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Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This very American tradition I have come to enjoy and be so eager about.

This year was special in many ways. I got to meet more friends from around the world and also keep my old ones; I also got to tutor some amazing and very interesting Japanese students, not to mention the fact that i got to see my family this summer. I do have a lot to be thankful for. So here it is, I am so thankful for all the little things in our life that make it so worth living. I am thankful for my friends, my family, my country of adoption, but also just thankful about being able to give thanks.
I think this is enough thanks, now let's talk about the good stuff, the food of course. Another golden opportunity this year was the fact that I got to enjoy an early Thanksgiving meal, the actual thanksgiving meal and a post thanksgiving dinner. The Student Alumni Association and BCM were very kind to organize thanksgiving dinners for International Students. For the official Thanksgiving dinner I went to The vice chancellor's house. Mrs Nancy, as usual, was very sweet to invite a lot of international students. The following are some of the moments captured right before dinner.

After dinner, we played some board games, music and certainly danced. It was hilarious getting to see the boys dance on a song like "Call me maybe". It definitely was a day to remember with all that food and all those special people. I am truly thankful for Thanksgiving.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Feliz Navidad

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. A lot of people have asked me why I don't take advantage of the Christmas break and travel around the United States, but I can simply not imagine this season without my family. So i cannot compare directly Spanish festivities with American ones, but I know some traditions are slightly different.


This is a tradition from Catalonia, but it has spread out all over Spain.

La castañera is usually an old lady that, when the cold weather arrives, sells roasted chestnuts in little carts on the street. They can also sell sweet potato and caramel-coated almonds, but Christmas without the smell of fresh roasted chestnuts just wouldn't be the same for me!

This is something I hope the OIR imports from Spain ;) (just kidding). Every year, every company give their employees a basket (cesta in Spanish) full of Christmas goodies. These usually include:

turrón, a confection typically made of honeysugar, almonds and egg white
- peladillas, an almond with a sweet and hard outer shell;
- polvorones, a very crumbly and rich shortbread made of flour, sugar, milk and nuts;
- marzipan;
- dates;
- praline;
- Spanish wine such as cava, which is sparkling, as well as other drinks;  
- embutidos, hashed pork seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices;
- good olive oil;
- etc!


For New Year's Eve we have this tradition of eating 12 white grapes on the last 12 seconds of the year. Sounds easy and silly, right? Try it! It is really hard to eat them all at that speed. But the tradition says that, if you get to swallow them all on time, you'll have good luck for the next 12 months.

Almost every family does this, it is a big deal. We even have a TV show so that everybody eats the grapes at the same time! Here you can watch a video of the broadcast from last year:


Traditionally, in Spain we did not have Santa Claus. Don't panic! Most households do now, but even if they didn't, we have our own gift-giving tradition, and that is the Three Wise Men, who for whatever reason are called in Spanish the Magic Kings. The concept is basically the same: they come overnight to leave presents, but instead of riding reindeer they come in camels. Also, they don't come on December 24/25th, they come on January 5/6th.

Connected to this tradition, on the evening of December 5th every town has its Cabalgata de Reyes or Cavalcade of Magi, a parade where the Three Wise Men throw candy at the kids while they stroll in their floats.

On the 6th in the afternoon, families gather to eat the Roscón de Reyes, a ring-shaped cake with candied fruit on top of it and a paper crown in the middle. Also, it is filled little figurines, for instance of a Wise Men or the mule, hidden inside. The custom in Spain is that if you get the bean instead of a figurine, you have to pay for the cake; however if you find Baby Jesus, you get to keep the crown.

I can't wait to go home for Christmas! Although sometimes I wish I could experience this time of the year in other cultures, like here in America. Can you think about differences that might be interesting for a Spanish girl? I know some of your countries don't celebrate Christmas, but do you, at any point in the year, have something similar?

In any case, merry Christmas and happy New Year :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I know several of the international students do not have snow in their countries, or it is far from home or in the mountains (that is my case in Spain). Therefore, we get really excited when we see this beautiful white landscape:

Enjoy this wonderful experience, throw snowballs, build a snowman, make angels in the ground but, above all, be safe! It is slippery and cold, you do not want to break a leg or be sick before winter break! 

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas..

      It’s that time of year; the frantic yet magical time of year that we call Christmastime. J Even our office is joining in on the holiday spirit this year. We incorporated many of the holiday symbols to decorate our office. We created a Christmas tree out of paper, and used sparkly garland and paper lights to decorate it. We also had our international students come in and write their name and hometown on a paper ornament and hang it on our tree. We also cut out the paper snowflakes to post on the walls.

     In elementary schools across the states students are making holiday themed crafts left and right. I remember always making those turkey hand cut outs about this time to bring home to my parents for Thanksgiving. (and if you didn’t know.. I’m referring to when you trace your hand and make it into a turkey. The thumb is the head and the other fingers are colored as feathers). I also remember always making these paper snowflakes, and getting to use glue and glitter to decorate the classroom. For me, these were some of the best days in school, getting to bond with everyone by creating crafts!

     I found it to be so interesting that none of our international students or staff had the pleasure of making these things when they were in elementary school! When I have discussions with the students about what it was like going to school in their home countries, I start to see a definite pattern of how the American school systems compare. I’m sooo happy that I was taught in American school systems though. I feel that my creativity was more acceptable to flourish in our systems of making learning fun for everyone. <3

Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday Ins & Outs

The Black Friday Ins & Outs

            There’s nothing like being stuffed full of turkey and getting pushed around in a store to save a few bucks. (sarcasm noted!) Black Friday is something that is becoming increasingly popular as a tradition on the day following Thanksgiving where masses of people rush to their favorite stores to get some savings on their holiday shopping. The tradition started in Philadelphia in the US in 2005, and has now spread to Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. When it first began, shoppers would begin lining up about 3am on Black Friday to be the first in when the doors opened at 6 am. Each year the opening times have gotten earlier and earlier where this year stores opened up at 8:00pm on Thanksgiving Day!

Now here are the issues with Black Friday. One: that’s super early! Sleep deprivation mixed with pushy people is an awful combination! Two: people get crazy. I can’t tell you how many videos I watched about people shoving each other. The amount of Friday madness has been growing more and more violent each year. Throwing people and objects out of the way to save money on a flat screen, xbox, toy, game, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about like $5. For instance, someone I know waited in line at Toys-R-Us for 4 hours in the cold in order to save $200 on the toddler jeep for her granddaughter.

            Now I know what you’re thinking, “why would anyone go through that??”, and I used to think the same thing!... until I went. This year was the second year that I braved the storm of Black Friday, and I must say you learn a bit each time. So here they are at last. My personal tips if you decide to shop during this crazy time.

  • Check sales papers! The newspapers released on Thanksgiving always have TONS of sales papers. Look around and see what it is that you are wanting. Maybe even take the ones from the stores you are planning to visit with you! (Just in case the shelf doesn’t have the discounted price and you forgot how much it was listed as).
  •  Bring a buddy. I’m sure you have all heard that the buddy system is safest.
  • Unless you’re going to be one of the people camping outside a store, don’t get your hopes up that you are going to get that new flat screen or laptop. Although, some stores are doing two separate merchandise releases, so it would be better to try the second time around.
  • If you are looking to save some money, but want to avoid the crowds then this is probably the most important one! The best time for you to go is between 5 & 7am. That is the time period that people are at home powernapping. They shopped from about midnight until 3am and then nap then return to get the morning door buster deals. I found this one out this year, and will definitely go during this time from now on!

So there’s my tips! If I were an international student in the US this is definitely a crazy tradition that I would want to be a part of. So if you do plan on participating next year, I hope that my tips here will help you to stay safe and shop smart. ;)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

7th annual iFest 2014 (International Festival 2014)

We are looking forward to the 7th annual iFest 2014 (International Festival 2014) that will be held on the UAFS Campus Green on Saturday, April 26, 2014. Last year the iFest was voted the #1 festival in Fort Smith by Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine!
I hope you can join us again for UAFS ifest. The country/culture hosts are the most important part of this event; we really could not do it without you.
Click here to sign up for iFest2014!
If you have any questions about UAFS ifest 2014, please contact Linda Thao at UAFS International Office (479) 788-7315 or
UAFS iFest 2014 Team

Friday, November 22, 2013

3rd Annual UAFS International Student Speech Contest!

We want to congratulate Dusan (1st place) and Akiko (2nd place) in 3rd Annual UAFS International Student Speech Contest! Good job all other international students!

We also want to thank 2 great judges, Dr. Hardin(Dean, College of Languages and Communications) and Curtis (President, UAFS SGA). And we want to thank two sponsors, UAFS BCM and Amnet Dallas for gift cards!


2014 soccer World Cup

We want to congratulate 32 countries that will compete in the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil! Which country will win the cup???
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil (host), Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay, U.S.