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Coming home

Time August 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I’ve been back in the United States for almost 2 weeks now, and it’s beginning to sink in that I won’t be going back “home” to Mendoza again for a while. My experience abroad was indescribably beautiful, and it’s very weird to that that it’s over now. It feels like just a few weeks ago I was packing my suitcases and getting ready to embark on this journey- it really went by so fast. I’ve felt twinges of sadness being back, and it’s been hard at times to accept that my life I had before has to continue again, almost as if I had never left. But I know that I’ve come back as a different person, and I am so blessed to have been able to have a life-changing experience such as this one.

I was able to stop back at Luther for a few days to visit some friends, and I found it was very helpful to process my experience by telling my friends about it. I found myself quoting my host mom, Alicia, quite a bit: she always said that, when we go away from home, we are changed profoundly, but we aren’t always aware of it. We learn and experience so many different things that we don’t always know聽how聽we’ve changed until we come across a situation in which we are forced to use our newfound knowledge and skills. This concept still amazes me, and it’s definitely one of the things that’s stuck with me the most from the time I spent with Alicia. I know that my 6 months abroad will have a lifelong impact on me, and I’m fairly certain that I will continue to realize ways in which I’ve changed for many years to come. One thing I’ve noticed right away, though, is a huge boost in confidence. The fact that I was able to go to a foreign country, almost by myself at first, and not only survive but really thrive and have a great time, is something I’m pretty proud of. I realized how much my many years of studying Spanish have paid off, and I feel very comfortable now using the language with anyone I meet. I guess I wasn’t really aware of this while I was in school, but all my time studying Spanish was really building up to the moment I went abroad, and it was pretty cool to reap the rewards of all of my hard work. I also realized that I’m better at adapting to situations than I previously thought. I was able to come into a completely new and completely different environment, and although I did experience culture shock and some difficult times, I was able to adapt to my situation and make it the “new normal”. This realization has also made me more confident, and I know I’ll be able to keep this in mind when tackling other difficult situations.

The last thing I want to say in this final post is how thankful I am for the amazing hosts I’ve had throughout these six months. I’ve changed the most because of my interactions and conversations with them, both with my wonderful host family in C贸rdoba and with my amazing host mom in Mendoza. They have taught me so many things, through both words and actions, and I can’t thank them enough for being the incredible people they are. I know my experience would have been drastically different if they hadn’t been part of it, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to know them and “convivir” with them for some time. I know that I’ll be back to Argentina at some point in my life, if only to visit these people- that would be reason enough for me to go back! I feel like I’ve been cheesy and sentimental enough with this post, but I wanted to say one last thing; whether you’ve been reading every post or whether this is your first, I want to thank you all for reading my blog (or maybe I should say, putting up with it :) ) throughout the semester. I know many of you are friends and family, and I wanted to thank you for the continued support you’ve given me. Anyway, that’s probably enough where that came from. I’m sure this won’t be my last experience traveling, and I guess I’ll have to start another blog when I’m away, since this one was so popular 馃槈

All the best,

Ben

 

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Some things to ponder

Time August 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After a semester abroad, I feel like I’ve learned so many things that I couldn’t possibly fit them all into one blog post. But as I begin to transition back into life in the States, I feel that I have to reflect a little bit on some of the life lessons that Argentina has taught me. So here are a few of my favorites- I’m sure I’ll be jotting many more down in a journal for the next few months, but I thought I’d begin by sharing these with ya’ll :)

Ocio productivo: This is a phrase my director in Mendoza, Jose, would use a lot. It translates to “productive laziness”, and it refers to the idea that we can use spare time to be lazy and unproductive, which actually ends up being productive to us in the end. This is a concept very foreign, I think, to most Americans, especially those in college. In the US, time is money, and if you’re wasting time in any way and not being as productive as possible with every minute you have, it’s a bad thing. In Argentina, things would move a lot slower, and sometimes it would get frustrating to have to wait in line or not be able to get something done right away. The time I spent abroad doing this, however, taught me that sometimes it’s okay to “waste time”. The times I wasn’t keeping myself busy or occupied with work, even if I was just sitting around bored at home, were a nice break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and they let my mind rest a bit, even if I wasn’t aware of it. I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to incorporate this back into everyday life back in college, when there’s so much to get done, but I’m definitely going to try my hardest to be “lazy” every once in a while in the US 馃槈

The universality of people: I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned about being around is how people are people, no matter where you go. During my time in the university in Argentina, I got to meet and become friends with people from all over the world, which for me was an invaluable experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was amazing to me, though, that I was still able to connect with these people in the same way that I could with friends back home; even though we spoke different languages, came from very聽different backgrounds, and in many ways were nothing like one another, we could still relate to one another on a distinctly human level, and that was enough to become friends. This is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around, but I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve learned from my experience.

The importance of keeping an open mind: Some of my most incredible experiences abroad were random, spontaneous opportunities that I never could have expected or planned for. One of my mottos going into this semester was to say yes to as many things I could, and to only deny an opportunity if there was a good reason for it, not because it was new or surprised me. This turned out to serve me very well, and many doors were opened for me throughout the semester just because I was open to new and exciting opportunities. I know the opportunities that will present themselves to me this next semester will be drastically different from those which I just encountered, but I’m going to move forward with this attitude and hope it serves me as well as it has in the past :)

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El 脷ltimo Viaje

Time August 4th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I spent the last 10 days of my time abroad in the beautiful country of Peru.聽It was聽very weird to be leaving Argentina, but I think I was finally ready for it. Mendoza had become my home for the past 5 months, and I had completely adapted to living everyday life there- by the end of my stay there, it felt perfectly normal to me. I’d聽made some great friends there, and it was very hard to say goodbye to them. During my time as an intercambio in Mendoza, I was able to meet people not only from all over the US, but all over the world! It’s definitely not something you do every day, and I feel very lucky to have had this amazing opportunity. I know a few of these people will be lifelong friends, and it will be very fun to see where the road of life takes each one of us. At the very least, I now have an excuse to visit a few more foreign countries 馃槈

Anyway, I got into Cuzco after a 24 hour travel day, so with the combination of the high altitude and lack of sleep, I was pretty exhausted when I arrived. I went to bed early that night and the next day I took a tour of the city with a “tours for tips” group, in which I got walk around the city and hear about its history by a local tour guide. I ended the day by going to the Inka Museum and getting a private tour. It was super interesting and a great way to learn about the Inka before visiting their “lost city” in Machu Picchu. The next day, I began my four-day trek to arrive to Machu Picchu- I didn’t do the Inca Trail, but instead I signed up for an alternate excursion called the Salkantay trail that was supposed to be just as scenic and a bit more difficult. We started the trek by getting picked up from our various hostels at 4 in the morning- how fun, right? The first day of hiking was supposed to be an easy warm-up day (as I was told by the agency), but it ended up being more than 9 hours of trekking! It wasn’t terrible, but we were definitely beat by the end of the day and wanted to get to bed. We camped in tents that night and got to know the people in our group a bit better. There were people from Israel, Norway, Germany, and a few from the states, too, and it was really cool to hear about each of their travels and how they had ended up trekking to Machu Picchu in the first place. I really liked our group, and I feel that we meshed really well together. On the second day, we climbed up the famous Salkantay pass, reaching an elevation of almost 5,000 meters and hiking more than 14 kilometers during the day. Needless to say, it was pretty tough, and I found myself gasping for air with the high elevation and struggling more than I thought I would. But, we all made it up, and we were pretty proud of ourselves when we finally arrived at the second campsite. On the third day, we hiked to a lunch spot, ate lunch, and then got the option to pay 25 bucks to take a train to our final destination or walk along the train tracks for 3 hours to get there. Being a group of all travelers, none of us had extra money to spare, so we opted for the cheap and more adventurous option :) When we finally arrived that day, we crashed at the hostel and eagerly awaited our next day at the park. On day four we finally arrived to Machu Picchu, but the day started out a little different than we expected. We got up at 4am to wait in line for the bus- the park opened at 6, and we were told it was worth it to get there super early to beat the crowds and see the ruins before the mobs of tourists arrived. When we stepped outside, however, we realized it was raining, and after waiting for almost 2 hours in the cold wet rain, we arrived to the park only to learn that there was fog covering everything and that you could barely make out the ancient buildings. But, after a few hours, the fog started to clear and the rain stopped, and you could actually begin to appreciate the beautiful city of Machu Picchu. I had booked my tour a few months in advance, so I was able to get a ticket to Wyanapicchu, a small mountain within then park from which you can see the ancient city from a distance. After trekking to the top and appreciating the incredible view, I trekked back down and reunited with part of the group. We decided to take an official guided tour in Spanish by one of the workers there, and it was soooo worth it. Not only did we learn a ton more about the interesting history of the park, but we got to meet four really cool Peruvians who were about our age, and we ended up going out for dinner with them afterwards! After that I flew to Lima to spend my last two days before flying back to the states. Although I didn’t feel like I got quite enough time in Cusco, I enjoyed the time I had in Lima. When I got there on Monday, there were all kinds of celebrations in the city center for their Independence Day (July 28th). I watched some street performers (including a very convincing Michael Jackson impersonator) and ate some traditional Peruvian food- one of the dishes I tried was Cuy, or cooked guinea pig. I had a slight internal struggle when deciding whether or not to eat聽it, but in the end I decided that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to try this rare food again- when in Peru, right? On my last day I explored the coast of Lima and the districts of Miraflores and Barranco, two very pretty parts of Lima. Then, at 11pm, I arrived at the airport to head back to the states. It was a beautiful trip, and a great way to end my experience abroad. This next week I’ll head to Luther to work for a week (and try to make myself feel better about all the money I spent this semester…) and to see a few of my best friends. It’ll be great to visit with them and tell them about my incredible semester as well as hear what I missed while I was gone. I think during the next week I’ll have a lot more time to reflect on my experience and deal with being back home, so I’m going to give myself a bit of time before ending my blog with a post about being home. Hope you all can wait a little- don’t worry, it’ll be worth it :)

Saludos,

Benja

 

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A visit from the fam!

Time August 4th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I finally arrived back in the USA on Wednesday, and I have to admit, although it feels a little weird to be back, it’s definitely a good thing. I’m sure it’ll take me a few days to adjust, so I think my last post will be about how it feels to come home. I thought I’d dedicate this post to when my parents came to visit me in Mendoza a couple of weeks ago, since it was such a fun and special tiem. Sorry for the delay, but I’ve been on the road for a while and haven’t always had internet- or even a computer! My mom, dad, brother, and aunt arrived to Mendoza on Saturday, July 12 after a full day of traveling. I met them and took them out to one of my favorite lunch spots, but after that they immediately took advantage of la聽siesta to get some much needed rest :) We spent the week visiting some of my favorite spots, and it was really cool to be able to show them a taste of the life I had been living for the entire semester. The first dinner we had was, of course, an asado, where they got to taste all different kinds of delicious beef, blood sausage, chorizo, and everything else under the sun that can be grilled. We had a great waiter, and we laughed and joked with him while enjoying some of the best meat Argentina had to offer. The next day was the day of the World Cup Finals, and after spending the morning biking around Parque San Martin, a beautiful park in the area, we decked ourselves out with blue and white and heading out to a local bar. Even though we arrived 2 hours early, we had to wait in a huge line and barely got spots- well, technically, we ended up sitting on top of a storage cabinet since all the tables were filled, but we still got in and got a good view of a TV 馃槈 We gritted our teeth throughout the game, and when the difficult moment came, we shed a few tears with some local Argentines we had met and had a few beers with them afterwards to try to help ease their pain. Even though Argentina lost, the locals still flocked to the streets to celebrate making it as far as they did- it had been 24 years since Argentina had made it to the finals, after all, so they still had something to celebrate. So, we headed to the city center and joined the crowds singing songs and cheering cheers. It was still cool that my family got to see the craziness of the World Cup celebrations despite the loss- although I can’t even imagine what the city would have been like if we had won! We spent the rest of the week doing some of my favorite things in Mendoza: going to the beautiful little聽city of Potrerillos, 聽exploring the local bodegas and olive farms in the area, walking around the city center, and eating and drinking at my favorite places in Mendoza. Although I had to serve as the interpreter for the trip, I really loved showing my family around, and I think they were pretty proud of me after seeing all the different things I had to adapt to! One of my favorite moments was when I got to introduce my family to my host mom, Alicia. 聽 On the last night of the trip, I took my brother out to a club to show him what the nightlife was like in Mendoza. I think he was pretty impressed, and he seemed to like the Fernet and Coke I gave him even more than I expected! Our next destination was Iguazu Falls, one of the seven wonders of the natural world located at the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. We stayed in some quaint caba帽as with a very charismatic and friendly owner, Oscar. The falls were absolutely incredible- so great that we spent two full days in the national park. At Iguazu, there are 275 different sets of waterfalls spread out over 2.7 kilometers, so we definitely needed some time to see them all! We walked around some decks seeing the falls from a distance and even took a boat out to get a little closer. The dingy took us out on a loop to first take some pictures, and then sped on ahead so could actually get drenched by the falls! It was a really fun experience, and even better that I had my family there to share it with. A few days after arriving, it was finally time to say goodbye. My family headed back to the States, and I continued on my journey to Peru! 聽I was really grateful that we made the trip work and that my family could see the place that had been so special to me for such a long time. I’ll cover my adventures in Peru on my next post- just hold tight; it’s coming soon! Chao, Ben 聽

 

 

 

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My last time in Buenos Aires

Time July 11th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just got back from my trip to Buenos Aires- I had a blast! When we went to BA for orientation at the very beginning of the program, we saw a lot of stuff, but it was all done on a tour bus that took us from place to place. This time, we were on our own, and it was super 聽fun to explore the city without “supervision”. On Friday we got in and explored the bars in Palermo, a nicer part of the city that’s very pretty. On Saturday Argentina faced off against Belgium in the mundial, which was what I was most excited for on the trip. Although it was raining pretty hard, a few of us went to a big plaza to watch. For every game, they put up giant screens in a few main parks and plazas, and hundreds of Porte帽os gather together to watch and hinchar聽for Argentina. Despite the rain, there was a pretty good turnout, and we had a great time cheering, singing, and painting our faces blue and white- well I guess that last one was just me, but oh well :) After the win, everyone flocks to the Obelesco, a central monument in the city that looks a lot like the Washington Monument in DC. It was honestly one of the coolest moments of my semester; definitely something I won’t soon forget. Hundreds and hundreds of argentines gathered together to sing all kinds of songs, play the drums and trumpet, and just be jolly and merry together. There were all kinds of costumes there, including Santa Claus, and the environment was so contagious that one couldn’t help but join in the celebrations. It reminded me a lot of how Green Bay was the night after the Packers won the Super Bowl- except that the Argentines do this after EVERY win :)
That night, I finally experienced a boliche in the capital. The club was called Terrazas (terraces), and a good portion of it was outdoors. Unfortunately for us, the terraces were closed that night, but we still had a great time.
Sunday we went to an artisan market in Recoleto and after went to a show called Fuerza Bruta. It was really awesome- a kind of Cirque du Solei-type performance with all kinds of weird dancing and strange sets. At one point there were even people swimming around in a pool hung from the ceiling!
On Monday I went to Zoo Lujan, one of the only zoos in the world where you actually can be in the cage with the animals and pet them! It was a little scary getting up close to lions,
tigers, and bears (oh my!), but I was pretty happy at the end of the day. After that I went to a tango show at a place called Caf茅 Tortoni. It was a great performance with incredibly talented dancers, and it made me realize I still have a looooong way to go if I ever want to go professional 馃槈
On Tuesday I had a day to explore the city on my own. I went to San Telmo to see people dancing on the street and after to Puerto Madero to walk along the beautiful boardwalk. After chatting with the tangueros and telling them about my tango class this semester, the bailarina invited me to dance- I was pretty awful, but I still enjoyed dancing with a semi-professional! I ended the trip watching the disaster of a game that was Brazil vs. Germany and feeling terrible for all my intercambio friends.
Now it’s back to Mendoza to spend a few days living in an apartment with some Brazilians I’ve met at UN Cuyo and getting ready for my parents to visit! I’m really excited to show them everything I’ve been experiencing this semester and to introduce them to all the wonderful people I’ve met here- I just hope I don’t get too tired translating!
Hasta luego,
Ben

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One small step for man…

Time July 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just got back from the moon! Well, close enough, I guess 馃槈 I went with some friends on a 2-day trip to Valle de la Luna, a provincial park about 5 hours north of Mendoza in the province of San Juan. It’s a really cool desert-like area with some really interesting geological formations. It’s called Valle de la Luna (moon valley) because it’s so barren and the terrain is so dry that water basically disappears as soon as it rains, making it look like the surface of the moon! The park is also the home of the world’s oldest dinosaur bones. So we got dinosaurs and lunar formations all in the same place- what more could you want in one trip?! We took a 3 hour tour of the park with a guide that explained everything about how the formations were formed and why things there look the way we do. We kept ourselves entertained by talking to ourselves through “space walkie talkies” and addressing each other as “Houston” every couple of minutes :) Then we went to the museum to see the bones and some pretty sweet fossils. It was a nice chance to revert back to being a child and geek out about dinosaurs for a bit! Although we missed watching the Argentine game, we got to listen to it on the radio and cracked up a bit after we scored- the announcer started praising his favorite saints and cursing the Brazilian team. Typical argentine soccer antics :) And despite having to sit through the US team’s tough loss, we were happy that at least one of the two advanced. I have to say, though- it would’ve been pretty awesome watching the United States play La Albiceleste!聽After spending a semester here. We have only a few days left of our actual program left, and people are starting to head out on their last trips. My plan is to head to Buenos Aires with some friends from the program for about 5 days. Then I’ll come back to Mendoza and a couple days later my family and my aunt will come to visit me! I’ll have about 6 days to show them around the city and introduce them to my friends and host mom in Mendoza- I can’t wait! My Cordobese family is coming to Mendoza during that time, so they’ll get to meet my “American” family, too! After that, we’ll head to Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world located in the northeastern corner of the country. I’ve heard it’s spectacular, so i guess you could say I’m pretty pumped! From there, my family will head back to the States and I’ll continue on the last leg of my journey- Peru! I’ll be going to Cuzco for a few days before doing the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. It’s not the classic Inca trail that everyone always does, but it’s the top “alternative trek” to the site and I know it’ll be just as good. After that, I’ve got 2 days in Lima before I finally head back to the States. It’s weird to think that even though my program is ending, I’ve still got a month before I leave the continent. I can’t wait, though- it’s gonna be amazing! I could go into how hard saying goodbye had been, but I think I’ll save that for anther post- I have a lot to say on the matter :)
Suerte,
Benja

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Mundial Fever!

Time June 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been pretty amazing experiencing the World Cup here in South America- it’s very聽hard not to get lost in the f煤tbol madness! I’ve been watching a ton of games, and I know I’m waaaay more into it here than I would have been back in the states. A few days before Argentina’s first game, I went out and bought all the gear I’d need to cheer them on. I went to a hostel where a lot of my friends are staying to watch the game, and when they saw me all decked out in blue and white, they said I was more Argentine than American! I guess I didn’t mind too much- it was somewhat of a compliment to me :)

When Argentina plays, the entire country literally shuts down. Stores close, public schools watch the game during class (if they don’t send the kids home altogether), university classes are cancelled- it seems there’s not a single person NOT watching! And after a win, everyone flocks to el centro to celebrate. My host mom here always says that this is the only event that unites the people of Argentina and allows them to forget about the problems Argentina has, at least for a little while. The whole city also has been decorated for the mundial, too. Blue and white banners and ribbons are on many of the street lamps, Argentine flags are displayed out of every window, and vendors are all over the city selling everything from聽vuvuzelas to fake cheap jerseys. It’s a pretty cool time to be here, I have to say.

The other thing that’s been really fun is watching the games with all my intercambio friends. The problem I’m finding is that I know people from a ton of the countries that are competing, so it’s hard to know who to root for! I watched the game last week between Brazil and Mexico, and it was nuts! The biggest concentration of exchange students are from Mexico and Brazil, so, naturally, they all got together to watch the game in the same bar. There were probably at least 60 people in the bar we went to, almost all from one of the two countries. I almost felt like I was in the stadium in Brazil, judging from the yelling that went on. One side would start chanting, and the other would shout back with cheers of their own, and it would continue until, well, the game was over I guess :) I had friends on both sides, so it was hard for me to pick a team- I ended up painting a Mexican flag on one cheek and a Brasilian one on the other to make sure both sides were happy :)

The lack of Americans here has also made me even more pumped up to watch the US games and to cheer on my country. The kids in the program and I have made a point to watch all the games together in bars around town, and it’s been really awesome cheering on our team together. The other night, we got together to watch the USA vs. Ghana game, and afterwards we found a place nearby that sells authentic American food- burgers, wings, and chili cheese fries! The guy who owns it lived in the US for 15 years, so he definitely knew what he was doing. It was SOOOOO satisfying to have a taste of the States, especially after winning a world cup game :)

We’ll have to see what happens now- all the teams I’ve wanted to advance have moved on, so pretty soon I’ll have to pick sides. It might be a bit stressful if Argentina ends up playing against the US, but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it :)

Hasta luego,

Ben

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Universities in Argentina

Time June 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I just took my last final exam, and I passed! Woohoo! So I’m now officially done with my classes here! Don’t worry though; I’ve go the World Cup to occupy the rest of my time here :) After reflecting聽on my time in the university here, I realize that it’s really been a totally different experience than聽what I’ve been used to the last few years. To say the least, I’d say that the universities聽here are much more disorganized than in the States. As foreigners coming in, not having grown up with the system聽and not knowing the rules and norms, it was somewhat of a nightmare- not to mention the fact that we were taking classes in a foreign language! I quickly got used to the feeling of having no idea what was going on in class or being confused about assignments every week. Syllabi do not exist here, and professors would聽frequently assign things with very short notice. Last week, I went to class to turn in what I thought was my final paper for the class. When I got there, the professor informed me that there was a final oral exam that I would have to take the next week (which would decide whether I passed the class or not); surprise! At this point it wasn’t much of a shock, but I wasn’t exactly ecstatic to hear about that “little” detail. Here, everything depends on the final exam- if you pass, you pass the class, and if not, well, try again. The majority of final exams are oral as well; you sit down with the rest of the class, and the teacher asks each student, one by one, a series of questions. I聽know the professors went easy on us intercambios, but it’s still somewhat intimidating being drilled in front of all your classmates!

Professors in Argentina also miss class MUCH more than in the states, whether it be that they’re going on strike or going on vacation. And more often than not, IF you hear about it, it’s going to be very last minute. There were several times this semester when I got to class only to realize that it had been cancelled. If there’s class, it’ll almost always聽start late; at least in my classes that was the case. In one class, the professor would arrive to the university on time, but she would spend the first hour of class having coffee in the lounge with another professor (who also had a class that was supposed to start at the same time…). So what I thought coming in would be a 3 and a half hour class actually lasted 2 hours at the VERY most, usually shorter. This is definitely not the norm for all universities and all departments- I know that the public university was quite a bit more responsible in this regard. But I heard from friends that it was still pretty disorganized. In one class they told me about, they had 3 different professors. Each would teach a material, but none of them talked with each other, so when my friends asked questions about final exams, the professors often had no idea what the others had聽taught on. Talk about frustrating!

In the universities here, student portals are rarely used- instead, they use Facebook for all assignments, uploading them to Facebook groups for the class. And the times I’ve had to communicate with a professor, it’s been through Facebook messenger- they’re much more likely to respond to that than to an email :)

In general, I wouldn’t say I’ve had a terrible time with the university system here. But I’ll certainly be happy to go back to the system that I know in the States. Although it means that I’ll have to go back to studying regularly, I think I’m ready to be a student again :)

Hasta luego,

Benja

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El mate

Time June 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Yerba mate is something very distinct to Argentina, I thought it deserved its own blog post. During my time here, I’ve come to understand what it is and what it means to people. To start with, la yerba is an herb that comes from Misiones, the northeastern part of Argentina where the cataratas of Iguazu are. To “tomar mate”, one places this herb in a small bowl-like contraption, called the mate. Mates can be made of wood, metal, glass, or really anything else- I’ve even seen some made out of the foot of a llama, although I don’t think I’d ever use this particular brand… There’s a whole method to prepare mate, but basically after putting the yerba in, you add hot water and then put in a special straw called the bombilla. To actually drink the stuff, you sip the hot water though the straw, which filters the yerba through and you end up with a bitter but delicious tea-like drink. You can have mate sweet, bitter, cold, hot, or even pre-packaged in a tea bag! The yerba contains a substance called mate铆na, which is a stimulant very similar to caffeine. So, although it’s still somewhat聽common to have coffee, most people prefer mate to get their day going.

The point of mate, however, is far from giving yourself a burst of energy. “Tomando” mate is, above all else, a social experience. Although people often have it solo in the mornings, it’s generally not something you drink by yourself. For example, one of the most popular ways to hang out here is going somewhere to have mate and spend time chatting together. Whether it be in a park, in someone’s house, even in class, you can always think of an excuse to have mate and hang out with others.

There’s also a whole method to having mate when you’re in a group.聽One person takes the role of server, or cebador. This person prepares the mate, takes the first taste, and after drinking one mate’s worth, fills it up again with hot water and passes it to the next person. Germaphobes beware- everyone sips from the same straw! This ritual continues, going from one person in the circle, back to the cebador, and then to the next person and repeating.


I’ve come to really love mate and all the social implications聽that come with it. It’s something distinct to Argentina and a few bordering parts of other countries, and there’s definitely an art to it. So next time y’all come to Argentina, you’ll be well prepared 馃槈
Hasta luego,
Benja

 

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Time June 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve now been in Argentina for over 4 months, and it’s been an incredible experience. I feel like I’ve been changed by my time here, and I think I’ll be heading back to the states a different person. One thing that my host mom here always says is that our experiences shape who we are, but it doesn’t always happen overnight. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that an experience has impacted us until much later down the road- when we face a situation in which we have to use what we’ve learned. It’s then that these memories surface and we realize that we have been changed in a profound way. I really like this idea, although Alicia definitely says it better :) . Although I feel like I’m already a somewhat different person, it’s exciting to know that I may not realize some of the changes that have happened until many years later. One thing I’ve noticed already, however, is how much more confident I feel. I definitely felt this the most after my time in C贸rdoba, but I know my time here in Mendoza has helped as well. In C贸rdoba, I basically arrived and had to survive on my own. There were some resources to help me out, but I was the only American there, and for me it was complete and total immersion in a new country. This couldn’t have been better for my Spanish, though, and by the end of that month I was very comfortable conversing with others, approaching strangers, all that jazz. I also really had to learn how to get around in a (somewhat) big city, which is something I never had to do at school. Luther College is in Decorah, Iowa, a tiny town of 12,000 people- not exactly a bustling metropolis, but it has its perks 馃槈 . I feel very independent and self-sufficient here in Argentina, and I know I’ve matured, at least a little bit :)
Another thing that really boosted my confidence was arriving without knowing a single person here. It’s kind of like it was for me coming to college- a chance to start fresh and “forge my own identity”. I’d heard about people having different personalities when they speak different languages, but for me I don’t think this is the case. It’s kind of reassuring, though, to know that although everything else may have changed, who I am and how I interact with others remains constant.

This abroad experience has also confirmed my confidence in how well I can relate to others. I’ve always had a knack for connecting with others and being friendly and outgoing with strangers,聽and I wasn’t l sure if this would change when speaking another language. But I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to make a lot of really good friends from all over the world (and all over the US!), and it’s been amazing hanging out with them and learning about their distinct cultures. Overall, I feel very proud of myself for being able to do something like this. It’s been an amazing experience, and I know it will continue to impact my life many years down the road. I also think I’ve caught the travel bug this semester, so I can say pretty surely that this won’t be my last time in South America :) Anyway, I’ve still got plenty of time left, and I’m gonna make the most of it- I’m not quite thinking about going home yet!

Chao,
Ben

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La Atacama y Altiplano

Time June 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just got back from my last big trip of the semester- we had an amazing time! This past week was la semana de mesas. It’s a week where in the public universities, there’s 聽the equivalent of midterm exams instead of class. So, naturally, as intercambios, we took a week to travel 馃槈 We spent the first few days of our trip in San Pedro de Atacama, a small touristy town in northern Chile (right on the border of Bolivia) that serves as the base for a ton of different excursions. We took a tour of several lagunas, including one with four times the amount of salt as the ocean!! It was a pretty crazy sensation- you could literally have all your limbs out of the water and still be floating, no problem! We also took two different bike trips, one to Quebrada del Diablo, and the other to Valle de la Luna. On both trips we had a furry canine companion that followed us from start to finish- this is starting to be a common theme on many of our trips :) After that we began our 4-day tour of the salt flats of Bolivia. We got to the border and met up with our Bolivian tour guide (Ronald) to begin our adventure! On route to the salt flat, we stopped at various lakes, aguas termales, geysers, and other beautiful scenery. It was beautiful, but after a few hours I started to experience some altitude sickness. On this first day of our tour, we reached an altitude of 5,000 meters, the equivalent of around 16,400 feet! And that night, we stayed at a hostel at 4,700 meters- needless to say, I wasn’t quite used to the altura! The second night we stayed in another hotel that was actually made of salt- as if driving all day in salt wasn’t enough 馃槈 None of these “hotels” were heated, so we had to bundle up quite a bit to survive the frigid desert nights. By the third day of the trip, I was starting to feel better, and I was able to enjoy our final and most anticipated destination: el Salar de Uyuni. This salt flat is an amazing expanse of more than 14,000 square kilometers, and it’s definitely impressive. When you’re driving through, it really feels like it could go on forever, and the way the salt has formed on the ground is pretty cool. Coming back, however, was where the fun really began. On the last day of the trip, we tried to return to San Pedro, but we ended up driving through first a snowstorm and then a sandstorm, and it took pretty much the entire day to get back. After a night in San Pedro, we went to Calama and made it just in time to experience their first snowstorm in 30 years! Our hostel wasn’t exactly prepared for this kind of weather, so our night in Calama was almost just as frigid as our time in the salt hotels! We survived, but because of the storm, we missed our connecting flight and had to stay an extra night in Santiago. We weren’t too bummed, though- the airline put us up in a fancy hotel and provided a cushy dinner! After so many nights sleeping in bare-bones conditions, this felt like paradise! We enjoyed some much-needed warm showers and went out for drinks in the city, although it wasn’t too crazy on a Sunday night 馃槈 Monday morning we finally made it back, happy to be in Mendoza again. All in all it was a wonderful trip with some wonderful people, and I had an amazing time. Now it’s time to hunker down and study- it’s only a month until final exams! I don’t know where the time goes, but I’ve been having a blast here in Argentina and I’m not ready to go home anytime soon 馃槈 I’ll keep you posted- until next time!

-Benja

 

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La Vida Argentina

Time May 27th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve realized that despite being in the country for more than 3 months now, I haven’t posted much about Argentine culture and people. So, I’ve come up with a list of “palabras claves” (keywords) to describe what I’ve learned so far about Argentines.

Relajados: Argentines are, above all, very relaxed people. The pace of life in this country (aside from Buenos Aires), is much much slower than that of the US. Businesses and stores (Mendoza may be a bit extreme in this regard) don’t open until 9 or 10am, and they close around 1 for the siesta. The city literally becomes a ghost town as everyone goes home to see their family and rest for several hours before going back to work (around 4 or 5) for a few more hours. People here are also a lot more relaxed in terms of commitments, too, which can be a little annoying at times. Of course, not everyone is like this, but there have been times when an Argentine has made some kind of promise and then later backs out on it. Just the other day I was talking with my host mom about our broken washing machine. She told me that the repairman had promised her 3 days in a row that he would come fix it, and each time he never showed up. Of course, there are many people who are much more reliable than others, as in any culture, but in general this is a difference I’ve found.
Because of this ultra-lax culture, things that would be fairly easy to do in the US can be fairly complicated here. For example, to mail a letter, you have to go to one specific place and wait in a huge line, sometimes for more than an hour! Now you all know why I haven’t been sending as many postcards as usual 馃槈 Buses are also NEVER on time, although the transportation here in Mendoza seems better than other parts of Argentina. Things are a lot more disorganized here, but overall it never causes anything more than a minor annoyance. As our director told us in orientation, “it’s a crazy and disorganized system, but somehow, it works” :)

Tarde: Another thing that comes with this relaxed pace of life is that people are聽usually late to arrive places. I remember my first few weeks of classes adjusting to this- there were several classes to which I went and the professor arrived up to 20, 30 minutes late! This can be frustrating at times, but it has taught me to be more laid back with my horario and live more moment-to-moment (although my friends all know that I wasn’t the most punctual person before I left 馃槈 ).
Not only are people less punctual here- the entire structure of the day is later! The day starts at about the same time- people eat “breakfast” (which consists of mate, some cookies, and maybe a slice or two of bread if you’re lucky) at around 8 or 9 in the morning. However, lunch is at about 130 or 2 and dinner isn’t until 930 or 10 at night- even later on the weekends! And this late schedule also applies to going out. Here in Argentina, the previa (pregame, if you will 馃槈 ) starts usually around 12, the clubs don’t start filling up until 2 or 3, and you can expect to arrive home around 7 or 8 in the morning! Yes, it’s nuts, and the day after is definitely rough. But it’s a cool way to pass the night, and it’s definitely something to be proud of if you go to bed after the sun comes up 馃槈

Curioso: Argentines are very curious people, and they’re definitely not afraid of crossing boundaries. Within several minutes of meeting you, chances are good that they’ll ask you if you have a girlfriend/boyfriend, your view of Obama, and a variety of other topics that would be considered off limits in the states, at least at first. Once they find out you’re not from Argentina, they practically flock to you to ask you everything under the sun about your country, and, more importantly, what you think of Argentina :) Staring isn’t considered rude here, so if you don’t look like a typical Argentine, you can be sure you’ll get some looks.聽


Abierto y amable: After 3 months in the country, I’ve found that Argentines are incredibly open, friendly, and above all, kind. They are very willing to open up and invite you into their lives, and they have virtually no walls. They love getting to know new faces and won’t hesitate to go out of their way to help you. As I’ve said before, the people in Mendoza are somewhat more reserved than those in C贸rdoba, but in relation to the United States, Mendocinos are definitely more open 馃槈

Obviously, one can’t generalize an entire society based on a handful of people they’ve met, and I know there are definitely a lot of exceptions to this list. But, in general, this is what I’ve learned about Argentines so far. There’s definitely a lot more traits that the majority of聽people here聽share, but I’ll have to save those for another post. I have to keep you all reading somehow, right? 馃槈

Saludos,
Ben

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Back “home” again!

Time May 8th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just got back from an extended weekend trip to C贸rdoba- no rest for the perpetual traveler, I guess! I was actually looking forward to having some time to chill in Mendoza after our 10-day trip to La Patagonia, but I couldn’t resist this opportunity. Argentina really likes to celebrate its feriados (holidays), so there are a lot of days off throughout the year- perfect opportunities for us “intercambios” to travel 馃槈 Anyway, we decided to head out for a 4-day trip to the “second city” of Argentina. My host family in C贸rdoba had just finished fixing up a spare apartment they have connected to their house, and when I told them we were coming, they graciously offered to let us stay at a discounted price! It turned out that we couldn’t have chosen better alojamiento (lodging). For me, it was wonderful because I got to spend some great quality time with the fam- our apartment was connected to theirs, so we saw each other quite a bit throughout our stay. And for my friends, it was a very different experience than what we’ve been used to (finding a cheap hostel and spending as little time possible there 馃槈 ). I was so happy to introduce some of my best friends from the program to the host family that had meant so much to me during my time in C贸rdoba, and everyone got along really well. I think Vicky was the most content, though- she had 5 new sisters for several days, and she definitely made the most of this opportunity!! She went from one girl to the next, clinging to them and showing them around the house- I think she was happy to have a few more girl playmates in the house for a change 馃槈 We spent a lot of time all together with them, chatting, playing Uno, sharing stories- they even cooked an asado for us on our last day there, and we ate enough choripan to last us several months!!

It was very refreshing for me to spend some good quality time with my first Argentine family again, and it was cool to show my friends what my month in C贸rdoba had been like. We explored the city for 2 days while I was there, and I got to be the tour guide for the group and point out my favorite places. I also got to explore a little more of C贸rdoba that I didn’t get to see in February, which was nice. One day, we took a bus to Villa General Belgrano, a quaint little town located 2 hours away in the Sierras (“little” mountains) of C贸rdoba. The pueblo looks more like a German village than an Argentine one, and it’s known across the country for its crazy Ocktoberfest celebrations in the spring. We walked around the town and got some beers (which were surprisingly bad, to be honest :) ) and then got on another bus to La Cumbrecita. In this pedestrian-only village, cars are prohibited, and the people are very conscious about preserving the natural beauty of la tierra (the land). We took a short hike to a nearby waterfall and marveled at the mountains that surround the village- they weren’t the Andes that we were used to, but they were still impressive nonetheless 馃槈 After 3 hours back on a bus, we arrived back in el capital and rallied to finally go out to a boliche- C贸rdoba’s known for its nightlife, so we weren’t about to miss out on that! We had a fun night at a club and then stopped at a McDonald’s to get some hotcakes for breakfast before going to bed around 8:30am- I guess you could say we’ve adapted alright to Argentine culture 馃槈

All in all it was a fantastic trip, and I was so thankful for an opportunity to return to a place that had been so special to me- cheesy, I know (in Spanish it’s called “cursi” 馃槈 ). Now I have another 2 weeks in Mendoza before we get another break, this one for a whole week… rough life, right? I’ll be going to northern Chile and Bolivia to see some amazing salt flats with some adventurous friends. I’m very excited, but I’m going to enjoy being in Mendoza for a little while if I can! Now it’s time to do a little more studying before taking another break- life here sure is stressful, so I need every one I can get 馃槢

Hasta el pr贸ximo,
Ben

 

 

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Culture “shock”!

Time May 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So, I’ve been in Argentina for a little over 3 months now. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long- I feels like only a few days ago I was in the airport in C贸rdoba looking for my lost luggage! Because I had already had a month in the country when my Mendoza program started, it wasn’t super tough for me to adjust, and it was a very smooth transition in general. Actually, the initial “culture shock” I experienced in C贸rdoba wasn’t as difficult as I had expected, either. Yes, it was definitely tough having to communicate in a different language 24/7, and there were definitely a lot of customs to learn- el beso, for example. I was frustrated at times, for sure. But Argentina is a very European country, and because of this it didn’t take that much of a toll on me to adjust. Having experiences in 2 different argentine cities has been great, though, because I’ve gotten to see the differences between the two and also what seems to be consistent in argentine culture across the board. In C贸rdoba, for example, the people are known for being goofy and somewhat loco :) it’s a very young city (there are at least 8 or 9 universities in the capital city itself), so the nightlife is pretty hoppin. People here in Mendoza definitely know how to spend their weekends, but it’s not quite as crazy as C贸rdoba- there’s less people out at the boliches until 7 in the morning, but definitely enough to still have a good time 馃槈

The type of person who lives in C贸rdoba and who lives in Mendoza is also somewhat different. All the argentines I’ve met have been, without a doubt, some of the nicest, kindest, and friendliest people I’ve ever encountered. But, in Mendoza, people are a little more reserved and keep to themselves a bit more. Once you break into a group and they realize you’re not just some weirdo trying to make small talk with them (or maybe I am and just haven’t realized it yet 馃槈 ), they love you and want to spend time with you. But in Mendoza it takes a little longer. In contrast, the cordobes don’t seem to have any walls at all! From the moment you introduce yourself, the cordobes want to get to know you and be your friend, and after a brief charla (chat), they’ll probably want to add you on Facebook, get your phone number (or whatsapp number- EVERYONE uses it here!), and chances are good that they’ll invite you to an asado. Don’t get me wrong, that still happens a lot here in Mendoza- it’s definitely an argentine quality. Just the other day I saw a guy wearing a Packer shirt (the first I’ve seen since being here, but a refreshing sight nevertheless). I stopped to ask him about it, and after talking for less than 3 minutes he wanted my number so he could invite me to go out with him and some buddies! I was a little nervous of what the perceptions would be here of Americans, but they seem to love us and always have a million questions to ask- either that or they just want to practice their English 馃槈 Anyway, this post is getting a little long, so I’ll stop here. Thanks for following up until now, though- I hope you all are enjoying my rants!
Un abrazo,
Benja

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Un Viaje Inolvidable

Time April 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Wow, what a trip. I just got back from a 10 day trip to Patagonia, and I don’t even know how to begin to describe what I experienced. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. We started out the trip by taking a plane from Mendoza to buenos aires and then to the very south of Argentina, a town called El Calafate . The thing we didn’t plan for, however, was the giant “paro” that happened the day before. Thursday was a “paro general”, which is a giant labor strike protesting the current state of affairs in argentine politics. So, all over the country, everything shuts down- businesses, restaurants, universities, and worst of all, public transportation. That’s right: no taxis, buses, nothing. We were actually lucky that we hadn’t planned on leaving on Thursday, because even the airlines stop running in protest! As it was, we had a 3 hour delay and thought we might miss our connecting flight, but everything turned out okay and we Finally arrived to El Calafate. It was quite a bit colder than Mendoza, and I felt a bit more like I was home in Wisconsin :) On Saturday we went to see the world famous glacier Perito Moreno. This thing absolutely blew me away. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and I was awestruck. Not only is it a giant glacier that in itself is incredible, but you can literally watch pieces of ice break off and fall into the water and hear giant explosions as it slowly melts. We spent the day marveling at it and didn’t want to head back! After coming back, we went to an Ice Bar- everything, from the glasses to the chairs, was made of ice, and they kept it at -10 degrees Celsius! It was a really fun time, and we met some really cool Argentines in the process! Then, we took an early bus to El Chalten, known as “the trekking capital of the country”- needless to say, I was pretty pumped to explore it 馃槈 We spent 2 days there exploring beautiful Patagonian trails with spectacular views, and on another day we hiked the glacier Viedma. Again, this was unlike anything I had ever done before- we literally hiked on top of this frozen chunk of snow and ice!!! We put on crampons (shoes made for gripping into the ice for traction) and had to learn the proper hiking technique (you have to really stomp your feet into the ice to get good traction), but after a while we got the hang of it, and it was a blast. We even got to finish off the hike with a cup of Tia Maria on the rocks- glacier ice chunk rocks, that is. All in a day’s work, I guess 馃槈 After that, we took a 26 hour bus ride (you heard that right) to Bariloche, where we spent the last 4 days of our trip before taking an 18 hour bus back to Mendoza. The buses definitely weren’t my favorite, but we managed to entertain ourselves and have some fun on the way- anything can be a good time with good company! AfTer arriving in Bariloche, we decided to do La Ruta de Los Siete Lagos, a beautiful drive along the famous Argentine route 40 famous for its spectacular views and scenery of the Patagonian mountains. We rented a car and, seeing as I was the only one of the group that knew how to drive stick shift, I volunteered to take us (sorry mom and dad…). It was a beautiful trip, and we saw incredible sights of all kinds of things- waterfalls, incredible peaks, and a bunch of really pretty lakes. I’m also proud to say that I had no problems driving in Argentine roads with Argentine traffic- after that, NYC traffic will be a piece of cake! The next day, we took a full day hike to Cerro Catedral, bringing along delicious chocolate (for which Bariloche is famous) to share at the top. On Easter, we went to the center of the city to see the celebrations- Bariloche has the world’s largest chocolate egg, and on Easter morning they break it open and share it with everyone! It was a bit sad to be missing the Easter celebrations with my family, but after 10 straight days with these other students in my program, we’ve definitely formed our own kind of misfit family! I have to say, I’ve never been on a trip quite like this in my life, and it was by far one of the coolest I’ve taken. Now it’s back to Mendoza for a tiny bit of studying- I’m not sure how I’ll get back into student mode after such a trip! I guess I won’t have to go long, though- I’ll be returning to C贸rdoba this weekend to show my friends around and visit my host fam! No rest for the student abroad, I guess 馃槈

Saludos,

Ben

 

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Adventures in Chile and a little more

Time April 8th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been a little while since my last post- life gets pretty busy here, and it’s sometimes hard to find any down time to blog! When I posted last, I was about to leave for an excursion to Chile for an extended weekend. It was a super fun trip, and it was great to get to know the people in my program even better! We started by taking a bus through the Andes mountains (literally through聽 the mountains)聽on a beautiful mountain trail that winded every which way and that. 聽We got into Santiago and had a “noche tranquila”聽in the hostel before exploring the city the next day. We took a free tour and walked all over the town, and then we went to a Dive Bar called “La聽Pirujana”, where we tried it’s famous drink, “El Terremoto”. I wasn’t a big fan of it (it consists of fermented wine, Pisco, and ice cream- a unique combination, to say the least :) ), but it was good to experience a Chilean novelty. Then we went to the “El museo de la memoria”, a museum dedicated shedding 聽light on the atrocities of the military dictatorship in Chile. It was pretty heavy but fascinating- definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We also went to San Cristobal, one of the highest points of the city where you can literally see everything. The next day we went to Vi帽a del Mar, a city on the coast. We hung out on the beach and took a dip in the ocean and had a very relaxing day. The following day, we went to Valpara铆so, a town about 15 minutes away from Vi帽a that’s worlds apart. It has winding streets that go every which way, and there’s street art and graffiti on every building. We went to the house of Pablo Neruda and wandered around the town- a very fun day! All in all, it was a very fun trip.

As much fun as it was to take a little vacation (although, let’s be honest, this entire semester has been a vacation for me 馃槈 ), I was very glad to return to Mendoza. I’ve been having a blast here, and I’m really glad I chose this program. I can’t get enough of the great outdoors, so being this close to so many mountains has been heaven for me. Last Friday, some friends and I from the program went to Potrerillos, a mountain range about an hour away from Mendoza. We took a bus early in the morning and spent the day exploring trails and swimming in a beautiful lake we found. We also made some new friends- after getting dropped off by the bus, we found some dogs just hanging out near the bus station. For some reason they really seemed to like us, and for the entire rest of the day we had about 8 or 9 perritos following us around! It was pretty funny- our favorite we named “San Mart铆n”, after the great liberator of Argentina. It seemed like a fitting name 馃槈 聽The next day, I decided that I hadn’t had enough hiking, so I went out again. I went with a group from the University of Cuyo to “Quebrada de Los Berros”, a really pretty trail in the Precordillera mountain range. There were a ton of international students that came, so I met a ton of people from all over the world- M茅xico, Brazil, France, and everywhere in between! We hiked up early in the morning, and when we got there around lunchtime, we started a fire and had an asado- a crucial part of Argentine culture. Everyone brought Chorizos, and we hung out for several hours chatting, eating, and just enjoying each other’s company. It was a really fun time, and I can’t wait for the next excursion- the group does this once a month, so between these excursions and the ones I plan myself, I’ll get my fair share of hiking during the semester :)

Classes are in full swing now, and I’ve had to slowly change into “student mode”, which has been a little hard considering I’ve had 4 months of vacation :) I’ll be taking a History of Argentina class, a tango class (with a lot of pretty Argentine chicas), and a class or two in the Tourism department. The tourism class I’m taking is called “Important Tourist Destinations in Argentina”, so I’m hoping to take good notes and use this class to plan my adventures for the month after my program ends :) The students in this class are also SUPER friendly, and after going to just one class they invited me to go out with them- I guess you could say they’re the epitome of Argentine friendliness :) Anyway, I went to a bar with them on Friday night, listened to a rock band, and danced the night away at a boliche (dance club). They’re “muy buena onda” (literally, good waves/vibes), and I’m really excited to take this class with them- I’m taking it more for the social aspect than any of the actual class material, but I’m okay with that :)

That’s all I have for now, although after next week I’m sure I’ll have more than enough to share; I’m going to Patagonia!!!! On Friday, 6 of us will take a plane to Calafate, in the very south of Argentina, where the world-famous Perito Moreno glacier is located. We’ll spend a day there doing ice-trekking (I know, right???) before going to El Chalten, one of the hiking capitals of Patagonia. We’ll spend 2 days exploring the great outdoors before taking a bus to Bariloche, another must-go destination for trekking enthusiasts. We’ll spend 3 or 4 more days there before heading back- maybe by then I’ll be tired of walking 馃槈 Needless to say, I’m pretty excited. This was one of the main reasons why I wanted to study abroad in Mendoza, so it’s pretty exciting that this trip is actually about to happen! I don’t know how I’ll be able to focus on my classes this week 馃槈

Anyway, with that being said, it might be a little while before my next post; I know all my avid followers will be devastated :) But you can all rest easy knowing that I’ll be having some wonderful adventures with some wonderful people- I can’t wait!! Ciao ciao- hasta luego.

-Ben

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“Cada persona es un mundo”

Time March 20th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Well, week 3 of my study abroad experience is over…. Seriously, where does the time go? I guess it really does fly when you’re having fun- and I’ve been having a blast! The weekend before last, a few students from the IFSA program and I met up with some new friends we met at an orientation meeting at the University of Cuyo. This meeting was specifically for international students, so we met students from all over the world! Anyway, on Friday, we went to La Via Blanca, a parade to celebrate the festival of La Vendimia, the huge harvest festival that takes place every year in Mendoza. It was somewhat like the parades I’ve seen in the US, except for one big difference; instead of throwing candy, people were throwing all kinds of crazy stuff from the floats! Grapes, melons, bottles of water- even small bottles of wine! It was kind of crazy but a ton of fun to see. After that, we went to a bar with our new friends, and after that, we had our first boliche (dance club) experience in Mendoza! It was a ton of fun, but EXHAUSTING! We got into the club around 1:30 or 2 didn’t leave until around 6 am! After a visit to the pancho (hot dog) shop, we headed home- I got in around 7 am. I gotta say, there’s something quite satisfying about dancing until the sun comes up- literally 馃槈 We did the same thing on Saturday night, so I was pretty ready for an early bedtime on Sunday :)
It’s been really fun meeting people both from Mendoza as well as all over Latin America- this week I spent a lot of fun hanging out with new friends, and it’s pretty cool to be able to connect with people like this in another language. I heard the quote, “cada persona es un mundo”, 聽from a Mendocino I met last weekend. It means, roughly, “each person is a world”. It’s a phrase they use here, and it’s pretty cool- basically, it means that each person has his own story and views the world according to his own personal experiences, making each person completely unique and distinct from everyone else. It’s a good quote to sum up my experience here so far- each person I’ve met, no matter where they’re from, has their own story, and it’s been amazing being able to hear about their experiences.聽My friends all know how much I love to talk and meet new people, so I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise to many 馃槈 But honestly, I’ve never been in a place where it’s this easy to make friends!! Everyone here is incredible nice and friendly, and from the second you start talking to them, they want to get to know you and be friends. This is something I’ve noticed in both C贸rdoba and Mendoza, and it’s a beautiful part of Argentine culture.

This past weekend we took an IFSA excursion to San Rafael, a beautiful mountain town about 3 hours from Mendoza. We spent the weekend hiking, swimming in the lake, drinking mate, and to top it all off, zip lining! There was a course set up that is apparently one of the best in all of Argentina, and it was a BLAST! We went from one point in the mountains to another, soaring over a huge lake and screaming our (or maybe mostly my) lungs off. It was a great bonding experience with the group, but we were pretty pooped when we got back.

On Monday, I celebrated St. Paddy’s Day Argentine style- something I never expected to do before coming here :) I went downtown with an Argentine buddy, and we met up with a bunch of people at an Irish Pub. There was green beer, people singing in the streets, and even a random fire-breather who just showed up to entertain the crowd! It was a very fun night, one I won’t soon forget :)

Anyway, things are still going great here in Argentina, and I’m still loving every minute. I’ve adopted the phrase “la vida es una”, an equivalent to Carpe Diem in Spanish, and I’ve been making the most of my abroad experience. Speaking of which, tomorrow I’ll be leaving to go to Chile with some friends from the program. We’ll spend a few days in Santiago, Vi帽a del Mar, and Valpar铆aso before coming back to Mendoza. I’m super pumped, but a little nervous for the Chilean accent- I’ve heard it’s pretty incomprehensible, even for native Spanish-speakers! That’s all for now- I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to share when I return!

Hasta pronto,

Benjam铆n

 

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Mi primera semana

Time March 10th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, one week down in Mendoza, and it’s been an amazing time so far. The city is incredible- I feel like I’ve been meant to live here my whole life. Pretty much wherever you are in the city, you can see the mountains, and it’s only about a 20 minute drive to get to them- it’s alright, I guess. As someone who’s spent virtually his whole life in the flat lands of the midwest, it’s nice to have a change in scenery. This weekend was the beginning of the Festival of the Vendimia, the celebration of the wine harvest. This is really the most important time of the year for the wine country of Mendoza, so it’s exciting to get a taste of the culture with this festival. Sunday night I went to my first wine tasting- it was a ton of fun! There were booths all over sampling wine and some that had games- I’m proud to say that I was able to correctly guess a sample of Malbec in a blind taste test :) On Monday, we went to Cerro Arco, one of the mountains closest to the city of Mendoza. The views were stunning, and we got to see some people haciendo parapenting (paragliding). We brought a 聽bottle of wine to the top to celebrate- when in Mendoza, right? Tuesday I went to la Reserva Divisadero Largo, a nature reserve that’s basically a hiking trail in the middle of a desert. It was awesome- I’m totally loving all the chances for outdoor adventuring, and I know I’m totally going to aprovechar (take advantage of) the beautiful Andes mountains and do as much trekking as possible.

I’ve gotten to know my host mother, Alicia, a lot better the past few days, and things have been going really well. I love sitting and talking with her while she prepares dinner, and our sobremesa (the time after the meal when everyone’s finished eating but stays to chat) usually lasts a while. She’s a very kind woman and cares a lot about every student she hosts (I think I’m number 12 :) ). I can’t wait to get to know her even better this semester! Her dogs are also a blast. She has 3 cocker spaniels, named Camilo, Indio and Pancho, and they’re cute as can be. A lot more calm than the beagle puppy I had in C贸rdoba, but just as adorable 馃槈

Last night I went to a festival in the Plaza Italia celebrating the Italian heritage of Argentina and particularly Mendoza. Argentina has a pretty heavy Italian influence, and it’s been cool to learn how that’s influenced their culture. At the festival, there were booths selling traditional Italian food, traditional dances, and of course, more wine- I think I’ll be an expert by the time I leave 馃槈

This weekend is the climax of the huge wine festival. They’ll have a huge celebration with parades, concerts, and the naming of the reina (queen) of the festival. It’s going to be a ton of fun!

That’s all for now- I’ve included a few pictures of my latest adventures for you to get a glimpse of the beautiful landscape here. Although the pictures don’t really do it justice… it’s even better in person, trust me :)

 

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隆He llegado! (I’ve arrived)

Time February 27th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

After much preparation and craziness at home, I’ve finally arrived in Argentina! Woohoo! It was somewhat tough to pack for the trip- fitting a semester’s worth of stuff in 2 or 3 bags isn’t the easiest! I also had to get some nicer clothes- I’m not exactly the most fashionable person (as my friends know), but looking good is fairly important in Argentina. From what I’ve read, Argentines spend at least an hour, usually more, preparing themselves and dressing themselves for a night on the town. Needless to say, it’s going to be a change to what I’m used to, but hopefully I’ll be able to learn a few tips about looking good from these people :)

My IFSA-Butler program in Mendoza, Argentina, just started on Monday with orientation in Buenos Aires. The entire orientation was very helpful and fun, and it聽was awesome to finally get to know the other students in my program. I know I’m going to have a wonderful time with them this semester.聽聽In Buenos Aires, we went to a ton of really cool places- La Boca, Plaza de Mayo, La Casa Rosada, and the cemetery where Evita Per贸n was born, just to name a few. It was a great time, but I’m glad I’m not going to be spending the entire semester there. Fourteen million people is just a few too many for me :) We got into Mendoza last night, and I had my first meal with my wonderful host mother, Alicia. She’s a 50-year-old single mother who is incredibly kind and loves to talk- which is great for me! I think it’s going to be awesome living with her. She has 3 dogs, which is going to be perfect whenever I need a break from the language. Hopefully they won’t speak so fast 馃槈 Alicia also has a lot of nieces and nephews about my age, and hopefully I’ll be able to get to know them and hang out with them a bit to see what the life of an Argentine student is like.

Before coming to Mendoza, I was in C贸rdoba, Argentina, for a month. I was volunteering at a daycare and living with a wonderful host family, so I’ve already gotten my feet wet with the Argentine culture. But I’ll still have to adjust to life in Mendoza, which is a bit different from C贸rdoba. Since the volunteer program I went with isn’t affiliated with IFSA-Butler, I decided to post in a 聽different blog for my time there. If you want to check it out, the link is here:

bensadventuresabroad.blogspot.com

More blog posts to come! I’m excited to see how the culture in C贸rdoba is different from that in Mendoza and to keep practicing my Spanish. I also can’t wait to explore city of Mendoza and see what’s in store for me this semester! I’ll keep you all posted- literally 馃槈

Hasta luego,

Ben

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