ERMAHGERD, CLERSERS

From my posts on here and Facebook, it looks like I’m just having fun here and not really doing any of the “studying” that “study abroad” involves. Be not fooled, I’m studying very hard…. haha, who am I kidding. I am (mostly) going to classes, but the Spanish school system is extremely disorganized (it made us run away to France) and seems to be doing everything to discourage us from doing any work at all… I have no idea how my classes are set up in terms of grades and assignments and never have I ever so desperately longed for a syllabus.

The school is about a 15 minute bike ride from my flat. The city has a program called Valenbisi where you can rent a bicycle from one of several stations and return it to another when you’re done using it. It’s a rather convenient system and useful for internationals, particularly, who don’t want to buy a bike for a short period of time. The one frustrating thing is when the stations are full/empty and you need to find another station. Luckily, they’re rather well-dispersed and it usually isn’t too difficult.

Classes wise, I have no class on Mondays and only one on Friday, so it somewhat feels like I have 4 day weekends. I also ended up with a schedule very similar to Maddie’s. Despite trying to take different classes, various mishaps with Maddie’s classes (nonexistence, at capacity, etc.) led us to taking 4 of 5 classes together. It is nice knowing someone in class, though, especially in terms of commiserating at the lack of direction provided to us. Here’s a quick summary of each class so far:

[Molecular Markers]
I found my first class without any problems and reached roughly 10 minutes early. There were a handful of people in the room, but everyone was speaking Spanish to each other and seemed very familiar with one another, leading me to quietly take a seat on the side of the classroom. Seeing as the class was taught in English, I had assumed that there would be more international students. It looked like there were a few, but they were all acquainted with other, local students. Since the first day, I have found other international students and made a couple of friends. When the teacher walked in and began lecture, however, I couldn’t help from grinning. We started off discussing SDS-PAGE and moved on to talk about analysis of genetic variation based on electrophoresis of enzymes, monomeric vs dimeric alleles, and other such genetic analysis. I haven’t had a biology class in quite some time, so I definitely geeked out during this lecture (and will most likely do the same during Immunology later). I’m glad my first class was in English, so it was 100% intelligible, despite interesting pronunciations of biological jargon. So far, this class has been kind of a safety blanket, given that it’s all in English and isn’t particularly difficult.

[Immunology]
This class is also supposed to be in English, but the professor has a very thick accent or, like this week, decides to lecture in Spanish instead. I learned that just because a class is in English, doesn’t mean Ii’m going to understand it… Our professor seems nice and knowledgable, but his English could definitely use some work. He ended up speaking a sort of Spanglish, heavily accented with random bursts in Spanish thrown in here and there. He stopped and asked how to correctly pronounce “lipopolysaccharide” and as the resident American in the class, I offered our pronunciation of it, which he attempted and finally just settled on saying “LPS” instead. I’m going to count this class as half-Spanish, so let’s say exactly half of my classes are in Spanish, while the rest are in English. Balance, whoo. Anyways, the lecture was interesting, though it seems like I’ve actually missed a bunch of important stuff like an online quiz and being put into groups for presentations and research papers (at least I think that’s what he said). It was interesting how he said that these were necessary to pass the course and then gave us the option of whether or not we wanted to make them up. I was like, yes…. I would like to pass…. Haha. We shall see. Generally, this makes sure that going to class is mostly a confusing experience and I desperately need to find an English text book to make sense of it.

[Termodinamica Quimica y Transferencia de Calor]
My first Spanish class was somewhat intimidating; it’s impossible to get a seat near the front because everyone takes classes together in the same room for the whole day, so all the decent seats are always taken. Additionally, Spanish students have a penchant for talking constantly during lecture, making the teacher’s mumblings even more difficult to hear. This has definitely been one of the more frustrating classes here. We were told we had a “practica” last week, worth 10% of our grade. To me, this translates to “practical,” or exam/quiz of some sort. Maddie and I stayed up studying and going over notes, only to go to class and realize it was simply an assignment due the next week. The class period consisted of the professor going over, step by step, how to do the assignment, which mostly involved going over how to make graphs in Excel. Maddie and I were extremely frustrated and decided that this is not a real country.

[Fluid Mechanics]
Probably my most difficult, but favorite class here, fluid mechanics is the most “American” style lecture I have. The teacher speaks great English and his explanations of concepts are thorough and make a lot of sense. It’s one of the classes I actually feel guilty skipping. I was speaking to some locals who mentioned how much they hate the professor; I’m guessing this is because he’s kind of strict, kicking people out for being late or talking, but I’m perfectly okay with that. Exams are supposed to be difficult too, but if lectures continue to be as well taught as they’ve been so far, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

[Aleman]
Aleman is German for Spanish. Yes. I’m taking a German class in Spanish… and it’s pretty confusing at times. The lecture is pretty long and by the end, I’m not sure if she’s speaking Spanish or German. My primary motivation for taking the class was that I needed a certain number of credits and this fit well into my schedule. Also, since coming here and meeting plenty of Germans and Austrians, learning to speak some German sounds awfully tempting. The class consists of mainly Spanish people, and Maddie, Alyssa, Jorge, and me. Our professor knows us as “the Americans” and then she randomly translates things into English “for our benefit.” However, contrary to her belief, we do understand basic Spanish. Generally, the class is like a middle school first-year Spanish class, meaning that it’s not too difficult.

– from Feb. 28

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