Sunday, May 27, 2012

Trip to Boston

Hey everyone! How is your weekend going? I'm enjoying a lot this little break. I just came back from Boston and I had a great weekend over there. I spend a couple days there and I really enjoyed those few days of disconnection from the craziness of New York City.


This was one of those trips that you don't really plan. We went there with the intention of relaxing and having a good time in the city. Nothing organized. No bus-tour, no guide, just a map on my phone. I absolutely loved it! The weather was great, I had time to relax, to enjoy good food, to enjoy the atmosphere of Boston and, of course, to rest a lot. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are my highlights in images!


This was one of my favorite spots from all the places I visited in the trip. It's a little park by the river, and as you can see in the pictures, people go there to sail, kayak, fish... or, like we did, relax by the riverside. I sat down there for quite a while, even the Bostonian ducks came to say hello.


Food makes me happy. Good food makes me even happier. That's why I really enjoyed having time to sit down and enjoy a meal like the one in the picture while sitting under the sun in a terrace. Here's my sirloin steak with Italian cheese bread, roasted vegetables and red bliss mashed potatoes. And yes, I'm getting hungry again just as a I write these lines.


Another spot I loved was Boston Common, the city's oldest park. I guess that would be the equivalent to NYC's Central Park (disregarding size, of course.) This park was really impressive. It was so clean that it looked fake. Just like a movie set. I had a great time around the park. We found a choir of young students singing, a weird and awesome musician (please notice his instruments in the picture below) and a tribute with over 30,000 USA flags for Memorial Day.





One of the nights we walked around Fenway Park. It turns out that there was a game going on. Honestly, since I'm not a big sports fan, I had no idea what it was about. However, it was packed with fun people. They were all walking around the streets and it felt like a summer night. 



One of the things that impressed me the most about the city is that it is SO CLEAN! Sometimes I felt like I was walking around a theme park. Have a look at the pictures. All the buildings are so well kept, and the streets are in great condition as well. Also I loved the contrast of architectural styles. There are a lot of churches and old buildings mixed with modern constructions and skyscrapers. 





Here ends a great long weekend. I really enjoyed these days off and I'm back and ready for more New York action! I hope you enjoyed yours! Have a good one and see you soon!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eurovision Song Contest 2012

Hey everyone! This weekend europe stopped worrying for the economy for a little while to celebrate the 57th edition of my favorite competition of the year, the Eurovision Song Contest. Let me take you on a little musical trip around my continent.

For those who are not from Europe and don't know what I'm talking about, here's a brief explanation:

"The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la Chanson) is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The Contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally."
This year, the show was held in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan, the country that won last year's edition of the contest.)

The show is not aired in the US, but I could follow it online to see what was going on. I find it as exciting as a football championship! Moreover, this year I felt really proud of the Spanish entry to the contest (which, to be honest, doesn't happen too often.) Our representative was Pastora Soler, who performed the song "Quédate Conmigo" (Stay with Me). I think she did a brilliant performance, and I would have liked to see her win the competition. We got the 10th place, which is the best we've had for the past 8 years. Not bad at all to be in the top ten! Here you can see the performance live from the Grand Final. Enjoy it!



The winner of this year's edition was Loreen, representing Sweden. We have many Swedish students at Berkeley, so congratulations to all of them! Loreen was actually the favorite candidate even before the show. It was not a surprise that she got the victory, and even if it's not my cup of tea, I must say she did a terrific performance! You can check it out here:



Finally, I must mention that I also support Estonia. I don't know if it just happens that I like their songs or I feel nostalgic from the time I lived there. This was one of my favorite entries in the show. This performance proves that music has no language. I'm sure even if you don't speak Estonian, you will love the song. This is Kuula, by Ott Lepland, live from the Grand Final 2012.



I like watching this show and I enjoy seeing how many different cultures Europe has. Even though music has no boundaries, you can still see hints of every country's culture in every song. I hope you enjoyed the videos! Have a great long weekend and see you soon!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Long Weekend, Memorial Day

Hey everyone! How was your week? I'm sure you're all excited that we get a longer weekend this time, because Monday is Memorial Day! That means we get the day off from school, and hopefully if you work, you get your day off (or at least a better pay) as well. 


For those who, like me, come from other countries where next Monday is just a regular Monday of may, here's a little bit of information about this holiday.

"Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end." Read the whole entry here
The celebrations for Memorial Day aren't limited to Monday. In fact, you should check the events going on with the Fleet Week:
"Since 1984, New York City has held Fleet Week to honor the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The week features extensive military demonstrations, as well as the opportunity for the public to tour some of the visiting ships. The Memorial Day commemoration is a highlight of the week's festivities, featuring the singing of Taps and a military aircraft fly over in honor of those who lost their lives in service to the United States."


What Is There To Do During Fleet Week?:
  • Tour visiting ships
  • Lectures
  • Watch the parade of ships in the harbor
  • Watch competitions, including tug of war and eating contests
  • Memorial Day ceremony
  • Musical performances by sailors and marines
To get information about all those activities and the events' schedule, check out this link: http://gonyc.about.com/od/holidays/p/fleetweek.htm.

I just hope the weather gets better so we can enjoy the weekend! Have a good one and see you soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Six Flags, Great Adventure

Hey everyone! This weekend I had one of those experiences I won't forget. I went to Six Flags, Great Adventure and enjoyed all day like a kid! Let me tell you about this trip.


We woke up pretty early to catch the bus and leave Manhattan to have some fun. It left from Port Authority, where you can actually get the tickets for the park. The price (which is about $65) include the round trip with the bus. We left around 9:30am.

We arrived at the park around 11am. The weather was perfect. It was sunny and it did feel like a summer day. The place was quite packed with high school students, which is never a plus when it comes to waiting lines. However, we had the whole day to enjoy the park, so there was no rush.


Once I got inside I felt really excited. I felt like I was a kid again, when I would beg my parents to take me to the theme park. However, this time I was there without their permission and a few thousand miles away from home.

My favorite part of the Great Adventure is that there are many roller coasters. We actually tried all of them, and that's all we did in the whole day! The Superman takes you on a ride facing the floor, the Green Lantern takes you standing up on the train and the Bizarro shoots fire and water while you're upside down.

Personally, the one I enjoyed the most is Kinga Ka (see the picture next to these lines.) It's very short. We had to wait over an hour for those 20 seconds of excitement that the ride lasts. However, it's so worth it! I think I've never experienced such a speed in another roller coaster. See the video to get what I'm talking about. The action starts at minute 0:55.



The adrenaline rush makes you burn a lot of energy, which made me quite hungry! Food is one of the downsides of Six Flags. There's not much of a choice, and most of what you find is junk food. However, for a day like this I don't mind having a sandwich and a bunch of fries with a large coke. Not too worried about the calories count when surrounded by so much amusement.

I had a great day and not only I released a lot of tension and stress, but I also got a little tan with such a beautiful day! It's a great plan and as I'm telling you, it's not difficult at all. The bus takes you there and brings you back home, there's not much to worry about.



There are several buses departing from 6:30pm to 8:30pm from the park to Manhattan. We were quite exhausted, so we caught the first one. However, we had enough time to enjoy all the roller coasters in the park! I definitely want to go back there sometime. Nevertheless, it's not going to be in summer (it was already too hot) and I would recommend you to invest on the Flash Pass, which allows you to skip the waiting lines at the rides.

If you need more information, visit the website of the park here. I hope you had a great weekend! See you soon!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rent (Musical), Off-Broadway

Hey everyone! Last night I went to see Rent, the musical, off-Broadway, and I'm very excited to talk about it. I really loved the show!

Rent (often stylized as RENT) is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York's Lower East Side in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. (More information here.)
There's a movie based on the musical, and I had watched it before going to see the actual Broadway show. I really enjoyed it, especially because it's based on the East Village, where I currently live and it was quite shocking to see how it was a couple decades ago.

One of the thinks I like the most about Rent is that it covers many issues in just one show. There's friendship, love, social issues, poverty, AIDS, relationships... and all wrapped in the New York City's Bohemian times.

Here are a couple of videos from the movie, see the trailer and Mimi (one of the lead characters) singing "Out Tonight". They're actually the original cast of the musical on Broadway and they are all really talented!





I saw the show at the New World Stages theater. It's smaller than the ones I've seen in Broadway, but don't be fooled by the size. The show was still amazing. Moreover, we got a great discount and payed about 50 bucks for premium seats. It's hard to see the performers as close as I saw them!


If you want to get more information about the show or even check out a few clips from the actual montage, visit the official website here: http://www.siteforrent.com/.

I definitely recommend this one and, if you have the chance, check the movie as well! I'm really happy I got to see it and I'm sure I'll repeat the experience again. Have a good one!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Berkeley College and Social Media

Hey everyone! How is everything going? I'm taking this chance to talk about Berkeley's social media. I think it's the best way to get quick information about anything going on at school and beyond the classrooms. Here are the links so that you don't miss anything!


Facebook

There are several Facebook pages for the school. It's the best way to contact with our fellow students, get the latest events and even ask quick doubts.
Twitter


For all those Twitter users out there, the school is also tweeting. Follow @BerkeleyCollege or visit the page at: https://twitter.com/#!/BerkeleyCollege to get all the information right away.

The school has also pages in most of the social media platforms out there.
Check the links here.

 
Bloggers

Finally, I'd like to mention my fellow bloggers at Berkeley.
Don't forget to check them out! Have a good one and see you soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hoboken in a Sunny Sunday

Hey everyone! I think I can't be happier than this. Have you been outside around New York this weekend?! It really felt like summer, and I was missing this feeling a lot. It's been really warm and sunny for the whole weekend and I couldn't resist spending time outside my house.

Look how it looked from the walk in the riverside I have right around the corner of my place (picture below these lines.) I went down there with a book and just let myself be amazed by the "July" feeling in the middle of May. There were people jogging, sun bathing and even fishing... just like being at the beach, except I was actually in the East Village riverside.


That was my Saturday afternoon. Then Sunday came, and it was just as beautiful outside. I decided to leave Manhattan to enjoy the day! Let me share with you a perfect and very cheap plan for a sunny Sunday.

There are many parks around Manhattan. However, you don't get to see Manhattan... obviously because you're in it! Nevertheless, there's a great alternative to that: Hoboken. It is a few minutes away from Manhattan, and have a look at the views you see from the park:


I took this picture from the park. There's a nice walk by the riverside and there's also a big green lane to lay down and relax. To get there you just need to take the Path train (leaving from Herald Square) and get off at Hoboken, each way $1.70. The neighborhood is really nice to walk around. There are nice terraces to have lunch (which I actually did) and it feels great to be in such relaxing place after the hustle and bustle of the city.

I recommend you to visit Carlos Bakery, which is very close to the park. They always have a line of people waiting outside the store, that should tell you how delicious it is! I usually get a box of things that will make me fat and happy, and bring it to the park. My personal suggestion: lobster tails and chocolate canoli.

Graphic representation of happiness.
I hope you guys had a nice weekend as well. Not only did I get a little tan, but I'm also ready to face another week in this crazy place with a very nice energy! Have a good one and see you soon!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

New York Film Academy Graduation

Hey everyone! Last night I attended an event at NYFA (New York Film Academy) to see my roommate Danny graduate. Time really flies in this city! Besides from being proud of his achievement, I also got to see him wearing a kilt (since he is from Scotland) and so did his father, who came to attend the event as well.


The students at NYFA actually had a pretty busy week. On Wednesday they performed their final scenes (again at the auditorium of Saint John's University.) It was an interesting show, it was a set of short scenes and they did a great job.

The graduation itself took place at the NYFA building in Union Square. There was a little reception and then we went up to the theater to see the final scenes from the different sections of the course my roommate was enrolled for the whole year. Those were about 10 minute scenes from well known movies played by the students. It was nice to see so much young talent over there!


However, before all that started, my other roommate, Sam, and I got to hang out with Danny and his parents. That was like being in Scotland without moving from Manhattan. Yeah, one of those trips! Notice their outfits in the picture. I realized I'm now very used to it, but you should see how many people get impressed in the streets when they see Danny walk around in his kilt (which is not a skirt, even if it looks like one... and I'm warning you, because if you mention the word "skirt" while they're wearing a kilt, you're not going to get a nice response!)


All in all, I'm very proud of my two roommates, who are now graduate actors and ready to go! I'm sure they'll have great experiences in this new phase of their life.

I hope you had a good week and enjoy this beautiful weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Employment Workshop with Lawyers

Hey everyone! Last week I attended a workshop at Berkeley to learn about the employment options for international students (that is in F1 status.) The workshop was conducted by Lucy G Cheung and Michael Goldstein (pictures below), from the Law Offices of Eugene Goldstein. First of all, I thank them and Berkeley for such a helpful workshop. I really learned a lot about what possibilities we have as international students to work in the USA after graduation.




I think the most important think I learned is to be careful with the information we get about this matter. There are countless websites telling you contradicting things about the employment options after graduation. However, with this kind of issue the most important thing is to get help from the right sources. In the presentation they gave us tips on how to find the right professionals to help us without wasting our money.

Eguene Goldstein has a section on the website where they share the slides they used in the presentation. I think this is incredibly helpful and can solve many doubts. Here is the link to those slides:

http://www.eglaw-group.com/immigreatNEWS---Lecture-Slides-for-International-Students.html

I definitely recommend you to check them out. Especially the one entitled "Life After F-1: Immigration Workshop For International Students." Where you will find the options you have once you're a grad student and the process to get those visas.

We discussed the different options, with special focus on the HB visas, which you will find in detail in those slides. Moreover, we discussed about the possibilities to get a green card. However, that's a different level, since it is not only a work authorization for a specific period of time.


To be honest, the amount of information and the decisions to make are quite overwhelming. That's why I would advice, if you're considering the possibility of starting your career in the USA, is to start thinking about it as soon as possible. You will notice that the procedures for these kind of visas are quite slow and it requires time, preparation and finding the right people to help you go through it.

I will discuss in more detail some of the aspects they spoke about soon. However, the presentation I linked in this post is a good point to start thinking about the future. Don't get too stressed about it, but don't put it off until the very last quarter!

Have a good one and see you soon!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Time Flies! Tips to Book Flights Online

On our way to Barcelona from JFK
Hey everyone! I'm happy to say that the summer is getting really close and I started thinking about the break. This quarter is always the one that feels the shortest to me. However, there's something that shouldn't be put off too much, that is booking your flights. No matter if you're going back home or anywhere else, flight prices vary tremendously depending on what day you book them, for what day and from where you do it.

Let me give you a few information I had put together a while ago with a few updates on different options to book flights. Remember, a little more time browsing can save you hundreds of dollars!

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.
Before taking off at Barcelona's airport

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. 
 
Most of these websites allow you to browse flights with "flexible" times. If you don't mind flying a few days before or after the date you had in mind, you should check that out. They usually give you a chart comparing different dates (that is different combinations for both ways.) 

I also want to warn you to be careful with the transfers of those flights. I remember having to wait over 10 hours at an empty airport for a transfer or even having to "sleep" at a terminal to catch the next flight in the morning... They always give you detail of the journey, so make sure you check it and that it's worth for the price.

El Prat, Barcelona's airport

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.

I hope you all have great plans for summer, and if not, get on it! Have a good one and see you soon!

Friday, May 4, 2012

They Come and Go

Hey everyone! How is everything going? Last night I had a farewell party to say goodbye to a friend, Andrea, who is moving back home. We've known each other since the very first week I moved to New York City two years ago, and that's why it feels weird that she won't be here anymore.


However, if you want to live in this city you need to be ready for that, for people coming and going. Most of the people I know in the city aren't planning on staying here forever. Which means that many of them come for studies, work, internship or spending sometime away from where they are.

Andrea and her last NYC subway ride as a New Yorker

Honestly, I think I am getting used to it. After a few years living abroad, I got used to enjoy people when they are around and to understand that I can't keep everyone I would like by my side forever. However, it's always sad to say goodbye after having lived so much together.


The good thing is that we are in 2012 and technology lets us be closer than ever to anyone no matter where you're at. Even though it's not the same, it helps a lot. I can't imagine my life without keeping in touch with the good friends I've made in this twenty something years old journey.


I wish all the best to my friend Andrea, talented dancer, chef and a great person. I'm sure she'll be happy in this new phase of her life. For the ones staying, let's keep it moving!

Have a good one and see you soon!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

North Bank Suzhou Creek

Hey everyone! How is it going? Once again one of my roommates, Danny, performed in a theater play. Of course, I was there to see it!


The play is called North Bank Suzhou Creek. It's a very interesting story that takes you around different cultures: Jewish, Japanese, Chinese... Here's a little information about it:

Co–‐directed by Jeffrey Sichel and Michael Leibenluft
North Bank Suzhou Creek is a historical drama that explores the intersection of Jewish refugees, Japanese officials, and local Chinese coexisting in Shanghai during WWII. The setting of the play – Jewish–‐run café on the northern bank of Suzhou creek – provides a lens into the unique economic, political, and cultural exchange of this turbulent period when Shanghai harbored over 30,000 Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
When Shana, the café owner’s daughter, finds herself pursued by both Mr. Suzuki, a local Japanese official, and Songyao, a Chinese resistance fighter, she must decide whether to follow her heart or save her family. Performed bilingually in Chinese and English and integrating popular Klezmer, Hollywood, and old Shanghai jazz melodies from the period, North Bank Suzhou Creek is a moving, educational, and artistically daring new play.
More information here.


The play took place at the auditorium of Saint John's University in Tribeca.

It's always nice to see my boys performing! I must say Danny is a damn good actor and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be sitting at the movies one day and I'll go "we were roommates!"

I hope you had a good one and see you soon!