Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Mendoza, a city of culture

Time May 25th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

One thing I was looking forward to during study abroad aside from a new academic environment, was getting to know and even getting involved in the community. Mendoza may be a smaller city, but cultural events are not only important, but varied, frequent and often free or of little charge. Several areas in the city are known for screening movies weekly, often for free. You can find older and modern movies and movies from Argentina, the US and many other countries (of course with subtitles). Live plays happen all the time too so if you’re Spanish is good enough to follow them (mine is not) they are also a cool thing to check out. There are not only formal concerts like celebrations of classic rock and Argentina’s take on jazz and the blues as well as classical music events, but you can often happen upon informal mini concerts in the parks and plazas. Some even involve dancing. Personally, I really enjoy going to events that involve dancing. Not boliche-type dancing (I can’t dance at all) that happens late into the night at clubs, a young person’s typical pastime here, but actually watching the small dancing events put together by the city or other groups. Sure you’ll see much more tango in Buenos Aires, even in the streets, but I have been lucky enough to attend events involving the tango, mamba, samba, milonga and baile folklorico (which is more traditional). They all have different histories, dress and meanings and derive from around South America, but I can saying that I’ve been impressed by all that I’ve seen. Last week there was even an event in the one of the largest theatres in the city where you could watch a world famous traveling dance troupe. Tickets were only about $3.50 USD plus a donation of milk powder to the local food bank. Of course I was too late and the tickets sold out, but this just speaks to one of the great opportunities I’ve seen in the past few days. There’s a lot to discover if you look for it and luckily IFSA sends you updates of upcoming events too! As much as I like to watch dancing, I refuse to actually learn it it seems. However, if you are interested, not only can you take dancing classes at a local institute and possibly get some credits for it, depending on your university, but there are free dancing classes at the park too (as well as low-cost painting, photography, and other skill classes). Mendoza is a city that truly celebrates culture and has a wealth of events for those interested!


A Week on a Vineyard

Time May 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

Read More »


Irish Everyone Would Visit Ireland

Time April 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

When choosing a place to study abroad, I didn’t look in depth. I looked for English speaking and in Europe, and when London and Ireland were my top two, I chose Ireland because of family history. Little did I know the experience I would get from being in Ireland.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland combined are about the size of Indiana!!! Shocked? I was too. But little did I know I could travel all around Ireland and love every city more than the next. Impartial, Galway is my favorite, but here are some of the great cities I visited this semester, whether for a day or weekend, each adventure was amazing. Read More »


A Break in Uruguay

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.

Read More »


Adjustments and Explorations in Buenos Aires

Time March 13th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Going to a new place always requires an adjustment, but I was surprised by what felt completely normal and what I’m still getting used to here in Argentina. When I first arrived, Buenos Aires was in the middle of a heat wave. From my first step out of the airport until the miraculous day a week later when a storm hit and the heat broke, I could’ve sworn the climate would kill me. (Side Note: I should’ve packed more dresses. All the pants I have caused me to overheat.) After a week of normal temperatures, while my home in Minnesota goes from a tornado, to snow, to sun, I know I will enjoy Argentinian weather. Read More »


Daily Life as an Irish Student

Time March 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Life in Ireland, wow, it’s amazing.

Of course, it has its ups and downs, but that’s just life in general. The best part is, every low is “higher” than the lows at home, because I’m here!

The most notable thing about Ireland that differs from The University of Tulsa would be the daily life. Here, I live in an apartment with four other girls, have a 20 minute walk to class, cook for myself, and have to adapt to the weather at any given moment. But hey, I’m learning how to live on my toes!

The best advice I can give to a student who is looking to study in Ireland is to pack with the weather in mind. The Irish students dress up, for classes, but only under their coat and rain jacket! A big hood is a must, layers, a scarf, and although they don’t wear rain boots a lot, when it pours they’re needed. The rainbows are beautiful, the grass is green, the walk to class is reflective as we pass the Irish countryside. Learning to cook has been a bit of a struggle, but luckily the other IFSA students and my Irish roommates are phenomenal chefs!

Daily life of an Irish student involves waking up in a snuggly bed and having to get up out of the burrito, put on some fuzzy slippers, and shower in the morning while the water is still warm. Put on a couple layers, make some breakfast and pack a lunch, double check that my charger is in my bag, and head to campus for the day. As the twenty minute walk is enjoyable with nice weather, I always have my rain jacket and enough homework to keep me on campus if it starts to pour, because the weather changes every 30-45 minutes. Tutorials (larger lectures) and Seminars (smaller discussions) throughout the day, studying and socializing in between, and making sure to keep up with the weekly socs (societies, which are like our clubs) email! Campus is always lively, whether it’s the cafeteria, Smokey’s Cafe, the library, the Arts Concourse, or the campus bar, Sult. With coffee and soup a day, I’m starting to feel more Irish. Hopefully I’ll turn a little greener for St. Patrick’s Day!

But until then, stay warm (and dry)! Read More »


The Less You Look, The More You Find

Time February 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | 2 Comments by

If there is anything I’ve learned from Costa Rica thus far it is that, as the title states, the less you look, the more you find. This gorgeous rainbow was spotted on a walk in Monteverde. On many other occasions since being here I’ve seen nature’s beauty when I least anticipated it. One example is when I saw a troop of white-faced monkeys while on a walk back from a waterfall or a Basilisk (also known as a Jesus Lizard) while looking for the source of water from the pool I was in. Moving forward I suppose I should expect the unexpected.


Peru is more than Machu Picchu

Time October 19th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by


Picture 1 of 15

Read More »


A Craving for Sweets and Experiences

Time August 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

Today’s blog is about how I discovered my self-awareness of independence as a 20 year old college student while studying abroad in Peru. This discovery was all thanks to my tremendous sweet tooth.

Its 9:23 p.m. and I am craving a donut. Luckily, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts stand less than 5 minutes away from my house. Even though my host family’s house is near a busy street with loud noises from the constant traffic, living here has some perks. There is a super market with a Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds stand, two pizza places, a gas station, a cute, always crowded bakery, a pharmacy (which I’ve already had to visit twice), and a Scotia Bank (thank God). I basically have everything I could possible need a few blocks away. Read More »


From Limerick to Galway Back to Limerick and Off to Scotland!

Time May 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I decided to take a break from studying for my Irish history final exam (I can not believe I just said final exam… what?!) and catch up on what is going on with me these past few weeks. I feel as though each time I sit down to write, I’ve done something new and unique which I feel has epitomised my study abroad experience… I’m definitely not complaining! Read More »


Holbox Island, Home of the Whale Shark

Time September 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These past four weeks in Merida have sure seemed to fly by! It is almost crazy to believe that I have already been here for a whole month! Many of my weekends are filled with planned excursions. This up coming weekend is extra long in celebration of Mexico’s independence day. I’ll elaborate more on the excursion next week when I come back.

However, last weekend we went to Holbox island off the coast of Mexico. My IFSA-Butler group and I went with other students of the Merida area on a five hour bus ride to the coast. We arrived at the coast at 7:00 A.M. to take a boat to the island. When we arrived, we went to the hotels and then split off into groups to experience the wonderful activities the island. Some students could swim with whale sharks that are native the island. Like Catalina Island, Holbox is a nature preserve. Other students went on a boat tour of three other neighboring island. Everyone else, including me, could choose to enjoy the beach and explore the many shops the little town had to offer.


While I did not care for the sand roads because they were very dirty for my shoes, I loved the white sandy beach. I’m still getting used to the warmth that the Golf of Mexico has to offer because I’ve only ever swam in the freezing Great Lakes, the Pacific ocean, and the Atlantic ocean. I’m not sure if I like the warmth or if I miss cooling off during a hot day. However, the island did offer a little reprieve from the intense humidity in Merida.

The beach and the sand was definitely my favorite part of Holbox. The shoreline is very shallow for a very long time, and at night when we had our bonfire, I was able to walk out on the shallow sandy bottom because of low tide. Usually, I absolutely hate having sand stick to me, but in Holbox it was a different case. Not that it could be avoided. It was in the shower, the floor, the bed, our skin, clothes, and bags. But, the softness and pureness seemed to make up for dirty feeling I usually associate with sand after a day at the beach.


Every excursion I’ve gone on has been a wonderful experience. I find myself anticipating the weekends because not only do I get to meet new people, but I also get to experience things I would never have in Ohio. Hopefully, next week I will have more to write about my experience here and more photos to share.


How the Aussies Talk

Time June 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Whilst traveling through Europe, my tour group was almost entirely Aussies, and 2 New Zealanders, 1 Colombian, and me.  Over the 20 days spent together, I discovered some interesting Aussie slang.  So if you choose to do a tour, it will most likely be filled with Aussies, as almost all of these tour groups cater to Aussies, and now you will know how to speak – or at least understand how they speak.

Meaning: Converse shoes.

Meaning: Barbeque

Don’t get your knickers in a knot
Meaning: Don’t worry.

Meaning: Lots and lots!

Meaning: Looking good!

Meaning: flip flops
{So when they say, ‘Do you think it will matter if I wear thongs to Vatican City?’ you will know it is actually okay because they are not talking about underwear.}

Breky {Not sure about the spelling on this one}.

Meaning: McDonald’s

Meaning: Sunglasses

Good On you
Meaning: Good for You!

Go for Gold
Meaning: Go for it!

Meaning: Thanks.

Meaning: Trousers

Ear bashing
Meaning: Constant chatter



El Garganta del Diablo (pt. 1 of 3 of my musings on Iguazu)

Time April 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Again, I’m about to begin one of my post with my seemingly obligatory “sorry this blog is late blah blah blah” remarks, but this blog is especially late, and I really am sorry that I took so long between updates (this is directed to the approximately 4 of you that actually read my blog regularly).  Anyway, this week;s reason for tardiness is that not only have my classes have amped up quite a bit, but my folks (2 of my ~4 regular readers) have come to Argentina and I’ve spent a lot of time during the last few days with them.  We’ve gone out to lovely dinners in Palermo and with my host family

 It’s been so wonderful to have them here, and having them around definitely makes me remember both how much I miss them and how grateful I am to have been raised by them.  I went out the other night with my parents and some of my awesome new Buenos Aires friends, and I was described as, “the average of my mom and my dad.”  Whatever that means, I’m lucky to have any part of them at all.

But sappiness aside, what having my parents around really means is ADVENTURE!  My family loves to take crazy trips together, for this trip the plan was to spend some quality time in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, Iguazu Falls.  This place is like nowhere else I’ve ever been, and it makes my creative juices start to pump nonstop.  So, in light of the falls, for the next few posts, I’m going to eschew my typical stream-of-consciousness blog style, and instead present to you “Writings from Iguazu”, where I’ll post a new poem or bit of prose (or “Poem-like Creation”) from each day that I am here.  Sound like fun?  Good!  Here’s day one: “El Garganta del Diablo”.

(Author’s note: Due to the necessary approval process of my employers, these blogs will likely not be published exactly on the day that they were written, so I’m sorry about the incongruence.  Just for completeness’ sake, I was in Iguazu from the 12th to the 15th of April.)

(Author’s note 2: I know I promised y’all Uruguay, and I assure that Uruguay will be my next post following my artistic stab into recounting my experience in Iguazu)

El Garganta del Diablo:

There is nothing quite like the feeling when you stand over the throat of the devil.  The wind is his voice, rushing past you, through you, tugging at your hat as well as your heart and gently imploring you to, “come just a biiiit closer”.  The water is his blood.  It rushes and roar around you, their power both inspires you to live fully and terrifies you of about the possibilities that such a life would entail.  The falls themselves are his body.  I could spend two lifetimes staring at it, my eyes exploring every nook and cranny, perplexed by the constant rhythm and motion.

The throat is a place of abrupt change.  It is a step of a staircase of a giant.  It is flat ground that abruptly becomes a sheer face, and it is the river above plummets suddenly to a torrential pool below.  It is the wind that howls, the edges the beckon, the vistas that capture.  Yet despite its name, the throat of the devil is a place sent from heaven.  Because from within the pool of chaos there forever blooms a rainbow.

Also, for all who are curious, this is the Garganta del Diablo (sorry I can’t post my own pics; my camera ran out of battery and I left my charger in Buenos Aires.  D’oh!)



Time October 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


Hello All!

This weekend was fantastic! Friday morning I boarded a plane in Dublin City to visit Brussels in Belgium. Brussels was an amazing city and it’s quite easy to get around on foot if one has the patience. The center of town is a dense, bustling place packed with incredible architecture, which is much of what I was after seeing. I also had a good time sampling some of the region’s plentiful varieties of beer.

Of course, when people talk about Belgium there are a couple of things that instantly come to mind: chocolate and waffles. Something I wasn’t aware of is that french fries also have a history in Belgium. The french fries were quite good, but the chocolate and waffles were the main focus in the food spectrum. I had a tour, with my traveling companions, of the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. It was interesting to learn how chocolate is molded by the chocolatiers, but the best part was chatting with the chocolatier, an older woman who was incredibly sweet and funny. She must have enjoyed chatting with us because she gave us a fair number of special samples after the rest of the audience had left; the samples were of the specially filled chocolates called “pralines”. Incredible. We did not find a waffle museum or receive any free samples, but we enjoyed them nonetheless. The waffles were noticeably different from the waffles I make at home in that they were sweeter, and not just because I got mine topped with nutella and bananas!

That night we went to a small back-alley street that was lined with bars. One of the establishments was the Delirium Pub, so named for the house beers served there. Across the way was an absinthe bar, which we decided was worth sampling while in Brussels. It was quite strong and tasted of liquorice. The bartender, a gruff man, showed us how to properly drink a shotglass worth of absinthe. First, dunk a sugar cube in the liquor, then place it on a flat surface over the glass and light it on fire letting the melting sugar drip into the liquor. Finally, after a few moments, blow out the flame, drop the cube into the liquor and enjoy. Quite an experience and one that I won’t likely forget.

On Saturday I decided to go for a walk. I walked across the city from the south aiming for the landmark Atomium just outside the city to the north. It was a fantastic walk, I got lost and found myself at a large domed building in the north of the city. It appeared to be a government building similar to the Capital Building in Washington, DC, but I could not read the signs and did not stop to ask. Instead, I turned and headed for Atomium. This brought me past an old looking cathedral on the edge of Brussels (or so it seemed) past which I crossed a bridge and followed a street to what seemed to me to be a suburb of Brussels. From there I could see an enormous stone Cathedral that looked magnificent from a distance, I stopped by to look inside later. It was extremely ornate, but I did not enter for there was a service in progress. On my way to Atomium I stopped to have a puff pastry at a small bakery. It was filled with a wonderful vanilla cream, topped with chocolate, warm, flaky, and the perfect treat for a long walk. As I got closer to Atomium I passed the largest outdoor streetmarket I’d ever seen. It was blocks and blocks in length, I walked for 20 minutes and neither found the start nor the end of it, I seemed to have just passed through a part of it. A few blocks away I heard a band playing music, but I had already been distracted and wanted to make sure I would be back to my hotel to meet my companions by dark. Finally, I reached the enormous park where Atomium sits. Atomium was a sight to behold; giant silver metallic balls suspended over the science center for which it is the symbol. I was interested in the exhibits, but after so much walking I was quite happy to sit among the gently rolling hills and shady trees of the park. Then I walked back, had dinner, and went straight to sleep.  Although I was only there for a short time, I came to appreciate Brussels, I would encourage others to go and seize any opportunity to return.

All for now,



3 weeks

Time June 4th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past week was a nice transition back to Mendoza from Peru (a post on that later). For one thing, I had two friends from Brandeis visit me on their way to Buenos Aires (both studied abroad in Bolivia and Peru). I can’t even begin to explain how nice it was to have familiar, Brandeisian faces in Mendoza! We caught up over cena (empanadas and pizza with mucho queso, surprise surprise) and helado. We also talked about the differences between Northern and Southern South America that are extremely interesting. I think I’ll also dedicate a post on that later, as well.

Then last night, one of my non-program friends had her birthday. Attending the party made me think of how easily we came together…..all of us were scared and nervous for our experience abroad, and somehow, we quickly formed friendships and a ‘foster family’, to replace the ones we have back home. I also met a couple of Argentines and I surprised myself by blabbering away in (perhaps incoherent) Spanish, and it seemed that the other person understood me. Yay.

When it was time for cake & candles, the song was recited in Spanish, then Portuguese, French, and calls for Korean (me) and German were made. It was a moment that made me think of how much I’ll miss this semester. And how much I’ll miss being able to practice Spanish, meet friends from other cultures, and the fact that an occasion involving two people can multiply to include the entire exchange (and others) network.

While I sort through the hundreds of pictures I have from Peru, I also leave you with some pictures from the wine excursion that IFSA took us in April!

malbec grapes

beautiful alta vista winery

Sigh. Three more weeks in Mendoza. Someone tell me where the time went?


adventures during semana santa

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This post is way long over due, but better something than nothing! 😀

During Semana Santa (March 30th-April 7th), some friends and I headed to Chile, where I had one of the most enjoyable and relaxing vacations of my life! I was obviously excited for the trip, but I had no idea how much fun I would have in Chile.  I learned so much from the culture, met incredible people, indulged in delicious food (seafood and sushi, YUM), and loved every minute of it. Everyone studying abroad in Argentina should head on over to Chile! Luckily for us in Mendoza, it’s only a 5-6 hour bus ride with some amazing views 😉

so many curves while crossing the andes

view from the bus ride

We spent two days in Santiago, trekking through the metro (and getting shoved in the process, there were a lot more people that weekend particularly because of the music festival), frequently treating ourselves to delicious gelato after long walks in Santa Lucia, trying pancho con palta + mote (national drink of Chile with peaches and rice, very sweet!), constantly buying water (urgh, that was annoying) and admiring the street art and architecture. The style of the buildings was something I noticed immediately. First off, it was very different from Mendoza, and second, the architecture reminded me of….Spain. I couldn’t really place a finger on it. The vibe of the city was also hard to characterize. There were many, many tourists and it was a relatively busy city, yet, the palm trees, artists casually sketching the scenery, and the local people sauntering by just gave Santiago a chill, sleepy vibe.

pancho con palta

architecture in the square


central administration

horses and police were everywhere!

so much color compared to mendoza

street art!

indulging in some delicious helado!

pretending we were at lolla

at the top of santa lucia

view from santa lucia

busy church for easter

After Santiago, we took a two hour bus to Vina del Mar. I was so taken back by the scenery during the ride! But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about/get sick of the scenery here. Everything is just too beautiful :)

For the rest of the week, we walked around Vina then took a metro to Valparaiso (the transportation was so convenient!).  I was absolutely in love with these two cities…..we took the elevator to go up the steep hill so we could explore the fun, colorful houses that were stacked up on the hills. And of course, once we were at the top, the view was amazing. I could see the ships near the port, some people lounging by the ocean, and the stray dogs aimlessly sauntering in the streets…..I particularly liked the view from Pablo Neruda’s house. He could see everything from his room!

beach at vina

reloj de flores


houses along the beach

steep neighborhood

a sunny day in vina

The street art is another story. Calling it “graffiti” simply doesn’t do justice to the talent of the work. Walking around in Valparaiso was like receiving tickets to a free art exhibition.

Although I was in Chile for only a week, I feel like I got an authentic essence of the three cities I visited. Vina and Valpo, in particular, were two places that didn’t seem to be engineered toward tourists and so, I felt like I was exploring the true culture and dynamic of the city. I loved being able to talk to the people on the streets, striking up a conversation about various Chileans wines with a friendly man at the supermercado, and learning about the ascensors (elevators) from a nice woman while we we were waiting to go up to the cerros (hills). Needless to say, it was hard for us to leave.

favorite street art

piano stairs

colorful houses in valpo

valpo, the port city

another fave!

steep ride up

I was particularly drawn to Valparaiso. It felt like the people in Valpo really knew how to utilize every inch of space given to them! Every wall was adorned intricately and each building had its own character. The houses are all neatly  stacked on the mountains, with each cerro (hill) having a different reputation. Nothing was uniform in terms of design, but in the sense of aesthetic appeal, the buildings provided the eye with a homogenous pattern of colorful splashes of beauty. It was similar to Vina….yet I loved Valpo more. I felt as if I was walking into someone’s home, exploring their lifestyle and trying to adopt their habits as my own and make myself familiar with their ways. Everything was set in its original, functioning place and nothing was altered for the benefit of tourists. It was ridiculously convenient to hop on the metro from Vina to arrive in Valpo within minutes. I loved the transformation from a cool, unique port city into a crazy wild scene at night. Oh, Valpo.

I loved striking conversations with vendors, having people approach me out of genuine curiosity while I was waiting for a friend at the plaza, befriend other travelers, and walk up and down the long, steep hills (and award myself with delicious gelato after). The people here get their exercise (RIDICULOUSLY long stairs with many steps)!!! We took a free walking tour (I believe it was called Tours for Tips, there is also one in Santiago as well!) and we learned so much about the city! As we walked up and down the hills, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the tourists “touring” the city on a bus; walking is the only way to get a real feel for the city! We passed by so many beautiful artwork (free exhibition!), got to talk to locals and eat some delicious cookies and swig some pisco sours. Not to mention, we met awesome Europeans on the tour, and we all went for DELICIOUS (and cheap) sushi afterward. Ahh. I’d missed sushi. In Mendoza, sushi/seafood is expensive, not THAT delicious, and I had to pay for chopsticks! Grr. The delicious and cheap seafood is something I’ll miss! It is truly a unique port city tucked away, and I could feel the immigrants’ presence from years before.

orgasmic sushi

Before we left, my friend and I deemed the one cent peso (un peso) cute, and thought it’d be a cute idea to give them away as souvenirs. (Maybe punch a hole in it to make a bracelet or keychain?) But since it is of so little value and rarely in use, we had a hard time finding a store that had those pesos. Strangely enough, a male cashier in a lingerie store ended up being able to trade 10 pesos for the ones we wanted. He thought our idea was funny.

slanted :)

so much valpo pride

color splashes

pablo neruda's house

Things we did not anticipate: the unreliability of buses. As it was getting closer for us to leave, I realized that I wanted to stay a little bit longer. But since we bought all of our tickets in advance (Vina–>Santiago–>Mendoza), I decided to just go along with the original plan. This was mistake #1. To my future self: make hostel reservations in advance, but if possible, buy tickets at the terminal of the destination once I have a better idea of dates/how much longer I want to stay. Because in reality, you meet friends and encounter places you want to spend more time exploring. Mistake #2 happened when the bus was 40-60 minutes late. Hence, we missed our bus from Santiago to Mendoza, and had to spend the night in Santiago. We also had to buy another set of tickets because the offices weren’t open early enough, and we didn’t want to risk waiting any longer. Luckily, the tickets were cheap, but this mistake could have been avoided. To my future self: don’t buy bus tickets in advance; be flexible with travel plans!!

On our way to Chile, we traveled at night, so I was comfortably asleep for most of the ride and the entry process was very efficient and quick, as there weren’t too many travelers. But since we were returning to Argentina during the weekend, amidst the peak traveling time, we ended up waiting at the border for three hours. I mean… didn’t feel that long, though. We made friends with the people (only four of us on the bus, haha) and was asked the popular question, “do you like Chile, or Argentina, better?”  😀 We waited a long time because the entry process consists of a bus driver registering every passenger on his bus. Lots of buses=lots of people=long time. But eventually, we got through and it wasn’t too bad, like I said. The mountains were breathtaking and we mostly sat around and relaxed.

vina, night time

I couldn’t  help but feel jealous of the many European students we met along the way, who were traveling the continent by themselves.  The freedom! The adventure! But then again, it’s wonderful to be back in Mendoza, and I’ll be going to Peru in two weeks!






Time October 18th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last night, Monday night, I got drunk and screamed at people I didn’t know. Unless you’re at a rugby match, this generally isn’t acceptable. Conveniently, I was at a rugby match. I’ve never felt so British in my entire life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

On Friday morning I hopped on a bus headed to the north of England, a place called The Lake District, for an event that my study abroad program called “Adventure Weekend.” The seven hours I spent on a bus were worth it: I saw the high peaks and red mossy bluffs of Wordsworth’s youth, climbed through the trickling streams that brought water to the fluffy sheep down in the valley; I lodged in an old manor house beside the Derwent, the same lake referenced in Lyrical Ballads, and tried to brave black mold and not get eaten by ghosts. I succeeded on both fronts, and even got to go climbing, an activity I haven’t participated in since I joined a local climbing gym in the fifth grade. My Bar-Mitzvah party was “extreme-sports” themed, and this weekend was all that and more. Nothing says “local” like eating a Cumberland sausage in Cumberland.

Although I didn’t know it when I got on the bus, Adventure Weekend wasn’t just for the IFSA-Butler Oxford students: it was for IFSA-Butler students from all over England. This was why several of my friends from Duke were also there. It was great catching up with them, sharing the natural beauty of the Lake District with them, and drinking with them on Saturday night. I actually didn’t partake in the drinking, as I caught the “freshers flu” the previous week, but the party atmosphere was contagious. We danced and sang and laughed when a girl nearby fell flat on her face (after making sure she was alright, of course). Later in the night, the same clumsy girl asked me for a lighter.

“Doyouavea lighter,” she said.

“Smoking will literally kill you,” I replied. She wasn’t pleased with my answer.


“I said I don’t have a lighter,” I said. “Sorry.”

On the bus ride home the next day, after we figured out the spirit animal of everyone on the bus but before I tried to begin working on a 15 page paper about the occult influences in W B Yeats’s The Tower, my friend Josh casually mentioned that he was going to a rugby game on Monday. Josh was a rugby player and Physics major from Baltimore. Sometimes, because of his fascination with the subject, we called him Neutrino Boy.

“What did you just say?” I asked.

“I’m going to a rugby game,” he said.

“How do I get tickets?” Like punting, drinking at a pub, and sneaking into forbidden parts of the Bodleian library, no trip to Oxford was complete without seeing a rugby match.

“You can have my extra,” he said. I was ecstatic. All that night, even as I broke into the Christ Church meadows to watch the fog rise over the grass, all I could think about was rugby. The next night couldn’t come fast enough. Then it did. I sipped a glass of whisky, put on two coats, and met Josh in an underground pub that smelled of age, oil, and damp wood. Together, we conquered beers and talked about physics, and then made our way to the rugby pitch.

“What is it like?” I asked Josh as we walked. He pulled me back onto the sidewalk.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Just non-stop action. You know the point, right? You have to move the ball from one end of the field to the other.”

“Like football!” I yelled, and he pulled me back onto the sidewalk again.

“Yeah, and each position has a number. That’s what the numbers on the back of the jerseys mean.”

“Like billiards!”

“Exactly. Touchdowns are called trys, and each one is worth 5 points. The equivalent of a field goal is worth 3, and a conversion is worth 2.”

“Like hockey!”

“No. Not at all like hockey. Get back on the sidewalk, you’re going to get hit by a car.”

When we arrived at the pitch, the game had already started. To my great pleasure, the Oxford Blues were ahead of the London Wasps three to nil. I yelled in giddy excitement as a caveman in a blue jersey destroyed the scoring hopes of a smaller, agile player in white, and sighed in sadness as the ball somehow ended up in the hands of another player in white. He too was taken to the ground, but again another white player mysteriously got the ball and the Wasps continued to move their way up field. Then the whistle blew.

“Oh look, a throw-in,” said Josh. I watched with a detective’s curiosity as a white player threw the ball in from out of bounds and multiple players from both sides were launched into the air.

“Like cheerleading,” I whispered, and it was.

In the end, the home team heroes beat the adversarial visitors 30 to nil, a score I was happy to chant as the losers trudged their way off the field. I peed in a bush and reflected on the experience. In a way, I decided, rugby is like football, billiards, and cheerleading, but rugby is also like art: I can look at it, stare at it for hours, scratch my head and scream and stomp my feet, not understand a single thing that’s going on, but love it all the same. It was beautiful.


The Tower of the Five Orders

Time October 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I would tell you that Oxford means “door” in Latin, but it doesn’t, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you that Oxford has a lot of doors, most of which were built to keep out prying eyes. When I visited two years ago, for instance, I got a beautiful tour of Oxford’s facades; the inner workings of the University were closed to tourists. Yesterday, however, I got a golden ticket in the form of a student ID card. I’ve since used it to see behind the large stone walls my own college, about ten other colleges, and the sacred Bodleian library. As a student, very little at this hallowed University is closed to me. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. And then… oh wait. What’s this? A door without a card swipe? You mean to tell me I can’t get in there? That’s just… that’s just elitist!

It was a small metal door in the Bodleian library, an unassuming door, but nonetheless a door I wasn’t allowed behind. I had heard tales of dark passages and darker societies at Oxford, all mentioned in a whisper and with a sideways glance. My thought was that perhaps one of these societies took up residence behind the door. If that were the case, I wouldn’t want to miss seeing it. So when the librarian turned her head, I ducked in.

I found myself on a stone spiral staircase. To my right, the stairs disappeared down into the dark. To my left, they continued upwards towards light. I made a left, clutching tightly to the rusted handrail that ran along the wall. I was dizzy. Stained glass windows the size of dinner plates dotted the walls at odd intervals, and looking through them I could see the entire city of Oxford. I was dizzier. Still, I kept climbing. Up and up, up, up, and up! Then the stairs stopped, and I found myself in front of a wooden door.  It had a keyhole, so I bent down to look through it and took a blast of cold air to the eye. I backed away quickly, but had seen enough: I was at the top of the Tower of the Five Orders, one of the tallest buildings in Oxford.

After I had taken my fill of the view, I walked down the stairs past where I originally entered and continued down into the Tower’s depths. It ended in a locked oak door, and I could hear voices coming from the other side.

“A secret society,” I said.

“I just stepped in some gum,” said a voice from the other side. Needless to say, I had not found any secrets but merely a door leading outside. Turning back, I headed halfway up the Tower and went through the only door I had not yet tried. In front of me was a reception desk, and three librarians turned to look at me as I entered.

“Are you staff?” one of them asked.

“No,” I said.

“What were you doing back there?”

“I went through a door.”

“Well, don’t go through any more doors.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m just looking for the exit.” Hearing my American accent, the librarian softened.

“You can head that way with impunity,” she said, and I didn’t know which way she meant, and I didn’t know what impunity meant, but I ducked my head and pressed onwards.

It didn’t take long to find a dictionary in one of the world’s best libraries: impunity means “exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines.” I suggest that if you come to Oxford and want impunity, you get yourself a student ID card. And don’t go through any metal doors. Or do, but be sneakier than I was. The view is unbeatable.


Marching Along Through Wales, Lectures, and Pancakes!

Time March 21st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


I can’t believe it is halfway (more than halfway?) through March already. Time needs to slow down or something. On the bright side, this term is almost over and everything has been going really well. So well that despite the fact that I keep telling myself I need to blog (and write in my journal), something always comes up and neither gets done. A lot has happened since my last post. The “Adventure Weekend” in Wales, organized by the lovely London Butler office, was incredibly fun. While I didn’t participate in any of the more risky or adventurous activities like Abseiling or Mountain Biking, I very much enjoyed my two activities. My first choice had been kayaking, but that filled up pretty quickly and I was placed with the group who went to explore Caernarfon Castle instead. I was not disappointed. Our tour guide was funny and very knowledge about the history of the castle and Wales. I learned a lot about its construction. Apparently there’s an arch used in its design that has come to be called the Caernarfon Arch because it was imitated by many later castles. This is almost two weeks later and I still remember that (among other castle facts, but I don’t want to bore you.). Anyway the castle tour was in the morning and in the afternoon I went on a “Hill Walk”. I use the quotes because to me it seemed much more like a “Mountain Hike” which is very different by my own definitions. Expectations aside, the hike was really very nice, if a bit strenuous and there were beautiful views of mountains and the small town we were staying near. I’m going to try and upload some pictures, but I always seem to have trouble with that.  Regardless, Wales exceeded my expectations and I would love to spend more time there, especially at the seaside town of Llandudno (though somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen on this trip.) If you happen to be in Wales definitely visit the town, the pier and the water is beautiful and the most of the buildings were built in the Victorian Period so they’re all very pretty. Plus I had some really great fish and chips there!

Since getting back to Wales, I haven’t done much else except coursework. I haven’t even done laundry, though I’m just about out of clothes so that’ll probably happen tonight or tomorrow. My lectures and seminars have kept me very busy with reading, but the end is in sight! Next week is the last week of the teaching term which means that when all the students come back in May it will be all about revising (studying) for exams. I lucked out a bit because all the English courses are full year courses meaning that I don’t have to take exams. I do however have to write 4 essays that are due right when we get back from Easter break (aka April). Yikes! But I am excited about next week and the upcoming break because

  1. My aunt is visiting London (and consequently me) for 5 days next week
  2. One of my roommates from last semester at Ursinus is coming to London next weekend
  3. My family is visiting towards the middle of April for a little over a week

There was something else too . . . oh yeah, I’m going to ITALY! I’m so excited. The roommate who is visiting me is also traveling with me from London to Rome and then to Venice and Florence. I’ll only be in Italy for about a week, but it’ll be a lot of fun I’m sure (even if my bank account isn’t thrilled.) I don’t speak any Italian so that might be an issue, but I’m probably going to get a guidebook/phrasebook of some sort and then just go from there. At the very least it’ll be an experience, right?

Well I’ve covered the Wales and lectures part of my title, but I really should address the pancakes. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is known in the UK as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. The idea is that you use up all your eggs and fats before the fast of Lent. While a lot of people don’t fast over Lent anymore, they definitely still make pancakes. A friend from home invited me to make and eat pancakes with some friends she had met here and it was really a delicious and fun experience. I have come to realize that pancakes here are very different than in the States. They’re much thinner and more like crepes than American pancakes and while you can put all the same toppings on them, the more traditional topping is a little bit of lemon juice and some sugar. Though I had mine with strawberries and Nutella (I have eaten sooo much Nutella since coming here. I’m not really sure why. It’s available at home, but somehow I’ve just come to buy it more regularly here.) Long story short—I ate an obscene amount of pancakes and was very full and felt like I should be fasting over Lent.

Well that’s what I have been up to. I will try to write again before I leave for Italy. Hope you enjoy a few of my pictures from Wales!