The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

On Erasmus in Barcelona

The essay below was written especially for the ELB readers by Nina Romanska, one of my former students. I would like to thank her very much for her insights and I would like to wish her “Happy Birthday!!!”, as she is celebrating her birthday on this very day. 🙂 🙂 😉 🙂 🙂 

The Erasmus Experience

in

Barcelona. 

A Student’s Account

Erasmus is a popular student exchange programme nowadays. As many other students, I decided to take part in it because I had studied abroad before and I knew that it would be an amazing experience. I love Spanish, so Spain was an obvious choice for me. I didn’t have any doubts about the city either, I knew that Barcelona would be a perfect place for me. It’s a big city, the capital of Catalunya, definitely one of the most interesting places in Spain. I had never been there before, but I simply trusted my intuition, the view of the city from “The Shadow of the Wind” written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and “L’Auberge Espagnole,” known as the “Erasmus movie,” which describes the Erasmus experience of a French student in Barcelona.

However, my beginnings in that beautiful city were like from some comedy-drama. I remember my first day there. I arrived in Barcelona at about 2 o’ clock at night, tired after the bus ride from the airport in Reus. It was really hot, but I was wearing the coat and pullover that I didn’t have place for in my luggage. I took the metro to a district nearby the Sagrada Familia, where my friend was living. The escalators were out of order, and I could’t find any elevator either, so, with no Spanish prince on a white horse to come to my rescue, I had to carry my suitcase and my backpack all the way… Finally, I saw the Sagrada Familia. I stopped for a while to admire it and then went to look for the direction of my friend’s place. I was really impressed with the church at first sight, but the truth is that I was more concerned with being robbed at the time, as I was carrying all my jewellery, and had the money to rent a room on me.

Next day I woke up at 6 and started to look for a room to rent. The experience was totally horrible. Even if, on the outside, the old buildings in Barcelona are very beautiful, inside I came across dirty rooms and flats, strange people of all ages (renting is really expensive there, so not only students share flats), old guys with propositions, loads of insects, lack of sunshine, funny smells. All of these at an incredibly expensive price. Until I found a suitable flat I decided to share a room with another Polish student. She lived with the owner of the flat, a guy from Morocco who was walking half naked in flat, wearing just pants and a DJ cap, so I felt like I needed to hide myself. He worked as a bodyguard in club, so I could go back to the flat after 11pm, when he went to work.

After six days of looking for a flat from 8 am to 11pm, I found my room and started my true Erasmus life. My new flat mates were three Erasmus students from Romania, Finland and Germany. My room was really small and without any windows, but somehow I got used to it. 😉

Once I got time more time on my hands to explore, I realised that Barcelona is a really great city. There are a lot of really interesting places to see. Thanks to Gaudi (the Catalan Modernist), no other city can be compared to Barcelona. This Catalan architect gave Barcelona a really beautiful gift: an originality and style that made me feel that buildings of his project were taken out of some kind of fairytale kingdom.  Barcelona has everything; we can lose ourselves in the narrow streets of the Barrio Gothic and Raval, admire the elegant buildings of Gracia, walk on the beach or go to a match of FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.

There are, however, some bad points of living in the city. Loads of turists… almost everywhere you look, and this results in high prices and robberies. Barcelona is a really cosmopolitan city, so I felt more Spain in Madrid or Sevilla.

Somehow, Catalan wasn’t a big problem for me. It’s something between Spanish and French, so I had no trouble understanding most of it.

Even though I really loved Barcelona as a city and my newly-found home, the best part of my exchange program there were the people. I met a lot of great people from all over the world. The community of international students became my family, which is something that I really miss right now. Meeting people of different cultures, religions, beliefs and from different continents is a beautiful experience and made me more open-minded. Poland is a country of one nation, one religion, so my friendships with other Erasmus students helped me realise that many stereotypes about particular nations and countries were totally wrong.

As a nation, the Spanish are really cheerful compared to the Polish. They don’t care so much about exams, money, or the perfect look. I would like to follow that joy and optimism in my life.

I studied at the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona. The lectures were quite interesting. They gave the students interested in international law a wide range of study opportunities. 

 I also took part in the special programme ‘Introduction to Spanish Law,’ which was organised for international students. The teachers were friendly and much less formal than in Poland. Half of the available courses were in Spanish, and the other half in Catalan.

I would recommend taking part in an Erasmus programme to any student out there. It’s a great adventure, one impossible to forget! 😉  

Advertisements

Filed under: ■ Erasmus, ■ Good Old Student Life, ■ Movies, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Spain, ■ The World, ►12.OFF THE MAP▼

“Where are you?”

According to a study mentioned by Eric Weiner in his TED talk held in Bucharest last year, this is the question that comes up, in various forms, in 80% of all phone conversations.

Here are some more points Eric Weiner makes in his talk that you can watch below.

The quality of a society is more important

than your place in it.

(from The World Database of Happiness)

There are more words to describe unhappy states of mind than happy ones,” as a result of which new words are necessary, like the one he coins in order to describe the Swiss: conjoyment (contentment + enjoyment).

Better to fail for the right reasons than to succeed for the wrong ones.

(heard from an Icelandic)

Should more countries use the GNH (the gross national happiness policy in use in Bhutan) to supplement the GDP (gross domestic product)?

Happiness is 100% relational.

(heard from a Bhutanese)

The genuine smile of the Thai is in their eyes.

Beware of the fact that “You think too much“; it may come against your happiness.

What would you conclude after reading all of the above?

To answer the question in the title, I am now in Poland, in the beautiful city of Krakow. Do I currently live in a society I am pleased with? Is it any different than the society I was raised in? Are there happier places for me to be in? Not entirely – and I am thinking again of the Polandia series of interviews that show Poland through the eyes of foreigners of different ages, races, and religions; not really, with the note that living in a foreign country allows me to choose freely my version of reality within its borders, which I like; and probably.

I believe  that happiness happens. Most often unconsciously. It fills us with that beautiful, inexplicable joy that comes out from within to meet the happiness that lies outside ourselves (in people’s eyes, in smiles and first times), and in that meeting the feeling, the memory and the future of happiness that stay with us are born.

Do I have the words to describe happiness or the lack of it? Of course! Do they come easy? They rarely do. That’s why we cherish finding the voice of happiness. That’s why people sing, invent songs, write prose and poetry, or find themselves in other people’s words – a few among so many ways of being happy.

Eric Weiner’s advice: crush envy, do NOT win the lottery, get connected, lower your expectations, and, best of all, in my opinion,

approach happiness sideways.

More about Eric Weiner:

Eric Weiner is a long-time correspondent for the National Public Radio (NPR) and author of the book “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World”.
For as long as he can remember Eric Weiner wanted to be a foreign correspondent. So he could hardly believe his good fortune when, one day in 1993, NPR dispatched him to India as the network’s first full-time correspondent in that country. Weiner spent two of the best years of his life based in New Delhi, covering everything from an outbreak of bubonic plague to India’s economic reforms, before moving on to other postings in Jerusalem and Tokyo.

Over the past decade, he’s reported from more than 30 countries, most of them profoundly unhappy. He traveled to Iraq several times during the reign of Saddam Hussein and he was in Afghanistan in 2001, when the Taliban regime fell.

He’s also served as a correspondent for NPR in New York, Miami and Washington. D.C. Weiner is a former reporter for The New York Times and was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He was part of a team of NPR reporters that won a 1994 Peabody award for a series of investigative reports about the U.S. tobacco industry.

His commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Slate and The New Republic, among other publications. After travelling the world, he has settled, quasi-happily, in the Washington area, where he divides his time between his living room and his kitchen.

His book, The Geography of Bliss, is a travelogue of ideas in search of answers to some pressing questions: What are the essential ingredients for the good life? Why are some places happier than others? How are we shaped by our surroundings? Why can’t airlines serve a decent meal?

At TEDxBucharest 2010 Eric Weiner talks about what really makes us happy and where exactly we should think about moving to.

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Geo. of Bliss, ■ Happiness, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Polandia, ■ Races, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The World, ■ Travel

ROOM FOR ALL

What


do foreigners think about Poland

and

how do they feel about living in

Poland?

More info on Polandia online.

To watch one of the answers given by foreigners living in Poland click the link below:

http://wp.tv/mc707054

Filed under: ■ EU, ■ Movies, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Poland, ■ Polandia, ■ Races, ■ The World

STRAIGHT FROM INDIA

Introducing the ancient,

Christmas-like Hindu celebration called

DIWALI: 5-8 November 2010

Diwali

The Hindu festival of light, Diwali, marks the homecoming of the god Lord Ram after vanquishing the demon king Ravana and symbolizes taking people from darkness to light and the victory of good over evil.
 

The Hymn of Goddess Lakshmi - Lakshmi Aarti

The Hymn of Goddess Lakshmi - Lakshmi Aarti (click here to download & listen to it)

 

Whether or not this is your first introduction to Diwali, you will probably enjoy watching the video below, and reading more on the topic at the links I selected for you below.

10 Reasons to Celebrate Diwali,

which lists as the 10th reason:

10. The Pope’s Diwali Speech: In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light.

Global Diwali. Celebrations Around the World,

Diwali is also celebrated outside of India mainly in Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, Australia and the US among the Hindus across the world.

Ramdas  Lamb’s article: Diwali: A Day Of Light and Liberation

Diwali […] brings together a variety of disparate religious and cultural traditions and beliefs, as well as historical events. Commonly referred to in English as the “Festival of Lights,” it is not only celebrated all over India, but it has been carried to all the lands where Indians have migrated as well.

Because of the close association of the day with Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, she is typically integrated into all the Hindu Diwali festivities. Nevertheless, among the many reasons Hindus give for the day’s significance, one of the most popular comes from the Ramayana, arguably the most read Hindu scripture in all of north India today. It relates the earthly life of the divine as Lord Rama.

In the story, just as Rama is about to be crowned king, his father is tricked into exiling him to the forest for 14 years. He is accompanied there by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Near the end of the exile, the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, kidnaps Sita and imprisons her on his island. Rama, his brother, and his army of monkeys and bears build a bridge and cross over to Lanka, where a 10-day war is waged. On the 10th day of the combat, Rama kills the demon and cuts off his 10 heads. This battle is remembered in the nine day period of fasting known as Navaratri, followed by a celebration on the 10th day known as Dussehra (also “Dasara”). The first day of Navaratri is on the new moon of the month of Ashwin. Diwali is celebrated the following new moon to commemorate the return of Rama and Sita to their kingdom in Ayodhya after the defeat of the demon. Hindu householders typically prepare for the day by thoroughly cleaning their homes. New bedding may be bought and new clothing worn, while rows of lighted oil lamps or candles decorate homes, rooftops or courtyards to welcome back Rama and Sita. In the case of the latter, she is welcomed both as Rama’s wife but also as a form of Lakshmi. Boxes of sweets are given to family, friends and neighbors.

Ascetics of the Ramananda Sampraday, the largest order of Hindu monks and devotees of Lord Rama, see it more as a time of prayer and reflection, and many begin their commemoration from the first day of Navaratri. Some will undertake a fast or food restriction for the entire month (from Navaratri to Diwali). Others will begin a fast on Rama Ekadashi, which occurs four days prior to Diwali. It is a day on which many Hindu householders fast as well. On the day preceding Diwali, Ramanandis commemorate the birth of Hanuman, the divine in the form of a monkey who represents selfless devotion, with prayers and chants. Again, many will fast in his honor. Like with householders, monks will clean their temples or abodes in preparation for Diwali, and they spend the day itself chanting prayers and singing religious songs.

Anju Bhargava’s article : Out of Many, One: Diwali Illuminates Unity

The very foundation of Indian civilization is based on the pluralistic acceptance embodied in the ancient Vedic scriptures; the oft used perennial Vedic saying: “Ekam Sat Vipra, Bahudha Vadanti,” meaning, “The Truth is One. The Realized Ones describe the One Truth in several ways.” Acceptance of this edict gives citizens space to express their differences while finding a common ground. And, closer to home, Diwali shares a special connection with American values as it exemplifies the ideals of “E Pluribus Unum,” or, “out of many, one.”

The strength of the Dharmic culture is the multitude of ways in which the Puranic (ancient traditional) stories and epics are brought to life through colorful festivals and selfless service (seva). These stories and epics bring to surface the deep philosophical truths of the ancient Hindu scriptures, known as the Vedas. The Festivals often express the common Vedic tenets of Hinduism, and of other Dharmic cultures, making them accessible to people from all walks of life.

Festivals form a lifeline that binds the Hindu and Dharmic cultures to family, the community and to the country where they reside. Festivals connect and bring people together in camaraderie and service. Hindu festivals also reflect and sustain the underlying pluralistic values for diverse people to co-exist harmoniously.

Hinduism is the contemporary word used for the monotheistic “Sanatana Dharma” or Eternal Order. The joy and peace in human life is based on observance of this eternal order. In the Hindu approach, an integration of spirit, mind and body is emphasized for pursuit of happiness (ananda). Festivals play a very important role in Hinduism as they manifest this integration.

A festival is a joyful synthesis and expression of spirituality, religion, philosophy, culture, service and social values. The spiritual aspect is founded on the human instincts of joy and happiness. The philosophical aspect is grounded in the struggle between the forces of good and evil with the ultimate triumph of the former. This struggle and ensuing victory of good is to be celebrated and used as a reminder to us, and future generations, that selfless service and giving are an interwoven part of the traditions.

“Service which is given without consideration of anything in return, at the right place and time to one that is qualified, with the feeling that it is one’s duty, is regarded as the nature of goodness.” (Bhagavad Gita 17.20)

In bringing together people of all Indic traditions — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and others — the celebrations of the different aspect of Diwali create an interlocked mosaic.

For Hindus themselves, the festivities of Diwali are celebrated by many stories. Universally the celebration is the triumph of Good (Lord Rama or Lord Krishna) over Evil (Ravana, Narakasura, etc.).

You are welcome to share more links and ideas on this topic.

If you are wondering where in India I am writing to you from, it is a brand new town in southern India, called Swarnabhoomi, where I am  planting the seeds of music education and world-opening vision for the future with a team of extraordinary people from all over the world, at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, India’s first professional college of contemporary music! You can take a virtual walk in the city here.

On this gratitude note, I wish you a great Diwali time, wherever you are!

Filed under: ■ Celebrations, ■ India, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ World Myths & Mythologies, ►12.OFF THE MAP▼

September 11

September 11 (2002),

was and still is available at the main public library here, in Krakow. Free of charge – as it is specified on its cover. That is because this movie tries to raise awareness more than anything else, which it manages to do, with graceful simplicity. I selected some of these stories to show to my students last year. Discussions followed, and, inevitably, my students received a  writing assignment based on it, too. I will be posting fragments from these papers soon.

Before I do, let me re-introduce myself: “My name is Alina, and I am not a terrorist.” This year, the movie that cuts into the same September-11 chunk of reality is “My Name is Khan,” which I warmly recommend. If you get a chance to see it, drop a few lines with your impressions on it. What else? Hm… Remember “The Visitor“?


Filed under: 9►EXTRA, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Sept. 11

EU in 60 days

Forget the ponies and peonies, forget the yodelling and singing,

it’s time for…

doodles, Lari’s doodles!!!

On June  30th, at 9.14 pm, my friend Lari Numminen, who some of my students may remember from the meeting I organised with him during a class in (as long ago as) October 2006, was announcing to the world the following (quoted from Facebook):

Greetings world,

I have two pet projects for my travels over the next two months:

1.) Try to insult every nation in Europe through my irreverent and xenophobic twitter at http://twitter.com/EUin60days

and

2.) Secretly take pictures of interesting looking people all across the continent. First victims here: http://picasaweb.google.com/lari.numminen/PeopleInEurope?feat=directlink

The Portuguese - by Lari NumminenMy friend’s project brings to mind Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and other similar, modern-day Discoveryland adventures. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to visit each and every one of the EU’s 27 countries in two months. You’re likely to get juuust a little tired by the middle of your trip and change your status to “What is the cure for a month of overwalking? Buying a segway? Unicycle? New spacehopper maybe?” – like Lari did.

Most of us store memories visually through photos or vids one click away, through anything, in other words, that takes as little time as possible. Apart from taking photos like a true professional, my Finnish friend likes to doodle. The Swedes - by Lari NumminenI’m not sure how fast he is at this. I imagine it’s the original idea that sets the hand in motion. And then, by the end of the 60 days, there they are: 27 doodles starting with The Portuguese and ending with The Swedes.

Lari’s personal favourite is The Germans. Mine, The English.

What’s your favourite?

Filed under: ■ Comics & Doodles, ■ EU, ■ Meet my friends, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes

A big WELCOME to all ELB visitors, from Europe and elsewhere!

Bloguri, Bloggeri si Cititori

Enter your email address

ELBlog Stats ■ THANK YOU for your interest & inspiration!

  • 43,001 visits

Browse by Category

0►TRUST 1►LISTEN▼ 1►TO DO 2►READ 3►SPEAK▼ 3►STYLE 4►LIFE 4►WRITE 5►LEARN MORE FROM: 5►On-line Assignments 6►THEME CHEST 6▼ Questionnaires 7► DIY 7►NET WORKS 8►BUSINESS 9►EXTRA TOPICS▼ ■ About Organisational Cultures ■ African-American History ■ Arts/ Music/ Dance ■ BBC ■ Biology ■ BM Brain Matters ■ Books ■ Brain Matters ■ Brain Plasticity ■ Brain Rules ■ Campuses ■ Celebrations ■ Charity ■ Christmas ■ CNN ■ CNN Money ■ Colour Vocabulary ■ Comics & Doodles ■ Communicate ■ Compassion ■ Conference Speakers ■ Creativity ■ Dream Jobs ■ Empathy ■ EU ■ EurActiv ■ Facebook ■ Food & Travel ■ Forbes ■ Fortune ■ Gabriel Garcia Marquez ■ Geeks ■ Generations ■ Giving ■ GLOBAL ■ Global Issues ■ Good Old Student Life ■ GOOP ■ Graduation ■ Ha, ha, ha! ■ Happiness ■ Harvard Business Review ■ Harvard Law School ■ How to Learn Languages ■ How to Live ■ How to Tell a Story ■ India ■ Inspiration ■ Intelligent Life ■ Kids ■ Leadership ■ Luxury ■ Lyrics ■ Meet my friends ■ Movies ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes ■ News ■ Open Letter ■ Perfumes ■ Photos that Speak ■ Physics ■ Podcasts ■ Poland ■ Polandia ■ Punctuation Marks ■ Races ■ Radio Shows ■ Relation ships ■ Romania ■ Running ■ School ■ Science & Technology ■ Self Development Links ■ Senses ■ Sept. 11 ■ Site Scout ■ Spring Cleaning ■ Stanford University ■ Talks & Conferences ■ Technology & Our Generation ■ TED ■ The Economist ■ The Next Web ■ The Path of Metaphor ■ The Teacher ■ The World ■ They say... & what they mean is... ■ They write... & what they mean is... ■ Thinking Space ■ TIME ■ Tongue Twisters ■ Travel ■ TV & Radio ■ Voice Matters ■ W. E. B. Du Bois ■ Week of Mourning 2010 ■ Writing Samples ■ YouTube ►10.IN PRINT▼ ►11.ON LINE▼ ►12.OFF THE MAP▼ ►13.WHAT DO THEY MEAN?▼ ►META PHORS▼

Twitter Updates

%d bloggers like this: