Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Revertigo: A Visit To UCF

     Yesterday, Sibley and I visited UCF for one last time before our trip to Spain. We each interviewed with the Office of Prestigious Awards as part of our study abroad scholarship to learn about future opportunities to study abroad. That's right! They are so confident that we will love this experience, they are encouraging us to start planning for more! (That's a good sign!)
     We drove up in the morning and were immediately met with an unexpected issue: parking. Anyone who attends UCF will tell you that parking on campus is a hassle. That is, anyone except those who live on campus! Sibley and I had never really experienced this side of the UCF experience before, but we adjusted and navigated the busy parking garages until we found a spot. We then hurried to our meetings and learned about some amazing opportunities that are available for the future.

     After the meeting, Sibley and I met up with a few of our friends for one last afternoon together. We ate gyros, followed by froyo, and then returned to the new 504. With the new roommates occupied by class lectures, our old roommate Jess welcomed us to a nearly empty, and entirely different, room. We each took up our spots as usual in the room, lounging and talking just like any day of the past year. For a brief moment, it was like nothing has changed. And so, we experienced "Revertigo" a term coined on the TV show How I Met Your Mother to describe the behavior of someone when they return to friends they haven't seen in a long time. Suddenly, they act just as they always did with that person, picking back up on inside jokes and old fun. While it hasn't been very long since we last saw our friends, the ease of which we fell back into routine makes me confident that we will return just as close as ever!

     So with the memory of UCF and all that we'll be missing fresh in our minds, we are ready and prepared for our grand trip. In just a few days, we will make the drive down to Miami and board a plane set for Madrid! This is all so exciting!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pack Attack!

The countdown has crossed under two weeks!  UCF classes began yesterday, and it was bizarre to be sitting at home while everyone over in Orlando started school.  Amanda and I have another two weeks before classes begin in Alcalá.

I was at the store yesterday and luggage was on sale, so my mom and I considered buying a new, bigger suitcase.  However, my dad cautioned that buying a new suitcase would be just too much temptation for fate to resist, and my luggage would surely be lost on the way there.  His additional and more practical concern was that a new suitcase would not stay nice for very long, so why spend money when we had a functional one already?  My only remaining concern was that I would not be able to fit nearly four months’ worth of clothes and other belongings in the smaller suitcase that I have.
So today, I decided to undertake a practice packing run. 

I began by preheating an empty suitcase.  Next I added 4 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of khakis, 2 pairs of pajama pants, and three pairs of shorts (1 denim, 1 khaki, and 1 athletic).  I threw in a few UCF t-shirts to represent, and another 9 tops that varied from casual to semi-formal.  For high altitudes, I stirred in 1 fleece jacket and 2 light knit sweaters.  I also added in a dash of formal and professional wear in the form of two dresses.  Next, I included a full week’s worth of undergarments and one swimsuit.

This was looking good.  I had all the clothes I expected to need, and my suitcase was still roomy.  I then added a few pairs of shoes.  I still had room, so I then added a toiletry bag.  Just for good measure, I threw in a random shoebox to represent space for all the things I was probably forgetting.  At that point, I realized I had forgotten socks, so I heaped 7 or 8 pairs in there for seasoning.

Finally I topped off the suitcase with a journal, a sketchbook, and a towel.  Done!

When I pack for the real trip, I will be a lot more discerning and thorough with regards to all that I throw in there, but my practice run today served to reassure me that my suitcase is big enough and strong enough to hold all that I need, and if anything else comes up, I should have some extra space in the laptop backpack that I carry onto the plane. 
Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wildfires in Spain

In preparing for our trip to Spain, we have been monitoring news articles about Spain. In the past they have covered everything from the Euro crisis to basketball in the Olympics. More recently, however, the news has been filled with stories about a completely different problem: wildfires. Spain has been hit by the worst string of wildfires since 2002 after experiencing the driest winter in nearly 70 years. High temperatures and low humidity create difficult conditions, and budget cuts have decreased the number of planes and boats equipped to fight the fires. Already, the fires have burned nearly 3 times as much land as in all of 2011.
The Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, have been hit hard.  One one island, 10% of land has been burned by the fires. The position of the islands makes it difficult for rescue boats and firefighter planes to reach the islands quickly to combat the fire. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and villages. National Parks that shelter rare plants and animals have also been affected, with environmental managers estimating it will take 20-30 years for the areas to recover.

As a volunteer at the Savannas Preserve State Park, I have often seen the results of controlled burns. Prescribed fires are meant to prevent wildfires, burning the area under the best circumstances with staff on hand and ready to put it out. It is amazing to see the land recover after the fires, when the new plants grow across the charred ground. Nature is resilient and it will bounce back, just as strong as ever. I hope that soon those displaced will be able to return to their homes and resume their lives.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Progress Update.

Today I thought I’d give an update of trip progress.  The countdown has crossed under 4 weeks!
After our visa application adventures, we were able to submit our missing insurance information by email and Amanda was able to send in her passport.  We waited fairly nervously, but our apprehension was unnecessary.  In less time than even the Spanish Consulate’s soonest estimate, we both received our visas, approved and ready to go!  I wasn’t sure what a visa even looks like, so I was surprised to find that it is not a separate document.  It’s printed on a page of my passport.

Registering for study abroad classes at UCF has been a multi-step process.  First we registered with Alcala, back in the spring.  Then, more recently, we registered for any four classes here at UCF.  I signed up for the classes I would have taken had I not been studying abroad.  The next step in the process was for the study abroad office to switch our classes to study abroad classes. This happened last week.  Now on our schedule, it looks at first glance like we’re studying on campus in Orlando, but upon closer examination, the section number is different, and when you click on the description, it reads “Study Abroad in Alcala, Spain.”

Amanda and I applied for scholarships earlier this summer.  The study abroad website is pretty vague about the application timeframe.  It is possible to apply at any time, up to approximately four weeks before departure.  We expected to have to wait at least a few more weeks before learning the results, but we received the good news a lot sooner.  Yesterday, we were each notified that we have been awarded Study Abroad scholarships from the Honors College.  Woohoo!

Six months ago, when we were still in the early stages of planning our semester abroad, Amanda and I talked about how we thought summer would feel like an age, since we’d be so excited.  I didn’t anticipate the way the months would fly by.  We leave so soon!