When I signed up for classes at the beginning of the semester I signed up for mostly 6ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credit classes. This is equal to half the credits when transferred to University of Northern Colorado. I only signed up for one class that was a 3ECTS class which was Techniques of writing and speaking to fulfill a Spanish credit I need.
So the first week of school comes by and I go to all of my classes, but when I go to this speaking class no one is there. I thought that was weird so I kept checking to make sure it was the right class, and it was. So after that I went to the main office to ask if there was a class that had room change. The lady told that there hadn´t been a room change and then asked if it was a freshman class or if I was a first year student. I told her I was a third year but an exchange student and it may be a first year class, it sure sounded like one.
She explained to me that all freshman students had a big meeting the first day. Two days later I went to the same class, yet still as empty as the day before. Now I´m just confused. I sat there, opened up my laptop and started looking online at my class schedule, and everything seemed right. I figured maybe the freshman thing was for the whole week.
The next week rolls around, but this time I´m late to class because my History of Spain teacher was explaining my project to me then I had to run over to the other side of campus. I finally get there and sit in the back and start frantically taking notes. At the end of the class she takes roll and she asks “who´s name didn´t I call?” I raise my hand and talked to her after class. She asked my name and I told her, but I wasn´t on the list. I asked her what class it was and I forgot what she said because it was in Spanish and really fast but basically the equivalent of mythology. Now I´m really confused.
I checked the Global Campus again and it says that class room! I went and talked to someone at the administration office finally because I cannot seem to find this class. They looked at my class number and told me that all 3ECTS classes don´t start till October 30. I have no clue how I never saw that online or if it even was online, but the look they gave me implemented it was pretty obvious. I guess I´m not very used to classes starting half way through the semester.
I just started this class last week and there already are a lot of things in this class that I´m not used to. The class is focused on writing and oral techniques, but so far it seems like more on the oral side because we have a lot of oral projects. I think I may be the only students in the class that is not journalism major, but like I said it´s basically to learn Spanish. At the beginning of the class we stand around in a circle and make noises and jump up and down to get relaxed. Then we make humming sounds or say weird words like fheet over and over again to practice using our diaphragm. Then we even lie down on a towel and practice our breathing; sometimes to a metronome, sometimes when someone is feeling you to make sure you´re doing it right.
This is where I thought it got kind of weird. We had to stand in a line to feel the teachers lower waist, under her chest, and then above her chest to feel her breathing. Then we had to hold from the behind and do the same thing. Then repeat to students afterwards to make sure we got down breathing with our diaphragms. I am not complaining or anything I just thought it was a little weird because I know in the United States people like their personal space, especially with strangers. I even told some people in the class that people would consider this so weird but since I´ve been out here for a little while I just went along with it like it was nothing, and if you think of it like that it really is. I just let my North American perceptions get in my way for a little.
Another difference that I noticed is that the classes seem to be a lot longer than the 50 minute three times a week or hour and fifteen twice a week at UNC. This may be because the classes are about the same time, but not spread across the week. Here at Universidad Carlos III they seem to make the classes longer and only for a few times a week, or even just one day. For example I have two classes that start at 9am on Monday and Tuesday and don´t end till 12:15. However, we do get a fifteen minute break. I know they often offer long labs and such like this at UNC but a normal class like history that would meet twice a week is condensed into one day to the equivalent of 3 UNC credits (6ECTS). Although some may prefer this, I think that after paying attention to something for longer than a certain time your brain gets tired and turns off. That´s just my opinion, maybe because I like and am used to the shorted classes, or maybe I just don´t drink as much coffee as the Spanish and the Italians.
I´m not trying to be stereotypical or anything but a cultural observation I´ve noticed is the Spanish and Italians love their espresso and coffee. I will look across the room and ever y single person will have a little Styrofoam cup of coffee or cappuccino. Not to mention there is a little dispenser in almost every building. One time I went to go get pizza pretty late at night and I saw two girls drinking coffee and I asked them how they are going to sleep tonight when your drinking espresso at 3am (and it wasn´t decaf, I asked) all they said was “we´re Italian” – touché. Also I think just about every place that serves something to drink or eat has an espresso machine here in Spain.