Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So many choices!

     One of the most exciting parts for me so far in the study abroad process was when I found the schedule of classes for our fall semester. With about 26 classes available, there were many options to consider. It was extremely exciting for me and I quickly printed the list and taped it to Sibley’s door. 

Like this picture, each option was tempting in its own way, so how did we choose?

Well, we had to consider many things such as Spanish major or Spanish minor requirements.  We had a meeting with an advisor from the Spanish department and many emails passed between us as we considered classes. We went back and forth, trying to figure out the best variety of classes to meet our needs. We asked current exchange students about their opinions and considered their thoughts.  In the end, it came out perfectly, giving us each a mix of required classes and fun classes. 

Here is what we finally came up with:

                Amanda: Business Spanish, Traditions of Spain: Oral Communication, Spanish Art History, and Spanish Culture and Civilization

                Sibley: Advanced Spanish, The Global Dimension of European Soccer, Phonetics and Oral Spanish, and Spanish Culture and Civilization

Once we arrive in Spain, we will take an assessment to be sure we are at the right level academically, and then we begin! One of my favorite things about this program is the idea of combining classroom learning with field trips. They really want to facilitate our learning of all aspects of Spain by exposing us to the culture and local history. This seems like an amazing way to learn as you can see in real life what you learn within the classroom.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

170cm of Peculiarities

So Amanda and I are almost finished with our housing questionnaires that will match us to our homestay family in Alcalá.  It’s like something you might fill out before you move into a dorm: do you smoke?  Are you a morning person?  That sort of thing, but in greater detail.  We had to describe our personalities, put our height and weight (in the metric system… I had to look up conversions.), describe our hobbies, and put how often we liked to go out.  Note there was no option for “I do not go out.”  Apparently, this is not an optional thing.  You go out at least once a week in Spain. 

Then there was a section labeled “Any peculiarity that you think we should be aware of?”  Amanda and I thought this was interesting word choice.  As a result, we’ve taken great care to point out each other’s peculiarities, such as my accident-proneness and Amanda’s fascination with spies.  Despite the fact that we seem to find each other very peculiar indeed, we left that section blank, at least for now.

Another part asked if we had lived or traveled abroad before.  That section of the form was mostly blank for me (as one may have guessed, based on my excitement at being asked for my height in centimeters). Amanda has been to a few Caribbean countries, but I’ve only been to Canada, and that was for less than a day.  How do I describe Canada?  Well. It’s colder than here.  I was not there long enough to note other differences, not even a frequent use of “eh” by the locals.

Another part of the form provided a place where we could list meals that we don’t like, so that our host family would know what not to cook.  What?  Who goes to a new country and then doesn’t want to at least try everything?  Naturally I checked “I want to taste all kinds of food.”  I really hope we get placed with a family who will give us lots of opportunities to try new things.  That’s why we’re going, after all—to learn a language and experience a different culture in a different place.  I’ve heard of some tapas that have ingredients we Americans would consider strange, but I can’t wait.  I’ll try anything once.

Friday, March 23, 2012

So it begins

Amanda here! I thought I would start off by explaining a little bit about how we chose to study in Alcalá de Henares. We started off with a few things of which we were certain: we wanted to study Spanish and we wanted to study together.               

So, with that in mind, we searched for study abroad programs in universities throughout Florida. We scoured the lists for South America and Spain, hoping to find a long program that would allow us to really get a grasp of the Spanish language. We even found a promising program, a 12 week study abroad in Spain where you teach children English in exchange for room and board. This didn’t work out, though, because it wouldn’t allow us to be together, and the possibility of taking classes was low. So, we moved on.

It wasn’t until the Study Abroad Fair that we actually found out about Alcalá. At first, the idea of spending the entire semester seemed like too much, but after talking to many students who had participated in shorter programs, I knew that 1 month just wouldn’t be long enough. Then, we broke the news to our parents.

We started cautiously, carefully explaining the program and its merits. We thought we would receive a reluctant “Sure” or a “Maybe”. So, imagine our surprise when we heard, “Yes! Yes! That sounds great!” Who knew our parents were so eager to get rid of us for 3 months? Seriously though, they were very supportive, encouraging us to follow our dreams. 

Now, we have embraced the Alcalá program, eager and full of excitement to begin this amazing adventure!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hello world. We're going to see you!

Today, I reconfirmed my application to Alcalá, Spain.  I was a day behind Amanda, naturally, because she does not procrastinate like a normal college student.  (Weird.)  I submitted the application to UCF Study Abroad website yesterday, and after filling in a bit of medical history and agreeing to a deposit, I am confirmed, accepted, reconfirmed, and reaccepted! 

That’s one thing we’re learning-- there are a lot of repetitive hoops to jump through when you’re planning a semester abroad.  Procrastination jokes aside, it’s good that we’ve started this process early.  It began last semester with browsing the Study Abroad website and attending the Study Abroad Fair.  Since January, we’ve been working with the Study Abroad office and other resources they provided.  We have our applications to the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares already completed, and our classes picked out.  We’re working on a variety of forms for things such as housing preferences, due in a couple months.  We’ll be getting our visas over the summer, and then we’ll be off to España!

Since this is our first post, I guess I’ll add a bit more about us to what Amanda already mentioned in the “About Us” column.  I’m currently a sophomore and Amanda is a freshman.  We’re cousins and we’re roommates.  Rooming together this year has been awesome because during middle and high school, we lived several states apart and didn’t get to see much of each other.  We both love art, music, animals, Spanish, and having adventures.  We’re also both very excited about this trip.  For example, I recently received a text from Amanda that said: “Spain! That is all.”  Aaand, that is all for now.  Spain!