Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
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We haven’t been on any big trips since Monteverde, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been having fun!
The big diversion of the week happened Saturday, when Ryan and I decided to go for a stroll through the Parque Central to enjoy a nice quiet break from the rain and homework. Instead, we found out that there was a huge, free, open-air concert. We met up with some friends and made our way up to the front of the crowd during the opening act, Entrelineas. They were really good, and their covers of “Aeroplane” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and “This Love” by Maroon 5 were perfect. Then the main act, Percance, took the stage. For more information, you can find them on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/percance Basically, they’re a Costa Rican band that’s super popular here, and they really know how to work a crowd. Everyone was jumping and screaming and fist-pumping and mosh-pitting, and when a big rainstorm blew in toward the end, everyone just opened up their umbrellas and kept the party rocking, and even shouted for an encore.
Speaking of rain, we’ve been getting a lot of it the past week, probably due to Hurricane Irene. It’s kind of funny to be down here while everyone’s going crazy in New York over hurricanes and earthquakes, because everyone here is going on with their daily lives because it’s nothing new. It speaks a lot about the culture of panic in the United States versus the super laid-back culture here. The only one in my house who panics during a thunderstorm is poor Chester, our brave watchdog:
Just as a side note, I’d also like to mention that when I can’t eat at home, there is a nice place to eat on campus that’s super cheap too. It’s known as just la soda by the students, and offers a wide variety of healthy food throughout the day for a bargain price. For instance, I got this plate: for just a thousand colones, or roughly two US dollars. It included rice, beans, plantains, picadillo (a hot dish that includes ground meat and various types of vegetables chopped very fine, or picado), and ensalada rusa (a cold salad featuring beets). To drink, I had horchata, which is kind of like chocolate milk, only better.
And here’s some throw-back photos:
These are photos from the national park Rincón de la Vieja. The first is an example of how hot the underground volcanic currents are: they’re actually boiling the water! And the second is of my sneakers, mid-hike.
The next three are from Playa Ocotal, in Guanacaste. The first is our view of the Pacific Ocean from the hotel, the second is “pura vida” written in the sand on the beach, and the third is one of the iguanas that lived outside the hotel room. They had absolutely no fear of humans, and unfortunately neither did the raccoons!
Next weekend we’re going on an excursion with IFSA to La Tirimbina, which is sure to be a good time. I can’t wait!
After quite an interesting chain of events (joining a program [the pre-vet study abroad semester, in this case] in its first year is apparently a rather bumpy road), I am finally registered for my five courses! I’m going to be taking the following:
-Introduction to Irish Studies
-Introduction to Animal Science (a vet school pre-requisite)
-The Microbial World (basically microbiology, also a vet school pre-req)
-Animal Form and Function
The last class, exotic species, is a 200 level veterinary course – I get to start my vet school learning just a tad early! I’m really excited to work with veterinary students & professors – we’ll see how it turns out!
I’m a tad upset that my schedule includes a class on Monday at 11 and a class that ends at 2:50 on Friday, which limits my options for travel a bit. Oh well – all of Ireland/England will be my domain!
I can’t believe I’m actually going! I have housing and a schedule…insanity. Wish me luck – I leave next Sunday!
I have posted a video that just tells a little bit about myself and what my plans are for the fall. It also includes a couple pre-departure tips! I will try to have mostly video posts, but I might use some text entries as well. I will also have TONS of pictures! I hope you all enjoy my blog and I can’t wait to tell more after I get to Northern Ireland!
Hey, I’m Claire, a rising junior at Johns Hopkins University. I’m so excited to leave Baltimore (or Bmore as we normally call it) behind and explore in my ancestral home of Ireland! I’m still two weeks and two days away from departure, but my friends have already started leaving to return to their schools – they’ll nearly all be gone by next Thursday, which is so crazy and leaves me wondering “where did the summer go?!?!”
With everyone leaving to return to school, I’ve had to really start thinking about going to Ireland (which a job, physics 2, and a 30-hour a week internship have kept me from doing previously…) and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty anxious about it. I like to plan in advance, but I still haven’t been able to register for classes (we did that in March at JHU…) which is scary – what if I get blocked out of everything I want to take/of everything I got pre-approval to take from Hop? Hopefully nothing bad happens with that…I just have to have faith, everyone tells me. I do, however, know my housing – I’ll be in a 4-5 person suite (all single bedrooms) with two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room in the Merville Residences (a dorm) – BUT the school won’t release the names of my suitemates. This is a slight issue because there are no meal plans, so I must cook…but I can’t bring any cooking implements with me (pesky 2-bag limit on the airplane…), so I would like to find out what my roommates plan on bringing so I can plan ahead. Oh well…going to have to leave that one up in the air also, as there’s not much I can do to change the university’s mind.
I’m so excited to be surrounded by Irish people! They really have the best accent, and are so friendly overall – I hope I get along with my roommates (I’ve had some issues in the past)!
….with the combis. So that you can properly visualize:
This is a combi:
(Don’t worry, that picture’s from Google.)
That’s the “cobrador” standing at the door. He shouts out where the combi is going; if you wave him down, he’ll probably tell the driver to stop for you….the designated stops don’t mean a whole lot. Nor do the streets printed on the side of the combis always match up with where it’s actually going.
As you can see, it’s more or less THE mode of transportation here.
Reasons I love the combis:
1) They are cheap. 2 soles (less than a dollar) to get all the way across Lima to the university.
2) The drivers are there to serve YOU! None of this “let’s wait for the pedestrian to cross…” nonsense.
3) Though the system is unorganized, it is efficient. I have never had to wait more than 2 minutes for a combi.
Until last Wednesday.
Coming back from the university, I have to switch combis. I’m not really sure where I messed up here, because before Wednesday I had successfully made it home a few times. But the switch is in “not the best area” of Lima, which usually isn’t a problem because I’m there for less than 2 minutes. However, I managed to wait a good 15-20 minutes before I saw a combi which had my destination street painted on the side. So I run through the maze of combis (see above picture for a visualization) while they’re stopped at the light and hop on. Just to be sure, I ask the cobrador if he’s going to this street, and guess what? He’s not. So I hop off.
After waiting a few more minutes, I ask a cobrador where to catch a combi that’s going where I want to go (I’m refraining from saying the street name here because this blog is public ).
Apparently I’m on the wrong side of the street.
So, alas, I figured it out eventually. At least now I know that if I live in D.C. after graduation, I won’t have any problem with their transportation system
Oh, the joys of Lima.
Tramping and Cultural Activities
To start this out, this week I got to watch my favorite movie, one that really seems to hit close to home and remind me what I’m living for, Into the Wild. It was such a great part of my week as it always is every time I watch it. This time watching it was a little different however because seeing all the red rock of the canyon, deserts of Arizona, and the pictures of nature that I call home really made me miss the unique beauties of the desert and home. My favorite quote from there also seemed to take on a bit of a new meaning and gave me some needed strength for the week or in moments that I find myself missing home. The quote goes:
“I know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions facing the blind deaf stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”
This quote reminds me of the study abroad experience just a little bit because at times you feel weak, and very much alone, but it is often from these times that we learn the most because you are alone trekking along creating for your self this amazing experience and learning so much along the way. It reminded me that when I’m feeling different or alone it’s okay, as long as I remain confident in myself and this experience I’ll be able to make it through and come back with an abundance of valuable moments. The rest of the movie of course as always just inspired me to get back out into nature and all the beautiful places that New Zealand has to offer. So given such of course I went for a bit of a tramp this weekend with some friends.
We headed out on the Otago Peninsula on the early morning 8:57 bus to conquer the Harbor Cone, an extinct volcano on the peninsula with a rather steep slope. We arrived at our stop, Bacon Street, which of course we all joked around and soon started out on the tramp down the quaint road and onto the Bacon Track which started out through a nice little tree grove. I saw my first couple of lambs at the beginning of the walk which was exciting. We then switched over to the Harbor Cone Track and began the climb up. Yet again it was beautiful with the view of the city and harbor behind us, Hoopers inlet and the pacific in front of us, and the Pacific and Allan’s beach to the right. It was such a great day filled with sun, which was the first in the last week since the big snowstorm. There was even the last little bit of snow in places towards the top, reminding us that even though it was sunny and beautiful it is still winter down here. When we got to the top the sights were amazing and we actually got to see some sheep being herded by a farmer and his dog, It was really cool to watch because the sheep moved so quickly like a white wave across the hillside the small dot of the dog running the hillside next to them directing them from one place to the next. We soon after began our way down and onto a smaller track that ran along the ridge of the hillside and then down into a very very muddy valley. We cut down through some very thick brush on the hillside and had to use the roots of trees that were more like vines to keep ourselves from tumbling down the whole hillside, into the mud and brush. But it was a blast and absolutely hilarious to watch each person resist slipping and skating through the mud and moss. We eventually made it to the bottom where it now just appeared to be a swampy mud filled marsh, but it was equally as beautiful. The track had a couple of nice planks on which we crossed a couple of creeks and extremely wet places. The mud though was never ending. It seemed as though with each step I took was a battle between me and the mud to keep my shoe on my foot. I would watch myself take a step, see my shoe disappear into the mud, and then fight to pull it out followed by a nice squishing noise. It was a constant fight to keep from falling splat in it, but remarkably we all made it out without falling in it. We then walked past a herd of sheep and cows and back to the road running along the inlet. We then headed back into Portobello where we soaked up the sun while drinking chai at the only café in the town.
Soon after catching the bus back into Dunedin, I showered and then took off to a soccer game at the brand new stadium to watch the Wellington Phoenix take on the Australians from Brisbane. The stadium was filled with somewhere close to 15,00 people all bustling with excitement. We sat in the second row of what appeared to be the student section where cheers just constantly ran out under the bright lights of the stadium. Although the Wellington team lost badly and didn’t play so well it was still a blast to be in such an energy filled environment and to get a little taste of the sport culture here in New Zealand.
We then took off down the streets filled with people exiting the game down to the Octagon where we were going to watch the Rail Jam. We stopped at an Indian Restaurant to get some of my new favorite snack, naan, and then continued down to the heart of the city. When we got there the center of town was bustling with people and a local was rapping up on a stage while the volunteers were packing down the snow on the ramp to get ready for the next session of boarders and skiers who were hoping to nail some nasty tricks. It was a pretty fun scene, the music was great, and really fun to watch the snow enthusiasts crank out some tricks.
By the end of the day I was completely exhausted, but I figure that’s the sign of a great day filled with experiences and adventure. I went to bed that night happy to be in New Zealand and looking forward to the next chapter of New Zealand, our road trip across the South Island for mid-semester break the next weekend.
Snow and Ice Adventures: Naseby Trip with IFSA Butler
So a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks, lots of school, little adventures, meetings of new people, and some cultural events in there too. We went to Naseby two weekends ago for some very adventure filled lugging and curling. The drive out there, about 3 hours by bus, was pretty intense. Of course it was another snow filled morning so the entire drive there was consumed by wind, ice, and quite a bit of snow, especially as we went up and down the constant rolling hills. It was beautiful though to see the snow covered hillsides and the apparently empty appearing roads that just went on into the storm. When we got to the foot of some larger mountains where Naseby was located the storm had clamed down to a more gentle, peaceful snow with some larger flakes in there. It seemed to fit very nicely with the quaint and small town atmosphere of Naseby. We ate some delicious croissant sandwiches while walking the streets before heading over to the area where we’d soon be lugging and curling. I started the afternoon out with lugging with a small group of friends. It was awesome to get to try it out because my family used to always watch the sport when the winter Olympics were on and we’d sit and joke about it and how it might be any of ours last chance to make it into the Olympics. After trying it though, I can say it definitely is more difficult than it may seem on TV. We slipped all over the ice and managed to clumsily score a couple of points in the house. The best part however was watching everybody try to start the push of the balls with the sliding onto the knee position. Basically everybody fell over, some onto the side, some flat on their back, and others almost into a face plant. I haven’t laughed as hard as I did then in a long time. If we had been taping each of us try and fail and put it on America’s Funniest Home Videos I think we would have had a shot at winning it all possibly. We then moved onto lugging which was definitely the higher action of the two sports, but we weren’t really any better at it than we were at curling. We began on what at the time seemed like barely a bump equipped with our helmets, shoes, and sled. We each proceeded to turn the wrong way, hit the wall, and then eventually make it around the corner, all of us laughing the whole way. We progressively moved farther up the course until we had some longer runs at the end. Myself and a couple of others were a little slower at picking it up than the rest, for me probably because as many of you who know me well know I have trouble with my rights and lefts haha but we eventually caught up to the group. It was so much fun flying down the ice with the bit of snow still flurrying and every once and a while bumping the sides, and of course that touch of adrenaline rush fueling large smiles on all our faces. It was super fun and a really great break from Dunedin and schoolwork. The drive back was probably a thousand times more beautiful than the drive there. The views now that the clouds and storm had cleared were breath taking and the snow that we had gotten probably made it even more spectacular. It looked as though we were just driving in towards this huge mountain pass. The big rolling hills of farms scattered with sheep all up against big snow covered mountain ranges that seemed to go on forever. It reminded me of the drive my dad and I had taken back from school at the beginning of this summer along the Sierra Nevada’s, except with farmland, sheep, and many more rolling hills. The road just curved along through the hillside, towards the mountains, and then in towards the coastline and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. It was a really lovely drive, and although I was exhausted and probably at least half the bus had fallen asleep I was completely transfixed on the scenery around me and couldn’t let my eyes rest and miss out on the beauty that nature and New Zealand has to offer. I might also add that I must have seen at least 3 or 4 hawks which reminded me of the red tailed hawks I would see plunging out of the sky back in Arizona on the long drives through the desert. We got back had some delicious pizza and then got back to work and school the next week. This trip however made me so excited to get out and see the rest of New Zealand soon to come.
I’m 6 weeks in to my adventure abroad. I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun things recently and I’ve seen home sickness rear its ugly head.
I hope you North-Hemispherians are enjoying your summer. I’d give anything for a true “beach day” right about now.
A Pothole in the Road: La Huelga
Thanks to the wonderful but achingly slow process of democracy, I will not be taking classes with Chilean citizens during my time spent studying abroad.
I hate having to say that. It’s a little bit heartbreaking. One of the main reasons I selected an IFSA-Butler program for my study abroad experience was because I thought I could take courses alongside Chileans. And I would have, if the majority of the Chilean population and an incredible number of student activists did not think the educational system needs change–drastic change–and that the change needs to start with this semester, nonetheless.
Or, look at it from the other side: I would be able to take classes with Chileans if the Chilean government had only accepted all of the students’ demands and initiated the changes necessary for Chileans to have a free and high-quality education system.
I’m still not sure which perspective is closest to mine, just as I still do not completely understand what the beef is (this article helps), but I do know that the student sit-ins and demonstrations have a direct impact on my study abroad experience.
I’m staying in Chile. There is no way in hell that I am leaving this country to return to boring ol’ U.S. schooling without getting my semester’s worth. But I’ve officially hit my first pothole in the road: not being able to take classes with Chileans. Credits are not the issue. I can take classes offered from the international student office, but these classes (still taught in Spanish) are exclusive to foreign students. In other words, I will take literature classes, but I will not sit next to a cute Chilean boy and read Pablo Neruda’s twenty love poems to him. I will make puppets for school children in an education-art-workshop class, but I will not make them in the company of fascinating Chilean education-major students. Sad, sad, sad.
I wonder how many of those Chilean students I would have met in class are participating in the protests, and how many are sitting at home with their eyebrows bunched up on their foreheads, thinking, When is this all going to end? And what if I was a Chilean-citizen public university student–where would I stand? What would I be doing today? Would I be sitting in a freezing cold, barricaded classroom, holding the semester hostage to the tune of reform refrains? Or would I be watching las noticias on TV, criticizing my classmates for marching in the streets of Santiago without government permission?
There is one thing I know would be different: I would not have homework due tomorrow. Lucky guys.
Here is what Chilean universities look like when covered in protesters’ slogans and banners:
An Apartment in Santiago: La Familia Chilena
Yesterday was my first time in Santiago outside of the airport. It was my host mom’s father’s birthday. He is 80-something and talks and walks around the apartment like a teenage sprite. His wife is an adorable little lady who appears more her actual age but still has the gift of gab. His other children–my host mom’s siblings–are gregarious, entertaining, and caring. The eight-year-old cousin of my host sister speaks better Spanish than me.
The Chilean Family is a beautiful thing. Perhaps some U.S. families are similar to The Chilean Family, but it is far from my experience and thus deserves to be turned into a proper noun–capitalized and everything.
First, there are the greetings. Hugs and right-cheek kisses abound. This is very Chilean.
And by Chilean, I guess I mean Basque-French-German-Spanish-Italian-Argentinian-Mapuche-Chilean. Because the first thing you should know about any culture, just as with the U.S., is that it is a mixture of many parts. A significant part of the Chilean population has roots in the Basque region of Spain, and even more have roots in Spain in general. A good part of Chileans also descend from the immigrants of other European countries (my host grandmother’s father’s last name is French). All these Chileans–well, more often than not–also descend from the Mapuche Native Americans who occupied Chile long before Spain went a-conquesting in the Americas. And according to my Spanish prof, Chileans copy some Argentinian slang. What I am getting at is this: Chilean culture is not always completely Chilean. Some aspects of it parallel things true to other parts of the world.
Anyway. The whole kiss-on-the-right-cheek greeting is very Chilean because not only family members do it. If you are a woman like I am, the way people greet you for the first time is a kiss on the right cheek. Although, I still haven’t learned if you’re supposed to tell people your name before or after you kiss them on the cheek…
So, after the kissing and hugging come the teases of affection. If I were to directly translate how the grandfather greeted his son, it would read something like this: “Hi fatty, how are you? Where is your woman?” What this really means, though, through the lens of The Chilean Family relations, is: “Hey son, long time no see! You’ve put on a little weight since I’ve seen you last. How are you doing otherwise? Is your wife here?” Calling someone a gordo here, in the context of familiarity, means nothing more than affection. When you see this in action, one realizes how stiff U.S. Americans are with each other–always afraid of voicing their observations, of insulting someone, of seeming callous. But the typical U.S. American family’s way of avoiding topics like weight, skin color, height, and other physical aspects is just plain silly. Yes, The Chilean Family is a beautiful thing.
And being a U.S. American in this setting is fun, too. Even when the party was seated in the living area after a toast to the birthday boy, I got to chime in on the conversation. I felt included the whole time because the U.S. was always a main topic of conversation–either aspects of the country itself or people and products of the country. When we talked about how humans are destroying the planet, one person brought up Al Gore’s documentary. When we discussed the student strikes, the U.S. was always a source of comparison. (“If college education can’t be free in a country as wealthy as the U.S., how can anyone think education can be free in a developing country?”)
U.S.-centrism is annoying when you have to suffer through Justin Bieber songs on the radio in the last country on earth you would think you would have to hear him. (Then again, the Biebs is everywhere at once.) But Chile’s eyes on the U.S. is great when you’re looking for a way into conversations at a birthday party filled with people you just met.
You might have noticed that I haven’t said “American” in place of “U.S.” I was kindly reprimanded by a professor recently for conflating the two terms. I was all like, “I’m American,” and he was all like, “I’m American, too.” Chileans are Americans. Remember that. I sure will.