This is the story of my 6 months of studying in Arizona in 2010 and subsequent travels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Settling into the school work

Two more school days past, with success so far. :) I like the courses I am taking - let me give you an overview:

Quality Improvement
This is my wake-up call Monday and Wednesday mornings starting at 8 AM with a 50 min lecture with all the 2nd year pharmacy students. We will be looking into how we as pharmacists can prevent medication errors from happening, and this course is a great opportunity for me to compare the American and Danish system, and thus uncover strengths and weaknesses. For instance it has been an eye-opener to me that American (and apparently other countries as well) do not have indications (the diagnosis) written on prescriptions, which could in many cases eliminate errors. In this course we always have homework assignments or little tests in the classes, which is very different from what I am used to!

Health Services Research Methods
Also very different what my Danish experiences, this is a "real" graduate course... We are 4 (four!) students in the class, so we sit around a small table and discuss the topic of the day! We will be looking into how one can identify good vs. bad research, and how to conduct good research and surveys ourselves. A bit of statistics and a lot of method, maybe a little dry, but I think it will be useful! And since I have already dropped my Biostatistics course, I think I'd better follow this one closely...! :)

Public Health Policy and Management
Im not exactly sure what to expect from this course yet, but it might give me a good insight to the American health care system and policy making, which can be really useful for me later on. This is a class for public health students, so they have a different background than me (besides of course the culture!), but I think its a strength. We are divided in groups of 5 people who will work together on assignments and cases in the classes - will be interesting to see how it goes.

Strategic planning
This last course I haven't had classes in yet, since its Thursday afternoon. But I met the professor, Dr. Schloss, as I have described earlier and I am looking forward to see what the course is like in action! I know im interested in the content that he described for me, but honestly the book thats linked with the course is not one of my favorites. More inputs for my impression tomorrow!

So thats about it... And I find myself really attempting to be a "good" student here, not just for the grades which might be important if I wanna do a PhD in the future, but also because I dont wanna be surprised by a pop quiz or whatever they might come up with! So I have already located some nice study places around campus, and is meeting Chris and Hillary just to hang out for studying. Its really nice actually - this is not something I did a lot in Denmark, besides when we were doing reports and stuff. But then we were forced to working together as a group, here its voluntary. Good company, and nice when I need translation of certain phrases!

Earlier today and yesterday I was in the library, where there is like a super-quiet study hall with chairs and tables that can be moved around and stuff. But what I really like is the view of the mountains and the campus! Yesterday there was a huge thunderstorm while I was there, lightning hitting all around and thunder setting car alarms off. The rain was really pouring down, and surprisingly there was hail as well! In the desert... What will you know!

Now I just came back from a pharmacy "social" where all new students in Pharmaceutical Sciences was presented. It's a little weird, since I actually dont really belong anywhere, but still nice to be taken care of from there. :) I was presented as the international student who has been working with EPSA a lot and who chose UA not just for the academics, but also for the extracurricular activities offered! Well... I still think thats an important aspect! :)

The rest of the evening I will spend with Hillary and Chris in my kitchen, catching up on some Strategic Planning and maybe some Statistics before heading to bed. Work work work... :D

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First day in school

My first day in school here in Tucson turned out to be a very hot one - more than 40 degrees to be precise. But not inside of course, there they make sure that the temperature is always just around 15... Grr....

So my day started at 8 AM with an introduction lecture to the course "Quality Improvement". We were app. 100 students in the auditorium. The professor was one of the two I had a meeting with last Friday, and she seems really cool. There will be no exam in this course, but homework assignments for each class plus quizzes and tests throughout the semester. Lets see how that goes... :)

My second course, Health Services Research Methods is dramatically different from the other in the sense that we are only 4 students in the class! So we are just sitting around a little table discussing the topics, which gives a completely different dynamic. After 1.5 hours of introduction and discussion of article structure we went to the library for an introduction to information search from UAs pages. Very useful. :)

From the library I went straight to the School of Music where a choir is rehearsing in the lunch break. They kinda recruited me during grad orientation and I went to check it out. There are mostly teachers, but they were very eager to get more grad students in, and seemed very nice. Not too sure about the kind of music though, but I guess Ill give it a second chance.

In the afternoon I went grocery shopping with Hillary to a small specialised market where they sell local goods and organic things. Managed to find something that resembles Danish rye bread, though of course still not just the right stuff... ;)

Slept early Monday night, and woke up early Tuesday. Went to the Recrational Center for a swim - amazing to swim outside in the pool at 7.30 in the morning with a very comfortable temperature! :)
Now Im off to do some book shopping and later for a class starting at 4 PM.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spending time with my new friends :)

Ok, so I will try to be short this time. :) All pics available here.

I'm definitely settling in to some sort of daily routine here, but it will for sure be all messed up tomorrow when classes start. Im still looking forward!

The last couples of days has been spent on various things... Thursday I was running around campus during the morning settling some bureaucratic things, and had an LSS evaluation meeting online. And then I went to get a bike! :) Yeah, I decided to take the bike dealer up on his offer for the purple bike, and half an hour later I left the shop with basket an everything mounted on the bike! And with a nice (or well...) red helmet to go with is as well. So now I have wheels in Tucson. :)

In the evening I felt like having some company so I asked my German friend Julia over for dinner. Cooked hakkebøffer with potatoes and salad, which turned out very nicely!

Friday afternoon I had a meeting with the two professors I was put into connection with through Dr. Schloss in order to discuss interprofessional education projects. Had a really good meeting with some interesting outcomes, which Ill follow up on shortly. Just need to get in touch with my thesis advisor in CPH to discuss all the options! :)

5.30 PM I went to a social thingy in the dorm that wasn't too exciting. What was great though was that I met Jesus (Mexican pronunciation! ;)). I wanted to go to a certain party in the evening, but didnt feel like going alone. When I mentioned it, Jesus instantly suggested to go with him, and when we left the dorm later in the evening, there turned out to be 4 of us; Jesus and me, plus Hillary and Chris. We hung out all night, and Sunday night as well - I hope to find these guys around all through the semester!

Saturday I woke up early with a slight hangover, but I was meeting 3 friends (American Amy, Korean Sunny, and Canadian/Korean Ji-Young) for a hiking trip in the mountains at 8 AM. We went up Mount Lemmon in Amy's mini van, and had a great hike around on the top, approximately 4 miles. Was really nice to get out of the heat from the plains below, and to see something more green up there. The nature was completely different, both on top, but also on the way up. Huge fields with the huge cacti ([sawahros]), which turned into more bushy landscapes further up.

Saturday evening was planned for an International Friends dinner, where I went with a Chinese and a Kazhak girl to an American family - Janine and Gary Sanford. We really had a great evening that for me, Janine and their son Chuck turned into a long talk about religion. They're all practising Christians. Before we left the house they invited us back in September for a barbeque, and mentioned that we are more than welcome for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well! So great to meet people this hospitable and friendly!

Sunday was relaxing with nothing really happening during the day, and a La Aldea BBQ at 6 PM. I met Hillary, Jesus and Chris for a beer first, since alcohol is not allowed in the common areas... Can you imagine that in a Danish dorm? Hardly... :D So we had some hotdogs, and went back to the room to have a few more beers and talk. Once again a really nice evening!

Now Im off to bed before my first day "in school" starting at 8AM. Really happy with the great new friends Ive made in such a short time, and also really looking forward to getting down and dirty with the courses here... We'll see how it goes! :) And sorry for not managing to be short - there're just too many things going on! :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Monday 16th - Wednesday 18th

I guess its time for a little more blogging! Has been an interesting week already, those the pace has been rather low. This is the week of preparation before the school starts Monday 23rd, so a lot of people are arriving, there are orientation programs every day, people sign up for classes, they network, etc. etc. There is a buzzing atmosphere in the campus. :)

Monday was the first day where I was allowed to register for classes. Big thing, since registration is rather competitive, and I was not assured the courses I planned to take. Registration is online, and in the first try I only managed to sign up for 3 out of the 4 courses I wanted. But we were told not to panic (not that I have such tendencies :p), and I wrote to my advisor while also looking on my prepared list of other interesting courses. My advisor got me into 2 more courses, and I registered for two other coursers, which I was actually not supposed to take...

One of these two courses is Strategic Planning; a course that can be extremely useful for me professionally, but also personally. I had already contacted the professor of this course in the spring, and he told me that I might not want to take it in my first semester in UA. No reason stated. So I figured I wanted to figure out why, and went to his office. Dr. Schloss turned out to be extremely friendly, and very open towards having me in the class. The reason he had previously suggested not to turned out to be that the structure of the course is quite different from many others, maybe less scientific in some way. Besides core Strategic Planning in includes topics like group facilitation, personality types (MBTI) and alike. (!!!!!!!!!!!) Those of you who know what Im doing related to non-formal trainings know how great this is! ;)

But the amazingness didn't end here. During the conversation with Dr. Schloss I came to tell him about my thesis topic: Collaboration between doctors and pharmacists on an educational level to improve our interprofessional understanding. It turns out that this man is deeply involved in interprofessional health education in UA, and could use some help to facilitate the project. (Again: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!) So he offered to drag me along to some meetings and courses in the area, and contacted two others from the project to suggest us to meet. I have now agreed to meet them Friday over a cup of coffee. Very excited to see where this is going!

So course registration went quite well. At the moment I have too many courses in my list, and unfortunately (very, very sarcastic) has to skip Biostatistics. Damn. ;)

Later that day I met with Racheal and Florian in his new car to go grocery shopping. I must admit that it is convenient with friends with cars, but I am a little afraid to make it seem like I only ask them to come along because of the car. Like today, when I met a girl in the Graduate Orientation and we figured out that we both like hiking. Im planning a trip outside the city this Sunday, renting a car to get around a bit, and now I invited her to come as well - its not a problem for me to rent a car, so I don't want her to think that its not for her company that I ask. If you guys have perspectives on this, please let me know! :)

Anyway, BIG time grocery shopping was done, where I found stuff (though didn't buy) like "I can't believe its not butter"-non-butter - yes, its not just a movie joke. In the evening I went with Racheal to a free-pizza-and-DJ event organised for the international students. Free food is always good, but I left pretty early as the dance floor was filled with Asian who party slightly different than I prefer... No offense. Was a great day all in all though.

Tuesday started at 8 AM in the Pharmacy College with Graduate Orientation. Wasn't very relevant for me, though it was nice to meet others in the Pharmaceutical Sciences program. Afterall we have the same background, though I am taking Public Health courses in UA. Its great to get to know more and more people - my phonebook in my new phone is expanding, and there are always someone to call. :)

The afternoon was quite lazy with a lot of practical stuff to settle on my computer. Also nice just to have some time off to use for whatever - and I even managed to cook in the evening. Not that it is such a big achievement, the food was also very simple, but it was the first time over here. So I am happy. :)

Now that I think about it, Wednesday looks quite a bit like Tuesday. General Graduate Orientation, with some rather useless info and a lot of people around. And yeah, I met Amy, the girl with the car. Seems super nice. :) Free relaxing afternoon, went for 1 hour to the Arizona State Museum, went home to get some things done, and considering if I should buy a bike or not. I got a good offer on a new bike and a lot of accessories from a shop yesterday - it will be 300$ (= 1750 DKK = 230 €). I can probably sell it in January, but it might be a hazzle. I dont know how much I will need it, but... Well - I will spare you from all my considerations. :)

Noooot so much else to report at the moment I think... Or well, some self revelations, but I will write about that in a separate post. Oh, and btw... Do you think my individual posts are too long? I can imagine they take some time to read. Let me know... So... See ya!

Monday, August 16, 2010

La Aldea Tour

Hello again...

I got all creative this morning (after waking up at 5.30... Do enjoy my morning picture!) and made the promised La Aldea Tour video. You can find it in YouTube on this link (personal message - mor: bare tryk på ordet "link" :D) - also in the list to the right.

Otherwise not much to report. Went to target and got more stuff, but no groceries, and I owe a bunch of guys a round of beer after they helped me carry the stuff to my room... Finished editing the video, took a nap, and then went out to find a shop that sells used bikes. It was only 1,6 km on the map, but I could swear it was further to walk - at least the sun was not shining for once. :) They didn't have any bikes for me though. On the way back I found a Dairy Queen, which is a cake/ice cream/milkshake place. Had to try it of course, so they girls inside helped me with a needs assessment to figure out what I needed. Turned out to be a vanilla sundae with hot fudge (melted chocolate) and nuts. :)

Now Im back in my little room, feeling good though still with a cold. Its 7.16 PM, and its already almost completely dark outside. I need to figure out which classes I should register for tomorrow when the block on my account disappears... And I will find a place to get some photos printed to decorate my walls, and then enjoy my new top mattress! :)

Just one other dramatic cloud picture before I check out - they do have a photogenic sky over here!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

International Orientation Days - The official welcome

After my shopping-Wednesday, I woke up Thursday for some International Graduate Student Orientation - meaning two days of lectures about everything related to U of A. Not all equally useful, I must say... But at least ONE important lesson learned, namely how to survive in the dessert - see pic ->

Thursday started with an encouragement to get out of the campus, and enjoy the States! Then another guy instructing us how important it was that we focus on our studies, and get good grades. Not necessarily a paradox I suppose. :) We also got a lot of information on immigration and exchange status, not much interesting to report, though it was good to be there. Also a great opportunity to meet more people! During the plenary in the morning we had a round where students were encouraged to stand up and say where they are from, so we got an overview. Since we were several hundred students, just one from each country presented himself, and the rest from the same country stood up to be identified. Of course I was the only one from Denmark... However, this little exercise led me to later meet Rachel, the only New Zealand'er (actually only from the South Pacific)! We hung out the rest of the day, since she lives far from campus, and wanted to stay around for an activity later.

So we went to La Aldea after having "enjoyed" a lecture about ethics and how to avoid plagiarism, and met Kristen. I'd already planned to go with Kristen to Walmart that day, so we brought Rachel along. And here is a picture in front of Walmart with Kristen. :) Got a lot more stuff for my room, so now its actually becoming quite cosy and useful!

Rachel, me, Ji-Young, and Meltem.
Back to campus and off to a campus tour at 7 PM... Not so informative, but anyway nice with another opportunity to meet and talk with the other graduate students! Later we had dinner in No Anchovies, which is a pizza place. Here I am with Rachel (left), Ji-Young from Canada, and Meltem from Turkey (right).

Waking up (as usual though Im getting over my jet lag) at 5 AM, I took this picture of the sunrise out of my bedroom window. :)

The next day was also orientation, but with some informational lectures, which I on the program found absolutely unnecessary. So instead I cleaned my room, wrote some emails, and went out in the heat to get some stuff done! First I actually went to the orientation, just to confirm that I wasn't missing out, and got some information about how the libraries - and I wasn't missing out. So when a police woman entered the stage as the next speaker, I snug out... Out to explore the campus, finding my way to the College of Pharmacy. Took some snapshots on my way. By the way, all pics can be found at here!
Now I just have to interrupt myself for a second; a thunderstorm is coming in, with huge lightnings and what seems to becoming quite heavy rain... It might be in the middle of the desert, but its also monsoon!  Will be interesting to see how that works out.

So after struggling a bit under the sun, I managed to find my way to two advisors, whom have and will help me registering for courses. Really nice, both of them. Also I "visited" pharmacy museum located in the pharmacy college while I was waiting for an advisor.

And here I am in front of my new school: 

In the evening I went out for another event for international students, and met a few others that are very nice! Florian and Martin from Germany, whom I will for sure be seeing again as well! I had to go home early, because I have a cold. In the desert, yes. But walking in and out with such big temperature differences due to air condition is just something my body can't manage yet. Actually I was expecting a cold - since this has happened several times in Europe and the trip in Asia as well. So... Today, Saturday, I have mostly been in my bed. At least in the afternoon... 

The morning started at 10 with a meeting with my 3 roomies - I think it was actually the first time I saw them all together! :) Just settling a few ground rules for the kitchen utilities and stuff... Afterwards I went to a lunch with International Friends, an association that pairs exchange students up with locals to exchange culture, so to say. Very nice. Then I went home to take care of my cold, but managed to get some shots of the sunset. ---->

Tomorrow Im off to Target again and will try to get some groceries and get some cooking going. :) And now I will go to sleep (it's half past midnight) after having had long video chats with mom and Sis respectively! Just love this technology... Talk to you all soon! 

Friday, August 13, 2010

First day in the heat!

OK, I guess keeping silent for so long after arriving isn't fair, but as you can imagine with shopping for a whole flat while fighting jet lag and trying to get used to 40 degrees is a little tiring. So... Where to start... Just from the beginning maybe? :)

After a long night of cleaning everything in my Copenhagen flat, I left for the airport with Sis and mom at 8 AM, with a 18 hour trip ahead of me. Copenhagen-Paris was 2 hours with Air France, nice and easy. After a short layover I had Paris-Atlanta, which took 10 hours - considering that I was surrounded by 5 kids under the age of 5 I guess it was pretty peaceful. ;) With a cracked back I got out in the Atlanta heat, and continued an hour later for Tucson with a 3,5 hour flight. And yes, I was hammered when I got out - 8 PM local time, 5 AM in my head.

Through the Uni I had arrange an airport pickup, which I was of course extremely thankful for! Not having to worry about finding my way was just priceless, though in this case for free. :) The guy took me around a McDonalds for a meal, and then straight to where I live now - La Aldea (see recent post). I found my room looking pretty neet, and when pretty much straight to bed with my travel sheet and pillow. Thought Id sleep in, but instead I woke up at 5 AM, my biological clock telling me that it was so absolutely not time to sleep anymore. Sigh... Exhausted yet unable to sleep. Frustrating. I managed to get settled in a little more, while waiting for the dorm office to open, so I could check in properly. In the meantime I borrowed some bread from one of my roommates who already moved in, and when she woke up, she also provided me with an apple and a nice chat on our balcony (yes, we have a balcony!). During the morning I also bumped into Sagan, one of my American roomies. Seems very nice.

My new camera.
At 9AM I went for the office, and got a bunch of informational stuff with me back. Plus the key to my mailbox, where I to my joy could find a slip notifying me that a package had arrived. I ordered it for myself as a moving-in present; a new camera... I hope I can manage not to break this one! Oh, and I did get an insurance that covers if (read: when) I drop it somewhere... ;) Nice, isn't it?? ------->

So... After getting some directions in the office, I went for some shopping. I figured I could walk, since its only like 2,5 km, but half way in the burning sun I just had enough. I capitulated and took the bus for a few minutes to reach the supermarket. But hey - then another thing to tick off the to-do list: "Figure out the public transportation system". :) The busses are called "Sun Trans", and they're pretty cheap; I payed 3$ (= 2€ = 15 DKK) for a day pass. But the again, the busses do not go that often, so it might be useful to time according to the schedules. Oh, and I learned that the bus stop is an excellent way of meeting people - I managed to end up in a conversation with a 30-something woman, who asked if the "airflow" system on my back pack works, and then a 60-year old man who joined the discussion when the woman needed info about something I asked about - probably the weather!

Gatherings after 1st round of shopping!
Oh how convenient 1$ stores can be when you are staying for somewhere for a few months and just need a lot of necessary things in a cheap quality! I found such a shop next to the market, and managed to spend 33$ (so 33 items I suppose) - really useful! And then to the supermarket (American style, so pretty big - (for the Danes: like Bilka basically, though more Americanized!)). A lot of money spent, but again with really nice results. So I fought my way back to the bus and the dorm, and unpacked everything on my bed - as you can see to the left. Many good buys... Maybe even happiest for the oat meal (= havregryn) that I managed to find! I might be here for new experiences, but I DO appreciate my "normal" breakfast! :)

When I returned home I had the pleasure of meeting my second American roomate, Kristen, who will be studying pharmacy. Another cool thing is that she basically brought a whole kitchen full of kitchen ware (pots, pans, knifes, plates, etc. etc., and she doesn't mind sharing, so I dont have to worry about kitchen supplies! Really great girl - we hung out all evening, taking her car to Target, which is somewhat like Ikea, with cheap furniture and stuff. Without the car and Kristen I don't know what I would have done - I got so many great things, which I would never have been able to carry home! So afterwards I invited her to dinner in Chilis, a rather typical American restaurant. After carrying AAAAALL my new stuff to my room I started putting things in place. Especially my bedding was a challenge, but with some American expertise on my side, I managed. Its quite fancy, actually... :p

First pic with my new camera - the mountains! 
So all in all a very shopping- and icebreaking efficient day! Really enjoyed spending time with Kristen, and getting settled in my new home. Oh and I better answer your questions about the heat: Yes, it is ridiculously hot! Inside of course its ridiculously cold, because the go amok with the air condition, but well... Maybe Ill see the logic one day! Actually one more pic I wanna put here, but a little off topic is the view of the mountains surrounding the city. So beautiful!

A little though about the room: Instead of showing you a lot of pics, I was thinking about making a little video clip to show you around... How does that sound? :p

Now I really have to go to sleep, can barely keep my eyes open! So for todays challenges etc you'll have to wait a bit longer! :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last night in CPH!

Finally my departure day has arrived! Or night before the day, at least! I've spent pretty much the last week packing away all my stuff and Monday cleaning everything... So now my flat is shinier than ever! A shame I'm leaving it, really! ;)

I guess I'm supposed to feel mega excited, but to be honest at the moment I'm just very tired. And imagining that in 24 h I'll still be on my way to Tucson doesn't really help. Then again... Considering my new house, my new roommates, finding my way around the city, shopping for groceries, stuff and courses even... Pretty interesting actually! :)

This Saturday I had a great farewell party with 8 of my best friends from around here! Barbeque and drinks in the yard before we took off to the center for cocktails and some dancing! Thanks again for an amazing night girls!

Had dinner at Sis's place today, with a somewhat traditional Danish dish to round off before leaving. Was very nice - not emotional yet, but we'll see what it will be like in the airport tomorrow! Hmm... Just need to get to bed now though, cannot really think about anything else. And I still need to get up early to take care of the rest. Anyway, I've posted a few pictures of my sparkling flat; note now the setup in the bedroom for the two guys! :)

Hmm... Take off in 8 hours and 20 mins... Pretty crazy - pretty cool! c",)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My new home

Here is the dorm I will be living in in Tucson... 
La Aldea. 

I will be sharing a flat of 120 square meters with 3 other girls. 2 Americans and a Chinese!

I will have my own bedroom and bathroom, and share common areas (kitchen, living room, laundry room) with my roommates. 

620 US$ a month

 = 470 €
= 3.600 DKK

My own space will look 
something like this. 

And some additional pics: 

I can't believe I'm gonna move there in 6 days! 

Monday, August 2, 2010

One week to go!

When is it time to start counting hours in stead of days? Hmmm... Anyway, now I played around a bit with the blog layout and widgets. Sorry its not too fancy, but at least there's some useful info - like departure countdown and weather in Tucson. Note that the two show very different info; when I figure out which is more accurate I'll remove the other. ;)

One week to go. Wow, hard to understand! Today I handed in my pharmacy reports, and since I plan to pass I can now fully focus on wrapping up everything here before take off. Already spent most of the weekend packing away stuff, so though my flat looks messier than ever, actually its pretty empty. Just clothes, some decorations and utilities missing. 

It's a huge relief already to have my housing in Tucson settled! I'll be staying in a graduate dorm on campus, in a flat with 3 other girls. Kristen and Sagan, both from Arizona and Ying from China. Kristen studies pharmacy, so I'll have someone around to be nerdy with. :) They all seem really nice, we've been writing some emails and sharing a bit of arrival information. On Kristen's suggestion I've been looking into the meal plan options, something we don't use in Denmark. With a special university card (Cat Card) I can get discounts on meals on the eateries (restaurants, fast food shops, etc.) around campus - might just be an option to consider, though I also plan to use the kitchen we have in the flat. 

Airport pick up is arranged as well - some students offering the service as far as I understand! Great not to have to worry about finding my way late at night. 

Had a chat with Trine (international coordinator in my faculty) today, she reminded me of my frustrations with applications for Uni and visa during the spring and early summer... Bah, what a hazzle! I still feel like it is almost too much work for 4 months of studies in US, but at least now the worst is over, and I can look forward to getting all the best out of my stay! :) 

Can't wait! :)