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The end of the first road... M.A Exams

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After two years of experiencing different topics, places, people, ideas and so on, I have gotten to the end of the first road. I said the first because this is just the end of my Master and the beginning of something else, possibly the PhD in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics. I'm writing this almost seven days before I take my oral exam. I don't have authority to talk about the oral yet but I'll about the written experience. This will help you (international student) to get through these particular days, since these days can be really stressful and your mind goes out of control, even if you try to be as calm as you can. I'll give you some personal advices.
Please, take the ones that fit your personality, we are all Grad Students, but we are not the same being:

1. Meet with your adviser regularly to create a list that will help you to start getting organized with the different topics related to your field.


2. Be practical about studying for your exams. You don't necessary have to start studying for your M.A. exams a year before, but keep in mind the more time you spend getting organize for them, the better your mind will feel weeks before you take them.


3. When you study for your exams, write topics, instead of a long dissertation of what you are going to argue about. I work better writing different topics related to the subject, then I write some examples and discuss about them. In terms of theory, I think it is important to have a clear idea of the ones you are going to use.


4. Create a work groups with the rest of the students that are taking the exam at the same time and discuss about the theories, the books that you have work on. This is really helpful. You ended up feeling that you should study more!


5. I think the steps 3 and 4 are the most important ones. Your mind will be also an important factor the days after your take your exams. Try to practice Yoga, or Pilates, go to a meditation center, or just go to the Gym. Try to be calm. That's the clue.

Good luck with your exams.

Post. This is also an interesting link for you to check http://dbrabham.wordpress.com/category/thoughts-on-academia/

Holidays / Diciembre , 2012

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Hola a todos!

I have to admit that I had the greatest Christmas Day and New Year's Eve in the U.S. so far. I spent time with new people who made me feel special and loved. Even if I felt the absence of my family, I realized that I have certain people that I can consider an important part of my life right now. Ok, I'll stop being sentimental and I'll talk a little bit of what colombians do and what americans do for x-mas.

Americans don't celebrate Christmas like Colombians do; however, it is exceptional to experience unusual feelings and festivities in a different country. The biggest difference is that New Year's Eve is celebrated with our family. We get together and have dinner, and we'll probably dance a huge repertoire of songs depending on the region you live in.

If you're from the Atlantic Coast you might dance Vallenatos, if you live in Cali (where I was living before I came here) you might dance Salsa and Merengue and so on. You'll finally end up singing "Faltan cinco pa' las doce, 
el año va a terminar, 
me voy corriendo a mi casa 
a abrazar a mi mamá...", something close to "It's five to twelve, the year will end. I'm running to my house to hug my mother ... ". In the U.S. this day is the night where you get together with your friends and have fun. It is also a day where you get together with your significant other. Going back to Christmas day I can say that we celebrate almost the same way, with the difference that we don't give seven or eight presents. We just exchange two or maybe three.Other than that it is the same ritual. I can keep talking about our differences, but It is better to mention the good things I did. I also read that blogging is dying and writing too much is boring, so...

...I'll show you the most special moments through some photographs:

Hayward, WI

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Danny, Kay and I made a special Colombian Chicken Rice


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My view was full of snow and silenced sounds!

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I also went to La Jolla, CA where I had time to do Yoga with the Kay, who is as calm as the sea. I hiked by the ocean. I also had time to think about what is coming up: M.A. Written and Oral Exams

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Chao, I hope this year continue being as great as last one!!!

What Do We Do?

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Do you really know what people can do at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese http://spanport.umn.edu? An easy way to demonstrate how hard we work here is by showing you the different ideas that we have in this department; I will introduce you some students. Their ideas/researches are noteworthy and unusual. That's what they became attractive to me.

And they wrote:


Hi! I'm a grad student and Spanish Instructor at the Spanish and Portuguese Department. I'm in my second year of the M.A in Hispanic Cultures and Literatures. I have a personal interest in post dictatorship literature in Latin America, specifically the south cone. During dictatorships in the 70-80', many voices were silenced, rights were violated and all forms of cultural expressions were limited or even prohibited. Traditional patriarchal values were stressed and many men disappeared, leaving women with no other option than taking charge of their families. Fear and repression were the inspiration of new ideals that were externalized through literature. Literary works during and after dictatorships expressed a tone of protest, the fight for surviving, and most importantly, became an instance for women to encounter their identity as individuals. How did feminine literature benefit from dictatorship? When was feminine literature acknowledged as such? Did women use literature to fight against patriarchal principles and domination, or just against the authoritarian regime? This master program and its interdisciplinary approaches have been extremely helpful in providing me with superior knowledge to answer those and other questions in this field that I really enjoy working in!

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Meghann Peace
Ph.D. Candidate
Hispanic Linguistics

As a student of Hispanic linguistics, I have been able to study nearly all aspects of the Spanish language- morphosyntax, phonology, prosody and pragmatics, native and non-native speech, and the methods and techniques used in teaching Spanish to students of different native languages. My main interests, however, focus on two areas in particular - Spanish in the United States and second language acquisition. My work on Spanish in the United States has examined whether Spanish syntax has been affected by its extended contact with English. Do native speakers of Spanish who live in the United States change their way of speaking after years of being bilingual? Within the field of second language acquisition, I have conducted various studies examining how non-native speakers of Spanish acquire the appropriate intonation, syntax, and morphology as used by native speakers. I am currently researching how learners of Spanish acquire and use referential communication in appropriate manners. Namely, do they use grammatical structures that are situationally appropriate and effective in communication?
How is their speech influenced by their desire to be understood? What are their assumptions of their listeners, and how do these assumptions guide the sort of speech that is produced? This particular project examines non-native Spanish from beginning to near-native levels, in order to see if there is an order in which acquisition occurs and which factors influence said order. Given this, there may be implications for improvements in language teaching, to better help students understand and produce native-like Spanish.


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Hey Everyone! My name is Amy Hill and I'm a second-year masters student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota. My research focuses on the themes of human rights and censorship in Argentine and Mexican literature and popular culture. In particular, I am interested in investigating the sociopolitical influence of entertainment mass media, including films and telenovelas. So, yes, I do get to perform research by watching countless hours of Mexican soap operas, and yes, I do believe there is meaning behind seemingly outrageous melodramatic slaps.
Also here is a link to one of the telenovelas that I am currently analyzing. An excellent Mexican remake called Teresa. http://televisa.esmas.com/entretenimiento/telenovelas/teresa/


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I'll tell you about me next time. One tip: I love Caribbean studies. One of my favorite authors is Junot Diaz. You can find interesting links of Junot on this website: https://www.rebelmouse.com/AngelaCastro/


Enjoy y hasta la próxima!!!

Unique Places in Minneapolis

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Hola a todos! We have been talking about things regarding to the U of M. This time I will introduce you with some of my favorite spots in Minneapolis and some info that could be helpful. Since winter is coming and my mood is shifting with the rhythm of the cold, I decided to remember all the places I find unique here. When you have time, you should definitely check them out.

1. If you are in the mood for a cultural vibe, go to Walker Art Center: This museum located on Hennepin Avenue is one of the most important cultural attractions in Minneapolis. The architecture is exceptional. If you go on Thursday you can get in for free. Here's the link http://www.walkerart.org/

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2. If you want to read, or grade surrounded by different kind of people you should go a coffee shop located in Uptown called 'Spyhouse'. You will find independent music, a tasty coffee, mocha, latte and so on. At the same time you'll see a lot of students doing the same thing like you do, so you will feel related, connected, linked, associated to them. If you want more information here's the link http://spyhousecoffee.com/


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3. One expensive but interesting place in Minneapolis is Guthrie Theater if you want to see a play that you'll remember for a long time. This place will let you see the Mississippi river from an exceptional yellow lens. The performances at the Guthrie are qualified and outstanding. Save some of your money and go to check one of their productions once in a while. I just got a Facebook comment from a college who literally says that Guthrie has student discounts and/or rush tickets (cheaper tickets, if you get them a few hours before a performance). Find out http://www.guthrietheater.org/


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4. If you want to go to a 'college' pseudo-cultural club you can go to Kitty Cat Klub, which is a place really close to the U. You will see local bands and you can try decent drinks. The decoration of the place is attractive. You can give it a try on Fridays after class to relax your busy mind. Website http://www.kittycatklub.net/


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Enjoy and let me know what do you think. Hasta la próxima!

How To Keep Healthy And Calm At The U of M

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Being calm and healthy while living Grad Student's life can be really tough just to think about it. If I see myself I can tell you that I haven't been at the Gym three months ago. But I think I found the formula to be healthy and calm at the U of M. There is no magical theory. For me there are just three different activities and actions that you can follow and your life would be more enjoyable. Of course if you feel that you don't need any of this advices just keep siting in your desk, writing, reading and calculating. For those how forgot about these fours things, just keep reading:

1. Schedule time, weekly, being active: you can go to the Rec Center at the U of M. It is FREE, unless you want to pay for classes such as Yoga and personal training and so on. Here's the link http://www.recsports.umn.edu/. Don't make excuses; you can go at least once per week.

2. Eat well and not too much junk: There are so many temptations to eat food that we find delicious. I know we have McDonalds close to Minneapolis campus and we also have Starbucks at Coffman. However, I can give you some tips. Have you thought of bringing or getting fruits, yogurt and oatmeal, at these places? Turn your eyes and you'll be able to see other options in the same menu. Do you know there is a website where you can get a lot of information on healthy food at the U of M? You should use it sometimes; it might help you to find interesting resources http://www.hfhl.umn.edu/

And now... how to keep calm. You might think I'm crazy and probably you don't see the link between being healthy and calm at the same time. However, whenever you have an extra time, try to use it smartly:

3. Balance your studies and social life: You definitely need time for your body. It also has to do with the happiness of your mind/body. I will recommend you to go to dance with your friends, (I can tell for the aspect of my colleagues friends if they go to dance or not); get some friends if you don't have any, I wont tell you how (that would be cover in another 'entretenido' blog). Try to communicate with people outside of your department because your mind and body will get a remarkable rest by talking about different aspects that are not related you're your academic field.

Here's a video that somebody special made for you:



Credits: Danny Dietl and http://advice.lovedetour.com

My Next Favorite Restaurant: Fogo de Chão

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This week I got the idea that Fogo de Chão will become in my next favorite restaurant in Minneapolis. For my closest friends it is not a secret that I have had a hard time in terms of food since I first arrived. I have the feeling that some people don't understand that I come from the Atlantic Coast of Colombia, where almost everything is made it with garlic, salt and red pepper; the land where rice is almost always on the table and meat is part of our biweekly dinner experience. Although Minneapolis has a colossal number of restaurants it is a little bit hard to find restaurants with the southern sabor. This is why Fogo de Chão will resolve one of my food desires.

I know this sounds a little bit unrealistic, since I haven't been at Fogo de Chão, but once in a while, I try to think about different ideas or possible 'free-time activities' that I would like to do in Minneapolis. I'm not writing about this restaurant because my Portuguese teacher is in love with it or just because I miss my delicious colombian food. It is mostly because something got my attention: their creative and persuasive menu. Take a look:


Dining Experience

Step 1: Sit down, relax, and enjoy a drink while we explain the Fogo dining experience.
Step 2: Visit our gourmet salad and sides bar. Enjoy over 30 items including fresh cut vegetables, imported cheeses, cured meats and Brazilian side dishes.
Step 3: Turn your card green side up, signaling that you are ready for our gaucho chefs to begin tableside service.
Step 4: Choose from the 15 cuts of delectable fire roasted meats that are brought to your table, sliced, and served by our gaucho chefs.
Step 5: When you are satisfied, flip the disc to the red side until you are ready for more offerings.
Step 6: If you wish, end the meal with one of our delicious desserts.

Basically, you'll find a variety of meat: Picanha, Filet Mignon, Beef Ancho, Alcatra, Fraldinha, Costela, Cordeiro, Frango, Costela de Porco, Lombo and Linguica. In terms of drinks they have a huge range that you can check by yourself. Something that make me happy is that they have one of my favorite dessert: South American Flan

Don't forget: having dinner at Fogo de Chão can cost you between $25 and $30 dollars. You better save with one or two month in advance... I can't wait to go.

Isn't it enjoyment and tasty food what you look for when you go out for dinner?


What It Really Means To Be a Grad Student!

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Credit: DM Bulletin

Recently I have been reading so many interesting facts about being a Grad Student. I won't write something smarter than that but I think I should be honest by saying how I feel as a Grad Student at the U of M. I read that you don't have a life; you have to read an incredible number of books per week, you drink four cups of coffee or more per day and try to digest an unimaginable quantity of information. For me part of that is true and part of that isn't. It is true that being a Grad Student requires a lot of time for grading (if you get a Teaching Assistant position), reading a lot and writing.
However, there are so many good things that people don't focus on. The first positive thing is that you get to discuss topics that you feel passionate about and things that are your interest. One of the grad student in my department http://spanport.umn.edu/ said that you get to study something you enjoy and you'll be surrounded by those who are equally dedicated to studying things they love.
Another positive thing is that you get to create your own schedule and you have the freedom of turning what you like to do into your job and so on.
Although it can be hard, so far I think it is worth it. What else is better that studying what you really dreamed about?

Here are some personal tips along with some colleague's suggestions:

1. Be on time with every single assignment you have and you'll survive. Remember that every thing is your responsibility.
2. Become friends with your colleagues. This won't happen right after you arrive in your department. It takes times but it is healthy. They'll become your 'amigos profesionales' at the end of the road. You might discover the value of this when you graduate. I haven't yet but I'm sure I will.
3. Apply to go to conferences. They are good for you to find people interested in what you are doing; you create connections that might help you with future projects. It is also a great opportunity to travel around the US and abroad (at least for me this is a great chance for international students and for natives).
4. Try to have a good relationship with your professors and advisers. Nevertheless, do not wait for your adviser to let you know of little deadlines because is your own responsibility to finish your degree. They have a job and you are an independent person pursuing your goal. They are not high school counselors..
5. When you get a paper back with 100 criticisms it might break you down. However, if you can rebuild yourself, you will become tougher.
6. When you feel that you can't make it think about people who don't have the opportunity to be educated and also live in worse conditions than you right now.
7. Have you found the beauty of what you are doing right now?.

If you think there is more to say about this, please leave a comment. It is hard to think of every single possibility. I'm just in my second year of Grad School. Buena suerte!


Some funny and serious links that talk about Grad School:

1. Grad School / U of M http://www.grad.umn.edu/
2. You can watch The PhD Movie: http://www.phdmovie.com
2R. Have you heard/read about the Ceej and Em: Graduate School Barbie (TM):
http://ceejandem.blogspot.com/2010/02/graduate-school-barbie-tm.html

Post. Another Grad Student mentioned that to be Grad Student is like a being professional hipster (I'll omit to tell you why).

Wait... I forgot to tell you that you will have time to celebrate the achievement of the first year:

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Who is Ángela Castro?

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Hey there! I'm Ángela Castro, originally from Colombia, specifically from a vibrant city called Cali. It's always sunny and warm in my hometown and you'll always find a place to dance salsa and exquisite food such as ajiaco, arepas, buñuelos, cholado, my favorite lulo juice, and so forth. Please google it and you'll see what I'm talking about.

I'm in my second year of Grad School in Hispanic Literature. Along with the nervousness of ending succesfully my MA, the learning of the portuguese language has become in one of my biggest goals this year. I find it really challenging but also enjoyable since it is similar to Spanish (my native language). For example, the verb 'Go" is identical in both languages and I keep writing it in Spanish over and over again. However, portuguese is music to my ears!

I wanted to become an International Student Ambassador because it gives me the opportunity to help international students to get a better understanding of what the U of M is. It also gives me a chance to talk about the advantages of being in a different country, discuss diverse topics related to academic life and the value of our 'free time'. A good use of your free time is necessary in order to keep a balance in your student life and also to survive of the amount of responsibilities you get when you arrive at the U (I'll be talking deeply about this in another post).

When I first visited to the U of M I was impressed and shocked by how big it was and how much diversity I found among the students. Now I realize that this diversity is exceptional to create a unique atmosphere, where you learn a lot about culture and differences.

I'll be sharing information and tips that might help you as an international student. I hope you enjoy! Bienvenidos!


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