Each semester IFSA-Butler students chronicle their adventures and experiences as they live and study in different countries. Read a firsthand perspective of how cultural and educational differences shape their journey.
“Why do you leave? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there you see differently, too. Coming back to where you started is never the same as not leaving.” Terry Pratchett
For the sake of continuity, I’m starting my last post with another quote. After almost 24 hours of travel I’ve now been home for two weeks, and besides the extreme change in weather the transition has been pretty seamless – it’s kind of scary how easily I slipped back into my usual routine. It’s been kind of overwhelming only hearing English around me for the first time in five months, and I sometimes find myself thinking in Spanish, but otherwise going back to the US has been fairly uneventful. I think going back to college will be the toughest part of resuming life in the US, after a brief two-week vacation. While I’m excited to see my friends, teammates, and professors, I’m nervous about returning to the craziness of the trimester system and juggling track practice, work, academics, and extracurriculars again.
As the new year approaches, I’ve been enjoying home for the past two weeks; catching up with friends, wolfing down pizza and bagels, and indulging in the English music I’ve blocked out the past five months. It was an adjustment going from the sunny 80 degree weather of Buenos Aires to the cold 35 degrees of New Jersey, but it’ll a good transition for when I return to the tundra known as Maine where Bates is located. The biggest shock has definitely been being able to understand random conversations from people I pass on the street. It’s also been a change reading signs- the words simply glazing past with no effort while in BA there was usually some degree of delay from reading the words to processing their meaning.
Post-study abroad slump hasn’t hit me…yet. I’m hoping that staying busy will keep me occupied so I don’t look at abroad pictures for too long. If I get nostalgic, I’ll have the music of Soda Stereo, Gilda, Tototomas, Jorge Drexler and Julieta Venegas to name a few. I brought home my mate gourd and managed to squeeze three bags of yerba in my suitcase, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my addiction somehow! And of course, I have my memories of a time I’m sure will become even more positive as time passes.
At this point looking back, I’m not sure if my experience has necessarily changed me. Rather, I believe it confirmed a few things.
My own privileges. Buenos Aires, and Argentina as a whole may be liberal, but just as it wasn’t the gay capitol of South America I envisioned, there’s always something underneath the surface. My black and Asian friends in my program had to deal with all kinds of offensive behavior and harassment, sometimes beyond simple curiosity or misunderstanding. It wasn’t enough to ruin their experiences, yet it was something they had to deal with nonetheless. And while as a white gay man I would be considered a minority, I didn’t have to take as much percussion when going on dates with men from dating apps than my female peers, or even walking the streets.
Taking risks are usually worth it. I made great friends in my program, but I found that I got other unique parts out of Buenos Aires by either hanging out with Argentine friends, or going to places by myself. Perhaps as a natural introvert it seemed more logical for me to break off, though there were certainly times in the beginning I didn’t want to seem anti-social. Yet in the end, it’s your experience, and it might be your only time in this place. After all, me taking the initiative was the reason I ended up going to La marcha del Orgullo, one of the highlights of my experience. So I would say to go out of your way- it’ll make your trip so much more worth it.
Un monton de gracias for those who have kept up with me throughout my journey! For those who are going to BA in the future or want to know more, feel reach to reach out in whatever capacity.
Last week I went to my first ever gay bar, and boy, what an experience (so no this isn’t about ‘camping’ but a different type of camp).
This night was a highlight of my trip; I love the idea of my favorite moments either revolving around the scenic, nature sights or the late-night neon of queer Glasgow.
I was able to know all the songs they played because I mostly listen to queer artists anyway, so it was such a treat. I’m so used to not getting any of the heteronormative youth culture, like at all, especially at parties. I just don’t feel ‘with it,’ in a way that is hard to explain a lot of the time.
My friend and I went out to one of the drag shows and it was a small show with local queens, but it was such a joy to be a part of something like that, especially since I love drag and its artistry. I was so happy to be able to dance to my favorite hits. Especially all the RuPaul songs. What a euphoric experience when I knew the “Purse First” song, having (not obsessively haha) watched Bob the Drag Queen’s music video on repeat when it first came out after season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s not often that I get to gush about my love for camp and butch aesthetics besides in a classroom environment, and even then I’m surrounded by people that don’t really fully understand the reasons queer subcultures are so important to our community. People usually boil down ‘gay bars’ as being oversexual which is pretty homophobic in itself. A lot of people look down at gay bars, but these are the places in history that prompted hidden discussions about gender and sexuality, and allowed for a community during times when that was extremely unheard of or condemned.
In that way, it was a soft relief to open up to my friend (who is queer as well) in such a historically symbolic way, and ramble about drag shows, pride, and my girlfriend. (There was still a straight guy who ruined a bit of my evening, as he tried to flirt with me even after learning I was lesbian.) That annoyed me as usual, but I didn’t let that stop my night. It was a solid experience, being social for once and dancing underneath a ‘love trumps hate’ sign with a world I could grasp, like I was something significant in the timeline of queer culture.
Before I visited Scotland, my school had us enroll in a study abroad class as a way to prepare us for some of the larger, internal issues like culture shock and anxiety that would occur. One of the projects we had to do was on our interest in the city we were traveling to. I chose LGBT culture, especially the night culture in the 80s because that era really personally affects me, as it might to any gay person. To be able to insert myself, for even a night, into what I had studied, and also to feel so ‘in’ with a hisotry that I can call mine was a worthwhile experience.
It’s one thing to book plane tickets and plan a trip to one of the most isolated places on Earth, and quite another to actually set foot there. This past weekend, in the midst of exams and papers, a friend and I flew to Isla de Pascua, also known as Easter Island or Rapa Nui. We spent four incredible days exploring the island, seeing the sites, and hanging out with our fair share of stray dogs, cats, cows, and horses. To be honest, I still can’t believe I was there, that the pictures on my camera were taken with my own hands. The tropical flora and fauna were a welcome break from the concrete and smog of Santiago, as were the occasional downpours that ensured we never completely dried off; my watch still has some condensation inside.
Friday, November 18th, marked the last day of classes at la Universidad Católica. While this was one of the first sure signs that time in Santiago is winding down I can’t relax too much yet; I still have three classes to worry about and a slew of assignments to complete over the next two weeks. Conveniently, I’m also going to be spending the next four days without wifi, which only complicates the end-of-term academic onslaught. However, with the warm weather and increase in people selling ice cream on the metro, my mind is definitely looking forward to finishing up the academic side of study abroad. Before I do so, I just wanted to do a more comprehensive overview of academics in Chile. When I was investigating programs it was hard to find a lot of definitive information that really explained how difficult (or easy) classes were in Chile or how they were structured. While most of this information will really be comprised of my own opinions, I hope it is helpful to anyone curious about academics in Chile!
I realized I haven’t really included much about how being gay has affected my time here (especially since I’m being paid specifically to talk about this). However, this aspect of my life really didn’t impact me during the first half of my experience. As I mentioned before, there is not the same kind visibility in BA as there is in other “gay-friendly” areas of the world. I have only witnessed glimpses when I least expected it- a man on the collectivo with a rainbow pin, or picking up signals from people on the streets with dyed hair. I have seen a grand total of THREE gay couples- in all these instances I wanted to marvel at how amazing this was but I didn’t want them to see I was staring and ruin the moment. At boliches I would sometimes dance with guys. Otherwise, zilch.
This changed two months ago while I was doing work at Bosques de Palermo, and I saw something in the distance I couldn’t believe- a rainbow flag. I almost ran towards the flag, until I saw what it was for- a tent for La Fundación Nacional Argentina LGBT. I talked with one of the organizers, who told me about weekly volunteer meetings the Fundación had every week and gave me the address, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More »
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.
While I haven’t travelled that much (yet!) one of my favorite things to do upon arriving in a new place is to check out the grocery stores. Food is such an important part of culture that, for me, a simple stroll through a market can provide a good amount of information. In Chile there are naturally some differences between the products available here and in the Midwest/mid-Atlantic United States. For starters, most jam is sold in bags that you snip the corner off to use. Mayonnaise is so adored by Chileans that stores have entire aisles with dozens of varieties. As someone who is lactose-intolerant, I was pleased to learn that there are a lot of lactose-free products available, ranging from milk to chocolate to yogurt. Bread, which holds a rightful place in the center of the Chilean diet, is plentiful, and can be found (freshly baked!) essentially every 5 feet, sold in grocery stores, corner markets, and from street vendors. Another major difference worth mentioning that doesn’t explicitly involve food is the checkout process here: as I learned, when a store employee bags your groceries you are expected (but not required) to tip them a couple hundred pesos or so on your way out.
The typical study abroad blog consists of flashy photos and videos as well as lots of sightseeing *all eyes look towards me, yes I know, I know* But in reality, this is only half the experience.
Believe it or not, there’s actual schoolwork! I have finals coming up- one next week and three the week after (pray for me)! If there isn’t a language barrier, there are cultural barriers that you constantly have to navigate. There are the little things often overlooked- homesickness, insecurity about belonging, seeming like you’re having a good time etc. Then there are the positive things- having meaningful interactions with locals, being able to give directions to tourists, appreciating a new part of the city and discovering your new regular restaurant.
However, there are some feelings or ideas that are really difficult to put into words. That’s partially why I make vlogs for particular places in order to better convey how I’ve felt, with the aid of some background music. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing places like Iguazú or Mendoza any justice by simply calling them “incredible” or “interesting”- I’d rather have my audience see for themselves.
Hence I have another video here about my daily routine and some of the sights and sounds I regularly encounter. Like my other videos, hopefully you can get a better idea about how I’ve spent the majority of my time here in BA for what they are.
This past weekend a friend and I took advantage of the final long weekend of 2016 to take a trip north to La Serena, a beach town that is roughly a 7-hour bus ride north from Santiago. Since everyone else in Santiago had the same desire to get out of town it took close to two hours just to make it out of the city, but the bus ride was otherwise uneventful. Bus travel in Chile is truly amazing; the buses (not the micros, which travel within Santiago) are one of the few things that seem to run mostly on time and travel all over the country and even into Argentina. If you really wanted to, you could take a bus all the way to Arica, a town in the northern-most part of Chile. The seats are spacious and comfy, movies are shown, and there are even vendors who hop onto the bus to sell newspapers, snacks, beverages, and sandwiches.
Oh boy have I been gone a while. Before I get into how mentally exhausting abroad can be if you’re living with mental illnesses, I wanna pump up this blog with a couple fun, exciting things I’ve done while in Scotland.
Firstly, I ventured to the Highlands with my study abroad group from IFSA-Butler and traveled to the emerald greens of hidden waterfalls to the rocky mountains up north. I discovered what whiskey smells like while distilling, and how it blackens the trees in contrast to the white of the stony factory. I watched a shepherd hand-sheer a sheep with the little squad of sheepdogs parading around him like puppies ready to pounce on each other.
La comida argentina, in all its forms, has been one aspect I’ve consistently enjoyed while here, so good I’m dedicating this whole entry to bragging over how good it is. Hope you’re reading this with a full stomach!
Desayuno: The “most important meal of the day” is super light here in Argentina, typically consisting of just toast, jam and fruit. Then there’s coffee. Caféor commonly café con leche is served in a smaller quantity than in the states and is actually not as strong, only meant for a morning boost. Nevertheless as a coffee addict, I enjoy it anyway, either at home or at one of the millions of cafés scattered around the city. It is commonly served with two or three sweet medialunas, or croissants, and a small glass or orange juice or seltzer.
Almuerzo: The first real meal of the day is much more filling. Many days I’ll stick with good old pizza– here it can be compared to Chicago style pizza- thicker with loads more cheese. One thing difficult to get used to: eating it with a fork and knife. It felt almost degrading the first time. Something else different- drinks in glass bottles. It’s a nostalgia factor, plus you can taste actual sugar in Coke and 7 Up, though you always pour it into a separate cup to drink from. Some days I’ll eat two or three empanadas, either filled with meat, chicken or my personal favorite cheese and onion. You can find these nearly everywhere and are reasonably priced. Choripán– chorizo meat between two buns. Condiments sometimes put on top but the meat is so flavorful it’s really not necessary.
Cena: the biggest meal of the night, although in the typical Argentine household, it’s typically not eaten until 10 or 11 at night! Thankfully because Marta is older we eat at 8:30 or 9. Still, especially in the beginning, there were times I needed to eat an apple before so I wouldn’t lose my mind. Starting with the most sterotypical- carne! I freaking love it here. There’s not a week that goes by without eating bife de chorizoor lomo at least once. Some of it could actually be comparable to what is served in the states, but it’s so much cheaper here, usually $10-15. Often times at steak houses or parillas, they don’t even ask how you want your meat- the huge slabs of meat will satisfy anyone. Pasta here has much less sauce, but the noodles themselves are often homemade and you can really taste the difference- definitely some of the best I’ve had.
Postre: There is one desert that towers over the rest: dulce de leche. This caramel-like sauce is often so sweet I can’t eat too much of it, although in small quantities is quite satisfying- often inside churroshere with a little sugar sprinkled on top…the absolute best! Helado– a national obsession. I didn’t know ice cream was so popular in BA until I came a herredia on every other street. Again, the Italian influence is strong. It’s more comparable to gelato, with a higher quality and more flavorful. Even with a cone, people eat it with these small colorful spoons, another little thing that was strange to me. Nonetheless it is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
Alfajores- small cake-like chocolates available in every café and every kiosk with dozens of different kinds and companies. You can expect me to come to class with three of them stuffed in my pocket to give me quick energy during the day.
Maté– omfg my absolute favorite food I have discovered here. I love it so much and it seems like everyone here loves it too. You can see people drinking this tea in parks, at work, on trains and in class. Maté is drunk from a small cup which is filled about 2/3 with the herb, or yerba, filled consitantly with hot water, sometimes cold water during warmer months. Consumed with a straw called a bombilla, you know it’s good when bubbles appear when you pour the water, a sign of nutrients being released. It has amazing health benefits and apparently more caffinne than coffee, which I can certainly attest to. It’s definitely an acquired taste, especially if you’re drinking it for the first time. Sugar and even an orange slice helps mitigate the inital bitterness. I love it, and I love the whole ceremony around it where people pass the maté cup to each person in a group. I am determined to bring some back to the states with me.
Chile is often called a country of extremes, and for good reason. If leaving from Santiago, you can be in the Andes mountains or the Pacific ocean in two hours. A two-hour flight north deposits you in the driest desert in the world. A two-hour flight south leaves you surrounded by lush greenery. Even Easter Island, a Chilean territory in the middle of the ocean, is accessible by a six-hour flight. I’m yearning to visit all, or at least a few, of Chile’s many wondrous landscapes, and finally got the chance to travel to San Pedro de Atacama, a desert in the north of Chile often called the most arid in the world. IFSA took us on a four-day trip packed with activities, sights, breathtaking scenery (though in hindsight the breathtaking aspect may have just been the altitude), knowledge, and of course, food.
Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are two twin cities nestled by the Pacific ocean, less than a two-hour drive from Santiago. Valparaíso is a port town, and was once more developed than Santiago. The remnants of early life are evident, as architectural influences from all over Europe and other parts of the world can be found side by side. Part of the city is actually a UNESCO world heritage site in order to protect the old styles of construction. The port still operates today, though the fishing industry is largely commercial with few Chileans doing the actual fishing these days. Viña del Mar is, at least in the areas close to the beach, a wealthy town, with beautiful houses, clean beaches, and dozens of destinations that cater to tourists and locals alike.
My trip last week to the 4th largest city in Argentina was an important one. Way back during the application process for study abroad, I was torn between big city life of BA, and here in peaceful outdoorsy Mendoza. Ultimately I chose BA , yet I told myself I would eventually visit my would-have-been home. I was worried coming here that I would fall in love with Mendoza and regret choosing the dirty calles of BA.
Indeed, Mendoza is an absolutely beautiful city- extremely walkable, with not too much traffic. Every street is lined with trees, currently in springtime bloom, as well as aquaducts with gently flowing water. There are multiple parks like Plaza Independencia and Parque San Martín, filled with open fields, plenty of trees and stunning views of the Andes, only a few miles away. There are plenty of cute cafés and shops. Probably most dramatic is the quiet! Sure there are a few parks in BA but you can always hear the city around you. Here, you actually feel connected with nature. There aren’t too many tall buildings, so you can actually see the sky! Even the air seemed purer. Life definitely moves slower in Mendoza, although you have hiking, skiing & rafting nearby for a change of pace.
I definitely would have been happy here, yet I don’t regret about my choice. At this point, I have a solid footing in BA, I feel good about my classes, and I have great friends, both American and Argentine. I had never lived in a city before, plus Bates was already relatively isolated, so I’m glad I got this different setting. I’m also glad I’m at the center of Argentine politics with protests and debate everywhere. The fact that I’m still discovering new parts about the city from its barrios to its people also means that everyday is different.
I was accompanied by one of my closest friends from the program while walking around Mendoza. She also comes from a small LAC, with close proximity to nature. We both agreed that we would have been happy in Mendoza, although we’re content with our current lives in BA. We also discussed some of the not so nice things we’ve noticed about our experiences:
Despite getting 15 pesos for every dollar, costs still add up, but it’s obvious that this is more of an issue for some people than others. For some, side trips every few weeks to new places like Mendoza just isn’t feasible. Obviously it’s an enormous privilege just to be in BA on a program like this. Yet especially in the beginning, being social and making friends requires these trips, going out to expensive restaurants and spending lots of money in general. I know for myself I’ve felt pressured to spend more money than I was planning just so I could be social and not feel left out. In the future it would be nice if IFSA held a general discussion around the topic of money so people wouldn’t feel ashamed by having less than their peers.
Similarly we talked about the need to really take advantage of our time here. Throughout the trip, fellow IFSA people have been our go-to people for dinners or to hang out. Some of us have made friends through the program, some I haven’t seen since orientation. Regardless, it can be frustrating trying to immerse yourself in your surroundings when you’re with a large group of IFSA people, speaking English and generally looking very American. Sometimes I actually wish there was a language pledge- perhaps we wouldn’t get to know each other as well, but we’d improve our castellano so much. That’s why I think I’m going to have my own self-imposed language pledge for now on. We’re also more and more comfortable with the idea of exploring alone. Obviously I’ve made wonderful friends here and I’ll continue to go out with them, but if plans don’t work out, I won’t be upset, I’ll survive. We’re only here for a limited time (only two more months gahhh), and we’ll be interacting with Americans anyway once we return. That’s why I intend to take full advantage of my remaining time here and learn as much about the culture, the people and castellano as possible. As Mendoza emphasized, independence is the key.
It was on my very first day here way back in July when Marta asked the inevitable question: “Is America really going to elect Trump?”
One of the perks of being abroad is being able to temporarily escape the depressing sociopolitical situation in the states- the shootings of unarmed black civilians, Orlando, government deadlock, and of course, this endless presidential election. Obviously I’m able to follow the news back home online, but with classes and travel it’s not as frequent, and so I can be figuratively as well as literally detached from home.
The average Argentine, however, is consistently connected with what is happening in America. You know that saying that the world revolves around America?…it has some truth to it. Nearly half the conversations I’ve had with random Argentines eventually turned to the U.S. presidential election. People aren’t exactly enthralled with Hillary, but they’re horrified that someone like Trump could possibly occupy the Oval Office. How could it be that U.S. politics have become as dysfunctional as Argentine politics have been for nearly a century? For people here, his flamboyant personality and lack of shame reminded them of Carlos Menem, their president during the 90s who partied with celebrities and drove his sports car as the country spiraled into financial catastrophe. Many predicted the end of America as we know it if he gets elected. A woman in the elevator told me “Please vote for Hillary, for all of us who can’t”
For the first debate I wanted to be around other Americans, so I went to Sugar Bar in Palermo where CNN was being shown on a dozen different screens. It was a surreal experience being in the presence of other Americans speaking English, drinking beer, cheering, booing and fliping the finger at the screens. Some people in my program have talked about getting together on Election Day and getting wasted for the occasion. We’ll either be celebrating our country missing a close one, or commemorating the good 240 year run America had.
It’s been really fascinating for me is how similar Argentina was to the U.S. at one time, especially in regards to its history of immigration. Visiting el Museo National de Inmigrantes was basically like when I visited Ellis Island in New York years ago. There were black and white photos of European immigrants, the postcards they sent, the dictionaries they studied, and their stories of escaping poverty and repression for a fresh start in The New World…but these people were going to Argentina! As an American who has consistently heard about being part of a melting pot, it was funny hearing that very same narrative here. Read More »
First of all, I’d like to preface this post by saying that I did not, in any way, participate in the march I’m going to talk about below. The IFSA staff were very clear on letting us know that, as foreigners, we would risk being deported by doing so! Thankfully, just hanging out in what was more or less the staging area for the march and watching it depart was a valuable experience.
With that fun tidbit out of the way, the fun can begin! On Saturday a friend and I went to check out the marcha LGBTI por derechos filiativos y ley de igualdad del género, or in English, the LGBTI march for familial rights and gender equality. Not to be confused with pride, a large-scale celebration of the queer community, this march specifically focused on the push for rights for non-nuclear families and trans folks. There were many different groups represented, each with their own distinctive banners and the ubiquitous rainbow flag. There was a wide range of ages represented in the march, with everyone from kids to older adults taking to the streets. Despite the heavy police presence, there didn’t seem to be any tension between marchers and officers, and there were no groups protesting against the march (at least, not at the beginning of the march where we were taking everything in).
The past week here has been defined by two major historical events in Chilean history: September 11th (1973) and September 18th (1810).
September 11th has long been a notable day in the lives of people from the US, given the terrorist attacks that took place on in 2001 in New York City. However, this day has held importance in Chilean history for much longer, as it marks the day the US-backed coup led by Pinochet occurred in 1973. While we haven’t quite gotten to this point in my history class, it’s very apparent that the coup remains a polarizing topic. On the 11th there were numerous marches, protests, and even celebrations throughout the city and country; in Santiago there was one march to and one march from the general cemetery. One week later, on the 18th, is Chile’s independence day, celebrated with gusto for most of the month of September. These festivities are called the fiestas patrias, and they’re marked by massive celebrations.
I’ve been in Scotland since 31 August and I’m already feeling like I can carve my name someplace, somehow. The homesickness didn’t really register to me until literally right after I gave my mom a hug goodbye and rolled my way past security check points at the airport. Everyone else (students, travelers, young adventurers) seemed to be fine with leaving, laughing and chatting with each other like the friends they’ve made on the airplane were people they’ve known for years and years. I sort of envied them, especially as I couldn’t seem to stop crying until a week had past since the plane landed in Edinburgh. I’m not a huge crier and couldn’t remember the last time I had actually felt tears before, but being away from home, and remembering how my mother, usually stoic and not privy to painful emotion, cried against my shoulder before I had to let her go.
I didn’t come out to my mother that day, or the next, or the next day after that. It seemed inconvenient in a whirlwind of new sights and sounds. I felt more vulnerable than I had ever been before, and while people around me were fresh to exploring and shopping all I thought about was how I knew I couldn’t let my depression and anxiety overcome me like it did my freshman and sophomore years of college.
Perhaps it was because I felt far too alone in a place that felt vaguely familiar, but had the blaring cultural differences when looking up close. Once I arrived in Glasgow, after staying with a host family, and settling into my day to day life, I was able to feel more balanced. Glasgow would be my home for the next four months, and I already seemed to enjoy staying here than anyplace else that my abroad program showed us. I could finally unpack my suitcase, and unpack some emotion, in a quiet room by myself. Once I was able to make my room my own, and meet my new flat-mates in our hall, I felt more secure. As of today I feel much better than the day I arrived, jet-lagged, in Scotland, and I know that even better days will be ahead.
Once I actually befriended people, both Scottish people and other exchange students, I felt safer in my travels. There were things to do and sights to see, but I never forget the times, while walking home with a new friend, of talking about our families and how we missed them, even when we came from vastly different places. It made me wonder if the people, so outgoing the first day we arrived, we also battling with homesickness, vulnerability, anxiety, or general stress of what would be a genuinely exciting and worthwhile experience.
If you’re queer like me and/or someone who might feel vulnerable in the beginning days when abroad, make sure to book a therapy appointment prior to boarding your plane. It will take so much stress off of you, as it did me, when understanding there is a safety net for days when identity and other disorders could get the best of you.
It’s a lot more expensive than you would think! Accounting for park admissions, overpriced food (buy at the food stores!) and transportation to/from the airport (as of September 2016 there are only taxis and no shuttles even though every guidebook said there were…), you should bring 1000 pesos at minimum.
As you’ll see in the video there are these cute looking animals called coatis freely roaming around. You’ll also notice a shot of a sign warning about them- these things are savage and they have no shame about it. They’ll casually walk up when you’re not expecting it and snatch the food from your hand or on your tray like whatever. Message me if you want to hear about the time my friends and I were attacked by one.
The falls occupy land in both Argentina and Brazil. We were lucky: because of the Rio Olympics this year we didn’t need to have Brazilian visas while visiting since the requirement is still waved until the end of September. Normally though, you do need a visa when you’re crossing the border.
Which side is better you may ask?…I’d have to go with the Argentine side. The Brazilian side is still very cool, there’s just less to see, so if you’re pressed for time you should stick with the Argentine side.
And now without further ado, I present the incredible, magnificent, Iguazú Falls.
The past weekend I traveled outside BA for the first time since arriving almost two months ago to the famous Iguazú Falls. It was my first trip outside the city, not counting the suburb of Tigre, and despite some bumps along the way, the trip turned out much better than expected.
At home whenever I traveled with my parents, my mom would always be the one to spend hours planning our itinerary, and my dad would be the one to make sure we were always early to our points of travel. Now it was just myself who had to do all those things- reserving flights and the hostel, calculating how many pesos to bring, packing sufficient clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, and accounting for all the little miscellaneous items. I got advice from Marta as well as friends who traveled there the previous weekend, yet it was up to me to put everything into action. This made the week before the trip very stressful planning everything between classes and homework.
I was going with 5 other friends in the program, however, because of our differing schedules we were all arriving/leaving at different times. This made meeting up somewhat chaotic and dependent on Wifi to contact each other.
There was also a moment I nearly missed the whole trip together. My mandatory meeting at Migrations to apply for long-term residency was scheduled for the day of my flight so I had to push my flight for later during the day. However, as a government agency, Migraciones has the same speed as the DMV, so it ended up being more than two hours, leaving me little time to catch my new flight. I flagged down a taxi to speed me to Jorge Newbury Areopuerto instead of taking a collective as I planned. I arrived 35 minutes before my flight, but I couldn’t check in because the minimum time to check in before was 45 minutes…thankfully there was space on the next flight to Iguazú leaving a few hours later. I am not good with rushing and being late, so the whole experience put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day…Yet I was on my way, and from there on everything fell into place. Read More »
This slightly lengthy post will reflect on about class structure in Chile, and the differences between La Universidad Católica and La Universidad de Chile. I’ll first try to explain the general university environment before breaking down the differences and similarities between the two universities I’ve enrolled in.
As a student at a small liberal arts college in rural Minnesota, attending classes at universities with over 20,000 students in the midst of a major city is a very unfamiliar world. Carleton has 2,000 students, and it takes roughly 10 minutes to walk from one end of campus to the other. Most of my classes there are discussion-based, with reading usually assigned as homework and frequent assessments that more often than not are essays or research papers. While in class students are quiet, and most of the time we’re given opportunities to discuss questions and observations with those sitting around us In Chile, classes are usually lectures where the professor still interacts minimally with students . Homework consists of reading, and assessments are much less frequent and almost always tests. Classes usually start late, and students pass time by taking notes, surfing Facebook, sending messages on WhatsApp, and chatting with each other.