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Posts from the ‘Custom Programs’ Category

Emotional Italians

Ayan Kusari is a student at University of California, San Diego and an ISA Featured Blogger. Ayan is currently studying abroad in Rome on an ISA Custom Program.

photo cc ND Strupler

By American standards, I am an exceptionally emotional person. Here’s just a small sample of the things that have brought me to tears in the last few months:

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Sevilla Re-Entry: Back in the US

Matthew Boles is a student at the University of Florida and an ISA Featured Blogger. Matthew studied abroad in Sevilla on an ISA Custom Program through UF.

Here I am interviewing a woman for a class project. Even though she is
fluent in English, she allowed me to ask her questions in Spanish so
that I could practice. I now speak Spanish at my internship.

I am now back in the U.S., and I felt like there was a bigger “culture shock” coming back to the U.S. than I has when I went to Spain.

Even though I was only there for six weeks, it was different coming back home because Spain is so different. For example, I am now used to eating huge lunches and taking a well-deserved siesta after. But none of my friends or family members eat big lunches.

Also, it was really nice to be able to understand everyone. This first happened when I was in the airport in North Carolina, and I could actually understand everyone around me. However, when people asked me questions, I first thought about the answers in Spanish.

I knew that I learned in Spain, but it did not fully hit me until I walked into my Spanish class earlier this week. The summer B session started Monday, and I am taking “Spanish at the museums.” I could tell in that class that I learned a lot in Spain. My vocabulary is larger, I can construct better sentences and I do not have to think as much. I felt great.

One great example I can give is at my internship. I work for Catholic Charities, which is a nonprofit organization that helps people of any religion. A woman in the office is fluent, and she helps people who only speak Spanish. But when she is out of the office, I help translate.

I miss Spain already, and it has only been two weeks. It is great to be back in Gainesville, Fla, but I often daydream about Sevilla. I miss eating lunch by the river with friends and trying new food.

I want to return to Spain, and soon. I looked online, and internships are available. I do not know when or where, but I want to return to España.

Beautiful, Confusing, Venice: How To Plan a Short Trip

Photo CC James Whatley

Ayan Kusari is a a student at University of California, San Diego and an ISA Featured Blogger. Ayan is currently studying abroad in Rome on an ISA Custom Program.

Travelers talk a lot of smack about Venice. It’s the side of the story you don’t get from Frommer’s or Fodor’s, but it’s everywhere. The Venice smack talk always seems to go like this: “Venice is absolutely beautiful, but x, y, z, alpha, beta, gamma…” all the way to zeta. There are a million problems with the logistics of Venice, it seems: the trains are uncomfortable, the hotels are overpriced, the bus system is incomprehensible, few people speak good English, they make you pay for the toilets! A few things anyone traveling to Venice should keep in mind: Read more

The “studying” in study abroad

Matthew Boles is a student at The University of Florida and an ISA Featured Blogger. Matthew is currently studying abroad in Sevilla on an ISA Custom Program.

Given that I am taking classes here in Sevilla, Spain, I wanted to take some time to talk about my classes.

I am taking two classes: one taught by a University of Florida professor and one taught by a professor for the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo. Ana, the UF professor, is teaching a class about bilingualism in Spain while Coro, my other professor, is teaching a conversation course.

I really like both courses. There are quizzes and exams, but both professors understand that we are here to explore and become a part of the culture. Therefore, some of the assignments reflect that. For example, we all went on a tour of the “Plaza de España,” which is a huge plaza that was constructed for the 1929 World Exhibition. My homework for the conversation class was to write a summary of the tour.

My UF class has 10 students, and my conversation class has six. Everyone participates in both classes because we have the chance. It’s hard to speak regularly in a Spanish class of 30 students in the U.S.

Both courses are two hours long every day, but we usually have a break after an hour. I need the 10 minutes or so to relax and become focused again for class.

Even though neither one of my courses is about culture, we still talk about the culture because it’s important. For example, I had no idea that people in Spain eat twelve grapes on Jan.1 until we talked about customs during holidays.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “How hard are the exams?” I do have to study and read chapters from a textbook, but they are really not that bad. It’s more to make sure that we are paying attention in class and not sleeping. After all, we are studying here.

Something here that I have notices is that GPA does not exist. That seems weird to me, but I’m sure GPA seems like a weird concept to people who live in Spain. In fact, my professor told me that many students in Spain are content with just passing the course. The grading scale is different; it is from one to ten. A score of five or above means the student passed.

Something else that I have noticed here is that the universities do not have prestige over other universities. For example, obviously there is a difference between a degree in business from Harvard or any other ivy-league school and a business degree from some other school. But that is not the case in Spain. Many people here will live at home and go to the university in their hometown.

Also, there is a negative connotation of private universities in Spain. Our teacher explained to us that people in Spain who go to a private university, generally speaking, were denied from a public university. So they basically are paying more to say that they went to college.

I really do enjoy the way the classes are set up for us here in Spain. I can tell that I am improving every day.

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Rome: A City of Layers

Photo cc s shepard

Ayan Kusari is a a student at University of California, San Diego and an ISA Featured Blogger. Ayan is currently studying abroad in Rome on an ISA Custom Program.

In Rome, they say there are due città–two cities, a modern one above ground, and an ancient another underneath. But this is a vast oversimplification.

Rome is a city of layers, of many different heights and depths. Ten to fifteen feet down are the remains of Late Antique Rome (between 1500 and 800 years old, roughly). And another fifteen feet below that is another. Recently, archeaologists have unearthed remains fifty or sixty feet below the current surface, but they have yet to determine the age of these finds.

Though the rule that old things get buried is more or less universal, the rate of sediment deposition in Rome is unusually high. There are two unique reasons for this–one political, and the other geographical. Read more

On a Long Haul Flight, An American Trying to Make Friends

photo cc Nic Redhead

Ayan Kusari is a a student at University of California,  San Diego and an ISA Featured Blogger. Ayan is currently studying abroad in Rome on an ISA Custom Program.

“Hi, I’m Ayan! I’ll be sitting next to you for the next 10 hours,” I said in my characteristically peppy American way. “I’m very excited to be flying next to you today.”

I had never seen someone look so utterly bemused in my life. I looked at the red boarding pass stub she had placed on her lap while searching for her seat belt buckle.

“Are you excited to be going to Russia?” I asked her.

“No,” she said. “Not really.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling my face fall somewhat. “Why not?” Read more

Spain: Matt Boles

Matt Boles is a student at the University of Florida and an ISA Featured Blogger. Matt is currently studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain on an ISA Custom Program.

Hola. Sorry I have posted any new information in a while; time does fly when you’re studying abroad.

I am on the sixth week of my program, and it is totally different than what I expected. I studied abroad in Nicaragua in high school, so I thought that I had a pretty good idea on what to expect. (When I studied abroad in Nicaragua, it was not with ISA.)

I was expecting an initial “culture shock” and the pains of traveling and moving, and I was not expecting my roommate to be as nice. I hate to say it, but I’ve had some bad roommates in Gainesville, Fla., in the past.

Man was I wrong. My roommate, Jeff, and I are best friends. We eat virtually all of our meals, go to the gym, walk to class and visit the monuments of together. And I really didn’t receive that “culture shock.” I think it was because in Madrid, we were able to see museums but also rest and have some downtime.

I expected my classes to be hard, and they are. However, both of my professors are nice and I am learning a lot. Sometime my “homework” is for me to go the park and speak to a Sevillano. Even though the classes do require effort, the professors understand that we want to explore the city. Both of my courses are about the Spanish language, but I know other students are taking literature and finance courses, too. Click on the link to see a commercial I did for class:

In addition to learning Spanish, I am learning a lot about myself, too. (Yes, that does sound like something from “Hey Arnold.”) I feel like I am more mature after six weeks. Whenever I travel, everything is usually planned out for me to a “t.” I like how my program has planned excursions and free weekends where we could do what we want. For example, I spent a day kayaking in a protected park. I have also learned that I want to be fluent in Spanish. Obviously, I want to speak it, but I use to be content to just learn enough. Now, the feeling of ordering food in Spanish or bargaining in a market is great.

Something I have also learned the hard way: I over-packed. Everyone told me I would, and I did. If you do end up studying abroad, I highly recommend that you carry your luggage around your house first. If I did that, I would be OK.

Every day I wake up and think, “I still can’t believe I’m in Spain.” Without a doubt, I am one of the luckiest people alive right now.

I decided to keep a blog because I want to remember everything. The photos will help, but I want to look back on this trip in five years and know what was going through my mind.


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