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Reflecting on Chile/Relexión de Chile

Time August 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

I had an incredible experience during my time abroad in Chile. I met fantastic people, saw incredible places, and learned new and interesting information. But I found study abroad to be more than just a chance to study and travel; it was also an opportunity to learn about the world and gain a greater perspective, understanding, and appreciation for it. Living in a different country and different culture can be challenging and at times upsetting. Adjusting to new social norms—such as less personal space, stricter gender roles, and a looser interpretation of times and dates—can be shell-shocking and difficult. People greeted one another with a kiss on the cheek or a hug rather than a handshake; it was not uncommon for men to stare at women; and saying that you would meet at 4:00 could mean anytime between 4:00 and 6:00. When differences such as these surrounded, it was initially hard to find the similarities with which I could relate to those around me. However, I was forced to look beneath the surface and discover the common-ground that lay beneath. Eventually, I was able to embrace many of these cultural differences and my perspective shifted to fit my new understanding of the world.

In addition to expanding my personal worldview, I was also able to expand my circle of friends and family with my fellow study abroad companions, the Chileans I studied with and met during my travels, and my incredible and loving family. I know the relationships I formed while in Chile will last my lifetime and while I will certainly miss them, leaving Chile was not a “goodbye” but rather a “see you later.” I don’t know when I will return to Chile but it has certainly not seen the last of me nor I of it. For now, I will settle with readjusting to being back in the US and expanding my personal horizons here. Studying abroad was by far the best thing I have done in my college career to date, and I cannot wait to continue my travel and exploration of the world and all the people, places, animals, environments, and overall wonder it offers!

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Tenía una experiencia increíble mientras que estuviera en Chile. Conocí a gente fantástica, vi lugares increíbles, y aprendí información nueva e interesante. Pero mi experiencia en Chile fue más que simplemente una oportunidad de estudiar y viajar; fue una oportunidad para aprender del mundo y ganar una perspectiva y agradecimiento más amplia para la gente, el ambiente, y la cultura. Vivir en un país distinta con una cultura diferente puede ser difícil y algunas veces molestoso. Adaptarse a nuevas normas sociales—como menos espacio personal, roles de género más fijos, y una interpretación de tiempo y fechas más floja—puede ser discordante y complejo. La gente le saludaba con un beso en la mancha o un abrazo en vez de un apretón de manos; fue común para los hombres mirar fijamente a las mujeres; y decir que van a juntar a las 4:00 podía significar cualquier tiempo entre las 4:00 y las 6:00. Cuando diferencias como esos rodeaban, al principio, fue difícil encontrar las similitudes con que podía conectar con mis nuevos compañeros. Pero, eventualmente acepté muchas de esas diferencias culturales y mi perspectiva cambió para ser apta a mi nueva idea del mundo.

En adición de expandir mi propia visión del mundo, también expandí mi círculo de amigos y familia con mis otros compañeros extranjeros, los chilenos con que estudié y conocí durante mis viajes, y mi familia chilena increíble y cariñosa. Sé que las relaciones que hacía en Chile duran toda mi vida y aunque les echo de menos a todos mucho, salir de Chile no fue un “adiós” sino un “hasta luego.” No sé cuándo regresaré a Chile, pero sé que Chile ya no había visto el fin de mi ni yo de él. Para ahora, estaré contenta reajustarme a los EE. UU. y expandir mis horizontales personales acá. “Estudiar afuera” fue la cosa mejor que he hecho en mi carrera de universidad hasta ahora, ¡y no ver el momento hasta que continúe mis viajes y exploración del mundo y la gente, lugares, animales, y maravilla general que existe!

 

 

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The Return – My Last Post

Time July 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Everyone warns you about the perils of reverse culture shock. The readjustment period will take you by surprise and spin you round. you’re changed so much, but everything at home remains the same. But, in truth, going from NYC to the Midwest every summer isn’t very different.

I’m not discounting that there are things that threw me for a loop. Not translating everything to Spanish is one. Also I don’t have to be as aware of my iPhone al the time. (I’m counting it as a success that I never lost mine.) Not being able to take the sube or grab a colectivo is another. The lack of conversations between strangers is something I didn’t think I would miss. But I’m used to going through changes with every return.

I knew I needed to go home. I missed my family and friends. I had lots of projects I needed to catch up on and events to attend. I wanted to be in my home, in nature again.

But I already miss it. I miss the movement of the city, the pleasure of wandering the streets of Palermo. I miss engaging with people. I miss the interior of Argentina with all the different environments. I didn’t get to travel as much as I wanted and there’s still so much to see.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to travel abroad again and not sure I’ll return to Argentina for awhile. It seems a waste of my travel capital to go back so soon. I know I want to use my Spanish again for my next trip. I’ll be back to see more of South & Latin America.

In the mean time I’ll get used to the US. Enjoy the comfort of the lakes, go hiking. But I’ll always be thinking about how the rest of the world is so different from the US.

— Lily

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Friends/Amigos

Time July 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

One of the unsung aspects of study abroad is the friends you make through the study abroad program. I met some wonderful people through IFSA-Butler that made my time in Chile better than I could have hoped. This blog post is dedicated to my fellow Chile explorers.
Amelia Shannon: Amelia had been in Chile the previous semester and was the one to help us newbies find our footing. She was always around with a friendly smile and some Chilean advice.
Colin Monahan: “Doer of things.” Colin was always off on some crazy adventure or just finding the new cool thing to do in Valpo. He could always be found with his backpack and sense of adventure!
Dara Canchester: Dara loved life and the world around her. Whether in the city, the mountains, or a rural town, Dara was always able to find the wonder in every place and everyone.
Eliza Cohen: Eliza loved to explore the Valpo area and was always looking to go out with some of the IFSA gang to work in a cafe or have a night on the town.
Grace Riley: Grace was super fun and also really smart. A prefect example of work hard, play hard, she was always on top of her academics but also down to have a good time.
Jaimie Murray: Jaimie sucked the marrow out of the study abroad experience. Through her travel, relationships, and work, she made it a point to experience every aspect of Chile that she could.
Joseph Filardo: A great friend and helpful person. Always willing to help someone out and incredibly humble. Also, had great jokes and was a secretly good singer.
Kelli Duncan: Kelli wasn’t afraid of anything. Whether striking up a conversation with strangers, traveling in an unknown location, or hiking a dangerous path, she was always up for the challenge. An adventurous spirit who cared a lot about the world and the people in it.
Leila Walker: Leila was such a sweetheart and a kind soul. She loved getting to know the Chileans and was always practicing her Spanish.
Magaly Gonzalez: Super smart and hard working, Magaly put the “study” in “study abroad.” A fabulous friend to all in addition to being a fabulous student!
Meg Belinsky: Meg was super fun and always had high, bubbly energy. She was always down to explore Valpo, find a cute cafe to study in, or go on a fun travel adventure.
Megan Ganning: Megan was an incredibly friendly, funny, and fun-loving person. She put her heart into everything she did and loved all the world.
Naomi Takeuchi: Naomi was possibly the happiest and friendliest person I have ever met. She always had a smile on her face and a loving compliment to share.
Sarah Pearson: Sarah was an incredibly dedicated exchange student always practicing her Spanish and making connections with both Chileans and other exchange students.
I love all my IFSA-Butler companions and I know that these relationships will last a lifetime. I miss you all a lot and cannot wait for the next time we see each other!
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Uno de los aspectos menos obvio del intercambio son los amigos extranjeros que conoces durante el programa. Conocí a algunas personas increíbles con IFSA-Butler que han hecho mi experiencia en Chile mejor que podía imaginar. Ese blog es dedicado a esos compañeros, mis otros exploradores de Chile.
Amelia Shannon: Amelia ha vivido en Chile el semestre pasado y nos ayudó a encontrar nuestras nuevas vidas en Chile. Siempre estaba disponible con una sonrisa amable y unos consejos de Chile.
Colin Monahan: “El hacedor.” Colin siempre estaba en alguna aventura loca o buscando la nueva cosa divertida para hacer en Valpo. Siempre podía encontrarlo con su mochila y espíritu de aventura.
Dara Canchester: A Dara le encantó la vida y el mundo. Si estuviera en la ciudad, las montañas, un pueblo, o el campo, ella siempre podía encontrar lo increíble en cada lugar y cada persona.
Eliza Cohen: A Eliza le gustó mucho explorar Valparaiso y siempre estaba lista para ir a un café para estudiar o un bar para disfrutar la noche.
Grace Riley: Grace fue muy divertida y muy inteligente. Fue la ejempla perfecta de “trabajar mucho, divertirse mucho.” Siempre estaba lista con sus académicos, pero también lista para carretear.
Jaimie Murray: Jaimie disfrutó todo lo que podía de la experiencia del intercambio. Con sus viajes, relaciones, y trabajo se experimentó todos los aspectos posibles de Chile.
Joseph Filardo: Un buen amigo y una persona muy amable. Siempre estaba listo para ayudar y fue muy humilde. También, fue muy cómico y secretamente un cantador muy bueno.
Kelli Duncan: Kelli no tenía medio de nada. Hablando con desconocidos, viajando en un lugar nuevo, a haciendo trekking en un camino difícil, siempre estaba lista. Una persona aventurera que se preocupó mucho del mundo y de los seres humanos.
 Leila Walker: Leila fue muy cariñosa y amable. Le encantó conocer a los chilenos y siempre estaba practicando su español.
Magaly Gonzalez: Muy inteligente y trabajadora, Magaly puso el “estudiar” en “estudiar afuera.” Una muy buena amiga de todos además de ser una muy buena estudiante.
Meg Belinsky: Meg fue muy divertida y siempre tenía mucha energía. Siempre estaba lista para explorar Valpo, encontrar una linda café en que podía trabajar, o viajar en un lugar interesante.
Megan Ganning: Megan fue muy amable, cómica, y divertida. Actuó con todo su corazón en cualquier cosa que hacía y le encantó todo el mundo.
Naomi Takeuchi: Naomi fue, posiblemente, la persona más feliz y más amable que había conocido en toda mi vida. Siempre tenía una sonrisa en su cara y algún cumplido cariñoso para decir.
Sarah Pearson: Sarah fue muy dedicada a su experiencia chilena y siempre estaba practicando su español y hacienda relaciones con chilenos y los otros estudiantes extranjeros.
Me encantan todos mis compañeros de IFSA-Butler y sé que esas relaciones van a mantener durante toda mi vida. Les echo de menos mucho y no veo el momento hasta que nos juntemos la próxima vez.
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All’s well that ends well

Time July 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a week now. At first, being home felt surreal in a way that I couldn’t quite explain right when people asked me. Everything felt familiar yet strange at the same time. I felt like I was stuck in some kind of limbo between two worlds, still processing the sudden jolt of change. I suppose some people would call that culture shock or, in my case, reverse culture shock. I guess I just thought that culture shock would be more…shocking. It does feel strange to talk to my friends in Chile with the sudden realization that I am now thousands of miles away from them. But, overall, it doesn’t feel shocking to be home, it is and has always been my home. Being home has been quite the opposite of shocking to be honest. In a lot of ways, it’s already starting to feel like I never left. And that is an even more unsettling sensation. How could it be that everything that happened in the past six months could so suddenly start to fade into the background as I return to my life before studying abroad? It’s strange to think that it could really be that easy. It’s strange to think that I don’t feel strange at all.

But, still, I know that there are a lot of things about my time living in Chile that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The way that I look at situations in my life has changed forever and, without a doubt, for the better. I hope to continue to be a more positive person, someone who has a better understanding of the importance to make the most of each day and each interaction with others. I took the time to strengthen that side of me in Chile and it made me a much happier, more fulfilled person. I hope, more than anything, that I never lose sight of that as I return to my normal routine at Butler.

The truth is, I think I have been struggling to write this post all week because what I really feel is filled to the brim with paradoxes. I feel the same but different, comfortable but out of place. Everything is familiar but foreign. I am changed yet constant. The back and forth makes me restless, nerves unsettled. But thankfully, being back on campus has been a great distraction from my jumbled emotions about leaving Chile. I don’t think that I ever particularly noticed or appreciated how lusciously green the summers in Indianapolis were before now. It really caught my attention the first day that I was here because of the stark contrast that it poses to Valparaiso’s arid flora. It feels great to be back, soaking up the summertime, after the past few months of winter weather in Chile.

I have, at times, found it a bit hard to talk to other people about studying abroad. I never know how to answer their questions in a way that I feel like truly captures the experiences that I want to share with them. People tend to ask me very broad questions because they are unsure of what to ask, such as “what was your favorite part?” Which, obviously, is impossible to answer because it requires somehow funneling down such a complex six months of my life into one, neatly wrapped “favorite part.” It sounds cliché to say that it was all my favorite. But when I think back on my time in Chile, the memories don’t come to me in categories like the best, the worst, or the craziest, they come to me in a blur of faces and places that leaves me full of emotions but at a loss for words. Which hasn’t helped much with my storytelling ability.

Unpacking from Chile took longer than I had expected, perhaps because I felt like once I had fully unpacked I would have to let go of my time there in some small, seemingly insignificant way. The third day that I was home, I spent hours just sitting in the middle of my childhood bedroom amongst the chaos of all of my clothes and belongings and just looked at it all. But eventually I realized that I was being silly and began to pack for school. A few days before I left Chile when I was feeling sad about leaving everything behind, my Chilean mom told me, “Hay una temporada para todo,” which means there is a season for everything. The weight of what she said to me didn’t fully hit me until I was back home, but since then it has helped me more than she probably knows. As I discussed in my last blog post, there is a season for all things in life. So, although my season in Chile has passed, I know there will come a time soon that I will be able to go back to that beautiful county whose people welcomed me with open arms and make even more indescribable memories.

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Post-Argentine Reflections

Time July 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Well it’s happened! I’m home! Back home in Massachusetts with my family and friends after spending nearly a year away from them between college and study abroad. Of course I feel incredibly happy to not only be a rising senior and done with finals, but it was so great reuniting with my family! I may not have felt homesick, but it did and does feel great seeing and spending time with them again. I’ve spent the days since my return regaling my adventures and sharing the many photos I took. In my time alone and in short thoughts throughout the day, I reflect on what my experience in Argentina has been and what it means to me.

I came to study abroad optimistic, excited and a bit nervous. After hearing the other students, I felt unsure about my ability to catch up and after spending the first week speaking and listening to Spanish all the time, I was left absolutely exhausted at the close of everyday. Remembering my final week, I am truly amazed how powerful just a few months can be! I would not say I’m fluent, but I really can manage in an area where relatively no one speaks English.  That is huge for me! I also came experiencing not only my first time in Latin America, but my first time in a country with absolutely no one I had ever met before. I could usually depend on family or friends to help me navigate and make decisions, but in Argentina, I was truly on my own. Walking the streets of Mendoza was quite scary for me at the beginning, yet at the end I breezed through them without much of a thought and equipped with all the safety tips I’ve picked up and practiced over the preceding months. Though even last year I really wondered, how will I ever read academic articles in Spanish, or even worse, write entire essays, I now have done both quite a few times and have shown myself it is possible (though still a crazy thought to me honestly). Adjusting to the slow pace of life and disorganization (along with the whole city essentially shutting down several hours a day for siesta and the entire weekend) were linked to some of my biggest challenges, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned quite a bit with dealing with a slower, more uncertain world. Maybe it’s not what I prefer, but I am sure it will prove an important life lesson for me in the future. Maybe I do need to slow down a bit and smell the roses?

Aside from better learning to deal with new situations, uncertainty and navigating unfamiliar streets, I learned about planning trips on my own, how to knit thanks to my knitting group and how to cook (a great way to save money because meals in Mendoza are expensive!!!). Study abroad brings you tons of other experiences to learn and develop that you probably wouldn’t expect –  you just have to make yourself open to trying and making mistakes! This has to be one of my biggest pieces of advice! I can be a hesitant and cautious person at times, but had I not firmly decided to seize the opportunities given to me to see new places, try new things, spend a little extra on worthwhile experiences and face some fears, I would have left Argentina with so much less of an understanding of its people, natural wonders and history. I would not have improved in Spanish as much, would have missed out on a lot of irreplaceable memories and friendships and come back to the US more or less unchanged. You will meet a lot of challenges. You will face some fears that you’ve never felt pushed to confront. You will be given choices and opportunities that will dictate what you get out of your time abroad. While I am not trying to say you should go overboard, I will repeat the cliche advice to get out of your comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable and sometimes you may feel regret, but overall, I have felt happy when I did.

Though happy at home, there will be a lot I miss about study abroad. I will miss the other students as I mentioned in my last post, I will miss spending dinners with my host family, I will miss classes with one of my professors a lot and miss volunteering among everyday Mendocinos each week. I will miss living at the foot of the Andes, where I can see those beautiful mountains through my window and virtually anytime I’m walking through the city. I will miss being able to walk anywhere easily and taking cheap public transportation the few times I need to (maybe I won’t miss the buses though!). I will especially miss the gorgeous Autumn colors Mendoza was painted in when I left. As my host mom drove me to the airport, I couldn’t help but feel an additional ache for leaving such a cute, pretty little city (though I eventually realized it wasn’t as little as I originally expected!). I will miss long random conversations with artisans I’ve chatted with in passing over the past few months in the central plaza and the Argentine sense of humor and way of telling stories which differs so much from what I’m used to at home. I will miss the touching close-knit relationships I was fortunate enough to see between families and friends. The closeness, comforting and care. It made me think even further about the variety and complexity of human relationships across cultures and especially how both Latin American and European influences intermingle in the Argentine people.

Though I am happy to say my Spanish has improved, my study is not over. Sure it will not be more immersion or nearly as in depth as study abroad, but I already have plans to continue Spanish classes during my final year in college. I have enrolled in a literature and film class which will assuredly test my essay-writing skills, film analysis skills and general understanding of the language and my ability to express my thoughts that I have worked on over the past few months. Hopefully, I will be able to prove how far I’ve come thanks to the Mendoza program. The Spanish-speaking ladies at work have already told me they want to speak to me in Spanish so it looks like I’ll have some people to practice with until then! As I said in my last post, my time in Argentina feels unfinished and I definitely hope to return someday! There are too many people I need to see again! I also HAVE to see Patagonia when the majority of it isn’t shut down for the off season. Hopefully, next time I will be bringing along friends and family to introduce them to this incredible country and its amazing, kind-hearted people! If you get the chance to go, I wish you all the best and hope you can enjoy Argentina and Mendoza as I have!

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Wrapping up a dream

Time July 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Every time I leave a place, it doesn’t seem to hit me and leaving Mendoza is no different. I walk through the tree-lined streets to my universities, meet in one of the plazas with friends, laugh over the stories of my host brother and pop into the IFSA office as if this will go on forever – not like it could be one of the last or the last time I do so. I’ve gotten so comfortable, life has become so normalized and routine and real, that I do not feel it can end. Fewer new experiences surprise me and there are less times that I am faced with a situation that leaves me lost. I guess I should take this as evidence that I have adapted pretty well.

I still pause when I speak and need to ask what words mean or for synonyms all the time, but I’m not struggling and re-conjugating every verb like I was at the beginning. More and more my professors and the other students have been mentioning how far I’ve come, as easily one of the poorest Spanish speakers (maybe the poorest of our little group of 10) when I arrived. This honestly has surprised me a lot. At the beginning, which was somehow just 4 months ago, I remember being so intimidated and self-conscious. I convinced myself, at my level, it was impossible to improve vastly in less than 5 months. I improved pretty quickly in the first month, but felt I hit a plateau in improvement. At that time in order to not disappoint myself, I accepted that maybe my Spanish wouldn’t improve greatly from that point, but I could work on expanding my vocabulary at least. Something happened in the final month. Out of nowhere (it appeared to me) I could speak with so much less effort. Even effortlessly at times, something I never expected to feel. I felt it most when chatting with my host family or fellow volunteers about topics I used to feel I did not have the adequate words to describe and then just resolved to listen. I also felt it during unexpected class presentations when we were supposed to just talk on our own, naturally and freely about different topics we studied. It’s like the words I got tongue-tied over were finally flowing out! I have to say it felt good, reassuring and gave me a new confidence to contribute more to conversation and share more of my ideas and opinions in different settings. Looking back at my personal notes where I wrote to just accept where I was at, despite the low level, and just do my best to improve, make me smile now. Although there were times where I had serious doubts about how effective my studying was and how well I’d be able to manage the language throughout the program, it seems at least some doubts were definitely unfounded. I am not done yet, but I feel I will be able to leave Mendoza with a sense of accomplishment and pride in my efforts and of course, great appreciation for the teachers, students, my host family and countless other Argentines that shaped my learning experience so profoundly. Read More »

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Siete Gringos in Siete Tazas

Time July 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

This is a trip I went on at the beginning of the semester that I didn’t get around to posting about until now.  Seven of us international students (siete gringos) and one Chilean mentor and friend went to Siete Tazas Radal national park in Curicó, Chile. We took a 5:00 AM bus out of Viña to get to Santiago and then took a three-hour train ride from Santiago to Curicó. From there we took an hour-and-a-half bus ride from the town to the start of Radal Park. At this point, we had a long and difficult 11 km uphill climb—with our 20-pound packs—to the Parque Inglés campsite where we were staying. It was a hard hike up a long dirt road, but we talked, sang, and worked our way slowly but surely to the top and reached the campground sweaty, tired, and with spirits high. After setting up camp, some of went for a quick dip in the cold river that ran next to our site. In the evening, we made dinner, told stories, and stargazed before eventually going to bed after a long and satisfying day. The next day we did some arts and crafts, went swimming in the river, and enjoying being in nature and in each other’s company. The day after we packed up camp and began the long journey back to Viña. We hitch-hiked halfway down the road stopping at Siete Tazas Park where we walked around the river system and waterfalls, explored a dried-out riverbed, and went for a quick swim in a freezing cold river hole. We just barely caught the last bus back to town and then, after a bit of stress and challenge involving missed trains and buses, we made our way back to Santiago and Viña after a wonderful weekend. I didn’t know it at the time, but this trip was the start of an incredible semester of traveling, exploring, and making new friends and memories.

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Ese es un viaje que he hecho en el principio del semestre, pero no había escrito nada hasta ahora. Siete de nosotros estudiantes extranjeros (los siete gringos) y una amiga chilena fuimos a Siete Tazas Radal Parque Nacional en Curicó, Chile. Tomamos un bus a las 5:00 de la madrugada desde Viña a Santiago y de allá tomamos un tren de tres horas hasta Curicó. Desde ese punto, tomamos otro bus de una hora y media hasta el principio del parque. En ese momento, empezamos la caminata de 11 km de un cerro—con las mochilas de 9 kg—hasta el Parque Inglés donde nos quedamos. Fue difícil y pesado, pero hablamos, cantamos, y caminamos lento pero seguro hasta el campo donde llegamos cansados, sudoroso, y felices. Después de hacer las carpas, algunos de nosotros nos bañamos rápidamente en el rio helado que pasó por el sitio. En la noche, cenamos, contamos cuentos, y miramos las estrellas antes de acostarnos después de un día muy largo y rico. El próximo día, hicimos arte, nos bañamos y saltamos en el rio, y disfrutamos de estar en la naturaleza y estar juntos. El día siguiente, salimos del parque y empezamos el largo regreso hasta Viña. Andamos por dedo hasta el Parque Siete Tazas donde caminamos por los ríos, miramos las cataratas, exploramos un río seco, y nos bañamos rápidamente en una laguna helada. Con suerte, tomamos el ultimo bus a Curicó y después de un poco estrés y dificultad de trenes y buses perdidas, llegamos a Santiago y a Viña después de un fin de semana increíble. No lo sabía en el momento, pero ese viaje fue el principio de un semestre inolvidable de viajar, explorar, y hacer nuevos amigos y memorias.

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Antofagasta & Atacama

Time July 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

I spent the past week traveling in the North of Chile exploring San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding area. Getting there is a bit of a trek—for me, it involved two buses to the airport in Santiago, a two-and-a-half-hour flight to the small coastal town of Antofagasta, and then a five-hour bus ride from Antofagasta to San Pedro—but it was well worth it. I spent my first and last days (Thursday and Tuesday) in Antofagasta wandering around the town and coastline there. Friday morning, I woke up early and got a 7:00 AM bus to San Pedro. On the bus, I met two very nice Argentinians who were sailing from their home town of Ushuaia in the South of Argentina along the coast of Chile. Arriving in San Pedro around noon, I stayed with the Argentinians who had found a very nice and affordable hostel which became my home for the next four days. There, I met two lovely Chilean sisters from Concepción who I went on most of my tours with. That afternoon I went to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) an incredible and mystical place in the middle of the desert. The following day I explored the small town of San Pedro in the morning, and in the afternoon went to Las Lagunas Escondidas (The Hidden Lagoons) where I floated in one of the natural salt lagoons. The water was quite chilly but the experience was amazing. The next day I woke up very early for a 4:30 AM tour of the El Tatio geyser. At 4300m above sea level and -12°C it was very cold but that didn’t stop me from going for a swim in the thermal fed hot springs. That afternoon I walked to Pukará de Quitor—an area of old ruins, statues, and caverns about 4 km from my hostel—and explored around there. On my last day in San Pedro I visited a few tiny neighboring towns and learned about the history and religion of the area. I also went to Laguna Chaxa which is a reserve known for flamingos and saw the beautiful yet awkward pink creatures in all their glory. I spent the afternoon wandering around some more and taking in the beauty of the desert and mountains that surround San Pedro. With one final vacation day in Antofagasta, I went for a lovely walk along the coast and spent some time knitting on the beach and enjoying the warmth and sun. Then, before I knew it, I was on my way back to Vina ready to enjoy my final days here in Chile before heading back home to the States. I had a fantastic trip and was impressed by the diversity of the north: from beaches, to valleys, to mountains, to lagoons, and more. I am certainly going to miss Chile and all of its’ rich and wonderful environments, people, history, culture, and everything else.

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Pasé la semana pasada viajando en el norte de Chile explorando San Pedro de Atacama y sus alrededores. Llegar allá fue un poco complicada—tuve que tomar dos buses al aeropuerto en Santiago, un vuelo de dos horas y medio al pueblito Antofagasta, y después un bus de cinco horas desde Antofagasta a San Pedro—pero valió la pena. Pasé mi primer y último día (jueves y martes) en Antofagasta explorando el pueblo y la costa. La mañana de viernes, me desperté temprano y tomé el bus a las 7:00 AM a San Pedro. En el bus, conocí a dos argentinos navegando desde su pueblo Ushuaia en el sur de Argentina hasta toda la costa de Chile. Cuando llegué a San Pedro, me quedé con los argentinos que habían buscado un hostal bueno y barato que pasó como mi casa por los cuatro días siguientes. Allá conocí a dos hermanas chilenas muy simpáticas de Concepción con que pasé la mayoría de los tours. Esa tarde fui a Valle de la Luna, un lugar increíble y místico en el medio del desierto. El día siguiente exploré el pueblo pequeño de San Pedro por la mañana, y por la tarde fui a Las Lagunas Escondidas donde floté en una de las lagunas salares. El agua estuvo frio, pero la experiencia fue increíble. El próximo día me desperté muy temprano para un tur a las 4:30 de la madrugada al geyser El Tatio. A 4300 m sobre el nivel del mar y -12°C, fue muy helado, pero eso no me detuvo bañarme en el agua termal del geyser. En la tarde, caminé a Pukará de Quitor—un área de ruinas, figuras y cavernas viejas más o menos 4 km de mi hostal—y exploré ese lugar. En mi último día en San Pedro, visité a algunos pueblos muy pequeños en el alrededor de San Pedro y aprendé sobre la historia y religión del área. También fui a la Laguna Chaxa que es una reserva para los flamencos y vi las bonitas, pero poco elegante, animales rosas de toda su gloria. Pasé la tarde explorando un poco más de San Pedro y apreciando la bonita natural del desierto y las montañas del área. Con un día más de vacaciones en Antofagasta caminé por la costa y tejé en la playa disfrutando del sol y calor. Y, antes de saberlo, estaba regresando a Vina, lista para disfrutar mis últimos días en Chile antes de regresar a los EEUU. Tuve un muy lindo viaje en el norte y me impresioné toda la diversidad entre las playas, las valles, las montañas, los volcanes, las lagunas, y más. Voy a echar de menos mucho todo lo que es Chile y sus lindos y ricos ambientes, gente, historia, cultura, y todo lo demás.

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Post Script: Homestay

Time July 6th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Since my laptop has crashed, taking the footage from the semester with it, my final final anecdote will have to be told the old fashioned way: written word.

Like all other abroad students, I participated in a three-day long homestay. My host parents were named David and Susan. They lived in an old-fashioned farmhouse in Stirling, Scotland. Their quaint and beautifully curated home sitting on green farmland surrounded by gardens, was sort of the pinnacle of what I pictured country-living in Scotland would be before I left. Susan and David were talkative and welcoming; they introduced us to traditional Scottish meals (including haggis, neeps and tatties – duhlish), gave us a tour of different sites (including Stirling Castle, The Kelpies, and the amazing Falkirk Wheel) and poured us cup after cup of tea over stories about previous exchange students they had hosted, and comparing common practices and products between the U.K. and the U.S.

The moments that I really cherished were ones that were very, for lack of a better word, human. They were experiences one can only encounter through coexisting within a group, rather than ones planned on an itinerary. For example, Susan had a persistent cough that I at first thought might be the result of smoking, but unlike the tobacco scent of my grandfather’s house, hers smelled like rain and clean tile. She apologized for it on the third day, explaining that she was prone to throat infections as a result of being quote, “allergic to children.” I laughed when she said this – she did not. I thought that an odd diagnosis considering not only had she and David hosted approximately 150 other exchange students over the years, but was also a primary school teacher. In another instance, Susan’s car engine had to be jumped when we were leaving the Falkirk Wheel. She was apologetic, embarrassed even, and insisted that the two other students and I continue to wander the grounds and entertain ourselves while she tended to the engine. We did for a short while, then returned to help with the car. I really enjoyed these episodes. They were familiar; reminiscent of charmingly idiosyncratic exchanges when traveling with one’s family. Of course, I also loved sitting on plush chairs in front of a fire place, playing board games. Susan and David were extremely lovely all around, providing comfort and warmth.

I continue to recall my experiences abroad almost daily. I miss Scotland very much, and hope to return soon.

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Final Days

Time July 6th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

It’s all coming to an end. With less than a week left, I know it will soon be over. I’m currently trying to fit one las trip into my semester by visiting Salta & Jujuy – a beautiful area in the north east of Argentina. I didn’t get to see a whole lot of the country, but I tried to make it to as much as I could and I’m glad I’m making this trip, even if it’s causing me trouble.

It’s not an easy thing to admit, but I am a procrastinator. For various reasons, all my own fault, I put almost everything off until the last minute. Unless you are a super calm person, this is not a position I recommend being in. If you’re interested, here’s a run down of what my finals are like.

Two of my classes are finished. Possibly my favorite class was an overview of Argentine literature with Martin Kohan, a well-known author here. We had studied authors like Borges, Art, Cortázar, and Walsh. I wasn’t super worried about it, but I studied hard and took an exam I felt I did well on. Martin had a very easy way of explaining things and it set me at ease. Read More »

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Queridos apañadores, a bittersweet goodbye

Time July 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

Time is the oldest and most basic of social constructions that we have as humans, yet it never ceases to amaze me. The way it bends and buckles, the way it stretches and drags like an old-fashioned taffy pull one minute and then, the next minute, rushes past at dizzying speeds leaving only the bittersweet taste of nostalgia in its wake. It’s astonishing, the mysterious nature of time, but also equally astonishing is the power that it has over us as people. We have based our entire way of life around time. How much of it we have, how to get more of it, how we can spend it and save it. For us, time is equally precious as it is tortuous, but how absurdly irrational is that?

When we are waiting for something, we wish time away and stare at the clock with frustration as each tick of the hand seems to take longer than the last. But, adversely, when we are enjoying ourselves or doing something significant with our lives, whether it be spending time with loved ones or traveling to exciting new places, we want more and more time. We harvest a reverent hatred for the power that time has to rush us by, to age us and, eventually, to bring an end to our existence on this planet.

During these, my last few precious weeks in Chile before I will return the United States, I have caught myself getting frustrated with time. I have caught myself growing anxious about the dwindling amount of it that I have left in this beautiful country and cursing it for not being on my side. But, in reality, I know that time doesn’t take sides. It doesn’t bend or buckle, stretch or accelerate. No matter how much we wish it away or beg for more, time remains constant and unrelenting throughout the best and worst moments of our lives. What does change, however; are the ways in which we perceive time and in that respect, we can regain some control amidst the vast powerlessness. We can decide that we are not going to let life pass us by without our knowing. We can be present in each moment and appreciate it for the gift that it is. The times that I have had here in Chile have been some of the best in my life so far, so I know that it would be silly to mourn the coming end. My time here didn’t pass me by or slip away, I lived every second and every minute of it and I will continue to live every second of every day that I have left on this planet with the fervor for life that my experiences over these past six months have given me. Above all else, that is what I have learned from my study abroad experience and I will strive never to forget the importance of that lesson.

With that being said, it was certainly difficult (impossible, really) not to mourn the goodbyes. The hardest part, by far, about living abroad was having to leave behind the familiar faces and the life that I had made for myself in Chile. I truly don’t think that anything could have prepared me for the deep sense of heartbreak that I felt as my bus pulled out of the terminal in Vina del Mar and over the course of the preceding days when, one by one, I was forced to say goodbye to everyone that I have come to love here. I can’t seem to figure out a way to describe the sense of loss that I feel without relying on terribly cliché statements that probably wouldn’t hold much weight for anyone who hasn’t been in a similar situation. As I left for the Santiago airport to start my 13-hour journey to the U.S., I truly felt like I was leaving a piece of myself behind there, with all of my Chilean friends and family who have shown me an unimaginable amount of love and support over this past semester. But even in this heavy pain and this terrifying uncertainty of when I will be able to come back and see them again, I also feel a sense of tranquility in the realization of how serendipitous it is to be able to have these emotions about leaving a foreign country.

If you scroll back through a few of my blog posts, you can read about how nervous I was, upon arriving in Chile, that my Spanish-speaking ability and cultural differences would prohibit me from being able to establish deeper relationships with Chileans. I talked about how important it was to me that I would be able to reach that level of social immersion instead of remaining a foreigner, an outsider looking in. And now, looking back on this in the context of the current heartbreak I am experiencing, I realize how lucky I am to be heartbroken. Because it means that I reached that level and surpassed it. I made lifelong friends that I will never forget about and will never stop missing. I loved and was loved and am still being loved, from a distance, by the best group of Chilean friends that I could have possibly hoped for. They are passionate and kind and brave and each one of them has carefully sewn their influence onto the patchwork of my humanity so that they will always be a part of who I am. I know that I will go back to Chile one day in the (hopefully near) future, but until then I will cherish everything that my experiences there have given me. Hasta pronto apañadores. 

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Packing Reflections

Time July 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

So here I am again, alone with my suitcase.

Except this time I’ve got no qualms about what to pack. I basically just have to gather everything in my room, stuff it into this bag and hope that it weighs less than 23 kg.

Looking at this job ahead of me I’ve realized two things:

1. I should have less stuff.
2. I’m just as unprepared to go home as I was to come here.

For all the weekend trips we went on I lived out of a small backpack filled with only what I needed for a day – that was usually an extra shirt and a whole bunch of snacks. Even when I spent three weeks travelling around the south island, I only brought a very small bag in addition to the backpack. Granted, I wore the same pair of pants for about a week straight, but I promise my standards of hygiene only go that low when I’m on the road.

And now I’m looking at all the crap that I brought over here and I realized that I only needed about a third of it. Something warm, something waterproof, and a good pair of shoes would have gotten me through this semester just fine. Why I thought it was a good idea to bring three sweatshirts and two pairs of heels remains a complete and total mystery.

Packing “stuff” isn’t the hard part of preparing to go home. For about a week now I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the fact that this semester-long adventure is actually coming to an end. I’ve come to love Auckland and New Zealand, and even though I want to see my family and friends back home I’m really not ready to leave. If it weren’t for my home school’s darn liberal arts requirements then I would be back here next semester in a heartbeat.

But my ticket is paid for and my dog is waiting, so I guess I’m getting on a plane whether I’m ready or not.

Cheers to a wonderful five months, New Zealand.

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Second Time’s the Charm

Time July 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

I’ve been here for a while now. It’s only been about four months, but that was long enough to see most of the major spots in the north island and a decent amount of the south island.

Four months is also long enough to start seeing places twice, with the right company.

My mom came to visit Auckland for ten days, and I wanted to show her how amazing this country that I’ve been living in is. We spent the first week in and around the city. This was great, but for me the best part of living in New Zealand is going on a road trip.

So when the last few days of her visit came around, we packed a backpack, hopped in the rental car, and started driving south.

The plan was to tour the Waitomo glowworm caves before heading up to the Coromandel peninsula for the night. I hadn’t seen the glowworm caves yet and they were on my bucket list, but Coromandel was actually one of the first places that we took a weekend trip to. It was one of my favorite places that I’ve been to in all of New Zealand, so I was excited to revisit it.

The caves were incredible, and the endless green, sheep-speckled hills that surround what seems like New Zealand’s only road (highway 1, takes you anywhere and everywhere) never get old. But seeing the Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove for the second time was pretty special (especially since this time I wasn’t the one paying for gas).

Sitting at Cathedral Cove with my mom, I was proud to have studied in New Zealand. This is a wonderful country like no other in the world, and I relished being able to show my mom a small part of what makes it so great.

So even though it was a repeat trip, Coromandel might have been even better the second time around. I wish that I could share New Zealand with everyone I know, but they’ll just have to settle with looking through thousands of landscape pictures and listening to me talk about it for the next several months.

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City Lights Leaving Orlando

Time June 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

Just like at the beginning of this journey, before landing at home my feelings were all over the place. Considering how late my program ended I was definitely excited to see my family and friends and start my summer. However, I made a lot of my closest friendships toward the end of my semester and it was sad to leave them not knowing when I would see them again. Since being home I’ve definitely been hyper-sensitive to my surroundings. For example, quarters feel much smaller in my hand, compared to colones, and my backyard looks much bigger. But overall, I’m grateful to have had such an incredible experience abroad. Costa Rica will always have a place in my heart.

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Stranded in San Pedro

Time June 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 3 Comments by

Last weekend, I traveled to San Pedro de Atacama for four days which wasn’t nearly enough time to have spent in such an absolutely magical place. Although, I’m not sure if any amount of time could be considered “enough” to truly absorb that kind of natural beauty. San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the middle of the Atacama Desert made up of short, adobe buildings whose deceivingly humble exteriors give way to lavish resorts, hostels and tourism companies. The dirt roads of the town lead into the massive expanse of the surrounding desert allowing for an enchanting view of the snowy mountain peaks in the distance. My journey had a bit of a rocky start early last Friday morning when I missed my flight and had to wait in the Santiago airport for six hours until I could catch the next flight at 1 p.m. For this reason, when I finally arrived in San Pedro to meet up with a friend of mine who has been studying in Lima, Peru, I was anxious to make up for lost time.

That night, we watched the sun set fire to the mountains and paint the sky into a million hues of purple and blue as it sank behind the distant peaks. It was quite astonishing how quickly the heat of the afternoon dissipated in the darkness and left us shivering in our thin jackets. I had heard from my Chilean mom that the desert climate is made up of harsh extremes, but I suppose I didn’t fully realize what she meant until we went out that night to look at the stars. Without the strength of the desert sun, the breeze that comes down through the valleys around San Pedro de Atacama bites much more than one would think.

The trip hit a few more rough patches the next day when my friend and I set out to bike a trail to the North of the town in an area known as Catarpe. We had talked to an absurdly exuberant Chilean who worked at the hostel we were staying in who told us that the trail was very scenic and could be done in five to six hours, six if we were planning on stopping to take pictures (which, let me tell you, we did plenty of). However, we apparently had a miscommunication with him somewhere down the line because the trail took us much longer than we were led to believe. We ended up getting very lost in the valley of the Altos de Catarpe (the farthest point from civilization on the whole trail) for about three hours after the sun went down because we couldn’t find the trail to get back to the main road.

I know, such a typical ignorant tourist move right? But we swear, it really wasn’t entirely our fault. Just hear me out. Sure, we stopped to take about a million pictures and my friend spent twenty minutes trying to climb into some random ravine and I may or may not have walked my bike up a steeper area of the trail, but we really didn’t take long enough to justify getting stuck at the farthest point of the trail as the sun went down. We had been led to believe that, after reaching the end of the Altos de Catarpe, the trail would curve to lead us to an old church and then back to main road on which we could return safely to the town. However, as it turns out, the trail did not lead back to the road as the enthusiastic hostel employee had told us. Instead, we had to double back on the trail to find the road which was considerably more distance than we had been expecting. By the time we gave up our search for the non-existent continuation of the trail, it was already beginning to get dark and we didn’t have any source of light besides the flashlights of our iPhones.

As the sun disappeared and the stars (and with them, the cold) came out, our situation grew increasingly less comical and more worrisome. As we were just beginning to retrace our path through the cavern to find the tunnel that led out to the main road, I realized that my phone only had four percent of battery left because the extreme cold of the night had drained the battery abnormally quickly. At the same time that my phone died, my friend’s phone mysteriously turned off and wouldn’t turn back on, leaving us in complete darkness under the desert stars. Which, although breathtaking, did not help much to illuminate the way out.

During the next three hours of wandering the valley trying to find our way out, we went through all the emotional stages of getting lost in the desert (or at least what I am guessing that would look like, I have to admit that it was my first time) denial, panic, a little bit of hopelessness, and, eventually, acceptance of the possibility that we would have to spend the night in the valley. But through it all I was extremely grateful to have been with someone so positive because we never stopped laughing what we had gotten ourselves into which kept me from panicking more than I did. My friend also made sure that we stopped about every twenty minutes to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the beautiful jumble of the Milky Way spread out above us. It’s funny how sometimes the people you’re with can change your outlook on an entire situation. There was something kind of thrilling about being so lost amongst those towering rocks, hearing nothing but the sound of our own voices in the dark. It ended up being quite a serendipitous experience. I think that, if I could go back in time, I would gladly go get lost again.

We eventually found our way back to the tunnel leading out of the valley by doing some seriously sophisticated detective work using the times on photos that my friend had taken while we were riding through the valley to retrace our steps and find exactly where we went off the trail onto the stream bed. From there, he harnessed his inner boy scout to find bike tracks leading out of the stream bed and before we knew it we were back on the trail. After taking a brief “descansito” to pat ourselves on the back, take some pics of the stars and eat some peanuts (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was about 10 p.m. at the time), we got on our bikes and headed back to town. Thankfully, we didn’t end up having to make a fire out of arid plants or do jumping jacks all night to fight off hypothermia like we had planned.

There are plenty more stories that I could tell about my wonderful weekend in Atacama, but they only give me 1,000 words and I figured the fan base would probably want to hear the one about the time we almost had to spend the night stranded in a valley in the middle of the desert. Overall, the entire experience was breathtaking and I would say that the natural rock formations, salt flats and lagoons of the region are sights that absolutely cannot be missed if you happen to find yourself in Chile.

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Daily life/Vida cotidiana

Time June 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my travels throughout Chile and visiting different wonderful places. While that is a large part of the study abroad experience, I haven’t really spoken about what goes on in my daily life here in Valpo. I live with a fantastic host family consisting of my mom Mónica, sister Cata, and brother Christian in Recreo, Vina del Mar. Also part of the family are six cats and two dogs who keep home life fun and interesting. The house itself is lovely with a gorgeous view of the ocean and a beautiful outdoor patio where Monica loves to garden. Outside of life at home, I am taking six academic courses—three biology classes and three Spanish classes—so during the week, when I am not at home I am usually in class. Getting to class, and around Vina and Valpo in general, usually involves using the metro and/or the micros (small buses that are often packed with people and drive ridiculously fast on very narrow roads). On the odd weekend where I am not traveling or cuddled up with the kitties, I can often be found in an outdoor plaza or in a local bar with some of my fellow IFSA friends. So, while maybe not as exciting as hiking in forest, stargazing on top of a mountain, or seeing awesome wildlife, everyday life in Chile is pretty great in and of itself.

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He hablado mucho en ese blog sobre mis viajes y excursiones de Chile a varios lugares bonitos e interesantes. Aunque esa es una parte grande en la experiencia de Intercambio, no he hablado sobre mi vida cotidiana acá en Valpo. Vivo con una familia chilena fantástica que consiste de mi mama Mónica, hermana Cata y hermano Christian en Recreo, Viña del Mar. La familia también inclusa seis gatos y dos perros que mantienen la vida divertida e interesante. La casa es muy linda con una vista maravillosa del mar y un patio muy bonito donde Mónica le gusta jardinear. Fuera de mi vida en la casa, tomo seis ramos académicos—tres de biología y tres de español—entonces durante la semana, cuando no estoy en casa generalmente estoy es clase durante. Ir a clase, y alrededor de Viña y Valpo en general, usualmente consiste en usar el metro y/o los micros (buses muy pequeños generalmente con mucha gente que van muy rápidos en calles muy chicos). En los fines de semana cuando no estoy viajando o regalando con los gatos, muchas veces estoy en una plaza o un bar local con algunos de mis compañeros de intercambio. Entonces, aunque probablemente no tan emocionante como hacer trekking en un bosque, ver las estrellas desde la cima de una montaña, o ver animales y naturaleza increíble, mi vida cotidiana en Chile es genial en si mismo.

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To the Cape!

Time June 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

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Cape Reinga is the northernmost tip of New Zealand, known for its picturesque lighthouse, giant sand dunes, and 90 mile beach (which, by the way, is not 90 miles long. It’s not even 90 kilometers). I didn’t know I was going until 24 hours before we picked up the rental car, but this spontaneous trip was one of the best weekends of the semester.

At least, it was after the first night.

We started the drive at about 4:30 pm so that we could get to our “holiday park,” sleep, then wake up and have a full day ahead of us. This was all fine, until it was time to sleep.

In case you’ve never stayed in one, a holiday park is not luxurious. Essentially, the five of us were staying in a metal box with just enough room for the bunk beds. Which is fine, because we’re all on a pretty tight budget at this point in the semester.

The place was BYOB (bring your own blankets) and I SEVERELY underestimated how cold it was going to be, and of course these tiny metal boxes did not have any heating. So I spent the first night shivering under my duvet cover (just the cover. Not the duvet. Somebody tell me why I thought this was a good idea), wondering if I should pull down the curtains to use as an extra blanket and silently cursing the tiny metal box called a “holiday park.”

But finally the sun came up, and the next day was spectacular.

After breakfast we drove straight to 90 mile beach, which isn’t your typical lounge in the sun, read a book and dip your toes in the water beach. The point of going to this beach is to drive on the sand alongside the Pacific Ocean from the very bottom to the very top, and it was so much fun. We sped, we ghost drove, we waved to the surfers, and we blasted music the whole way. Hanging out the window and pretending to be Beyoncé in her Formation video is not optional.

88 kilometers later we didn’t think the day could get any better, but it did. Whoever decided that boogie boarding down giant sand dunes was a good idea might be one of the most underrated brain-powers of the 21st century. We rented boards, trudged up an enormous pile of sand, and threw ourselves down the steepest dunes we could find for the next three hours. It was like none of us had ever stopped being kids.

The sun was starting to set and we still had one last item on our bucket list, so we sped off (on a real road this time) towards the very tip of the cape. Here we saw the iconic lighthouse and the place where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. We could actually see a line of choppy waves that marked where two bodies of water collided, and just above this line the sun was sinking slowly below the horizon. It was a very peaceful end to an action-packed day.

Back at the holiday park we made s’mores in the communal fireplace and watched a movie. Thankfully someone lent me a blanket, so I was not completely miserable in our tiny metal box that night.

At the end of the day we collectively agreed that this trip might have marked the happiest we’ve ever been in our lives. But then again, we say that every other weekend in New Zealand.

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Experiencing a Wonder of the World

Time June 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

This blog is supposed to be about my experiences with the program and explorations around my host city, but with the end coming near I hope you all will indulge me. Here is a blog about one of the natural wonders of the world. It’s the one place all Argentine students must visit – Iguzaú.

Iguazú Falls holds the world record for largest series of waterfalls. That should be enough to convince any person who has the opportunity to go, to go. If that doesn’t, here’s my honest opinion: Iguazú is one of the most breathtaking visions I have ever seen in my life. I have seen a ton of waterfalls, including Niagara, but this moved every bit of me.

When my travel buddies and I arrived at the National Park, we first went up to La Garganta del Diablo. The Devil’s Throat sits on top of the falls, billowing mist and allowing for a spectacular view of many falls. It was a cold day and the mist seeped through my rain jacket, but I couldn’t have cared any less. I spent so long taking photos that I had to tell myself to put the camera down and enjoy the view.

Me in front of Garganta del Diablo   Garganta del Diablo

After a quick tram ride back to the main area we set off on the Lower Trail, which led us to a series of falls and a magical view. The waterfalls all in a row with a mystical island in the center. I wish we had been able to visit the island, but it was such a full day, we wouldn’t have had time.

From all the students who had visited before we had heard about a boat ride into the falls. We took a short trail down to the edge of the water, towards the boat launch. After putting our bags in drypacks and taking off our shoes, we were off. Seeing the falls up close was amazing. I could barely keep my eyes open with all the mist, but I fought it. This was to cool of an experience to miss. After the boat ride was over though, I really wished we had visited on a warmer day.

Falls from the boat

Our last bit of the trip was to hike the upper trail – a path that let us see another inspiring view and the tops of more falls. We sat and watched as the sun hit the tops of the trees. As we walked away from the falls we encountered our one and only monkey. It was unfortunately too quick for me to take a good photo.

A view from the upper trail

This experience was so fantastic. If you visit Argentina or come to study, you must go see Iguazú Falls. It’s worth the trip.

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Coming to terms with my last weeks of Study Abroad

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

It’s now past mid-June and many of my friends who studied abroad this semester have already returned home or are traveling following their programs throughout the world. In fact, my boyfriend is heading back to the US from Japan as I write this. It is hard to imagine I too will be returning in just a couple weeks. Seeing them go home, one by one, has been a potent reminder for me to take advantage of every last opportunity I have to spend time with my host family, the friends I have made here, see the places I’ve hoped to see and return to the places I enjoyed. I’ve made it a point to go out more with the other students, knowing we’ll disperse in all different directions once back in the US. I traveled to Potrerillos with one of them, went to the top floor of the municipality building to get a bird’s eye view of Mendoza, took a cooking class with IFSA Butler, finished up my list of presents for family and friends and we put together our own bridal shower for one of the students who will be getting married soon after her return to the US – checking off all the things we’ve been putting off all semester. It’s been lovely, but also bittersweet. I enjoy each memory, but with the sad reminder that this may be my last time visiting x restaurant, spending hours in x plaza or getting the whole group together for an afternoon. I’ve also been trying the last types of Argentine food I never got around to – lomo and choripan for example. Tomorrow, I will be heading to Ugarteche for the third and last time with my host mom, possibly our last outing together as well.

You may wonder: this is the last few weeks, so how do you have time for this? Honestly, it’s been difficult. I’ve been quite busy with exams, essays, presentations, classes and just typical homework. It may be a lot less work than I get in the US, but it can be tough to balance when you are trying to fit in as many last memories as you can while still in your host city (or last minute trips like some of the other students!). That compounded with it being winter here (which means less motivation and energy for me and less likeliness people want to go out), means taking advantage of your final opportunities is that much more difficult. It’s been a happy busy though. Mostly. I do have to admit that Argentina’s lack of organization, communication and planning ahead that bleeds into so much of its culture and daily life continues to challenge me. In most ways, I have come to accept it and handle it well, but it is sooooo difficult when it comes to academics. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Northeast so I’m pretty used to things being timely, set to strict schedules and more predictable (and don’t like when things are the opposite)… or maybe it’s my personality, but I do not like uncertainty when it comes to major assignments, final exams and final grades. I know it is part of the culture and overplanning and inflexibility is not good either. It has probably been a good challenge for me, but at this point, I am trying to make sense of my unpredictable schedule, working hard and hoping for the best. Hopefully, I will come out of this with good results to reflect my hard work and having learned how to better navigate uncertainty, unpredictability and mixed messages.

Some photos I took in Potrerillos with some beautiful and varied landscapes and cute little street dogs!

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Final Reflections

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a few weeks now, with a busted laptop and a ton of responsibilities concerning moving and starting a new job. I’ve taken time to reflect on the good and the bad of my semester abroad in Glasgow, and here are some tips:

  • If you attend the art school, your tutors will not be around a lot of the time. If you need feedback, or advice, it is up to you to go find them and articulate what you need specifically and concisely. This, in addition to primarily working independently, can make your time pretty isolating if you don’t work to socialize. Introduce yourself to your neighbors around the studio, go to events at The Vic, go to zine fairs at the CCA and vintage sales down by the Trongate. It’s not that people won’t be friendly, they just tend to focus on their work pretty intensely.
  • I might have considered independent housing after seeing some of my friends’ apartments in Glasgow. Much of the architecture is very old, so the flats had high ceilings with wide open floor plans, and could be as little as £300 per month. However, if I had done this I wouldn’t have met the close friends I was fortunate to have been assigned student housing with. (There are also security, safety, and insurance reasons associated with student housing – but ask your Ifsa-Butler representative to go over options with you!)
  • Take pictures of everything!! Film things!! Especially if you attend GSA, try to draw daily! I personally entered a pretty bad rut this past semester with my work; I had a lot of trouble creating, and that made me feel useless a lot of time, cause like duh, I’m an art student, I’m supposed to make art. Sketching, filming, taking pictures – even splurging and getting yourself some really nice watercolor paper – can make you feel more productive, even it means taking baby steps.
  • Yo if you’re Jewish and you miss celebrating Passover when springtime rolls around, go to Cafe Cossachok in the Trongate area and get some smoked salmon potato pancakes and borscht. I missed Kosher delis, but Russian food is pretty close. P.S. they do not call smoked salmon, “lox.” Nobody will know what you’re talking about if you ask for it.
  • Soak up your time in the highlands as much as you can. The Argyll forest and Isle of Skye are really indescribable. Words will not do their beauty justice – just go.

I can say that this semester has proven to be one of my most challenging, but in ways that differ from past semesters at my host college. At a liberal arts college in the U.S., students find themselves juggling an array of subjects while trying to complete their decided major and graduate within 3-4 years. This, of course, poses its own challenges and may nudge more neurotic thinkers (such as myself) into a worm hole of self-deprecating thought processes: “I’m taking classes X, Y and Z at levels A, B and C and I’m better at Z than X – why aren’t I better at X? Why aren’t I good at everything? That person over there is great at X. If I’m not good at X I must not be good at Z either. Oh, my god I’m not good at anything.”

At the Glasgow School of Art, however, I focused on one thing: my artwork. No assignments, no exams. I had one midyear paper for a gender studies class that met once a week, which didn’t really compare in intensity to my classes back home. My hubris led me to believe that that would make things easier. However, focusing exclusively on one thing actually put more pressure on it. But, like my tarot-reading former housemate has observed in her monthly horoscopes, “calling your capabilities into question doesn’t really help anyone much. It’s very subjective.” Perhaps people should think of themselves from the perspective of cover letters that embellish our talents for the grazing hand of employment. If one exaggerates their faults, they should be allowed some self-indulgent arrogance to balance the morale see-saw. I had an incredible time in Scotland, I 3000% recommend it to anybody thinking about studying abroad, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t face challenges; I reached out to my Ifsa-Butler representative and she set me up with a therapist that was payed for with the program’s insurance. I didn’t expect to have such a hard time adjusting, but I did, and it was the definitely the right move to make. Self-doubt is an easy labyrinth to fall into, especially in a new environment. Remember to look up – there is sunlight above the hedges.

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Colors of the Sea in the Mountains

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

This picture was taken on my last full day in Costa Rica, which was spent with a friend in Prusia, a forest in the province of Cartago. I’ve never seen so many gorgeous mushrooms nor ones with colors I would only expect to find in the sea. This was one of my favorite days spent in this country. I’ve met so many incredible people towards the end of my time here and I feel disappointed that I wasn’t closer to them before so I could have enjoyed their company for longer. However, these people are so great that I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to spend any time at all with them.

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Passionate Professors

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

This photo was taken on the last day of my “Human Genetics, Society, and the Environment” class. My professor taught us many things about eastern medicine and self-care. We spent this day practicing Aikido, a type of martial arts. It was incredibly refreshing to learn alternative ways to heal one’s body through nutrition and meditative activities, as opposed to western practices. It was also very obvious that he is passionate about what he teaches, which shone through in his lectures and always kept me interested. I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him during my time abroad.

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Mountains, and Stars, and Penguins…Oh my!

Time June 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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Return Home

Time June 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Coming home has been such a bitter sweet experience. Towards the end of my journey I was really missing home and the lifestyle that I have. Colorado is such a beautiful state and I was really looking forward to seeing my family and friends again! I was so happy that I didn’t have to be long distance from my fiancee anymore and that we could finally be together! Long distance was one of the hardest things that our relationship has faced and I was glad to have it over. At the same time it meant that I had to leave Scotland and all of my friends there. Even though most of my friends are a short plane ride away, it’s so different than living together in the same flat. I’ve been home for two weeks now and I still feel like I should be waking up next to my friends and going on an adventure in Europe. Study abroad is such an interesting experience that I think only your friends abroad truly understand it. Of course I can describe to everybody back home how I feel but, nobody really understands it unless you experienced it.

I was supposed to return home on May 29th but my flight ended up getting canceled so I didn’t end up leaving until May 30th! Of course I was slightly sad to go home yet but, I was so happy that I got one more day in Scotland. That last day really made a difference. It felt like closure. The extra day I spent in Edinburgh with my closest friends and it felt so nice to have that last gathering together. I never would’ve thought that extra time would make such a difference but it really did! It was more relaxed and laid back than trying to pack everything and say goodbye to everybody at once.

Coming home and being able to reflect for a couple of weeks  made me realize a lot of things about myself. Before studying abroad I felt like I couldn’t handle the real world. I felt so dependent on my parents that I didn’t think I could handle graduating college. Even though I’m engaged I was worried about starting a life with my fiancee. Study abroad changed my view on being alone. Of course I still missed everything back home but it made me realize that I can do it. I can be on my own away from my parents. I will be able to get married and start a life with my fiancee. I would say that my view of the world is completely different as well. Traveling and going to new places really changes your perspective on how vast and wonderful the Earth is!

If you’re reading this and even considering study abroad you should do it. It’s the most incredible experience that will impact you for a lifetime. Don’t worry about expense because it’ll be worth it no matter the cost. In retrospect study abroad really is a pretty good deal. You’re paying much less than you would to live abroad for 5 months in a different setting. The best advice I can give is to go out and explore. The world is just waiting for you to go and see it!

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A Vegetarian in the City of Steak

Time June 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Coming to Buenos Aires, I was constantly warned about how much I was going to miss out on by keeping to my vegetarian diet. I considered eating back before I came. My main issue is with the US food industry, so eating meat here doesn’t have the same meaning. But when I got here and learned that my host mom was also vegetarian, I decided to stick with it.

Being a vegetarian here was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I get breakfast every day and dinner every night, except Saturday from my host mom. She cooks great rice dishes, polenta, or vegetable milanesas and large salads. Though there is more cabbage than I’m used to, the food is great and much healthier than I would cook for myself. A lot of the time for lunch I make myself simple sandwiches or pasta, but sometimes I like to switch things up.

Empanadas are simple, easy to find, and there is almost always a vegetarian option. My favorite types of empanadas include caprese, humita (which is a corn dish made with both fresh regular corn and creamed white corn), cheese and onion, and plain veggie. Empanadas are also great because sometimes they are very cheap even at high quality.

Also Buenos Aires, being a city of many immigrants, has lots of restaurants from other cultures. Chinese food, italian, Indian, and other cuisines all offer great vegetarian dishes. Because of the cosmopolitan nature of the city, there is an environment of acceptance for those who choose not to eat meat. Even though most people here swear by their steak, it’s normal to find options without it or other meats. There are also lots of dieteticas that cater to those looking for health conscious options.

Plus, one can’t forget that most desserts (like flan and alfajores, among others) are vegetarian!

— Lily

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