Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween 2011

Hey everyone! How was your weekend? I know the actual Halloween day is tomorrow, but most of you must have been celebrating it during the weekend and so have I! First of all, the Halloween thing is quite new to me. I only celebrated it last year, because I was here. I actually had a lot of fun. I dressed up with my friends from the dorm where I was living at and went to a nice party.

Even though it's becoming a popular thing to do nowadays, we don't really have that tradition back home. We have a similar party in the winter, the carnival, where everyone dresses up. However, for the 31st of October we have other traditions. Nevertheless, I'm not going to say I didn't have fun with it this weekend! 

At first, we didn't have any plan and since it snowed on Saturday... YES, you read it well. It snowed!! I woke up, opened the blinds and it was snowing a lot. So confusing. Christmas already? It's October! Anyways, it was lovely to let it snow while in bed. It felt really good. It felt good until we had to go out to get some groceries. Wow! It was really freezing. 


With that weather, I didn't feel like going anywhere. However, it's Halloween and as my roommate always makes me say: "how many times do I live?""I only live once." We had joked before about dressing up as smurfs. Guess what, just before the stores started closing we went out and got blue body paint. The rest is history! 

Smurfs have three basic elements: blue skin, white pants and a white hat. So there we were, getting ready for our smurfization! Now, I know we didn't get to look as adorable as smurfs do. I know it looks quite creepy. I also know some people thought we were the blue man or Avatar people. However, I must say we made it up in about 15 minutes and considering the amount of time invested, I'd say it was awesome!


Dressing up as smurfs was quite an adventure. You would not like to see how the bathroom looked after painting our bodies. However, it was worth it. I couldn't stop laughing! It felt like I was wearing those funny color glasses all the time. Yes, the paint was a bit messy, and yes, we stained all the apartment in blue. Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun!


Washing the blue paint away from our skins was another story. Obviously, we wouldn't go to sleep in that disguise, so we had to do it before going to bed. For a second I even considered staying blue for the rest of my life. How bad could it be!


Getting rid of the paint was already stressful enough to even worry about cleaning up the apartment, which we left for this morning. That wasn't so exciting. I woke up to find the bathroom looking like if a smurf had exploded in the bathtub. However, remembering ourselves dressed up as blue magic creatures around the city was quite funny, I'm not going to lie!

I hope you guys enjoyed your Halloween parties and had a great weekend. I've been trying not to mention them, but good luck with the midterms week at Berkeley! I've promised myself that as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to open my macroeconomics book and get started. See you soon!

Friday, October 28, 2011

International Dinner

Hey everyone! Oh I had a blast last night! Two new international students, Sofia and Michelle, had the idea of getting together for dinner. We ended up having such a good time! We went to two of my favorite spots in the city, and we were all international students. What else can I ask for?

We had dinner at Vapiano. It's the restaurant I talked about a couple of blogs ago. I hope everyone liked it, because I really enjoyed my meal! However, what I enjoyed the most was the company. One of the best things of the Berkeley College adventure is that being such an international school, you get to meet people from all over the place. 


After the dinner, we decided to continue having fun and headed down to Greenwich village. We started walking from Union Square to the village. Oh baby Jesus... it's getting really cold in NYC!I can't believe last week was so warm and last night it was freezing! Anyways, it didn't stop us.


Do you remember Cafe Wha? I have talked about that place many times, because I really love it. It's a small club with a live house band that plays every night. They're just awesome! We also had a lot of fun there. The band is really engaging with the audience too. They make everyone sing and dance, which makes everyone have a good time. A tip for those interested: Wednesday and Saturday nights the cover charge is free.


I think we all had a good time and I'm sure we will repeat soon. We're waiting for more people to join us, don't forget to check out the Berkeley College Internationals page on Facebook for the upcoming events. I want to meet you all!


Now that it's finally Friday, what plans do you guys have? This is Halloween weekend! Well, Halloween is on Monday, but still all the parties are going to be either today or tomorrow. Costume ideas? I might surprise myself dressing up this year! Whatever you do, make sure you have fun and be safe! See you soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

School E-Mail

Hey everyone! How is it going? A funny thing happened to me today. A few days ago someone at the office asked me to answer an e-mail for an article at US News. Well, big achievement that my name made it there today! I would have thought that if they ever quoted me there, it would be for something cooler. I guess I'm not a hipster. However, I think the topic is interesting for today's students. Plus, since my name's there, I have to tell you guys about it!

The article gives some tips on how to manage college e-mail. In an age where online communication is essential, many college students still have problems managing the different accounts. Which sometimes leads to missing important information about their courses. There are different ways to make it easier for everyone to get the important e-mails so that students don't lose track of anything going on at school, but still without receiving the annoying spams.

You can see the article here: page 1 / page 2
Here are the 5 tips that US News gives. Please, do support number four. Yes, "I am number 4".

1. Outsource your campus E-mail

Here they're recommending to give access to your school e-mail to someone like your parents. Since the school e-mail is meant to be used for school related issues, having them read it can be helpful. However, I wouldn't say this is necessary for everyone. Personally, I don't have anyone else reading mine.

2. Follow your school via social media

I really agree on this one. In the case of Berkeley, I get the most important information via social media. The events are posted on Twitter, Facebook... and the information regarding your courses and administrative stuff is always available on Blackboard Learn. Most of the times I get the information from those sources faster than from the e-mail.

3. Create filters and folders

Important one if you don't want to go crazy with your e-mail inbox!

4. Forward E-mails to an external server or smartphone 
 
"Jose Navarro, a junior at Berkeley College, says he forwards his school E-mails to his personal Gmail address.
"I rarely open the actual school E-mail—maybe twice every quarter," he says.
Navarro says students who choose to forward their E-mails should ensure the destination E-mail address isn't marking messages from their school as spam or junk, a suggestion that Sreenivasan echoes."

Not much more to add :)

5. Unsubscribe from whatever you can

Finally, get rid of the spam. This one applies to all your e-mail accounts. The less junk mail you get, the easier it is to read your e-mails and to maintain an organized inbox. However, be careful with what you mark as junk, since you might miss valuable e-mails!

I hope everyone is doing fine and getting ready for the Halloween weekend! See you soon!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Time Flies in NYC

Hey everyone! How is everyone doing? First of all, I'm sorry I haven't been writing as much as I used to for the last week, but I'm back to business now! I have been quite stressed with work (midterms approaching!), until my body stopped me by getting sick. Fortunately, it's gone now and I'm feeling much better, because I've realized I can't really afford being sick on weekdays in NYC!

For those who wonder if it's true that people here are more stressed than in other places, let me tell you something. From my perspective, that's damn true! I'm not sure if it's the same for every New Yorker, but most of the people I see are always in a rush. Coming from Spain (where, even though it might sound like a cliché, people are much more relaxed) it's shocking to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of this city everyday.

Back to the getting sick issue, how many people do you know in the city that misses classes, work or whatever because they're sick? Very few! And if they do, it's not for a long time. When I say I can't afford it, I really mean it. Missing a couple of classes is just like a nightmare for me. That means missing graded assignments, missing notes, missing lectures that will be asked in the finals... such a mess! Same thing with the rest of the things I do during the week.

This is how a 3.5-hour Finance lecture looks like
Definitely, not a place for people who can't handle stressful situations. Don't get me wrong, this is not a complain. In fact, it's one of the things I need right now. It keeps me going. However, sometimes it's just too much and I just can't wait for the weekend to arrive or those days when I can go back home and sit down for a bit. The truth is that even if I have nothing to do, I still feel the urge to keep myself busy. Why?! I don't know.

This is how one of my fun roommates decided
to wake me up from bed, did it work? Nope
The biggest consequence of that fast path the life takes here is that time flies. It really does fly. We are in week 5 of the fall quarter and I still feel like we started last week. I close my eyes and it's weekend again, and then Sunday, and then all of a sudden it's Friday again. Only two more months and I'll be having a Christmas eve dinner with my family.

After this weekend, I have decided to try to calm down from time to time. Until now, it felt wrong to just have a rest. However, here's my body telling me I'm not 12 anymore and I need to take care of myself. If I think about it, it's not that hard to accomplish. I'm sure it's all about time management. However, it's just fine to take a breath from time to time. Actually, I think it's a must. Earned rest is the best!

With all these thoughts I re-open the blog, and I have many things to write about, so it will come back to life! Thanks a lot for reading, and hope you're all doing fine!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Delicious Saturday

Hey everyone! What a beautiful Saturday we just had! To be honest, I couldn't wait for the weekend! Last week was a long one and I needed to disconnect. Today my roommates and I went to have brunch to Vapiano. Ah... what a lovely place! Vapiano is a restaurant chain, which is defined in the official website as "an innovative European concept serving made-to-order hand tossed pizzas, fresh, house-made pasta and hand tossed gourmet salads." You can check the website here.


You can find a Vapiano in 70 locations around the world. In fact, the reason I love this place so much is because I used to go there very often when I was living in Tallinn, Estonia. It was hard to find food I would eat at home in Estonia. However, Vapiano was just perfect and very affordable! In NYC, the prices are quite higher than in Tallinn, but it's still worth it. This one is located at 113 University Pl (very close to Union Square).

They have a really cool atmosphere. When you arrive, they give you a card. The kitchen is opened, so they cook everything in front of you. You need to order whatever you want in the right place (there are different sections for salads, pasta, pizza, etc.) and they'll make it for you and charge it in that card. You don't need to ask for the bill when you're done, because you need to show the card at the exit, and you'll have to pay there. I think it's a great method to make things faster and to avoid problems dividing the check for big parties. 


Another thing I like is the design of the restaurant. It's exactly the same as it was in Tallinn, which brings me back great memories. It feels like being in a lounge, and it's very relaxing. They even have a tree in the middle of the dining area! Anyways, I have to admit that even if the place didn't look nice, I would still go because I love their homemade pasta. Let me recommend you my favorite dish: tagliatelle funghi. It's tagliatelle with mushroom sauce. Trust me, it's delicious! That one costs about $12, most of the dishes range between $10 to $20. They have great desserts too! 


Enough food for now, I'm getting hungry just talking about it and I just had it! After the meal we were so filled up that we needed to walk. We walked all the way up from Union Square to 35th. With such a great day, it felt great to be out. However, I must say the streets were really stressful today. I think some people need to have some rest! This city can be very overwhelming sometimes... Thanks God we live in a quiet area and we are surrounded by parks. It felt nice to be back and far from the noise of the sirens, cars, and the hustle and bustle of the city! I hope you guys are having a great weekend, see you soon!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Finance?

Hey everyone! First of all, don't worry, I'm not going to talk about finance theories or try to give a lecture about the course. I just think that I will feel better if I share this challenge with you. I decided to take finance this quarter, even though I probably should have waited a little bit (it's a 300 level subject and I should be taking 200...), I really wanted to take it now. I have never taken finance before, so this is all new to me. However, with so many news going on around the world regarding this field, I felt the need to learn about it!

For some reason, I start getting interested in some sections of the newspapers that I didn't even use to look at. I started checking the numbers, the stock markets... and I found it really difficult to understand. Nevertheless, I still wanted to understand everything and Google wasn't enough. I know I'm very impatient, but here I am: sitting in front of my finance homework and asking to myself WHY!

I'm not going to lie. I'm enjoying this challenge. Since the class is quite advanced, I need to review everything once I get back home. However, I have found many sources on the Internet that are helping me a lot, and this is why I wanted to share this story with you. Today information is more accessible to people than ever. In my case, I needed some help with finance. However, I finish my class at 10pm and when I get home, I can't sit and read because my head would explode. 

What did I do? Look for videos on Youtube! I was really surprised to find so many options. In fact, there are full length lectures even from Ivy League schools. Below you will find an example. This is the first lecture of a finance subject in Yale, and it helped me a lot. It's like having the professor at home:

I have realized that taking a challenging subject is like trying to run for one hour. When I run (which I should do more often than I actually do), there's a point when I feel I can't continue. I'm too tired and I want to stop the treadmill. It's like hitting a wall. However, if I wait a bit more and make an effort, the wall disappears. In a few minutes, I start feeling full of energy again. With this subject I'm having the same thing. Sometimes I feel like I'm not understanding it. However, once I get the main idea of every chapter, it looks so much easier! I'm very happy of the results so far (even if it's just week 3) and I'm learning a lot.

I hope I encouraged some of you to face your challenges, or at least start thinking about those subjects that you're trying to leave for the end of your degree when you can't wait any longer! Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Columbus Day

Hey everyone! Did you enjoy the long weekend we had? Well, I had to go to work yesterday, but still, it was nice to get the day off from school. However, does everyone know what the holiday was about? Probably, there are many people, like myself, that doesn't really know what the day means. Here I go once again trying to figure out a holiday using the power of Google.


I usually start this kind of research by Wikipedia, here's what it says about Columbus day:

"Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, which occurred on October 12, 1492, as an official holiday. The event is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad, Fiesta Nacional in Spain, Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina and as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century." Link here.
As you can see, the day is celebrated in many places, even though each one of them have different names. Knowing that the holiday is a tribute to Columbus, what do people do to celebrate it? According to Timeanddate.com, here's how Americans celebrate it:

"Officially, the people of the USA are invited to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of their country with church services and other activities. In some towns and cities, special church services, parades and large events are held. Most celebrations are concentrated around the Italian-American community. The celebrations in New York and San Francisco are particularly noteworthy. In Hawaii Columbus Day is also known as Landing Day or Discoverer's Day.
Not all parts of the United States celebrate Columbus Day. It is not a public holiday in California, Nevada and Hawaii. Moreover, Native Americans’ Day is celebrated in South Dakota, while Indigenous People’s Day is celebrated in Berkeley, California." Link here.

Since I was busy until late in the afternoon, I couldn't go and check the events that were taking place in the city. I would have liked to see it, because people don't really talk much about this holiday. It feels like it's just one of those days that some schools and companies take off but many others don't. In fact, some of my friends attending other schools had to go to work. Moreover, most of the businesses were opened. 

I hope you guys had a great rest and good luck with the week! See you soon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kayaking in the Hudson River

Hey everyone! Did you enjoy the weekend? It was so beautiful! I can't believe that last week it was so cold, and this weekend it felt like summer again. It was so beautiful outside that it felt bad to stay in. Today my friends and I had an amazing plan: kayaking in the Hudson. For free! 


We did that with the organization Downtown Boathouse. It's ran by volunteers, and they're awesome! 
“The Downtown Boathouse is an all volunteer-run nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free public access to the harbor in New York City through public kayaking programs. Our mission is to encourage safe public use of the harbor waters of New York City and thereby provide residents of this space-constrained city with increased recreational opportunities. We support our operations exclusively through volunteers and with your public donations” (website).
 
We went to the one at Houston St and the west side river. There was quite a lot of people there, which was very nice too. They make you sign a form, grab a life jacket and you're good to go! They have doubles and singles, but I definitely recommend singles. I find it more comfortable and it's more fun. When you take a double boat you have to coordinate too much and it can be difficult. You are asked to stay in the pier area, so you can't go crazy around the river, which would be quite dangerous! 


It's really beautiful to look at the city from the kayak in the river, and very relaxing as well. I think I love any kind of activity that has to do with being in the water. Maybe it is so because I grew up in a beach town, but it really calms me down. When I was a kid, I remember my parents taking my brother and me to the sea port of my town. That's why a Sunday close to the water makes me feel more like at home... even though I don't get my father's paella here!


Unfortunately, the last day of this season is tomorrow. However, once the cold weather is over, they'll start again. I definitely recommend it to you guys. It's cheap (actually it's free), it's relaxing, and it's fun. Check out the website I just linked above for locations and dates if you're interested. They also have some courses going on, but I haven't really looked at it yet. I hope you guys are ready for the new week and happy that we get the day off school tomorrow! See you soon! You can contact me at berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com for any comment, question or suggestion.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hungry?

Hey everyone! How was your week? Mine has been an interesting one. It's been my first week as an intern at Unigo.com, and I need to get used to combine both, the internship and my classes. I've already learned a lot, which was the main objective! 

I'm going to talk about food today. Many people ask me what I usually eat in New York. There's this little myth going on in many places that says we only eat burgers. Moreover, many of them think that a burger means Mc Donald's "burger". However, there are plenty of places here where you can get delicious burgers at affordable prices. I'm not going to get on how healthy or unhealthy they are, lets leave cholesterol issues for another blog! I'm going to tell you my favorite burgers in New York. I've been testing a couple places here and there, and here's my top affordable American burgers so far:



Five Guys

This is by far my favorite burger! Five Guys is a chain that has been rated one of the best burger places by Zagat and the reviews are always positive. You can get a burger for about $7 and you can add any toppings you want. My best combination is cheeseburger with grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mushrooms and ketchup. The fries are really good too and you get free peanuts. Oh dear, I'm hungry! You can check out the website for menus and locations here: link.


BLT Burger

The second place goes for BLT Burger! BLT has many other restaurants (BLT Steak, BLT Fish...), but those burgers are awesome. It's a bit more pricey than the previous one, you might spend $15-20 on a meal. However, the restaurant is quite cool as well. While Five Guys just looks like a fast food place, BLT has a cool dining area where you might want to spend more time. You can check prices and locations here: link.

Shake Shack

The third one goes to Shake Shack. That's the place to go when you feel like having a burger and don't have much time. I'd say it's a "cool" Mc Donald's. Burgers are quite small, but they are delicious! They have great combinations and prices are quite cheap as well. You can sit there, although it's usually very crowded and it might be hard to get a table. Visit the website here: link.

Now that I have written about burgers, I feel like I can't say I'm eating healthy anymore. Well, I am! The truth is that I find the food options in this city much more healthy than in many other places I have been to. In fact, I would say it is easier to find healthy food at an affordable price here than in Barcelona. However, a burger feels nice from time to time, and even more if it's coming from one of those three places! Let me go for dinner now and you guys enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sent from my iPhone

Hey everyone! I'm sure you have all heard about Steve Jobs passing away already (Rest In Peace!), quite shocking news and even more considering that yesterday the new iPhone was released. To be honest with you, I had started writing this post about technology last night with all the iPhone thing going on. I couldn't finish because I had a crazy day and got home at 10pm and fell asleep before I could even publish it. However, it was almost ready to be published today when suddenly I started seeing everyone tweeting about the sad news. 

Well, he was definitely a genius and one of the most influential figures of this century in the technology field. However, since I'm not a technology expert, the main reason why I admire him is because of his skills as a marketer and speaker. His presentations are brilliant. There are dozens of quotes I will never forget, but here's my favorite one: 

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."
 Inspiring... isn't it? I'm sure he'll be remembered forever. 

Now let me tell you about phones as I intended to do yesterday. I'm sure you've all heard about the new iPhone 4S coming out. I watched a video published by Apple and I'm so impressed. I got my first iPhone last year, and I was already impressed with it. I'm not the kind of guy who always has the last thing in technology, but for some reason I thought an iPhone would make my life here easier (marketing victim). The fact is that it was my first smart phone and I really loved it. I really thought it couldn't get beyond that. How wrong I was! Check this video out:


Are you serious?! You can literally TELL your phone whatever you want and it will do it! Isn't it scary? The little thing can actually understand and process what you are saying. For example, you can ask the phone "do I need to take an umbrella?" and it will answer "yes, it is probably going to rain" according to the weather predictions. Maybe I'm just an ignorant in technology and this is not that crazy, but I find it insane! Right after watching the video, I started remembering how I didn't even have a phone when I was a kid. I didn't even have a computer at home and if I wanted to have a picture with my friends, I had to bring the camera to the photo store and wait a week to receive it. 

Those old things seem to be very far away, but it hasn't even been a decade. Back to the phones, I remember the first mobile phone we had at home. It was huge and it had an antenna that you could pull out to get better signal. No texting, and of course, no pictures. In fact, the only thing you could do was to save some numbers, and when I say some I mean like 20 maximum. Well, I was already shocked by the fact that you could speak to another person through that heavy machine without even a cable. 

When I was in my mid teen years, I got my first phone. I was around 14 years old. You can't imagine how excited I was to receive my Siemens M35. That phone wouldn't only let me speak to my friends without a cable, but it WOULD ALSO TEXT! It even had a few games that I never really got to figure out how they worked, but that phone was amazing to me. 

A few years later, the Nokia revolution arrived to my high school. Probably many of you remember the Nokia 3310 and the snake game... How incredible it felt to have that phone! I remember everyone having the same phone. In order to personalize it, everyone had a different cover. How horrible they were, yet we all loved those!


A few years later, the whole color screen appeared. Then pictures. Then video and music. Then Internet. Then touchscreens. And God knows what else is waiting to be discovered out there if as of today, a phone can recognize what you want by listening to your voice! With all that, I really wonder about something. Will the iPhone 4S recognize my accent? 

I hope you guys are having a great week! I wanted to mention Inna, who left me a very nice comment on my 9/11 post and I don't know how to answer. I appreciate your comment and thanks for reading! I remind you that you can contact me at berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com for any comment, question or suggestion.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Intercultural Skills

Hey everyone! How was your weekend? I must say that I had a great one even though it started raining like crazy again. I have great news, I got an internship! I'm very excited about it and I have the feeling that I can learn a lot there. I don't want to talk more about it before I actually start (which is tomorrow!) because that's a "bad luck" thing in my country! Not that I believe in those things... but let me be safe! Apart from that, I had a great time last Friday hanging out with Berkeley students.

We had a happy hour event with the international students, but later some more students joined (local, international, current, new...) and we always have a good time. This quarter is going to be very diverse, and I think this is an awesome opportunity for all of us to learn about other cultures and gain some intercultural skills.

I recently read an article published by the Royal Bank of Scotland that talks about it and I thought it could be interesting for some of you. It's entitled "I want to... develop my intercultural skills" and you can find it online. You can download it in PDF format here: www.rln-london.com/pdf/howto/InterculturalUKTI.pdf


If you have been reading my blog before, you might already know that I'm really passionate about intercultural things. Anything that has to do with dealing with different cultures or places makes me very happy! That's why I really enjoy most of my courses in my major (International Business) and reading all this kind of things. However, I recommend this particular article to anyone related to the business world. It's easy to read, very concise and it is a very useful guide to develop the intercultural skills we need to get adapted to the so called globalized world we live in. 

First of all, let's clarify what intercultural skills are. According to the article: 

"Intercultural skills are the skills that can help you communicate flexibly and sensitively with people from other cultures. They require:
- knowledge of other ‘cultures’, that is the customs, social, political and religious practices that may affect business and social behaviour;
- understanding of our own attitudes and then, where necessary;
-the ability and willingness to adapt our business practices."
 The article goes deeper in each of the three requirements. It also gives some interesting hints and tips and other sources to get further information.

Personally, I think it's very important for us to learn how to deal with people from different cultures, because it's the only way that a globalized world can work. It's obvious that intercultural skills are a huge advantage in the business world, but I would also extend it beyond the work place. It's also a great thing to have for your own personal life. Traveling and meeting new people (even if you're still home) with an open mind towards other cultures and backgrounds can be really enriching. 

There I leave you with some food for thought. I hope you're ready for week 2, good luck to everyone!  

You can contact me at berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com for any comment, question or suggestion.