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The Final Weeks

Time July 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I suppose my last entry said it all. I finally started doing and I did it quick.

After my last entry, my main form of reflection came in the form of a black leather-bound notebook which soon became one of my most prized possessions. Was it a diary? Yes, I you could say it was a diary. I’m not as sensitive to that anymore because it really is. This little book held everything and when I mean everything, I mean sometimes it actually held a lot in between the very messy pages. Sometimes I wished I wrote neater because I know my future self is going to look at the child -like writing and think, “Well there’s some child-like writing.” Anyway, the notebook, it held everything, blah blah blah. The truth is, it held lists, numbers, languages, stories, thoughts, and a whole lot of fears. I realized that the reason why I’ve avoided this blog, the reason why sometimes I avoided writing in my notebook, was a fear of starting it all. I loved my notebook because it went with my on top of mountains, in the Salt Plains, horseback riding at sunset in the mountains by a glacier–it went with my everywhere which meant I could scribble my thoughts with as much detail and with however much time I wanted. But sometimes I got irrationally scared sitting down to write this blog; not just because I thought I would download the pictures wrong after reading the directions so many times over and over and over again, but because I thought, maybe I wouldn’t get the story straight, maybe I’ll recreate my past wrong and by doing so, I’ll have an idea of my past that’s all wrong. Or maybe, I thought, avoiding this blog would be easier than having to sum it all, put my experiences in a box for those bored enough to read about it. And frankly, it was easier to put it off and keep living the life I lived.

But I not realize how silly it was. I got my reflection-fix from my little black notebook, but the best part about this blog are the pictures that go with it.

So now, ladies and gentleman, the abridged lowlight series of the rest of my time in Buenos Aires, Argentina:

1) Arrived in Buenos Aires

arrival

2) Visited all the neighborhoods

boca

3) Learned to Tango

tango

4) Biked in Tigre

tigre

5) Met a pretty great guy

6) Went to the Teatro Colon/MALBA/ all that jazz

7) Went to Mendoza

Mendoza vineyard

8) Mountains: Aconcagua

Chile

9) Paragliding

parapuente

10) Played hacky sac in the airport and fell in love with a 9 year old

11) Hiked on a glacier in Patagonia

glacier

12) Perfect weekend in Calafate

Calafate

10) Colonia Uruguay

Colonia view

11) Skinny dipping

12) Met a Brazilian couple and changed their perspective on Americans

13) Secret dates with a 84 year old man who thought he spoke Japanese and Rosita

clandestine

14) Experience family tragedies abroad

15) 21rst birthday apart from my twin

16) Full moon party at the Planetario

17) Puerto Madero/Ecologia

18) Met a friend from her past in the same program–met her crazy friends on a Monday night

19) More touristy stuff

20) Made the first move

21) A lot of good, random conversations

22) Met my uncle in a kisoko on the corner of street in Buenos Aires

23) Met his nephew and friends

24) Salta, Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salt Plains

Salta Salt Plains llama

25) Cancelled trip to Iguazu

26) Returned to the United States to be picked up from the Airport and taken straight to a Wedding to sing in the ceremony

27) Got a fever, infection, and biopsy but now am doing just great.

28) Acclimated to openly speaking English

29) Surprise visit from my friend from India

30) Enjoying America again only slightly terrified to return to my old life as a new person.

But I have hope that living without these fears will make following my future dreams and starting my next adventures so much easier, and so much more worth while.

Thank you and goodnight.

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It’s difficult to capture

Time April 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

¡Disfrusta los videos acá!

 

 

How to Stay Awake in a Boliche

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La semana con dos asados

Time March 13th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s almost too much. But it never is.

You know those moments when you realize the extent of how much you enjoyed something? I used to study Happiness a little bit and realized that sometimes the most fulfilling, enriching part of an experience is the part afterward when you reflect and say, “Wow.” It’s the beauty of the structure of our lives, really. I used to think that it was strange that everything died (back when I was a weird, philosophical kid. Wait, I still kind of am. Okay, so I haven’t changed much.) I thought, how strange that things come to an end. Sure, I had heard the idioms, I’ve heard the cliches that talk about this sort of thing, but I didn’t understand really why Eddie, my blind dog, had to eventually pass after years of navigating our house just fine without vision. I didn’t understand why eventually there wasn’t another slice of my mom’s cakes readily available. I still don’t sometimes.

I think I’m starting too though. And even if I don’t understand the complexities of life and death, longevity and brevity applied to the inner workings of a universe and it’s creation, I understand one positive to it all: after something’s happened in our lives, we have the opportunity to remember it, to think back and say, “Dude. That was awesome.” And you almost gain more pleasure from this recall experience too. It’s a pretty good two for one deal, this whole living thing, you know? Multiply this phenomenon by millions of appreciated moments and you get one awesome life. As my Boston friend likes to say, “Wicked.”

Opps…I’m not suppose to come to this realization until the end, am I? Shoot, let me explain.

It was a week unlike any other….

I had TWO ASADOS in ONE WEEK! Okay, Americans, listen up. An asado is a HUGE MEAL O’ CARNE (meat). When I say it’s huge, I actually mean ENORMOUS. You eat intestines, cooked blood cocktail of things–just tons of different parts of the cow and all of it is wooonderful. I mean, just awesome. Why?

I got to spend the weekend in the Providence with my friend Rose at our friend Vir’s house. It was so fantastic to get to know her family and to literally speak English for 2 days straight. You’d be surprised at how often people want to speak English when you’re abroad.

vir I

The next opportunity was an asado at our friend Young’s residencia to celebrate our friend Tsu’s birthday. One of the highlights of the night? When another person in the residencia spoke Japanese. Poor Tsu has had COMPLETE immersion because he only speaks English and Spanish here and he’s still learning both. It was so special when he could relax his mind even for a couple minutes and speak his language. The asado was delicious and it was the best because we were just sharing everything together: food, silverware where we could get it. You know in literature how the author always uses meals as a means of bringing the characters together, a form of communion? Yup, this was one of those moments.

asado

Did I tell you about the Tango dancing? I didn’t mention the Tango? Well, I know how to Tango now. I’ve taken two lessons and of course feel like a pro. Just kidding, it’s extremely difficult! We went to Botica del Angel (actually where I’ll be taking one of my classes this semester! Teatro!) and learned from the pros in a beautiful museo de Tango. It was a fantastic afternoon and that same week us IFSA folks went and tried our luck at a real Tango club. Here, anyone can ask you to dance. We got to dance with some experienced Porteños and it was definitely an experience to remember. I learned that the old men are some of the best (just watch their hands, though!)

tango

What else?

I’ve gotten to know a lot of the neighborhoods here. Each a little different than the rest. I’m enjoying learning how to cook, knowing the markets, and getting a feel for the history here. This city is RICH, muy rico, of what seems like everything, in an almost oxymoronic sort of way, you know? It’s beautifully crumbling, tittering on economic recovery, it has a mix of different ethnic backgrounds while the people seem to be mildly racists, is a country with a female president while there’s still a prominent machismo mentality, and parques that seems to create an illusion of love and tranquility amongst the honks and whistles of a typical city block. Again, it’s a beautiful and intriguing thing. And I love living here.

parks cooking streets

For now, I’m enjoying living in a moment of reflection and learning to let loose a little more each day. What I mean is, it’s too easy to think and get comfortable with your anxieties. It’s easier to be scared sometimes, it’s easier to hesitate, rationalize, justify. It’s easy to walk away.

Right now, I’m walking toward something beautiful. It’s different, but I can’t wait to sit back and say, “Wow. DOS ASADOS and….” well, we’ll see what I’m marveling at next.

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¡Disfruta!

Time February 26th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After over a week, after getting my Subte card, going through the process of registering as a student with the county, learning where my class is located, how to take the bus, etc–I’ve finally realized that I need to start enjoying Buenos Aires.

It sounds stupid, I know. And it’s not as though I haven’t been enjoying myself. I’ve gone to bars, parks, clubs, drum concerts etc. It just wasn’t until I met Vir, my student guide at my university, that I realized I’m going to be engaging in so many more awesome experiences, and it totally starts now.

I’m still learning, but I know right now that it’s my job to seek those good ol’ once-in-a-lifetime-experiences and I need to start stepping up.

Highlights: <–Actually, I’m going to start calling them “LowLights” because it takes the pressure off a bit. These aren’t crazy events in my week that are spectacular, rather they’re events that mean something to me…that I’d like to share and remember. Here goes…

LOWLIGHTS:

1) I talked to this 15 year old skater kid in Palermo the other day. I’ve been totally in awe of the younger students here. They’re exactly the age that I want to teach some day because they’re already so passionate (well….everyone is passionate here! Seriously, ever corner of the street you see a couple  going at it….but again, I really like that about this city!) and curious. We had a great, normal conversation. And that ‘s what I want to do here. Part of my tenants is to meet interesting people. This nice long-haired boy trying to do a twisty-turny skate board trick on the street– he was so interesting and I’m so glad I had the pleasure of talking to him (in Spanish, of course!)

(Disclaimer: Now, don’t get nervous, parents! I only engage in conversations in well-lit, nice areas with my bag around my body and with friends close by. I never go home with anyone or go into any alleys. :) You taught me well. Plus, if I need to, I’ll use some of my Tae Kwon Do action! KI-AP!!)

Mis amigos en el progama

2. We went to the bar in Recoleta and it was really chill. I love the group of people I’m with because we all get along. No one is mean, no one is catty–just really cool. And that’s what I like. We also got the chance to get MEXICAN FOOD! Which was a nice break because Porteños surprisingly do NOT like spicy food. Weird, huh?

Mexicana en Argentina

3. I had a really great day last week when we toured churches in the morning. I lit a candle for my dear friend Sarah who is now a SURVIVOR of cancer. WOOOOOOOOOOT!!!! I’m so proud of her. She’s battling a ton of pain and discomfort and she’s still the most gorgeous/smiley person I know. She is still recovering, but she’s so strong and I was so happy that I got to do this for her in such a famous and holy space. We then had an AWESOME spanish class with Leonardo, our professor. It’s so great to study again. Then I got to meet with Rose and Vir, our guide, and talk about how we’re having a SLEEPOVER this weekend and future travel plans to Patagonia and Cordoba! It’s so wonderful to know that things so amazing like trips to these beautiful places are actually possible! Finally feeling like I’m living for the moment, not for Fb. Plus, I LOVE sleepovers. En serio, I LOVE them.

Iglesias Por Sarah

4. My friend Fabiano visited as some of you may know! That was ammmmmmazing because I know the world is small now. There were moments when I was eating with him and his friends when I realized that we were speaking 3 languages during the same meal. I just thought it was so special to be able to communicate with others even if we come from different places and even if it wasn’t always perfect. I’ve kind of realized my love of languages recently. Who knows what will come of this. Language, I now realize, is just a way of connecting people together. We’re all very similar, you know. It’s a spectacular thing.

Mi amigo de Brazil

5. I biked around El Tigre today and learned a lot. I got to see people interacting in wonderful ways. There was one time when a woman got her hand stuck in the door on the train and immediately 4 boys ran to her and were ready to pry the door open. It was very interesting because at first the other 4 looked like the classic “punk,”–I was so quick to judge and was especially mindful of my bag. But then when the time came, tons of strangers were ready to help. In addition, you always, always, give up your seat up for children (not to middle -aged men though. I learned that quickly too.) You have to be very careful on the tren, but it was great to see the way people respond positively in an emergency. Again, pretty spectacular.

6. I was hanging out at Plaza de San Martín yesterday. It was so beautiful: pink flowers, huge field on a hill, giant Argentinian flag. My favorite part were these kids playing soccer. I watched and interacted a little bit even though I wanted to play. Why didn’t I? BECAUSE THEY WERE EXTRAORDINARY. Seriously, I was talking to their mothers–they play for club teams at 9 years old and ROCK. They can do a drop kick and get the ball to go behind them through the goal. Needless to say, it was a wonderful afternoon. I was so tired and sat down by myself and realized: this is it.

Fútboll en el parque

This is what I’m here for. I just have to keep seeking and I’ll find out more than I can possibly comprehend now. Even if it just means pretending to play soccer with 9 years who can easily kick my butt.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/60452206[/vimeo]

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Enrique y la Nueva Vida

Time February 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Facts?

I have lived in Buenos Aires for over a week!

Switching to Geico MAY save you 15% or more on car insurance

I think I like Enrique Iglesia’s music.

I pretty sure those are facts. The first one is definitely the one that I’ll admit is true!  I go to class, I go to bars, I walk in parks, I speak in Spanish, and when someone asks where I’m from, I always end with “I live here now.”

The students in my class are all part of Intermediate programs and it’s great! I haven’t taken a Spanish class in 3.5 years and I have to tell you that I love being in class again. Not only is it so applicable, but we all want to learn. It’s what we’re there to do.

SAM_0084

We’re also here to live it up! Many have us have traveled very little and we keep each other going with new ideas/tips on how to have the best adventure. Sometimes, though, the adventures definitely come to us. Whether its awkward dance requests in the clubs, near-death experiences in the taxis, uncomfortable moments when the male in the group calls himself a woman–whatever the case, us gringos find our days packed with surprises.

SAM_0028

And yet our lives feel normal. These people are fantastic and our environment is golden. I was so happy when my friend from Brazil came to visit this week because I was reminded of the splendor of my new home mixed with the experiences I’m bringing with me here. We met in the United States working at Camp Tecumseh and now have the opportunity to be in the same beautiful place for a week!

Like my sister and I say, the world is small for us.

Life is defined by our relationships without boundaries. This thrills me. Just like Enrique’s music right now…what?! I’m trying to listen to Spanish music more and I like his tunes!

SAM_0180

…Amigo, baja un cambio…

 

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Baja un Cambio

Time February 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Disclaimer: If you just want to watch a video, scroll down! :)

It means, “Take it down a gear!” Or, as Americans like to say, “Chill!”

I first learned that in the States, actually, before I came here. My friend Dave was helping me practice my Spanish and prompted me to look up Buenos Aires slang. I figured I’d use this phrase a lot with nervous American students studying abroad.

I arrived in Buenos Aires on the morning of February 12th.. Some notes about the plane: there’s a interactive gaming system/tv/radio/map/info guide on the back of the head rest and a remote in the arm of the chair!!!!!!! Why was I only just introduced to the amazingly convenient and entertaining personalized system for passengers?! Whoa. I had the 10 year old next to me explain.

Other highlights? My UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING sister did the kindest thing for me by giving me a going away present that I will keep for a very long time. She handed me an envelope that said “CONFIDENTIAL” on it and told me I couldn’t open it until I was on the plane. I saved it for after I woke up on the “red-eye” flight and was delighted to find my ‘Mission Details’ explaining how it was an envelope of best wishes and notes from loved ones. I’ve only opened two so far (I’ll open 1 every couple of weeks) but they have definitely helped remind me of who I am and have given me the support I need! I’m constantly amazed at how ridiculously kind people can be sometimes.

And now, ladies and gentleman, a brief list of the coolest observations/weirdest thoughts / and maybe not that important highlights of my first couple days in Buenos Aires, Argentina:

1. Airports are fun because it’s like a city of people who feel important. You’re traveling somewhere for a reason, does anyone know that it’s NOT to chill in a palace? No. Therefore, you’re flying internationally to a palace. Also, I’ve decided that the best place in the WORLD is the arrival gate at every airport. Don’t believe me? Watch ‘Love Actually’. It’s obviously true.

2. While I was getting on my flight to BA, I just kept smiling as I walked to my seat. I was obviously one of the only Americans on the flight, but I’d be coming back to USA being a little more Argentinean. It was a cool feeling. Or maybe they were looking at me because I was smiling so much…who knows.

3. People are people no matter where you are.

4. It’s kind of weird how hearing Spanish all the time here is not that weird. I wish I could explain better, but I was surprised because I haven’t gotten too exhausted listening or thinking or speaking. If I can say it, I’ll say it. If I can’t, I’ll try another way. Sometimes it’s awkward, or not right, or embarrassing, or frustrating especially for others, but baja un cambio!

5. Spanish sounds the best not from a tall, tan Porteño, but from a squeaky 3 year old like my host mom’s granddaughter. There’s nothing better.

6. Nope. No peanut butter.

7. The city is beautiful and different and really  nice. I’m blessed to be in a wonderful part of the city full of parks and very close to the famous Recoleta Cemetery (I call it The City of the Dead.) The music and markets in the park are phenomenal and I love empanadas!

8. My host mom’s husband just died last month. I hope I can be an excellent, helpful addition to the home that so tragically got a little emptier.

9.Yes, I got lost on my first day but it was fine! There are so many countries represented in this city. Lots of foreigners! The people here are very paciente with us :)

10. Okay, I keep accidentally letting guys hitting on me because I say “sí” and “claro” too much. 3 times in the last week–3 times when I didn’t realize I was being hit on! Darn filler words.

The people in my program and in general, the culture, the FOOOOOOD, the language, the city–everything is so rich with interesting components to explore!

In terms of the exploring you can do at your computer, here’s a tour of my new home! I feel so cool having to go through 6 doors to get to my apartment…no idea why…but it feels grown-up, ya know?

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/60140377[/vimeo]

In case you’re wondering, I do use the phrase, “baja un cambio” a lot. Not because people are anxious, but because we should all take a breather and realize what we’re doing. I so look forward to the adventures ahead. Not just the pictures, the ticket stubs, or the facebook statuses, but as a wise man once said…..

study abroad should be about “good travels, fine encounters, and wonderful memories.” It’s what I’ll constantly strive for and I hope you do too.

Nos vemos! ¡Ciao!

 

 

 

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¡VIVA ECUADOR!

Time January 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I’m going to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I just had to get through Finals Week first. Below is the more rested recall that I would be studying abroad after finals and after I would lead a medical brigade to Ecuador.

The American Student transitions to the Argentinian Student:

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/57765443[/vimeo]

And I got through it! I got through finals, I enjoyed my beautiful friends and family in the States, and traveled Ecuador to lead a Timmy Global Health Medical Brigade in Tena, Ecaudor. I was acting as a Reflections Leader on the trip, which means I met with students, translators, and medical professionals at night after working with them all day in clinics to talk about what we saw, what we’re doing, and of course, how we feel about all of it. My job was to transform it from “that trip to Ecuador” to something more meaningful. We saw hundreds of patients a day and we all learned so much–it would be a waste if we didn’t explore what it all meant.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/57762841[/vimeo]

And now? Now I’m back. I’m in the states finishing up some responsibilities and classes at DePauw University and finally getting ready for my next adventure, for the next chapter in my life in Buenos Aires, Argentina

For more details about Ecuador, you’ll have to sneak into my private journal 😉

Ciao!

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I know I can’t, but maybe I’ll just try…

Time January 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t study abroad. I can’t.

I almost had to repeat it to myself like a lunatic to keep from looking at the posters: “Study Abroad: Spring 2013! Apply Now!”

I wanted to experience an adventure like that, to invest in myself, to grow, learn, and love more deeply than I could ever imagine. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the means and to look into the opportunity even just a little seemed like I would be betraying my family and putting them under stress. So I didn’t.

I decided I would help lead a medical brigade in Tena, Ecuador instead. 11 days is nothing compared to 5months, but it didn’t matter–I would be leaving the country, helping those in need, and doing something that woud help me develop as a person. It’d be a fix, at the least.

I resent that I thought about this brigade in such a devalued way, but to a dreamer with no means, it would be fine. It would be great. And I would have to handle that I would never live abroad as a student. And that was fine.

With preparations for the TImmy Global Health Brigade underway, I was plenty busy and very excited for an opportunity that my university helped me fund. I was grateful, excited, and could not believe that I would have a hand in planning it and making it a reality.

And then, I saw the sign again. “It’s not too late to study abroad for the Spring Semester of 2013! Apply Now!” SERIOUSLY? Their advertising techniques because phenomenal all of a sudden and I was immediately impressed and bitter at the same time. Then came…

THE REALIZATION:

Darn it! I have to look into it. I have to look into studying abroad… for me.

I made a meeting and another and another and another x 100. I talked to the offices available to me and kept telling them, “I have no means, but I thought I should at least try.” I completed tons of applications, scholarship requests, forms, had hours of meetings, and more. And you know what, it didn’t seem 100% impossible. Maybe, just maybe, this could work. A process that most people do a year before they go abroad was started and completed within months just months before I MIGHT go abroad. The real kicker: the national scholarship that I would need to study abroad didn’t announce the scholarship receivers until mid-December. This would mean that  I’d have about  a month to prepare to study abroad IF I received it and other scholarships. Remember, kids, I had nothing to pay for this.

And then amazing things happened: My friend’s family said they’d sponsor me. I was touched. They said whether I got the scholarships or not, they’d cover me. I was going.

What did I do? I yelled at my friend, sobbed, and was very confused. ( I  know I sound crazy, but this was amazingly strange to me.) Why? Why on earth would they invest thousands and thousands of dollars in me? The answer: they’re kind-hearted Indian parents who believe in these kinds of opportunities for their son’s friends. THIS IS WHY I WANT TO BE INDIAN!!!

Anyway, I used this as motivation to work even harder to find more options. I didn’t want them to pay so much for me, but it was a phenomenal back-up plan. And then something else happened: I received the National Gilman Scholarship and another scholarship from my school.

THE SECOND REALIZATION:

It was all paid for. I would be studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in about a month.

This is was my exhausted reaction. You know, a realization may seem like a moment, but I’m learning more and more that it’s a process. Maybe that’s just life: realizing what you have, what you want, and how to get there.

[flickrvideo]http://www.flickr.com/photos/92378901@N03/8395643793/in/photostream[/flickrvideo]

So I guess I was wrong: I could study abroad. With the help of so many people, I would be studying abroad.

It’s Not Impossible.

 

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Never Had a Passport

Time January 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Have you seen the Drew Barrymore film, “Never Been Kissed”? That’s how I felt until I realized that life and happiness are the kinds of things you have to actively fight for.

Now, I’m not here to talk about my love life. (That’s for another blog–just kidding, I’d never do that!) I’m here to share with  you small glimpses into a life worth struggling for, worth seeking, and worth living: for me, that’s my life.

Glimpse #1: American Life

I guess I’ve never been your typical “gringa” (spanish slang for a white girl) because I’ve always been drawn to people who are different than I am. My mom would talk to her sister on the phone during my sleepovers and say “The U.N. is congregating tonight” because my friends usually brought a lot of diversity into the household–which was awesome!

Mexican/Irish Flores Clan

Mexican/Irish Flores Clan

My family is beautiful. My mom’s family is 100% Irish and creates a very large, loud, and fun family dynamic. My dad was born in Mexico and has inspired me to explore other languages. I have a spectacular twin sister and the kind of older brother you are so proud of who works for PWC in Chicago . If you get a chance to meet them, get ready: you’re, of course, in for a treat.

My identity isn’t too simple. I love America and the diversity that I get exposed to everyday, but I’m landlocked. I’ve never had the means to even travel the USA, nor the opportunity to travel out of the county.  My identity grows with every desire I have to learn and accept something new. For example, below is a picture of me with two of “my” flags. One is true: I am Mexican; the other is not so factually true…

I only kinda sorta wish I was Indian...

I only kinda sorta wish I was Indian…

Yes, that’s India’s flag. I know, I know, I’m so silly! But when you so desperately yearn for something more, who wouldn’t naturally adopt the Indian culture? It’s ridiculously cool!  With my limited means, I’ve taken every opportunity in my college career to be exposed to other cultures. I love languages and learning from the wonderfully unique people around me. This would be my ultimate motivation to study abroad and would be my fuel to reject the limitations presented to me.

But this was me before. Before I accepted my dreams, before I would let myself even consider trying to achieve them.

This is the story of the American Girl without a Passport who decided that finally, finally, finally…

It was about time she got one.

The American Girl

The American Girl

 

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