May 2012 Archives

Experiencing Andalucía

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Hello again from Granada. It's my fourth week here and I can't believe how fast the time seems to be flying by. As of now, I have successfully run twenty six participants and I have a full list of potential participants scheduled for the upcoming weeks. So from the research perspective, things are looking great. And on the topic of participants, I have to say that I have really been enjoying running mine because they have proven to be a great way for me to make friends here. Not infrequently, after my sessions end, my participants ask me if I would be interested in an intercambio because they want to practice their English. Because I also would like to practice my Spanish, it works out for us both to teach and learn from each other. In this way, I have found many of my closest friends here and gotten to better know the city and its people. Vale, now I'll start with the day by day breakdown. J

Thursday May 24 - Today my morning participant cancelled because she was sick. However, I managed to get another participant in her place, which still left me with three participants for the day. For lunch, I ate with my friend Rafa lunch at la Facultad de Filosofia y Letras. Rafa is a graduate student studying Old and Middle English. My talks with him are always enjoyable because he tells me about Old English tales like Beowulf, the transformation of Germanic languages, and of course Spanish as well. Later in the afternoon, my friend Mallory came back to visit me for the weekend. We had tickets to go to Málaga for the weekend, but our bus didn't leave until Friday night. Entonces, we still had one night and a day together in Granada before our trip. For dinner on Thursday, we went to Francesco's house in Albayzin and he made us some authentic Italian pasta. Delicioso. After, Mallory and I went back to her hotel to catch up on some sleep. Sidenote: as it turns out, this hotel (Hotel Reina Cristina) is of important historical note. Federico Garcia Lorca (Granada's most prominent writer) took refuge here while Franco was hunting him down. Later, Franco's troops found Garcia Lorca and killed him. To this day, no one knows for sure where his body is. And what is interesting is that his family doesn't even want to know. I've read this bit of information somewhere along the way in my studies, but it was validated the other night when my friend Rafa told me that Garcia Lorca's niece (a colleague of his from the university) also does not want to know where her uncle's body is. Essentially, the family doesn't want to create a big scene. They want him to remain an untouched legacy. Learning that Rafa knew Garcia Lorca's niece was all very exciting for me because it doesn't often happen that I read about something in my history book and then meet someone who is involved directly in that historical context.

Friday May 25 - Today my participant had to cancel our appointment, but luckily he was interested in rescheduling. But because I had no participants to run and because I was caught up on all my work, I had the whole day free. Although I missed being at the University, I ended up having a wonderful day soaking up Granadino culture. Mallory and I went to las Cuevas de Sacromonte. Sacromonte, or sacred mountain, is the barrio gitano (gypsy neighborhood) located in the mountains above Albayzin. Sacromonte is known for these caves and also for its famous Flamenco shows. Learning about the culture of this barrio interested me, but what intrigued me most as I walked through and read the plaques on the walls was this little factoid: in the 1950s, gypsies came in great numbers to Sacromonte and almost all of them lived in cave houses. This was only sixty years ago that people were actually living in these caves! I would recommend this museum for anyone. The ride up the mountain alone is enough to make you swoon. You get a breathtaking view of the city and it's a nice quiet oasis apart from the inner city. After walking through the caves, we headed back down to the city to eat and pack for our excursion to Málaga. We grabbed a late night bus and arrived at our hostel around midnight. Upon arrival, Mallory and I were extremely hungry and the owner of the hostel kindly made us some Argentine empanadas. As our hostel was right on the beach, we sat outside for a while to enjoy la brisa maritima (sea-side breeze), but we soon got tired and turned in for the night.

Saturday May 26-Today I woke up and got some breakfast. Then Mallory and I headed into el centro (the city center) for a free walking tour, which our hostel offered. The tour lasted three hours and I loved every minute of it. I learned about Reina Isabel, Fernando, Franco, los romanos, los fenicios, los arabes, the Spanish Inquisition, typical Malagueño culture...etc. After, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then headed to the beach. I have to admit I like the Málaga beach much more than the one I've visited in Granada. It's actually got sand instead of just rock, so my feet were a lot happier here. Also, there are cute little chiringuitos (beach-side cafes) that make for a fun, young, vibrant ambiance. For dinner, we headed back to the hostel because they were making family style paella for all the travelers. After eating, we stayed at the hostel for a while to chat and get to know the other travelers. For the night, one of the girls who worked at the hostel took us out to the centro so that we could see the nightlife. Y hasta la fecha, no tenia nada de lamentar.

Sunday May 27 - Today was our last day in Málaga. Everything ends too soon! After breakfast, we headed into the centro to visit both Picasso's house as well as his art museum.  Here I saw some important Picasso pieces, but found that my favorite is one that's not well-known or highly acclaimed; it's called something along the lines of La Mujer a la Puerta del Baile. It's a small work and it uses a lot of shadows, which makes it a bit mysterious. But I like it a lot because the scene reminds me of one of my favorite pub/restaurants here in Granada. It's made of wood and has a lot of candles. Encantador. After having spent upwards of three hours in museums, we needed a break from cognitive and/or creative activity. So we went to the beach, a different one this time. Soon enough, however, we were at the bust station on our way back to Granada for the night.

Monday May 28 - Today I had one participant in the afternoon. After, I had to a make a copy of my apartment key because the original had been giving me problems for the past couple weeks. After running my participant, I spent an hour or two emailing and scheduling participants. After I finished my work, Mallory and I went shopping at some vintage shops. For dinner, we went to a restaurant where the waiter ended up sitting down with us and teaching us a little bit of Gallego (language spoken in Galicia, northwest of Spain). I have never studied Gallego, so it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between Gallego, Portuguese, and Spanish. After some tapas and a Gallego lesson, Mallory and I went to Clair's favorite restaurant/bar to celebrate her birthday with everyone. !Felíz cumpleaños a ella!

Tuesday May 29 - Today was a bit sad for me because Mallory's stay with me had drawn to a close. Early in the morning, I took her back to the airport and after saying our goodbyes, I headed home for a clerical day full of laundry, cleaning, blogging, emailing, finance-sorting...etc. For dinner, I met my friend in el centro. As always in Granada, I ate well and with good company.

Wednesday May 30 - Today I ran one participant in the morning and two in the afternoon. In my downtime, I grabbed lunch with mi amiga Esther and her other friend Laura. Then I took care of some work and booked my tickets for this weekend. Córdoba here I come! At midnight, the Penn State cohort went to los baños arabes in Albayzin. This may have been on my list of top three things to do in Granada. The experience was better than any spa I have ever been to in the U.S. First, we entered a dark cave with sweet smelling candles and sparkling lanterns. The cave was steamy and there were ornate Arabic tiles lining the walls. We sat down to have some sweet tea and then started with the baths. First, you enter el agua templada (warm water). This is where the people congregate and relax. Then, you move to el agua caliente (hot water), which gets your heart pumping and blood flowing. Once you feel you can't take any more hear, you move on to el agua frío (cold water...but in my opinion, very cold water, haha). The point of this all is to get healthy circulation of blood throughout your system. But antiguamente (in the past), the main purpose of the Arab bathhouses was to clean oneself for religious  purposes. Although it is used more as a spa today, traditionally, the Muslims would go to the bathhouse to wash themselves before praying, as it is against religious practice to pray when one's body is dirty. After soaking and relaxing in the waters, we then got massages. This was my favorite part and so relaxing. After we were instructed to take a shower. We lingered a bit in the baths after the massage, but soon our reservation was up, and we had to leave. But I have a feeling I will be going back sometime soon. J

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, ¡pásalo bien!

 

Un besico!

Semana Tres: ¡Mi Cumpleaños!

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This research experience happened to fall over my 20th Birthday, which means that I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate in España. How could I ever ask for anything more? It was a fantastic day, and not only was I able to celebrate in a beautiful foreign country, but I was also able to celebrate with amazing people. This was the first birthday where I was sung to in three different languages, English, Spanish, and Italian. It was quite the cultural experience. As if all of the aforementioned was not enough, my PIRE amigas surprised me with a pair of shoes that I had been eyeballing for weeks on end. Not only are they the cutest zapatos, but they helped me to learn the correct pronunciation of the word, which I had been pronouncing wrong. Ouch! (pronounced sa paaa tos not za pa tos) Everyday I find that I am learning something new related to linguistics.  The night ended with postre topped with nocilla, which is the Spanish version of nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread that is one of the most delicious food in Spain besides morcilla and gelato of course! I couldn't have asked for a better day, my 20th birthday will be one that I never forget! 

Semana Dos: Participantes y daño solar de la piel

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Week number two in Granada was anything but dull. Emily and I began to run our participants in the lab, which was exciting, but nerve wrecking at the same time. After calming the nerves, we were able to successfully run our participants. Now, after having many more participants, Emily and I feel as if we are practically professionals.We spent the rest of the week in the lab running participants, as well as hanging posters around Granada, which was no easy feat. I ended up getting pretty lost, but on the bright side it turned out to be a really great way to learn how to navigate the city. The other notable event of the week, occurred on Saturday when we went to the beach. This was my very first time in the Mediterranean, even though the water was quite chilly I had a blast. However, my friend and fellow PIRE student Sara, didn't fare so well at the beach. Sara stayed under the beach umbrella for the majority of the day, however the only part of her body that was not under the umbrella, happened to be her feet. Unfortunately, she forgot to apply sunscreen and so her feet and ended up getting a severe sun burn.  After being bed ridden for two days, and countless bags of peas on the pies (feet) Sara tried flamma spray, and it helped to reduce the pain. To this day, Sara's feet are still recovering, it is safe to say that next time we go to the beach Sara will be wearing a pair of calcetines. 

Bienvenido a Granada

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Although I only arrived a few days ago, I can wholeheartedly say that I love Granada. I am amazed by the beauty of the city, the architecture, the never ending tapas and of course the gelatto! At first I was a little intimidated being surrounded by fluent spanish speakers 24/7 but each day I am beginning to feel more and more comfortable and am making the transition to living the Spanish lifestyle, which includes interacting in Spanish. For example, the other day we went to the beach, and although my parents pestered me to bring sun screen, it was the one thing that did not make it into my suitcase. So, after a day spent basking in the Spain sun, I ended up with a quite the sunburn. Or as a fellow lab member told me "Eres un tomate." So, the next day I took myself down to the grocery store and although my skin probably made quite the statement by itself, I had to communicate with the workers that I was in dire need of aloe vera. This was my first interaction by myself and although at it was nerve wrecking I was able to effectively communicate in Spanish. So, other than my skin, I would say I am making a relatively smooth transition to Spain. 


Monday was our first day at the University. It was exciting to finally begin the start of our research projects after months of preparation. The only obstacle I foresaw was making it up the the giant hill to the lab, which is actually more like a mountain. However, luckily  we have figured out the bus system, so we won't be climbing Mount Everest every morning. After the hill debacle, we spent the majority of the week hanging posters around town and waiting to be contacted by participants. At the end of the week we had run three participants. It was exciting to finally  start collecting data! I look forward to continue collecting more. Until next time, as is the phrase in Granada " ¡Tal Luego!

All in the Name of Participants...

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Scandinavians have a bit of a reputation for being "slow to warm" - hard to "crack" but once beyond the barrier, a friend for life. For the longest time, I thought that this was merely an exaggeration, a contrast between a "normal" people and the notoriously loud Americans. However, if the past three weeks have taught me anything it's that, while Beth and I may live up to (and quite possibly exceed) the presumed American 'loudness,' the Swedes are definitely upholding their end of the bargain.

The Swedes are very big on their privacy (yet they're willing to give the last 4 digits of their "personal number" to almost anyone?) so subject pools are a BIG no-no, which makes our job rather interesting... During my second week in Lund (week one was quickly eaten up by clerical work), Beth and I walked around campus posting fliers EVERYWHERE in an attempt to drum up some kind of interest.

Fast-forward 1.5 weeks and I've gotten mayyybe 10 e-mails? Beth's had a bit more luck because her experiment, while longer, pays more and is only one appointment. I mean, let's face it, if you were to see 2 fliers on a bulletin board, which one would you choose: 90 mins, one appointment and more pay, OR two 45 min appointments that pay less? I can't say I blame people - I'd probably do the same thing - but I still kind of feel like that kid who was always picked last in gym class.

This week I decided to take matters into my own hands - to fully embrace the stereotype of the loud, outgoing American and just go out and talk to people. I spent the afternoon walking around Lund's version of the HUB, approaching tables, giving a little spiel about the experiment and asking if they'd like to jot down their e-mail address to receive more information. I walked out AF (the HUB-type place) with abouuut 6 e-mail addresses. Oy. To be perfectly honest, I'm starting to get a bit nervous about finding participants, as a lot of the students are leaving in 2 weeks.

Looks like it's time to get creative...

Grüße aus Leipzig!

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This is the beginning of my third week here in Leipzig. I am enjoying my time at the Max Planck Institute very much. Everyone here as been very welcoming and helpful. Dr. Sonja Kotz has taken so much time out of her very busy schedule to help me get adjusted and to fill out all of the forms necessary to get full access to the MPI's resources.

I am nearly done running L1 German participants for the first part of my study. This has been a lot of work, but the process has also been made very easy due to the MPI's subject pool. I have been working with a woman who calls in participants for me, so that I simply show up at the appropriate time and test one participant after another. This has gone very smoothly with just one "no show" so far (who later called and apologized and even rescheduled!). The second part of my study will be testing English-German late bilinguals, which I fear will be a bit more difficult. I have spent time hanging up flyers around the city (with help from a very kind colleague here!) and am now waiting for my inbox to fill with emails from interested participants. I am also trying to verbally spread the word about my study. Now I am just hoping that I can find some willing participants!

In addition to running my study, I have also had the chance to attend some lectures at the institute. Dr. Nina Dronkers was here and gave as talk, as did Dr. Stefan Heim. I was also able to sit in on a run through of a dissertation defense, which was very interesting as well. Additionally, there is a weekly lab meeting with Dr. Kotz' group which I have been invited to, although I have yet to attend as the last two have been cancelled due to a holiday and an illness.

In my free time I have been exploring the city of Leipzig as much as possible! I've been to three museums already: a city history museum, an art museum, and a museum of ethnology. I've done a lot of walking through the city in order to familiarize myself with Leipzig. Luckily the weather has been wonderful (sunny every day so far and no rain!), so I have been outside quite a bit. I had the chance to meet up with Josefin, who was at Penn State for eight weeks last semester. She came to the city for a few days and we were able to meet up a couple of times. She introduced me to some areas of the city I had not explored yet and we had a nice time chatting and catching up.

It has been a very enlightening experience to live in Germany. My previous experience in the German-speaking world has all been in Austria, where I lived for many years. This is my first time to spend a large amount of time in Germany. I have been adjusting to the differences between the two countries - some of which are subtle and others that are quite obvious. The most fun part has been the language. The German spoken in Austria is very different from the German spoken in Leipzig and it has been a fun challenge training myself to use the German word for things instead of the Austrian word. Every once and a while I still slip and use the Austrian word, then quickly have to correct myself when I notice the confused expressions on the faces in front of me!

Life is good and I am looking forward to the coming weeks. Everyone keep your fingers crossed (or as the Germans say, keep your thumbs pressed!) that I will find some English-German late bilinguals...

Catching up

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Hello all:)  I realize I've been slacking on this blog entry, and forgot last week.  As the days pass I'm coming to love Nijmegen more and more, it is such a laid back environment with suh friendly and outgoing people.  I've been busy in the lab nearly every day, either running participants or preparing to run participants.  I've had a few set backs also with miscommunications for booking my lab room, and there have been SO many holidays, which means the building is closed!  I'm thrilled with how the research is going.  Due to the kindness of everyone in the Donders Centre, finding native English speakers has been going so much smoother than I expected.  A woman in the lab gave me contact information to a woman in the administrations office, which has opened me up to so many native English speakers, and I have almost 10 that I will be running within the next few weeks.  I've also been given the great opportunity, from the hard work of Judy and Wido at Leiden University, to travel to Leiden to gain access to more native English speakers.  In the past few weeks I have reallly been given the opportunity to see exactly how kind and genuine people can be, it's amazing.  I've learned that simply talking with new people and explaining yourself, how willing people are to help you, and I truely am so grateful for how willing everyone here has been to help me with research and integrating into the office here.  Sybrine, the contact that Janet has given me has been absolutely great at making sure I know what is going on in the office, and trying to introduce me to everyone possible.  She has made me feel so comfortable here in Nijmegen and has invited me out with her and her friends, who are all so funny and genuinely kind. 

I haven't gotten a chance to do much travelling as of now, because I've been trying to make a solid ground here in Nijmegen, and I feel that I'm almost a pro here!  I've also made some friends thanks to Emma, who introduced me to a friend she has who is staying here.  It's so nice being able to see what it's like living "Dutch life"  I am invited to dinners where everryone takes part in helping to cook a meal, and I've been invited by Sybrine to play volleyball weekly where everyone joins after to barbeque or have a small dinner party.  It's great, and I love that everyone is so inviting that I've met so far!  This Friday I will travel to Leiden to visit the University and meet Wido, and after that I think I will travel to den Haag(the Hague), which is a historical part of the Netherlands with some beautiful scenery. 

I've also been working on analyzing my data from participants, to see if my predictions for my study have been working.  This would not be possible without the help of Bobby and Peiyao, who have been skyping with me making sure I'm correct in my steps of analyzing.. THANKS SO MUCH BOBBY AND PEIYAO!! I will report how things are going with my predictions at a later time!  As for now, I think I will go explore the International festival that is taking place in the park literally right next to my apartment! Sooo cool:)

Week 3 Is Over Too Soon!

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With the stereotypical British weather finally giving way to warmth and sunshine, my body decided it would be fitting to catch a cold this week. Luckily I've been able to load up on enough aspirin, cough drops, and tea to enjoy the beautiful weather. On Saturday I got a crash course in the history of North Wales. My host, Julia, and I went to Llanberis where I learned about the Victorian-era mountain railroad that winds its way up Snowdon, the now practically extinct slate quarries, and the massive hydroelectric power plant hidden deep inside a mountain. I got a firsthand look at all of these places, and feel as if I've really come to know my surroundings better as a result. Our intense day was finished off by cooking a feast together with a couple friends at their home.

Back at the university, I was full-speed into the routine of running participants and coding their data, but I did run into a couple minor setbacks.  The first issue was that my computer was not so keen on the idea of getting through an entire session, and liked to crash right in the middle of the task.  It seems to be doing better now, but we all know how fussy computers  can be - especially when we really need them to work.  I also had several interruptions on Wednesday, in the form of fire alarms.  I never did find out what happened, but the building was evacuated twice during a time that I had a participant scheduled. We had to wait for the fire truck and police to come both times, and in the end I sent her home, but sometimes these things happen!

I also ran into the usual no-show participants, but I don't want to give the impression that Bangor was all bad this week. I had the great opportunity to meet with Guillaume Thierry, a professor in the psychology department.  As I was preparing for the meeting by reading some of his more recent articles, I was struck by one thing. It seemed that everything he studies, even though the topics may be varied, all have one common characteristic - they are absolutely fascinating.  There was never a dull moment in reading his work, and I was very impressed by this. When we met, it became immediately clear how this was possible; he is just incredibly passionate about what he does. I learned so much in such a short time and really look forward to meeting with him again.

It really has been a full week of soaking up knowledge, and this weekend I'm off to do some more Welsh adventuring to continue the trend. We're heading to Portmeirion, a town with Mediterranean architecture and a history of being a filming site for movies and television shows.

Los cuentos de la Granada

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Dear friends, it's seems that it's about that time for me to write that third letter home to tell you how things are going over here. In short, life is great and Granada is still just as wonderful as it was the first day I arrived. But if you'd like a more in-depth illustration as to how my day-to-day life looks over here, by all means, read on!

Monday May 14  -- Today Clair and I ran two participants. Until this point, we had set up our participant sharing in such a way that Amelia had been running all the behavioral tasks during her session and Clair and I would just run our own individual experiments in our session. However, due to scheduling changes, Clair and I have begun to run the behavioral tasks as well. Learning by doing, we of course made an error: we forgot to record the audio for the Boston Naming Task. (Yes, whoops is right). But now we know and we won't make that mistake next time. On the way home, I bought some fruta seca (dried fruit) to help balance out all the berenjenas fritas (fried eggplants) I eat here. Knowing I need to advantage of a health kick when it comes, I went for a quick jog with Clair at El Parque de Federico Garcia Lorca. After our run, Clair and I decided to play on the park's zip line. Then we spent what must have been 45 minutes swinging and laughing together like children on the playset until the summer night sky turned dark blue. We didn't want to leave, but the park closes at 10. But when we got back from our run, Amelia invited us to tapas with her friends, Diego and Ali, who were visiting from Argentina. I was thrilled to have them with us that night because I got to pick up some Argentine lexicon amongst all this Granadino phrasing I've been learning. On the downside, I started realizing today that I was officially sick, so I stopped at the farmacia on the way home to get some type of medicine to reduce my throat inflammation. The pharmacist gave me some over-the-counter spray that ended up not helping much. However, the funny part of this adventure for me was that, after a certain hour of the night, the pharmacy is open but the door is closed, so you have to ring the bell and order your medicine through the window from the street. I felt like Dorothy entering the Emerald City.

Tuesday May 15, 2012 -If I have learned anything from my research here, it's that there exists a fairly reliable formula for participant attendances/absences: when one participant comes, the next one won't. In between waiting for participants today, I decided to take a break from Cafeteria food and ate instead in Albayzin at an Arab restaurant called Kasbah. I thoroughly enjoy eating by myself here - especially lunch, because I get to read, collect my thoughts, write, and best of all, listen into the conversations around me. Listening in on the conversations around me is my favorite part because it allows me the chance to get practically unlimited comprehensible input in my L2. However, as it turns out, today the women sitting next to me were British, so I actually got quite a good deal of L1 input. But I did learn a little about London by talking with them! At Kasbah, I tried a foreign flavor of zumo natural (natural juice). It was called Guanabana. It was white and a bit frothy with a hint of pineapple (pretty refreshing for a hot summer day.) After, I had some time to kill yet before my next participant, so I strolled around to get to know the city's side streets a bit better. I stumbled upon a small used book/cd store in Albayzin. There, I found an Eva Peron chapa (pin) for my backpack and a Carlos Fuentes book for a total of 1 Euro.  But this purchase ended up being a little ominous because the day after I bought his book, Fuentes died.  Odd timing, no? For dinner, I went out to Alta Albayzin to celebrate my friend Manolo's birthday. !Que guay!

Wednesday May 16 - Today was my first weekly meeting with the department.  I went at 9am to the University and listened as Laura, a grad student from the Facultad de Psicologia, presented her work to the group. It was in Spanish, of course, and on a topic that required a lot of statistical jargon. For the most part, I focused on picking apart and understanding the language. Trying to understand the complex concepts on top of that would have been mental overload for me.  Today I only had one participant. He was very charismatic. His English was very good, so we had a quick intercambio and each taught one another words from our respective L1s.Then as usual, I spent the day sending out emails and scheduling participants. While the research went well, I have to say the highlight of my day was a purchase I made: bombachos (also called pantalones anchos or wide pants). These are typical Arab pants that are worn here. If you've never seen them, Google it! They're essentially the Andalusian equivalent to Penn State leggings. Out of habit, I went again to Kasbah for lunch. This time I had couscous con pescado and a maracuya zumo natural. During my meal, I met Sebastian and Luis, two of the servers at Kasbah. They told me where to go to take a Flamenco class, so hopefully I actually get around to signing up so I can write about it for you all in a future blog. On a slightly less nice note, my throat still hurt and I knew it was getting worse. Alvaro's mom is a nurse so she recommended medication for me. I grabbed her recommended medication from the pharmacy and hoped it would work. For dinner tonight, I had tapas with Melissa, Clair, Alvaro, and his friend Diego.

Thursday May 17 - This was a first: no participants today. I have to admit that the lack of regularity left me feeling a little sad. I missed the university! However, I made the most of the beautiful free day by  dando vueltas (walking around the city) by myself. I ate boquarones de vinagre con pan at a restaurant in Realejo and read at a café near Calle Pedro San Antonio. While I was reading at this cafe, I heard an English speaker trying without much success to ask the waiter a question. I figured I could help so I told her I speak both English and Spanish. After having ordered for her, I find out that she lives ten minutes from my house at home in Pittsburgh. What a small world! After having read enough, I met up with Alvaro, Amelia, and Diego to hang out and practice my Spanish. And after that, I had my first Spanish cinema experience! We saw Los Vengadores (the Avengers). It was a dubbed English movie, but even so, it was great for my listening skills because I was able to work on my listening skills without the distraction of me thinking what I'm going to say next (as often happens to me in conversation). After the movie, I was hungry for a healthy eight hours so I went right to bed!

Friday May 18 - I woke up on Friday and knew I had strep throat. I hadn't been able to actually eat hard food for days, and despite the Spaniards telling me that it was nothing and that I should wait to go to the doctor, I decided I had to go. I had one participant in the morning, and after that, I started looking into how to approach the medical system in a foreign country. However, I was feeling tired and sick and I didn't have the energy to get myself to the hospital, so I decided I would wait one more day to see if it would heal on its own. In the meantime, I had to figure out how to pick my friend Mallory up at the airport because she would be arriving the next day on a flight from Paris. To get this information, I stopped by the tourist office in Plaza Mariela and the woman at the desk told me where to go to grab the bus to the airport. I still had another hour or two before Mallory's flight was due to land, so for lunch today I grabbed (as usual) a tortilla Espanola and a glass of water and I read for a little in the open air. I chatted with the camarero (waiter) a little. He wanted to talk about the stock market, and as a result, I think it's safe to say that I am acquiring quite an eclectic Spanish vocabulary during my stay here in Granada. Then 5:00pm rolled around and Mallory arrived! It was so exciting to have a little piece of home with me here in Spain. I showed her to her hotel, grabbed a hot beverage with her, and I showed her the way of el tapeo! My favorite part was her expression when I told her that every drink comes with free food. I'd never seen her so happy. Apparently the prices in France are a bit steeper when it comes to food and beverages.

 Saturday May 19 - Today is the big day. Mallory and I have tickets to the Alhambra. As excited as I am, I realize that I must see a doctor first. I successfully find the Health Center and navigate the system. The doctor saw me promptly and verified my suspicions that I had strep throat. The good news is that I now had a prescription that would make me feel a whole lot better. I don't know if it was a placebo effect or not, but I felt better almost immediately. On the way to the Alhambra, Mallory and I grabbed a quick lunch in el Centro and window-shopped around some vintage clothing shops. Then we experienced the Alhambra. All I can say is that the views from the castle were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. It was breathtaking and it made me a little dizzy to try to make sense of how great the expanse was that lay before me. I couldn't help but pretend I was a Moorish princess strolling through the lavish gardens and colorful courtyards of the sultan's castle. And standing in the chambers where Washington Irving's (North American writer who stayed at the Alhambra and wrote the famous Los Cuentos de la Alhambra) had stayed, I was inspired to write and read and experience it all. For dinner, Melissa, Mallory, and I got tapas with our friends Rafa and Miguel. Rafa is an Old English teacher at the University and a lover of languages, so he is always ready to teach me words and phrases in Spanish. It's always a great time hanging out with him.

Sunday May 20 - It's Sunday morning, and you know what that means ---church! Although Mallory and I are not normally church-goers, we wanted to experience a mass held in Spanish. We were also dying to see the inside of the big, beautiful Catedral de Granada. It was humbling. After mass, we visited the Capilla Real (the Royal Chapel), where los Reyes Catolicos (Catholic King and Queen) Isabel and Fernando are buried. While they used to be in the Alhambra grounds in the monastery de San Francisco, they have since been moved to this location. It was a bit chilling to be standing at the feet of such powerful people. The museum was very interesting, and for this reason, I couldn't help but buy a short book about la Reina Isabel and the role she played in terms of spreading the Christian faith and unifying the Spanish Empire. One interaction of note here was one I had with a French couple. Not understanding the story of Saint John the Baptist, I asked the couple standing beside me at the altar. As it turns out, they don't speak either of the languages I speak (Spanish or English), and I don't speak their language (French). However, given the similarities between Spanish and France, we were able to negotiate for meaning rather successfully. It was the first time I had ever used my second language to understand one that is totally foreign to me. We also popped into a free art museum on the way home from our activities.

Monday May 21 - Today was very exciting for me because I made my first real Spanish amiga! Up until this point, most of my friends have been male and I was in desperate need of chica time! I met Esther because she participated in my study. It's also been really nice to finally have a friend from the university that is close in age to me, seeing as many of the grad students are a good bit older. I met Esther at la Facultad de Filosofia y Letra, which is about a three four minute walk from my Facultad. There, I met several of her friends and they were a ton of fun. We decided to eat together at that time every Monday. J For the rest of the day, I worked and read. Later, I grabbed dinner with some friends at a cozy little wooden tavern in el centro.

Tuesday May 22 - Sticking with the 1 -1 participant absente/attendance rule, my morning participant showed up, but my evening participant didn't. After work, I had coffee with my friend and colleague Francesco. After, we took a walk around the city and ended up at the manifestacion (demonstration) that was taking place for public education rights. It was cool to see the people stand up for education. I am a World Languages Spanish Education major, so I am glad I was able to witness first-hand the political upheaval that is the current public education system in Spain. In other news, today was Alvaro's 32nd birthday - Feliz Cumpleanos chico! We got tapas with the whole group tonight. Today, I finally ran out of space in my Daily Spanish Vocabulary notebook, so I bought a new one and am already digging in. J

Wednesday May 23 - Today we have our weekly department meeting again, so I went to the University at 9am for the presentation, which was held by a visiting scholar named Patricia. Another thing of note is that I had my first media de tomate (bread with tomato paste) for breakfast. I was advised by my Spanish friends that this was a must-do while in Granada. It was tasty, but I have to admit, I do love my regular tostada con mermelada y mantequila (toast with jelly and butter). Unfortunately, my 10am participant was a no show. However, I realized that I forgot to send her a reminder email the night before so I can really only blame myself. But now, I won't likely forget to email my participants again in the future. After realizing my participant was not coming, I headed up to the sala de becarios to code the data from the latest LHQs I had received. I spent the afternoon doing that as well as sending out reminders to the rest of this week's participants. Around two o'clock, I had lunch with Amelia at the cafeteria and after, I booked my bus ticket to Malaga for the weekend. I then ran my second participant (she actually came!). I then tried to grab groceries and toiletries for the apartment, but realized that I needed to stop at an ATM first. I must have tried close to 10 ATMs but my card was rejected by all of them. That freaked me out a little, but I ended up buying groceries with my card and decided I would try to withdrawl cash again in the morning (which worked, thankfully). Tonight, I made some dinner, wrote a little, and turned in early.

*On a final note: I just realized today that I no longer have Peanut Butter and Jelly hunger pangs. Usually it's the thing I crave most. But over the last couple weeks, I've been licking my lips for bocadillos de chorizo y queso more than anything else. It seems that even my stomach has flicked its switch to Spanish mode!

Participants, lingonberries and bröd

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This week I ran my first participant and learned some things about the Swedish IRB. Here it is common practice to give movie ticket vouchers (which are equivalent to almost $20!) as compensation for experiments, and participants are not used to filling out all of the paperwork for permission that us Americans seem to encounter on a daily basis. This is making it pretty easy to get participants scheduled--however getting them to actually show up for their appointments seems to be a bit more difficult. Originally I thought that Sweden would be a very timely, orderly place, however it is not common for meetings to begin a full 15 minutes after they were scheduled, which can be a bit frustrating. I suppose this leisurely pace goes along with the typical leisurely long European lunch.

Speaking of lunch--I can't say that my vegetarian self was especially excited about Swedish meatballs and sausage, but Sweden has a lot to offer in terms of my favorite food group--carbs! There are cinnamon rolls EVERYWHERE, three different kinds of bread ("bröd") are served with lunch at the university and every bakery and grocery store serves every kind of bröd a girl could imagine--from olive bread to "dense" bread to all sorts of things we have yet to put into google translate...It doesn't stop there either-- there are pastries that are gourmet by US standards in the 7-11s here--It's dangerous, but awesome. The Swedes are also obsessed with lingonberries--which makes finding strawberry jam at the grocery store REALLY hard (especially when at first you don't know how to say "strawberry jam"--it's "jordgubbe" if you ever get stranded in Sweden), but they put these lingonberries in their bread ("lingonbrod" or something) and as jam, and I'm pretty sure they also use it as salad dressing...and may or may not use it as some type of gravy, as in on meat or potatoes. It is a frontier that has yet to be explored--Of course I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Scan it, Send it, Fax - Rename it

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Week 1: HumLab, key cards, and ePrime

Monday morning, PIRE bags in tow, Beth and I made our way to our new hub at the university to get situated and meet our supervisor, Marianne. Marianne is this fantastically spunky, self-proclaimed "culturally inappropriate" Swede, and with her seemingly endless inventory of witty one-liners, she's a woman after my own heart. Right off the bat, there were the obligatory introductions and, due to the sheer number, I can honestly say that I remember maybe 50% of the names, 30% of the respective areas of expertise, and even fewer of the projects - but that'll come with time, right?

The SOL (short for some Swedish term that I can't even begin to pronounce but that roughly translates to "Languages and Literature") is this amazing, centralized location for anything and everything languages and linguistics. The organization of everything under one roof was a novelty not lost on us Penn Staters, used to finding languages in one building, the CLS land in another, and eye-tracking equipment in yet another, scattered across campus. And the HumLab (Humanities Lab)! The array of research equipment is incredible, and as a not-so-closeted linguistics nerd, I was geeking out the entire time, especially entering the anechoic chamber - basically a suspended sound vacuum that smells oddly of stale air and gives you the feeling that your eardrums are being sucked out of your head (kind of like those noise-canceling headphones, only 1000x stronger).

Then came the uncooperative technology. Our key cards (equipped with the most attractive of pictures) work to open the HumLab, but they don't have the most cooperative of relationships with our office door. One thing that we've learned about the Swedes is that, while seemingly organized, efficiency is not their forte. Coming from a society that believes in instant gratification, the 2-3 day wait felt like an eternity. When we finally managed to get into our office (thanks to our adorable German office mates, Alex and Marlet), the internet decided it didn't like us either, but hey, the internet at the house doesn't seem to like us either, but hey, the internet at the house doesn't seem to like us either, so it's par for the course, right?

Aaaand then there's ePrime - the bane of my existence. In the mad dash at the end of the semester, we came to the realization that the super efficient, easily code-able, just all around wonderful flanker task that we use in the lab is.... in ePrime 2. Thanks to an awesome collaboration of many CLS-ers (both in the lab and in transit), we had one up and running! At least, I thought we did. It turns out that, in e-mailing the actual ePrime script from computer to computer, the properties in my script are a bit out of whack, so I've spent a good amount of time fiddling around with the script, trying to figure out the problem, but on the upside, I've definitely been learning quite a bit about the temperamental ePrime. As I've learned over the past month or so, there's an odd similarity between ePrime and a finicky toddler, for without enough structure, things run amok, but assert too much control and you're faced with a "fatal error." for, for the next few days, here's to hoping that "babysitting" works out a little better than last time...

Bara Brith on Yr Wyddfa

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              The past week has absolutely flown by - with the participants, the data coding, and the sightseeing I've been quite a busy girl.  Last Saturday I accomplished a great feat, I climbed the highest mountain in England and Wales! Mount Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa, is pretty near where I'm staying, and my hosts graciously offered to take me up it.  They loaned me some gear and Julia and I set off walking while Jim ran.  The trip was incredible.  On the way we saw lots of sheep (of course), beautiful scenery, and a helicopter rescue and ate bara brith (traditional Welsh bread) in a cozy mountainside café.  There was a clear view at the summit and it was there at 3560 feet that we ate our sandwiches while looking out over the vast Snowdonia National Park.  To top off the day, we explored the nearby slate quarries where Jim and Julia frequently go rock climbing.

            When the week started, however, I tackled a different kind of challenge - running my first participants.  On the first day, I ran into quite a few technical difficulties, but my participants were all very nice about it and afterwards everything was sorted out.  I also encountered several no-shows and reschedulings throughout the week, but I understand that is to be expected.  I am finishing up the week with five participants' data for session  1 of my study, trying to keep up with coding as I go along so that I can have this weekend free to explore some more awesome places in North Wales. On the docket for Saturday is the slate museum and a tour around Electric Mountain, an underground hydroelectric power plant.

            And while I can't do big trips like this during the week, I still make the most out of my time staying in a seaside B&B. It seems surreal to be surrounded by water all the time since I am used to the land-locked State College, so I make it a point to walk along the beach every evening before "tea" (dinner).

            Next week I have more new participants to look forward to, as well as running several people on the second and final session of the study.  I am doing several picture naming tasks throughout both sessions, and am well on my way to knowing the Welsh names for all sixty items. (Which is about the only Welsh I've learned besides "diolch," the word for thank you.)

Bicycles & Fika

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Our first week in Lund has been a blur of complicated vowels, bicycle lanes and adjusting to a more leisurely working pace. On the taxi ride to our home in Lund, I was amazed at the amount of bike stores--there were seemingly hundreds of bikes outside of every store--until I realized that these were just regular stores and THE mode of transportation here has two wheels, not four. Because of this, bikes seem to have the right of way. The sidewalks and what we might like to call "pedestrian pathways" are divided for people and bikes (and sometimes horses!). If I thought almost getting run over by a bike on Penn State's campus was annoying, avoiding horse droppings and lots of bikes is just a regular part of walking to the university.

The university system here is a bit different from Penn State. Their bachelor's degrees are typically three years and they do not have "Gen Ed" requirements. Therefore each person tends to stay in their own building on campus. In our case, it is called SOL- the center for foreign languages, literature and linguistics. In the basement of the SOL is the Humanities lab, which is about the coolest lab I have ever seen. Instead of having equipment tucked away in far places for each professor's specific research, the 'humlab' has eyetracking equipment, articulation equipment, EPrime rooms and lots of other cool stuff all concentrated in one place. This means that there is a lot of interdisciplinary work going on here, as the business school, educational psychology, linguistics and other departments take advantage of the resources in the humlab.

Despite the concentration of technology--we have yet to run any participants. It seems that there is a more leisurely pace here, so we spent all of our first week getting access to the lab, working on finding functioning internet access, key card access, printer access, etc.

Next week we hope to get into the lab and start collecting data, but in the meantime we're having fun meeting all of colleagues and partaking in 'fika' which roughly translates to a coffee break (the Swedes LOVE coffee) and is usually accompanied by a sweet treat like a cinnamon roll, and a leisurely chat. 

El segundo capitulo

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And so the research finally begins. Monday May 7th was our first official day at the University. Alvaro, Amelia, Melissa, Clair, Sara, and I all walked together to the University at 8:45am to have a meeting with Teresa Bajo, our abroad research advisor. During this meeting, I explained to Dr. Bajo in Spanish what exactly my study consists of, what kind of participants I am looking for, and what strategy I have come up with for getting everything done. I consider my spoken Spanish to be very good, but I admittedly found it very challenging to communicate such specific jargony linguistic terms such as "behavioral tasks" and "verb bias" in Spanish. But there's nothing like a little academic scaffolding now and again, eh?

In other news, Teresa informed us that I, along with the other PIRE researchers, will be presenting our work to the department in a couple weeks' time. This is exciting for me because I know I will be doing something like this back at Penn State once I return. However, this presentation will be a bit more fun (and also a bit more daunting) because I'll be doing it in Spanish.  I already asked one of the grad students, Manolo, if he would let me run through a prototype of my presentation beforehand; being the nice guy that he is, he said yes. So if he can help me work out a few of the kinks in terms of my Spanish, I will be able to worry less about language obstacles and more about the content of what I'll be presenting.

After our meeting with Teresa, Clair and I made carteles (flyers) to put around the university and the city for participant recruiting purposes. Then we set up our Internet accounts with the university. I also went through each of the four archives (files) of my experiment and fixed any errors I saw. This means I reworded some of the experiment instructions and fixed one of my experiments, which was crashing all of the sudden due to a previous coding error on my part. After finishing our work for the day, the students and I grabbed lunch at La Plaza Nueva. Then I decided I wanted to get a good Spanish novel to read, so I stopped by la Biblioteca Publica (the public library) to borrow one. I originally wanted to check out a Federico Garcia Lorca book because he is, to date, the most prominent literary figure in Granada. However, the librarian reminded me that due to the period in which Garcia Lorca wrote, his works are very old-fashioned and they contain syntactical structures and lexical items that not part of our present day Spanish. So he recommended something a little more contemporary for me: a novel entitled Donde el corazon te lleve, written by an Italian author Susanna Tamaro. I've only just started it, but I'll let you know how it goes. After reading near el Paseo del Salon for an hour or so, I met up with Alvaro and Manolo (which I learned is derived from Manuel) para cenar (to have dinner).

On Tuesday, we all walked together again to the University. We spent the day transferring our experiments from our computers to the one we have in our lab. Then Alvaro and Amelia walked us through each of the behavioral tasks and how they work. This was a good review for me because it has been a little over four months since I've last run a participant. We also discussed and finally settled on a good way to organize the files and folders on the computer so that everyone feels comfortable. As expected, some of the components of the behavioral tasks had kinks. But Alvaro worked them out with another grad student, Jose, from the lab. Because the five of us from Penn State only have one lab room with which to run participants, we started talking about how we should go about planning participants and scheduling. Our solution was to set up a Google Calendar; we will use this to organize participant scheduling. The only potential drawback here is that because the four of us undergrads do not have Wifi in our apartment, we will have limited access to the Calendar. But not to fret: we shall just simply frequent cafes and Wifi kiosks so that we can stay up to date on the most current participant schedule. In general, I spent most of Tuesday contacting potential participants and coding LHQ (Language History Questionaires). Overall, very productive.

On Wednesday, things started chugging at full speed. We ran four participants and each of them went off without a hitch. In these sessions, Amelia ran her experiment in addition to our shared behavioral tasks. Each of the participants scheduled with us to return sometime during this week or next to participate in both mine and Clair's study (which we expect should amount to approximately 1.5 hours per session). I shadowed Amelia as she ran one of her participants just so I could see how the lab works and how she deals with participants. After having watched her run a participant, I can say I feel more confident in running my own.

 Because many of the grad students have gone to Belgium for the week to collect data, la sala de becarios (the grad student/scholarship work room) had many open seats this week. So, I worked there. As I worked, I got to met Francesco, a grad student from Italy and Alicia, a grad student from Mexico.  I asked them a few lexical questions about words I had read earlier in the day from the University's newspaper (Aula Magnum), and they were very helpful in teaching me what these words mean in context. But as far as work, I spent my time today updating our list of participant recruits and also started coding the rest of the LHQs into our master file database. This took me longer than expected because I am still getting used to the programs we use (like Excel and Googledocs). But as we say here in Granada, "paso a paso" (step by step).  After working today, Alvaro and I walked around the Alhambra and he gave me a brief overview of its history. Later on in the day, I met up with some of the people from the lab to get tapas.

Friday - On Friday, I ran my third participant, Francisco. And as it turns out, Francisco is from Quito, Ecuador (which is where I will be studying abroad in the spring). So, he and I went out for tapas that night and he told me many things about the city. For example, I learned that the delicacy dish there is guinea pig (yum!). Francisco also speaks German, so that was fun because he taught me how to say "My name is Emily" in German. He showed me his part of town (Realejo), which I had yet to explore. Realejo is the old Jewish neighborhood of Granada, and I must admit that it had some of the best tapas I've eaten yet. The ambiance of one of the restaurants in particular was especially inviting because it has a separate little room full of candlelight, indie music, old worn books and big comfy sofas. It was very relaxing and a great way to start the weekend.

Saturday - On Saturday I went to the beach with the PIRE/Granada lab crew. The first thing of note is that the Mediterranean is FREEZING. But for my adrenaline junkies out there, it really gets the heart pumping. After relaxing on the beach and listening to some of Francesco's (grad student at the University) Italian music, we all grabbed coffee at the beachside café. When I got home, I went for a run with Melissa and Clair and after a quick shower, we all went out to dinner together.

Sunday - On Sunday, I woke up and immediately went to the café Esmerelda (the café us PIRE undergrads have been frequenting for Wifi). I took care of some business, including responding to and sending emails, contacting possible participants, refiguring my Gmail calendar...etc. And of course it was Mother's Day, so I got to talk to my mom on the phone for a few short minutes. First time since I've gotten here!!!  I remember it being really hot on Sunday and I got a little overheated. But after figuring out how to work the air conditioner in our apartment, the world was again at peace.

Monday - On Monday I ran four participants, which makes me feel really good about our recruiting numbers. Because Alvaro and Sara are now starting to run participants as well, Clair and I moved to another cabina (booth/lab space) so that we could both run simultaneously. Well, that's all for now. Chau!

 

 

Week of May 7-11

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Week of May 7- 11

As our first full week of living in Granada draws to a close, it seems inconceivable that our elapsed time here in fact consists of little more than a week.  Although the copious differences between daily life in State College and Granada would be virtually impossible to enumerate, the facility which with I have found myself adapting to living in this very different environment has been surprising.  Having arrived in Granada last Tuesday night, Emily and I spent quite a bit of time during  the first several days just walking around Granada and orienting ourselves within the city .  Aside from a  few anxiety-provoking instances in which I temporarily  found myself dreadfully lost, the city has quickly begun to feel much smaller and more accessible than it did when we first arrived and I initially wondered how I would ever be able to  venture more than a block away from our apartment.  With the arrival of Amelia, and then Alvaro, and finally Clair and Melissa, our group spent our first night of being all together partaking in the celebration of the of Dia de las Cruces, or Day of the Crosses, a Spanish holiday in which various groups construct crosses of vibrantly colored flowers and groups of little girls perform dances on stages set up in plazas.  We walked through the narrow mazelike streets of the Albayzin, the old Arabic quarter of the city that is packed with white houses that seem to emerge from the hill upon which the neighborhood is built and windy cobblestone streets, all of which seem to slope steeply upward and, astonishingly, none of which I have yet to trip and tumble down.  It was during those first few days that the initial feeling  of being merely on a vacation gradually morphed into a state of walking through the plazas and streets and experiencing Granada as a city in which we are actually living and doing work.

            Over the course of just these first few days of actually living in a foreign country as opposed to merely visiting, I have repeatedly been struck by the tremendous variety of ways in which the most mundane aspects of daily life in the United States differ from those of Spain and how thoroughly we take these minute facets of our culture for granted as the .  For example as it turns out, it is customary to not tip in restaurants here, which we learned early on when we did so and generated an atmosphere of tense confusion with the waiter.  We are also adapting to the time schedule here, in which everything  is pushed back several hours as compared with the United States, with dinner taking place no earlier than 9 pm, for example.  There is also a roughly two hour period in the middle of the afternoon during which certain types of shops close, only to reopen on into the evening, a tendency that certainly differs from our experience of living at home.   The manner in which Spanish is spoken here in Andalucia is also quite different from what I have become accustomed to learning in Spanish classes I have taken in the past, in that pronunciation here differs significantly and has proved challenging at times to understand.  There is a tendency to drop the/ s/ at the end of syllables, which often results in confusing changes in how verbs appear to be conjugated,  and to omit the /d/ between vowels, transforming, for example, the word "terminado" into "terminao."  Though we learned about these dialectic differences in Spanish linguistics classes I have taken, it has been very interesting to see how this actually manifests itself first hand, much as it has taken a bit of getting used to.  Although at first I was extremely timid about speaking Spanish, I have gradually gotten less hesitant to participate in conversation and am loving being surrounded by the language.

As my  experiment seeks to investigate the effects of immersion in the L2 environment upon verb bias and plausibility in native English speakers, recruiting participants for the study  has  been somewhat of a challenge because  the population that we are seeking for our study is far from abundant.  Fortunately, the project on which Alvaro is currently working requires data from L1 English speakers residing in Granada as well, so we have been able to coordinate our efforts in looking for people for our study.  Our strategy in seeking participants has so far been based upon visiting and contacting schools in the city that offer English instruction, as it seemed to us a reasonable assumption that the teaching faculty at these institutions might be partly comprised of L1 native speakers of English, or that that this would at least be our best bet for finding participants in any significant number from a single source.  I have also been able to find a several participants just by meeting people and talking with them about other people they know who meet the requirements for the study.  This has been quite different from my experience with seeking participants at Penn State in the past, which took place entirely within the confines of the campus environment, as we didn't need to leave the setting of the university to find the population necessary for the study. However, as most of the students at the University of Granada are L1 Spanish speakers, we will not be able to rely upon the University here as a source of participants.  Although I was truthfully not anticipating that the process of recruitment would prove to be so challenging, the more broad-based approach  that we have had to take has required that we do quite a bit of moving about through the city to locate the schools and hang up posters, which has enabled me to explore the city to an even greater degree.  I am certainly eager to begin running participants, but have also reached a point of being comfortable with the fact that the process of finding people for the study, especially with our fairly specific requirements, will be ongoing.    I am also looking forward to being able to work on conducting a study in this entirely different environment, as all previous experience I have had with research has taken place alongside a full class schedule.

I'm a foreigner!!:p

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Hallo from de Nederlands!  I will start with the beginning of my journey.  Before leaving I had a bittersweet feeling, filled with excitement and nervousness.  As a first time traveler outside of the US I wondered what it would be like traveling to a foreign country on my own?  What would it be like once I arrived, how would the people there percieve me.. how would they greet me?  Boarding the plane was a surreal moment at the time.  Once I sat down and got comfortable, I quickly started talking to the girl next to me who is a Native of the Netherlands.  She was visiting the US for a few days, and was describing how PA reminded her of the Netherlands, which made me curious.. in what ways!?  After talking with her my nervousness disappeared and I became filled with excitement of what would come after landing.  We became friends on the flight and are now planning to meet next weekend, which will be nice.  I hoped all people in the Netherlands would be as kind as she was!  I also know if I ever need anyone to kick some butt I can call her! She's a professional Brazilian jujitzu fighter! 

Sarai, my friend from the plane led me to the train station and made sure I was Okay to get to Nijmegen.  Once on the train I met yet another professional athlete--a boy from California training for the 2012 Olympics. Crazy, right?!  There was yet another kind girl who made sure I got to the right train stop (maybe everyone realized I was a confused American girl).  I got off the train and got a taxi to where I'd be staying at the guesthouse.  Yet another smooth travel.  The taxi driver was so cute, showing me landmarks and teaching me how to avoid being pickpocketed.  He even gave me money back when I was giving him a tip.  I realized then how kind people can truly be if you reciprocate.  I was pooped after not sleeping for a 24 hour period, and came to my apartment and passed out!

The first couple days jetlag got the best of me.  My sleeping habits were so strange and my body was rejecting foods and just felt odd.  I'm not gunna lie, it was hard adjusting those first few days and strangely enough the hardest part has been living on my own.  It was strange to be called a foreigner too!  Everyone at the Donders Center (the building where the lab is) was very kind and informational though, which made me feel comfortable.  There is one PHD student who Janet connected me with, Sybrine, that has been extremely kind and patient with all the questions I kept asking her. 

It was strange to be given my own office! I feel soooo professional! I learned though that it is regular for research students to have an office.  I met with Janet my third day here, which was very nice being able to see a familiar face and be given some advice.  Since that day I've gotten used to living in Nijmegen and I'm coming to love it here!  It is soo green, and I love exploring the parks and neighborhoods.  I love seeing the families outside playing hopscotch with their children and playing at the park.  It gives me this homey-feeling that I can't explain.  This week I have almost seven participants, which feels AWESOME!  I hope things continue to go as smoothly as they have been as time continues. :)

Granada: El Primer Capitulo

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Preparing for Participants

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I've been here about a week and a half now, and I've spent this week preparing for the craziness that starts on Monday  -  I have TEN participants scheduled for next week. These have come from a pool of former participants that have agreed to come in for another study. Mainly, they are professionals in the community so I'm hoping they are reliable and I can count on them to come in for the second session.  I also hung some flyers around campus, but it's exam period for students here right now, so I'm not expecting too much to come from that just yet. My stimuli and instruction screens have been translated into Welsh and the kinks in my tasks seem to have been worked out.  The only thing left to do in order to prepare is to run a test participant today.

Outside of work, I've had the opportunity to visit a couple nearby points of interest. I've been to Conwy castle, an impressive structure that is fairly well preserved, the town of LLandudno, which boasts a Victorian atmosphere and a long seaside promenade to walk on, and a giant waterfall wedged between two mountains.  It doesn't stop there, though.  Tomorrow I'm going to climb the highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon. I've been seeing it in the distance ever since I got here and am looking forward to finally getting to the summit.  

I know that while I'm here, I really need to take advantage of my bus pass and see and do as much as possible!

There Really are That Many Sheep

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As soon as I landed at Heathrow I felt sick.  I had been traveling for 17 hours already, my last few meals had only vaguely resembled food, and I was out of the United States for the first time.  But, I pushed on and made it through an hour and a half wait at immigration, a delayed flight, and a 3 hour train ride where I was merely guessing at which stops to transfer. Thus, it was a great sight to see when I arrived in Penmaenmawr and my hosts were waiting to greet me at the bus stop with welcoming hugs.

I've since gotten over the sickness I felt, and the journey has already become worth it.  My first day consisted of a whirlwind tour of North Wales, including coming to the University, seeing the first suspension bridge ever built, meeting an extremely interesting artistic father and son duo, having tea in the mountain town of Llanberis, going to the town with the longest name in the U.K. -Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllanty-siliogogogoch-  and getting to know downtown Bangor.  At the end of the day exhaustion really kicked in, but I couldn't have been happier with everything I got to experience that day.

Over the next couple days, I started to settle in to life at Bangor.  I'm gradually meeting people here at the Centre for Bilingualism, discovering where and what to eat, and learning how to pronounce the names of towns.  Though everyone here does of course speak English, it's not quite America.  Everything works slightly differently, so it takes some getting used to, as I'm sure the other PIRE students  are finding out as well. This is a big point that I bring up when locals ask the inevitable question, "So what do you think of Wales?" Additionally, I share with them the feeling that I am most struck by.  The landscape, towns, and people all seem to be directly taken from a Hollywood film.  Everything is exactly as it is depicted in pop culture (you know, "quaint") which honestly surprised me.  Almost every major town has a castle, cafes serve black pudding, the main university building looks like Hogwarts, small stone farmhouses dot the countryside, and there really are that many sheep.

I look forward to finding some participants next week after the May   holiday and getting down to work in the great facilities here!

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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