They speak Spainish in Spain.

Cultural Experiences of International Students in Spain

Archive for September 2009

Related Blogs and Websites

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It seems we’re not the only one not only studying abroad but also writing about it. A quick search either on Google or on WordPress yields a number of results. One blog discusses studying abroad in general, while another discusses Spanish culture compared to American culture; one website presents advice for studying abroad, while another is a resource to help students find programs for studying abroad.

It’s not easy coming to a foreign country, immersing yourself into a new culture; for this reason, blogs like Study Abroad and International Exchange offer advice on studying and living in a foreign country. This blog includes a large number of blog posts (and has received over 1,500 views) and its Links Page offers a long list (so long that it spills over to a second page) of websites filled with material pertinent to a student looking to study abroad; it includes websites with information and applications for exchange programs, websites with job offers for international students, websites with advice for exchange students, and websites for language classes, to name a few. 

Viva España is a much less professional blog, one created by the author to keepher  friends and relatives up to date on her year abroad in Spain. Turns out she will be studying in Pamplona as well, but in the public university. Some of her experiences and observations are reminiscent of my own, and her blogroll offers interesting and helpful websites about traveling and studying abroad. This blog is of special interest to me in that the author is in a situation similar to my own, and the blog is also similar to my own.

SpainExchange is the most complete website I’ve found in terms of advice and help for students on an exhchange program in Spain. It involves everything from academic programs to housing services to travel advice. It also includes an impressive search section that allows the user to find programs for students studying abroad by country, city, and area of study.

Finally, The International Education Site is a resource for searching that, in its own words, is a guide to study abroad information, advice and opportunities for students worldwide who are considering studying overseas. Including university advice, college search facilities, student profiles, and articles from the leading journals on international education. The website puts a number of resources at the user’s disposition for finding the right exchange program for him: the College Search, the Course Center (which provides articles on studying abroad), and the Living and Learning Section. All in all, it is another useful and complete resource for any student examining his options for an exchange program.


Written by gstmaurice

September 30, 2009 at 11:22 PM

Does this blog already exist in the Blogosphere?

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It seems that in this mundo de blogosphere, where there are blogs about scrapbooking, cooking, social media and sports… millions upon millions of them of every detail of every topic imaginable, there probably is already a blog out there about the exact same topic.  Maybe it is.  But that isn’t important.  Instead I have several related blogs and websites to recommend to anyone interested!

Although writing about washing machines in the kitchen and people talking loudly on their cellular phones may sound like a fun, silly topic, writing about the cultural differences you experience while living abroad can actually be a commentary on much deeper issues.  These simple anecdotes can have roots based on the history of our countries, differences in politics, and the resulting sociological outcomes.  Although we have begun the blog with very simple topics, if Gabe and I were to spend many more years here in Spain, or elsewhere in Europe, our commentary would likely begin to uproot more of these deep seeded issues.  I would like therefore, to reference Expat Abroad, a blog I ran across about another ex-pat woman living in the Middle East.  I wanted to show this blog as an example of one direction a blog like ours could take.

Other blogs have a lighter take on the life of an expat.  A good example would be Erik’s Blog– thoughts and photos from an American living in Spain.  Erik uses post titles such as “Thinking in Green”, “Zappatero’s daughters” and “Metric Money” to make comic reference to some of the cultural, and language differences he has encountered while living in Spain.


I have also discovered several websites that speak to the topic of erasmus (Europe’s version of study abroad) or studying abroad.  A good website I have found that help’s to prepare you for the difficulties you will encounter both before leaving the United Sates, and upon your arrival in a new country is in the international travel section of the U.S. Department of State website.  Here you will find advice for getting your student Visa, as well as some great deals for students and teachers while studying abroad.

The last website I would like to recommend is the British Councils website on Erasmus, which explains the concepts behind Erasmus, or studying abroad.  It has case studies, statistics, things to know before you go, and a place to apply.  On this website you can browse all kinds of things you might want to know before embarking on the erasmus (study abroad) experience.

Written by iamandreaholm

September 30, 2009 at 11:01 PM

Class 3 – Interactivity

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1 – Control – Google

Google allows the user to first select his or her preferred language. By clicking on Search Settings, the user can also decide on settings for the search language,  search filtering,  and the number of search results per page.

This preference page is a typical example of control interactivity in that it allows the user to select his settings.

2 – Feedback – Turbo Chef

This website, an advertisement for the Turbo Chef oven, allows the user to navigate through the website clicking on different types of foods. After a rather long loading time, an infomercial-like video appears in which a chef prepares the food selected. Once it is in the oven, the user can click around to see just how this oven works. From my sniffing around, it appears the Turbo Chef can cook foods up to 15 times faster than regular ovens. Arrows on  both sides of the screen allow the user to browse through the various features of the high-tech oven, each one coming with seemingly more information than the next.

3- Productivity – Amazon

Amazon allows the user to search for and buy products. This website is most known for selling books, but we can find anything from watches and solar chargers to frisbees and yoyos to pet food and costumes.  These products are often hard to find, and often come cheaper when ordered through Amazon. The sellers are also highly dependable. The one catch: high shipping prices. A $10 item can cost $6 in shipping. The trick is then to combine orders, since often orders of over $25 come with free shipping.

4- Creativity – Simpsonize Me

In principle an advertisement for Burger King, this website combines two oh-so compatible loves of so many: The Simpsons and burgers. Here, the user uploads a portrait picture of himself. He is then ”simpsonized”: his skin turns yellow, his eyes get bigger, his teeth get whiter, and his smile wider. The user can then adjust all his facial features, from his hair, to his eyebrows, to his nostrils, to his facial hair; he can also add accessories, including sunglasses and hats.

5- Adaptability – Pandora

Pandora is a radio utility that allows the user to find and play music similar to his taste. A station is created when the user enters one music group of his liking; the station is in principle a playlist of songs similar to the songs of the first group. The Music Genome Project, the engine at the heart of Pandora, analyzes songs based on harmonies, voices, instrumentation, rhythm, and other characteristics. Using its analysis, it can find other songs similar to the first and create playlists, or stations, in the liking of the user.

6 – Communication – Tuenti

The Spanish Facebook, Tuenti follows in Facebook’s footsteps and connects people together. Although the social networking site’s influence has not quite reached outside of Spain yet, it allows users to share messages and pictures, and a recently-added chat function allows users to communicate in real time.

Written by gstmaurice

September 24, 2009 at 6:55 PM

Class Assignment

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Today we are supposed to give several examples of websites and blogs that have different levels of adaptability within them.  I am translating the definitions from Spanish to English, so this may seem a bit confusing.  It IS, in fact, a bit confusing to me.

We are focusing on:

Control- The capacity of the user to alter or regulate the system.  You can become your own MandM using the MandM website.  You are able to manipulate the controls to change the color, body shape, and accessories of an MandM to suit your personal style.

Feedback- The ability of the user to manipulate the site, or user comments to be used by the site.  On Amazon the website uses customer feedback to give the buyer more information.  For example, when buying a book on Amazon, the website updates you with information regarding others who bought the same book.  It will tell you how satisfied they were with that book, as well as other books they bought.  After purchasing something, you, as a buyer, are asked for feedback to improve the site: how well you liked the product, how likely you would be to purchase the product again, how satisfied you were with the shipping of the product, etc.  This information is then given to new potential buyers browsing the website.

Productivity- The website´s ability to expand upon useful materials.   Banco de Sonidos y imagines is a website in which you can search and download different images, sounds, videos and animations.  This can be useful on your own webpages or projects.  On this site you may also share images, sounds and videos of your own with others.

Creativity- The users ability to generate something origional, artistic, or curious.  Photofunia is a website that allows the user to paste thier own photos into already generated images.  The website belnds the photos together in such a way that it can appear as if your own face is on, say, the dollar bill or a postage stamp.  The site is fun to use and the results can be funny.

Adaptability-  The users ability to personalize the page based on likes and dislikes.  Spotify is an online radio station in which the user is able to find and play thier favorite songs, use those songs to find other similar songs,

Communication- The capacity of the page to facilitate finding people, dialog between people and exchange of photos, information etc. allows Americans to easily connect with classmates from elementary, middle school, high school and college.  Using the database you can do a search on the city, name of the school and year of graduation.  You can upload photos, as well as post information about reunions and gatherings.

Written by iamandreaholm

September 24, 2009 at 6:29 PM

First Thoughts

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To choose the theme for our blog, Andrea and I had to find something we had in common. Sports didn’t quite do it (except Ultimate Frisbee) and we decided instead to go with something more intellectual but just as interesting and entertaining.

The experience of being an international student is, after all, both fun for the student himself and amusing for the local seeing him (or her) struggle; from our problems with the language, to our shock (and often anger) at seeing stores open late and close early (where’s the 24-hour drive-thru?), and our love of cultural staples like the siesta, our experience in Spain has been difficult, gratifying, frustrating, and enjoyable; it’s been a learning experience where I’ve made great friends.

It’s a subject that is easy for us to write about, seeing as we are writing about a situation in which we are immersed. It is relevant in that it provides a personal perspective on living in a different culture, something that gains more and more relevance as our world becomes more and more multi-cultural. We will write about our experiences in this culture that, while not so different from our own, has many striking contrasts; we will provide personal anectodes and opinions on certain aspects of these experiences; we will gather input from other international students. In all, this blog will try to give a well-rounded view of our experience here in Spain as international students.

Written by gstmaurice

September 21, 2009 at 11:22 AM

Spainish; Initial thoughts

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This is not my first time living in a new culture.  The United States itself has uniquely different cultures within it.  This would make sense, as the size of the United States is over twice the size of the European Union.  (Look here:  I experienced this first hand when, post college, I moved from the mid-west to the west coast, and then shortly after from the west coast to the east coast.  Even though I was still in the same country and under the same overlying political structure, each place had a very different dynamic to it.

But this blog is not about my cultural experiences within the United States.  This blog is about the cultural differences I face as an American living here in Spain.  I hope to tell anecdotes that give a peek into Spanish culture as well as into my own.

A few small things to begin with:

Washing machines in Spain are in the kitchen.  Not in the basement.  People here do not have basements.  Most people live in pisos, or apartments.  That would explain no basements.  But the few houses I have seen maintain the no basement rule.

My piso is on the first floor.  In the United States first floor means the same thing as ground floor.  In Spain they have floor zero.  My first floor piso is therefore up one flight of stairs.  I don’t know anyone who lives on floor zero, but I imagine it would be strange to say that you live on the zero’th floor.

In Spain milk comes in cartons.  It is not sold in the refrigerated section.  It is on the shelf with the rest of the dried and canned goods.  People usually buy these cartons in eight packs and store the extras in the cupboard.

Spanish people speak very loud on cell phones.  My roommates are like mice and rarely come out of their bedrooms, but on their cell phones they are loud.  I can hear them anywhere in the house.   I have no idea why this is.

Spanish people do not get thirsty the way Americans do.  My friend told me that Americans are easy to spot in Europe.  They are always carrying great big bottles of water, he says. This is true from what I have seen at the University.  The American students  carry with them  small plastic (or tin reusable) water bottles; and they sip during class.

Written by iamandreaholm

September 19, 2009 at 5:04 PM

About Spainish

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This blog will try to show some of the cultural discomforts or confusions that international students like Gabe and me encounter while living here in Spain.  It´s obvious that the language is different and that the food is different.  It´s obviously strange that people close down thier shops and take naps in the afternoon.  But the challenges, both good and bad, that we face as “ex-pats” living  in Spain are much more profundo.  Just read our blog to find out!

Written by iamandreaholm

September 17, 2009 at 7:01 PM