Friday, April 29, 2011

Washington Square

Hi everyone! It feels very nice to be in New York with this weather. I’ve been walking around the whole day and it’s very relaxing. Everyone is outside and there are so many things to see out there. I’m going to talk about the area around Washington Square. I spend a lot of time around there because it’s where I live and it’s also one of my favorite parts of Manhattan. If it's a sunny day, it will be definitely enjoyable to have a walk around the park. There are always people performing, playing instruments, dancing or singing. The park is located downtown in the heart of Greenwich Village, between Waverly Pl. and West 4th St. 5th Avenue starts right from the middle of the park.



Starting with the park, it's a very interesting place because you will find tourists as well as residents. Usually, these two groups of people hang out in different places. However, in Washington Park you'll always find people from all over the world visiting the city and many residents relaxing in the area. This situation is quite refreshing, while the New Yorkers go there to forget about the stress of the city, the tourists are just having the amazing experience of exploring the city. There are cultural events taking place there very often. The best way to get to know what's going on there is to visit the official web site of the park. As most of the parks in the city, Washington Square is also ran by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, which also hosts this site: http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/washingtonsquarepark. That's the description they offer -mentioning the impressive arch located in one of the park's entrances: 
 
"A marsh. A cemetery. A parade ground. A gathering spot for avant-garde artists. A battleground for chess enthusiasts. A playground for canines and children. Washington Square Park has served various roles for its community throughout the years, adapting to meet its needs. Well-known for its arch, honoring George Washington, the man for whom the park is named, and its fountain, the arch's elder by 43 years and a popular meeting spot, Washington Square Park also houses several other monuments and facilities."
 I suggest you browse the site to find out about the park's history, the facilities it includes and specially the calendar of events. If you click on "Things to Do" at the top menu and then on "Upcoming Events", you will see how many of them are planned for every single day. There are many interesting ones for those days when you have nothing to do and you don't feel like staying in. Moreover, most of them are very cheap if not free! There is one of these activities that I would definitely love to attend. It is the "Sunrise Tai Chi Classes". It's free and it takes place every Wednesday. Why have I never done it? Well, there is a catch. It starts at 6:30am and I have never been brave enough to wake up that early!


It's also a great place for photography. There hasn't been a day when I haven't seen any professional photographer around there. Since it's in the middle of most of the New York University buildings, there are also many students filming short movies for projects, painting, taking pictures... If you're hungry, the area is full of nice places to go eat or grab food to have a picnic. It's a nice spot to spend a day with friends. Moreover, the area has many cafes and bars to hang out and the atmosphere there is much more relaxed than in the rest of crazy Manhattan. 


I hope you all have a great weekend! I'm afraid most of you might be having a lot of work since the midterms are around the corner... But it seems it's going to be quite a nice weekend, so find time to enjoy yourselves! See you soon!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Outsourced

Hey everyone! How nice the weather is being in NYC! It was about time to start with Spring... but it seems it's going to be warmer and warmer from now on. This week I'm having a lot of work at Berkeley. It's one of these moments when a lot of things come together.  Not only from school, but I should also do things like my laundry (before it's too late), grocery shopping (I only have an expired bottle of milk and an empty pot of pasta sauce in my fridge), answering e-mails that have been waiting in my inbox for ages... etc. However, I found some time this evening to wide open my window to let the fresh air cool down my room and watch a movie. It was one of these inspiring independent movies that I love so much and I thought it would be nice to share it here.

The movie is called Outsourced. It's directed by John Jeffcoat and starred by Josh Hamilton, Ayesha Dharker and Asif Basra. That's the storyline IMDb offers: "When the call center he manages in Seattle is outsourced to India, Todd travels there to train his replacement. Housed in a new building that looks like an above-ground bunker, the call center is staffed by willing novices whom Todd trains to sound American. One star on the staff is Asha, who teaches Todd that he should learn about India, and proceeds to do just that."



I reckon I found this movie so interesting because the concept is one of the main issues I study at Berkeley. As an International Business major, I can't count how many times I've heard about outsourcing this year. Outsourcing means moving some operations of a company to a different country, usually because it's cheaper. In the case of this movie, they move the entire call center to India, where an agent is 8 times cheaper than in America. This topic is very controversial. The company is saving a lot of money by doing that, yet thousands of jobs are lost in America. Nevertheless, as seen in the movie, the products are obviously cheaper than those operated exclusively in America. It's hard to tell who wins and who loses. As well as it is to set if it's ethical to fire people here and hire people outside the country; paying a lot less, but creating new jobs in economies that need them.

The main character has to travel there to train the Indian staff. He will have to manage an office staffed with local people. The culture clash is hilarious, as well as fascinating. I blogged before about it, in my Business Communication and Public Speaking classes we talked a lot about multicultural issues.  Actually, this topic appears in pretty much all the business subjects. Since the company outsources the call center to India, communication between America and India is certainly involved. It was great to see just what we were discussing in class in the movie presented in a very funny way. The Indians need to learn about America in order to do their job well, but the managers of the company also need to learn about India, in order to motivate their employees and work more effectively.

I'm very fascinated about communication, in fact that's what I studied before I came to New York. Multicultural communication is definitely my favorite part of it and I hope I will explore this topic further. It's actually a very complex subject. Actually, as a funny note about my stupidity, I recently had a test in this topic. I was asked about strategies for effective global communication. At first I thought it would be the obvious one, learning about the culture and applying it, but then I got warned by another student who was tested before that it wasn't the obvious answer. So I started thinking and reading more and more (bad thing to do on a multiple choice test!)... and wow, this topic is huge. I ended up saying that telephone is more effective than mail, considering how slow mail would be! Turns out that there might be an error and I got that answer marked correct, which made me very happy, but speaking to my classmates I guess it's just an error and I will have it wrong... nice try José!

Nowadays we are exposed to global communication everyday. I think besides the companies studying new strategies to do it, we the consumers are also being trained to be able to understand messages coming from different parts of the world. I'm very lucky to live in New York for this matter. I can't think of a more international environment, so I can see things like that happening all the time around me. If you decide to watch the movie (it's available in Netflix), I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think. I also saw that after the movie, they decided to keep the storyline for a TV Show called Outsourced as well. I will have a look at it since I loved the film! Have a great week and enjoy the Spring wherever you are!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sant Jordi from the Distance

Hey! How is week 4 going? Wow, I feel like I just started the quarter and we have already done a third of it! Even though it's being a busy one and I already have some midterms, this is a very nice week. Finally, the Spring season arrived to the city. It's warm, flowers are blooming and everyone seems to be happier (or maybe it's just my optimistic impression). Anyways, it's a pleasure to walk around the city without a jacket. Last Saturday, April 23rd, was a big day back home. It's a holiday called La Diada de Sant Jordi (the day of Saint George). These pictures I'm posting here were taken in Barcelona, the last Sant Jordi I spent there two years ago before I left. The following extract is from the description of the day in Wikipedia, it's actually quite nicely summed up:
"La Diada de Sant Jordi, also known as el dia de la rosa (The Day of the Rose) or el dia del llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine's Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and respected ones. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted."
I think it's the perfect day to visit Barcelona or any Catalan city. Maybe that's why last weekend I felt quite homesick to be honest... It's in days like these when I miss being home the most. This day has something special. Maybe because it's when the weather starts being nice, people are in a happy mood and the streets are really crowded. In the streets of the city, they put large stands with tones of books to sell. They even have tents with famous authors signing their books. There are also many celebrities promoting movies, musicals or theater plays. Some TV shows are also broadcast from the streets instead of the regular studios. 


This holiday brings me back a lot of memories from my childhood (says the grandfather...). At school, we used to represent the legend of Saint George. To sum the story up, and sorry if I spoil it, there was a princess, threatened by the terrible dragon. Saint George, who is in love with her, kills the dragon and saves the princess. From the blood of the beast, roses start blooming... which is why it's a tradition for men to give a rose to our princesses in that day; however, if you ever have the chance to spend Sant Jordi in Spain, don't be rude and get also a book if you don't want her to be angry. The girl of my life used to give me great books every year since I was a child, thanks mum!


There are many cultural events going on in the city during that day. It's not one of these holidays where partying and alcohol are involved, but it's certainly a big one back home. I'm not sure when I will be able to spend it again back there, but I definitely recommend you to do it any year! This is a video with some images of the streets of Barcelona a couple years ago.



I hope you are all having a good time at school and most of all, enjoying the spring weather! I'm about to turn the AC on, and I thought I would never do it again! See you soon!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

General Assembly Hall

Hello! How is everyone doing? I feel like I've been disconnected from everything this week. I want to talk about the last day at the National Model UN today. That day was the highlight of the whole thing for sure. Mostly, because we got to be in the actual General Assembly Hall at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Being there as a delegate (even if it was a simulated one), was such an impression. It's been an experience I will remember for sure. As I blogged in my previous post, my committee had finished with the resolutions the day before. However, we still had the General Assembly Plenary to attend and, of course, the closing ceremony. 


That was an amazing day! It started very early, with the General Assembly Plenary. That wasn't actually for our committee, but since we were done, Lisa and I decided to go there. It wasn't my first time at the UN, but it was the first time sitting in the GA hall. I can't count how many times I've seen this particular room in pictures and TV. I was telling my brother about it, and maybe you will understand me the same way. I told him that for a nerd like myself, being at the GA hall is like for him (a huge soccer fan and Barça supporter) to play soccer trained by Guardiola in the Camp Nou Stadium. The first session wasn't really about our topics. It was about the draft resolutions of the GA committee, however, it was interesting as well. Their process was way longer than in our committee, because it was obviously larger than the African Development Bank, and the topics were very different too.

 
We went out for a coffee, and when we had to come back for the closing ceremony, the places was all packed up! We had to make a line again and go through the security check, which is the same as the airport. And then there we were again, sitting in the GA! We had a great speech by the president of the Model UN, who told us how he participated in the same event in the past. He said at this point of the week he was very tired and looking forward to the delegate dance that would take place the same night. That was nice to hear. If the current president was tired, we had the right to be exhausted as well!


I am very happy to have participated. It was not only my first time, but also the first time for the school. I'm also happy that our group did a good job, I'm sure much better than what we expected! The only thing I can say is that this week has been really motivating. I have learned a lot, and everything coming from students like ourselves. Listening to other people's perspectives, learning about other countries' issues, seeing from first hand how the procedures in such an organization are, and a big ETC. This experience is really enriching and I definitely recommend it to everyone. 



Next year it will be even better, because now we know how it is, we know what we need to train on and our professor has gotten the experience as well.  I encourage you to participate! It looks like a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun. There were 5,000 students coming from everywhere around the world. It's so refreshing to meet people coming from such different backgrounds. Plus everyone knows how to party! The delegate dance was a great party, where everyone enjoyed finally without the pressure of the sessions. All in all, it's a great experience not only academic but personal. 


I hope you all have a good weekend! I will be quite busy for the next days catching up with everything I've missed from school in the last week. But it's all worth it! :) I'll also be looking for something else to do now that we are done with the UN program for this year... any ideas? See you soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resolution Papers

Hi everyone! Yesterday night we finally had the last session in the African Development Bank committee. It's kind of sad that it's over, even though we all need a rest! As I thought, we didn't have time to finish with the second topic in the agenda (we didn't even start the third), but I think we came up with good resolutions for the first one, which was our priority from the beginning. We had six different resolutions, and they all passed. Let me sum up for you how the process was:


  • First of all, we decide the agenda. We have three topics and we have to decide what will be the order. Most likely, there is only time for one of them, so it's very important to bring up your country's interest. In our case, we had decided that our priority was increasing access to healthcare, but after the discussions with the other countries, the final decision was that the first topic would be fostering clean water supply and sanitation. 
  • After that, the countries that want to speak have to raise their placards to be placed on the speakers list. When the speakers list is made, every delegation gets (in our case) 2 minutes to give a speech about the topic. 
  • After a few countries have spoken, the chair asks if there is any motion. The countries that have a motion have to raise their placard to be heard. The most common motion is to suspend the meeting for around 45 minutes with the purpose of caucusing.When all the motions are made, everyone votes for or against them, and the ones that pass are entertained.
  • Usually we had immoderate caucus for 45 minutes. During that time, the countries get together and negotiate. The idea is to look for countries with your same interests, or countries that can give something to the one you're representing. 
  • After a few hours of session, there will be many ideas on the floor. There will be many groups made around the committee which will start writing drafts for resolutions. 
  • These drafts have to be sponsored by 7 countries and must be accompanied with 12 signatories. Once this is achieved, the draft can be submitted.
  • The chair will evaluate the drafts and recommend some of them to merge with other ones. Merging is important, because many drafts will hold the same ideas. Therefore, it is more logical to put them together and make a stronger one.
  • In the end, there will be several drafts as candidates to become resolutions. Before that, there are amendments, which are corrections on the original working paper.  These corrections will be voted by everyone.
  • There are many ways a draft can become a resolution. The most common one was passing by acclamation. When a country motions for a certain draft to pass by acclamation, the chair asks if there is any opposition. If there is, the motion fails. If there is not, the motion passes and the draft becomes a resolution. A round of applause for that and then we pass to the next draft. 
  • Another way is a roll call vote, where every country is called to vote "yes", "no", "abstain" or "pass". However, this only happened once and it was positive for the resolution.

All the drafts we had, became resolutions. None of them failed. I think it's because most of us had the same position on the topic of water. Who could be against it after all? The only difference was the approach. I found it very enriching to read the papers. Everyone had a different focus on the problem, different ways to approach it. To me, all of them were equally valuable. I wish the real delegations have a look at these papers, because I'm sure they could inspire some ideas. I also wish we had enough resources to make those resolutions come true. I'm really proud of having been there and having seen how young people can do things like that. For those who say that youth is the future, they should have a look at that and then maybe they could consider us like the present as well! Have a nice week, see you soon!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Honorable Chair and Fellow Delegates

That’s the words I’m hearing the most these days. We’re right in the middle of the National Model United Nations. So far, so good! It’s being a fantastic experience, even though we are all quite exhausted. Today we had sessions from 9 in the morning to 11 at night. We spent the whole day at the Sheraton hotel coming up with solutions and initiatives to different international issues.


In the African Development Bank (AfDB), my committee, we are still working on the resolution to the topic of fostering clean water supply and sanitation. We had two more topics in the agenda, but I’m afraid we will not get to all of them. The water issue is extremely important and urgent, and there are many things to do. Exploring and researching this topic has given me a new point of view and has made me really aware of how important water is for everything: survival, economy, culture, etc. There are so many aspects related that the resolutions are getting really complex.
My partner and I have decided to collaborate on a working paper with many other countries (member and non-member countries) that focuses on decentralizing to give local governments more decision power regarding the water supply and sanitation. The idea is that every nation needs different solutions, therefore it is not possible to come up with an idea that works evenly for the whole continent. Another focus is education, we want to foster new education programs regarding hygiene, water usage and awareness of water related diseases for schools. Moreover, we stress the necessity of skilled workforce in the continent so that they can maintain the infrastructures. Our main goal is to help them help themselves, we want Africa to be independent. For that purpose, it is necessary to think on long term solutions, and education of skilled people to be able to manage their own resources is an essential part.

Today we had a meal with the whole team. I remind you that we are divided in six different committees; therefore we barely meet during the sessions time. The school invited us to a meal at a Turkish restaurant close to the Sheraton. It was a very good idea, because then we had time to exchange our impressions and see how the overall team is doing. It seems that everyone is having a great experience, but it is very different for each of us. Every committee works in a different manner, and it's very interesting to hear how all of them proceed. 

Tomorrow will be a very important day. In our committee, the deadline to present the draft resolutions is tomorrow noon. Which means that tonight and tomorrow morning we will have to work hard on merging papers, finding signatories etc. By the end of the day tomorrow, we are supposed to have the resolution of at least the first topic in the agenda. Seeing that the whole process took that long, I don't think we will pass the first topic. However, I don't think we wasted any minute because this topic really needs a lot of attention. After tomorrow, on Thursday, we will have the final sessions in the actual United Nations. I'm so excited to go there! We will have the closing ceremony there as well. This week is passing by so fast, because we spend the whole day here and the hours fly. Time for me to finally have a rest now, I hope you're all doing great! See you soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Model United Nations 2011

What a great Sunday! I just came back from the first day of the National Model United Nations 2011. I can't believe it's already here! It's been a great adventure and I'm enjoying it so far, but we still have 4 more days coming up. First of all, I want to thank Berkeley College once again for all the support. They have provided us with a room in the Sheraton Hotel (where most of the conferences take place) so that we can use it as a meeting point. Since there are students coming from all over the world, they all stay at the hotel; but we live in New York, so we didn't need housing. However, it is helping a lot to have the room so that we can have a privet space to meet and keep our things. 


Once we got our room and got the material and the accreditation, we went to the opening ceremony. We didn't know it would be that crowded, so when we arrived we found a line with hundreds of students. There are over 5,000 students from all over the world participating in the conferences this year! Finally we made it to the conference room. We heard a fantastic speech by the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Development Programme, Olav Kjørven. Once the opening ceremony concluded, we all had to go to our respective committees to have the first session that would last until 10pm.


When I arrived to the African Development Bank (my committee), I expected something smaller, but it's actually quite big! There are plenty of countries participating, not only from Africa but from all over the planet. First of all, we met the chair and introduced the three issues we have to deal with. The goal of this first session was to decide the agenda (the order in which we will treat the three topics). A few days ago I blogged about our decision regarding this topic. We had agreed that our main preference was the third topic, which is about increasing the access to healthcare in Africa. However, after a long debate, we have decided that the first topic will be fostering clean water supply and sanitation. We are not upset about it, because both topics are close linked to each other. Actually, we started caucusing with other delegates from countries such as Spain and Brazil, who had the same topic preferences as us, and we will try to come up with a resolution that fosters the clean water supply focused on improving the health system. We have long days to go! 


Since my partner Lisa and I had focused mainly on the healthcare topic, now we will need to do further research on the water supply. I guess this is going to be one of these coffee nights! If you're interested in the topic, you can check the link where our research about this topic started, click here. Water is the base of many issues. If there is no access to water, it affects not only the health of the population but also the economy of the country and obviously decreases the opportunities of development. Let me quote some of the fast facts for you to see the importance and urgency of this issue in the African continent:

Water and Supply in the African Development Context
  • Access to water supply and sanitation in Africa was estimated in 2006 to be 64% and 38% respectively which compares unfavorably with corresponding world averages of 87% and 62%.
  • Only 20% of the irrigation potential and about 6% of the hydropower potential has been developed. Water storage capacity is less than 50 m3/person compared to about 3,500 m3/person in Europe, and 6,000 m3/person in the USA.
  • Less than 5% of agricultural land is irrigated.
  • Africa has very little water storage capacity: only 200 cubic meters per capita compared with over 1,000 in most developing countries.
  • 60 of Africa’s major rivers cross national borders; making international cooperation on water essential.
  • Existing spending on water supply and sanitation is not enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals: the funding gap is over USD 9 billion per year.
    (Information quoted from the site linked above this paragraph)

To be honest, when the session started I felt like I wouldn't know what to do, but now that we've had our first experience there, I feel much more comfortable. Moreover, tomorrow morning, before our session starts, we will have a delegate training to clarify any doubts. After all, this is an educational experience and we are there to learn, which I'm already doing! The following days we will have crazy schedules, but I will try to update at the middle of the week. I'm sure I will have a lot to say! Have a great week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Soccer in NY!

Hi everyone! How is the weekend going? I know that the weather in the city is not nice to enjoy a proper spring weekend, but there was an important thing to do today! I'm a supporter of Barça (Barcelona's soccer team), and today they were playing against Real Madrid, which is our biggest enemy so to say. This game wasn't that important, since we will play against Real Madrid three more times in the next couple of weeks. However, it is always exciting to watch both teams playing. 


To watch the game, we went to a Catalan restaurant. I had never heard about it before, and I loved it! The place is called "El Mercat" and it's located in 45 Bond street. The match started at 10pm Spanish time, which means at 4pm in New York. Nevertheless, we were at the restaurant at 1pm. It was still closed, they opened at 2pm, but there were people already waiting. It was nice to be there and hear people speaking Catalan. It was like being back home! 


Let me tell you about the restaurant first. It's called "El Mercat" (the market) referring to the most famous market in Barcelona, the "Boqueria" market. I know that because in the entrance they have the exact same sign they have in the real market back home. It's not a big restaurant, but it's very cosy. The food was really good. They have great tapas. It's a little bit pricey, every tapa costs around $8-14, but you don't want to have just one of them. However, it's a nice place to go from time to time, specially when Barça is playing. They show every single game the team plays, they even have a club for Barça supporters. I specially recommend to try the chicken croquettes (croquetes de  pollastre), they are homemade and they are delicious! If you're over 21, you may try Estrella Damm, the Barcelona beer! You can check the website here.  


The place was completely full a couple hours before the match, but when it started, a lot more people tried to come in and watched it standing up. The whole place was packed up, it was impossible even to go to the restrooms. I must admit it's been the day I've felt more at home in the city. Everyone was singing Barcelona's songs, everyone was really excited about the match. The game itself ended 1-1, so it could be worse! Somehow it felt good to be in the middle of that crazy crowd shouting to the guys running after a ball on the TV. Unfortunately, the next game (which is a more important one) takes place on Wednesday afternoon and I will have to miss it, but for those who want to see it in a Barça-friendly environment, keep in mind this place!
I won't be able to watch it because I will be at the Model UN competition, which starts tomorrow! I will try to write here about how it is going. Now I have so much work to do trying to read everything I want to feel ready for it. I hope you are all having a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Choosing a Topic for the Model UN

Today we had our last official meeting with the UN team for this year, since the Model UN starts this Sunday! We had a very intense meeting, because it was the last time we would have Dr. Weinstein there to answer our questions before the competition starts. We had a simulation about the debate we will have on deciding which topic we should talk about first. I remind you that each of the committees have been assigned with three different issues. The first part of our sessions will be dedicated to choose which topics we will treat first. As I mentioned before, I'm in the African Development Bank committee, and these are our three topics: 
  • Fostering Clean Water Supply and Sanitation
  • Promoting Gender Equality by Increasing Women Entrepreneur’s Participation in Business 
  • Increasing Access to Healthcare in the Region    

The three topics are very important for the country we are representing. However, my partner Lisa and I have agreed that the most important, and therefore the one we should discuss about first is the third one, Increasing Access to Healthcare in the Region. The main reason we think that this is the most important is that many people are dying because the lack of healthcare in the country. The water supply and sanitation is very related as well, since it provides a better hygiene which makes it easier to fight against diseases. Nevertheless, we think this should be the main focus, the country, and of course the whole continent, really needs to be protected with a good healthcare system so that everyone can have access to it.

One of our team mates, Ana, brought a very interesting article about the situation of AIDS and HIV in Botswana. It has been really useful for us, since this is one of the topics and the one we think we should put more attention in. Let me show you the introduction, where you can see how crazy the statistics are. You can read the whole article in this link: http://www.avert.org/aids-botswana.htm. This is an extract from the site:
"Botswana has been hard hit by AIDS. In 2009 there were an estimated 300,000 adults living with HIV - or one quarter of the population aged 15 and over. Considering Botswana’s population is below two million, the epidemic has reached disturbing proportions. The country has an estimated adult HIV prevalence among 15-49 year olds of 24.8%, the second highest in the world after Swaziland.
HIV and AIDS has had a devastating impact on Botswana. Life expectancy at birth fell from 65 years in 1990-1995 to less than 40 years in 2000-2005, a figure about 28 years lower than it would have been without AIDS."
As you can see, the problem affects too many people. Many of the affected people are youngsters and adults who are in charge of families. This is why we believe that the main focus should be to make sure people are healthy. The health system should have programs to prevent this cruel disease and investigation on the topic should be encouraged. We are sure that during our sessions we will spend a lot of time discussing about this topic. I can't wait to hear what others have to say about it and I'm sure we can come up with a good resolution for this. 


I can't wait to start the Model UN! From Sunday to Thursday I will be there pretty much the whole day, but I'm sure I'll find the time to blog about how it is going. The only annoying part about this whole experience is that it's overlapping classes. However, even if I will miss a lot of lectures, all the professors seemed to be fine with it, so I shouldn't have any problem with these absences. I'm sure it will pay off anyways! I hope you are all having a good week, even if the weather in the city is not that nice. I can feel how everyone gets lazier with this rainy skies we are having. See you soon!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Multicultural Communication

Hi everyone! How is everything going? Time is again running so fast. We are already in the middle of week 2! I can already see the midterms around the corner... However, I'm really enjoying all my subjects this time! Yes, even accounting! Yesterday I had a great lecture in my Business Communication class about multicultural communication and I thought about sharing some of it here. One of the reasons I came to New York is because of its international atmosphere. Being surrounded by so many different cultures makes me feel like if I was traveling all the time. However, interacting with people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds is not always that easy. Especially when it comes to communication patterns. That's why I think it's very important for a business student to take that class, because in today's environment it's more than likely that you will have to deal with someone who doesn't speak your language, who has a different culture and a different value system.

The book that we are using in that class is "Business Communication" by Krizan, Merrier, Logan and Williams. I'm enjoying reading it as much as the lectures we have with the professor, but I'm especially interested in chapter 2, Multicultural and Global Communication. We have learned that the most important goal of any communication process is that the receiver understands the message delivered by the sender in the same way the sender intended it to be understood. Nevertheless, when communicating to different cultures, there are many factors that can change the meaning that the sender might not notice. For any communication process, it is important to start by reviewing the business communication principles and understanding the goals to achieve. In the case of a multicultural business environment,  the book I just mentioned suggests three basic guidelines to achieve a successful communication process. 


In order to have a successful communication process between different cultures, the sender must understand her or his own culture first. Not only the communication patterns of the culture, but also how others perceive this particular culture. The second step is to keep an open mind and respect diversity. It is essential to understand that the values and principles in our own culture, are not the only valid ones. To be able to understand how communication works in other cultures, the sender must have an open mind and be willing to accept the differences. Finally, the sender has to identify and adapt to language differences. He or she should learn as much as possible about the other culture's language. If the communication process is going to be in English, it is also important that the sender understands that a non English speaking culture will have it more difficult to understand, and should use English as simple as possible. 

If you are interested about it, I really recommend you to attend this class. I think communication is one of the essential parts of business, and in just two weeks I feel like I've learned a lot. If it's not possible, then I really recommend to read books about it (the one I mentioned is really good!). I'm also taking a course that is quite related to this one, it's called Public Speaking, which I'm sure I will talk about soon. I hope you are all doing well, see you soon!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Concern Spring Run

What a beautiful Saturday in New York City! I started my day at 5:30am when I woke up. I'm not crazy, I woke up that early because I was participating in the Concern Spring Run as a volunteer. I thought it would nice to participate there and it has been a very nice experience. The Spring Run is a fund raising event to fight poverty. You can check it out at the website: (click here).  Let me introduce the organization, Concern. Here's their official website so you can check out who they are and what events are coming next if you would like to participate: http://www.concernusa.org. This is an extract from their page:

"Concern Worldwide US, Inc. is an affiliate of Concern Worldwide and supports the Concern network by recruiting staff, supporting program development, creating public awareness of humanitarian issues and financially supporting programs.
Concern Worldwide is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organization dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries.
Since its foundation in 1968, Concern Worldwide—through its work in emergencies and long-term development—has saved countless lives, relieved suffering and provided opportunities for a better standard of living for millions of people. We work primarily in the countries ranked in the bottom 40 of the United Nations Human Development Report. Concern implements emergency response programs as well as long-term development programs in the areas of livelihoods, health, HIV&AIDS, and education."

 My friend and I went to a meeting last week where we were told our jobs and where and when we had to be. I was quite impressed because it is really well organized and there are a lot of people involved. On the day of the event, we had to be there earlier so that we could prepare everything and learn exactly what we had to do. It felt really nice to see people waking up so early to make such an event happen. We were in the photo crew, it was a simple task, we had to direct people to the professional photographer to take team photos, easy!


There were 1,500 runners attending, so a good organization was essential. Concern USA did a really good job, the race went perfectly well and everyone had a lot of fun. The runners started arriving around 9am. Despite being so early, everyone was in a great mood, the atmosphere was very enjoyable. Miss New York and Miss Belleza Latina participated in the event. You can see them in the picture above, they were really nice to all the people. The race was 4 miles long, and the fastest finisher took about 20 minutes to complete it. After that, there was a breakfast and party at a bar in the Upper East Side. 


It was a great success, they never had such a large number of participants and they raised about 130,000 dollars. I'm very happy that events like that take place in the city. It was a good way to have a good time, make some money to help and do some sport. I'll keep an eye on the upcoming events. I hope you are all having a great weekend!


 (I know I failed in this picture... my sign is upside down... but, I put all my love to it!)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Training for the Model UN

In the last meeting for the Model UN we went over the schedule for the event. I can't believe it's so close! In less than two weeks we will be there. I realized that after all the meetings and the work we have done, we have really learned a lot. I am feeling much more confident about it than I did at the beginning, which is good. Next week we are going to make our own simulation, to understand how the debates will work. You can check the schedule in this link: http://www.nmun.org/nmun_ny.html. The document is in the left side of the page, where it says "Sheraton Delegate Schedule".

The opening ceremony will take place on Sunday the 17th at 6pm. After that, we are going to have a very busy schedule for the whole week. We will actually have some meetings already on Sunday late night. On Monday morning there will be some trainings and finally, the sessions will start in the afternoon (from 2:30pm to 11pm). Then there are sessions all week long until Thursday night, when we will have a closing ceremony and a delegate dance. It's going to be a long week, but I can't wait for it to start after having trained so much for it. 

The closing ceremony will take place in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations. I can't believe I will be sitting there in a few days. It sounds like a dream to be there and I know many people around the world would pay for it, so I'm really glad that I've been given this opportunity. This experience has been amazing since the beginning. Not only we are visiting the UN and doing something there, but we have also learned a lot, we have even met with the permanent mission of the country we are representing and we have been having a lot of fun. 

Next week will be our last week before the event. We will have to work a lot, because even though we have been working a lot on it, we still have doubts and need a little bit more preparation. This is why we will have our own simulation of a session. We need to have all the procedures clear. The vocabulary we need to use, how to address to the chair, how can we make agreements with other countries, etc. I reckon we will need some extra meeting apart from Wednesday!

Concerning the event, I want to thank the school and specially Dr. Bedi and Dr. Weinstein for their support. Thanks to them we have had the opportunity to visit another Model UN competition (Philadelphia), weekly training sessions, meeting with the permanent mission of Botswana and they even rented a room at the hotel where the event will take place so that we can use it as our headquarters. After all the effort the school has made to make it happen, we actually have quite a big pressure, we want to represent the school as best as we can! 

I hope you're all having a good first week of spring quarter. I'm enjoying my new subjects a lot. They are very interesting and I like the professors as well. It seems that this is going to be a nice quarter! Keep an eye on the events happening at the school, the Student Development Office has prepared a lot of things to welcome the new quarter and they worth a shot! Have a good one!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

America's Got Talent

During the spring break, I went to the taping of America's Got Talent TV show in New York City. I had never watched that show before, but it was fun to be there in the audience. The judges and the host are quite famous celebrities in this country (or at least that's what I was told). I had already been in the audience of some TV shows in Spain, and I've always had a great time. However, the experience in the US is very different from TV in my country.

The taping took place in the Manhattan Center. I had already been there for the orientation of Berkeley College in September. We were told to be there before 1pm, so we got there at 12:40pm. The line was ridiculous. People were standing there around the whole block, it was a huge line. Moreover, it was raining! But they wouldn't open until 1pm. The entrance was a bit annoying. They make you leave your phone in a plastic box with a number. It doesn't look really safe, but they don't let you in with your phone. I guess people speaking through their phones and taking pictures are disturbing, but leaving it there in a simple plastic box with hundreds of other phones, doesn't seem very safe. 

Once inside the set, we got our seats and waited for the show. The TV set looked so small compared to what we see on TV. There was a man trying to cheer up the audience. He was saying things like "you are the best crowd we have ever had" (sure). Since it was April fools (1st of April), he tried to fool us saying that if any of the contestants won that night, the whole audience would fly to Vegas for the next show. Anyways, he was actually quite funny and entertaining, which feels good after having such a long time standing outside in the rain. 

As I said, the real celebrities of the show are the host (Nick Cannon) and the judges. These include: Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel. Piers is the toughest one, he actually buzzed most of the performances. When a judged pushes the buzz button, a red cross appears on the stage and a crazy sound and lighting go on. Sharon was quite sweet, all the people in the audience loved her, so I mean she is quite of a celebrity in America. Finally, Howie was the nicest. I think he didn't give any negative comment and was all the time considering what the audience liked or not. 

It's funny how these talent shows are set. At the beginning of the show they recorded us giving rounds of applause, without any performer. Then they encouraged us to boo whatever we don't like as loud as we wished and they actually recorded us doing it so they could edit it and add the boos to any contestant. I think that is so mean! After recording these scenes, the contestants started performing. It was very entertaining, because we saw really interesting thing; but some of them were just a waste of time.

I saw a bunch of boys playing basketball while riding a unicycle, crazy dancers, a male pole dancer, contortionists and my favorite one was an illusionist who did 5 amazing tricks in 90 seconds. All of them had 90 seconds to perform, however, each judge had a buzz that they can push if they want to stop the performance. If the three of them pushed it, the performance had to stop (and the audience would start booing like crazy). The only bad thing was that the show was really slow. After every performance there was a pause, and the judges took very long breaks. Anyways, it was a nice experience and it was fun as well! 

I know many of you are sad that the spring break is over, but how are the new classes? I'm loving my new subjects so far! Keep an eye on the cool events going on this week at Berkeley! There was a party today at the SAC that was really nice. I had class and after that I had to run somewhere, but I went to have a look at it and get some books from the store and it looked like they were having a lot of fun! Check the events on the facebook pages, some of them look really good! Have a great week!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sky's the Limit

Hi everyone! Today's the last day of the break, I hope you all enjoyed it! Yesterday it was my birthday, and I celebrated it jumping out of a plane. No, it's not any kind of tradition from Spain. It's just that I went skydiving! It's been one of the most amazing experiences in my life and yes, I would definitely  recommend it! 


We chose a company called Sky's the Limit. It's located in East Stroudsburg (in Pennsylvania), 75 miles away from New York City, but it's apparently the closest drop zone to the city. Compared to others, they prices are quite competent. This was my first jump, so I can't really compare, but I definitely enjoyed it. The people that work there are fun and friendly, they love their job (they better do)! You can check out their website here: http://skydive.skysthelimit.net/. We did the tandem jump, which is what usually beginners like myself do. The tandem jump means that you jump with a master stuck to your back. Therefore, you don't need to worry (that much) about anything else than screaming while free falling.

It was a very long day, that started waking up at 7am to catch a bus to East Stroudsburg. Once we got there, we had to take a cab for about 4 or 5 miles. Before that happened, we had to wait a couple hours because our jump had been pushed back. We enjoyed the woods, the food at a commuters cafe run by a lovely Jamaican family and the arcade games at the bus station. Finally, the cab arrived and there we were, on our way to the airport place. The area is really nice, surrounded by woods and almost no sign of civilization, a great escape from the concrete jungle I live in. 

The first thing we had to do when we arrived was watching a warning video and signing a contract. Honestly, that was the scariest part of the day. They tell you that you assume the risk of serious injuries and death, and make you sign a paper that says they're not responsible for whatever happens to you. Great. It was something like the drugs' commercials in USA, where they state all the side effects. Sitting there hearing all these things made me go bananas. But, as soon as we got done with it, we started getting more excited about jumping! 

They do have a big aircraft where a lot of people can fit in and jump at once, but not that day. We had to jump one by one for those who hired the video package and in pairs for the rest. It took a lot of time for each of us to get ready, fly and jump; so we were there for a lot of hours. However, all the waiting is really worth it! Once they call your name, you have to put on a funny suit, the security harness and listen carefully to the instructor. Then the plane arrives, and you're on!

The plane was really small and uncomfortable, but at that time I didn't care about anything. I was stuck to someone from my back and flying up to around 12,000 feet as far as I can remember. It took us around 15 minutes to get to the right spot. Once there, the tandem master opened the window and I had to stand up on a step that was outside the plane. I had to stand there for a long minute until the master found the right moment to jump. I think that minute was the longest minute of my life (and the scariest), but I would go back and have that feeling again, because it was awesome! I was standing outside of a plane, waiting to jump to free fall! 

After that minute, I jumped and it felt incredible. I really can't describe the feeling of free falling. Nevertheless, it doesn't even feel like falling, because you have no reference, you just see the ground. However, you're so far up that you can't see it coming closer. After another minute, the master opened the parachute. That moment was a big release. It pulls you up and then you're standing there flying like a bird. It feels awesome. I literally had the world under my feet. We kept parachuting for about 5 more minutes and then we landed. My landing was quite painful because the wind pulled back the parachute when we were already in the ground, but nothing to worry about... I had just jumped out of a plane! I didn't get the video package, but one of my friends did. You can check it out, this exactly what I did:


It was such an incredible experience. I've never had such a big shot of adrenaline. All the nerves, the fear, everything is worth it. However, if you are to do it... make sure you have a good master jumping with you! He is in charge of your life. I hope you all did fun stuff during the break and now ready to get back to school for the spring quarter! See you soon!