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 »
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I believe that there are few things that are as chaotic as your first week in a foreign country. Everyone around you is scrambling to get kitchen supplies, food, mobiles, travel cards, friends—the full gamut of human panicking upon realization that ‘I’m going to spend a semester in this place.’
Return to SU
So I waited extra long to write this because I didn’t feel like I had a transition back to home. The day after my flight back from Costa Rica, I left early in the morning for my REU at Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (much to my parents’ dismay). So my transition period with my family and at home did not really take place and sort of felt delayed since I was once again moving to a new place for a few months. However, every time I’ve been home over the past eight months, I’ve noticed more dramatic differences than even after spending weeks at school without coming home.
Now, on the second day of classes and after two weeks and a half weeks back on campus (due to Residence Life training), I am starting to really see changes and differences. There are physical changes to campus that are new to me. Yet, whenever I point out some of these changes, someone will remark that that particular thing has been this way for months. Then there are other changes that are actually new to them else well because they happened this summer. In addition, faculty and staff changes took place last semester that I did not find out about until I returned to campus, so I had/have a bit of new information to digest.
At the same time, it feels like this is my first time taking classes since last fall, before I went abroad. I took challenging classes abroad, yet somehow they almost feel like they don’t count here (even though they all will transfer). I’ve only noticed a few things so far but in my friend group, there are things that happened last semester that I don’t understand the reference to since I wasn’t here. Yet, whenever someone asks me how my semester abroad was, I always have to pause because there is too much to say, but not enough time to say it. I always find myself saying something like “Good” because it’s impossible to describe months of a cross cultural experience in a sentence or two.
And I realize that in a way, this is just the beginning of the transition back. I have learned that when it comes to experiences like studying abroad, I am almost unable to fully appreciate the experience until I have put enough time and distance between it so I can reflect. This means that I will probably realize more and more things as this new semester back home continues.
Not long ago my family welcomed me back to Minnesota after another five months in Santiago, Chile. As I unpacked, I piled the souvenirs on my desk. They needed to be sorted out, and a desk is basically a station to sort things out.
In Spanish, souvenirs are called recuerditos or little memories. I prefer the Spanish word because, for me, “souvenir” conjures images of Chinese-produced plastic featuring meaningless iconography at best or offensive stereotypes at worst. Plus, the items spread out before me actually do carry memories of the people and experiences most dear to me during this past year.
A sense that something important had yet to be recognized compelled me to physically arrange these recuerditos. I can only call it an impromptu altar to the existence of the last twelve months. Writing is usually my way to make sense of things, so this was out of character.
Alas, my first blog entry. I’ll be leaving my rather monotonous town on Tuesday for the ripe loudness of Glasgow, Scotland. I’m usually used to the sameness of my summer, with its family ‘fun’ time and staying home to scroll through aesthetic reblogs. On Tuesday, however, I’ll be leaving that: my boisterous family, my new cat, my friends, and my campus in search for something different abroad. I wasn’t nervous really, not for the summer. Too much to do. Too much time spent bickering with my brother or gushing with my girlfriend via Skype. As the depart date approaches I’m getting a bit more anxious, as any big trip would make someone be.
Now whenever someone asks me if I’m getting ‘jitters’ yet I just want to shout YES for God’s sakes. But maybe it’s because I’m just an anxious person in general. All I know is I’m definitely gonna be sleeping that whole plane trip. Speaking of which, this will be my first time on an airplane by myself; in fact, it’s my first time leaving the U.S.
When I was little I always pictured myself somewhere rainy, in the bustle of a city, being able to learn and grow, and grow some more. Now, my anxiety is immersed with a glowing sort of lightness. Like I’m finally able to reach some distant dream that was tucked away somewhere close to my childhood. My child self would never believe how far I’ve come, how long it took me to accept myself and envision a future where I’m not only going to be in an unknown place, but that I’ll be doing it with full confidence in my identity as a gay person. Imagine that, little me.
I planned to come out to my mom this summer, but as the days wane, I’m not so sure. There’s always tomorrow. Tonight. The next day. Something tells me she knows. Another part of me wants to keep this to myself, to store it safe so I won’t be even more vulnerable while I venture to a far off land. At least I know that once I am abroad, I can experience life independently and not have to worry. I am curious about what classes I was able to get, as I’m taking English Literature courses to help with one of my majors for college. Whatever this experience brings, I’ll knows that I will grow from it. Academically and personally. So maybe it’s less ‘jitters’ and more me realizing I’m going to change after I board that plane.
In any case, I’m excited. That’s what I’ll call it. Excited. Because even if I might be the sort of person who frets and fusses, I know that this is a chance of a lifetime, at least for me and my family. Excited that I’ve packed my things up. Excited that I can be myself. Excited for studies. Excited for the newness of a city I could grow into. Excited that I won’t have to hide.
I remember sitting in Starbucks that April day. As the noise of the coffee shop surrounded me, I was sitting there—stressed, annoyed, frustrated, and hurt. Thankfully, my friend was there listening to me, consoling me through a difficult school year with difficult friends. And thankfully, someone else was listening to that conversation. Someone else who spoke up and invited me to church.
That was the beginning of how I came to attend a certain church my latter years of high school. A church that not only helped grow and strengthen my faith, but a church that led me to Peru on a mission trip.
It was through that church that I met the man who would later become my husband. It was through that church that I met Peru. Read More »
I just bought our tickets yesterday to return home to the States with my husband. We will be leaving on Friday, July 29th. It’s all a little surreal—even though classes ended a few weeks ago, and my parents already came and visited us, it’s hard to believe that we’re already leaving.
But as I reflect back on my time in Peru, I can remember only one instance of ever feeling truly unsafe.
If you have been reading my posts from the beginning, you will remember that I had mentioned how, upon telling others that I would be studying abroad in Peru, they would scowl and say, “Be safe.”
There is a perception in the United States and much of the Western World that Latin America is inherently unsafe, as it is a haven for drug lords, coups, and civil unrest. However, I found this notion to be largely untrue. While Latinos live a very different lifestyle, their culture is not unsafe. Living among them requires the same amount of common sense necessary to surviving in any other culture.
Even in the poorer neighborhoods of Lima, I never quite felt unsafe. I did take extra precautions surrounding my personal items, but I never felt as though I was in any sort of real danger.
So imagine my surprise at my husband’s worry when I tell my him that the program’s goodbye dinner is in the tourist neighborhood of Barranco.
The main square in Barranco
“What are they thinking, taking you there? That is a very dangerous area. I don’t think you should go, especially considering it doesn’t even start until late at night.”
I was initially shocked by his comments until I looked at the location of the restaurant. It was quite far from the main tourist area. Barranco is normally safe, but if you venture too far from the main square, especially at night, things can get sketchy. Even though I would probably not be bothered, common sense tells me to avoid that area at night.
But since I wanted to spend time with the other program students before we parted ways, I went anyway. I called a safe taxi, kissed my husband goodbye, and went on my way. I was looking at pictures on my phone, only halfway paying attention to my surroundings. As we approached Barranco, I noticed that we were driving through one of the bad parts of Lima. I felt uneasy, but I convinced myself that I would feel better once we arrived at the restaurant.
The taxi was about three blocks away from the restaurant. We were going over a series of speed bumps, and as we hit one, a guy suddenly tried to jump through the window open by the taxi driver. I screamed, and the driver promptly shoved the guy outside the window. Frightened, I asked the driver what the guy wanted, but I couldn’t understand him. He did say, however, that this was an extremely unsafe area and that sometimes people will try to steal or kill drivers when they slow down at the speed bumps.
The driver asked me what I was doing around this area, and I told him that I was having a dinner with my study abroad program. He strongly cautioned me to be careful. The restaurant, he told me, was safe, but the surrounding area was not.
The dinner show eventually started, but I could not enjoy my time. The adrenaline from the even was still rushing through my veins, and I was worried about my trip home, since I would have to go through that neighborhood again in order to return home. I called my husband about what happened, and he immediately came to pick me up. I tried to enjoy myself for the half hour while I waited for him, something that proved to be immensely difficult.
My husband arrived in a taxi, and gave me a hug. I started crying about the incident, as I was still scared. I don’t know what the guy wanted, but if the driver had not been proactive in pushing him away, my night would have ended very differently.
My husband told me that while he was in the taxi to pick me up, he say several gangs standing around watching the cars drive by, waiting to do something to an unsuspecting driver or passenger. When he told me this, our taxi driver chimed in and said that the area was unsafe.
We went home and called over our neighbor to have a drink. I drank some wine, and retold the night’s events for the fifth or sixth time. He was surprised by the choice of location as well, but was glad I was safe. After two or three glasses, I was relaxed enough to fall asleep and forget about my worries.
I woke up the next morning feeling at peace about the whole situation. While there were many things that could have gone wrong that night, there were many things that actually went right. From the proactive behavior of the taxi driver, to the quick reaction of my husband, I ended my night in safety.
And while I was in danger that night, I don’t think that I should let one experience in a bad neighborhood negatively affect my perception of Peru. I love this country and will always be an advocate for its safe environment, provided travelers exercise good judgment and common sense.
Well, it was a great run, but I’m finally back home in the United States (full disclaimer: I have actually been home for about two weeks, but I was so sad to be writing this final post/was adjusting to hearing English 24/7 that I just couldn’t write it.) But I can’t put it off anymore, so here it goes.
First and foremost: coming home is weird. Really weird. Our group flight landed in New York City at around 7:30 in the morning, and I was going to spend the next few days hanging out with some college friends in Manhattan before finally heading back to West Virginia. This was a cool plan, but it was also a big mistake because New York nearly crushed me with culture shock. Well, it did and it didn’t. I ended up using my Argentine hospitality to take a porteña to Times Square, and we spent the entirety of our subway ride chatting in Spanish. This made the whole transition process a little easier (not the mention the fact that I was already using some of the skills I had developed abroad!) but it made me sad when she left and I was surrounded by people who only spoke English. I don’t know, it feels really pompous and weird to write, but for my first few days back, I had a really hard time figuring out where I belonged. I mean, obviously I wasn’t Argentine, but I definitely didn’t feel like your run of the mill yanqui either. Read More »
Well, it’s been about a month since I left Oxford and the United Kingdom for the States. Between Brexit and the national conventions in the US, there has been no shortage of news-making activity in either my new home or my old one in those few weeks. And while it’s certainly not news-making, there’s been plenty of activity going on my own life as well!
I came home to the customary heat of California (which has always been overwhelming to me, but was even more so after six months in such a cold, rainy climate). Catching up with friends and family was both familiar and new–when I saw my mom and the close friends I hadn’t seen for so long, it really did feel like no time had passed, though there was so much to talk about (I know, I know…it sounds cheesy, but it’s true). Plenty of time was devoted to hanging out with my pets and with the lovely animals that I grew up with at the vet hospital where my mom works. And, of course, I indulged in some delicious Mexican food. There is so much tasty food in California (well, much less now, since I ate quite a bit of it), but I had especially been craving good Mexican food ever since our dining hall in Oxford served “burritos” made with wild rice pilaf and stewed kidney beans (it’s just not right!!!).
Has it really only been two weeks since I left home?
It seems like I’ve already lived through another lifetime, and needless to say I’ve learned so much in the last two weeks that my brain hurts. After meeting so many people from so many different places, I truly feel as if I’ve already grown to be more worldly– never have I met so many people with these utterly unique accents and slang words, but I’ve also met people that are similar to me in so many ways that we could be twins. In two weeks I have traveled thousands of miles, dealt with cancelled flight plans and survived, explored beneath the Sydney Harbour and the downtown of Wollongong, and met both talking Aussies (the human ones) as well as some fuzzy ones (including koalas and kangaroos, OMG). Read More »
There is a popular expression promoting minimalism that goes, “Collect memories, not things.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement—the minimalist mindset is one that strives to find meaning and value in relationships and experiences rather than material items. When sorting through my things or purchasing new ones, I like to keep this mindset, even when souvenir shopping.
However, that is not to say that I never actually buy anything—quite the contrary! I just think that it is really important to consider WHY I want to purchase a souvenir, just like any other item. I would much rather have a few meaningful pieces than a bunch of junk that I only somewhat enjoy.
Well, here it is: my final blog post abroad. I have finished finals, my classes are done, and I’m passing my last few days in Buenos Aires trying to do all the last-minute things I’ve accumulated on my to-do list this semester. Between these random activities and goodbye dinners and coffee breaks with my Argentine friends, who are still in the thicket of finals, I’ve actually been pretty busy.
Not too busy, though, that I haven’t had a chance to reflect. I’ve done a lot of thinking these past few weeks, and I came to a pretty interesting realization. My time abroad was not perfect, but I still had a pretty great time. It’s funny, but I actually realized this while I was watching the Copa America final between Argentina and Chile a week or two ago. I was home watching the game with my host grandma, who I admittedly have not had the best relationship with this semester, and her sister. Anyway, as I’m sure most people know, Argentina lost. Without getting into the logistics of the game (and in full honesty, I couldn’t even attempt to explain the game because I was watching it purely for Kun Agüero) I definitely changed a bit after watching Argentina lose. Specifically, I think I fell in love with the country again. Read More »
Holy cow, this post is a long time coming! I’ve been home for a little while now, but I’ve been procrastinating on writing this final post because it means that the semester is officially over. I’ve completed my finals, flown home, received my transcript, filled out the surveys, and begun preparing for the next semester. This wrap-up post was the last thing I needed to do as part of my time abroad and I was not ready.
When I tell people I studied abroad, usually someone says that it’s so cool that I’ll be able to couch surf around the world and visit all of the friends I’ve made. Free accommodation is definitely a perk of visiting international friends, but I’ve realized that visiting a friend and traveling with them is such a different experience than visiting a country and touring on your own. Even though you might miss out on some of the historical facts and trivia provided by the youth hostels’ free tours, you get to go to the really interesting places that may not be included on those tours. Having a friend as your tour guide gives you the chance to live like a local, which is an incredibly unique experience, no matter how short the trip may be. During my last week abroad, I visited my friend Leor at her home in Switzerland and those four days were some of my favorites of the semester.
I picked up many nice souvenirs during my time in Cusco. Matching hats made from baby alpaca wool, an overpriced journal, and scented glitter gel pens were my favorites. I even picked up something with very lasting memories attached to it—FOOD POISONING.
I’m no stranger to street food and sketchy food joints here in Peru. My husband and I regularly frequent establishments that would probably be an American Health Inspector’s nightmare. Since I hail from the land of rules and regulations, there is always a tinge of worry tainting my thoughts whenever I choose to eat at these places. Yet for some reason, despite my constant fears and doubts, I’ve never gotten sick. Because of this, I tend to turn a blind eye to questionable food safety practices.
So imagine my delight when our Program Director invites the group to a pizza place during our last night in Cusco, a respectable restaurant located in the heart of the tourist district. Seems like a safe place to not worry about, right? WRONG!
I’ve never been good at verbally showing my emotions but rather showing them. So I though I’d show you how I feel, the best way I know how. By showing you through a video.
The concept of this video was that all my videos before have focused on all the action shots and places I’ve been. But studying abroad isn’t really about that. It’s about All the Faces you’ve seen. All the people you’ve met and I think this video captures that message perfectly.
I’ll also know if there are any fans of The Office out there!
Recently I went on vacation for the first time by myself! I saw that Air New Zealand was running a cheap ticket to Australia special and couldn’t resist purchasing one. My round trip to Sydney only cost me $260. I arrived in Sydney around 10am on Monday morning and took the train to Circular Quay and met up with my friend Meaghan. She was the first person from home that I have seen since being abroad! She has been studying abroad in Sydney, so she gave me some advice on the area and recommended activities. We then took a free walking tour around Sydney. It was great to learn about the history of Sydney and to see all of the places I would never have thought to visit. That evening Meaghan and I met up with Lauren, another Providence College student. We talked about the city and our experiences being abroad, but mostly touched upon what is happening back at school. After saying our goodbyes, we went our separate ways and I headed to the hostel. I stayed at the Mad Monkey Backpackers on Broadway. Read More »
Last Thursday I stepped off my plane from Santiago and back onto American soil. I heard English all around me and walked past a sign advertising Artisanal Water and knew I was truly back. The fear of turning my phone off of airplane mode accidentally was gone and instead the freedom of unrestrained cell phone usage. There were leaves on the trees and disgusting amounts of humidity, two things that were absent from the last time I was in North Carolina.Despite all this fact, I still found myself muttering, “permiso” after bumping into people, or saying, “gracias” when receiving my food order. After nearly 6 months abroad, I’m home.
It feels weird to be back home after studying abroad at Sydney for about 4.5 months. During the study break, I remember I wanted to go home because of all the stress while studying for my exams. However, now that I am actually back at home I really miss my suite mates, friends, and the fun places I’ve traveled to.
I really miss playing music and fooling around in the living room with my suite mates and friends, searching for yummy food places to eat, exploring cafes in Surry Hills, going to the beach, walking around the city, and so many more. In the end, its the small memories that I miss, because those minute moments actually left a huge impact in my life. Read More »
Even though I have been to Peru four times now, I had successfully avoided visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu until very recently. I probably wouldn’t have gone, either, except for the fact that one of the required trips included in the program is visiting Peru’s most famous tourist attraction. And that’s exactly why I never had any inclination to visit, because Cusco and Machu Picchu are both crawling with tourists. Read More »
It was a busy weekend, I went to:
- Bondi Beach to do the Bondi to Coogee Walk
- Darling Harbour to see the fireworks
- Opera Bar
- Manly Beach
- Milsons Point to have a picnic
- Hornsby to hike
- Opera House to see Ta-ku’s concert
- Newtown Social Club to see The Last Dinosaurs’ concert