Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Spanish and Austrian Summer (And how to decide whether to study abroad

Buenos Días and Guten Tag!

            Coming up on the final month of this semester, I have finally decided what I will be doing this summer, and it is something that I have dreamed about for many, many years:


                       The Spanish Flag                                                    The Austrian Flag

            First, I will join 25 other UF students in Seville, Spain for six weeks of “Intensive Spanish Language and Culture”, as the program flyer says. This is a UF study abroad program so everything is pre-planned for us, including housing, meals, and excursions. After that, I will be in Vienna, Austria for four weeks, participating in an “Intensive German Language Course” at the University of Vienna. This, unlike the program in Seville, is something that I found myself and am embarking on alone, and although my housing is secured, I will have to take care of my own meals and extracurricular activities. 
             Seeing that I’m going through this exciting and at times nerve-wracking process, I thought I would share my thoughts on and recommendations for study abroad, as well as a list of experiences I hope to have while in Seville and Vienna.
Let’s go!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Deconsolidation of Democracy in the EU: the Case of Hungary

by Ena Barisic

Andras Bozoki, on behalf of the Center for European Studies, came to the University of Florida to present his talk of Deconsolidation of Democracy in the European Union within Hungary. His main goal of the talk was to question the extent in which a nondemocratic regime can exists within the European Union.

He is a professor of Political Science at the Central European University. He is a visiting professor for Colombia University. His areas of research include democratization, political ideas, Central European politics, elites, public discourse and the role of intellectuals. He was president of the Hungarian Political Science Association. He previously served on the executive council of the European Political Science Network (EpsNet), and is currently a member of the executive council of the European Confederation of Political Science Associations (ECPSA).

Bozoki focused on Hungary’s transformation of power through the current Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. Their economic stability has been sponsored and upheld not just by private banks in the Middle East, but by the European Union itself. The actions of Hungary seem nondemocratic, and are certainly being over looked. Many factors are involved within this change such as Hungary’s past, the rule of Orbán, and the reactions of the European Union.

In 2011, Hungary was declared the greatest success story of democracy. Currently, it is the complete opposite. There were economic hardships and transitions from the period of 1989-1994, leading into the major deconsolidation of their liberal democracy. The components that once held that regime were splitting into something else, leading into the period of 2010-2015: democratization from a major totalitarianism to a hybrid regime. Elections and dominating parties were becoming very common, leading to the control that Orbán holds.

Many people have claimed that he is becoming a dictator, stealing the wealth and resources from Hungary. He achieves this dominance by having all three types of legitimacies: traditional, rational, and charismatic. The public knows of his doing, but can’t do anything to dramatically stop it. The components of his rule, centralized power, legal constitutionalism, public security, and equality of the law, have drastically different than they should be. The main question? Well, it boils down to what actions have the European Union done so far, and what more they can.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Belgian Love Affair

by Ana Krsmanovic
Ana is a marketing and journalism student at UF . Last summer she joined the study abroad program to Brussels. In addition to the class offered by Amie Kreppel and Magda Giurcanu, "EU in the World", Ana interned at PURE, a Dutch speaking new-style communication agency, focused on promoting Belgian culture. Ana's responsibility at PURE was to contribute to the online platform "I Love Belgium" and wrote 6 pieces on Belgian designers and fashion shows.

I would be lying if I told you that it didn’t happen the way it does in the movies — because it
happened exactly the way it happens in the movies.

I touched down at Brussels National Airport on a warm May morning and was greeted by the calm
Belgian summer breeze and infinite possibilities of a strange, new city.

My introduction to the city was relatively calm, your usual — meet new, amazing roommates, walk the old cobblestone streets at sunset, gorge on waffles and fries and enjoy life— sort of a deal.

All signs pointed to a promising story.

A few days later, armed with my very own 1990’s Belgian-registered cell phone and very-
obviously-a-tourist map, I found myself rushing through throngs of people down Chaussée d'Ixelles.

I was running late.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

UF in Madrid

Next spring, I have the opportunity to participate in a foreign exchange program through the Heavener School of Business at the University of Florida. As a marketing major planning to complete a Spanish minor, studying in Spain was a logical choice. After narrowing my choices, I have decided to study at the private Universidad Antonio de Nebrija in Madrid. In addition to the educational value of studying at a foreign university, I am looking forward to experiencing the country on my own and becoming immersed in Spanish culture during this three month adventure.
by Nina Vanell
Things to Do:
After years in Spanish classrooms lined with vibrant posters of matadors facing off against ferocious bulls, I have become convinced that bullfighting is an essential aspect of Spanish tradition. As such, I am determined to watch a bullfight at the beautiful Plaza de Toros de las Ventas. The season begins at the end of March and continues through October, but the peak of the season is during the San Isidros festival in May and June. During the festival, the bullfights occur nightly, while the rest of the season they are held only on Sunday evenings.
Although this tradition has been carried on since the 1100s, the brutality of the sport has raised ethical concerns. Over 10,000 bulls are killed each year in Spain during these violent displays of strength and bravery. While this is definitely an aspect of Spanish culture worth seeing as a foreigner, it is hard for me to accept the cruelty of a tradition that has carried on for centuries.

Of course, soccer (I mean football, sorry) dominates my perception of Madrid. I am incredibly excited to watch a Real Madrid football game at the massive Santiago Bernabeu Stadium that holds up to 130,000 visitors. As the national sport, football plays a huge role in Spanish life. Fans are known for their passionate enthusiasm in support of their favorite team. Every weekend from September through June, games take place in the arena. Tickets can be bought online for 35 EUR, about $40.

When I told one of my friends that I was planning to do foreign exchange in Spain, he strongly encouraged me to choose a school in Madrid based on his past experiences there. I asked him to tell me one thing I could not miss out on while living in Madrid. His response: watch a traditional flamenco dance. Usually, the dancers provide entertainment at restaurants and bars, so I will definitely be exposed to this aspect of Spanish culture.
It was interesting for me to learn about the significance of flamenco dance in Spain, yet another way that the traditional roots of Spanish culture are preserved. Flamenco is an emotional and passionate art form that originated with gypsies in southern Spain. The basic combination of dance, song, and guitar became widely popular, and flamenco spread throughout the country.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Looking Down At—Or Up To—Nature: The Psychology of How Czechs and Americans View and Interact with Nature

Looking Down At—Or Up To—Nature
(The Psychology of How Czechs and Americans View and Interact with Nature)

Dobrý den! I hope your day is going fantastically.
Well, I must have retained something from all of my psychology classes, because planning and writing this is really exciting for me. Really exciting. Maybe because I feel like I’ve uncovered some great psychological phenomenon. Which I probably haven’t, so don’t get too excited.
I do, however, think that there is a significant difference between how Czech and American people relate themselves to nature, and I believe that this difference is important. Let’s explore!

Looking Up vs. Looking Down
A mother, daughter, and puppy trio walks down the paths on the outskirts of town.
This first point relates specifically to Florida and other mountain-lacking parts of this country (and of the world, I suppose, but I won’t generalize).
My argument: When people spend their lifetimes looking up towards nature, they develop a very different mindset than those who spend their lives looking up towards buildings and other man-made constructions.
In the Czech Republic, you cannot help but look up. You look up at the huge forest-covered mountains. You look up at the hills that are everywhere. You look up at the towering Topol (Poplar) trees that line each road.
Topol trees were planted extensively in the time of Communist Czechoslovakia
along fields in order to shield crops from the wind;
they were colloquially called “windbreakers”.
The “looking up” serves as a constant reminder that we are not the most extraordinary beings in the world. Everything is beautiful. Looking up and assuming the body language of modesty forces us into a reverent mindset.
On the other hand, in America (Florida) I find myself looking up at buildings and skyscrapers—they are the tallest structures in the environment—and looking down at the flatness of the earth around. I think a sense of superiority comes about because of these constant reminders of human ability, which makes people feel entitled and powerful. This phenomenon can occur in environments where the natural elements do not tower (no mountains, hills, etc.), or in environments where buildings rise above the present natural elements. Looking down lets us physically embody superiority.
My favorite place in the world, the top of the mountain “Klet’” near my hometown.

As one of my psychology professors loves to remind my class, the brain processes metaphors literally. In classic experiments, people holding warm coffee were rated as “warmer,” or friendlier, than those holding iced coffee. So why can’t it work the same way in this case? If we literally look up to something, perhaps we metaphorically begin seeing that something as valuable, important, and powerful.
So what do you look up to?