What I Told the Princeton Review about Haverford

Some use of hyperbole in the below; I wrote it in 30 seconds:

I have a part time job at a software development company in downtown Philly, so I get to see the city a lot. I also really love Philadelphia for being what it is. I feel like I’m an outlier in all those respects though (we have lots of New Yorkers who complain too much).

On campus, I’ve been active on the student newspaper, The Bi-College News (shared with Bryn Mawr) since freshman year. Some years it’s great, others (like now) we are understaffed and struggle for content. Fun anyway though. I’m also involved in FIG, the student tech group that runs a bunch of websites and servers and builds public video game projects. I feel like the Haverford “tradition of student self-governance” is at play not just in Students and Honor Councils, but in every extracurricular. The administration is great at what they do, but hardly gives ANY in-kind support to clubs or activities. I do not think this is a downside. At Haverford, students have to envision, drive, and run everything themselves, including “essential services” that other school administrations take care of, like faculty/administrator search committees, the community service programs, the tech group, the newspaper, a cappella/music groups, the student run cafe, etc. It is easy to be active, you get sucked into it, and it takes up a lot of your life having to run it all (with hard classes and homework). But you have SO much freedom, you are actually *able* to run things by yourself versus what happens at other schools.

The education I have gotten outside of the classroom from being so active in campus life and making the school run I think has really prepared me for operating well with responsibilities in the business/nonprofit career world. We may be a liberal arts college, but one does not come out of 4 years of a Haverford Education with a “Do you want fries with that?” experience. We’re ready to go.

NPR: A Philosophy of Journalism that is dying?

I haven’t posted in a long time. We’re just going to accept this as a fact and move on.

I just read this article: http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/10/20/lisa_simeone_soundprint_freelancer_fired_after_npr_began_investi.html

I love NPR. I’m sure many listeners will be angry at this decision, and it might balloon into a similar (though no doubt smaller) controversy as Juan Williams’ firing last year. But even as a liberal, I agree and support NPRs actions here. (Note: I actually *disagree* with how and why Juan Williams’ was fired, which I might expound upon at a later date.)

NPR is one of the last news organizations I see that still subscribes to the “pure objectivity” Walter Cronkite-esque form of journalism. (Yes, you conservatives, NPR is one of the most objective and holistic media outlets we have in this country.) Them firing this freelancer for publicly politically participating is in line with that. NPR is saying, “Journalists should be no more than observers, never participants.” This objective “Cronkite way,” I feel, is dying. Huffington Post, Fox News, MSNBC, Rush Linbaugh – they are all substantially biased. They do, on the whole, seem to make those biases clear and are at least open about it, which is good for something. But I am very sad for the day, which I think is fast approaching, when we will no longer be able to get holistic, minimally-biased reporting on an issue in America. I think journalism can work well and keep a point of view, but I just wish that wasn’t our only option.

Barcelona Day 5: ¿Quieres tomar algo?

Today, Friday January 14th, marked the end of orientation and the start of my first “real” and only class at the IES Center, Advanced Intensive Spanish 350. It would be 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, but I decided to take this intensive section for several reasons: first, it permitted me to have a course load of only four actual courses (17 “credits” by some other normal standard that Haverford doesn’t use) which was good because I don’t like keeping track of more assignments than I have to; second, I figured if Haverford was worried about the “academic quality” of IES and/or its students, an Intensive language would help me in a credit battle in the future; three, I actually wanted to learn Spanish; and four, Barcelona has a reputation for being a “party” city, and I am not that much of a partier. Hopefully only the liberal arts nerds would take the Intensive course, and I wanted to be sure I met the nerds. I had already met everyone in my class – since the orientation sessions were with your language class – and I was so far pleased with my decision.

At the positively luxurious hour of 10:00ish, I headed out to catch the Ferrocarriles to the IES Center and found our room on the 2nd (really 3rd – tricky!) floor. Our professor, Laura Vasquez, introduced herself and the fact that our class would be all-Spanish from the first second. I was starting to understand that this would be a theme with all our class’s dealings with IES. Judging by the eye-rolls and groans from the rest of the room, my classmates shared the same sentiment of dreaded challenge I had. I took this to mean that I was placed at just the right level.
Continue reading →

Barcelona Day 4: Fitting In

By now, Thursday January 13 (I’m aware I’m woefully behind on posts), I felt I was starting to get the hang of things. I had my second “City and Urban World” class at the Pompeu this morning, and I woke up at 7am with the same ease as before – or insomnia if you look at the other side of the coin, my circadian rhythms only slightly recovered from jet lag by now. Shower, dressed (with belt, because they’re classy here), and my morning helping of the-great-taste-never-gets-old Boulé Extra Fresa jelly.

Today, though, merited one experiment. The UPF campus is only 5 miles away, but to get there requires almost an hour and at least two metro lines. Looking at the map, there are any number of plausibly-direct routes to mix and match and possibly get there quicker. The route Alberto had led me along last Tuesday was the simplest – only two lines, one transfer point – but it took about 45 minutes and was nowhere near direct. This morning I decided to try what looked like a more direct route on the map, with two transfers and three lines. Green from Maria Cristina, transfer to Red at Plaza Espanya, transfer again to Yellow at Urquinaona, and exit right by the UPF campus at Vila Olimpica.

Not helpful. Continue reading →

Barça Day 3: Settling In a New World

Spoiler: If you’ve been getting tired of my long-windedness so far, just jump to the end of this post for a really awesome intro video made by the students at UPF!

Today, Wednesday January 12, I was extremely pleased to not be that rushed in the morning. The first item on my agenda was my first IES Abroad orientation class at 12:25 in the afternoon, so I finally had time to sleep in this morning and begin recuperating from jet lag. Since I wasn’t rushing anywhere, it also gave me more time to appreciate all the little things about our apartment home for the next four months.

It’s a cosy fit, but our abode is very nicely laid out and comfortable. We’re on the top floor #4 of the building, what Barcelonans call the “atic.” There’s also a “superatic” which is the penthouse, and the ground floor is actually zero. Elevator buttons are really confusing in this city. The IES center building elevators themselves have a button for 0, the ground lobby, E, the “solarium” which is basically a stair landing, and finally the regular numbers. Floor “1″ is really the 3rd off the ground. Takes some getting used to.

Back to our apartment though: You open our door with an old fashioned Harry Potter-esque key and lock, and have an entryway of sorts (was still replete with Nativity scene and decorated christmas tree when I first arrived), and immediately on the right is a short hallway with a coat closet, and my room is at the end of that. I have a bookshelf, desk, decent office chair, wardrobe, more dresser drawers than I have belongings, mirror, nightstand, several lamps, a ceiling fan, and firm but comfy bed. My window can open fully to the atrium – makes a bit of an echo chamber, but the roof is ventilated so I always have fresh air and can tell what time of day it is or if the sun’s out by how much light is coming through. No view aside from other inside apartment windows and the atrium though. No matter, as I actually really like the interior decoration of my room: maps! Two huge, detailed Michelin maps of Europe and España are on opposite walls, and they provide me endless minutes of wonderment. One wall also has a thumbtack-board type material, and below the window is a cool angular/circle drawing that one of Fernanda’s children did years ago. Also, I have a curved, dome-like ceiling, and parquet-pattern wood floors. Can you get any more European? Continue reading →

Barcelona Day 2: And Then God Created College Students, and a Campus for them to Live

After waking up naturally at the I-don’t-even-know-what-time-is-anymore hour of 6:45am CET the first morning that I had to contend with jet lag, I was surprised to find that my hearing-impaired alarm clock, which I need to circumvent my deep sleeping ability and which I had plugged in with a voltage converter when I went to bed, was about an hour behind. Within a few seconds, it hit me like a brick: 50 hertz electricity. We have 60 Hz in America, and the makers of this cheapo clock hadn’t made it electronic, so it would lose 2 minutes for every 10 that passed by. We will see how many days I get to class on time with just my cell phone alarm.

No matter though, I was up now, and there were showers to take, Spanish “Frosties” to eat (still complete with Tony the Tiger on the front of the box), and subways to catch. I left the flat with Alberto at 8 (who was nice enough to lead me along on this first day), and we walked down to the Maria Cristina stop on the Avenida Diagonal. At 8:10 in the morning, the train was – relative to other urban subway systems I’ve used – rather deserted. But after we took the 10 or so stops to Passeig de Gracia, the yellow line we transferred to was standing – nigh, pushing – room only.

And then I discovered: I may be in a foreign land, but God only ever created one species of college student. The second the doors opened at the Cituadella I Villa Olimpica stop, a flood of red Universitat Pompeu Fabra bright-red folders, iPods, outfits ranging from “posh” to “american” to “european hipster,” backpacks, and conversation in just about every language I could think of poured off the train and onto the escalators. Continue reading →

Barcelona Day 1: Or, How I Spent a Ton at Zurich Airport for Lunch

(the majority of this entry was written in my exhausted state on January 10 and 11. Why its so long. But the details and stream-of-consciousness style are fun to read sometimes, I think.)

Boy, am I tired. Like really, really flat-out, I’ve never been so completely exhausted in my life, tired. But, I am here – that gloriously independent city sandwiched between the Llobregat and the Besós, Montjüic and Tibidabo. I have made it to Barcelona.

It all started yesterday afternoon, when I was still running around in my PJs whittling down all the clothing choices and necessities I could possibly use for four months to pack and fit into the two, 23 kilogram suitcases Swissair was going to allow me. Somehow, I finished on time and our whole family dashed to Boston’s Logan airport that evening. I had already checked in online and taken a gamble on a bulkhead-aisle seat on Swiss’ A340, in the hopes that I would have more legroom, and at least no one would lean back on me. I dropped the bags off at checkin – one was 23.6, but the agent was nice to me – and shared a last drink with my sister, mom, and dad. My last 2 hours in America, I thought. What am I doing? On the plus side, that was also my last soft drink sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Continue reading →

The World Needs More Smart Computers

Last night, I went to the Bank of America ATM nearest campus to deposit a check. It’s not a full banking center, but rather a small, unstaffed indoor cutout on a streetcorner that’s ATM only. I push my card into the slot, only to find that the machine hasn’t actually responded, and my card is just sitting there in the slot, pushed ever so slightly past finger-pull-out-able distance. “Great,” I said, “I have to get a new card before Spain anyway because mine expires in March, but I didn’t really want to deal with all that and canceling this one right this instant.” I first start thinking of what numbers I should call to cancel the card and tell BofA that they need to give more money to their ATM maintenance guys. Continue reading →

Middle of the Road

I’m very comfortable with this result:

How Addicted to Facebook Are You?

Created by Oatmeal

Back to the Grind

I’m feeling “reluctant” this evening. Today has been lots of fun, but this evening marks the “end” of Haverford’s weeklong Fall semester break. I’m reluctant to start thinking about homework and classes and “my life” again, particularly because this break was more eventful and I spent it in more places than I do normally – Woodstock, home, Haverford.

I thought up many things I want to write about over the course of this week, but for now I’ll give the highlight reel:

1. I visited my grandpa Gus’s the first weekend, with my mom and half-Uncle from Virginia. It was somewhat of an unplanned visit, but I experienced a lot that I wasn’t expecting to, and because of that I’m even more appreciative of the time I was able to spend in Woodstock, New York than I normally am. Continue reading →