Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Walk around 5th Av

Hey everyone! How are you doing? Today during my break between classes at Berkeley, Lisa and I went to have a walk around 5th Avenue. It has changed a lot since last time I walked around that area! Mostly, because they're already setting up all the Christmas things.

There's something I wanted to share with you guys, because I really surprised me. We were walking close to the Rockefeller block and saw a countdown projected on the facade of a building. There were some people waiting there to see what would happen when the countdown finished, and so did we.

I took a video so I could show it here:

I had never seen anything like that before! How cool is that! Well, maybe you've seen it already and I'm just acting like a child, but I find it crazy! If you want to see it, it runs every 15 minutes on the facade of the building right by Saint Patrick's Cathedral (5th Avenue with 50th Street.)

After that, we went to the Rockefeller Center and they were already setting up the stage for the Christmas Tree Lighting show which will take place tomorrow night. It's quite a big deal in NYC and it sets the start of the Holiday season for the city. I'll blog about it on my next post, don't you worry! But after having seen how crazy it was last year, I'll just watch it from home this time. Trust me, it's quite crazy!

Even though the city is getting colder and colder, I really enjoy walking around the streets of New York around this time of the year. The Christmas stuff makes it look really pretty and it reminds me that in a couple weeks I'll be flying back to Barcelona to see my family and friends!

I hope you guys are having a good week! See you soon!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday

Hey everyone! How was your long weekend? I loved having a few days to relax, even though it went by pretty quick. Last Friday I told you I was about to go out and explore what was going on on Black Friday in the city. Well, I did and I must say I would not recommend shopping on that day. It's too crazy!

For those who have never heard about Black Friday, here's what Wikipedia tells us about it:
"Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many Commonwealth Nations. Black Friday is not actually a holiday, but some non-retail employers give their employees the day off, increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time." Read the whole article here: link.
I went to Union Square first, where they have already set up the Christmas street market. It's actually a cool place to get presents for family and friends, but I would go any other day... it was really crowded and it was almost impossible to find anything. The same for the rest of the stores, they were all crazy crowded. Not only was it difficult to browse around the shops, but the lines were also mad long.

Union Square view from DWS on Black Friday '11

I decided to keep my "exploration" and ended up walking towards Soho. Surprisingly enough, the stores there were less busy. However, they were still quite crowded. Some of them, like Hollister, had a line outside the store where people had to wait to get in. Can't imagine how the check out line was...

After witnessing all that mess, I wonder if it's really worth it to go shopping on Black Friday. I've been looking up some videos on Youtube, and I'm going to let you judge yourself:

This is the opening for Black Friday at an Urban Outfitters store in California.

These people here are shopping at Walmart in Utah.

There are many more videos out there, but I'm sure you already get an idea! I'm also thinking how people buy stuff they don't need, just because they're on sales. To be honest, I also find it a little bit "awkward" that some people will spend so much money in materialistic stuff just the day right after Thanksgiving. It's such a big contrast!

Don't get fooled by the discounts. Moreover, let me tell you something, most of the stores will still have discounts for the rest of the weekend. One of my roommates and I went shopping yesterday and it was much better. It wasn't crowded and we got what we wanted to get at good prices. Ok, I know we're guys and we are not that experts on the shopping field, but still... watching those videos is enough for me! I hope you had a great weekend and got energy for the week coming up. See you soon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Turkey Day

Hey everyone! First of all, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving yesterday. As I mentioned on my previous blog, I spent the day with my roommates in Sam's home with his family. It was my first thanksgiving here and I'm glad I got to celebrate it with such an awesome American family!

We woke up very early to be able to catch an early train to New Jersey. It was around 9am when we left our apartment in the East Village and took a taxi to Penn Station. At least that was the idea, because the taxi had to stop way before Penn, since the huge Thanksgiving parade was in the middle of the way! We would miss the train we wanted to take anyways, so we decided to walk and stop to have breakfast.

We actually got to see something from the parade! A huge balloon that you can see in the picture. Isn't that Sonyc the guy from the video games? Yes, we were that far because it was completely packed up! There were people everywhere and we could barely walk towards Penn Station. However, we made it to the station and caught the following train.

The train ride was quite nice. It feels good to be away from the city from time to time. Our stop was Red Bank, so that's to the south of New Jersey. When we stopped, we already felt like we were in a different dimension of the world. It's crazy how used we get to the landscape in the city. Whenever we're away, it feels so strange to not have any huge building around, no traffic... That was fun!

Once in Red Bank, we still had to get to Brick, Sam's town. One of his aunts gave us a lift, very nice of her! And there we were, in Brick town. It was nice to see where our roommate comes from, plus his family is just awesome! I must mention that they have adorable dogs, I enjoyed being around those a lot!

It was around noon when we arrived, so the cooking had already started. Don't get fooled by the pictures, my roommates and I did not cook. It felt somehow like Christmas back home. We were hanging out until the food was ready and some more members of their family kept coming. All of them treated me and Danny really well. Thanks Centrella family!

Around 4pm the dinner started. All of us hold our hands and said grace before eating the food, which is something I had never done nor seen before. It was really nice to see that tradition, we don't do the same back home. Then we started eating. The food was just amazing! I specially loved the turkey with cranberry sauce... delicious! I would live on that!

After the lunch we just hang out at their place for the rest of the evening. Everyone was very nice and I'm glad we got to meet Sam's family. It was also nice to be around people from different age ranges. Since I'm not back home, I usually spend my time with friends who are about the same age as I am. I think it's good from time to time to be with kids, older people... So we stayed there for a while and then headed back to Red Bank to catch our train back to New York City.

Once we got off the train, we could already feel the stress of the city. We had to walk a few blocks to get a taxi and the city seemed to be noisier than ever after such a relaxing day. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and I thank Sam's family for having us, it was a lot of fun! Now it's Friday, but not any Friday... shopaholics: it's black Friday! I'll go out and explore so I can tell you about it, even though I refuse to do any shopping! Have a good one and see you soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011!

Hey everyone! Doesn't it feel like Friday in NY today? Let me explain. Tomorrow it's Thanksgiving day! Which means, no class until next Monday. Which also means we have a 4-day weekend! Besides from being excited for the days off, I'm also quite excited to finally be in the US for Thanksgiving. Last year I had a trip to Turkey, so I missed it. However, this year I'm here to see it with my own eyes!

Even though I was out of the country for the actual day last year, I attended a Thanksgiving lunch at school (that took place a week before the real one) and it was a lot of fun. You can read that post here: link. It's crazy that it's already been one year from that! Last week there was another Thanksgiving lunch at Berkeley organized by the International department. Unfortunately (for me and for my appetite) I couldn't make it because I had work and then class, but I have been checking the pictures on Berkeley Internationals Facebook page (check it here) and it looks like they had a great time. I must say the food looks amazing! Here are a couple of pictures from the event I found on Facebook.

For those international people who just arrived or who just wonder about it, let's see what Thanksgiving is all about and let's trust Wikipedia for that:
"Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. As a federal and popular holiday in the U.S., Thanksgiving is one of the major holidays of the year. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader holiday season. 
The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated to give thanks to God for guiding them safely to the New World. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 13 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and theThree Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating "thanksgivings"—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought."  
Article: link.
Another thing you should know if you're around New York City is that Macy's organizes one of the most famous parades of the year for Thanksgiving. I'm sure you've seen it at some point on some movies and TV shows (it always reminds me of Friends!) Check out the official website of the event for more information: http://social.macys.com/parade2011/#/home. You can also watch it live on NBC channel from 9am to noon.This is the 85th year they do it!

This year I'll spend with my roommates. The three of us are going to Sam's home (in New Jersey) with his family. He's the only American in our house, so Danny and I will be having our first real and traditional Thanksgiving with an American family, how about that!

I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Following the General Elections in Spain from NYC

Hey everyone! Yesterday was a very important day back in my country, Spain. We had the general elections; and of course, I followed the event from New York. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to watch everything that was happening in real time. The party who got the majority of the votes was Partido Popular (PP) and our new president is Mariano Rajoy.

Today I don't feel like talking about politics in my country, I will leave that to the experts. However, I wanted to share with you how I lived such an important day for my country. Even if I've been in New York for a while now, I still worry about whatever happens in my home country. That's why yesterday I spent most of the day on my laptop.

When I woke up, which was honestly quite late, it was already afternoon in Spain -it's +6 hours to the NYC time zone. By that time, all the media from my country and also from Europe was full of articles and news about it.

I wanted to watch hour public TV channel, which is possible to do online, so I went to http://www.rtve.es/. I think it's really crazy that I can watch TV from Spain live from wherever I am for free! I think it's one of those perks that technology has nowadays. It was very difficult to do that not so long ago! I followed the news channel during most of the day, and they wouldn't talk about anything else.

RTVE website, where I watched TVE channel online.

Moreover, I also followed the most important newspapers. Those are also able online, which I think is great. As you can see, receiving all that information is just one click away from anyone who has Internet connection. A few years ago, you needed to be in a place where you would get that particular TV signal, a kiosk to get the newspapers and wait for the next day to get more news. It's amazing how information access is changing!

El Periódico, one of the most popular newspapers in Catalonia
I also wanted to check what the other countries were saying about the whole situation (which is quite complicated as of now...) And guess what, one more click and there I was: newspapers from the US, France, Italy, UK... and even some of those countries' TV channels are available online too.

I think it's a great progress that we can access so many sources of information from other countries so easily. I think it's beneficial to see how information is processed and received in different countries, regions and cultures. It can be very enriching and you might get a perspective of a certain topic that you wouldn't get from the information sources you usually rely in your country.

I hope you guys had a great weekend and good start of the week. Good news: this week is only 3 days long, and then we'll have a very long Thanksgiving weekend! I'm very excited about that and will be writing about this important holiday soon. Thanks for reading, see you!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Laundry Tips for College Students

Hey everyone! How is the weekend going? As most of the weekends, I need to find some spare time to do my laundry. I usually leave it for Sunday evening. Yes, you got me. I do it when I'm about to start last minute homework as a way of procrastination. I'm sure many students know what this is all about. However, many students are afraid that they will mess up with the whole laundry thing. 

The truth is that it's not that complicated, but there are some things you should know. I've been a college student for 5 years, which means I have done many laundries in boring laundromats; and, of course, many damaged shirts, sweaters and jeans... Nevertheless, yesterday I read an article from Unigo that talks about it. I thought it can be very useful for many students, like myself, that struggle week after week with the unknown characteristics of the washing machines.

The article talks about three different aspects: separating the clothes, choosing the right type of detergent and avoiding shrinkage. Let's see if I can sum it up:

  • Separating the clothes: I thought it was only about whites and colors (including black as a color), well it's not. You want to separate the following items and set them to the proper temperature: 
  • Whites, pastels, beige, light grays and nice underwear to be set cold.
  • Darks, reds and jeans to be set cold.
  • Socks, underwear and gym stuff to be set hot.
  • If it says "dry clean only" on any item, don't put that in the washer!
  • Choosing the right type of detergent: they recommend using liquid rather than powder and to put that in the machine before loading it. Generally the quantity varies according to the quantity of clothes. Each detergent should have a measure cup at the top, follow instructions. 
  • Avoiding shrinkage: some tips on that are to add a sheet of fabric softener and getting two dryers, one for the light-weight and delicate stuff and one for the heavy items like jeans. They also recommend leaving the clothes a little wet rather than over-dry. Finally, fold them right away!
You can check the article where I took those tips from here: link. I'm sure my parents would be proud if I told them I'm following all those steps. To be honest, until now I was just putting everything in the same place (and maybe that's why my plain white tees look like they look...) I hope those tips can help someone! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mary Poppins, 5th Anniversary

Hey everyone! As I mentioned the other day, I went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway last Tuesday. It turns out that it was the 5th anniversary of the show since it started its performances here in NYC. That's why the empire state was lit blue for that night. It was actually very pretty!
"In honor of the 5th anniversary of Mary Poppins on Broadway, Mary Poppins (Steffanie Leigh), along with a crew of Chimney Sweeps "flipped the switch" and lit the world-famous Empire State Building's tower lights blue, the signature color of the production." Read more: link.
It was the second time I went to the show, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. This time though, I went with the people from the TV show from Spain I talked about on my previous post. We did something very interesting. We bought three different tickets, paying three different prices to different locations and then compared the results:
  • Regular online ticket at the mezzanine bought online - $71
  • TKTS discounted ticket (-40%) at the orchestra - $63
  • Student rush ticket at the mezzanine bought at the box office - $32
After comparing the 3 experiences, there's something you should know. Buying the ticket online is pointless and more expensive, unless you really need to see it on a particular day and need to make sure you'll have a seat. The exact same ticket at the box office was sold for $59, and it was exactly the same.

The TKTS ticket was the best offer we got. The cost was half what they normally charge for a seat in the orchestra, so we paid less than the mezzanine one (which was $71) and the view is, obviously, much better.

Finally, the student rush ticket serves its purpose. The view is similar to the one with the $71 ticket, even though it's a few rows backwards and there's the ceiling of the upper level in the way. You can see pretty much everything, but the ceiling will annoy you a little bit. Nevertheless, considering the price, it's not that bad! Definitely worth to get the $32 as opposite to the $71. To get the student ticket you will need to go to the box office the day of the show and be able to show a valid student ID.

The show is really spectacular. I've seen other musicals on Broadway, but I'd say the scenography in this one is the most surprising one. Plus, it's a show all members of a family will enjoy. Don't get fooled by the Disney signature, adults will love it just as much as kids! I leave a video of my favorite part of the show. Of course, it's not as amazing as it is when you see it with your own eyes, but you'll get an idea. Watch the lead singer dance and sign upside down at the end! Absolutely amazing.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NYC as a Tourist

Hey everyone! How is your week going? I had a long and interesting day today. I've been filming for a show for Spanish TV and it's been a lot of fun! It felt nice to be a tourist again, and see so many things in just one day.

It's a show called Callejeros Viajeros, and it's about traveling. It's funny that I got to participate in the show, because I have watched all the episodes. They travel to different places around the world and meet people from Spain that live there. It's very entertaining and I'm glad they came to New York!

This time, their approach was to show that there's a NYC for every budget. Therefore, they'll be showing different ways of experiencing the city from flying in a helicopter above Manhattan to couch surfing. They will do the same with 3 other cities (I can't remember which ones exactly,) but it will be interesting. So there I was, trying to show how New York City looks from a student-budget pocket!

It's funny how even if I live in NYC, I don't get to see the city that much. I guess the actual city doesn't matter that much once you have a routine established. The same walk everyday, lunch at the same places, same people, same things on weekends... There are so many things to do here that I miss because of being lost in my routine. Maybe it's time to change a little bit and take my time to explore the city!

I just did a few things with them. We spent one day filming around Manhattan. First of all, we tried to go ice skating to Bryant Park. We skated for a few minutes, but we didn't spent much time there. After that, we walked to Times Square, to see if we could get a tour bus. What an experience!

After the bus, we went to TKTS on Times Square (I know, too much Times Square in one day) to see if we could get cheap tickets for the Broadway show Mary Poppins. I will also dedicate a post to the show, because it's worth it! It was actually the second time I saw it, and I thought it was amazing again. It's a very spectacular show. Plus, tonight it was the 5th anniversary of the show on Broadway!

I spent the whole day with it, plus I managed to fit one of my classes in the middle. I'm quite exhausted right now so I think it's time for me to go to sleep.

Have a good one!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn in NYC

Hey everyone! How was your weekend? I had a very relaxing one. I had time to finish my work, work out a little bit, sleep a lot, watch some movies... I know I sound like an old person, but with this weather and after such a busy week, the last thing I felt like doing was to go out and party. However, I still love it. I think this is the best time of autumn. It's not so cold yet, and the city looks really beautiful.

Many people think of New York as a city full of skyscrapers, aggressive and with no nature. However, those who have been here already know that not everything looks like Times Square. To prove that, I've been taking pictures on my way back home. I'm quite obsessed with autumn colors for some reason. I felt the need to stop to take pictures all the time.

This is what I see when I walk around my place, in the East Village. And yes, it's in the heart of Manhattan. As you can see, nothing to do with those huge buildings and lack of nature. In fact, in some areas in Manhattan I feel like I'm walking around a small village. Ok, a bit more crowded than a village, but you get what I mean. I'm sure those who have already seen it will agree. 

Here's a video with some images of Central Park during this part of the year. I haven't had the chance to walk around there, because this weekend I have been very busy trying to do nothing. However, it's on my to-do list for next weekend if it's still nice outside! The song is "Autumn in New York" by Billie Holiday. It's a song that whenever and wherever I hear it, I feel like it's autumn in the city. I hope you enjoy it!

Weather affects me a lot. Every season gives me something. In Spring I'm really active, I can't stop doing things. Summer is obviously the time for outdoor fun, wanting to be in the beach, sailing... Even though I'm always very active, I'd say winter calms me down a lot. However, fall has something different. It makes me feel really happy but in a quiet way. I love walking around, wearing warmer clothes (I know I get sick of those few months later...) and I start enjoying being home more and more.

Of course, there's a bad thing during this time. The clocks go back one hour... which means it gets darker earlier. I really don't like that. It's dark by 5pm. It makes me feel like it's really late, when it's actually not. However, I do enjoy the short daylight time we have during the weekends, and I hope the winter takes its time to come to the city! I also hope you guys enjoyed your weekend!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tips to Stop Procrastinating

Hey everyone! How was your week? Mine has been quite busy and I'm actually quite excited that weekend is already here! I remember some time ago I wrote a little bit about procrastination. I know I shouldn't be talking about that on a Friday, but I've been working on that topic on my psychology class at Berkeley and I wanted to share some of it with you.

Who knows, maybe I help someone finish homework early to be able to enjoy the whole weekend without worrying about them. Or even better, who knows... maybe writing about it makes me finish my homework tonight and then relax for the rest of the weekend!

It's interesting that the only time I care about cleaning the window glasses, organizing my bookshelves or learning new recipes is when I have a huge amount of work to do. Why do I replace high-priority tasks with others of low-priority? Why do I put off the important actions to a later time? In psychology, this behavior is known as procrastination. Reading different articles, I found out that the main reasons why people procrastinate are:
  • We think it works. If you get good results even if you leave everything for the last minute, why would you bother doing it earlier? 
  • It is natural for people to put off distant objectives. Finishing a big task that is due a long time from now won't be rewarded instantly. Therefore, we tend to prioritize insignificant tasks that will have immediate results for us.   
If we are so sure it works and the due date is so far from now, why would we stop procrastinating? Well, here are some of the consequences if you don't:
  • You might feel anxiety, because you'll feel unable to finish your task.
  • You will be stressed until you finally sit down and do it, because it will always be in your mind.
  • You might not have enough time to finish your task.
  • Sooner or later you will realize that you would have done it much better had you started it earlier.
  • You will need to sacrifice time from other important activities, such as sleeping. 
All the articles that give advice on how to avoid procrastination start by asking the procrastinator to accept the problem. Understanding that the problem exists will make them be more opened to change the attitudes that cause it. Once we have accepted it, what can we do? Here are the top five tips I think work best from all the advice I found in my research. Honestly, they're working for me!
  1. First of all, putting perfection on hold. I think one of our biggest enemies is the fear of failure. This feeling provokes anxiety, which limits our ability to complete the task in an effective way. If I stop trying to be perfect, I will need less time to complete the tasks, which means I won’t be so overwhelmed. 
  2. Another thing to do is to break down the tasks. If a particular task is going to take 10 hours, you might as well want to divide it and do the different elements of the task in different times. It requires some more organizational skills, but once an outline of the different elements is done, it is much easier to complete the whole task.
  3. The last tip implies that we need to self-impose new deadlines. Since the task will be divided in several smaller tasks, we will need to commit to finish each of them at a certain time. That way, we're not only committed to the real deadline (which is further away), but also to ourselves and the objective won't be so distant anymore. 
  4. Finally, take a deep breathe every time you feel the urge to take a break to procrastinate. Stop for a second, count to ten, sing a song, do whatever... but take a deep breathe.
  5. Breathe and also treat yourself. Tell yourself you will go outside, you will eat your favorite ice cream or meet your friends right after you have completed the task.
I hope those were helpful! Now, time to enjoy the weekend! Have a good one!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One Year as a Berkeley Blogger

Hey everyone! A few days ago I realized that by this week one year ago I started this blog. I started going back and reading old posts and wow... a lot has happened in just one year!

First of all I must thank Berkeley for giving me the opportunity to share this experience here. I love writing and I must say at first this was a big challenge for me, because I'm not a native English speaker. Also, I have received positive feedback, which has made me feel really good about it. Finally, and most of all, thank YOU for reading my blog!

There's an online feature where you can see a world map that shades the countries where people are reading the blog from. I'm very surprised to see that there are countries from all the continents reading and that makes me very happy! Just to give you an example, this is the map with the countries where it's being read the most for the last weeks, the greener ones are the ones with more readership. Hi to everyone out there!

Now let me "rescue" some of the articles that have been read the most during these whole year or the ones that I keep reading because they bring me back great memories. I usually try to write about my own experiences just as much as I try to give information that can be useful for other students. I think keeping the balance between both kind of posts helps me keep the blog useful but also personal. These are the blogs I wrote about anything that has to do with being an international student that have been read the most and some of them have also been featured in other sites:
Now let's get to the more personal ones. One of the best things of writing a blog is that you can always go back and read what happened before. There are many things I'm sure I would forget if I hadn't written them. In fact, the highlights of the past 12 months are all concentrated here:

The first big adventure came around thanksgiving, when I left the USA to visit Istanbul in Turkey. It was such a great trip! Trip to Istanbul

Another big experience was my birthday, when my friend decided we should go skydiving. Why not?! Such a great day! I'm sure I will never forget how it felt to jump out of a plane... Shy's the Limit.

The Model UN program I participated in last year was also one of the biggest experiences. We spent a long time preparing for it and we really enjoyed the experience. It was very enriching and I can't tell you how much I learned... National Model United Nations 2011 and General Assembly Hall.

As the school year got closer to the end, I got a visit from Estonia, the country I lived right before moving to NYC. Those days were great as well and these posts make me smile every time I read them. The summer party cruise one is also one of the most read posts in this page! Looks like people like fun! Summer Party Cruise and Row Boats at Central Park.

Finally, the summer arrived and I took the quarter off to go back to my life in Spain for a while, I'm Leaving Today. It was such a great summer! I went back to my hometown, Blanes and I also traveled around Sardinia with my friends Reunion in Alghero and Mini Cruise around Sardinia

The summer went by really quick, and soon enough I was back in NYC! Hey New York! I'm Back. I must say I'm having an awesome time this year. I love where I live, my roommates are just awesome, I'm enjoying my internship and school is still going well. What else can I ask for?! There have been great moments so far since I'm back, especially when my friends from Spain came visit! Oh, and there's also time for fun: Halloween 2011. I'm sure there will be many more memories this year as well.

Again, thanks a lot for reading! I hope you're having a great week!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Citi Pond is Back

Hey everyone! I know last blog wasn't that happy, but it's going to be today. I just got back from school (long day today) and I need to tell you about Bryant Park and it's winter transformation. Oh! I also had the best hot chocolate ever, keep reading and if you haven't tried it yet, you have to!

As you know, the midtown campus is located right in front of Bryant Park. That's very convenient, because it's a great area to hang out during breaks. However, you might be thinking winter is too cold to be sitting in the park. Yes it is, but Bryant Park in winter is a different story! The green lane goes away, and an ice rink is placed right there. If it wasn't enough, they also installed a fancy restaurant, a bar and countless "Christmasy" shops around the park.

That's the chocolate! $5 a cup.
My favorite part is the food. Some of those little shops sell food, and trust me, it's worth it! I've been walking around and I've seen churros, crepes, mozzarella sticks... but the best one so far: Max Brenner's hot chocolate. Wow. That's how good it is. I have an issue with hot chocolate that you should know. Every time I have asked a hot chocolate out of my country, I get something that for us is just cacao with milk. To me, hot chocolate is just melted chocolate. It's thicker and more chocolaty than what I usually get. However, Max Brenner's Italian hot chocolate is just perfect, the same way I used to have it back home... (I must confess it's even better)!

Anyways, back to the park. Besides from food, there are also plenty of useless stuff. I'm not trying to be mean, they're just useless! It's full of things you would never buy yourself. That's why I think it's the perfect place to go buy Christmas presents. Today, for example, I saw some teddy bears that you can put in the microwave and stay warm for one hour.

Finally, there's something fun to do: ice skating! It's actually the cheapest ice rink around. The entrance is free, you just need to rent the ice skates for $14 in case you don't have your own pair. For those brave enough, have fun skating! Otherwise, you can still enjoy sitting around the park. Even though it's getting colder, it's still nice and the chairs and tables are still there by the ice rink. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Disturbing Figures

Hey everyone! Yesterday I had a lot of disturbing thoughts about this world running through my head. I don't like being that negative, but I wanted to share some of those with you. Sometimes the world just doesn't look that nice!

It started getting those thoughts in the morning at my internship at Unigo. I was monitoring Twitter when I found this tweet (which I immediately retweeted):

It made me laugh at first. However, after a few minutes it made me quite upset. I saw hundreds of people retweeting the same thing. I also found many people on the social media complaining about how much college costs are increasing and how difficult it is for many families to pay for education. That's sad. It just make me freak out. How can there be people spending more money on flowers for a ceremony than a complete college degree tuition? It doesn't seem fair!

That leads me to another topic that I have been wanting to share a few days ago. In one of my Macroeconomics classes, which by the way I'm really enjoying, we talked about the concentration of economic power and the scarcity of resources in our planet. Our professor gave us some figures so that we could get an idea of how the whole picture looks like...

Again, really disturbing figures:

The world population is estimated to be 7,000,000,000 people.
In the whole world there are only 1,011 billionaires.
If my math skills aren't wrong, that's 0.000014% holding more economic power than many entire nations in the planet.

Let's see the US closer:

If we arrange all the population in the country (311,875,293 people) in a list starting at the top with the ones who have more money to the bottom with the ones that have the less, the top 1% of the list holds more economic power than the bottom 90% !! If that doesn't sound crazy, then I need to be born again. 47.5 million people in the country live below the poverty line, and 46 million don't have access to healthcare.

Well, these are only some examples. There are of course countless figures that would make us feel bad. Those figures got the class to discuss about the causes of those inequalities and what could be done. Obviously, it's not an easy topic and everyone has a different point of view. However, we all agreed that it's really hard for us to give up what we have so that others can have more. And we can't really tell who is guilty. The billionaires have more money, but if you have a laptop and you're reading this, probably you already have a lot more than the majority of the people in this planet. So I think we're all equally responsible. The thing that disturbs me the most is the fact that there are enough resources in this planet to provide food, water and sanitation for every single person. We're doing something wrong and we are all part of it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Done with Midterms!

Hi everyone! I'm happy to say I'm finally done with my midterms. Last weekend I felt like this week would be long. Well, it's almost over in terms of school. It always happens the same, though. The more stress the faster time goes by. How did everyone do on the tests? I hope you all get the results you expected!

I think midterms are underestimated. I mean, I think many students don't pay enough attention to those. I have heard many times "oh, I'll do better in the final" or "oh, it's just a midterm." Well, from my point of view, midterms (and especially at Berkeley College) are just as important as finals. Let me explain.

First of all, I say that they're especially important at Berkeley College, because they usually account for a significant percentage of the final grade. Unlike other schools, like the school I used to attend in Spain, that base most of the final grade on just one final exam. That means that if you do well in the midterm, you will already have part of your grade guaranteed. However, doing bad means your final grade will be affected.

Personally, I really prefer being evaluated this way. I hated when my whole grade was based only in that one exam at the end of the semester. What if I had a bad day and couldn't focus? What if I did bad on that exam but still reached the objectives of the course? It didn't matter, your final exam was your grade. That's why I appreciate it so much when our grade is based in everything we do during the quarter. 

Why am I saying it is so important to do well in the midterms?
  • If you do bad on the final, you still have your midterm grade to support the final result.
  • Studying hard for the midterm will prepare you for the final as well. 
  • The professor needs to see that you're doing well, it might help you a lot. 
  • It will motivate you to keep up with the good work. 
  • As students, we should be trying our best at all tasks anyways!
I hope you agree with me and I hope you did well in the midterms! Now, let's start thinking about the weekend coming up. See you soon!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sleep Well!

Hey everyone! How are the midterms going? I hope you're all doing fine! It's in these days when I start thinking about how important sleeping well is. I'm the kind of student that will stay up at night to prepare for the exams. I actually like working late at night, it's when I get less distracted.

However, this has some consequences. One of them is the lack of bed time. Why is it so important for students (and obviously for everyone) to sleep well? I found an article that gives a lot of useful information that I'm sure some of you will appreciate as much as I do. 

You can check the full article here: link. Christine Howell tells how college students are, next to new mothers, the ones that get the least amount of sleep. While it is obvious that it affects our health, we should also keep in mind that it also affects our grades!

The article offers a list of "healthy sleep tips" that college students should follow that YOU should check out (they are provided by the National Sleep Foundation):

  1. Try to follow a regular schedule in going to bed as well as in waking up. College students should try to be in bed at a decent hour and arrange classes or work to begin after eight in the morning. A regular waking time keeps our circadian rhythm (our internal biological clock that helps regulate us) functioning strongly. Try to stay on the same schedule even on the weekend.
  2. When you're starting a new sleeping schedule, instead forcing yourself to sleep early. Sleep only when you're tired, but make sure you get up at a designated time. This way, your body will slowly acclimate to a new schedule and you will fall asleep earlier and get up earlier. Also start slowly, don't suddenly start getting up at 5am if you're use to getting up at 10. Do it in baby steps: get up at 9:30 the first week, 9 the second week, 8:30 the 3rd week, and so on.
  3. Establish a routine for bedtime. By doing something relaxing, such as taking a bath, listening to soft music or reading a book, you are helping your body unwind.
  4. Create a good sleep environment. Your sleep area should be quiet, dark, comfortable (make sure you have a good mattress) and a temperature that is to your liking.
  5. Eat at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  6. Exercise on a regular basis. Make sure this is done a few hours before you go to bed.
  7. Watch your caffeine. Caffeine stays with us for up to 5 hours (12 for some people).
  8. Stay away from nicotine which (besides causing cancer) is also a stimulant.
  9. Stay away from alcohol close to bedtime because it causes nighttime awakenings.
  10. Another thing college kids should take a look at are diets. It is important to be getting the right amount of B-complex vitamins which enhance sleep. Plenty of fruits and vegetables is always beneficial as well.
I hope you guys read those carefully. Of course, it's not easy to change everything radically. It's especially hard for those who share apartments or live in school dorms. We all know how crazy it gets there! However, you can start making little changes if you feel you are not getting enough sleep.

I have been trying to take care of it lately and I'm telling you, you will feel the difference if you watch your sleeping time (and the quality of it). Good luck for everyone! Have a great week!