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On Iguazu, Mendoza, & Salta

Time November 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

I realized I haven’t talked about any of the trips I’ve been on during my study abroad trip. I’ve been exceedingly blessed to have gotten to explore so much of Argentina. Buenos Aires is lovely and chaotic, but it has been nice at times to leave the pollution-filled air behind to travel to sparsely populated provinces. All of these trips feel like centuries ago, so I am going to try and generally summarize them instead of providing a lot of details.

My first trip outside Buenos Aires was to Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I went with some of my closest friends here, and it was super fun! That trip was definitely a blast because of the nature and companionship. I would say the hostel we stayed at was one of the best I’ve been to in Argentina.

Speaking of hostels, it’s really interesting how the quality of hostels vary so widely. You really never know what you’re going to get. Some are $10 a night and basically 5 stars(as far as hostels go) and some are $10 a night and really feel like you’re getting the absolute minimum for what you paid for. Isn’t that interesting?

Continuing on, Iguazu deserves its name as one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. I was in awe most of the time. The surrounding town was  quaint and had a lot of nice murals that my friends and I took pictures next to. I remember going to a Mexican food place that was decidedly not Mexican food. Well, they tried.

In Mendoza, I got to ride a horse! That was my highlight. I also got to eat bread and olive oil, which is always nice. Wine tastes the same to me no matter the brand, so I must admit I got a little bored on the wine tours. Still, I’m glad I got to go on them. I got sick on the bus coming back from Mendoza which was the opposite of fun. But overall that trip was really fun.

Salta was a lot of exercise, travel, and beautiful scenery. I don’t even know how to describe Salta/Tilcara. I think, in this instance, a picture is worth a thousand words. I remember coming back very dusty from that trip. I miss the sun and the dry heat of Salta. In Buenos Aires, when it’s hot, it’s sticky and humid.

Well, that’s a not-so summary of my experiences. I’ll end by saying I had an amazing time in all 3 places and am definitely blessed that I had the opportunity to travel to 3 very different places within Argentina.

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Advice About Budgeting in Buenos Aires

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The title is a misnomer because I’m not really going to be talking about budgeting during study abroad. If you are a firstgen college student/ poor and planning on studying abroad, I really hope you’ve been planning for this for awhile now. Basically, study abroad is different from “real life” at whatever university. If you don’t treat study abroad like it’s different, you’re going to have a bad time. Don’t expect to be as frugal as you are back home. It’s definitely possible, but you will be miserable. There are expenses in study abroad that don’t come up in regular school situations. You will be going out more, eating out more, and hopefully travelling more. Anticipate these expenses and plan for them. The two biggest money-handling mistakes I’ve seen on study abroad are:

  1. Spending as frugally as one would back home and not being able to experience study abroad as it should be experienced
  2. Spending more money than one normally would because it’s #studyabroad but then constantly berating oneself for the reckless spending

Both of these behaviors are a MISTAKE and will detract from your study abroad experience. I was in the first boat for about 3 weeks, the second boat for another 3 weeks, and now I am free from both! I already sort of went over why number 1 is a mistake above. Don’t treat study abroad like it’s back home. If you have a college budget, don’t just carry it to study abroad and expect it to work and be fine. Number 2 should be obvious to everyone. If you’re berating yourself for your spending, you’re just going to make yourself feel awful. Also, study-abroad spending is not “reckless spending”. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and should be treated as such. The best thing to do is spend the extra money on the study abroad experiences (relative to each individual person’s  means/ budget) and be fine with it.

Alright, so how do you get to that point where you can spend and be fine? This is where the planning comes in…That I hope y’all were doing way beforehand. If you are like me and don’t have family members to hand you money at your every whim, having the ultimate study-abroad experience takes a little finessing.

Apply for IFSA scholarships/jobs! The IFSA first-generation scholarship literally saved me so much grief. Apply for other scholarships as well. Apply for all of them, if you have the time. If you are eligible, apply for the Gilman scholarship. There are also a lot of university/region specific scholarships out there. These are usually less competitive than the nationwide scholarship programs. Brush up on your writing skills because you will be writing a lot of essays. My university has people that specifically help with proofreading scholarship/fellowship application essays. Check to see if your university has something similar.

For those that have a job during the school year: SAVE. I am serious. It is painful and hard, but it must be done. I managed to save a significant amount of money in a little over a year by consciously restricting my spending. That is in addition to paying for my miscellaneous expenses( like soap, conditioner, etc.). I created an incredibly restrictive budget for myself and stuck to it. My sophomore year social life suffered considerably, but I saved that $$$. Watch Netflix with your friends. It is free and fun. Don’t eat out. Don’t buy Starbucks. Don’t take that Uber to the bar/wherever. Obviously, it’s impossible to completely follow these guidelines unless you are a complete recluse, but you need to make a concerted effort to spend less. Sometimes I’d go to random club meetings/career events to get the Pizza/catered food when I really, really wasn’t feeling the dining hall.

Other options are, of course, loans. But taking out a loan is a personal decision and everyone qualifies for different types/rates.

Also! IFSA specifically provides students with budget calculators, so look that up. Just make sure to be realistic and don’t plan on spending $5 USD a week in expenses. Good luck!

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On Race in BA

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

I’m a little behind(haha) in my blogging

I didn’t really want to write this article, but I think as a First Generation Scholar/Minority blogger, I have an obligation to let people like me know what they’re getting into when deciding to come to Buenos Aires.

I’d like to preface by saying that I am absolutely loving my time in Argentina and dreading that, day after day, my program approaches its end. However, there are certain things that an ethnic minority needs to take into account before coming to the Whitest City in South America. Here we go.  Read More »

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Random musings

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I wrote this 1.5 months ago and forgot to post…whoops. Well, I’ll be updating a lot in the next few weeks because I am oh so very behind. (Shoutout to Dylan for motivating me.)

 

Hello! Here I am! Once again screaming into the internet void and not pausing long enough to see the ripples. Well, I’m still here. In Argentina. It’s been fun! I think the problem I have with writing these types of blog entries is that I never know who my target audience is supposed to be. Is it me? Can I write this like a stream of consciousness diary entry? My family? Who I forget to update about my life and don’t remember what thread of a hastily written text/email I should pick up on in order to preserve a semblance of coherency in the “Infrequent Updates of Amber”?  I also have a hard time deciding what I should write about when I finally sit down to write something. My mind runs all day long, filling the pages in my brain: I have novel length comments on my experiences in Argentina, my thoughts on the culture, interesting tidbits of my life, you name it. Trying to fillet these novels into something that could be considered a manageable blog post is what is the most challenging for me. It’s definitely not for a lack of words. Again, since my thoughts are flitting faster than my fingers can keep up with, I’m going to write about a series of unrelated /things/ and, as always, hope that they prove useful or entertaining to whoever is reading this blog. (Is anybody out there?)

 

Also, a little bit of side information: I think that, for the most part, my blog will be devoid of pictures. I am the owner of a barbie phone, and unfortunately, I really don’t have the patience to attempt to take pictures on that thing. Thankfully! I have friends with ~nice~, ~snazzy~ phones that are kind enough to take pictures of our shenanigans. (Don’t worry, mom…I’ll get those to you eventually. Don’t hold your breath, though)

 

Argentines HATE giving change. Like, hate it. Detest it. Loathe it. It might honestly be their least favorite activity aside from watching their sports teams lose a match(please don’t talk to me about sports. I know nothing). I could go into a background on Argentine currency and the rampant inflation(™), but tengo fiaca and who has time for that? So, I will just say that until a few months ago, the largest Argentine bill was a $100 peso note. As of the moment I am writing this, that’s equivalent to less than 7USD. Yeah. So before the $500 bill was introduced by the new government, Argentines carried around STACKS AND STACKS AND STACKS of bills (Bandz are a necessity) Or, you know, used their debit/credit cards. But this country is still more cash friendly. I digressed…I don’t know how people can even survive with the $500 bill because I run into enough trouble paying in $100s(that’s what the ATM usually doles out). EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I attempt to pay with a $100 note, I receive the same response “do you have anything smaller?” Like….no. the ATM only gave me 100s. I also just spent $45 pesos…it’s not that difficult to give me a $50 and a $5 peso note. This happens at places where a lot of money is being spent, as well. I spent around $430 pesos running errands, and paid with 5 $100 peso notes. And yep, got the same question again. No, sir….I only have 100s…sorry. It puts a lot of my normal US activities in stark contrast. Like buying a .17 cent banana with a $100 bill at the grocery store because the Starbucks right next door did not accept any bill over a $20. I can’t imagine anything of the sort flying in Argentina. It’s just interesting to think about it.

 

The food here is dope. Despite not believing in anything spicy, the food here still manages to taste good. It’s honestly hilarious what the Argentine definition of “spicy” is. I can’t even describe it because every time someone has told me something was spicy, I’ve just been confused and disappointed after it didn’t end up being spicy. Mexican food is still higher on my list, but Argentine food makes a name for itself. It helps that I am a meat lover, and there are traditional Argentine steakhouses( parrillas) on every street corner. So far, I’ve only been to two. I will definitely go to more during my time here. Thank you, God, for providing such healthy cows to this blessed country.

 

I started school! Did I mention that? It’s….interesting, I guess. All of my classes are once a week and three hours long. I’m going to be obnoxious and say that back in the States, I was pretty good at the whole “passive learning thing”. I’d sit in class and somehow absorb the materials that were most emphasized, all with my chin resting in my hand and thinking about subjects that were decidedly not academic in nature. (I wonder if I can take a nap before my club meeting? I should check StubHub to see if the prices of that concert have gone down. I’m so lazy, I wonder if someone will cover my shift this weekend) Butttt…..low and behold, passive learning is next to impossible when everything is being taught in a language you can barely comprehend! It’s almost laughable how many times I’ve caught myself staring at the white board and realizing that an hour has gone by in class and I have no idea what the professor was saying for the last 20 minutes. Thankfully, I’ve got friends in all the right places, and they always answer my panicked queries after class is over (#1 SQUAD). Also, i’m not totally helpless because I do have source material that I can go over at home. I also have allowed myself to learn some pretty interesting things while away. It’s been nice to get out of the US academic bubble and realize that *gasp* other people exist and their histories and beliefs are important and valid.

 

I think I wrote this at 4am sometime in August….I enjoyed reading it because I’m narcissistic. Hope you enjoyed this half as much as I did.

Next up: who knows?

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So, I’ve been here for….a month??

Time August 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The thing about this whole blogging thing…is that I forget to update until approximately a million and a half things have happened in my life. And then, I am slightly overwhelmed at the momentous task of describing all of these “million and a half things”. This is also one of the reasons why I never send email updates to people, even though I always say I will. (Shoutout to the people that get email updates from me once a year!) 

Since I am lazy and have a horrible memory, I am going to write about tiny tidbits of my life that have stood out thus far. Read More »

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From LAX to DFW to EZE

Time July 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

You know, I should have learned by now that I always think I have more time  to get things done than I actually do. I was planning on writing a blog post the day before I left the country, but obviously that didn’t end up happening. So, now, i’m writing it on the plane to Dallas. Let’s hope I remember to post this during the layover. Read More »

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