Clubbing in Yonsei

 

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Getting ready for a parade in the pungmul club room.

The title may be a bit misleading. My first semester in Yonsei felt to me like a 4 month adjustment period and as such I spent much of the time adjusting to my life in Korea and not so much on things like extracurricular activities at school. Well this semester things are different and I currently have an active club life here at Yonsei. Like my home University of Toronto there are a wealth of student clubs available at Yonsei which range from board games to scuba-diving. This semester, the clubs I’ve joined are a mixed martial arts club and traditional “pungmul” club. The clubs differ considerably both in nature and the types of students they attract.

The mixed martial arts club is made up largely of foreigners such as myself and consists of doing a rather strenuous group of exercises and drills, largely related to kick boxing with punches, kicks and lots of cardio. It meets three times a week. We don’t really have a formal training place and therefore we are regulated to working out in the hall-way of one of the school’s auditoriums. Still it’s a lot of fun and works out a lot of stress. The second club however, maybe a bit more interesting to describe.

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Me (centre) with the members of my club.

The other club I have become a dedicated member of is the “pungmul” club. Pungmul is a kind of traditional Korean drumming method in which an ensemble of drummers get together and play any one of four instruments to a rhythm set by the leader of the group. The drumming itself has a long and complicated history and is tied closely with indigenous Korean shamanism, and on top of that it’s a blast.

The music can be played solo, with a band, or in a giant group parade style which I experienced last Friday. Traditionally when spring is just around the corner Koreans pay homage to the “ground god” presumably this was done in order to ensure the seeds sewn by the farmers would yield bountiful harvests. In the city however, it seems to be more centered around bringing good luck to local businesses and that’s what we attempted to do, or so I’m led to believe.

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Our club getting ready to set out for the parade!

The parade worked as such. We exited the school and paraded up and down the streets of Sinchon (the neighbourhood Yonsei is next to) stopping at seemingly random restaurants and playing in front of them for an allotted period of time. After this the boss of the restaurant would come out and give us free food and often drinks in the form of pop, beer, or rice wine! It was great! After visiting a number of businesses we eventually headed back to the school grounds where we joined a massive congregation of other pungmul groups from nearby universities and ran in formations while playing for what felt like an hour at least! The whole parade lasted about 5 hours, but it just flew by because I was having so much fun! After the parade the entire assembly went out for drinks at a massive pub and all manner of debauchery followed. It was the most fun I’ve had since I arrived here – good exercise too!

 

Race in Your Face

 

Here’s an interesting experience I had here in South Korea a few weeks ago. I was turned away from a club in Seoul’s prolific art district, Hongdae, simply for being a foreigner. At the time I sort of shrugged it off, but later on it sort of resonated with me and since then I’ve been turning it over and over in my mind trying to figure out how it is relevant to the question of how many Koreans view foreigners, or more specifically non-Koreans, and how North Americans carry themselves abroad.

The night happened as such. I had met with some local Korean friends in Hongdae for a drink and we ended up “going three rounds” which means we bar hopped to three different places – a common practice around here. After one of my friends went home after having “had enough” another Korean friend and I decided to head to a local club of which there are many in Hongdae. It was at the first club we went to I was barred entrance. I had overheard the bouncers talking to my friend saying something along the lines of “no foreigners in here” and my friend relayed this message to me. I asked why and he said the bouncers explained to him that some foreigners had caused trouble there recently and so they were not letting in foreigners until further notice. “Fair enough” I said and we walked on to another place.

A few days later I started thinking about it though and a few questions popped into my head. These were along the lines of “I wonder how many Korean patrons have caused trouble in that club?” and “If I had been an ethnically East Asian foreigner would they still have barred me?” and finally “This certainly could not have been the first problem they’ve had with (visible) foreigners if they’re banning them from the club, so why are foreigners causing so much trouble?”. However, I’m not writing this to vent about whether Korea is racist or not, but rather to bring to light a number of realities for those intrepid travelers who are thinking about surveying the Land of the Morning Calm.

The first two of my questions are fairly easy to answer and I feel can be boiled down to Korea’s ethnic population. Like a number of other countries in the world, Korea is largely homogenous – meaning that the citizenry of Korea is largely comprised of ethnic Koreans. This naturally has some positive effects, such as an identifiable “culture”, mannerism and society which can be thought of as uniquely Korean and can be explored and analyzed by those who are curious enough to do so. The downside of course is that there are a considerable number of preconceptions Koreans have towards those who do not fall into the majority demographic – also known as stereotypes. In other words if you are visibly non-Korean and happen to find yourself in South Korea don’t be surprised if people treat you a bit differently than they would a local. Most of the time it’s stuff like asking if you need a fork or assuming you don’t like spicy food which is largely benign and mostly well-meaning, but other times it’s stuff like treating you dismissively or straight up not acknowledging you (often for fear of having to speak English which not everyone is capable of doing). In these instances language is often the key, but if you don’t speak the language at all then you’ll just sort of have to deal with it.

As far as me being turned away however, I feel this likely comes from a general lack of North American foreigners from which to draw good examples. First of all even though the amount of North American foreigners in Korea is steadily increasing, they are still vastly outweighed by locals and Asian foreigners. Therefore it’s understandable that if a few act up in a club the management, who likely have somewhat limited experience with foreigners may decide that it may be a good idea to bar would-be trouble makers from his or her establishment. This whole thing isn’t helped either by the fact that foreigners – especially those from North America have established a rather negative reputation in Korea especially in regards to their night-life etiquette. As far as I have experienced we North Americans, especially hetero-sexual males in Korean club land are often thought of as being loud, obnoxious, occasionally violent playboys with entitlement complexes concerning local services and females and this is obviously nothing to be proud of.

So what can we do about it? Blame the locals for their short-sightedness? Well maybe we can to some degree, very so often news reports crop up about foreigners causing trouble in clubs or having drunken altercations with other foreigners or locals on weekend evenings in the busy streets of Seoul. I’ve even noticed a profound difference between drunken locals in any one of the popular Korean night-life areas compared to the drunken foreigners in Itaewon whom come across even to me as much more loud and aggressive than their Korean counterparts even to me. What I’m saying is that when you’re a guest in a foreign land you need to remember that whether you like it or not, you are representing your country and that in a country like Korea that has a long history of collectivism, people can and will group you with other foreigners and look at you as a cohesive group. All I’m saying is be sure to be considerate when your abroad because your actions will reflect on you and your peers. That is all.

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Signs like these are a fairly common sight in Hongdae sadly.

 

The main drag of Hongdae, apologies for the blurriness.

The main drag of Hongdae, apologies for the blurriness.

 

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Two of my friends, Kyle and Santiago whom I met while over here – exiting a bar in Hongdae.

 

Skiing!

Dear friends!

Life is so absolutely incredible! Already so much has happened since we last wrote!  The weekend of “silence” turned into one of the most beautiful weekends so far. We lived the rhythm of the lives of the Benedictine monks, who live in a stunning age old monastery at the end of the Swiss rail line – in a tiny town called Disentis. We woke up at 5:00 AM to attend the morning prayers (all sung in Gregorian chant) of the monks, which finished just as dawn started to illuminate the fairy tale view. All day there were non-obligatory programs to attend: meditations, prayers, meals, etc – or you could hike! It was warm enough to go hiking in just a t-Shirt, but the snow was in some places knee deep – a typical symptom of the high Alps in spring. It was incredible in itself to be disconnected from all electronic gadgets for a weekend, to have no work that had to be done. The only goal of the weekend was to find a deeper sense of inner tranquility – to regain equilibrium. We came back to Zurich refreshed and ready to take on all the challenges the semester would bring!

The monastery we stayed at in Disentis

The weekend after that we went to visit some family friends in Geneva where Hanna spent the night while I (Lea), went to visit a friend I had met in Brussels almost 2 years ago. I spent another incredible weekend skiing in the French Alps – across the valley from Mont Blanc, in a ski area called St. Gervais. I am running out of superlatives to use, but words are hard pressed to describe the absolute beauty and thrill of that weekend!

St. Gervais, across from Mt. Blanc

It seems this blog post will mostly be about skiing. I (Lea) spent the weekend after that in the mountains as well, this time at a ski hill called Andermatt. There is an incredible skiing culture here in Switzerland! Every Saturday morning at the Hauptbahnhoff, the main train station in Zurich, guaranteed every second person will be carrying a pair of skiis with them as they head out to the plethora of ski hills all within an hour train ride. There is a Ski and Rail program with which you can buy a combined day ski and day rail ticket for quite discounted prices. Once again we were soaring above the clouds at crazy heights and crazy speeds! We wanted to beat our ski speed record, and so using a speedometer on our friend’s iPhone, our max speed was… wait for it… 140.0 km/h! I’m not sure if the app was fully functional, but we had chosen the steepest, straightest, iciest slope to tuck down, and considering the world record is 251.4 km/h, set in 2006 by Simone Origon, it could potentially be possible, if not probable.

Andermatt

I (Hanna) also had an incredible weekend: I returned to Budapest for 3 events. The first one was the Fokolare Mariapoli, where over 1000 people (mostly big families) gathered for 4 days to discuss how to bring morality into business, and how to save the world through love. In a country like Hungary, where most of the population is quite depressed about the future, conferences like these are crucial, and it was very uplifting. I actually arrived in Budapest on Wednesday, but for 2 days there was such a massive blizzard that all the railways and highways in and out of the city were shut down, and several hundred people were buried in snow drifts on the highways and had to spend the whole night in their cars. 2 mothers even gave birth in the middle of the snowstorm while they were trapped on the highway! Hungary rarely has much snow, so the blizzard brought quite a state of emergency. However, after 3 days the highways were reopened, and my boyfriend and I were able to get to the conference.

Focolare camp fires

After the Mariapoli, Tony and I went to Visnyeszeplak, which is a tiny eco-village 3 hours away from Budapest. Although my life is pretty interesting, I must say that these were perhaps the most interesting few days I’ve spent since moving to Zurich! The village consisted of only ~150 people, and it began with several families who wanted to move away from the city to start a family commune type farming community. They found the ruins of a village that had been demolished (i.e. many of the houses had been literally bulldozed down) by the Communists, and were therefore able to buy the land very cheaply. Each family has a responsibility. One family planted many fruit trees, another family has 250 families of bees, another has 20 cows and horses, another 30 goats, etc. There is barely any money used in the village; people barter their skills and products – a day of hoeing will get you a jar of honey etc. Tony and I were really lucky; we were in the right place at the right to help a mother goat give birth to her first baby!

It is a complete paradise for children: although they all have to go to school, they spend much of the day playing outside.  The village is deliberately old fashioned; life is quite tough for newcomers. If a young family wants to join the community, they buy one of the remaining free ramshackle huts with the surrounding piece of land, and often live without electricity or running water for 2 or 3 years before they bank up enough work hours with the other farmers to enable them to start construction on a new house with a well etc. We visited some of these families with 3 or 4 kids who lived in one of these 3 room huts with a kitchen, living room, and one bedroom. Although today’s sophisticated society would look at such squalor with great contempt, it was fascinating to experience the deep peace and joy with which these people live their lives! Since many of them came from middle income families in cities, they knew exactly what they were leaving behind, and chose to come to Visnyeszeplak precisely to live in a tight community close to nature. And despite the hardships, no one we spoke with wanted to ever move back to a city! Although I don’t think I could give up travelling, an intellectual work life and social life anytime soon, I would love to have some chickens and rabbits, and maybe a goat or two in the future!

Pictures to come soon

Bis bald!

Hanna and Lea

 

Are you FREE?

 

I have been studying at the University of Brussels or in French Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). In the English translation there is a very important word that is missing LIBRE (translation: FREE). What does the word FREE mean? Well there are several definitions, on my “Follow your dream” necklace, this is what they wrote:

Freedom is the opportunity to find happiness and the liberty to follow your dreams

I really like their definition of FREEDOM because for me having dreams and dreaming is very important, they compel you sometimes do to things that scare you or to take risks. And even sometimes if dreams are hard to achieve, “one who risks nothings, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave, he has forfeited FREEDOM. Only a person who risks is FREE”. (Leo Buscaglia)

However what does it mean to be FREE, in particular in an university where they give you the opportunity to follow your dreams? In ULB’s student guide this is what they wrote:

Dans ULB, il y a le “L”. Que signifie-t-il pour nous? Il renvoie à l’attitude du libre examen, celle de l’homme libre, qui ne se soumet à aucun dogme, à aucune idée totalitaire, quelle qu’elle soit. Ce “L” de liberté signifie donc que nous nous engageons moralement à ce que notre conscience reste toujours libre.

English: In ULB, there is the “L”. What does it mean for us? It makes reference to the principle of free enquiry, the one of the free man, who isn’t subject to any dogma, totalitarian idea, whatever they are. The “L” in Liberté (Freedom/Liberty) means that we are morally committed that our conscience is always free.

Please watch the youtube video That’s not enough from ULBruxelles that explains more about the university’s spirit and their “free” position (Note: in French “brassage” was translated into “mixing”, actually it should be “brewing” and therefore a play on words with brewing beer and brew (mix) of people ). (Note in the video: 1:23 is the Economic’s building Solvay that I mentioned in my previous post La brassicole). The “freedom” in Université Libre de Bruxelles school administration and point of view can be debated on.

ULB sweater

I am wearing a ULB sweater. Don’t worry fellow UofT students, underneath closest to my heart, I am wearing a U oft T shirt.

In my opinion I am living everyday their definition of a FREE University, especially for the research course I am taking. I have seen the professor who supervises me only once this semester, I got very little guidelines on how to write my scientific research article that is due at the end of the semester and nobody really verifies that I am going to the school to do testings or not. Also, the professor didn’t even tell me, I found out on my own, that with the research course there is a mandatory tutorial (TP) that I have to attend every week and in which students give presentations of their research or work with a patient in a hospital. Nevertheless, all of this forced me to be independent, to try to find solutions to my problems on my own and although it seemed very scary at the beginning of the semester, I learned a lot so far. Moreover, the tutorial is interesting because one has to diagnose the patient in the clinical cases presented. Although I am not a master student and not a psychology student (I’m doing a double major in Neuroscience and French literature!), it is very hard for me to participate in the class discussions, yet at the same time it pushes me to think further than my own knowledge.

What does “freedom” mean to you? Are you “free” at the U of T? In your university?

sincerely,

Nazanin

 

Heading South from the Cape

Hello everyone!

Today I am going to tell you more about our adventures in Northland. To update you from the trip up to this point, we arrived in Auckland, then we headed north all the way up to Cape Reinga to watch the seas collide and play in the sand.

At this point we were headed back south, and while we were still in Northland we took some time to check out the 90 mile beach. Now picture this: a very long, flat, shallow, perfect beach that spanned as far as the eye could see in both directions. When we arrived, the beach was almost deserted but for several locals. We thought we were pretty much alone, but then we went out to wade in the waves. As the first wave washed out, the washout revealed a layer of mussels beneath our feet. I scooped up some sand in my hands, and let the water wash it away. I was left holding 7 mussels. The mussels absolutely covered the beach under a thin layer of sand. Apparently they are a very common, free, local food source. I would take a trip to the beach over a trip to the grocery store any day! It seemed we weren’t alone at all! Andrew, however, was rather creeped out, and just wanted to put shoes back on.

Ferry from Rangiora to Rawene

Ferry from Rangiora to Rawene

Continuing south brought us across a small ferry and onto wonderful roads that wound back and forth through native forest and along the western coast. We stopped to see a tree…I know how it sounds; I wasn’t too keen myself. It turns out to be the coolest tree I’ve ever seen! Tane Mahuta is a giant Kauri tree (Kauri are already pretty big) that is believed to be older than Christ! This single individual tree has been standing in that spot of the forest for over 2000 years. It kind of makes you feel inconsequential, doesn’t it? This tree has spiritual significance for the local Maori people, and I totally understand why; it’s astounding to see.

 

Andrew with Tane Mahuta, the ancient Kauri.

Andrew with Tane Mahuta, the ancient Kauri.

In New Zealand, the Department of Conservation (DOC) runs very inexpensive campsites on reserve land all over the country. The sites range from free to $12, and are usually fairly basic. We planned to stay at one of these the night we visited Tane Mahuta, but I had no idea what we were in for! The site was within the Trounson Kauri Park Scenic Reserve, and had a night-walk path that began right at the campsite. When it was completely dark, we left with our dimmed flashlights (so as to not damage or scare the nocturnal wildlife), and high hopes. We were told that Kiwi (the bird, not the people) live in this area, as do glow-worms. We were not disappointed: around each corner, more glow worms became visible against the backdrop of giant Kauri trees, silhouetted against the night sky.

Shallow estuary bordered by boulders; Another stop along the way.

Shallow estuary bordered by boulders; another stop along the way.

I am Canadian, as many of you know. And, as a Canadian, when I am in a forest at night and I hear loud rustling, I am scared… it could be a coyote, or a fisher, but it is most likely a bear! So when I heard loud rustling, despite my best efforts, Andrew pushed me towards the sound instead of letting me escape to safety (he remembered that NZ doesn’t have bears). And I am so happy he did; we had the very rare opportunity to see a native Kiwi bird foraging in its natural habitat. Most New Zealanders haven’t even been able to come across this wonderful sight. Kiwis are huge! I was picturing a chubby sparrow. Instead I found a noisy chicken-sized ball of fluff poking around in the leaf litter. What a wonderful end to the day!

Our trip brought us through Dargaville the next day, where we stopped at the Dargaville Pioneer Museum. It may not look like much from the outside, but it is one of the best museums I have ever been to. There were endless artefacts to see, and even live-action displays. The staff were wonderful, and I learned lots about the early Kiwi culture and lifestyle.

The next time I write, it will be about the other side of Auckland and the main North Island. It gets very colourful and stinky very soon! Check back soon for that post!

¡Calçotada!

Well what an experience this was! I was fortunate enough to be invited through my local Catalàn friends in Barcelona to a well known ‘fiesta’ here in Catalunya…La Calçotada! On a sunny, 20 degree Saturday afternoon we all piled into my friend’s car and headed off to Manresa, a small town west of Barcelona near Montserrat for the party. Now, the reason these Calçotadas are so famous in Catalunya is due to the tradition behind the always tasty Calçots (in Catalàn) eaten throughout the entire day and late into the night as well. The Calçots are similar to our Green Onions in English however, they are massive here compared to the little ones we have back home. What you do to cook them is you string all of the Calçots together on a piece of wire and then you place them over an open fire to burn the outside of them. Then in the typical Catalàn style, you are to shuck the burnt outer shell which leaves you with the sweet cooked inside of the onion. Then you smother the inside bit in an incredibly made homemade tomato garlic sauce followed by the absolute must…tilting you head back and swallowing the salsa covered Calçot whole!

 

We were instantly surprised as we showed up to the mansion of Milio who’s father, we quickly realized, owned one of the largest shipping companies in Spain! His house(s) were incredible! They lived on a beautiful ranch with horses overlooking some of the best country side in Spain! Also we found out that this Calçotada was going to be a feast! It was not only the over 350 Calçots that he had purchased for us, but there was unlimited tapas of all the best meats and cheeses in Spain, unlimited Spanish wine, cervezas and of course some special liquors as well! We all decided to pitch in 5€ by the end of the night. Just as a thanks for an incredible evening.

 

After filling my stomach up to the max, and having an incredible Saturday spent with friends in the Spanish countryside, I now know that the next time anyone mentions the word Calçotada, I will be there in a heartbeat!

Calçot Preparation! Calçots Preparation! Calçots…the Beginning! DSC02082 The Best Way the Catalans Drink! Cervezas y Tapas…. Let the Feast Begin! Saturday Afternoon Caçotada! The Group! Montserrat Casa Emilio with Montserrat in the Distance Horse Stables on the Ranch Casa Emilio Cooking Process! Tons of Great Food! The Team! The Calçot Team Calçots! Calçot Preparation! Casa Emilo Manresa Almond Trees! En Route to Manresa Road Trip! Montserrat Montserrat in the Distance Road Trip! Road Trip!

Forget the DeLorean…It’s all about going on exchange!

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Things are ramping up at Hebrew U. I have had two weeks of classes so far. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew it would be good but I must say my professors are truly awesome!

The Rothberg tower at Hebrew U.

The Rothberg tower at Hebrew U.

… well in general this University is pretty remarkable all around! Hebrew U. is one of the oldest academic institutions in Israel and at the moment it is the best University in the country. This really comes as no surprise when you learn that the University was founded by some pretty sharp men such as Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Chaim Weizman among others, and when your professors end up being some of the most prominent academics in Israel. For the three courses I am enrolled in I have two professors that were former advisers to several Israeli Prime Ministers and had leading policy making roles in government. They lived, saw and acted in the definitive events that shaped this country. My third professor is currently the head of Jewish studies at a major academic institution and his articles are frequently published in news media. The most awesome thing is that my classes are anywhere from 15-25 people so in general it’s a more intimate class setting and I get to have a greater interaction with each professor.

...Lost? No worries Einstein, one of the founders of Hebrew U. will help guide you to class!

…Lost? No worries Einstein, one of the founders of Hebrew U. will help guide you to class!

 

All my professors offer a distinct perspective of Israeli and Middle Eastern society, culture and politics, and all exude a true passion for teaching and really communicating with students. In the two weeks I’ve been in classes I can say that my understanding of Israel and the Middle East has grown exponentially. From the shawarma I’ll have for lunch, to the name of the street I’ll be walking on, to the very view of the Samarian Desert that overlooks my classroom window, these men have helped enhance my understanding of the history of Israel. The rich history and anecdotes that my professors have discussed with us in class has also given me the ability to see everyday traditions and customs within their proper historical significance. If I feel like this in two weeks, I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn by the end of the semester!

 

walking through campus...

walking through campus…

The Hebrew U. campus is beautiful too! On breaks I’ve been roaming around and exploring all the different areas of the University. The campus is located on Mount Scopus overlooking the Judean and Samarian Deserts, the Mount of Olives and the Old City of Jerusalem. The grounds include an amphitheater, a botanical garden, some ancient ruins, and lots of green space to relax outdoors, eat lunch or study while enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun. You can even get on the roof of the buildings and study up top while overlooking the Old City or just chill on one of the Rothberg School terrace’s and enjoy a casual conversation there after class.

Intense studying is definitely more enjoyable outdoors!

Intense studying is definitely more enjoyable outdoors!

 

As I settle into my weekly routine I am definitely looking forward to the rest of the semester. I know it will only get more intense, this week coming up I have two assignments due and a Hebrew quiz, but the feeling of walking down a street of Jerusalem and seeing a familiar historical name and being able to know how to read it in Hebrew and then understand the significance behind it is the coolest thing! In the blink of an eye, all of the sudden, I get transported into the past and I truly see myself at the time in history when the event occurred! I must stay frozen for a couple of seconds or even minutes reliving the moment…then the honk of a car or someone saying “Yala!” (“Lets go” in Hebrew slang) will wake me and I’ll come back to the present! Forget about the DeLorean in “Back to the Future” it’s all about going on exchange!

La brassicole

 

The University of Brussels has three campuses, Solbosch campus, La Plaine campus and Erasme campus. I’ve had classes in Solbosch and La Plaine but not Erasme, because that’s the medicine and dentistry campus. On the La Plaine campus there are TD parties every weekday Monday to Thursday, that’s the only thing I like there (If you want to read more about a TD party, read my previous post Living in Brussels). The buildings are very old, there are very little signs of where each building is situated and in the evening it is particularly gloomy because the campus is filled with trees, dark buildings and very little lights. I like more the Solbosch campus which is situated 10min away from La Plaine.

My favourite building is building A because it has an old feel to it, the other buildings are either a little worn out (e.g. building H) or are very modern. The faculty of Economy (Solvay) is a very nice and new building. What I like most about the campus is that it is small and cute, and there are lots of cafeterias around campus selling affordable food and where you can sit during lunch time. At U of T we either don’t have any cafeterias for commuters and non-commuters students where you can sit to eat or they are much much smaller than ULB. Also what I think is interesting, is the fact that there is a bank and a travel agency inside the campus. Every time I pass the travel agency, I am thinking and dreaming about traveling…

Building A

On this side of building A  is an inscription that says “Faculté de Droit” (Faculty of Law). On the right of the building there is a big clock tower and almost in front of it there is a statue of a very important person for ULB. 
Building ABuilding A The statue represents Pierre Theodore Verhaegen the founder of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. On Nov. 20th the university is closed to celebrate Saint-Verhaegen (to read more about Saint-V read my previous post Saint-V).

Saint VerhaegenDSCN4401

The other side of the building is the Faculty of Arts (“Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres”). Next to building A is building NB, a white library. Nevertheless, what most people don’t know is that inside building A there is also a “hidden” library, a very beautiful one, much nicer, quieter and better decorated than NB. My archeologist friend told me about it; what a great “archaeologic” discovery. I wonder how long it took him to “search” for such a great library to study in. You don’t need a student card to enter the library, however inside they check sometimes your student card while you are studying.

 Building ADSCN4406

On the other side of the campus there is building Paul Emile Janson (picture below), this is ULB’s version of U of T’s Con Hall if you want. It is built on a hill, therefore from the outside it might seem really small however don’t be fooled by the optic illusion, when you enter you are at the last row of the auditorium and at the bottom is where the professors lecture.

JansonOn the right of Janson there is parking and there are lots of little box-like buildings of different colours. Each of them belongs to a “cercle” (that’s the name they give to a club at the University of Brussels). Each cercle organizes several activities and parties during the year, and in the evening sometimes you can go there and drink beers with the cercle members. (If you want to read more about cercles see my previous post Living in Brussels). The weather was so nice and warm that on the picture below you can see that they moved their couches and their things outside.

The "cercles"

Furthermore, this week was “la brassicole”, an event organized by the cercle La semeur (students from Charleroi and Thudinie) on this parking place. Every day this week from noon until midnight there were activities, music and you could taste a lot of different kinds of beers at a reasonable student price. Below you can see a picture of the tents and how successful the event was. Also at the end of March, the cercle of bioengineers organize “la Vinicole”, a wine tasting and enology course event.

La Brassicole

cheers,
Nazanin

A Canadian, Castellano & Barcelona, Catalunya!

 

If you manage to spend the entire evening out, or have Jetlag, this is a view you can no miss from any of the beaches in Barcelona!

If you manage to spend the entire evening out, or have jet lag, this is a view you cannot miss from any of the beaches in Barcelona!

Hello everyone! This post is going to be a little window into the incredible experiences and adventures I have had in the unforgettable city of Barcelona as an Erasmus student thanks to the amazing team of Míriam and the SpainBcn Language Program!

I have to begin with saying that I showed up in Spain on the first of September 2012 as a fish out of water; with hindered Spanish skills, exposed to a foreign culture, friendless, houseless, ‘school-less’ and a whole other list of ‘-less’s” as well!  However, little did I know that I had made the best decision to begin my transition into my new Barcelona experience with the assistance of Míriam and her incredible SpainBcn Program.

http://www.erasmusinbarcelona.com (Website Associated with the Míriam’s Program)

I can’t even begin to explain the incredible time that I had during my two week experience with Míriam and the SpainBcn Program. Although I will attempt to give you a tid-bit of my experience over those beginning weeks!

Míriam’s course was recommended via a Facebook group page that had been started for all incoming exchange students to the Universitat Pompeu Fabra shortly after my acceptance and sponsorship by my home university, the Rotman Commerce School of Business at the University of Toronto. Their program offered an intensive Spanish review and immersion class at extremely competitive prices and was centrally situated in the heart of Barcelona. With that said, I registered myself for a two week course beginning the first Monday in September which led me to the commencement of my university courses come the end of September. Instantly from day one, I was welcomed into a group of incredible people that made my exchange in Barcelona unforgettable!

After a long day of Spanish, we all headed to a Rooftop Pool Party across from Torre Agbar

After a long day of Spanish, we all headed to a Rooftop Pool Party across from Torre Agbar

“Hombre…¿Qué pasa?”

-Míriam

The above was a daily quote from the notoriously hilarious Míriam!  We all began with our placement exams on the first day and without missing a beat,  Míriam’s bubbly and ‘open armed’ attitude instantly welcomed us into her Spanish teaching classroom where we all felt more then happily at ease! Throughout the weeks with our more then fair share of laughs, stories, Spanish history and the hammering out of “El Subjuntivo”, the castellano juices began flowing again and Barcelona was actually beginning to sink in!

One item though that I must tell everyone that I guarantee I will not forget for the rest of my life is this; the friends you meet through this program will become your family here in Barcelona and will be your guiding base to experience every incredible hidden gem that this city has to offer. Enjoy it, meet new people, make mistakes, and never say ‘no’ to something new here!

There is always a good time to have with friends in Spain!

There is always a good time to have with friends in Spain!

I was incredibly fortunate enough to have had met my best friend through this program and still to this day I wonder about the likelihood of meeting unforgettable people like that around the globe in the most unexpected of situations. Through the last 7 months, I have had an incredible ‘Wingman’ who has experienced the incredible Spanish and Catalan cuisine with me, the world renowned nightlife of Barcelona,  many adventures around the country and continent and many evenings chatting the night away with locals in Barcelona!  However, with an open mind and a constant willingness to “Break Out of the English Box” and speak castellano, Barcelona, Catalunya and España will not fail you in surpassing your expectations and providing you with a life-learning and never to be forgotten experience that you will have for the rest of your life!

Costa Brava Beautiful Barcelona!

The Catalunya National Holiday.

The Catalunya National Holiday.

Incredible Parks around Barcelona

Incredible Parks around Barcelona

Common Meetup for the Spanish Class!

Common Meetup for the Spanish Class!

Gas Natural Fenosa Mercado de Santa Maria Morning Time in La Barceloneta!

Bocadillo and Café con Leche

Bocadillo and Café con Leche

La Boqueria