Sunday, January 30, 2011

Museum of Natural History

Last week it was the MET, but this week since the weather is still the same, the best thing to do was a museum again. There are many museums in the city, but not all of them are comparable to the Museum of Natural History, the one where I spent Saturday afternoon. This museum is very famous and it's one of the main attractions in the city, especially for families. It's located in Central Park West 79th Street and it's very easy to get to by subway (it actually stops directly at the museum with the C and B trains, 81st St. stop). The ticket for a student is 12$; however, as it happens in the MET, this is a suggested donation and if you think it's too high for your pocket you can chose how much you want to pay. This is for the general admission, which doesn't include any of the special tours (like the brain exhibit or the planetarium movie).

There's an exhibit that I really want to see: "Brain, the Inside Story". You can get information about it in the official website: here. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the museum, the tickets for this one were sold out. Next time we will go in the morning and do all the exhibits, because they look really cool! There's one in the planetarium, another with live butterflies and an Imax movie about dinosaurs. You can pay for one of them (for students I believe it's around 16$) or you can get a ticket that lets you see all of them for about 24$, which I think is a good deal! So next time we will go early and do a marathon seeing the 4 special exhibits. I can't wait for that! 

Even if we didn't see any of the special tours, the museum itself is enough to amaze you. The thing I like the most in this museum is that you get answers, or at least attempts to an answer for questions that at some point of your life have been bothering you. How did the universe begin? What was there before it all started? How did animals appear? And so many more. But my favorite parts with no doubts are the dinosaurs floor and the planetarium. 

When I was a child I used to collect models of dinosaurs and I've watched movies about them over and over again. In the museum there are many fossils and reproductions in real size of creatures such as T-Rex. The work that scientists have done in this field is just admirable. There is a lot of information and every time I go (this is my third already!) I learn something new. I am very fascinated about the life of dinosaurs, how they became extinct and how other creatures kept evolving to the mammals we know today. There is a very interesting movie in the dinosaurs floor about it that for sure will give you a lot of answers if you've ever wondered about evolution theories. 

Regarding the planetarium, we didn't have the pass to the movie inside of it. However, there is one attraction there which is free of charge. It's the Big Bang Theory Theater. It's at the bottom of the spheric planetarium. People stand in a circle facing a semi-spheric screen located in the bottom which recreates a 3D universe. The movie explains the Big Bang Theory in images. It is very easy to understand and it's a lot of fun. After that, you exit through a corridor that goes down the museum in a spiral with the timeline of the evolution from the Big Bang to the universe as it is at the present. After that, there is a scale that tells your weight in the moon, cool right? 

There are so many other things I would like to mention, like the ocean creatures (you can see models of gigantic whales in real size!) or the amplified models of bugs and insects. But I really recommend you to visit the museum since I'm sure there is something you will find interesting and you will learn a lot! Seeing everything at once is quite a complicated thing, because all the information is overwhelming, but take your time in the rooms you like and you will have a very enjoyable experience!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Snowstorm Won't Change My Mood!

This week we've had quite a big snowstorm in the city. It was Wednesday night when it started and the following morning the streets of NYC were completely covered in white. I used to love snow. Maybe because in Barcelona it almost never happens and if by any chance it snows, it never stays for many hours. When I was a child, I was amazed by snow. Last year, since I was living in Tallinn (Estonia), I had snow for months. I actually enjoyed it, because it was the first time I was living in a snowy place. Moreover, in these countries from Northern Europe, they are really prepared for it. Even if it was very cold, I enjoyed the snow a lot. 

However, I come to New York City and I can't say it anymore. In fact, I don't like snow! Yes, the city looks pretty while the trees and the roofs look white... but the streets are all messed up, the public transport won't work properly, classes will be cancelled... such a chaos for few inches of snow! The worse part is that since it's not that cold and at some parts of the day we are over the freezing point, the snow slowly melts down. When it melts down it's really gross. Crossing the street is such an adventure, every block is surrounded by snow and a lot of water. So be ready to get your feet completely wet if you don't have a pair of these fancy rain boots! 

For those who like winter, this might be fine. But for those who are like me and need sunny and t-shirt days, let me tell you something: don't let the weather control your mood! It might sound silly but I really think the weather affects people a lot. It affects different people in different ways, of course. I think it affects me to some extent, until I become aware of it and change my mind. It's not impossible to do, just have a little bit of sense of humor and think it's easy to overcome. 

I've been reading a lot about because I find it very interesting. I started wondering about physical things that affect your mind after one of my classes of The Mind and Body (my elective class for this quarter). We talk a lot about the chemicals and physical things that control your mood and your thoughts. I'm very interested in how the climate and the sunshine affect the chemicals in our brains that make us feel one way or another. I've lived in places with very different climates, and maybe this is one of the reasons why people are different in every country (of course I'm not excluding culture, background, ect.). I found a short video that gives a lot of interesting facts about these "Seasonal Affective Disorders". Moreover it gives some advice about what to do in these winter days when you're feeling down for no reason.



One more reason to be happy, it's Friday! Another week is gone, which next one is week 5! We are reaching the middle of the quarter, it's going even faster than the previous one. In fact, I must choose my courses for the Spring quarter by Monday, because the registration is already opened. Therefore, the sunny days will be back sooner than we all expect, I'm sure. Until then, try to enjoy as much as possible regardless of any snowstorm! Have a happy weekend! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finally, Botswana's Committees!

In the last meeting for the Model UN we finally divided the team into the 6 committees we are participating in. Each committee has 3 topics, so based on them each of us decided what we were more interested in. I chose to be in the African Development Bank (AfDB) and I'll be in this committee with my friend and classmate Lisa, so it will be fun!  Choosing the committee is actually a big step in this whole process, because now I know what I'm going to be focusing on. Now we will get started with the research and writing the position papers, which are due quite soon. There's a lot of work to do, but Dr. Weinstein says we have enough time. Since he really knows a lot about it, we will believe it and feel a bit more relaxed (which doesn't mean we're slowing down!). 

I chose the African Development Bank for several reasons. First of all, the topics for this committees are the ones more related to my major (International Business), which is quite motivating. These are the topics we will be covering and making resolutions for:

1. Fostering clean water supply and sanitation
2. Promoting gender equality by increasing women entrepreneurs’ participation in business
3. Increasing Access to Healthcare in the Region

Moreover, this committee is obviously smaller than the general ones. I feel like it's going to be more comfortable to be there. It's going to be our first time participating and I think a reduced committee will allow us to actually interact and see how it is. 

In the meeting next week we will already start studying Botswana's background. We have this week to do some research and then share it with the rest of the team. And after that we all should focus on the position paper, which is going to make clear what is our country's position in every topic. 

All the committees are going to be dealing with really interesting topics. If you are interested, I encourage you to have a look at the official site, where all the committees and their topics are posted. There is a lot of background material there as well, which makes things quite easier. In this link: here there are background guides for each committee. The guides are extremely helpful. I started reading the one for the African Development Bank committee and not only you get a good overview on the topics but also a lot of sources. 

I'm very happy that we already started working with the country and I'm already learning a lot. We have a lot of plans, we will even try to meet with the Botswana's real mission in New York, how cool would that be! I'm feeling more motivated after every meeting, which is great. It's going to require a lot of work and effort from us, but it's already being rewarding. This is why I think these things work if the people participating are motivated and willing to commit. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Berkeley on Ice

It's Monday again, the weekend is over and it was as fast as usual. This is by far the coldest day since I'm here, which has made it more difficult to jump out of my bed this morning. But don't think we stop doing things in the city while the weather is so cold. There's always something to do! Last Friday, Berkeley College had organized an activity for the students: skating in Bryant Park. It was sponsored by the Office of Student Development and Campus life. Even though I arrived quite late, I had a blast! 

Bryant Park is a good option to have a fun afternoon. I prefer this ice rink among the others in the city because it's located right in Bryant Park, which is right by the school, and the admission is free of charge, so you only pay if you need to rent a pair of skates. If you go by yourself, the basic fee is $13. However, we didn't have to pay that being Berkeley students, which was awesome! This ice rink is sponsored by Citi Bank and it's called the Citi Pond. However, it's more than just an ice rink, there's a lot of things going on there. You can check the website to see the events taking place in the park: here. They have a restaurant and a lounge as well, and they look great. 

We did some ice skating there with Berkeley students and it was fun. The funniest part was to see people falling, I'm not going to lie. However, you don't need to worry about being clumsy or falling down because the staff in Citi Pond are just amazing. One of my friends fell down, and before she could even move, one of the security boys came skating really fast to help her stand up. It was actually like a hero kind of thing. I must admit that this weather is way to cold for a guy from Barcelona, so we left pretty soon when I could still feel my feet. 

The NYC campus is really enjoyable. Not only there are many activities organized by the Student Development, International Club, etc. but it is also in the middle of everywhere. Therefore, it is very easy to find something to do with your classmates after school. If you are one of us, I encourage you to check the Facebook pages (Berkeley College, Berkeley College Internationals, International Club, etc.) because all the events are published there and I'm sure you will find something interesting to do in your spare time!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The MET

It’s so hard to describe such a place. The ones who have already been there will understand me. Just a few museums in the whole world are able to compete with the MET (compared with the Louvre!). It has over 2 million works of art! There are around 250.000 available to see spread in 270 rooms. Obviously it is impossible to see everything in one day. I’m going to need so many days to see it! But it’s fine, because the entrance is a suggested donation (they will suggest you $10 students and $20 adults, which is not bad considering the place but as I’m coming back there again and again I thought 5 bucks would be fine). This week it was actually the third time I've been there, and I keep finding pieces I hadn't seen before.



There are different options in the museum. You can make the tour by yourself using the free map they will provide you with, you can take a guided tour held by volunteers from New York who really know about it (and it’s free!) or you can take an audioguide which will be around $7. Since we were in a small group it would be easier to just grab a map and walk in. Gosh… the museum is incredible! Only the architecture is worth the visit! We focused mainly in the modern art part, which takes a few rooms. It is so impressive to see so much genius’ works together! From Kandinsky to my friend Miró, Warhol, Pollock… and so many more. The pictures are crappy because you are not allowed to use flash inside the building plus it is impossible to picture such works of art in a proper way with a regular digital camera. But you can make an idea of what you might find inside these rooms.


It's a pity that the roof is closed in winter. It's the perfect place to have a rest in summer. It's right in the middle of Central Park and you are surrounded by Manhattan's skyline. I love this place because it combines such a huge variety of art styles: painting, sculpture, architecture... and from any point in history. It's all in the same building. I’m definitely going back there anytime soon, because there is so much more to see! I will just keep dividing it so I can slowly see everything I want without any hurry. Definitely a compulsory visit around the millionaire museum mile in the Upper East Side. It is also a good plan if you and your friends don't know what to do on a rainy/snowy day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to Botswana

Today we've had a meeting with the Model UN team. It was the first meeting after the break, because we couldn't make it last week. Therefore, we had a lot to catch up with! This meeting was very releasing. The event is getting closer and it feels we won't have enough time to prepare ourselves. However, we are very lucky to have Dr. Weinstein guiding us. He knows every detail about the Model UN program and he is doing a great job making us feel comfortable with it. We couldn't meet with Dr. Bedi today, but he is putting a lot of effort as well and we all know how passionate he is about the whole thing. Today's session was dedicated to introduce what is going to happen from now on.

The most important thing to know is that Dr. Bedi and Dr. Weinstein are both very well organized, which means we will have enough meetings to get ready. Among the upcoming sessions, we will have to work a lot to learn about the country, their policies, the background and especially about resolution writing, vocabulary and go into detail with the topics on each committee. Besides the hard work, we will also have some hours dedicated to train in public speaking, which I'm quite excited about. I have done public speaking before, but never in such a context and using a language that is not my mother tongue. Moreover, we will have a couple of sessions dedicated to do a simulation. Each of us will be assigned a country arbitrary and will have to use placards to debate, just as we would do in the real Model UN. I think this is what will help us the most. Finally, Botswana mission in NYC is, obviously, not very big. However, we are going to try to contact them and if possible we will meet with them, which would be amazing! 

We are going to organize the committees hopefully by next week. I will post about the topics in each committee here soon. I honestly don't know which one I prefer yet, so I will wait until next meeting and see how we arrange it. We are not in a hurry, but we can't stop. Soon we will have to send to the organization of the event our position papers, stating what's our point of view as a country for every committee. It seems like it was yesterday when Dr. Bedi told us about the Model UN for the first time, and here we are now getting ready for it! The Model UN NYC will take place from the 17th to the 21st of April. Which means that we have exactly 3 months! It doesn't look that much far away, does it? 

I must say that even though it feels like a lot of work and pressure, hearing all the experiences that Dr. Weinstein has been telling makes me feel very motivated. I need to do some extra work besides from my regular subjects at school, but I do get to learn a lot, I get a whole new experience and for sure I'm going to have fun. I'll post any new information regarding the Model UN as soon as I get it. If you happen to be a Berkeley College student and you are interested, you should definitely come to the meetings. I'm afraid the team is pretty much formed, but you can still be part of it coming to the meetings, supporting, etc. I can say it's being a very positive experience so far!


Monday, January 10, 2011

International Minds

We are already in week 2 of the winter quarter, I'm scared of how fast days are passing by! Last week the international orientation took place at Berkeley and it was so much fun. I was surprised to see so many new and diverse faces. I can't believe how things have changed since I've arrived to New York City. About four months ago, it was me the one attending to the international orientation. I had no clue of how my life would be for the upcoming years, and that was actually quite exciting. I remember about that now because during the orientation I was staring at all their faces and I could read so many things from them. 

Studying abroad means a lot of changes, especially if you come from a totally different culture and the local language of your destination is not your mother tongue. There are actually four stages that international students undergo. Of course everyone has a different process of adaptation, but the thing is that all of us somehow go through the four of them. I thought I would write about it because even though most of the people seemed quite happy and excited to be here, there are sometimes that foreigner students might feel a bit down. Personally, I didn't have much of the bad side yet. Maybe it is because I have already done it before, or maybe because being here is a dream come true for me. However, I've had those days when I'm feeling down, homesick or just that it doesn't feel that good to be here. 

I will describe the four stages because it really helped me understand what was going on with my feelings. If you are aware of it, it is easier to combat the down moments! There is an interesting article here and I will try to go stage by stage:

  • Honeymoon stage: in this stage the students feel really excited about the new place. As I said, everyone experiences this process in a different way. The word that describes it better is "euphoria". For some people it might last 5 minutes and then already feel homesick, and for others (like myself!) stay in the honeymoon stage for ages. 
  • Frustration stage: in this stage there is a disappointment that makes foreigners feel that maybe it wasn't the best idea to go abroad. I can use an example that occurred to me during my first days and made me feel a bit of frustration (even though I was still loving to be here). I had bedbugs in my room at the dormitory where I was staying at that time. Well, that might seem very stupid, but at that moment that problem caused me a lot of trouble. I didn't have a home here, I barely knew anyone yet and I had to deal with sleeping with those creatures feeding from my blood. Anyways, this story has a happy ending and was solved relatively quickly. What I want to say is that any little problem that back home would mean nothing to you, becomes a real issue in this kind of situation. I know other people have had problems because of the language, which I guess is quite common. Some others also have issues with being too shy to socialize and so they feel lonely. But in this cases the important thing is to remind yourself how much you wanted to be here and get out of your room and live the city. It always gets better and better, it really does.
  • Understanding stage: here people start becoming familiar with the place, the language, the culture... nothing is that new anymore. This is when you start making new friends, which I think is the most important step. If you are abroad by yourself, you need to make friends. For sure there are going to be many people in the same situation, and they all need to find a "new family". Once you have someone to share the journey with, everything feels better. Even though the city is awesome, I am pretty sure that whenever I leave, my best memories will be the people I shared this experience with. 
  • Acclimation stage: this is when the foreigner feels less of a foreigner and more of a local, or at least they feel they belong to the place. I think I am now in this stage since now I quite objectively compare the good and bad of my host country (USA) with the good and bad of my home country (Spain). I wouldn't say I don't feel like a foreigner anymore, because if you hear my accent I obviously am not an American, but I do feel as this is my second home. Moreover, I now laugh at the frustrations I had at the beginning, and it is actually funny to see that new students have to handle with the same kind of situations. 


I'm sure if you're an international student you must have felt identified somewhere up there. Now that it's been more than one year and a half since I left my country, I can tell you that the overall experience is really worth it. This experience gives you an extra "degree" that no one teaches at any college, plus it's a very enjoyable journey. Don't be afraid to come out of your room, make friends, explore the city even if it's too cold, practice your English (many people here actually love accents, so don't be afraid to sound strange!) and always have in mind that if anything bad happens or you are just not feeling fine, you can find a lot of support. The school offers a lot of great opportunities and help for international students, take advantage of it! It was very exciting to see so many international people coming to the school, and I would be more than happy to help with anything. Welcome to Berkeley!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Quarter

The vacations are over and I'm back to New York. They were really fast, but I did enjoy a lot back home. It felt good to be back for a while. Being abroad is nice, but from time to time I feel the need to see my family, my old friends, my girlfriend... and even my little brother! It feels nice to see that no matter how far away you are and for how long, your people are always there willing to welcome you back home.



It feels strange to say I was back home, cause when I arrived here on Sunday I also said "I'm back home". I guess it's the same for all the internationals: is it that we don't have a home? or is it that we have two homes? Anyhow, it feels great that after so many years thinking about it, I'm feeling like a New Yorker. I landed in JFK as if I was landing in El Prat (Barcelona's airport) and everything in the city was still the same, except that there was snow and it is extremely cold! I can't believe it had to snow precisely while I was away, because I enjoy it a lot (even though I know for some it's just annoying). But hopefully I'll have the chance to see a snowfall in the upcoming weeks.

Now it's time to restart with school. I had my first week of my second quarter. Starting a quarter means starting new subjects, which I find quite exciting. This quarter I'm doing a lot of interesting stuff. My liberal course, Mind and Body, seems to me that is going to give me a lot of food for though, as well as Writing Through Literature. Both of them are going to motivate the creative part of me and I'm sure they're the kind of subjects that make you grow further from the academic aspect. Nevertheless, I'm still a business student, and this time I have a lot of stuff to do regarding that topic. My biggest challenge for the next 12 weeks: Accounting. It's a new subject for me and it's not easy, plus we've been told it's one of the fundamental subjects of the whole degree so I'm going to need a big effort on that one. 


It is also nice to see new faces around, because every class is different. Moreover, there are new students starting this quarter: welcome to all of you! If you happen to be an international student and you just arrived, I remind you that tomorrow the International Orientation is taking place in the B building at 11am. You will receive very useful information plus there will be a nice reception so that we all get to meet each other. In addition, there's a happy hour event for international students tomorrow night too and, of course, I encourage you to come! It will be in 55th street and 6th avenue from 6pm on. You might find the information in the Facebook pages of Berkeley College Internationals.  I hope I'll see many internationals tomorrow, have a good day!