Monday, July 30, 2012

What to Do When Homesick?

Hey everyone! How is it going? I'm sure many international students will relate to what I'm talking about to some extent. Have you ever felt homesick when you're away from your country? Well, that's part of the experience of living abroad and even though it is different for every one, we all have felt it somehow some time.

In this blog I have talked in more than one occasion about the stages people usually go through when living abroad. Personally, I think I'm pretty much past that process of adaptation, since it's already been more than three years since I left Spain. However, even if I'm used to live far from home, I'm still a human being and will get homesick from time to time.

What to do then?

There are many things that come to my mind to overcome homesickness. I found an article that gives five simple tips that can actually help. You can read it here: link.

And the tips are:
  1. Call home.
  2. Go visit home -- once.
  3. Go out with your college friends.
  4. Call a friend from back home.
  5. Get out of your room.
I recommend to pay special attention to 3 and 4. Going out and not hiding in your room is very important. What was the whole point of moving away from home? You didn't expect your life to be about staying in your room right? Then don't do so. Try to make plans and things will look a lot different. Remember that there are more people in the exact same situation!

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Night Out at the Meatpacking

Hey everyone! How was your weekend? Last night, even though the weather wasn't that nice (as it has been for the most part of the last few days), I went out to the Meatpacking district. 

The Meatpacking is a very interesting area, especially at night. You can find some of the most "exclusive" places to go out around there, and it's supposed to be a very trendy district. You might think that it must be very expensive... well, there are some tricks for smart people like you and I. 

Cover charges for clubs can be very expensive (especially if you're a guy, who usually pay more than girls in many clubs.) I recommend you to go online or talk to friends who know promoters. They will get you in for free in many places. Depending on what place and what day of the week it is, you can even get free drinks as well. 

I took this one while taking a break
and going to get a junk-food-midnight snack

Also, there are plenty of bars that have an awesome atmosphere and they don't charge any cover. The best you can do is to check it online and see what's good for the day you're going out. To throw some names there, here are some of the places that I've been to and I really enjoyed: Gas Light, Ajna Bar (great for food as well), Le Bain (this is the rooftop of the Standard Hotel, unbelievable views!) and Revel. They are all around the same area, which is along 9th Av. around 11th - 15th streets.

This is Ajna Bar inside.

They are quite picky, since it is quite a fancy area, so make sure you look nice! Usually, don't wear sneakers or sports clothes, if you're a guy you'll be safe wearing a shirt over a t-shirt. However, it really depends on what place you go, you'll have to find out!

It was a fun night, but the best part was the subway ride back home. I'll let you watch it, since I got to tape a little bit of it:


Since the stop at the Meatpacking (8th Avenue for the L train) is the beggining (or end) of the L train, you usually have to wait a little bit inside the train before it starts going. Last night, the guy you see in the video was cheering the whole place up singing popular songs and playing guitar.

This kind of moments are what makes me love this place so much! I went back home with a smile on my face and ready to get a nice rest.

I hope you had a nice weekend, thanks for reading and see you soon!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kat Edmonson, Live at Roots & Rock Sessions

Hey everyone! Today I have been at the last Roots & Rock Sessions at Peter Cooper Village, and I saw Kat Edmonson performing. I am so glad I went, because I enjoyed it so much and I love her music! She did an outstanding performance, just her voice and a guitar in the beautiful Oval Park. No need for more.

Kat Edmonson
"Edmonson a petite singer from Austin, Texas is also a return and a pioneer. Her intimate singing style and stage presence recalls the heyday of jazz - she has the expressiveness of Billie Holiday elegance of Ella Fitzgerald and the voice of Blossom Dearie." Link.
Here's a great music video from her record "Lucky", I hope you like it!

I like listening to her music. Her lyrics are very powerful. The melodies of her music are very calm and peaceful, which to me, accentuates even more the emotions written in the lyrics. Listening to her records at home is cool, but listening to her voice live was something different! She's really good and I'm happy I got to see her.

She sang songs from her last album "Way Down Low" which you can check out here: link. You can also find her music on Spotify. She also performed some new records that I really liked, but can't be found yet.

I hope you liked it! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bedford - Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Hey everyone! A few days I go I wrote about Brooklyn and how I had liked it. I have been back around there and I have explored a little bit more of it. This time I've been hanging around Bedford and Williamsburg, and I really liked it as well.

This time we got off the L train at Bedford, which is only one stop away from Manhattan. Many people say this area is actually like part of Manhattan, and consider it the "new SoHo." Bedford avenue is very lively and the atmosphere is very young and cool. There are plenty of cafes, bars and interesting shops like this one below. I wanted to buy everything! Hence the upside down plants, I want that in my room!

More information about this design+electronics store at Located at 218 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.

After a little walk around Bedford, we went to contemplate the breathtaking views of Manhattan's skyline from the riverside at what I believe was Williamsburg. Judge it yourselves:

These views are priceless. Well, priceless except when you live in one of these buildings below. Imagine waking up and seeing the view from the picture above from your bedroom? Well, I believe these people do!

I just throw it out there. I wouldn't mind being adopted in one of the households above ;) Anyways, the walk was really nice and very pretty at the sunset. How romantic!

After walking around for a little while, we went to a very nice terrace. It's a diner place called La Esquina. It's great to have a drink outside, but you can also eat there. Both, the food and the drinks are amazing! Moreover, the terrace is really cool. Great to enjoy now before the cold season arrives.

More information about La Esquina here: link.

It was a nice way to start the weekend. I hope you enjoy yours wherever you are right now! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monster Storm in Manhattan

Hey everyone! Today there have been many warnings about a huge storm approaching New York. Well it was actually pretty big! You might have seen this picture that has become very popular in the social media:

It's amazing, and the sky did actually look like that. It's crazy to think that I was down there at that moment!! The credits to this picture are for the Twitter user @isardasorensen.

I woke up this morning and it was already raining. It wasn't that bad, especially while I remained in bed! This is what I saw from my window.

Now, the warnings continued all day long, however I thought something was wrong, because it was actually very sunny and really, really warm. Nevertheless, when the evening arrived, everything changed! Those monster clouds started covering the sky and it suddenly started raining like crazy.

For you to get an idea, this is how my window usually looks like these days in the evenings, at around 7pm:

Today, at the same time, this is how my window was:

Completely dark and the rain drops hitting the glass. There were a lot of thunders and it was pretty intense. As long as nothing bad occurs, I really love thunderstorms! 

I thought I would have to call it a night. However, in a few hours it stopped raining that hard and the sky started getting clearer, so I ended up going up to a rooftop and the views were amazing with the city so calmed after such a big thunderstorm!

It was really peaceful to look at the sky after all. I hope you were all safe! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Union Pool, Brooklyn

Hey everyone! How is it going? Today I did something I hadn't done before and it was about time. I crossed the river to hang out in Brooklyn. I had no idea about how nice Williamsburg and all that area is, and it's only two stops away from my subway stop! So I was there in literally 5 minutes.

I took the L train to Lorimer stop. I was expecting something very different from what I found there. I don't know why I hadn't walked around that area before, but I actually saw many cool places and I definitely liked the atmosphere.

After walking around for a little bit, we went to a place called Union Pool. It's a big bar with a nice garden in the back and apparently it gets really crowded towards the weekend and they hold events and live music.

The day wasn't that sunny and it looked like it was about to rain, even though it was really hot. We sat down at the garden, which is quite relaxing. I've heard it's still open when the cold season arrives and the fountain you see in the picture above turns into a fire. I'll have to check it out then!

As I was expecting, it started raining. But the place was still cool inside! However, the terrace was still a nice place to stay even if raining. We were covered, but see how cool and calm it looks. By the way, that truck in the background is a taco bar for the hungry ones!

All in all, it was a very nice evening and I definitely want to go back around that area and see more about it now that I started knowing Manhattan like the palm of my hand.

If you're curious about the place, you can check the website here: link.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Registration for Fall 2012!

Hey everyone! This one goes especially for my fellow Berkeley students, since registration for Fall 2012 courses has begun this week.

If you have any doubts on how that works, especially if you're taking the summer quarter off, I recommend you to contact advisement through e-mail and they'll get back to you ( Also, last year I explained a little bit how to enroll for courses, here's the post if you need to take a look at it: link.

Once you are clear with student accounts etc. and you're ready to register for the courses, there are many factors to think about when setting up your schedule.

"My Requirements"

Since you're free to choose the courses you want, sometimes it gets confusing when it comes to decide what classes you want to take every quarter. I recommend to use the "search by my requirements" (which you will see when you log in self-service) and you will find the plan you need to complete for your major.

Day vs. Night

You will see that some classes are offered in day schedules and night. Night classes are usually just once a week, whereas day classes are split in twice. I have tried both and they all have pros and cons, you have to decide what fits better in your schedule.

Online and blended

If you have taken the "road to success" course (taken through Blackboard), then you are allowed to take online or blended classes. Online are completely taught on the Internet and you won't need to go to school for those. Blended courses are split. You will need to go to class once a week (for about 1 hour and 45 minutes) and the rest will be online throughout the rest of the week.

Pre-requisites and levels

Don't forget to check out what pre-requisites you need for the classes you want to take. It will appear right before you try to add them to your shopping cart. Make sure you have those requisites completed, since this could cause you some trouble. Also you will see that the courses have levels, ranging from 100's to 400's. Make sure you keep it balance and don't choose all the tough ones at once!

Good luck with registration and if you have any doubts, the best you can do is go visit advisement at school (14th floor at the 41st Street building) or contact them. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Otto, Italian Cuisine

Hey eveyrone! I went to n Italian restaurant and I have to recommend it because I really liked it! First of all, Italian cuisine is delicious... you know it, I know it and everyone knows it. But this place is much better than many others I've seen and the prices are great. Good for your mouth and good for your pocket!

I'm talking about Otto.
"Modeled to look like an Italian train station, OTTO, meaning "eight" in Italian, is located on the corner of 8th Street and Fifth Avenue, in the historic One Fifth Avenue building, just steps away from Washington Square Park."

This is a perfect Sunday dinner place. It's nice to walk around Washington Square Park and Greenwich village and then go for a nice meal. The place itself is nice, yes... bring your date there! 

I had some delicious bruchetta as appetizer and then delicious pasta carbonara. It was awesome and I definitely recommend it! If you ever go, check out the specials for the day, they're worth it. 

The food is so good because they have a great team behind the doors of the kitchen:
"OTTO is a classic Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich partnership. With their signature combination of thoughtful and memorable food, an intelligent wine list, and an emphasis on living life to its absolute fullest, Mario and Joe's distinctive touch is evident in OTTO's every detail."

You might have heard about Mario Batali if you're passionate about food. He's quite a personality!
"A Seattle-bred, New York-based restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality, Mario Batali is known for his signature style — brazen meets sophisticated, forward meets enduring. He was named Man of the Year in the chef category by GQ Magazine in 1999."

For more information about the restaurant and menus, here's the link to their website.

I hope you get the chance to check it out yourselves! Thanks for reading and see you soon! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Taking a Break at Central Park

Hey everyone! How is it going? The weather is really awesome in NYC today and it feels great to walk around. I've been back to the Upper East Side today, to finish viewing some apartments. 

Yesterday I walked all the way, but today I had to get to 95th street and that's could be way too much for my feet. I took the subway to 96th and walked around that area. I was skeptical at first, because I hadn't heard many nice things about the Upper East Side from the 90's up, but all wrong! It was actually a great area and I wouldn't mind moving there at all. 

After viewing the apartments, since the day was really beautiful, I decided to have a walk around Central Park. I hadn't been there in a very long time, and I should do it more often now that it's summer!

I must admit I usually get lost around the paths. As soon as the skyscrapers disappear between the trees, I can't tell where's East or West. That's a good thing, though. This place is really an oasis in the middle of a huge city. My favorite day to go is Sunday, because people go there to hang out and there's a really nice atmosphere. 

I hope you had a nice weekend! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Upper East Side

Hey everyone! How is it going? Today I've been exploring the Upper East Side. I'm looking for a new apartment to move in soon this summer, and this is one of the areas I'd like to browse. I had never really walked around there enough, and I'm actually surprised of how nice it seems to be.

I actually walked all the way through first avenue, from 20th street to the 80's! It's been a long walk, but it's been really nice!

I had been in the main attractions of the UES, like the museum mile. However, I hadn't really walked around to see how it's life around there. It's quite a big area, so there are all kinds of places. It's not as crowded as other parts of Manhattan, like Midtown, but some of the avenues are still very lively. I've found a lot of nice restaurants I'd like to try along 2nd and 3rd avenues. I visited several apartments, to get an idea of what I can expect, and actually so far this is a great option. 

For those who are looking for a place around here as well, let me remind you something. There is a huge construction going on around the UES, where they are building a new subway line that will go through 2nd avenue. That is why there are many apartments there with lower rents than usual. For example, a nice studio apartment that used to be about $2,000/month can be found now for about $1,600/month (just to give you an idea) if it's close to the constructions. Is it worth it? Well, if you can deal with dust and noise, you're going to find great deals! 

If you're wondering about that, I recommend you to read this article from the NY Times: 

I have a few more appointments tomorrow around that area, so I'll keep exploring! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to New York City!

Hey everyone! Here I am, back in the city to start my third year in the big apple. How exciting! I didn't have the greatest welcome to the city, since I come from a sunny beach town to this stormy weather, but it feels good to be back anyways! I've missed you New York!

I crossed many time zones again, and my body already noticed it. The day has been so dark and grey so I felt like it was constantly 9pm since I landed at noon! I'm expecting to fall asleep quite early and wake up randomly in the middle of the night craving for breakfast. Everything under control!

I'm also tired because I didn't get to sleep last night in Spain. I had to leave for the airport too early, the sun wasn't even up yet. So I spent the night finishing packing and saying goodbye to my house. Once in the airport, I got picked for a random control. I had never heard of it! They called me and other 10 passengers to go to the gate and then they took us to another room where they checked me thoroughly. It was highly uncomfortable :D but I guess it's all for our security, and it's not like I had a choice.

I flew with Delta, as I usually do, and it was a 9 hour direct flight. 9 hours of torture. I thought I loved kids, but I'm not that sure anymore. I had to sit in one of those 4 seat rows. Thank God I got the seat by the aisle. I had a couple by my side and they were holding a baby. Moms and dads of the world, think it twice before taking your babies to a plane! Poor creature, it wasn't his fault and he was actually really cute. But he didn't stop crying, screaming, kicking everything, vomiting and if this wasn't enough, his parents spilt wine all over the place twice. Awesome parenting!

Well, enough complaining, everything goes away when I start seeing Manhattan's skyline through the windows of the taxi! Finally back in my room, unpacking and getting myself comfortable again. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Packing Again!

Hey everyone! This is my last day in my hometown in Spain and won't come back around here for a while. Although I'm more than ready and excited for my third year in New York, at this point I always have a mix of feelings.

Blanes, Costa Brava
This time my stay in Spain has been a little shorter, only a few weeks. Enough to get a tan, but never enough to be with the loved ones. Anyways, those are always close somehow (cheesy!) These are not easy times for the Spanish economy. I had been reading it in the newspapers from the other side of the ocean, but it's always clearer when you live it here.

However, I wish people here will cheer up and keep fighting to get back in shape. Economy is economy, and there are cycles. But everyone needs to find motivation in life no matter what, there are many things worth living for besides from money, and no one should forget about that. I have a lot of faith that the economy will recover, even though it will take a while, but I hope people can still feel thankful for all we have in our country.

Having said that, now it's time to pack again! I'm very excited for this year. It sounds crazy to me that it's going to be the third one there. That means I'm closer to getting my bachelor. Even though that will be very exciting, it's also very scary! Challenge accepted.

It's going too quick, and there are still many things I want to do in the city before I leave. Maybe that's why I'm so motivated this time to not waste any of my time there.

Now back to finish with packing and goodbyes... I'm going to miss this place, the sea, the sun, THE FOOD, and of course the people I'm leaving here. I had a great stay and I thank everyone who was part of it!

Thanks for reading and see you soon! Next one from New York City!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Move Around NYC

Hey everyone! I'm talking about transport in the city. I usually move around Midtown and the Villages, but the rest of the areas are just as easy to get to. The public transport might be expensive and quite old and dirty sometimes, but it's very efficient and the quickest way to move around here.

First of all, many people have asked me if it's worth it to bring/get a car in the city. Well, in my opinion it is not worth it at all. Traffic is crazy, especially in Manhattan. Also, forget about it during rush hours. On top of that, you would need to think where to park it! Parking is really expensive and since space is very limited in Manhattan, you can't have it for granted that you'll find a spot close enough to your destination. So... no car for me.

Subway is the big favorite. The subway system runs 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It might seem too complicated at the beginning, because there are endless lines around NY. However, once you get used to it, you realize it is the fastest way to move around. Be ready to share the underground space with some friends of NYC, the rodents. It's not that bad, you see them, but they usually never get close to humans :)

FYI, a monthly unlimited subway card is $104, and a single ticket $2,25. You should do the math and see what's best for you.

Another option is taking the bus. I would recommend that when you can't find a close subway stop, because it is obviously a bit slower than subway (always depending on the traffic.) The subway card I talked about also works for the buses, and it's the same price.

One more option is taking a cab. New York Taxis are not as expensive as in other cities I have been. It's not the cheapest way neither, but it's a good option if you share it with other people. There are taxis everywhere, so it's usually not a problem to see them. However, hurry up if it starts raining, because then it is hard to catch one that is available!

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Family Visit in Costa Brava

Hey everyone! Today I spent the day with my family, that came from other parts of Spain to visit! It had been a while since I hadn't seen them and it's been short, but fun.

It's funny how I always get the same kind of questions no matter how long I've been away and where. Since this is the tradition at my place, my father cooked a paella that I really, really enjoyed! Have a look :P

After such a nice meal, we all went to the beach in my town. I must admit I'm the only one in this family that is not into football (soccer for some of you.) I see all my cousins playing football games at the beach right away and even parents many times... I know I am a weird Spaniard, maybe I've been away for too long. Oh well, I'd rather swim!!

Also it is always somewhat shocking to see my cousins. I have many of them, we're thirteen kids in total, ranging from 5 years old to 20 something. That means they're all growing up, and they grow up a lot. That's why it's shocking to see them after a so many months. Specially the younger ones, it makes me feel like time is flying!

All in all, it was a very nice day in Costa Brava! I hope you had a nice one too. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quarter System at Berkeley

Hey everyone! How is the summer going? I'm still enjoying the sun for a few more days. That means I'm not going to class for now, and that means I took the summer quarter off. That's something I'd like to share about Berkeley.

The school year is set up in a quarter system. That means there are 4 terms every year (fall quarter, winter, spring and summer.) Now, a bachelor's degree takes 12 quarters. The most common thing is to have 9-month school year during 4 years. However, since you can take quarters all year round at Berkeley, you can be done with your bachelor in 3 years. Time is money, so that's an advantage!

However, you are allowed to take a quarter off every time you've completed 3. That's why I have taken the summer quarter off for the last two years. The reason why I take it off, even though I know time is money, is so that I can go back home. I think this is a great option to have for international students.

Having a quarter system also means we have the finals period right before Christmas holidays, then spring break, and so on. So no studying for finals during Christmas eve! Also we get a break between every quarter. It is usually a week long, except for the Christmas break that is usually a little longer.

I think it is important to know this kind of details before making a decision about college. Some schools are not as flexible and that can be a problem.

Thanks for reading and I hope you're enjoying your summer! See you soon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Costa Brava

Hey everyone! It's been such a beautiful day! I'll be back in the city in a few days, so today was the last chance to make an excursion like this around the south of Costa Brava. 

Costa Brava (which means Wild Coast) is the coastline that goes from Blanes (the town in the picture below) to the French border in the north of the Catalan coast. It's named like that because of it's landscape, which is full of rocks and sea cliffs. It's a very touristic destination, and it's absolutely beautiful.

I feel very fortunate to say that this is where I grew up and the place I can definitely call home. It feels great to have all these sights with walking distance! We started walking and kept doing so for quite a long time. We stopped at Cala Sant Francesc, the beach you can see in the picture below. 

Even though the coast is full of constructions, since the tourist sector grew a lot in the last decades, it's still beautiful and there are a lot of hidden beaches and paths around the sea cliffs.

We also stopped at another beach, located in Lloret de Mar. That town is one of the favorite "package" holidays for young tourists... Which means they pay a flat fee, get a wristband and the right to drink all the way around the city as if it was a gigantic open bar. However, the beaches are still amazing!

I'm glad I got to spend some time enjoying the coast this year. Now I'm ready to start packing and set my mind back to the city mode!

Have a great day, thanks for reading and see you soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer Day in my Town

Hey everyone! This is my last weekend in Spain, so I have to make the most out of it. We spent the day in Blanes. It's not a huge town, but there's a lot to do if you're on vacation. Especially if you enjoy food as much as I do. Hey greedy people... I got homemade crepes with chocolate, bananas and who knows what other delicious stuff it had.

After that, for a change, we didn't go swimming and started walking around the city. How beautiful it is! This is what I miss about this place when I'm stressed in NYC. Being able to walk by the sea, with nice weather and no hustle and bustle. 

After dinner, the perfect plan is to hang out at the beach. No clubs, no bars and no fancy cocktails, but still just as enjoyable!

These days I'm feeling like I'm went back in time as well. This is what I used to do when I was too young to go out and too grown up to stay at home. Maybe I became a teenager again this summer, and I'm embracing it!

I think now I can enjoy it better than before, because relaxing days like this in my town only happen a few times a year, if any. I couldn't stay like this much longer, because I must say somehow I enjoy being stressed! But this makes me value even more these moments.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!