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Tuesday
Aug112009

July by Holly Rud

London for the first week with Matt was a great way to ease into being on my own. Homesickness was never a problem since I had someone traveling with me initially and so when I got to Dublin, I was able to get right to work! At first things were slow, but I noticed how much easier it was to find more information when I used Google Ireland. More relevant articles and websites came up. I found some great research articles that will be very helpful in my paper and I also was able to get into contact with the person that did the research. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to meet with me but he said he would be willing to help me in any other way possible!


When I haven’t been researching, I’ve been trying to see as much of Ireland as I can. Dublin is a great city and everyone is very friendly! The friends I have made while being here will last a lifetime. I feel like I’ve really become immersed in the culture and have gotten to experience Ireland in a way that can only happen when one stops being a tourist and really starts to live in the country. The roommates in my apartment are very friendly and from many diverse places. There is Naga from India, Marc from Holland and Marcus from Sweden. And then Morgen, who I’ve really gotten to be great friends with! She’s from Seattle. We have done a lot of traveling together and have had some great experiences. Just recently, we went up to Belfast and met with an acquaintance that a mutual friend put me in contact with. It was great experiencing Belfast with someone that lives there. We saw the Giant’s Causeway and did a Black Taxi tour of the IRA and UDA areas.


With July coming to an end, researching is going well. It does get a bit frustrating at times with people on their long holidays but I’m confident that August will be a productive month!

Thursday
Aug062009

Tarragona by Megan Benrud

I met two young men from the UK at the hostel I was staying at in Barcelona [great hostel by the way—Centric Point Barcelona; they take people of all ages!] and they asked if they could tag along with me to a smaller city right outside of Barcelona, Tarragona. We took the train there and on our way to the train I lost the guys and thought to myself, “what an adventure this could be if this sort of thing keeps happening!” But, we found each other and missed the train for Tarragona. Luckily, there was another an hour later!


On the train it was fairly packed with people, but luckily we got spots for the hour and half ride. The train ran over something and missed a stop but we eventually arrived at our destination. There we used public transportation to get to our hostel which was really a hotel—with air conditioning and a TV…woo! We took it easy that day and went to the beach, knowing that I’d have to start doing more interviews the coming days.


The next day I headed to the port [Tarragona is on the Mediterranean and is actually one of the busiest ports in the region] to see if I could speak with someone about trade, but was unable to. I was told to come back early on Monday as they would be then be there.

 

So, I decided to wander about and purchase the things I needed to [jump drive, flip flops]. Of course, I love shopping and ended up in another store that has goods from Africa—from masks to earrings. I started up a conversation with the owner and I actually ended up coming back and interviewing him. It was quite the interview as much of the time we spoke of politics!


There it was again—the migrant worker coming to Spain. I decided after that interview that would be the new lens through which this project would be brought to light. I always tell myself coincidence can’t be more than three times… it’s something else telling you something.


Thursday
Aug062009

Barcelona by Megan Benrud

Wow, I’m in Spain, alone—holy crap! I wasn’t always alone, you know, I had a friend with who met me in Brussels—where some members of our EU group started things meeting with different parts of the European Union—and he also spent a week with me in Barcelona; getting acquainted with the city. Even though I’d already been sick for about a week, I’ve enjoyed my time thus far. Now, he’s gone and it’s time to really hit the research. However, I find it more and more difficult each minute knowing that there is some form of Gaudi architecture that I have yet to see, or a spot on the beach calling my name. But I can do it. I am ready to go, and my computer breaks… well what are you going to do? I fixed it at a shop where there were two migrant owners [now residents of Spain] from Cuba. It was at this point I began to reconsider my topic on my project.

 

I had a couple of interviews later that week and they lasted for over an hour. However, they were well worth it. I noticed that those interviews were with people whose origins where not of Spain, similar to the Cuban business owners. I worked on other contacts but for some reason not many of the people I’ve attempted to reach like to use/communicate through e-mail.

 

All in all so far, things have been great. I’ve enjoyed the city and have been able to become more acquainted with the sights, culture and people. I could even see myself moving here for sometime—I never thought I’d have such life changing thoughts out of this research project!

Thursday
Aug062009

Winding Down by Christine Parcells

Interviews are over (save one in Germany at the very end) and now it’s time to get all the interviews typed up. I have so much information; it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ve been visiting cafes around Prague, spending a few hours here and there throughout the days typing and making notes. Sometimes it amazes me the way the world is connected now. It’s not difficult to find a café with WiFi and most of the hostels are fully equipped with the service also. Well, it may not always be free, but at least it’s there. I’m so thankful to have a small notebook; I can’t imagine lugging around my normal 15in laptop.

It is such a small world and one can find Minnesota connections anywhere it seems. I have met a Charles University graduate student who will be coming to UMN in the fall to do research of her own. Not unlike that of SPAN, she is designing her own project to help write her thesis, which will be on Multicultural education. It was really interesting to hear her Czech perspectives, as I have been learning some about multicultural education in my classes. I also met a UMN student on the train—maybe she’ll even read this at some point since she knows I’m in SPAN and think, hey that’s me! I had been sitting in another compartment on the way back from Berlin and decided to move to one that had no reserved seats. I asked her where she was from and when she said Minnesota I could hardly believe it. It makes you wonder how often something like this could happen and you never know it’s right next to you.

As my trip winds down, the 8 weeks of research over, I have some time to take a break and clear my head. A highlight of my trip happened this week—I went to an outdoor concert in a “beach” bar complex (complete with sand and volley ball court) where I saw a modern folk Czech band and Suzanne Vega play. Shortly into the concert, my friend points out that Václav Havel (the first Czech president) is walking by. It was great night by the river and hard to believe I was in the middle of a major city.

Thursday
Aug062009

The European Experience by Christine Parcells

During this trip I find myself most interested in the European mindset and the eclectic (or not) nature of the cities’ buildings and layouts. When I’m not in interviews, or going over materials and notes, I’ve been wandering around, watching people—tourists and locals alike—and thinking about what it means to be European. I’ve gathered quite a bit more information about people’s perceptions of Americans and am not entirely surprised at the negativity associated with some of the stereotypes. Our previous presidential administration certainly had something to do with this, but it is distressing to think about how few Americans hold passports or can speak another language. I think that studying abroad and increasing international student populations will only continue to be more important to reach the younger generations in schools to promote international interests.

 

My interviews in Germany ended on a great note. Well, I still have one more at the very end of my trip. I spoke with a staff member from a Fachhoschule in Cologne—which translates to a university of applied sciences and focuses more on practical applications of study as opposed to theoretical. There aren’t quite as many differences as there used to be between the two types of institutions. I also took a day trip to Dortmund University, where my host took me to lunch, had another colleague speak with me and took me to a presentation on South Africa by returned students. Granted I couldn’t understand a lot of it since it was in German, I could still get a general idea of what was being said and Laura (my host) filled me in later. The German higher education system is fascinating and I hope I can relate this in my paper in the context of its international education systems. I’m looking forward to looking into Czech higher education next.