sábado, 14 de junio de 2008
domingo, 11 de mayo de 2008
Figured I should at least have one post that was relevant to fellow students coming to Valencia. If you don´t study design or you´re not planning to come to Valencia, this will probably bore the fuck out of you. The funnier blog entries are at the back of the archive. I´m just fulfilling my duty.
Choosing to go to Valencia on Erasmus is an easy choice to make.
The agreements between our faculty and theirs is very good, so it´s practically only a matter of saying Yes.
However, information is hard to get by. The international office either doesn´t know or doesn´t bother to tell you what you need to do in preparing your exchange. Talk a lot with other students, for someone is bound to know something more than you. I don´t exactly remember all it took to get there. Know that administration is something you´ll have to deal with a lot, both before and once you´re there. Nothing is insolvable, it just requires a lot of time, patience and paperwork. You´ll be told it´s part of the Erasmus experience, but that´s only because they haven´t done anything about it yet. Valencia requires no portfolio. However, you´ll have to register yourself and the classes you want to take on thist website: www.opii.upv.es/incomings.
Don´t expect too much from the mentor that they will assign to you. I only met mine once, and by the time I did, I already knew more than her about how to find a room (I already had one) and how the classes worked.
The smartest decision I have ever made on erasmus, was to take the 2-weeks intensive language class in Gandia before starting the year in Valencia. Most of my closest friends here, even after a year, I have met in Gandia. It is the easiest way to immediately meet people. Not to mention learning a good deal of spanish. And, an easy way to find a place to stay in Valencia while taking the class in Gandia. The intensive class costs 170euros, and a shared flat there (with 3 other erasmus students) costs 180 euros for two weeks. It is an excellent way to start the year; class in the morning, beach in the afternoon and party at night. Definitely a good deal. The international office in Gandia is very helpful, much more than the other offices you´ll bump in to.
I my opinion, the courses offered by the faculty of industrial design in Valencia are not worth it. It might be something for you if you´re in your second year of bachelor, but don´t expect the level to be any higher. The problem with ETSID (IDE faculty) is that they are a technical university, so don´t expect very creative and conceptual design. At the same time, their level is much lower than in Delft. Which means you´re stuck with classes that are similar to Delft, but on a very basic level.
The classes I´ve tried out at ETSID are the following:
Grafismo (semester A)
This class still uses Macromedia´s Freehand. This program is on its way to extinction ever since Adobe bought Macromedia, and is replacing Freehand by the now much more potent Illustrator CS3. The teaching goes very slow, starting with a long introduction into Freehand, I didn´t stick around long enough to see where it goes, because it coincided with another class I ended up taking. The teacher seemed good enough, just the level of the class, like most others, that was low. Understand that most of the classes you´ll be taking are electives, which means even no one takes them very seriously to begin with.
Diseno de sistemas expositivos (semester B)
This comes down to Exposition Design. It sounded very cool at first. Each week, you go to another museum and analyze it. But again, the class is given at such a basic level, that even an interesting field like exposition design becomes boring and a waste of time. The teachers don´t ask much from the students, the students don´t bother to do much either, and the project only kicks into gears in the last two months, leaving you with little time to design anything worth putting in your portfolio.
There are few other classes at ETSID that are worth mentioning. Most students I know either took Habitat or Diseno for Occio (Design for leisure). From talking to other students, I got the same impression as ever: The classes are given at a very low level, with little commitment from the teachers to get anything seriously done with it. My general experience tells me that the whole design faculty of valencia is equivalent to our second bachelor year. So, if you are in already in your master, you might want to reconsider your choice.
However, Valencia has a lot to offer, but it´s not going to be easy. Most of the classes that are worth it are actually being given at the faculty of Bellas Artes (Fine Arts). Except for Photography, which is given at both faculties, but I know little about this class, except that it is very popular and not too demanding. The classes at Bellas Artes are given on a yearly basis (as opposed to semesters, in ETSID) but most teachers will give you the credits for one semester is you only stay as long.
The classes I took at Bellas Artes are the following
There are a few graphic design classses at Bellas Artes that are interesting. If I had to recommend only one, it would be Autoedicion. The teacher is very good, demands the best out of every student, gives great feedback and knows her stuff. The only detail is that they still use Quark Xpress instead of InDesign, but this should change by 2008, from what the teacher told me. I have had an excellent time there and found it very learnful. However, this class is extremely popular. Which means that Spanish students from Bellas Artes get priority. Then, Spanish students from Seneca (an internal spanish exchange program) get priority. Then, the Erasmus students from Bellas Artes. And finally, at the bottom of the pyramid, is us, IDE students on erasmus. It´s a class worth fighting for, but it won´t be easy. I ultimately managed to convince the teacher to let me be in her class, even though I wasnt´t on the list. She was so busy that she could only give me feedback during her after-class visiting hours. But, if you´re serious about learning graphic design, this is th place to be, hands down.
Fundaments of animation (fundamentos de animacion)
You´ll probably read in most other reports, that Animation is a great class. And it´s true. Don´t get confused by the name of the class. There is one that is given in Spanish, and another one that is given in English. Besides these two classes, there is Animacion and Animation, which are the second level, if you will. I strongly recommend the english class called fundaments of animation. Maria, the teacher, is very nice and accepting of students, even if you are not on the list. She is a passionate teacher. Classes involve exercices to introduce animation (such as bouncing balls) but evolve quite fast into more advanced matters such as walking cycles. All of the exercices are usually done by hand drawing. Most classes will involve some theory, some time to work on the exercices and also watching a looooot of animation videos. It´s a time consuming class, but it´s surely worth it. Probably the coolest class there is to take in Valencia. Even if you don´t like drawing a lot, or if you´re not that good at it, like I am. It´s completely different from drawing classes at IO. Very fun indeed. It´s also a great class to meet other erasmus students.
Escultura Digital - Diseno asistido por ordenador
This class is basically about learning 3D Studio Max, which the teacher is an expert of. The year starts with taking some tutorials from the help file fo the program, and then each student can work on whatever project he wants. Most people design a character which they end up animating and rendering. Others model architectural scenes and render those. I spent quite some time trying to import solidworks files to 3D Studio Max and render them from there, which doesn´t always work nicely. I have to say that 3D Studio Max is quite a counterintuitive program. It seems to be one of the industry standards, but I really don´t like it. Luckily, the teacher is very nice. You are allowed to choose any other 3D program you want. Some went for Maya, or Blender, it´s all good. I would by far recommend learning Maya, which seems to be way more intuitive, and more similar to Solidworks in interface. The teacher tends to mumble a bit, but he´s very nice and will repeat everything if needed.
Instalaciones Interactivas y Redes
nobody had told me about this class, and I discovered it almost by accident. This class is the closest thing to Design for Interaction I found. Basically, you learn to use Flash in order to make interactive instalations or websites. It does involve some programmation as you learn to use ActionScript, but only in basic ways. It´s a good class to be introduced to Flash. The teacher is really good and motivating. It´s the only class where I felt like on the cutting edge of what´s being done today in interactive art. Not because of the equipment available, but because the teacher encourages you to try something new. There´s a real sense of experimentalism in this class, which I liked a lot. The teacher was a bit hard to understand at first, but it´s worth it.
I did not take this class, but I heard a lot of good about it. The teacher seems to be a kind of guru that knows everything about every program, like After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro etc. I wish I had known about this class before, because I would surely have taken it. It seems After Effects is definitely a kick ass program. This class is also great for meeting erasmus students.
A general advice about taking classes at Bellas Artes:
It will not be easy. They are overloaded with erasmus students, and usually, there are only 5 places available for erasmus students per class. Classes like Escultura Digital and Instalaciones Interactivas seem to be not too popular, but other classes might be hard to get into if you´re not from Bellas Artes. Don´t expect the international office at Bellas Artes to even want to talk to you. They are VERY mean when they discover you´re not from Bellas Artes. However, you can alway talk to the teacher. Since you don´t have to bring back so many credits, you can afford to take classes even without receiving credits for it. Some classes at Bellas Artes are surely worth it. My advice is to take a class such as escultura digital for the credits, and that should alread be enough. For the rest, make the best out of the chance to take radically different classes from one of Spain´s best Fine Arts Universities.
I got the Erasmus grand of approx. 200 euro´s a month, which was no problem at all.
You get 80% of it at the beginning of the year, and hopefully the 20 other percents when I give in this report.
Spain isn´t particularly cheaper or more expensive. You do go out more, which generally makes you spend more money, but eating out is cheaper than in Delft. You can eat at a tapas bar and spend little more than 10 euros. Transportation is cheap as well, if you buy the 10-trips tickets. I found it hard to find a student job here, especially in the beginning when my spanish wasn´t great yet. The best place to look for a job are internet cafes (called Locutorios) which pay very little but are usually looking for someone. I did hear-see erasmus students working for bars. Either as a bartender, or distributing tickets for free drinks or free entrances. Ask the popular erasmus bars about a job, they should have something.
Finding a place to sleep in valencia is not too hard. It does help a lot if you speak some spanish. The best place to find a place to sleep is by checking either of these two websites:
Valencia - Loquo
Or the UPV´s own website
Don´t waste your time going in the streets looking at signs on lampposts, it´s time consuming and by the time you read a particular sign, a 100 other students or so will have done the same. it´s easier to regularly check the website and call early on recent ads.
Prices of flats have risen lately, so expect to pay about 250 euros (all costs included) on a small room.
Some areas, like Benimaclet, are cheaper. It´s a matter of luck as well.
The best areas to live in are: Around Plaza Xuquer, in the Carmen, Benimaclet, and in the sidestreets of Blasco Ibanez, nearer to the city centre than the beach. Although it sounds great, it´s really a bad idea to live near the beach. Not only are the neighbourhoods there generally bad, but they are also far from everything. Most of the nightlife is concentrated around Blasco Ibanez and El Carmen (in the city centre). There is an excellent tram connection to the beach, so even if you live in say, Benimaclet, reaching the beach is a piece of cake. Actually, the best palce to live in is somewhere in between the city centre and the university. I personally lived on Plaza Xuquer for 210 euros all included, and I consider myself very lucky to live there. My piece of advice: don´t be too picky about your room. If it´s affordable, in a good location, and your housemates look ok, take it. I lost a room by thinking I could find better, and by the time I had made up my mind, it was already hired. You can find a room within 3 days of intensive search, but it´s more a question of adjusting your standards than really finding the room.
LANGUAGE & CULTURE
In Spain they speak Spanish. Don´t expect to count on your english for long. it will only take you so far. The sooner you speak spanish, the better. And the better you talk Spanish, the sooner you´ll get everything there is to get out of your experience abroad. I strongly recommend taking a spanish class at TBM before arriving. It´s also a good idea to take that intensive spanish class, and to continue to invest in your spanish throughout the year. The culture in Spain is a bit different from Holland. People don´t really take siesta´s like you imagine, but shops do close between 14.00 and 17.00 (except for supermarkets and chainstores). People eat very late at night, easily 23.00 o´clock, but you get used to that. The nightlife also start later. I don´t find it hard to get used to the spanish way of life. Administration tends to run a bit slower, but it´s nothing dramatic. You´ll find that people are warmer here, the relationship between teacher and student is closer at Bellas Artes and strangers will be more inclined to talk to each other. The hardest thing will probably be to penentrate the spanish student community somehow. That´s why I recommend moving in with spanish students that you would get along with. Don´t wait too long to speak to other students in class and invite them along on your nights out. They´re as curious about the erasmus students as you are about spanish. You´ll inevitably make good friends with erasmus students, but don´t give up on the spanish students. I can consider a few spanish students good friends now, and it´s a great achievement.
Valencia is a great city to spend your erasmus free time. As a student city, it rocks. There is not shortage of bars, cafes nightclubs, cheap restaurants, alternative cinemas and flamenco performances. Although you´ll quickly get to know the typical erasmus hangouts, here are a few gems I collected:
Bohemian cafe near Plaza Xuquer for the coolest drinks menu
El Kiosko behind La Lonja for the cheapest, most local tapas you´ll ever find in the Carmen
Black Note Club on mondays for cool impro jam sessions of blues on calle Polo y Peyrolon
The IVAM museum has great modern art exhibitions that are regularly renewed
1000 Montaditos for a cool snack in town on plaza de la reina
Bodega Fila on Calle Manuel Candela for cheap tapas with lots of erasmus students, full every night already at 8
The Albatros and Babel cinemas that do NOT dub their (european) movies in spanish
The Kibbutz hairdresser on calle Bolseria in ther carmen for kick-ass haircuts
El Tucan on Calle Polo y Peyrolon gives salsa classes on tuesdays at eleven
Valencia is perfectly located to travel around Spain. At only a few hours from Madrid and Barcelona, it´s easy to visit around. The cheapest way to reach anything in Spain is with buscompanies, but trains are not too much more expensive either. Expect to pay 20 euros to reach Madrid by bus. Make use of the bigger holidays to rent a car and visit Andalusia with a bunch of friends. RyanAir flies really really cheap to Porto, Portugal, so that´s definitely a good idea. But you don´t have to look that far for interesting places to visit. Small villages around Valencia such as Sagunt are definitely worth a visit. Not to mention to nicer beaches out of town, like El Saler, easily reachable by yellow bus. There is also Albufeira, the beautiful natural park the size of Valencia.
There are a few good websites for erasmus students in valencia:
http://www.valenciavalencia.com is full of information
http://willy.k.free.fr/ hosts a pdf version of a little city guide called Agenda Urbana that tells you what happens each month in Valencia. It´s free and available in printed form at the canteen of Bellas Artes.
http://www.cinesalbatrosbabel.com/ for the alternative cinemas
mymacandmyguitar.blogspot.com is the blog I kept during my time in spain
http://www.whichbudget.com/ will tell you which budget companies fly around europe
My conclusion is this:
Valencia is an amazing city, definitely a good choice for going on Erasmus.
It may not be as famous as Barcelona or Madrid, but it´s just perfect, not too big (pollution and crime) and not too small (there´s plenty to do and see here). It has nice beaches, the best weather of Spain (only 60 days of clouds, sunshine every day), easy to go around by public transportation or bike. The best way to buy a bike is to go behind the football stadium on saturday night at 3am. Don´t pay more than 50euros on a bike, and don´t buy the ones that look all new but weigh a ton. Be aware that you will learn nothing of value at ETSID if you have done more than two years of design in Delft, but fight your way into Bellas Artes classes. Invest in your spanish, it will make everything easier. Follow this advice and you won´t regret it, Valencia kicks ass. I recommend coming for a whole year, one semester is too short to make real friends, to really speak spanish and to get anything valuable out of your time here.
domingo, 27 de abril de 2008
What is up with the L-word?
I'm not talking about a bunch of lesbians occasionally making out on tv. Nothing's up with that. We're all big supporters.
I'm talking about the L-word in "I Love you".
Here's a story.
About a year ago, my mate and I were discussing the whole saying 'I love you'. The timing, the meaning etc. I hadn't really given it much thought by then. It sort of came out quite early in my case. I couldn't even remember when. But definitely early, and frequently afterwards. My friend, on the other hand, had still. not. said. IT. There was a lot of pressure riding on the L-word, he told me. I couldn't really understand what the deal was. Hell, I couldn't even remember when I had said it for the first time, so it COULDN'T be such a big deal. Yet there he was. Coming back to mind now, a little gem of a tip that someone once gave me about the right moment to lean in for a kiss, it was: "If you're thinking about kissing, then it's probably a good time to kiss".
Some time later, my friend came back to me and said "Man I told her! I said 'I love you'." It turned out he had ultimately said it during sex. It also turned out to be the perfect timing, AND definitely a greater way for setting the mood than candles. Between us, he'd say 'I love you' for the first time in bed every night again if he could :) So there you go. That same day, I made a mental note to keep my 'I love you' like a kind of super-magic-kamasutra-joker-card that I would pull out on a night when I meant business. And failed miserably. The paradox involved with preparing kick-ass surprises is that it's that much harder to keep it a secret... surprise.
Still, no real valid point has been brought up so far, so here's another piece of useless anecdote. Last night I discovered that two remote friends of mine had recently (and finally) hooked up. The girl involved had told me that last night, in a long-time-no-see chat I seem to have a lot of lately. She asked me about my girlfriend, and the things that I liked about her. It wasn't a hard question, but when I was done, she added "Is it just a "Like" now or did it already turn into a "Love" for you?". And here's what I said.
I said "excellent question!! You know, with my first gf, I didn't understand what the problem was with people about the whole 'Love' word. It had come very fast with my first girlfriend except, I now realize, might have been less... founded on strong fundaments :) now, I am a bit more experienced... but, I don't know if it's a better thing to be more careful with the love word.
We can never be 'sure' anyway, so why be careful about it...anyway, to answer your question, Yes, I consider it love, and I tell her I love her."
And she said "I think "love" includes a little bit of surrender. And people hesitate to do so."
Which reminded me of a metaphor I once came up with. I said "It might be, that we realize we're giving away the remote control to our happiness, into the hands of someone else, and that's kind of scary". I immediately felt good about myself for bringing up such clever metaphor, you understand. But she said something that only now, as I look into the message history again, I realize how clever and true it actually is. She said:
"In reality, if you think that you really love the person, you are already bitten. You already gave away the remote control. But admitting it to that person only helps that person to know it. If you don't admit it, you have the space to pretend to still hold the remote control in your hands".
Ok, read that part again. I decided to leave it pretty much as is, so take another second to read it again. The scary part, it seems, is to commit oneself to one's own vulnerability.
Last but not least, I shall bring to court my last piece of evidence. Which is the reply I got from my gf, after sending her the same list of things I liked about her. She said:
"I've just realized that if you care about some one or something, there's really no reason to hold back. no reason not to jump up and squeeze and kiss and write notes and send songs and cook for your boyfriend. There's a pleasure in the gesture - as much, if not more, than being at the receiving end. And putting yourself out there, gloriously and wholeheartedly, there's beauty in that as well. :)
What's the point of this blog entry?
In answering the original question: "What is up with the L-Word", I came to conclude that nothing is up with that either. We can never be 'sure' of our love. There's no point waiting for the results of some DNA-test of love, before we can make any statement. Relationship after relationship, we become more careful with it. What kind of crap is that? So the more we live, the more we should become careful about living? If nothing else, experience should teach us that we're still standing, still happy, and living proof of both. So, let's stop pretending like the heart is the weakest link of our body, and that it can only be put at risk once. Otherwise, we'll miss a whole lot of occasions to have been gloriously and wholeheartedly alive.
martes, 15 de abril de 2008
jueves, 6 de marzo de 2008
Behind an old church that is now a public library and I take in the joy of any semi-resident in a beautiful town; that of having discovered yet another gorgeous piece of it. There's a large spanish family some meters away, lunching or just enjoying the weather like I do, having taken a day off, their children at school maybe and a day off them too. As for me, I do what I always do when I get frustrated at something: I treat myself to something nice. And so, when this morning, after having commuted to the other side of town, and being directed back and forth to a museum that wasn't there, I decided that instead of going home and bitch about it, I'd treat myself to something nice. So I took one last metro to the Fnac, took out the lonely planet guides of Bolivia and Peru off the shelves, and sat down at the little café inside, where for the price of a coke, I sat down undistrubed for 2 hours, as I let my mind wander over river rafting options in the north and hamac swinging on any of Lake Titticaca's islands, and maybe, if time allows for it, a quick detour by Sucre's colonial architecture. Michael Franti singing in my ears, I shut myself off of Fnac's poor choice for Nickleback's latest album. Two hours later, I closed both guides, with bus prices and potential day trips scribbled on a tram ticket I still had from Antwerp in my wallet. The price of a single lonely planet, combined with my thirst to consume something, made me instead turn to the helpdesk to inquire about odering Michelin Maps of say... Bolivia? They couldn't, to my surprise, but directed me to Patagonia, a travel shop I'll surely visit again, for it was closing time. But never mind, because, having ventured in a small side street of a peculiar neighbourhood I had never seen before, I stumbled unto this patch of garden behind the old church turned library surrounded by little grown palm trees and medieval pillars. The smell of italian bakery turned my attention to a little pizzeria that sold me one for 3 euro's. I had it to go for the grass was awaiting. And the sun. And a pizza thin like crisp papyrus but soft like clouds, with fresh herbs and flour adhering to your fingertips, I took satisfaction in having discovered a little kiosk where the price per gram of candy still was under a euro and their drinks too. Where students sat down on sunny terraces and the joke of the day was told around. Dogs run free here and my belly is full. I'll take another minute or two of sun in before heading back to uni, where I agreed to meet with Tatiana from Argentina, and we'll continue our conversation about polyamorosity and long distance. But for just one minute more, I'll linger my look around as I imagine a picnic scenario with my girlfriend, coming here soon. I snap one more picture with my webcam and then I'll go.
lunes, 18 de febrero de 2008
For I have always said that Kurt Vonnegut is fucking brilliant, but never managed to prove my point without chucking his books at someone's head. (I actually enjoy doing that and would never imagine any better way, but since we're in the virtual world here... and no virtual book will leave you with a big mark or bump on your head... let alone bleeding...).
So, I shall leave the rest of the space to Kurt Vonnegut's words.
Eight rules for writing fiction:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
-- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), 9-10.
miércoles, 23 de enero de 2008