Skype, Translators & Back to the Grind

Greetings once more from Sweden!

What's an exchange student to do for the holidays? Nothing like using Skype to eat breakfast with the family on Christmas morning.

What’s an exchange student to do for the holidays? Nothing like using Skype to eat breakfast with the family on Christmas morning.

As always, the holidays seemed to have disappeared in a flash. I stayed in Lund up until the 26th of December and then headed southward to Italy. I arrived in Milan and took the train to Faenza, a small town close to Bologna, where I was greeted by an old U of T friend who drove me to her even smaller town of Brisighella.

You know you're traveling with a budget airline when no one even bothered to take the trees out of the boxes.

You know you’re traveling with a budget airline when no one even bothered to take the trees out of the boxes.

Brisighella is a quaint little town surrounded by rolling hills, and is home to a small olive oil and wine cooperative.  During my short stay, I met many lovely people who welcomed me into their homes and included me into their holiday celebrations.

Overlooking Brisighella.

Overlooking Brisighella.

However, one night definitely stood out from the others. I attended a party where I was given fair warning that no one else attending really spoke that much English. Regardless of this fact, I was warmly welcomed once more into a stranger’s home where a huge Italian style potluck was in full swing. The beginning of the night was a bit on the quiet side for me, since I had only been able to find one person who was willing to practice his English. However, as the night went on and the holiday cheer continued to be drunk from bottomless glasses, more and more of these lovely Italians began to speak English, and quite well I might add!

It ended up being a really fun evening. At the start they were giving me a bit of a hard time, but I was touched by the fact that they were trying so hard to include me. It was apparent that a few of these Italians were more proficient in English then the others, so they quickly became the “translators” for their friends. I was quick to catch on though, that these “translators” were picking, choosing, and perhaps bending, what was actually being said by the others. That is, I’m pretty sure they were trying to set me up with one of two men. Luckily my friend and I left before any dates could be planned.

Walking along the harbour front in Trieste.

Walking along the harbour front in Trieste.

After my stay in Brisighella we travelled to Trieste, a city in Northeastern Italy. Trieste is a beautiful seaside town which architecturally has been heavily influenced by Croatia. Here I met many more wonderful people, and we all celebrated the coming of 2014 together with champagne and fireworks in the center square.

More walking.

More walking.

 

Sunset on the 31st.

Sunset on the 31st.

I was back in Lund by January 2nd to enjoy my last few days of freedom. Refocusing back into my studies has been a bit of an uphill battle. My Fisheries Ecology class does not finish until the 18th of January, and we were half way through a group modeling project before the holiday break began. Naturally, no one so much as glimpsed at the project during the holidays, so we all feel as though we are starting back a square one…c’est la vie!

Until next time,

Abby

A new year, a new adventure

Happy 2014, and a wonderful new semester to all U of T students! I offer my condolences for the deep freeze that seems to have gripped Eastern Canada. We’ve noticed here in France! In a true display of schadenfreude, everyone has been asking recently me how cold it is in Toronto.

Since there were no blog posts over the winter holiday, I’ll give an update on how I spent my Christmas and New Years. December was pretty much a month of travel once exams were done. Besides London, and Milan (which I blogged about in my last post), I visited the famous Christmas markets at Strasbourg.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg – Christmas Decorations

Strasbourg

Strasbourg – Christmas Decorations at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spent Christmas eve in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt – Christmas Eve at Romer Square to hear the bell toll with hundreds of Germans

Frankfurt

Frankfurt – I also had my first taste of the hearty German portion. I don’t think I have ever seen this much food served for one meal before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas day in Heidelberg.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg – It was raining for the whole day I was there, but it was still an amazing trip.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg – the view of the town from Heidelberg Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last four days of 2013 in Berlin.

Berlin

Berlin – I have so many photos of Berlin I wasn’t sure how to even choose. So, have a photo of my favourite group of museums on Museum Island. The Neues Museum with the beautiful Nefertiti, and the Pergamon Museum. The Old National Gallery was unfortunately closed on the day of my visit.

Berlin

Berlin – the Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt was still going strong past Christmas. This is probably the best Christmas market I have been to (even compared with those in Strasbourg and Frankfurt), with the most interesting and diverse stalls and lively but orderly atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And back in Paris just in time for New Year’s eve.

One disappointment in the amazing last 11 days of 2013 was the lack of official fireworks in Paris to herald the arrival of 2014. The light show at the Eiffel Tower was amazing (and I have heard good things about the one at Champs Elysées as well), but there is something to be missed about the noise and fanfare of city-wide fireworks.

—–

The new semester at Sciences Po starts on January 20th, but our course enrolment was today. I have written about course enrolment before, but it just goes to show that one can never be completely prepared with student exchanges. At 2pm Paris time, one hour before the official registration starts, the Sciences Po website crashes (the consensus seems to point to overcapacity from too many people trying to log in at once). Panicked posts start appearing on the Sciences Po exchange group on Facebook. The general level of hysteria among exchange students rises as Sciences Po administration admits that they have no idea when the website will be back up.

3pm, the time of course registration, comes and passes with the website down to all. Now there are posts from students who are waiting in airports, with flights in an hour, frantically looking for alternate options. While I track the general going-ons on social media, I have been refreshing the course enrolment page constantly, because the website can be fixed at any time, and all the courses would be fair-game. I was rewarded for my perseverance when at 3:11pm, the website loads for me, and I immediately went in and enrolled in courses. Woe be the students who decided to take a break and came back to discover most of the courses were full.

To be honest, besides the anxiety caused by the malfunctioning website, course enrolment seems to be a lot smoother for most students in the second semester. There was no posts from students who weren’t able to enrol in even one course. And Sciences Po administration seems to have learned from the pitfalls of last semester and blocked off some seats for each class, and released some after every few hours so students who were late still have some courses from which to choose. Now, if UofT professors would kindly reply to my emails about pre-approving courses, that would be great.

All said, I am incredibly excited about the start of the second half of my exchange in Paris. I’ll try to do the blog, and the city justice. Until next time!