There were a lot of disturbing reports about Mexico showing on the news. But that didn’t stop me and a lot of other student to go there. On 9 March it was finally our spring break and we had booked a week for Cancun, Mexico! Before having our spring break I heard many of my professors telling us to not get in trouble or not to go to jail. Hearing my professor warn us in those exact words was surprising. Apparently students tend to behave really inappropriate during their spring break. I was getting anxious, my first (and only) spring break like the Americans; it should be an experience never to forget!
It is a really short flight from Florida to Mexico. Before you know you’ll be hitting the Mexican tarmac. Mexico is beautiful! Not only as a tourist attraction for spring breakers, but also for many tourists from all over the world. It has gorgeous beaches and amazing scenery, many ancient remaining Maya Ruins, which was amazing. At night all the young people (indeed) start behaving inappropriate. The free tequila shots and the all you can drink inclusive pushed lots of students to their limits. From my point of view, inappropriate means that everyone was feeling more at ease and had lots of fun. No one got dragged away by the police.
Unfortunately spring break only lasts for one week and if you’re having fun time always flies. Before I knew it my break was over and I am already sitting in class listening to my professors’ lecture again.
Today is Patty’s day, also known as Saint Patrick’s day. Traditionally an Irish Christian celebration, but nowadays it’s more like a justification to party hard. Here in Tallahassee it is being said to start drinking from 2 o’clock in the afternoon till late midnight. It’s also said to wear something green. I asked many students what the meaning is of St. Patrick’s day, and why the color green? None of them seemed to know exactly why. The number of students I asked isn’t a reflection of the whole group, but it does indicate something… Fill in the blanks please. My lack of knowledge brought me to internet, which is the best thing ever to get information. I found my answers on the net and all I need to do now is find my answer about how to celebrate Patty’s day like my American friends. This the internet can’t precisely tell me, should be yet another bit of exploring for me.
Tips when you go abroad
Why would you go abroad as an exchange student? That’s an interesting question, still even for me at this moment. You all must have heard the common pros and cons of going abroad. But nothing beats the real thing. The new environment, new observations, new friends, new school, new country, new culture, and much more, it is all really exciting. Let me try and give you an impression by summing up the “new” that has happened to me.
First of all I need to properly introduce myself: my name is Jolin Chiang and I am, as we say in Dutch, in my fifth year of law school. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I, like most other students at the Erasmus University, started my masters at the same university. This year, in the beginning of January I left to the U.S.A. to study for one semester at the Florida State University in Tallahassee.
I came a long way to get where I am right now. My first tip: if you have any plans for going abroad, make sure you have a nice seat in the airplane on your flight to your destination. It’s not amusing to sit all the way in the back, overhearing your outdated looking flight attendants gossiping about their best friend’s husband having an affair and discussing how to lose more weight. Or otherwise my second tip is to bring your IPod and make sure to turn the volume up. But enough about the trip, after all it’s going to be all worth it once you get to your destination!
Florida State University, like most of America’s universities, is huge! The campus is so large that they provide busses that go around campus. This is free for every student, like most facilities on campus are. The university buildings are beautiful and have an authentic architecture. Florida State University is located in Tallahassee, which is the capital of Florida. But don’t be misled by this, because Tallahassee is actually a small town. You can either like it or dislike it. To be honest, I disliked my first impression of Tallahassee. But I had already made a deal with myself that I would make this study exchange one of my best times ever so I wasn’t discouraged. And interestingly, after a few days in Tallahassee I began to like it! I began to realize that this town and this university have lots of opportunities and activities for students; during daylight and in the nightlife…
Law and certain acts…
What about FSU Law School? My plain answer is that it is just different. The American education system is not a carbon copy of the Dutch system. Most (law) students know the American legal system is a common law system, meaning in essence that it has developed a system of case law; authoritative decisions are laid down by judges in court. The Netherlands has a civil law system, being a coded system, were the laws are laid down in written form and it has been heavily influenced by Roman law. But this of course makes my educational experience more fascinating and more of a challenge. You can say, partially because of a different legal system, that the lectures are also different.
I am thinking about one of my professors that goes off topic a lot, meaning he will use class as a platform for expressing his own success. Most of the students, like me, don’t care about this. Those moments, students seem to be intensely focusing at their computer screens, also known as reading or even chatting on the internet, instead of listening to his glorifying career.
This leads me to the third difference: the FSU law school has great modern technical equipment, free wireless everywhere, (with an accent on ‘everywhere’), plug-ins for your laptop throughout the whole building and in class, positioned at every seat. Furthermore it also gives students an incentive to check email, chat, be on Facebook or surf the Internet during class.
One might say it is the school’s fault students are not paying attention. But of course eventually it is the responsibility and discipline of the student him/herself to pay attention and prepare for class.
While being in the States however, it is not just all about my intellectual enhancement. Non-academic experiences are important too! That is why I left Tallahassee for the weekend to go celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It was a crazy experience, what a contrast compared to the ‘angel’ students in school.
Nevertheless there were many people, like me, just hanging and observing the whole festival. Especially the night scene at Bourbonstreet was pretty interesting. I myself acted as a semi-participant of Mardi Gras. In a sense that, I admit, drank a few alcoholic drinks, screamed for beats, shouted to people to show me some goodies, but I myself did not flash anything. Never ever could I do such a thing, but some others did with such ease. In fact it seemed pointless to me, since everybody was handing/throwing out beats anyway. Nonetheless there was a good atmosphere and I enjoyed my first (probably only) Mardi Gras.
One day you can be sitting in class listening to your professors’ lectures and the next day you can be leaving for New Orleans to go and act all crazy. What an amazing act of opportunities.
Other columns Jolin
Positive Americans; always seeing the bright side
After something bad there will always be something good. I will give you a simple example, like the weather up here in Florida. A couple of days ago we had unusually heavy rain. Mix that with some hail falling from the sky and you have really bad weather. During this weather situation people stayed inside. But after rain comes sunshine and students are out there again in their bikinis and putting on sunscreen.
Can this also be said about the American economy? As Treasury Secretary Geithner is taking all the slack from the media and the political bench for his approach of fixing the country’s economic mess, the rescue plan still continues. Criticism was brushed away confidently. Despite all the critics, President Obama is not losing faith either and is not letting Geithner go. Those were the Presidents words, meaning he wants this treasury secretary to fulfill his job.
Like bad weather conditions, which aren’t fun, the decisions that are being made will be deeply unpopular, and sometimes hard to understand. Geithner’s job comes with a lot of heat by definition, nothing surprising about that. It is like knowing you will get wet once it starts raining and you’re outside.
It is said that the economy will not fall into an out-of-control inflation, because America has a strong, independent Federal Reserve System, with a clear authority from Congress. It was the same Fed and chairman Bernanke who said in an exclusive television interview that if the US banking system stabilizes, the recession should end later this year, with fairly strong growth returning in 2010! Wow, talking about optimism. As the world is following the steps of the American economy, the officials are trying to show the glass is half full and they believe in their policies. So far the rain hasn’t stopped, but maybe as a starter the rainbow will shine just to show that the sun will come out eventually.
It is a familiar problem in Florida. One might say it is a universal problem, which all countries seem to deal with. But unlike other countries it appears to me that down here in Florida this problem is handled with even more devotion and diligence. In Florida tow away cars will work 24/7 in order to prevent cars from parking at spots where they should not park. More precisely, ‘occasionally’ preventing, but more regularly acting by just towing away.
My discretion almost led to one tow away experience, since my rational told me that cars will not be towed in the middle of the night. But oh yes, they do! For car owners a pain in the ass, because you have to be cautious constantly where you park and how you park. For tow away cars it is big business; they are making big bugs by frequently towing away cars. It’s not that difficult when you consider that Florida has not as many legitimate parking spaces as there are cars driving around! Secondly, students sometimes like to take risks. Although taking risks can sometimes be courageous, in this matter it will not be rewarded. You will get towed, trust me on this one!
I can understand why all students have cars here. In Florida public transportation is not that safe and reliable, plus having your own car is much more convenient. It takes so much more time to travel from one place to another by public bus than by using a car. Triple the duration time if using public transport! But at least you won’t have to deal with finding a correct parking spot and the tow away danger zones. I, as an exchange student, have the pleasure of enjoying both. Sometimes riding along on public transportation, getting frustrated with idea when the bus will or will not come and sometimes carpool with my friends cars and having the same anxiety whether some spot will or will not be a towing away zone. Who said transportation was easy…
End of Semester and Graduation
For most students the end of the semester is a wonderful period, and most students are happy to graduate. I saw lots of excited graduating students as they were on their way to the Civic Center where the ceremony takes place, wearing their ceremonial ensembles. These consist of a rope and separate hood. Following behind them were their families and friends who all came to be part of the ceremony. The dark robes and scorching sun doesn’t make it easy to wear this ensemble graciously. But that doesn’t make students less grateful to finally wear it. The Civic Center is actually the place, where university basketball games are being played. This time the basketball court was filled with students anxious to receive their diploma. Amazingly, the court seemed even more filled than during a basketball game!
Unfortunately, the end of the term is not (yet) even near to me. Every college in Florida State University has ended its semester, except for the College of Law! Some of my friends, non-law students, were ecstatic to have finally ended this semester. I was happy for them, but I still had one more week ahead of me. Having graduation ceremonies to the south of me, and people celebrating the end of their terms to the west, north and east of me, doesn’t really help me through the rest of the week. I don’t mind studying for my exams but this makes it more depressing, and a little frustrating. But things are just the way they are. So I’ve decided to finish this last week of exams to have it over and done with and then to celebrate as I have never done before! Since Law School is pretty tough here, we deserve a good celebration at the end. I will be so happy, to have made it through Law School in Florida, and at the same time a little sad that the semester is over and therefore also my exchange. But first things first; I have to stop procrastinating and keep my mind focused on my finals or the end will not be the end as I am so looking forward to…
From East to West
The end has come to my exchange program at Florida State University College of Law. No more exams, no more classes, no more FSU college of law! Bye bye my sweet friends, my apartment and the grocery store I always went too and bye Tallahassee. Sounds kind of sad, but I am still very happy that I had this experience! As I mentioned in my first column, having all these “new things” in my life turns out to be very good! The goodbyes I made are not forever, I am sure Iwill see them again!
Another advantage it gave me was the opportunity to travel through the States. And I still have thirty days to leave the country. I had to see New York City, as it is one of the most exciting cities in America. It’s an amazing city and a very fast one. After that I couldn’t leave the States without having seen Washington DC, the (political) capital city of the United States of America. What an amazing history this country has. As a “Florida Girl” in one of the sunniest states in America, I had to go see the other popular “sunny” state and that is California. Yet again, very different from every other place I have seen here. Different but very likable! The Californian landscape is full of hills. This makes walking and driving not easy! As I have felt in my sour legs and the car trouble I had along the Californian hills!
My last destination will be Los Angeles, from where I’ll fly back to the Netherlands! The end of my America adventure is so near. With this end, my columns will end too. I had an incredible, never-forget-memories, exchange to the States! For anyone hesitating of such an exchange, just do it! It gives so much fulfillment and (new) opportunities!
End of Semester and Graduation
For most students the end of the semester is a wonderful period, when most students are happy to graduate. I saw lots of students in their ceremonial ensembles; consisting of a rope and separate hood, excited as they were on their way to the Civic Center where the graduation ceremony always takes place. Following behind them were their families and friends, who all came into town to be part of this ceremony. The dark robes and burning sun (30 degrees Celsius) doesn’t make it easy to wear this ensemble graciously. But that doesn’t make students less grateful and delighted to finally wear it. The Civic Center is actually the place where University basketball games are being played. This time the basketball court was filled with students anxious to receive their diploma. Amazing to me was that the court seemed even more filled than during a basketball game!
Unfortunately the end of the semester is not (yet) even near to me. Every college in Florida State University has ended the semester, except for the College of Law! Some of my friends, non-law students, were ecstatic and cheerful to have finally ended the semester. I was happy for them, but I still had one more week ahead of me. Having graduation ceremonies to the south of me, and people celebrating the end of the semester to the west, north and east to me, doesn’t really help me through the rest of the week. I don’t mind studying for my exams but this makes it more depressing, and a little frustrated, to sit down and face my books.
Things are just the way it is. So I have decided to finish this last week of exams to have it over with and then to celebrate as I have never done before! Since Law school is pretty tough here, we also deserve a good celebration. I will be so happy, to have made it through Law school in Florida, and at the same time a little sad that the semester is over and therefore my exchange here.
But first things first I have to stop procrastinating and keep my mind focused on my finals or the end will not be the end as I am so looking forward to…