25 January 2013

Classes, Site Visits and Basketball! - Business in the USA

We arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday 12th January. We were picked up from the airport by UNCC students and taken to the Drury Inn, which will be our home away from home for the next three weeks. Everyone came during the day so by the end of the night we had all gathered in the lobby and were getting to know each other. The rest of the weekend was spent exploring the neighbourhood and for some of us adjusting to the time zone.
UNCC campus at night
Monday morning we were picked up and taken to UNCC for the first time. We had a short orientation meeting and a tour of the campus. The campus is beautiful and vastly different to any Australian university. It was very stereotypically American, on our first lunchbreak a group of sorority girls even broke out in dance in the middle of the student union.
The sorority girls breaking out in dance
From a study perspective, our week has been spent visiting numerous businesses, hearing from a number of guest speakers and a number of lectures by UNCC faculty. Two of the guest speakers we got to hear from were, Wayne Cooper, who’s had a lifetime of running international businesses and was also the honourable consult to Mexico for the Carolinas, and also Jim De Piante, a virtual team manager for IBM who was involved in the Watson project (which for those of you who don’t know is a computer that reads books, understands them and ended up beating the two best contestants from Jeopardy ever). We also visited the Bank of America, Chamber of Commerce and K&L Gates law firm.
The group of us with Dana Hicks from Huber Technology
During our time we will participate in two different classes, one a marketing based subject which is taught by a very animated Sunil Erevelles and a communication subject taught by the lovely Sandy Hanson. So far these have been really beneficial and we're looking forward to the next few weeks.
Sally, Cassandra, Marija and Jasmyn at the 49ers game
Culturally we have had the opportunity to go to a UNCC college basketball game, which ended up in a 49ers win! We’ve also got to visit numerous malls and shopping centres around the area and participated in a scavenger hunt in Uptown Charlotte. Today we did a tour of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the home of NASCAR, which came complete with two laps of the track.
49ers game, which they won!
The hotel is situated in a good spot, there are thousands of places to eat nearby and anywhere else that we need to go the UNCC students have been awesome helping us out with. The hotel staff are fantastic, they know most of us by names already and we’ve even made friends with some of the yearlong residents.

Its great having the education group here as well, there is lots of socialising and fun being had. Everyone seems to be having a great time, both with the study part and the cultural part and there’s lots of professional networking going on. It’s a pretty full on schedule, very busy, early mornings, sleep when you can. We are really looking forward to next week’s schedule. There will be lots to talk about then.
~Cassandra and Jasmyn

The way to Mexico - Health Care in Mexico

After many weeks of my mother freaking out, a goodbye to my amazing, gorgeous girlfriend and a twelve hour plane ride I had almost reached Mexico. I had landed at LAX (the Los Angles International airport). The 12 hour Joseph flavoured man sandwich reminded me of the advice given to me by Rob the AIM overseas guy about online check-in which allows you to pick your own seats ensuring you don’t get stuck between two pleasant but large middle aged males. Being rather new to the whole international travelling thing I knew this wouldn’t be my only error in judgment. I now had an 11 hour wait until my Mexico flight.

I filled in my time by listening to the peoples different accents, buying chocolate bars that I’d heard about on movies like butterfingers, thingamajig and whatchamacallit (they are mostly peanut buttery) and offending the lady who worked at Starbucks by trying to use a 50 dollar ‘bill’ to pay for my venti sized café latte. I was going to take a photo for the blog but I was bitter from the experience and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Starbucks in Australia anyway. So I took a photo of an American police car instead.

Police car, the shotgun in the front seat makes it all the more intimidating

Soon enough I had boarded the plane to Mexico, I had no idea how long the journey took as I slept the whole way. It was nearly midnight and I awoke to different world where people would assume I could speak Spanish. Little did they know I was a lazy Australian who only knew the words I learnt from Dora. Despite not having the ability to communicate properly, everyone I met was very accommodating and luckily, most people I encountered spoke English. Not too soon after a few awkward conversations, I arrived at the airport hotel for some much needed rest or so I thought. As I had just slept for who knows how many hours, I had trouble getting to sleep until about 4 am then proceeded to sleep until 1 30pm. It was now time to taxi my way to my host families place.

A Mexican equivalent
My host family is made up of one grandfather (Renae), one grandmother (Mather), their daughter (Claudia, pronounced Cloudia), and her son (Andres) and some other children who I am yet to meet. All who of which were instantly very welcoming and accommodating. There is a Mexican saying “mi casa es su casa” which I am fairly sure translates to “my home is your home.” My host family really means it.  It’s hardly been 24 hours and I couldn’t have been treated better, tasting and enjoying the different meals and having the best bruschetta I’ve tasted. I know this is not a Mexican dish but it was amazing. My host family regularly has international students stay and there is currently a German exchange student (Lena) staying with them as well, which makes me feel so much more worldly.

The stairwell up to my room, I thought this was pretty cool.
All in all I’m already enjoying experience and I am excited to start my program. And next blog post I promise to take more photos other than police cars and stairs.

~Joseph McGrath

Joseph McGrath is completing the Public Health in Mexico Program. Joseph is in his second year of a Bachelor of Nursing at University of Newcastle.

A trip to Iguazu Falls! - Intensive Spanish in Argentina

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

Buenos Aires from the roof top of my apartment
I have spent one week here learning Spanish in classes and I feel as though my language has improved exponentially!
The classes are small about 8 people and we have a lot of oral practice! They are fun, we play lots of games and my teacher is really lovely! I am still absolutely loving Buenos Aires the people are very warm.

I have had a huge week! We spend 4 hours from 9am – 1:30pm every morning practicing Spanish and then we are free to do whatever! On Wednesdays there is conversation club and there is lots of other activities in the afternoons! Last Tuesday we went to a Museum, which showed lots of the political history of Buenos Aires! It is built within the old fort that was built when the Spanish first conquered the province.  

A guard in the museum
I have learnt a lot from the conversations that I have at home with my host mum. She is great, I have learnt about the political history of Evita but from the perspective of someone who lives here! It’s really interesting to hear different angles on history!

On the weekend we went on a trip to Iguazu Falls! -  Cataratas del Iguaçu!
WOW! 4 days later and I am still completely mind blown! It was the most impressive place I have ever been! I cannot comprehend the amount of water that was flowing over the rocks!

Iguazu Falls! The Devil's Throat 'Garganta de Diablo'
We flew there on Friday and first went to the three frontiers, which is a point where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina all meet, with the river between.
On Saturday we went to the national park and waterfalls and spent the whole day exploring. We went on a boat and went right into the waterfalls getting completely saturated! I saw monkeys and some other funny animals!

Three frontiers
The next day we visited an Indigenous Village where everything is completely self contained. We learnt about the culture of the Guarani people and how they are living today! We were showed some amazing traditional animal traps made of sticks and bark and some beautiful singing.

Some things I have learnt this week include:
·      Buses n BA do not wait for you even if you have your foot in the door.
·      One of my favourite words in Spanish is ‘charlar’ which just means to chat.
·      Dulce de Leche Helado (an amazing caramel Gelato) is incredibly tasty and dangerously addictive.
·      You can never be to full
·      Argentinian time means you can never be late to class (unless its over an hour late)

Ryan and Emile enjoying the waterfalls!

Off on some more adventures this weekend! 

Love Mindy! 

Mindy Davies is completing our Intensive Spanish in Argentina program this January 2013. Mindy is in her 4th year of a Double Degree in Law and International Relations at Griffith University.

23 January 2013

The delectable delights of Cusco - Biodiversity in Peru

The city of Cusco
So we have now been in Cusco for just over a week so far. It’s the low season here at the moment so not a lot of people are out and about, which has been good as it feels a little more intimate. The local people have been so accommodating and friendly and always willing to have a little laugh with us when trying to order food off a Spanish menu or barter on goods from the street. There is so much available here in Cusco, anything from the usual souvenir stuff such as alpaca scarves, jumpers and gloves and also various other things such as paintings and food.

A Peruvian dish, Alpaca!

Lunch and a show
 The food has been mostly good, although a few of us have been a little sick but nothing too serious mostly as a result of the altitude. We even had a band come in during one of our meals and played a few songs for us. We have all been missing a few things that are in the Aussie staple diet such as fresh milk, unfortunately there aren’t a lot (if any) dairy farms here in Peru making the finding of fresh milk difficult. I have been told that a lot of Peruvians are actually lactose intolerant, hence the abundant supply of lactose free UHT milk. Cusco has been a great city to stay in with the streets being fairly clean and safe. The group of people on the program have also been a lot of fun and are getting along great so far.
The Biodiversity in Peru gang
We have also now started classes which have also been fun. The set out is quite different to what I am used to, however I suspect this is a result of it being in its short program version rather than a semester long unit. The university here have been accommodating and the lecturer fun and engaging. I was a little worried that there would be issues with the language barrier or at least not being able to understand the lecturer with his accent but this hasn’t been the case at all. Leo has been an awesome lecturer so far and has helped us to understand more of the culture and to immerse us in it as well.
Traditional Peruvian dance at our orientation
Main square in Cusco
In addition to our in class activities the uni also set up a friendly soccer match with a group of Americans who are here to study full time. Unfortunately we lost. Not to make excuses, but they did have mostly guys on the team (compared with our one man team) as well as two of the university employees who happen to be very good.  We have a volley ball match lined up for this week. Hopefully Australia can come back and win… To be continued.

~Kerri-Ann Hudson

Kerri-Ann Hudson is participating on our Biodiversity in Peru program this January 2013. Kerri-Ann is in her third year of a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management at Edith Cowan University

A very warm welcome to a chilly Vichy! - Intensive French in Vichy

My first week in Vichy has been better than I could have anticipated. The train from Vichy to Paris was a very pleasant ride. I shared a carriage with a little girl and her father and on my left sat an old man whose face carried many stories. I was captured by the gentle nature of the young girl opposite and the way she ate her baguette.  To my right I looked out the window, green grass, grey skies and brick country style homes. I surprised myself by carrying a conversation in French with the two gentlemen for a good part of the trip. As I stepped onto the platform at Vichy I had a grin from one ear to the other. This simple human interaction had brought priceless satisfaction. I arrived on Sunday evening greeted by my host father who brought with him a beaming smile and a lot of French!

I was overflowing with uncertainty and nerves but that soon passed as I walked into a very warm home and a massive cuddle from my host mum. After the first night I couldn’t have felt more at home. I said to myself “this is too good to be true.”

I have enjoyed my first week of classes at Cavilam where each class has  been different to the previous. Unlike the structure of classes at home each lesson we cover something different, which I really enjoy. We learnt about ‘La Gallette Rois’ one day and the next we made a calendar marking the national celebrations in each of our countries. We presented an ‘expose’ or a presentation on a significant festival within our home country and used computers to view videos and practice comprehension. This comprehensive range of learning methods made each day new and interesting.

I’ve already made a huge group of international friends. We are Australian, Portuguese, Brazilian, Swiss, Dutch and Korean. Cavilam offers plenty of extra curricular activities so when we aren’t in class we’re either doing sport, going to the movies, meeting at the local café or learning to salsa dance. On Wednesday we visited nearby Thiers and on Saturday we made a day trip to Dijon and Beaune.

  I’m looking forward to week 2!

~ Emily

Emily Jay is currently completing the Intensive French in Vichy program this January 2013. Emily is in her 3rd year of a Bachelor of Arts at University of Newcastle

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