Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Furnishing in Manhattan

Hey everyone! Now that the whole hurricane thing is gone, I'm actually enjoying New York City again! I had the chance to go back to school and meet some friends there. I also spent some time at Bryant Park, which is one of my favorite things to do around school! I'm happy to see that everything is still the same after the summer, and I'm very excited to start my classes. I still have a few weeks ahead before that happens, but I'm sure I will find myself something to be busy with. 

The first thing is the apartment. Moving in was crazy. As I said before, my friends and I rented an empty apartment, which means we need to get everything. As most of college students do, we've been doing several trips to Ikea to furnish our apartment. I really recommend it for NYC students, because you can save a lot of money. We have actually gotten everything we need from a couch to bed clothing from the store so we don't have to worry about it anymore. However, furnishing an apartment is a big adventure in Manhattan. Let me give you some information about it, specifically about Ikea. 

There are different ways to get to the store from Manhattan, which is located in Brooklyn. The easiest and most expensive is to get there by taxi, which I don't recommend. I took the F subway line all the way to 4Av-9St, but you can also take the G line. Right in front of the subway stop you will find a free shuttle bus that takes you directly to the store. Another option is the water taxi, which is a boat that will take you from Pier 11 to Ikea through the river. It costs $5, but you can get them discounted in Ikea if you do a big purchase.

Once you do your shopping, you will realize that you got more stuff than you thought. We actually had 5 full trolleys our first trip! Therefore, Subway is not a good alternative for the way back. Moreover, you can only take your purchase to the water taxi as long as they fit in a blue bag (those bags are sold for $0.59 at the store). They are not too big, so you might not want to take the water taxi on the way back either.

Ikea offers a delivery service. It usually takes one day, and they will just keep whatever you buy at the store, load it on their trucks and bring it to you. The only issue is that they will give you a 4 hour delivery time, which means they can come anytime during those 4 hours. The cost of this service is a little bit over $100, and it doesn't include the assembling service. If you want them to build your furniture for you, then you have to book it as an additional service, which I'm not sure how much it is. Nevertheless, to build Ikea furniture you need anything but patience! 

Another alternative, which I'm not sure I recommend or not... is to get a private taxi. You can negotiate the price and the size of the car, and they will just let you use it as a "truck". There are people in the store trying to sell this service, which I don't know if it's legal or not, but if you're in a rush, you can always talk to them and see if you're interested. 

As if it wasn't complicated enough, once you get all your purchase home, you have to build it! I'm not going to lie, the first 30 minutes it's a lot of fun, but after a few hours with the screw drivers, you won't feel the same. Here's my advice, get a power screw driver! (And another one, if you go to Ikea, have lunch at the restaurant and taste the Swedish meatballs... awesome!)

Thanks a lot for reading, I remind you I have an email if you want to send me any question or comment privately: berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com . See you soon!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene Hurricane Hits New York

Hey everyone! I'm sure most of you have been hearing about the hurricane Irene these days. I got here on Thursday, so I had to deal with it. I think it's pretty much over right now. I see that there's still strong wind, but it's not raining anymore and I don't think it's that bad at this time. However, the whole thing has been a big adventure during the weekend, and I'm happy to say that we survived hurricane Irene. I feel really sorry for all the losses and damages that it has caused along its way. 

On Friday, everyone was talking about it in the city. To be honest with you, it scared me a little bit, because I had never seen anything like that before and the reactions of the people were quite crazy. The government released a map with evacuation zones. I live in an area that was categorized as Zone B, which means that we don't need to evacuate if we don't want, but we have to be cautious. Moreover, we were surrounded by Zone A (evacuation area). Anyways, we decided to stay in for the whole weekend to be safer. 

Since we didn't want to go out during the whole hurricane thing, we went to the grocery store to get food, water, etc. It turns out that everyone did the same, so the stores were quite empty! They ran out of water, bread and milk. At that point, I realized it was a serious thing. We bought everything we could and then waited at home. 

We didn't go anywhere from Saturday afternoon, when the subway closed, just in case. But we went downstairs our apartment to see what was going on before the hurricane got here. To be honest with you, Saturday night was scarier than Sunday (when the hurricane was supposed to be here). I almost couldn't sleep with all the noise of the trees against my windows. 

This morning, the hurricane was downgraded to a "tropical storm", which means it wasn't so strong anymore. It was still dangerous, but not that bad. In fact, today I could only see some rain and a lot of wind, but nothing really catastrophic. However, my roommate and I went walking around our neighborhood when everything was over and we found some broken trees. Apart from that, everything looks just fine, and look what a beautiful view we had! 

Even though it wasn't what I was expecting, I'm happy that the city was getting ready for something worse. That way, New Yorkers can feel safe! I hope you all guys were safe and nothing happened to you! See you soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hey New York, I'm Back!

Hi everyone!! I'm finally back in the city! It feels really awesome to be back. Moreover, my friends and I just got our own apartment, which makes it much more fun. To be honest, when I was landing in JFK I was feeling like if I was coming back home. Moreover, I just spent the summer holidays in my home country. I guess my mind is quite confused!

I had a great flight, stopping in Amsterdam for a couple hours, which wasn't bad at all because that airport rocks! It's the most comfortable airport I have ever been to. There are couches everywhere, some of them even have an iPad integrated with speakers in the back... They also have theme areas, like a jungle where you can sit under a palm tree and listen to the animals around. With airports like that, I don't mind if I can't get a direct flight!

Once landed in JFK I had to wait in line for the immigration stuff for about 2 hours. That's the worst part! It makes me don't want to leave anymore so I don't have to go through that again... It's quite annoying when it's busy, because the line gets crazy. However, I understand it's for everyone's security, so I can't complain either, they do a great job! 

After leaving the airport, I decided to get to Manhattan by subway. I figured that getting a taxi would mean waiting in a huge line again, plus it would cost a lot of money. Plus, I already know the subway map like the palm of my hand. The only disadvantage is that you have to carry the luggage and it's really annoying, especially when the train is crowded. Anyways, I did manage to get to the East Village (where I live now), and everything went smooth. 

When I arrived to the apartment, it was completely empty, because we rented it unfurnished. Nevertheless, I was really happy to finally have my own place with good friends. Today we had a trip to Ikea (Brooklyn) and we got everything we need to make our house look nice and cosy at a student's budget! We have also been exploring the area and I really love it. There are tones of stores, restaurants and bars to hang out and I see a lot of students around. I have also been meeting some friends, which feels great too, because I missed them during the summer! I have to thank Andrea and Maria for the nice poster they prepared to welcome us!

All in all, it seems like this is going to be an amazing year and I'm very positive about it. Just as positive as I am about the hurricane that is supposed to hit us in the weekend. I've never been through anything like that, so that will be quite an experience. Anyways, I'm sure we will be safe and we will take all the precautions we are told to take. 

My roommates Danny and Sam

Finally, I remind you that I have an e-mail where you can send me any question, suggestion or comment. That's the address: berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com. Thanks a lot for the nice people that have written to me! I am answering everything as soon as I finish with this post. Please be safe and have a good one! See you soon! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

See You Soon Spain!

Hey everyone! Here we go again... It's time for another round of awkward goodbyes. I really hate it! I have everything packed up already, and it's really late here in Spain. In a few hours I'll get in the car to head to Barcelona's airport to get my plane to NYC. Now that everything is ready, I don't feel like sleeping, because I'm terrified that I won't hear the alarm clock and miss my flight. I have to leave home at 4:30 am... which means I would have to wake up at 3:30am anyways, so there's no point on going to bed. I will rather try and sleep in the plane!

I thought by now I would be already used to the goodbye situation. Plus this is how it has been for the last couple of years, and it's already part of my life. Every time I move places I'm excited for the destination, but sad to say goodbye. Anyways, this is my home and sooner or later I will always come back around here. My family, my friends from childhood and my roots are in Spain and that's why leaving means missing a lot of things. However, when I was saying goodbye to everyone, I started thinking of how lucky I am. Anytime I come back, I always find my people as awesome as usual. Moreover, I'm living my dream over there in New York... so this is quite a happy moment! 

These last days I was thinking what things I should do before leaving. Because once I go back, I know I will start saying "oh I wish I could go back now and do this, or that...". Well, it turns out that my only wish was to do simple stuff, like walking by the sea side, eating my parent's meals, meeting my friends at my favorite cafe here in Blanes (right in front of the beach!) and just relaxing at home. This are the things I used to do on a regular basis when I was still living here (5 years ago already!), and those are the things I miss the most. Not in a bad way, it's just that it makes me happy to go back to that time for a minute. 

All in all, this was a great summer. I think I'm coming back to NY with my batteries fully charged, which I really need. Coming back here always makes me remember how I dreamed about doing what I'm doing today, which wasn't easy at all to get. I feel like I will never be thankful enough to all the people that supports me, and here I should mention my family (which is the best family I could ever have), my friends (who are also the best ones!) and to the Catalan Agency Joan Riera Gubau, which gave me wings! By the way, these pretty ladies above these lines are Sara and Melanie. I'd say they are my closest friends from childhood and I'm very proud that we're still as good friends today. They are really like sisters to me, and I wouldn't be who I am hadn't I met them! And yes, cheesy as it sounds, I will miss them a lot now that I got used to see them so often! In fact, I can't stop looking for flights from Barcelona to NYC so that they come visit!

Now it's time for me to check and make sure I have everything I need for the trip. Oh by the way! I heard about the earthquake in New York. As far as I know, it didn't cause any significant damage. I hope everyone is ok over there, it must have been a scary one! Even though those news scared me a lot, I can't wait to be back for the second part of my Berkeley College adventure! See you next time from the Big Apple!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Truth about NYC

Hey everyone! Wow, I'm already getting a bit nervous with the whole "coming back" thing! In three days I'll be in NY to start off my second year of my Berkeley adventure. I'm really excited about it, even though it's always tough to say goodbye... Specially when you're having a great time and you know you will miss people back home so much!

These two months that I have been around here, I have met with a lot of people. It's funny how many people ask the same questions about New York. This city has so many stereotypes! I'm going to make a list with the "Frequently Asked Questions" about the big apple. Some of them make me laugh a lot, some others are actually true! Let's see what many Spaniards wonder about the city:

Are there celebrities in the street?
I must say that's the one I get asked the most. Why are people so concerned about celebrities? Well, the answer to this one is YES. I was actually surprised of how ridiculously easy it is to find celebs around the city. To be honest with you, most of the times I recognize them because some of my friends do. At first I never know who they are!
Do they film in the streets?
That one is also a classic, and also related to the previous one. There are so many movies and TV shows that take place in New York, that it's almost impossible not to see a shooting around the streets! So, I guess this one is also true! 

Do they eat eggs for breakfast?
The meal schedule we have in Spain is completely different to the American one. In fact, our breakfast is usually a cup of coffee and maybe a couple of cookies. That's why Spaniards are so surprised when they see the real American breakfast on TV shows or movies. They're also shocked that some of them even have fried eggs (which is something left for lunch or dinner in our culture). However, I must say not all the New Yorkers do that... in fact, I haven't met any. I usually see people running around the streets in the morning with a huge cup of coffee and a bagel, I would say that's the classic NYC breakfast! Nevertheless, I must confess I do have eggs for breakfast! I tried it once just to feel a bit more American, and haven't stopped since then!

Is it true that the city doesn't sleep?
Well, don't expect to find it as busy at 4am as it is at 4pm. However, it is true that there are plenty of 24h businesses like supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, etc. Plus, the subways is opened 24/7 too (even though it slows down in frequency at late nights).

Is it a dangerous city?
Many people think New York is a dangerous place, packed up with criminals. However, I must say this is not true. I never had a problem at any time of the day. I would say you just need common sense and you're fine. It maybe depends on the neighborhood as well. Most of the time I'm around Manhattan, so I can talk about this one. I guess this image of a dangerous city comes from the movies or old times, but trust me, Manhattan is a safe place!

Are New Yorkers rude?
I get this one a lot too, and I don't understand why! Yes, they might be very busy people and almost everyone in the city is always in a rush. However, New Yorkers are actually friendly people! Of course, you might find all kinds of people (it's a huge city with a huge variety!), but generally I would say people there are really nice, open minded and not rude.

Well, these are the top ones, but there are many more! Maybe I'll save them for future posts. If you've been in the same situation as me, I'm sure you've had some of those conversations already. I hope everything is going well over there. Your quarter is almost over! Which I actually like, because honestly I can't wait to start again with the Fall one! Have a great week, see you soon!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mini Cruise around Sardinia

Hey everyone! As I told you before, this summer I went to Italy with my friends, to the island of Sardinia. One of the days we were there, we did a mini cruise, which was my favorite activity of the whole trip. We started from the sea port of Alghero, the city we were staying at, early in the morning. The mini cruise took the whole day, and we had a great meal on board too. Let me tell you about this experience, which of course I recommend to anyone!

We found the offer for the mini cruise walking around the sea port the night before. There are many companies that do excursions around the island. I would say the most popular one is an excursion to the Neptuno cave, but we did not take that one because it was quite pricey and only lasted a couple hours. We wanted to spend the whole day sailing, so the one we got was from morning to evening, it would make three stops and we had food and drinks included in the price. Since we were quite a big group, we got a discount and the final price was about 35 Euros (around 50 Dollars) with everything included. 

The boat made three different stops. The first one was in the cove you see in the picture, it was just awesome! The next one was in a small beach, where unfortunately a friend of mine had a small accident when she stepped on a sea urchin, but the beach was crazy beautiful as well. And finally we stopped in the middle of the sea to jump in the water before the sunset. However, not only the stops were beautiful, the journey was awesome too. The landscape was really nice, and now I understand why they call Sardinia the "Caribbean of Europe".

The best part was the first stop, the one in the cove on the picture above. It's the one where we spent more time, and we even had our meal there. We had time to jump to the water, which was so clean that it looked like one of those posters with paradise beaches. It was the perfect occasion to do snorkel, and it was a lot of fun. It was just beautiful under the sea! We had a great meal too. The best dish was the fresh seafood, it was great. I can also ensure you that it tasted a hundred times better being there in the middle of such a beautiful place.

The boat wasn't too big, in fact we were like 15 people on it plus the crew. Which actually means that half of the boat was occupied by our group! That made it even better, because it was more comfortable and we didn't have to bear any annoying person (unless we were the annoying ones!). All in all it was a great experience, and I'm sure I will always remember it. If you ever happen to be around the city of Alghero, don't hesitate to take one of those boats. It's really worth it! Take care and see you soon!

Ps. Talking about my holidays, which are almost over, made me a little bit nostalgic... this summer went by so fast!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Talking about Accents...

Hey everyone! Do you remember that post where I talked about having an accent? I got a lot of feedback from that one (which is always a pleasure!) and these days I have been thinking about it again. Let me tell you why.

Since my holidays are really close to be over (I'm flying back to NYC next thursday!), I am taking time to relax as much as I can before I go back to the crazy life in the city. During the year I don't really watch TV, so I usually watch my favorite shows online during the holidays. This summer was the time for a show I wanted to watch, Modern Family. Now, it's an amazing show! You might be wondering now what this have to do with the accents story... Well, there's a character in the show that became very popular and she has a very strong accent. Her name in the show is Gloria (the acress is Sofia Vergara). Guess what, I have the same accent! She's from Colombia, so her mother tongue is also Spanish. Actually, she does have a much thicker accent than me, but still it clearly how a Spanish person sounds speaking English.  

First of all, I should confess something. I am madly in love with her! Gloria is a dream girl! But ok, that's not the matter here. Back to the accent issue, she plays the role of a Colombian woman with a young kid. She's married to the father of the "Modern Family", who is much older than her. I would say about 20 years old. Let me introduce another side note here- I'm about 20 years younger than her, so if she ever gets tired of her current husband, well... leave me a comment! (Ok, just kidding, I know it's just a character... maybe). Sofia Vergara (the actress) has a very thick accent in real life, and the producers of the show decided to keep it just the way it was for the show. 

I think her accent is one of the reasons why the show is so much fun to watch. In my opinion, she is an essential part of it. I recommend you to watch any episode, and I'm sure it will make you laugh. I'm going to leave you some videos of an interview, so that you can hear what I'm talking about:

This is the second part of the interview, where Sofia goes to a store and does whatever Ellen (the host of the show) tells her. It's really funny, especially when she tries to fake a Texas accent:

There are many reasons why Modern Family is becoming one of my top ten favorite TV shows. First of all, I think it's a great show for our times. It has a divorced man married to a younger woman. It has an immigrant dealing with culture shock and a new language. It has a gay couple perfectly integrated with an adopted girl. And it also has a traditional family (by traditional I just mean husband, wife and kids). All this melting pot makes the show really interesting. Moreover, it's an easy sitcom to watch and it makes you laugh, which is also great!

I hope you had fun if you watched the videos! See you all soon! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Solar Quedada 2011

Hey everyone! I'm traveling around other regions of Spain to see my family before leaving, and I have found something really interesting. I'm in a town called Cortes, in the region of Navarra. These days there are a lot of people coming here for the "Solar Quedada 2011", which is a meeting to discover the advances in solar energy. There are markets, conferences and exhibitions about the topic. I went to the main park (which is a really beautiful one) where there was a market and an exhibition about solar kitchens. Yes, kitchens that work with the sun!

I saw a lot of interesting stuff and it gave me a lot of food for thought. First of all, the thing that caught my attention the most were the solar kitchens. When I got there, they were using them to cook a huge meal. Those kitchens look like a steel inverted umbrella with a pot in the middle. For a better understanding, just look at the picture! The way they work is by capturing the sunlight in one point, the pot. The sun doesn't need to be too strong. However, it won't work in a rainy day. Nevertheless, it's a great thing to use to save some energy during summertime or in places where you can't reach gas or electricity. Another kind of kitchen that is becoming very popular as well is this thing that looks like a window. There are many versions of it, but the point is that it captures all the hotness inside. See how they were baking pizza!

I met some people who were quite concerned about the poor areas of the planet, and I heard great conversations about how solar energy can help them. It brought me back to the Model UN we participated with Berkeley College, where we had to worry a lot about Africa. In my committee we were discussing how to foster water supply and sanitation. These people in the Solar Quedada told me that people in Africa can't develop because they don't have time to do so. They need to walk for hours to get drinkable water, they don't have the resources we have and anything we are used to do quickly, like boiling water to make a tea, takes forever in those areas. 

I'm talking about Africa just because that's the topic I researched about in the Model UN team at Berkeley. However, there are many other areas that need some help. In this particular event, they had a campaign to help Haiti. 

Solar energy based equipment would help them gaining time to worry about other things. Since they get a lot of sunlight and they don't have the proper infrastructures to get electricity, that would be a great solution. It's amazing how they struggle to find water while their continent is actually full of it. Only that most of the water they have is underground. In order to be able to get that water, they need more time and resources. That's why the people I met in the Solar Quedada thought that providing this kind of equipment would save them some time so they could focus on other concerns. They told me that sending food or spare money helps them eat for a few days, but it doesn't help in the long future. What they need is to get the resources and abilities to develop by themselves. 

I leave you the link of the event, even though it's in Spanish. Maybe you can use a translator if you're interested: http://www.solarquedada.net/. Thanks for reading! See you soon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Learning English: Expressions, Idioms, Phrases

Hey everyone! As some of you already know, I'm from Barcelona, which means my native language isn't English (at all). I've talked about it before, when I blogged about having an accent, but I want to bring up a different topic this time. The use of English expressions, idioms or phrases!

Those who are not native English speakers will understand me. When you learn English, you can be the best at grammar, spelling, etc. BUT there's always something missing. You don't sound as natural as a native regardless of how many hours of English lessons you take. I realized about that specially when I moved to New York. I started hanging out with native English speakers, and even though I could understand and could be understood, sometimes they would use sentences that sounded really random to me. These were expressions!

I remember the first time I heard one of my friends say "it's raining cats and dogs". Can you imagine what I thought?

I consider this part of the English language to be the hardest one to learn. You my understand what "to rain", "cat" and "dog" mean, but the meaning of all together is a bit different. Since those sentences make no sense, it's harder to learn them by heart. However, they make you sound more natural and I think they are what makes a language be enriched. "It's raining cats and dogs" turns out to be my favorite English expression, in fact, I can't wait for the rain so I can use it! (Just kidding). 

I'm going to give you a piece of advice. If you hang out with native English speakers, ask them every time you hear an expression you don't understand and then try to use it. That's the way I'm learning some of them. I don't expect to use those phrases as spontaneously as they do, but they make you sound more "English". I think they help you describe things in a way simple adjectives can't. Something like "a picture is worth a thousand words". I must also tell you that sometimes I use expressions in the wrong place, but errors make you learn and they are always fun (if you have nice friends, of course). 

What expressions do you usually use? I have been thinking and here are some that I have already integrated in my vocabulary:

I'll play it by ear - I love this one! And no, it doesn't mean I will use my ear to play anything. It means you don't have a specific plan and you will just improvise something. 

Break a leg - This one, even though it sounds cruel, is used to wish luck. I find it really funny, and if I translate it to my language, it doesn't have the same meaning at all. But hey, break a leg!

Hit the books - we should be familiar with this one... it means to study, forget about being mean to the books!

There are thousands of them and they're impossible to learn at once. However, it's nice to slowly integrate some of them into your language to enrich it. I recommend you this website, where you will find plenty of them: http://www.idiomsite.com/. See you soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hey everyone! This is going to look like one of those cooking shows "Cooking with José", but my aunt just came to visit and she taught me how to prepare Tiramisu. Since my last post on cooking a Spanish omelet became quite popular, I thought I could share this one with you. This time it's about a desert, and it's typical from Italy, even though we eat it a lot in Spain too.

I took pictures of every step, so it will be easier to understand since I'm not sure if my limited English will allow me to be that precise. Now, there are many ways to prepare this dessert. However, we decided to make a simple recipe, easy, quick and delicious. Plus, there's no need for baking or doing complicated stuff that I would mess up. 

This is what we need:
  • Cookies 
  • Coffee
  • Whip cream
  • Cheese 
  • Sugar
  • Cacao 
  • Love

Step 1) This was the hardest part. You need to whip cream and then mix it with the cheese and sugar. I used a small bottle of whip cream and then added a whole pot of a cheese similar to Philadelphia cheese (you can use other types of cheese, but traditionally, Tiramisú is prepared with Mascarpone). You also need to add sugar. The quantity depends on how sweet you want it to be, I added three soup spoons of sugar.

Step 2) This one is more fun. You need to prepare the coffee and then dip cookies. I recommend you to use simple cookies. In Spain we call them "María", they have no chocolate chips or anything. You can see which ones I mean in the pictures. You need to dip them very fast, so that they don't get too soft. Then you need to make a layer in the bowl you're using for your Tiramisú. So that you undestand me, it's like if you're covering the floor with tiles. The dipped cookies are the tiles.

Step 3) Once you have a layer, you need to cover it with the whip cream and cheese mix you have prepared. You can put as much as you wish, but everything has to be covered. On the top of the layer, you can sprinkle some cacao (I used Nesquick).

Step 4) Once your layer is covered, you will need to repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you wish. I did 4 layers, but it depends on how much cream you prepared, the size of your bowl and how many people you are.

Step 5) In the last layer, you should use a strainer to sprinkle the cacao, so it will look nicer. Once it's covered, you can leave it on the fridge. I like to have it cold, but it depends on your taste. 

Finally, you just need to serve and eat it! Easy right? There are many versions of Tiramisu, and you can always innovate. Nevertheless, the one I'm telling you was just delicious! See you soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Drinking Tourism in Lloret, Spain

Hey everyone! Today I woke up to find the city next to my hometown in the news. They were talking about a huge "battle" between hundreds of drunk tourists and the police. It's the second time this week that something like that happen and it makes me upset how people are destroying a beautiful place that used to be a lot of fun in a place where kids from all over the world come to drink until their own bodies stop them. 

That's how Telegraph.co.uk explains what happened a few days ago (link here):

"Los Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, blocked streets off in the resort on Spain’s northeastern Mediterranean coast in a bid to disperse around 400 tourists in the early hours of Monday morning.
But the drunken tourists refused to move on from the main avenue where many of the resorts nightclubs are concentrated and instead turned on police, throwing bottles, uprooting street furniture, and vandalising shops.
Rubbish bins were overturned and a police car set on fire.
Police were forced to fire rubber bullets into the crowd, a spokesman for the force said, after “the crowd showed hostility towards the police”.
Local reports said the crowds comprised different nationalities but the troublemakers appeared to be mainly Italian and French."
 These riots were all over the news in Spain. Nevertheless, today the same story was repeated. Last night the police had to "fight" against more drunken tourists, because they couldn't get to one of the clubs. That club had to be closed because the AC system wasn't working, and you can imagine the consequences with such a weather. However, tourists refused to go to another club and started throwing all kinds of things to the police forces again.  

According to the last news released in "El Periódico" (a newspaper from Spain), the Mayor of the city of Lloret has announced thatthe law must improve to protect the citizens. They don't want to tolerate this kind of behavior anymore. Moreover, the police forces have supervised all the clubs and the police "setup" in the area to prevent from new disturbances. I hope all these measures will work and Lloret will be that pretty town again no matter day or night.

As I said, I used to go a lot to Lloret when I was still living in my hometown. I went a couple times this summer and I was so disappointed. It's really sad to see what this city has become. I don't know what the solution might be, because all those tourists are also an essential part of the economy of Lloret. However, walking around the city center at night during the summer feels really unsafe. I understand they are young people (I would say something between 16 and 24) and they want to have fun, but the sad thing is that riots, violence and excesses with alcohol seem to be their way of having fun. 

Drink responsibly! You should know our lives are much more valuable than a couple of cocktails... I hope you're enjoying the week, and see you soon! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reunion in Alghero

Hey everyone! I'm finally back from my holidays in Italy and I'm happy to say that I had the best time! Now I have another destination to share and to recommend you. I'm a little bit nostalgic because I had this trip with my friends from Barcelona, the ones I started studying with before I left Spain. I won't see them anymore until next year, so the goodbye time was quite awful to be honest. However, I'm keeping awesome memories with me and let me share a little bit of this experience with you. 

We left Spain from Girona Airport, flying by Ryanair. If you are not European you might not be familiar with this airline, but it's a great one to travel around our continent. It's a low cost company, so the flights are usually a lot cheaper than regular companies. We arrived to Alghero at midnight, but we were still good to get to our apartment. People in that island are so nice and helpful! We had rented an apartment in the center of the city, very close to the beach. We were seven people and there were only six places to sleep... which wasn't a big deal and it was actually fun to sleep with so many people. 

I will tell you with more details about the specific trips we made, because they were really amazing. I will talk especially about a mini cruise we did around the island of Sardegna, which I loved. However, today I just wanted to tell you how great it was to spend a few days with my friends after having been out of my country for two years. Many people are afraid of going abroad because they think they will lose contact with the people they love. Well, here I am to tell you that it won't necessary happen. Obviously, once you're gone for so long, things change. You can't see them everyday and you miss a lot of things.

However, I can tell you true friendships don't understand about distances. I said goodbye to these friends two years ago, and every time we meet it's still the same. In fact, this last trip was very special. Four years ago, we all started studying the same degree in the Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona, and they graduated last spring. I couldn't attend the ceremony, because I was already in New York. Nevertheless, we had our own graduation party in Alghero. 

In Spain, when students graduate, each of us gets a sash with a nickname created by the other classmates. It's a lot of fun and I was quite upset that I was missing it. Fortunately, I have the best friends on Earth and they took all their sashes and did one for me too. That detail felt really good and it meant a lot to me. Yes, I got really emotional, but they can't know about that, I'm a hard guy. My sash said "Mister Omnipresente", which means Mister Omnipresent. No, it's not because they think I'm God (would be nice though), it's because I've been away for a long time, yet I'm still there somehow. 

There you go, I'm just trying to tell you that friends are friends and will be friends no matter what. Of course, as a part of growing up, we need to get used to let some people go, meet new ones, etc. However, I couldn't imagine my life without checking how my closest friends are doing and knowing that whenever we coincide in the same city (difficult thing nowadays), everything will be the same. 

I hope you're having a great summer! I'm now visiting my family and getting ready to go back to the city, which will be in a couple of weeks! See you soon!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Beginning of the Berkeley Adventure!

Hey everyone! How are you doing? For those who are not on holidays right now, you might hate me a little bit when I say this, but I'm traveling around Sardegna (an Italian island) and it's being great! I will write about it soon when I get back. I just realized that summer is almost gone and I'm very excited for the upcoming year. However, this time it's very different from last year. 

Last August I was just about to start my Berkeley College adventure in New York, and I didn't know how everything would be. I was telling to my friends that I'm nostalgic and somehow sad (not in a bad way!) that this year is not the first one. That is because I had been dreaming about moving to New York for so long that I just couldn't be happier when it was actually happening. I remember that feeling I got when I started packing my stuff and trying to imagine how my life would be in the big apple. I also remember when I landed in JFK and got my room... and I still get chills!

This year will bring a lot of new stuff and of course I'm incredibly happy to go back again. However, now that I have already experienced it, I feel more like I'm coming back home. I know there are many international students that will come to Berkeley in September, and I'm sure they are having all those feelings I had. I must admit I'm a bit jealous! I will try to make a memory of how the arrival was and see if I can give you any piece of advice that I would have appreciated when it was my turn.

First of all, you will need a lot patience at the airport. I'm assuming most of you will arrive around the end of August - middle of September, and JFK is completely packed up those weeks... Then after the immigration control, you will need transport! If you're staying in Manhattan, and if you have never been there before and don't know how to use the subway, I would take a bus. The bus has several stops in Manhattan (you should check which one is best for you) and it's definitely cheaper than a cab. 

Once you arrive, I guess you will need a lot of things for your room. If you're on a student budget here's my advice: Kmart! It's a huge store (there are a couple of locations in Manhattan) and they have everything you need for the room: comforters, towels, stationery, lights, curtains, etc. It's quite affordable compared to other stores, and you will find everything you need in one place. Once you're done with your space, you're ready for the next step!

I remember the first thing I did was my Accuplacer test. Before starting my bachelor, Berkeley asked me to take this test, which is really useful. It has a little bit of everything (English, Maths...) and it tells the school what courses you need to take to get ready to study your major. That way, if you need some more Maths or English, they will place you in the "college skills" courses. If you have to take it, you don't need to be worried. It's not about failing or passing, it's about knowing where you should start. Moreover, you will find a lot of information about this test online if you want to prepare it.

I recommend you to schedule the test as soon as possible, because once you get your results, you're ready to enroll! The first time you register for your courses, you will need to go the international adviser, who will prepare the schedule for you (the following ones will be done online by yourself). I remember the paperwork was easier than I thought. 

Finally, before starting your classes you will have some orientations. Go to all of them! They are fun, useful and you will get to know your schoolmates. Also, I recommend you to check the Facebook pages for the school, especially "Berkeley College Internationals", because all the events will be posted there and if you are new to the city, you should attend all of them! I'm very excited to see new faces around and I hope there will be a lot of new international students, which always a lot of fun! I'll see you there soon! 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Flight Hunting

Hey everyone! Today I finally booked my flights to NYC. I'm sure many international students have to deal with "flight hunting" several times a year and it's always a pain in the neck. Airline fares seem to be impossible to understand. They are supposed to be lower the sooner you book your flights and higher as the flying date gets closer, but that doesn't always happen. Some other times, changing your flying dates for only one day back or forth, can save you hundreds of dollars. Then, how to find the best option? and what other aspects should I look for besides from the price?

If you don't have any particular airline company in mind, the best you can do is to check one of those websites that search the best options for you through all the companies. I will give you a few of them that I have used many times. I have tried all the following companies and I never had a problem with them (these are not airlines, they act only as an agency. If there is any problem with the flight, then that's responsibility of the airline).

Orbitz.com - I use this one when I want to fly from the US. I found really cool offers and it's really easy to search.

Rumbo.es - This is actually a Spanish one, but I have used it for many international flights. It's the one I use the most, because it usually gives me good offers to fly to and from Spain. However, it's worth a shot!

Edreams.com - That's very similar to Orbitz.com, I usually check these three and then compare prices.

These websites allow you to see the cheapest options combining all the airlines. However, the price you will be asked to pay is not the same price that appears in the search. This is because these agencies charge a fee, which ranges between $15 - $25.

Another option is to book the flight directly from the airline company, which I have done sometimes. It's more difficult to compare prices, since you would need to check all airlines. However, if you have any particular airline in mind you would like to fly with, then I recommend you to check the website directly. I did that with Swiss Air, because I found some offers in the Internet, and Delta Airlines, because they had direct flights to Barcelona.

There are other aspects you should care about when looking for a flight. Specially when it's a long one, for example Europe - America. I always try to have as less transfers as possible. If there is no direct flight, you will have to change planes in a different country. However, to change planes you will need to board again, which means you will need a lot of extra time. I try to have only one transfer, if direct flight is not possible, and I try to have a short transfer. I had to wait 10 hours in Germany waiting for my next flight, and that was something I don't want to repeat! I would say 1:30 hours up to 2 hours is perfect. I wouldn't take a flight with less than 1 hours for the transfer, because it might be too short and you might lose your connecting flight!

I hope the information was useful and let me know if you have any questions! See you soon!