers) before I left, so here goes...

I pay 400 euros a month for rent, but I receive a 650 euro stipend from my university every month. That's 250 euros a month I have for food, restaurants, shopping, going out, traveling, etc. If you read what I wrote to Biba (see tip #4), I talked about opening a bank account here. That was necessary for me, but may not for you because your program is different. I had to gauge exactly how much money I would need before my bank account would be opened and I would start receiving my stipend. Hopefully, you do not have to do that. If I don't travel, that 250 euros is just fine. But I don't really eat out though, so food money is literally just groceries (and also my biggest money eater). If you are staying with a family and they are cooking for you, even better!! That's the best. And no need to worry about food money. BUT, if you work in traveling, it's a whole different story. Traveling is cheap, but it's not free. A one way flight, for example, can cost anywhere between 25 and 100+ euros depending on when you buy your tickets. Trains are a similar price range, but can be found for cheaper. SO, with traveling added into the mix, I have to rely on "extra" spending money. I really don't use it all that much, but it's reassuring to know that it's there. And at the beginning of your trip, especially, just plan on bringing more money than you think you'll need. Like I told someone else, I had unexpected expenses when I got here and I wish I would've had a little more cushion, so to speak.

Compared to Chicago, things are fairly similar. I find that food is less expensive, but mostly it's around the same price. Drinks at bars/disco techs are very expensive. I save money though by not buying name-brand things because I have no idea what the name brands are here!

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions!


2:02 PM  
Anonymous Shannon Pimmel said...

Hi Aliki!

Its so exciting to read about how well your trip has gone thus far! I'm going to be studying in Spain next semester, but I'll be in Barcelona. I'm super excited, but nervous of course! You said that you might have packed too much, what would you say are the essentials to pack and what are the things that you really don't need? I hope your trip continues to be a great experience!

Shannon Pimmel

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Shannon Pimmel said...

Hi Aliki!

Its so exciting to read about how well your trip has gone thus far! I'm going to be studying in Spain next semester, but I'll be in Barcelona. I'm super excited, but nervous of course! You said that you might have packed too much, what would you say are the essentials to pack and what are the things that you really don't need? I hope your trip continues to be a great experience!

Shannon Pimmel

2:05 PM  
Blogger asmith said...


Ya'll are going to have quite an Elmhurst College crew in Barcelona next semester! That's great! Packing is always tricky. I still have problems packing when I go on overnight trips here (I think it's a girl thing). Honestly, I don't go out all that much and when I do, heals aren't my thing. Girls here get all fancy, but I don't do that. So I probably could have brought a few less "going out" clothes, and a few more "everyday/school" clothes. I definitely wish I had brought more sweaters for the in between weather. You'll be here when the weather is changing so transition jackets/things that you can layer I would say are pretty essential. It can be in the 50's on your walk to school, and in the 70's on the way back. I think that's something I overlooked when I was packing -- not accounting for the weather changing all that well.

I didn't really bring any toiletries with me. I bought all those things here because it just takes up space in your suitcase and can get very heavy. I even bought a hair dryer here for about 10 euro! I would recommend going to CVS or some place that sells those mini travel shampoos, conditioners, etc and just buy enough to last you a couple days. That's what I did and it gave me a lot more space in my luggage.

If you have specific questions on anything packing related (or not), I'll help you out...I understand, it's very difficult! :)


2:32 PM  
Anonymous Christian Mullin said...


Hello! I am Christian and I will be in Barcelona in the spring. I am so happy to hear that others are having a good experience (it makes me less nervous! haha). On a serious note however, how hard was it going from all english speaking to spanish? This is my main issue as of now because I have a minor background in spanish, but nothing significant. I am going to try to brush up on it before I leave but we'll see.

Social: So I am living in a homestay while I am in Spain and I was wondering how do you make friends with people if you have a language barrier? Maybe this doesn't apply to you but that has been a question on my mind as well!

Glad you're enjoying it though! I'll be asking you more questions as they come to me!

Thanks so much for the help!

Christian Mullin

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra B. said...


You are so awesome. Thanks for all your help!

I realize we already discussed this a bit, and that other people are probably posting this exact question, but can I have two tips regarding selecting classes in Spain?

Thanks so much, love :)


3:04 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra B. said...

Also... since I've already got your attention... Did you experience any culture shock when you first got there? How so? Do you think it has worn off by now? Do you feel yourself leaving some of your "American" habits behind?

Thanks again!


3:09 PM  
Blogger Arina Toropova said...

Hi Aliki,

Thanks for the money advice! It can be an iffy topic but I figure its better to know ahead of time and not be thrown off guard once I get there =]

Just like Cassandra, I was hoping to get some tips on class selection...Do you feel as though the class structures differ very much from ours in the States? Would you say there is something we could do to prepare for our classes in Spain?

Oh and what was the most memorable part of culture shock you experienced? Was there one thing that stood out for you?

Sorry about all the questions!


11:23 AM  
Blogger Biba Beckwith said...

Thanks Aliki!!!

Those were really helpful! Keep posting because I love reading what you have to say!!!

Biba :)

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Austin said...

Hi Aliki,

I'm studying in Madrid next Spring! Are you currently taking majority of your courses in English or Spanish? What have been your challenges, if any in the classroom?

-Austin H.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Shannon Pimmel said...


Thanks so much for your comments on packing, they will be very helpful when I start to do so! I have enjoyed reading all you have to say!

In addition, what was your experience with culture shock? Do you think it affected you more because you are apart of this very indepedent program?

thanks so much,

3:57 PM  
Blogger Rachel Heller said...

Hey chica!
I was wondering if you would be able to skype with me at all in the week for a few minutes to get more information on Spain!
Let me know :)

my email is...


Rachel Heller!

11:14 PM  
Blogger asmith said...


Sorry for the delayed response. School's been pretty busy lately. Language barriers...they're tough, but not as tough as you think. I am a spanish major, and I studied in Costa Rica last J-term, so I haven't had THAT much difficulty with the language (although they do have a very different way of speaking here). You will probably have a little tougher time just because you haven't had as much practice, but you'll have plenty of practice when you get here! Brushing up on your spanish before you leave is definitely a good idea (especially the vosotros conjugation). There are things that you come across, situations rather, where you are forced to speak in spanish when you really have not idea how to say what you're trying to say. The good news is that people can usually understand what you're trying to say even if it isn't 100% correct. I've found myself describing a lot of things if I don't know the exact word. Another helpful (and kind of cheater) tip is that since you'll be in Spain, obviously a european country, all the people our age have been forced to take English classes from the time they were in elementary school. So, if you absolutely need to find someone to help you say something that you can't figure out yourself, they aren't too far away. Since you have the great opportunity of participating in a home stay, I would really take advantage of your host family as a resource. They want to help you learn, otherwise they wouldn't have you living in their home!! Try to make a point of talking with them at least once a day about what you did, or how things are going and you'll be shocked to see how fast your communication skills improve!

Social: I was absolutely worried about making friends even without such a language barrier. BUT, I'm happy to report that making friends was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Like I said, you can always find people who speak English, but that's not going to help you learn the language as I'm sure you can conclude. Depending on your program, there will be other international students in the same boat as you -- nervous about being in a new place where you know no one, and there, you'll make a lot of friends. People (almost) always feel more comfortable in groups I've found so they're always willing to make a friend or be a friend. Also, the spaniard are very nice and welcoming. They'll be interested to find out where you're from and what you're studying etc. Don't worry about the social aspect too much, you'll be just fine!

Let me know if anything else comes to you :)


6:24 PM  
Blogger asmith said...


Class selection really just depends on your program. I would recommend that you do as much research as you can back home and pick a BUNCH of classes so that if you can't get into a certain class, you always have your next pick. And make sure that they are approved for whatever classes you need at Elmhurst. As far as levels go, I was told to take whatever level class I would be taking back home, so for me that would've been 300 and 400 level classes. However, I wouldn't necessarily say this is the best idea. If you're taking classes directly from the university, I would recommend taking maybe second year classes, or even first year classes. The fact that the classes are in spanish make learning a whole lot more difficult. Taking notes and listening and understanding all at the same time is very challenging. I do a lot of independent learning to keep on top of my work. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. At the end of the day, no matter what level class it is, it's still going to count towards your spanish major. I don't know if that counts as two tips, but that's what I've got for you, darling. I know you won't hesitate with anything other concerns :)


6:35 PM  
Blogger asmith said...

Cassandra, Arina and Shannon,

You three have all asked about culture shock which is a difficult topic for me because I didn't really experience it. After hearing how Alice talked about it in class though, I'm thinking that my experience is not the norm. I have a feeling it has to do with the fact that I was raised in a more or less european household and have done quite a bit of traveling on my own over the years both in europe and outside of europe. Of course there are things that I miss about back home (for example: stores staying open throughout the entirety of the day), but I've learned to embrace the life here and take the good with the bad (for example: when the world shuts down between 3:00 and 5:00pm, I can take a nap). I'm sorry I don't have more to say on the topic, I wish I could offer you a little more insight! If you have any other specific questions regarding culture shock I'll try my best to answer based on my experience, but that's really the best I can do!


6:44 PM  
Blogger asmith said...


Classes here I would say are structured differently, but they are similar in many ways as well. I think it depends on your major too. I am taking classes in translation and interpretation, so the information I'm learning is absolutely new to me, but the structure of the class is not. However, one of my house mates is studying physical therapy, and he says that the classes here are way different from the ones back home. He says they are much more hands on and practice-based. So it depends. Grades are tricky to figure out and to be honest I'm still trying to understand the scale. You'll have a final and maybe one or two other tests along the way. Some classes also include "trabajos" (basically long homework assignments) that will have to be turned in by a certain date. Papers, books, presentations -- it's pretty much the same, except usually there's a lot more weight riding on the final exam here. As far as preparation, I would really just recommend brushing up on your spanish. I said earlier to Cassandra it has been a huge challenge for me to listen, take notes, and comprehend what is being said in class, so I end up doing a lot of work outside my classes to keep up. But, in all of my classes my teachers do post notes online that can be printed off, just like back home, which has been very helpful. I've also found that teachers are willing to work with me if I don't understand something, give me a heads up as to how the tests will be structured, what they are looking for, etc.

If you've got any other questions...throw them my way!


6:55 PM  
Blogger asmith said...


My classes are all in Spanish. My major here is translation and interpretation, so a lot of my classes deal with the translation from spanish to english and vice versa, but they are taught in spanish, yes. I'm not sure what your major is, but your best bet is to assume that your classes will all be in spanish. And if for some reason you strike gold and have a class in english, it'll be a wonderful surprise :) Taking notes, listening and comprehending all at once has been my biggest struggle in the classroom. Another aspect of the academic system I've found challenging is the fact that syllabi do not exist here and finding out what exactly is going to be on your exams can be difficult. I make a point of talking to my professors to make sure we're on the same page so there are no surprised come exam day.

Hope this helped some...let me know if you have any other concerns!


1:01 PM  
Anonymous Shannon Pimmel said...

Dear Aliki,

Thanks for your comments on culture shock, it's nice to hear that you didn't experience it as much because I was starting to really worry about it! I hope your trip is continuing to be awesome! How do you feel about the classes, are you finding it hard to keep up or is it easy to keep things balanced?


2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, it sounds like you have done a whole lot in an incredibly short amount of time! I hope that when I go away this spring as well I take advantage of all my oppertunities like you have. You had so much independent preperation and ground work to do before you settled in, had you been this independent back in the states before you left? Was there one time inparticular when you've felt the most overwhelmed?

Good Luck!

11:15 PM  
Blogger Marky said...

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12:18 AM  

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