US College workload and course-work from an international perspective (Day 2 of NaBloPoMo)

2 Nov

I know this shows that i posted twice 2 today, but it’s just because i changed the time zone of my blog. I’m still going through the challenge of posting every day this month.

This is probably one of the most approached topics when being questioned about my experience at UCLA as an international student. How difficult is the school work? Is language a problem?

And, as vague or as cliché this may sound, what I have learned over the past 3 months in the US is that college is indeed what you make of it.

To begin with, in a short answer that I know many are looking for: No. College coursework is not this incredibly difficult, unachievable task. And I’m not even talking about barely passing; I am talking about getting good grades. On the other hand, it is definitely not an easy endeavour and you can always chose how hard or easy you want it to be, which is probably the appeal of a us college in which there is no fix curricula.

What do I mean by this possibility of making it as difficult or as easy as you want?

There are several aspects to it.

Firstly, and probably the most striking difference to the university system back in Europe, is the fact that you can and sometimes even must take courses from across different fields. Some of you may not know, but European universities are specialised, meaning you apply directly after highschool to medschool, to law school, to architecture school, to engineering school, to political science university, to psychology university, etc. You usually have an exam related to the subject and the coursework you will have to do in order to graduate is fixed. Should you decide to switch your career after a year you usually have to start all over at a different university compared to simply switching a major in the US. This liberty that the US college system gives you is empowering and liberating as you can explore different fields without pressure to pursue them and even get a minor in a secondary passion of yours. On the other hand it is definitely tempting and easy to choose only the easy classes, especially for the General Education requirements most colleges have. This is the first aspect in which college education is what you make of it. Challenge yourself and choose your classes based on your interests and passions or go with the flow, and choose the ones that are known to have indulgent teachers, nice TA’s and easy finals.

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Is forced writing good writing? and Culture Shock. Am I weird for not experiencing it?

2 Nov

It’s November 1st! Time to get your NaBloPoMo on! Oh, the excitement.

Or not.

For some, November is that time of the year when they finally get the motivation to write their big novel, or even commit to simply write more.

I, personally have always wondered about this obsession with writing more. Does an increased quantity of words bring anything to your style, your posts or your audience? Perhaps I was just too lazy to accept the challenge and was just finding excuses. After all, as an athlete, I should know that practice makes perfect and even if perhaps reaching a quota of words per day or month will not automatically transform you in a better writer, there is no way it can hurt you.

I did experiment with writing everyday for a while last year and it worked fine as long as I felt inspired. I quit when it got though, when I actually had to find a subject to write on and not just pour my soul out. I also experienced a negativity and self-doubt when asking myself why n earth would anyone want to hear my opinion on everything.

But here I am, November 1st, ready to accept this challenge once more, as I again came back to my conviction that Writing is more for yourself than a desired audience. I have also not written in a long time, and perhaps the transformation that I’m inevitably going through needs to have a documented proof. And I miss writing. There, I admitted it.

So, short update on where I am now. 6565.42 miles or 10565.74 km away from home. Foreign continent. North America. Foreign city. Los Angeles. Alone. Or actually, this is a more accurate description of how my journey started exactly 3 months ago. I know it’s early, but I feel I could easily call this home and I’m pretty sure there was not a single day in which I felt alone after arriving to UCLA.

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How the international community reacted to Romania’s stray dog scandal or How easy it is to insult an entire nation from behind the screen.

6 Sep

I have rarely, if ever, expressed my opinion on a country or its people, simply because fighting in words with ignorant people is pointless. I do cringe when I see stereotypes portrayed in the media, or hear ignorant comments about matters that are so far from being clear and true.
This article is another story though. Leaving aside that it is obviously biased against Romanians and generally portrays a hateful attitude, the inaccuracies and lies in it are enraging, as are the comments that follow.
Romania has a PR Problem, 3rd September 2013.
To begin with, stray dogs, contradictory to what the article states, is still a major problem in Romanian cities. The following statistic provided by the Anti-rabies “Matei Bals” Institute, which mostly serves the capital of Romania, Bucharest, show that the number of person bitten yearly by stray dogs has increased in the past years:
*in 2008 – 11.500 persons
*in 2009 – 11.800 persons
*in 2010 – 12.800 persons
*in 2011 – 12.500 persons
*in 2012 – 16.192 persons
*in 2013, until July – 8.610 persons
“The cruelty by the majority of Romanians towards its stray population unimaginable and the world should be weeping for the dogs.”
How does one define and come up with the term majority? Has the author of this article witnessed any Romanian displaying cruelty towards an animal? Where does this term come from? Impressions from an article, news from friends?
“Most children will learn early to kick, beat and kill puppies and kittens for fun.”
I cannot even begin to explain why this sentence is wrong. Again, what does “most” mean and is it based on any study or statistic? I would love to say that no Romanian teaches its child to beat or kill anything or anyone, but I cannot generalise. I can say however, that we Romanians are generally perceived as a loving, caring nation and no barbaric treatment is taught or encouraged in this country, as in any European one.
According to such reports, Romania appears in the top 20 countries with most pet dogs, is acknowledged to have welfare and registration laws. Citing from the article,” Some reports of veterinary services also suggested a higher number of post operative complications including wound breakdowns, haemorrhage and infection in countries such as Armenia, Romania and Ukraine. Romania and Ukraine specifically requested assistance in training vets to neuter animals.”

This not only shows, that Romanians do own pets and care about them, by having a welfare legislation, but also acknowledge the stray dogs problems and asked for assistance. This portrays a rather different picture than barbaric, murderous men, women and children.

“Most people walking the streets will not even give a bowl of tap water to a thirsty dog. ” And why is this shocking? Does every citizen of the word or even of the European Union, stop on its way to work to feed a stray dog? And even if that is the case, would that still happen when the dog population in the city reaches 64000? That meaning, a stray dog for every 30 persons in that city? I believe not.

And even if there is money allocated to solve this issue, whether from national or international funds, bureaucracy is a much more obvious and true problem of the Romanian Administration. Funds for many other causes fail to reach their targets every day and no one seems to bat an eye about those. Causes such as orphanages, schools in rural regions, hospitals, waste management, and many other fail to receive the assigned funds.
NGO’s whether national or international ones are great at creating media stir, apparently “raising awareness” on this issue, but how many come with follow up stories and studies? Providing shocking pictures is easy, but not releasing dogs after 2 days in a shelter back into the streets is not.

Leaving numbers and proof aside, I just want to express my disappointment with the international community and the average reader in general. How easy it is to judge a country that is far away and of which you have incomplete information. How easy it is to say that it is obvious that killing dogs is not the solution, when it is not you who fear walking on the streets. How easy is it to call an entire nation murderers, butchers, criminals, when you hear of one such case and there are 20 million people in that nation. How easy is it to turn your back on a country that has requested assistance with a problem?
Readers who leave comments such as this:
•    “Shame on Romania! I will never ever visit such a heartless mean corrupted country. what kind of monsters lives there, horrorble!” show an incredible ignorance and narrow-mindedness when referring to a country. Romania is a beautiful country, especially to visit, and declaring that monsters live there based on one story does not portray them as superior to the Romanians. It portrays them as ignorant, perhaps even worse.
•    “this is terrible; the children need proper education too, how to treat animals well otherwise nothing will change”. Does this person know anything about the education system in Romania? Does it know about the education system in its own country? How many countries actually address this problem through formal education?
•    “They did not ask to be born or to be treated in such a barbaric way by rumanian butchers and sadists who enjoy killing, kicking & beating animals to death” Incredible ignorant generalisation of an entire nation and a hurtful comment to most. I doubt that Romanian doctors, teachers, lawyers or even not professionals can be called in such a manner, without it being a completely offensive remark. This would be as calling all English pukingly drunk football fans;
•    And the worst: bringing other political issues into discussion: “I am disgusted with the way these “people” treat their animals and am   also horrified of what they will do to our animals when they are allowed to come to the UK at the end of the year!”
Firstly, these are not their animals. Romania has one of the highest rates of pet-ownership in Europe. People definitely love animals here and teach their children to treat them well.
Secondly, why are you bringing the issue of migration up in an article that has nothing to do with it. Countless EU predictions have shown that there is no likelihood whatsoever that Romanians will invade UK. The average man would not desire to come to a country that displays such blunt hostility and ignorance towards them. Worst case scenario, college – educated people, especially doctors will be the only ones coming and there is no way you can believe such a person would mistreat a stray dog.
And thirdly, “your” animals? Do you consider stray dogs on the street of English cities your animals? Or do you think a Romanian will come into your home and kill your pet?
•    Last, but no least: “aand.. lets not talk about the fact that the grandmother of the child was supposed to watch the child while he was playing. She left him alone for like an hour… he run away from the park where he was supposed to be, and after that… BOOM… all dogs are supposed to die” Are you supposed to die, bitten by a dog, just because you wander off from your grandmother? What if the grandmother was with him? What should she have done to protect the child?
•    “These romanian people that left a comment here, are educated egocentrically and are all specisits. They fear dogs because they don’t know how to establish any connection with a domesticated, or wild animal. Don’t even bother believeing in their fears. They deserve it” Romania has one of the highest pet-ownership rate in Europe and are more than loving towards them. The fear is real only because the danger is real. If children end up dead because of any reasons, anyone would fear that particular reason, in this case, stray dogs.
In the end, I am terribly disappointed with how this entire scandal has affected Romania’s image in the international community, as well with how the situation has been handled. I do not in any way excuse the killing of animals, but I do ask that all factors are taken into consideration when throwing accusations. Not only should generalisation not be made, but even an enraged small group could be not slammed down when reacting to a death of a little, innocent child.
And to all those, sitting in front of the computer, slamming Romanians, how many of you could or would live in such conditions: fearing walking the streets, fearing leaving your kid play in the park, having a scar from a dog bite etc?

These shoes were made for winning or Daily Promt: These Boots Were Made for Walking

24 Aug

Daily Prompt: These Boots Were Made for Walking

Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.

To start off with, yes, I am that type of girl. The one who has at least 100 pairs of shoes and still feels that none matches her outfit for the day perfectly. I love heels, I love flats, I love running sneakers, I love sandals, and I love boots. But there is no pair of shoes in the world I love more than my tennis shoes.

It’s not that they are the most used ones, which they definitely are. And it’s not that they are Adidas or that one pair I had used to have Swarowski diamonds on them:)).
It’s the fact that when I put them on, I change. In my white, hopefully redish form clay, tennis shoes I feel I can take over the world. These shoes have seen me in victory and they have seen me in defeat. But, they have also seen me in countless hours of practice. They have seen in setting a goal and working for it.

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Seeing the sport you’ve been playing your entire life anew or Competition after one year

22 Jun

Retirement and hitting rock bottom.
Almost one year ago I took the heartbreaking decision of giving up playing tennis. My results were not the ones expected by me or my coach or my family, the recruiting process didn’t go as planned (although I received offers from D1 universities I had chances to get into higher ranked ones based solely on my academics) and putting all those hours and emotions into sports wasn’t justified anymore especially since I was entering my senior year and had the leaving examination waiting for me at the end of the year.

What followed was a severe case of athlete’s depression and I will write another post describing the experience but I feel positive today and I will fast-forward in order to get to today, at the end of the first competition I played in almost a year.

First tournament results and what I want to write about. Continue reading

Fitspo time again

21 Jun

Even though it’s summer and the temperatures make we want to be anywhere but in the library, still having exams can be a blessing in disguise.

I get to experience and learn again how greatly a good run or workout can influence your day and keep you motivated for studying or any other unpleasant activity you must do. I feel so energised and proud after a run.

And, secondly, it gives me a little it more time until I present myself to the seaside and just enough to get in that perfect swimsuit form.

Stay strong and enjoy your workouts.

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About how and why I became brave or “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.”

17 Jun

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Dale Carnegie

The most overused quote ever and I still love it.

This is probably one of the most used motivational and inspirational quotes and perhaps there is a reason to it. I am a huge consumer of motivational speeches/music/quotes/books and am proud of it. Because I know that they have an effect on me, because I know that if I listen to a certain song in the morning I’ll have a different attitude, because I know that if I hear a certain speech I’’ start the match believing in myself, because all of these and much more, I surround myself with inspirational material.

And this quote right here sits at the top of my list and above my bed. Not only do I feel the energy growing inside of me every time I read it, but I have lived my life according to it and was never disappointed.

Dreaming of knights in shiny armour and despising princesses dressed in pink.

Ever since I was little, I dreamt of being a knight. I wanted to identify with all the heroes I read about and this is a habit I still have, especially with female heroines. I still want to be Arya Stark from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, even though I am much older than her and I wanted to be Katniss Everdeen in „The Hunger Games” trilogy. I dreamt of being Zoey Redbird in the „A House of Night series”, and still feel a little bit like Beatrice Prior from „Divergent”. Part of my being a tomboy came natural, but part of it was an act, and even to this day I am not sure how I really am. But I know now, what I also knew then, that a life lived in fear is not worth living and have decided long ago that I wasn’t going to be a prissy princess but a fearless warrior, exactly like Eloise, daughter of D’Artagnan or like Merida in “Brave”.


I was the first one to get shots at the doctor, the only one willing to kill a spider or touch a worm for a dare. I was the first one to go down the zip line or jump into a river from an 8 metres high rock as well as the one always suggesting the scariest rides in the fun park. I was the one going on the diamond marked slope even on an icy day or choosing to explore the forest on skies/snowboard. I didn’t say no to parasailing or scuba-diving and did not refuse to take word in front of 500 people. I rode the kicker and glided on a butterbox and even though I fell and was injured continued to try and jump and ride on. Continue reading