On September 3rd I arrived at the city of Barcelona with the program of Brethren Colleges Abroad and twenty one students from small Liberal Arts colleges from across the United States. Then, most of us felt unprepared for our study abroad experience, and some, including myself, were nervous about the idea of studying in Catalonia’s most prestigious university. As October comes to an end, I am now finally able to say that I feel like a real student at the University of Barcelona. I am comfortable attending classes, talking to my professors, commuting from one department to another and even spending time outside of the classroom with other university students. Yet attending a university in a foreign country can be challenging and requires fast adjusting to the oddities and complexities of university life outside of the US. In this blog post I would like to share with you what I have learned about Spanish higher education and offer you an inside view into the intricacies of attending the University of Barcelona.
This past Wednesday was “Service day” for Bethel’s campus. There were lots of opportunities and ways to get involved including cleaning up Sand Creek Trail, landscaping, painting and deep cleaning the Agape House. Some people also went to Et Cetera shop to help price and put out clothing, others went to an Elementary school and cleaned and helped teachers with odd jobs and some even got to interact with the children as well. The tennis team also had a “service” going on where those that were available could help clean out the tennis shed and tie down the tennis windscreens.
Unfortunately I was not able to participate in service day this year but Maria Day my Spanish professor reminded our Spanish class of something very important. One of her philosophical thoughts. That was that not only should we do service one day for service day, but that we should serve every day whether it be in a big or small way. She said that even something as simple as a smile or a hello can brighten someone’s day and can be a form of service.
I think that is a good reminder for me and for us all of the kind of mind set that we should have about service and about one of the goals for our lives, not only giving back to our community on “Service day” or through volunteer work if you participate in that as well, but giving back to the people who are in your life, to those who are in your life permanently or those who just pass through, to those who are important to you and those who you might not know as well, even a simple smile or caring about how they are doing can be just what someone needs to get through the day.
It’s hard to believe that I have been living here in Greece for almost six weeks and that I’m almost done with my third week of classes. Time moves strangely here, fast and slow at the same time. I have a feeling it’ll be time to say goodbye before I even know it.
One thing that is easy to countdown here are my classes. Unlike the U.S., my classes only meet once a week for three hours (with the exception of my Greek language class which meets twice a week for 90 minutes). Additionally, the university I’m attending is on a quarter system which means our term is only 10 weeks long, instead of the typical 15. Ten class periods. That’s all you get before the quarter is done and the last class session is when you take your final. Time flies in the Greek higher education system.
It’s definitely taking some time to get used to, but it has its advantages. Because we’re not restrained to one hour, we can do a significant amount of lecturing and discussion in the same class period. My school also has an online intranet user, so that we can have discussions on discussion boards online outside of class. Even though we don’t see each other multiple times a week, which I’ve found can definitely affect the relationship I have with my fellow students and professor, there seems to be a certain sense of focus in class that I find can be lacking in classes back home sometimes.
With such a small campus one might expect that on-campus employment would be rare, but many students find time to pick up hours for on-campus jobs. New students receive information about the long list of on-campus jobs during the summer or at the beginning of the year, and then the mad rush to claim the top-choice jobs begins. Some people can attain jobs like tutoring or grading through recommendations from professors. Science classes often hire lab aides as well. Read More
It is difficult to believe that we are over halfway through October already! The school year has continued to fly by. Fall Fest was only a week ago and I finished up all my midterm exams this week. Even amidst the neverending homework assignments and due dates one of the highlights of my week is still the same as every year — going to see my little sister for Bigs in Schools. Read More
This last weekend marked another glorious Fall Festival. Despite the weather, many alumni, local newtonians, and visitors from in and around this great state of Kansas joined in the awesomeness. Lot’s of new years cookies, verinike, and kettle corn to fill those hungry tummies of ours. I personally helped feed a countless number of people with verinike by working the both at Fall Fest as well as the Taste of Newton.
Campus let out a collective sigh of relief on Monday. This past weekend was the annual Bethel College Fall Festival, which serves as a homecoming/fundraiser/fun time for everyone. Alumni run rampant on campus while their children are prepped to be the next generation of Threshers. It’s one of the biggest weekends for prospective to visit, with 40+ on campus on Friday and more throughout this week.
Fall Fest is scheduled around the first home football game in October, or sometimes the last one in September if the schedule is strange. It starts on the Thursday of that week with the Taste of Newton, an event in downtown Newton that brings blocks of food booths together. That’s always one of my favorite parts because it brings together the Bethel community and the Newton community. There’s all sorts of concerts and performances of local groups from jazz bands to the Azteca dancers.
Friday is kind of an awkward in-between day with the STEM symposium in the afternoon and classes cancelled in the afternoon. The theatre department’s Fall Fest production also starts on Friday evening.
Saturday is the big day of festivities on campus with a whole list of events and booths on campus. Student groups and a few outside organizations use Fall Fest as a major fundraiser. It’s a lot of food like the Taste of Newton. The festivities conclude on Sunday with a campus worship service at Bethel College Mennonite Church and the final production of the play or musical.
It’s quite a stressful weekend for students involved in those activities, but the rewards are great. Besides the fundraising from having so many people on campus it’s also a time to reconnect with recent alumni and family. And don’t forget the great food!
Last week campus was busy with volunteers from the community rushing around to prepare for the 42nd annual Fall Festival. Spots were staked, tents were assembled, and the anticipation for the weekend was all around. Bethel College was anxious to celebrate it’s 125th anniversary.
The event kicked off with the Taste of Newton on Thursday night, which I was able to attend for the first time this year. The past two years I had either basketball practice or to help work the volleyball games. It was a new experience for me, main street was full of people and the smells of delicious food filled the air.
Friday was busy as well, campus visit day brought with it a large amount of perspective students and athletic recruits. Afternoon classes were cancelled to allow students to attend the STEM Symposium, but also served as a time to catch up on homework before the busy weekend. I used this time to take a nap (after homework of course).
On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to find that it was raining, so I slipped on my polka dot rain boots and grabbed my umbrella before heading to the booths I was scheduled to work. As a radio show host for KBCU-FM 88.1, I volunteered to work the radio booth from 9-10, due to the rain however, we did not have one. I trudged back to my room knowing my family would soon be here to help work the Russian pancake booth for Women’s Basketball.
Luckily the rain disappeared and there was only a light sprinkle here and there. I worked the Russian pancake booth with my family and members of the team, then headed to the Collegian booth to sell newspaper subscriptions. When I was done I finally got to enjoy lunch and walk around.
Overall, I think the weekend was very successful. I got to see my family, talk with community members, and the weather did not put a damper on this year’s Fall Fest. I can officially say I’ve attended three Fall Festivals at Bethel and look forward to next year’s!
BIFL (bif-uhl) stands for Basic Issues of Faith and Life. BIFL is a 400 level Bible course that all seniors are required to take sometime during their final year at Bethel. In a sense, I guess you could say that it is the senior exit course. This class meets twice a week for 2 hours each day to discuss books and topics, and then figure out how we can apply them to our lives today. Professors take turns teaching the course each semester.
There are two main things that BIFL is known for…1) the BIFL Oral Exam and 2) The Credo Paper. Yesterday was my oral exam. I was really nervous going into it, primarily because of the fact that I didn’t know what to expect. All of the people who have graduated in past years that I talked to told me that it really wasn’t bad, but hearing that didn’t exactly ease my nerves.
Here’s a brief rundown of how BIFL Orals work: Each year, professors meet together and pick a book of the Bible to cover and one additional book that all seniors will read. (We read many other books as well, but those selections are up to the individual professors who are teaching the course that semester.) The Orals are designed to be like a conversation between two students and two faculty members. They ask us questions about the book of the Bible, which in this case was Hosea, and the book that we read, “Fidelity” by Wendell Berry. A lot of the questions that the faculty members ask are related to themes in the books or how we can apply these books to our lives today. The Oral exam is a pass/fail deal, and you must pass in order to graduate from Bethel College.
Yes, I know. This all sounds really intense. That’s exactly what I thought too. However, now that I look back on my experience yesterday, it wasn’t too bad. Sure, there were questions that were tough and that I didn’t exactly know how to answer, but that’s the goal. The faculty want us to be critical thinkers and learn how to communicate our thoughts effectively. That’s part of the Bethel goal.
Walking outside yesterday I saw the beautiful colors of fall beginning to decorate our campus. There is this gorgeous tree outside the mods that is shedding gorgeous bright yellow leaves as we speak.Yes, it is finally fall and I could not be more excited. Along with the wonderful weather and colors that fall brings it also brings many exciting and fun festivities to the Bethel campus as well. The first one is fall break. Fall break was much needed for me, although I did not do anything particularly exciting or eventful, just being able to relax at home was just what I needed to get me rejuvenated to finish out the rest of the semester. The other exciting festivity was Taste of Newton and Fall Fest weekend. Taste of Newton was tasty (haha) as always, that included delicious verenika and apple dumplings. Fall Fest was especially busy for me this year because I am not a part of SAA and Student Senate (I wasn’t last year) and so along with those new titles came more responsibilities with helping with booths on Saturday. Although the day started off not looking promising with the early morning rain and the clouds looming over, it turned out to be a wonderful day for the event. After helping with the booths I was still able to walk around and enjoy food, samples, the photo booth and other entertainment.
In the evening on Saturday then was the football game. Although it was sad to see them lose, it was fun to be in the stands with the students watching together. It was also a great honor at half time for the women’s tennis team to be recognized on the field for making it to Nationals for the fourth year in a row this past season. Other teams and individuals were also recognized: the men’s golf team for their award of the team’s overall GPA, as well as individuals from tennis, golf and track for their individual achievements.
This year has seem to have flown by so fast (which is partially why I am behind on my blogging, yikes), and I know it will continue to keep picking up speed, but I am so thankful to experience the fun and beauty of the fall along the way.