My Incredible journey at the Department of Justice of the Government of Catalonia

Evelin Torres interned at the Department of Justice of Catalonia on exchange.  The internship cemented her interests and gave her valuable work experience.  Read about it in her own words below.

 

My Incredible journey at the Department of Justice of the Government of Catalonia

by Evelin Avila Torres

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When my younger brother was thirteen years old he was imprisoned and was facing a

possible conviction for attempted murder. After years of talking to attorneys, waiting for the

weekly call from him, long letters and sleepless nights, I was left with a mark that I will forever

carry. I decided that my heart was with working with troubled youth who are at risk of committing

crimes that could cost them their liberty.  However, I was aware that in order to be an agent of

change and be to able to help those troubled minors, I had a lot to learn and experience to acquire. I

decided to become a Legal studies major as well as volunteer and obtain internships that involved

working with troubled youth.

Before arriving to Barcelona I envisioned an internship in the legal field in order to get a

better understanding of the types of criminal systems that exist outside the United States. At my

arrival in Barcelona I began talking to my counselors here about the possible opportunities of

obtaining a law related internship. Before I knew it I was interning at the Department of Justice

of the government of Catalonia. I observed and worked with certain area of the department of

justice that is known as the service of mediation and technical support. The people that I worked

with are either psychologists or social workers who all have some type of work in relation to

accused minors who are either facing trial or have been accused of committing a crime. Their

duties include investigating and trying to figure out the social, psychological, and educational

circumstances that the minor is currently living in. I was present in interviews with minors as

well as at their courts. It was alongside with many of these minors in some of the hardest

moments in their life. Experiencing many hard situations with the minors has given me a better

understanding of the criminal justice system outside of the United States. These experiences were

hard but they were necessary for me to truly understand the way that these systems work.

Another challenge I faced as an intern in a new country was adapting to a new language.

Not only was Spanish the official language but the terminology that is utilized in the city of

justice is a terminology that I had never been exposed to at the level that I was here. Although as

a legal studies major I am exposed to the complicated language and terminology utilized in the

legal field, never before had I been forced to utilize this terminology like I was here. At the

beginning it was complicated remembering certain terms and laws but with time I was able to

start picking up the terminology in Spanish a lot faster. My usage of academic terms has

improved significantly.

Not only has my Spanish improved significantly but with the experience that I acquired

as an intern I now have a better understanding about the way the criminal justice system in other

countries work. My ultimate goal at this internship was to gain more knowledge that could help

me understand the way that criminal justice systems around the world either help or harm people.

Now I know that I can apply this knowledge in my future investigations in my area of interest,

criminal justice systems. After this experience I am now even more motivated and

interested on working in my city and myself in order to be the best mentor and future lawyer that

I want to be.

http://administraciojusticia.gencat.cat/ca/administracio_de_justicia/infraestructures_de_l_amb/ci

utat_justicia_naveg/

 

Natalie Bigelow – A Norwich Blog

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Wondering what it’s like to live in a provincial English town? Look no further than Natalie Bigelow’s experiences on her Norwich blog!

Natalie is a third year UCSC film major spending winter/spring at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, England, which is a small city about 2 hours from London. She chose England to fulfill many childhood dreams revolving around novels, films and fantasy worlds, and her family traces its roots back to medieval England. She chose East Anglia because the quieter “provincial” life (as described by a London resident) in Norwich which  is perfectly suited for studying and similar to Santa Cruz in many ways, especially when it comes to natural beauty. As a smaller campus, it also provides a more personalized feel. Norwich offers a lot of fascinating history: the city’s centerpiece is an 800+ year old castle and also features a similarly old cathedral. She tells us it’s been a great place to live for the past month!

Check out what Natalie has to say about life in Norwich here!Picture 1

Life in Norwich

As a student at UC Santa Cruz, I am definitely familiar with the quiet college town, having come from the bustling metropolis that is my home, the San Francisco Bay Area. The community that lies outside campus boundaries and immediately surrounding student housing is largely families and elders. Santa Cruz is a place to settle, not a place to start, and I would say the same about Norwich. My first taste of England was the world’s briefest snapshot of London for 4 days, and when I made the long trek via taxi, train and bus through lush, rolling English countryside dotted with pink farmhouses, I felt a distinct sense that I was headed for the middle of nowhere. I realized that my perception of Santa Cruz as quiet was definitely skewed by my growing up next to busy freeways and thoroughfares, which served as a constant reminder of nocturnal, urban life.

First of all, I am far more north on the globe than I ever have been, and it’s winter. That means we get daylight until no later than 4 pm. After that time, you blink and it is black as the darkest night outside, which is reflected in all the businesses downtown that close as early as 5:30. If you happen to be downtown after 6, it transforms from a bustling, family-laden shopping zone to a dark, wet ghost town with poor lighting and weirdly placed bus stops. Once you step away from the main street, cobblestoned roads and alleys twist between ancient-looking buildings; the darkened windows provide a glimpse at what must be a charming town to shop in by day, with adorable local shops, tea rooms, pubs, candy stores. Everything in Norwich feels historical. Being away from the 24-hour, neon-lit, smartphone and hybrid-fueled West Coast lifestyle is somewhat of a shock but also a pleasant escape in many ways.

For example, the emphasis on the loud house party/disgusting club/broken 40s in the gutter that haunts my usual cities is notably absent here. If you go to the downtown pubs away from the main street, they are cozy and well-lit and serve excellent beer and cider, as well as usually pretty good food. It seems that there was an attempt to update the city on part of the main street, which resulted in a few skeezy looking strip clubs (or so we thought; the first one we spotted promised “American table dancing”) and loud (but deserted) sports bars. Weird, out-of-place spots like the former aside, the cozy Norwich pub scene is much more suited to my personal drinking style, I’ve discovered. I like getting together with huge groups (so far, mostly of other International students like me) and just drinking and chatting over chips.

Despite my quaint portrait of Norwich life so far, my days here are far from empty. As I started this post, my iPod delivered “Go Hard” by Kreayshawn on shuffle, which seems appropriate. Since I got here just over a week ago, it has become clear to me how much of a drinking/partying culture is present in the UK, even in sleepy little Norwich. My housemates drink together almost every night, and we have a fairly active on campus club as well as two pubs. There is always something to do at night, and so far I have discovered that my party energy reserves have been significantly depleted since I graduated high school and moved to the chilled out, kick-it culture on the dry campus of Santa Cruz. Alas, Kreayshawn, I cannot go as hard as I used to. However, I suspect that that is going to change; after all, tolerance is always in flux.

Even with the near-constant “going out” option, I recently tried to find even more things to occupy my time by going to the UEA clubs & societies fair. I have a few mixers and tryouts in the next couple of weeks, for the aforementioned Feminist Discussion and Doctor Who Appreciation societies, as well as the Qudditch and Pole Fitness clubs. I want to try to step out of the comfy American bubble I’ve been in and interact with the students who know this country best.

I’ve been so busy with the “settling in” process as well as wading through some bureaucratic tedium from both of my schools that I haven’t had time to develop any kind of regular routine, in regards to a) posting on this blog, b) doing homework, c) catching up with friends and family back home, so apologies to those who’ve felt out of the loop. I promise I will send out post cards and arrange Skype schedules as soon as I have a free moment.

We loved hearing about life in Norwich, Natalie! Want to see the original post? Visit Natalie’s blog to find out more about living abroad in the UK!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Just Jennie – A Copenhagen Blog

Wondering what it’s like to move from Vacaville to Denmark? Look no further than Just Jennie, a travel blog chronicling the adventures of a UCSC Sociology major on her exciting adventure abroad in Copenhagen.

Jennie West is a junior at UCSC who chose to go to Denmark to study in order to learn more about her heritage. Her mom grew up in Denmark and moved to California when she was twenty years old, so one whole side of Jennie’s family lives in Copenhagen. Jennie hopes to learn about how her mom grew up, and get closer with her Danish family.

We chose to feature Jennie’s post, Week 1 of Class, on UCSCAbroad this week. Jennie gives an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to get to know Copenhagen as a study abroad student. Check out her post below!

Week 1 of Class

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Københavns Universitet (The University of Copenhagen) was founded in 1479, making it the oldest university and research institution in Denmark, and the second oldest institution for higher education in Scandinavia by two years. (It would have been the first, but the king took two years to get backto Denmark after asking the Pope’s permission… due to partying). The university has several campuses located in and around Copenhagen. The oldest is in central Copenhagen, and is that which is pictured here. They no longer hold classes at this location… it is now just used for administration, which is honestly a shame because it is so beautiful. Luckily, I at least had a meeting there. Image

PictureJoe & the Juice seems to be the Starbucks of Copenhagen (in number, not in trendiness). Another international student and I wandered in to study our Danish on Wednesday after class. It had a very slick but cozy setup, and sold freshly juiced juice, smoothies, coffee, and yummy sandwiches. I am not a fan of coffee, but I am a huge fan of ginger so I had to try the ginger latte. So good! I also had a turkey sandwich, simply because it was the first time I’ve seen turkey since I’ve gotten here. And trust me – I have been looking. At least they have chicken if I look hard enough. But nope, no turkey. I just want some turkey lunch meat so I can make a sandwich!

But anyways… Joe & the Juice. I’ll be back. Just can’t resist the pink cups!!

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Studenterhuset(student house) has become the place to be at night. Studenterhuset is a very “by the students for the students” type of place, relying on student volunteers to run the bar and help with events. It’s a cosy café for studying during the day, and then a hangout with student discounts at the bar at night. They have events, concerts, swing dancing and more..

It’s a very neat place to have – seems to be a default meeting spot for international students, at least as of now. Perhaps it’s because we don’t know of any other places to go quite yet.. and most can navigate this one by now. The photo above is from Wednesday night which was international student night, where we shoved half a dozen tables together trying to fit as many of us in – the place was packed! We all felt very welcomed, so here’s a shoutout to the staff at Studenterhuset! 

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Some of the international students went Ice Skating on Friday afternoon. It was a planned event that was cancelled due to “rain,” but it wasn’t raining. Plus, we were already at the rink (which wasn’t a piece of cake to find). So we spent the 45 kroner ($8) and skated. (Side note – this is the first thing in DK that has been cheaper than in the states). It was hardly worth the money, though. I’m glad I did it, because it was a nice experience to skate on an outdoor rink surrounded by beautiful buildings. The skates, however, were tragic. They hurt so bad on almost everyone’s feet, and none of the skates went up high enough to cover our ankles, so everyone’s ankles were rolling in the whole time! It was painful and made it very difficult to skate. 

My trip to IKEA yesterday was successful. I got some cheap tea light candles for my window sill, a tea pot with infuser in it (score!), a blanket, rug, and DINNER! The IKEA cafés at home have good food, but here it seemed to be fancier. It felt more like a restaurant besides having to stand in line to order food. And they had wine! So weird. The girl I was with and I both had to have some with our dinner, just so we could say we’ve had wine at IKEA. And it wasn’t half bad!
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I don’t have any photos to share from my Danish language crash course I’m in for the next couple of weeks, unless you’d like to see the mass amounts of notes I’ve taken, which I’m sure you could do without.
I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time! I love it. I had no idea how much I would be learning. We’ve learned how to have short conversations about your name, where you’re from, what you would like at the store, to times of the day and numbers, and sentence structure for asking questions. I haven’t even listed half of it. Surprisingly, I’m not finding it too difficult. I’m going to attribute it to the fact that I’ve heard Danish spoke all my life, so I know how it is supposed to sound and where the emphasis on words tend to go. Which is actually a huge part of it. Danes don’t pronounce half of the consonants in their words, and my teacher is definitely stressing the importance of pronunciation. 

Thanks for sharing, Jennie! Want to see the original post? Visit Just Jennie’s blog to find out more about living abroad in Denmark!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

De Berk à Bord – A Bordeaux Blog

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Alison is a UC student whose Bordeaux blog, De Berk à Bord, was featured on UCEAP’s Bordeaux program page. We were totally entranced by the food, natural imagery, and adorable friendship stories Alison shared. We hope you enjoy them too!

Some of our favorite images are featured below. Be sure to follow Alison’s adventures at berk2bord.tumblr.com!

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If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Happy Travels – A Canterbury Blog

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Mariya “Masha” Alimova is a junior UCSC psychology student currently studying abroad at in the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Her blog, Happy Travels, features alluring photographs of her adventures through Europe, along with some great insights into pubs, castles and other local attractions. I personally enjoy that each entry is addressed “Dear Blog…” and that the posts are named in same manner as Friends episodes (i.e. “The One With the Planes“).

Masha chose to study abroad in the UK because she had always wanted to go there. She thought living and studying in Canterbury would be much more rewarding than just visiting for a week or so. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new places like Paris, London and Scotland.

This week we featured her post, “The One About My Home,” below. Check out more of her Canterbury tales (haha) at wishmebonvoyage.wordpress.com.

The One About My Home

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Dear Blog,

I’ve been in Canterbury for almost a week and I finally have a second to calm down. I finally got to get out and explore the town and have some fully awake downtime and realize just how unbelievable lucky I am to be here. I am among so much history and beauty and everything I could ever want. It’s unbelievable that I haven’t had any time to take in all in. Everything has been so crazy! It’s like freshmen year all over again except for being completely on my own and instead of being 350 miles away from home, I’m 5,500 miles away. If it wasn’t so beautiful here, I might even think about fact that more. As it is, Canterbury is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in. It’s a bizarre mix of medieval and modern. The school itself is very new, everything is electronic and opens with a fob key. Everything is automatic (except ALL the cars which are stick-shifts). You can’t even exit my building without pressing a button. It’s a little insane and too futuristic. And it makes me terrified about power outages. But as soon as you leave the school everything looks different. The city is filled with castles and cathedrals and the views are absolutely brilliant. Rivers run through the entire city and everything looks old, possibly because it is. For example, one of the oldest pubs in the city is called The Unicorn Inn, and it was built in 1593 in 35th year of Elizabeth I. Everything is also TINY. The streets are narrow and the cars are smaller, except for the GIANT double-decker busses which make me terrified for my life. Even things you buy are smaller, from bread to shampoo. It’s not giant and bulky like it is in America. It’s meant to serve one person rather than a family of 5, which is how it seems to be in the US. It reduces a lot of waste.

I’ve met so many interesting people since I got here. The international community here is HUGE! 25% of the entire student population, which is about 17,000 people. I’ve definitely met more international students that those native to the UK. I met people from France, India, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, China, Vietnam, Peru, South Africa, Nigeria and so many others. I live with girls from Cyprus, Florence, Hong Kong, Leeds (originally from Zimbabwe), Kent, and guys from Canada and London. We are certainly diverse.

My accommodation is really nice in general, I have my own (fairly large) room, but so does everyone else, so it’s not special. The nice part is that I have an en-suite bathroom, which is a dream come true.

This first week has been NUTS. The first week of term is called Freshers week, so there are parties EVERYWHERE and it’s getting exhausting so I’ve stayed in the last two nights.There are pub crawls almost every night and the people here don’t take a break. Also, a PINT of beer here is 16oz in the US and 20oz in UK. So it’s MUCH bigger. It’s also cheaper. Basically, the whole drinking culture is very intimidating.

Well, I’m off to the pub, so wish me luck!

Laterzz,

Masha x

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If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Where the Locals At?: How to Meet Locals Abroad

Melibee Global has developed a new “How to Meet People Abroad” series on their website. For students who are looking to expand their friend groups abroad, this is a great way to find out how to get in with the local crowd.

Currently we have EAP Programs in Dublin, Paris and London, so for those of you going abroad in January, this could be a great resource. Or, if you’re going to be traveling in any of these cities, be sure to take a quick glance at their guide before getting on the plane. It could save you from an awkward interaction upon arrival.

Dublin, Ireland<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/04/how-to-meet-people-abroad-dublin-ireland/>
London, England<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/01/how-to-meet-people-abroad-london-england/>
Rabat, Morocco<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/08/how-to-meet-people-abroad-rabat-morocco/>
Córdoba, Argentina<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/05/how-to-meet-people-abroad-cordoba-argentina/>
Paris, France<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/07/how-to-meet-people-abroad-paris-france/>
Beirut, Lebanon<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/06/how-to-meet-people-abroad-beirut-lebanon/>
Lake Yojoa, Honduras<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/02/how-to-meet-people-abroad-lake-yojoa-honduras/>
Sofia, Bulgaria<http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/09/how-to-meet-people-abroad-sofia-bulgaria/>

Be sure to check out the Melibee Global website on the 15th of each month to see which cities they write about next! Mingling with locals is half the fun of studying abroad, so be sure to make friends with as many international and local students as possible!

Meet Spain Returnee, Eric Gutierrez


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Eric Gutierrez is a fourth year UCSC history and latin american studies major who spent his 2013 Spring semester abroad at the University of Barcelona. Eric managed to stay in Europe for 10 months, and visit over 14 countries during his study abroad experience. Eric spends his time studying Spanish and History, dreaming about traveling, and wishing he was back in Spain. We asked him a few questions about his study abroad experience.

Q: What was the hardest part about moving to Spain?

Oh, okay so the hardest part of moving to Spain was adapting to their meal times and different meal portions. I was used to an American breakfast with pancakes, and eggs, and bacon, and toast… In Spain, the typical breakfast is a cup of coffee or orange juice. And a tiny muffin. Like A TINY MUFFIN. Also, dinnertime was around 9pm. And that was the hardest part.

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Q: What’s one activity every student who studies in Barcelona should make sure to do?

Walk around the different neighborhoods in Barcelona. Every neighborhood is very different, for example, Gracia is a youthful, hip, and fairly new district, with great cafes and bars. This is were you will also find some of Gaudi’s artwork. L’eixample is where all the people who are native to Barcelona reside, where you can find cheap restaurants and the main street in Barcelona, Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes. The Gothic district is where you will find some ruins, amazing architecture.

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Q: What’s one of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?

At the end of my abroad experience, I traveled alone to Budapest, Hungry. I was afraid of traveling alone at first, but once I arrived in Budapest I was determined to make this 3-day trip worthwhile. After only being in Budapest for a couple of hours, I met a guy from the Netherlands who was also traveling alone. We became buddies and spent both of the days touring the city, eating meals together and going to the famous baths. The second night we went out to some local bars were we met some Australians and British travelers who were about my age. After hanging out for a whole night we exchanged contact information and hung out out my last night in Budapest. During my last night, I was having an AMAZING time in Budapest that I decided to stay with my new Australian and British friends after they convinced me to go with them to Sziget Music Festival- one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. My fourth day in Budapest was EPIC! I went with my new friends to a music festival…I LOVE MUSIC FESTIVALS. We raged so hard to Dizzee Rascal, Nero, Nicky Romero, Regina Spektor and Chuckie. After a whole day/night of partying with my new friends, it was time to say goodbye because I had to rush to my hostel to shower and rush over to catch a 7am train to Vienna. Budapest by far was a city that will hold a special place in my heart! I miss my Australian, British and Dutch friends!

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Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to students looking to study in Barcelona?

I would say, do research in regards to the politics of Catalonia, which is one of the seventeen autonomous communities in Spain. People in Barcelona will usually consider themselves Catalan and it helps if you know about their history because they will essentially be more welcoming. Also, if possible, you might want to learn some Catalan before you go.

There is never a dull moment in Spain. Take every second in your abroad experience to explore the city and while you are abroad in Barcelona try to speak Spanish. It will help you become friends with the locals and meet new people. Also, be outgoing! Barcelona is an international city and the best way of meeting these international people is to be outgoing and start a conversation whenever possible.

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Q: Why would you recommend Spain to prospective students looking to study abroad?

Because Spain is a beautiful country! It has a lot of history, art museums. The architecture is amazing! The nightlife is one of the best in all of Europe. You will fall in love with tapas and sangria. You’ll enjoy all the art you’ll come across, such as Gaudi and Goya. Spain is an AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL country! It will change your life.

Eric Gutierrez is also a peer advisor at the UCSC International Education Office. If you’d like to chat with him more about his experience, come visit our office in the Classroom Unit Building during our drop in hours (Monday-Thursday, 9-12 & 1-4). 

Meet St. Petersburg Returnee, Katie Rees

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Katie Rees is a fourth year UCSC linguistics student who spent her junior year abroad at St. Petersburg State University. Besides her interest in travel, Katie also is passionate about dance (performing with Rocky Horror, UCSC’s Tangroupe (Tango team) and Cabaret group, Guerilla Dance and UCSC’s Ballroom Team) . In Russia, she also practiced dance, spoke on television twice, and traveled to Moscow, the Ukraine and other cities.  She’s currently taking Chinese classes, and is interested in spending time in China before returning to Russia. We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experience.

Q: What was the hardest part about moving to Russia?

The hardest (and best) part about studying in Russia is that no one speaks English there. I had studied Russian for two years before leaving, so I guess I was forced to practice my Russian and there was no cushion if I couldn’t remember a word.

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Q: Why would you recommend Russia to prospective students looking to study abroad?

Oh man, it depends on your hobbies. If you’re interested in ballroom dance (like I am), then it’s absolutely a great destination. There’s a reason all professional ballroom dancers are Russian. Dance schools are intensive and they have world champion teachers teaching for ten dollars an hour!

Also, if you want to be hired to teach English without any experience, they will hire you over the phone. I was a substitute English teacher in a private children’s foreign language school. I got hired multiple times to do this kind of thing. I even got offered full time jobs and was asked to join teacher’s unions.

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Q: What’s one of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?

A lot of them revolve around teaching English. I taught English weekly in a high school and I got to watch the Russian school assemblies. Before meeting me, many Russians had never met a foreigner before. People were usually really excited to meet me.

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Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to students looking to study in St. Petersburg?

Even if you’re feeling culture shocked, or if you find the dark nights depressing, I always tell people not to go right home after classes but instead explore the city. Meet friends, do things. It might seem sad that it’s dark outside at 3pm, but it’s even more depressing to go home and sulk (don’t worry, it stays light until midnight by the end of the school year).

Katie Rees is also a peer advisor at the UCSC International Education Office. If you’d like to chat with her more about her experience, come visit our office in the Classroom Unit Building during our drop in hours (Monday-Thursday, 9-12 & 1-4). 

Oktoberfest!

Prior to my arrival in the Netherlands, I knew next to nothing about the cultural phenomenon that is Oktoberfest. I assumed it must take place in October, and I knew that beer was involved. Other than that, nothing. When my friends and I learned about a local student organization that was leading student trips there, however, we quickly pounced on the opportunity to attend. The student organization (Way2Go) planned everything: the bus ride there and back, our lodging (a giant circus tent in the middle of nowhere, but we’ll get to that later), breakfast, and perhaps most importantly, the knowledge of do’s and don’ts in the world of Oktoberfest.

But first, I’ll give some background facts about Oktoberfest, all of which I learned on the bus ride there. Oktoberfest began in 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig was married to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in Munich. A horse racing event was held in honor of the marriage. The horse races and the festivities that accompanied them (beer-drinking) continued up until 1960, when the horse racing was dropped and only the festival came to be dominated by beer. 

After reading the informational pamphlet put together by the program, my friends and I settled back in our seats, shared a bottle of red wine that we for some reason decided was necessary to help us sleep through the 9 hour bus ride, and fell asleep to the sound of Russell Brand’s absurd performance as Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. We were awakened several hours later, at 5:30am, and were told that we had stopped at a gas station to change into out Oktoberfest costumes. Dazed and excited, we tumbled out of the bus, into the rain, and ran to the gas station bathrooms, were the girls donned their dirndls and the boys struggled into their lederhosen. After two more hours on the bus, were were in Munich.

Our bus dropped us at the train station and we left all of our belongings on board to be dropped off at our campsite. After reading online that purses well ill-advised, I had nothing on me but my phone, some money, and my umbrella. The whole group of us, two busloads worth of students, began to march through the cold, damp, early morning streets of Munich, munching on soggy sandwiches and following the trusted navigation of our group leader’s iphone towards the fair grounds. At first I felt ridiculous, dressed the way I was, but it quickly became evident that we were hardly the only people on our was to the festivities. Though the streets were not yet crowded, the increasing number of people clad in dirndls and lederhosen made it clear that we were nearing the grounds. When they finally appeared before us, I was completely taken aback.

I knew that Oktoberfest had beer. What I didn’t know was that it also has roller-coasters, a Ferris Wheel, and countless other carnival rides. Never have I been to a place where childhood and adult ideas of “a good time” come together in such a way; except perhaps in Las Vegas. We immediately made our way towards a tent, where a large crowd of people had already began to form a “line”. People were jostling one another, trying to get close to the entrance, and I made futile efforts not to jab strangers with my umbrella. As I observed the crowd around me, I discovered that dirndls and lederhosen were in no way the only acceptable Oktoberfest attire. People were sporting everything from sports jerseys to giant baby costumes. And then, the doors were open.

The beer tents at Oktoberfest operate on a first come first serve basis. The only way to order a beer is to sit at a table, and the only way to sit at a table is to get there and sit down (or stand) on it before anyone else does. The moment the doors opened, the entire crowd surged forward. People clambered over tables, pushed one another, and shouted in German, Spanish, Dutch, English, and what seemed like a million other languages. As I ran through the entrance a security guard snatched my umbrella from my hands. I stared at him in bewilderment for a few seconds before running onward to avoid being separated from my friends. Miraculously, we were able to secure a table. At 8:30am, breathless and ready for our beer, we were informed that no beer would be served until noon. We passed the time playing cards and chatting with the Australians who were sharing our table. I contemplated trying to take a nap on the table, but decided that the chances of actually getting any sleep were highly unlikely.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, noon rolled around. A marching band began to play and everyone began singing in German. My friends and I yelled along with the tune, making random sounds and smiling. And then, after nabbing the attention of one of the bar maids, we were served our beer! Beer at Oktoberfest is not served in bottles. It comes in steins, which are each 1 liter. I literally could not hold a full stein with one hand, and after “only” one I was feeling quite good.

Yay, Practicum! (part 6)

Outing 6 – Marche d’Aligre (open air market)

Our last outing was a visit to a lovely covered/open market that’s just about a 3-5 minute walk up Rue de Charenton (on the left side of the street) from the back entrance to the Daumesnil residence. I’m told this outing was added to the program just this year; and a good thing too, considering the importance of food and open air markets to the French culture. My group was assigned to look at a cheese stand, which we found out had 300 different cheeses (25 of them goat cheese).

There were also stands for meat, seafood, and things like that. Meat’s pretty pricey here though, as you can see.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that there are three or so bio (organic) produce stands there. I used my highly broken French to buy a kilo of grapes for half the price I’d pay at a grocery store. If you go, bring cash. They don’t accept cards or checks in tiny shops, markets, or bakeries. Also, try to use exact change the first time you come. The sellers sometimes round up the price if you hand them a bill expecting change, and you’ll end up get charged more that you should (e.g., 5 Euros instead of 4 Euros and change).

Behind the food is a sort of an open air bazaar for selling stuff. There’s jewelry, clothing, books, and all sorts of things there. Pretty inexpensive too, for the most part.

So, that was my practicum. Other groups had the same outings as well, but in a different order so we didn’t all go at once. We learned enough French to avoid being completely feeble when communicating, we were eased into using the public transportation systems, we were shown a good place to get food, and we were shown a sample of what we can see if we look around the city. All around, an extremely useful, fun, and worthwhile aspect of the program. So, that’s why I say – yay, practicum!