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

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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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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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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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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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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Thoughts after Bariloche

Time May 26th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

The other day, I got back from my last major trip of my study abroad program, San Carlos de Bariloche. It came at an interesting moment in my time here. Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little down, unable to put my finger on why. I haven’t felt homesick and everything was going fine. I guess I was just having a lull where everyday was feeling more or less the same, I had a little more work than I wanted and while I wasn’t homesick, things were happening at home and at my home university that I was missing out on. Other study abroad and university friends were preparing for summer break and to go home to family and I still had over two months a head of me. Another IFSA student reminded me of the “S” or “W” curve (depending on who you talk to) that describes the highs and lows during a semester abroad (and by extension, life in general!). I was halfway through my program and felt like I could predict everything that was left, unsure how much highs were even left for me. I shook off my lull to prepare for probably my final adventure outside of Mendoza, Bariloche.

I was already a little disappointed that I came to Argentina and couldn’t see Patagonia (since it’s been getting colder, more and more of the trails and excursions are closed so I didn’t think it would make sense paying to fly down there). *Important point: If you are coming in US Fall semester, the months get warmer so it makes sense to wait for nicer weather or even after your program to travel down there…if you come in US Spring Semester, try your best to go earlier in the semester when it’s still warm and you’re not running out of breaks!* Still wanting to see more of Argentina’s beautiful Patagonia landscape, a friend with IFSA in Buenos Aires and I decided to meet in Bariloche, a beautiful city just North of Patagonia with an abundance of lakes, mountains, forests, excursions, tours and ways to get to know a very different part of Argentina than our host cities. My disappointment on missing Patagonia definitely ended once I arrived (but of course I would like to see it someday!).

Having little experience booking and planning trips on our own, we figured out transportation, lodging and excursion plans individually ahead of time, collecting advice from host families, IFSA staff and other students. We traveled from our respective cities alone (this was new to me so I was a little nervous, but it turned out fine and I managed to solve the little issues I encountered along the way!). From there, we were on our own and since it’s low season, we were often traveling completely alone in forests, up mountains and across landscapes we were all but familiar with and with few signs to tell you you’re going the right way. We would even go hours without seeing a single other human, with unreliable cellphone service and a map that was quite lacking in detail. Many people we met were surprised these two “chicitas” of only 20 and 21 years of age were traveling in Argentina on our own, not even fluent in the language! That’s when I realized the breadth of what I was doing. Before college, I never traveled anywhere alone. Just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine traveling internationally alone. At the start of the program, I was nervous about walking around my host city alone. Somehow, now I was traveling across the country alone exploring new natural landscapes with only my friend at my side. And we were doing fine! I felt and I feel such a strong sense of joy that I’ve been able to grow in this way so quickly. It has been such a smooth transition in getting more comfortable and pushing my limits that had I not taken the time to reflect, I would not have noticed.. at least for a while. Read More »

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Getting involved in your study abroad community!

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

I talked about cultural events in Mendoza in my last post but I am by far not the most cinematic or artsy person. I do really enjoy community service however. Coming from a background of spending my free time doing community service at my university, I was excited to find that I didn’t even need to ask what was offered here; IFSA already has relationships with certain organizations here in Mendoza and while you can look for community service on your own, you can also try out the opportunities they offer. From IFSA, we were invited to help out in an education facility for adults with special needs, reading books aloud in English to help extend the auditory book collection for students who are blind at one of the universities, a knitting club of sweet Mendocinas who create absolutely incredible blankets and clothes for children in nearby hospitals, teaching English class at a local institute and helping out in the warehouse and at other events of a food donation NGO here. It was a difficult decision, but I ultimately ended up choosing to work with the NGO, named El Banco de Alimentos and later joined the knitting group too. Despite translating to “The Food Bank,” El Banco de Alimentos is a highly sophisticated and intricately-designed organization. There are 16 of them across Argentina, all opening as a response to the 2001 economic crisis which worsened the already struggling food bank system. It was begun by a group of entrepreneurs using their business assets to help feed the hungry and poor. It has now expanded greatly, receiving donations from many sectors of society, working with grocery stores to lessen food waste, involving the community, feeding those most vulnerable to under- and malnutrition and educating other organization on food storage, handling and distribution. Read More »

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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!

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The Art of Doing Nothing

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

People from the US generally live full lives. They are always busy with work, chores, or various other activities. Even things that are supposed to be fun take on a quality of value – how much of my time is this worth? What do I get out of it?

To Argentinians none of that matters. The point of life is not to complete x number of things before you die, but to enjoy yourself in all possible moments and to not rush through life. Why would running to meet someone for coffee be any more worthwhile than strolling slowly and taking in your surrounding? The two of you will meet either way.

Argentinians enjoy staying in coffee shops for hours, whether chatting or simply starting off at nothing. A term I learned from my host mom is hacer fiaca, do nothing intellectual and simply lay about. Life may move forward, you will catch up eventually.

This is all possible because the people of Argentina jointly decided it was okay. If I decided to show up late for class or sit in a cafe for hours in the US, people would be angry with me. Even though I know I can’t continue these habits back home, it has taught me not to worry about filling every second with something worthwhile and to not rush through life.

— Lily

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La magia del sur

Time May 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

My ten-day adventure hiking through the Patagonia mountains in the extreme south of Chile and Argentina was without a doubt the most physically-challenging, but also the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. We started with the W trail of Torres del Paine national park outside of Puerto Natales, Chile with three nights and four days of hiking through every type of terrain imaginable and camping in freezing temperatures. Due to poor planning, we ended up embarking on our trip at the end of high season, and going into the low season, which starts on May 1st. In the end of April and beginning of May begins the transition into the winter months in the Patagonia and, for this season, the park has much stricter rules and regulations for hikers because of the added danger (and liability) of the more volatile weather. Although this made things significantly more difficult from a planning perspective, it was totally worth it to be able to experience the trail during the fall season with the colors of the changing leaves. The combination of the white snowy peaks of the mountains against the black rock of their bases, the translucent blue of glacial ice in the distance and the blazing oranges and reds of the trees left me feeling dizzy and drunk on the incomprehensible beauty around me.

I went into the trip with the intention of writing in the tent every night so that I could capture every memory, every feeling at it’s very freshest point of expression. But after we set up camp and made dinner at the end of each day, I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to zip up my sleeping bag, much less express my thoughts in a coherent and appealing manner. Conversations amongst ourselves and the other backpackers that we met in the communal cooking areas of the campsites were an amusing jumble of obvious statements and delirious, winding stories tumbling from exhaustion-clouded brains. Luckily, the basic introductions usually carried us over until we could get food in our stomachs, which helped immensely with the amount of brain power available to donate to conversation. Most of the people we met on the trail were around our age, many of them also students, and within our interactions existed a kind of raw, childish excitement, like we were all just a bunch of overgrown kids running around splashing in creeks and looking for adventure. The adrenaline high we rode through the trees formed bonds of shared incredulity, bonds I won’t soon forget. Read More »

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No Books for Lily at the Book Fair

Time May 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

It might be a weird thing to say, but as a writing student, I didn’t look at many books during the Feria de Libros. La Feria is a giant festival for books, with stands for booksellers, publishers, anyone who wants to sell something tangentially related to books or reading. There are signings and talks from authors. Though most fairs of this kind are only open to business insiders, the second week of the Buenos Aires fair is open to the public and the porteño people flock to it, even if they’re not generally readers. You could spend all day at the Feria, maybe even two or three. I had only one hour.

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Lessons outside the classroom!

Time May 1st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

My last post discussed my experience studying in Argentine universities, but without a doubt, I am learning plenty outside of class!

For Semana Santa (Easter Weekend) last week, 5 of the other IFSA students and I took a rather uncommon trip. Rather than going somewhere more normal for study abroad long weekends like Chile, Iguazu Falls, Cordoba or Buenos Aires, we went to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) for a long weekend in the middle of the desert and far from civilization. When we planned the trip, we were excited for Ischigualasto Provincial Park with its unique sites and history. Little did we know going there meant driving far into the desert where tiny towns were few and far between. Our hospedaje ended up being in a town of only about 20 residents! What a huge contrast from our first days in Buenos Aires! This actually speaks to the incredible diversity you will see in Argentina; though I was in Mendoza that morning, a few hours on a bus brought me to towns with much less people, a much drier climate and a completely different way of life with different traditions, housing and beliefs. Driving the same distance or a little further in other directions could bring me to colder and wetter climates, more urbanized cities, more natural surroundings, a whole different array of plant and wildlife and pretty different versions of Argentine cultural staples. Read More »

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The Argentine Classroom

Time April 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Despite classes starting relatively late in my time here, I have undoubtedly learned plenty both in and outside the classroom. Class registration was last Monday and I finally decided on my schedule; the mandatory IFSA Spanish class, Advanced Spanish and Argentine Culture, another IFSA class, Regional Development (which I love), History of International Relations and Introduction to Sociology (something I’ve always wanted to take in the US) with an environmental focus. Together, I feel like these classes are not only providing me an exciting interdisciplinary semester, but are introducing me to new ideas about Argentina, human rights, international relations, interpersonal relations, a less Westernized view of world history and basically a new perspective on a lot of things I have learned or read about before. Without a doubt, Argentines have a very different worldview (which is pretty varied in itself) than what I have confronted in the US as well as in my home university. With a focus on international studies in college, I find these differences fascinating and it’s really opened the door to perspectives from a country often considered between “developed” and “developing.” In fact one of my History of International Relations classes ended up focusing on the United States’ involvement in global affairs and it was NOTHING like I ever hear in the US. While I agreed with a lot of it, there was also a lot I didn’t agree with or that made me question what I had been thinking my entire life. This led to some fruitful conversation between my Argentine and American classmates (in both Spanish and a little English they were practicing) after class since the Argentine students sought out our opinion. It’s moments like that that really excite me about being able to learn in a culture so different from my own. It’s also perspectives that I am thankful to hear as I continue my studies in international relations where intercultural dialogue and understanding are imperative to efficacy.

Since a lot of you may be wondering what it’s like going to class in Argentine universities, I think I finally have enough experience to share some of my observations. If you choose the Mendoza program, you can choose classes between Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, a giant, beautiful , public renowned college campus located in El Parque General San Martin and Universidad de Congreso, a much smaller private college located in the center of the city. In Argentina, public universities are usually more acclaimed and tuition is free. Most of the IFSA students here take classes in both and there are definitely classes to fit everyone’s interests and needs here. There are even dancing and music classes offered by a smaller offshoot of Universidad de Congreso. I recommend looking at their websites to get a genera idea of what classes are offered. Read More »

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A Guide to My Favorite Places in BA

Time April 26th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Now that I’ve had more time to explore Buenos Aires and my neighborhood of Palermo, I’ve found quite a few fun spots. Some of them are parks, others are music spots, and a lot of them are bookstores. Here is a run down of a few of my favorite locals.

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Searching for Nature

Time April 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

One of the things I miss most about home is nature. There are plenty of wonderful parks here in Buenos Aires. They’re open with lots of places to lay down and relax or trails to bike and walk on. It’s easy to get to them and they are enjoyable, but they are city parks. The nature in them was designed and landscaped to create a perfect urban resting place. While they work great for chatting with friends or doing homework, they don’t fulfill my need to be outside enjoying nature.

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Finally hit by “Everyday Life”

Time April 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Coming from a university where all students study abroad, perhaps I am not as surprised with some of the “unexpected” phases of living in another country most students go through. I was well aware that the initial few weeks of excitement eventually give way to a more patterned, less-exciting daily life. While it usually takes students about 2-3 weeks to get to this point, I think mine came in my 4th week when one day I woke up knowing exactly my weekly schedule (organized around my classes),  knowing how to get everywhere I needed to get and knowing fairly well what I needed to prepare for money-wise, food-wise and timing-wise. Of course, having more structure in my life is what I was craving the initial weeks of confusion and new experiences. I was often tired from running around the city all day, every day, getting used to speaking Spanish all the time, and adjusting to the lack of order in Argentina compared to my home of New England. It’s nice to finally be more organized and used to things and honestly, I’m perfectly fine with life slowing down a bit, at least for now. Looking back just a month ago, I am actually quite surprised how nervous I was about walking around the new city alone. Yesterday I passed a place I had passed once when I was lost and realized I was only actually 7 minutes from my house, yet I ended up taking a really long windy way home. I thought finding my way around would take maybe two months…it probably ended up taking a week and a half until I was pretty comfortable and confident getting around without a map or anyone to help. That is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments so far, given my tendency to just rely on my friends’ sense of direction everywhere I’ve gone over the years. Then again, Mendoza is organized in a very easily understood way(basically a grid in the center of town) but still it’s a start for me! Read More »

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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.

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A week’s worth of “firsts”

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | Comments Off on A week’s worth of “firsts” by

As expected with study abroad, I knew I was going to be put into a lot of new situations and try a lot of new things. In fact, it began that way; flying here less than a month ago was my first time flying to another country without a single person I know with me. There’s been plenty of “firsts” since I arrived, but the last week and half was particularly packed with new experiences.

For our first weekend in Mendoza, IFSA took us on a weekend-long excursion to Cacheuta, a high altitude area known for its thermal springs. Prior to choosing Mendoza as my study abroad location, I was a bit nervous about this field trip in particular. When I was reading about the Mendoza program, I remember it said it was great for people who enjoy the outdoors more so than a big city. That is definitely true for me, but I like the outdoors for hiking, taking walks and taking photos; I had never tried or even considered anything as adventurous as rafting and horseback riding. Still, I went ahead and chose it.

Heading into the trip, I was still a bit nervous. First on the schedule was a hike through the mountains (something I love!) which ironically ended up being my least successful experience of the trip. While I normally hike much longer and can handle it pretty well, I was so out of shape and perhaps the high altitude was getting to me, that I had to stop and never got to the top. Still, I did get to sit in possibly one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever been – alone on a mountain with a lovely view, with only the chirps of birds to break the silence and the flitting of butterflies to distract me from an endless view of the mountains.  This lasted a lovely 40 or so minutes before some other students joined me on the way down.

After a delicious lunch, we headed to a rafting site. Since I can’t swim, I was a bit nervous but the life jackets and surprising shallowness of the river calmed any worries I had. Unfortunately, I did not want to risk getting my camera wet to take photos, but it was a great experience and was surprisingly easy to paddle and make our way down the river. Again, the views on both side of the river were lovely, further convincing me that I made the right choice by selecting a location where I could see much different landscapes than I can at home. I had a great time and would definitely do it again, given the chance.

The next day, it was time for horseback riding. This too was nothing like anything I had ever done. Lucky for me, they gave me the calmest, cutest and probably the slowest horse, named “Nino.” To my surprise, we were not riding the horses in a field or anything normal like that – we were riding them into the mountains of course!  While I did get a little scared the few times the horse started running, I enjoyed every minute! There is something majestic about riding a horse through mountains, streams and tiny waterfalls while never failing to see a beautiful view before, beside and behind you. Despite being so high up and putting my trust into another living being as it trotted, tripped a few times and distractedly walked off the path to eat once in a while, my first time riding a horse went really well and will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of my time in Argentina!

Aside from being a good program for those who love nature, Mendoza itself is world famous for its wine. Meanwhile, I actually had not even tried wine before coming here and just generally don’t drink. Nonetheless, this did not stop me for joining some of the other students in a tourist favorite around here – biking through the bodegas accompanied by wine tastings. For some reason, I thought the biking would only take place in the orchards…but actually it was bodega to bodega. Perhaps it’s somewhat normal, but biking through the streets, across streets and at one time along a highway was scary!!!! However, as with the other “firsts” I had just endured and enjoyed in the past week, I did not want to let fear of something new stop me. It was great being back on a bike after so long and I learned a lot not only about the wine industry and its history in Mendoza, but also olive and olive oil production. This was accompanied by tasting the best olive oil and olives I’ve ever had and some okay-wine (maybe it has to grow on me…). Overall, this had to be one of my favorite days in Argentina so far.

My most recent “first” was attending my first class at an Argentine university. As expected, it was pretty intimidating knowing all the other students could speak and understand Castellano fluently and without issue. Trying to focus is difficult enough in 4-hour classes in English, so it was pretty difficult in a 4-hour class in Argentina which started at 6pm at night (thanks to Siesta). I left feeling a little unsure how I would be able to manage Argentine classes, but some encouragement from a professor and some of my fellow students made me feel a little better. I am still in the process of choosing classes so hopefully by the next time I write, I will have a better idea of what exactly I am taking on this semester!

Overall, while these weeks have been fun and exciting, I have also proven to myself that it was worth not letting my doubts and worries get in the way. If I had worried too much about rafting, horseback riding, going to one of the wine capitals of the world, riding a bike through town or thought I could never handle an Argentine university class, I would have missed out on all these great experiences I’ve already had (and will hopefully have as I continue with classes). In fact, I may not have even chosen Mendoza at all over worries that now seem so small and unwarranted. I have no regrets and have already made some incredible memories in these few short weeks. I hope I will keep this in mind as I am undoubtedly faced with numerous more new situations over the next few months.

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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 »

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A Long Overdue Reflection

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

I have now been in Argentina for 11 days and it’s been quite a ride! The other program students who I did not even know 2 weeks ago, already feel like good friends, the city of Mendoza’s roads are slowly taking shape in my brain and I feel quite comfortable with my host family and their daily routine.

So I arrived in Buenos Aires with many other IFSA students yet only one seemed to be going to Mendoza with me. Turns out, the others were so hard to find because we have only 9 students in the group this year, along with 1 full year student! For me, 10 students has been great since we’ve all gotten pretty close and we will likely get a lot more personal attention and support this semester than if we were a group of 50 or more students. For some reason, I left my college feeling I have a pretty strong command of the language since I have taken Spanish for 8 years, but turns out, I still have much more to learn than just eroding my American accent! At first, I was intimidated knowing the other students were much more fluent than me and had actually taken serious, complex Spanish classes back in the US. I was constantly pausing and tripping over words which was frustrating (it’s way easier to conjugate on paper than in your head in real time!) . Sure we’re all in the same Spanish class since we’re a small group, but being expected to know more and surrounded by students who can already speak well will undoubtedly force me to catch up and learn quickly.

We spent our first days in Buenos Aires largely doing tours, adjusting to the Argentine accent (it’s not as hard to understand as people led me to believe thankfully), and trying typical Argentine dishes (Argentina’s beef definitely lives up to its fame!). Those few days flew by and by the end, I had seen La Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest highway in the world), Recoleta Cemetary (a huge cemetery where some of the most influential Argentines have been buried the past 2 centuries), El Ataneo (a theater converted to a bookstore), La Casa Rosada (the White House for Argentina) and so much more that I had only heard or read about before! It was truly an incredible and exciting few days.

Still, I think we were all pretty eager (and a bit nervous) to meet our host families. After a short plane ride, we arrived in the lovely city of Mendoza where we will primarily be living the next few months. I was lucky enough to get a fantastic host mom and brother, in a well-located part of town and even get to enjoy the cuteness that comes with having a pet guinea in the house. Mendoza itself is a great city, full of fantastic views, cute cafes, friendly people, walkable streets, a great park and nice plazas for relaxing or spending time with friends. The Andes mountains are not only amazing to see, but provide plenty of opportunity for hiking which I really love! Though Mendoza may not be the capital or even the second largest city, it has quite a lot of unique features. It happens to be the home to the Aconcagua (the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas), be the site where the largest dinosaur remains in the world were found and be the birthplace of one of Argentina’s most beloved comic writers, Quino (who created the popular series “Mafalda”). The timing of our program couldn’t be better as we were able to watch the parades and Fiesta de la Vendimia which occurs after the grape harvest (a very important crop in this region of the country). Watching the parades helped form my understanding of not only Argentine culture and the parts they take pride in, but also specifically Mendocino culture which is rich and complex itself. At the Fiesta, I watched some of the most beautiful dancing I’ve ever seen and could not help but feel incredibly thankful for the experience. Honestly, I wish more people would enroll in this program to get to see and learn about all of this!

While I am really enjoying myself, I have realized that this program appears to be perfect for my needs. With little experience with following maps or public transportation, Mendoza has allowed me to slowly practice and get better while the city is safe enough and organized enough that I don’t have to be too worried when I do get lost. There is also such little English spoken and such few other students, we are all forced to continually use Spanish and thus I’d say we have all already seen a fair amount of improvement! Overall, those and many other aspects of Mendoza give me confidence that is may be the ideal place for me to challenge myself, try new things and continually strive to improve many aspects of my life.

Our time since our arrival in Mendoza has been dedicated to orientations, the first of our Spanish classes, getting to the know the city and acclimating to a very different way of life. Classes will begin next week and hopefully that will give me more of the routine I have been craving, though following schedules is not always easy in Argentine society. I know it’s early on, but right now, I am entirely content with my choice to come to Mendoza and am excited to see what the next few months have in store!

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Who I am and how I got here!

Time February 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

With less than three days remaining before study abroad, it seems time to introduce myself! My name is Amanda, I am 20 years old and I am currently in my third year at Soka University of America (SUA). While my university is situated in Southern California, my home is actually about 3,000 miles away in Massachusetts, and I have been bouncing back and forth across the country since the summer of 2014. Sure, being away from home and family the majority of the past few years may have prepared me for study abroad to an extent, but somehow, this semester away in particular feels like it could be very, very different. Read More »

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Warm Climate Conundrum

Time February 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

“Should I bring three dresses?”

“What about another pair of sandals?”

“Will I really need a sweater?”

These are the questions I ask myself as I pack to live in a warm climate for the first time in my life. I’m Lily Frenette, a girl from Minnesota, who goes to school in New York. While both places have their warm seasons, most of the time it’s cold, bordering on Arctic. But this semester I’ll be living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying with the Argentine Universities Program. While I’m very excited to be studying Spanish in a Spanish speaking country, I have no idea what I’ll wear on a regular basis in a place that averages between 76 and 53 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.

I end up keeping the dresses and a sweater, but leave out the sandals. I have a pair of flats and hiking sandals, as well as hiking boots and my trusty pair of converse high tops – that should get me through the semester. I have other packing issues though. I’m unsure of how much of my hiking gear and clothes I need to bring. Hiking is a passion of mine, but I currently have no idea of my schedule and so don’t know how much time I’ll have to go explore. I’m also unsure if I’m bringing too many notebooks and cameras. At school I concentrate in writing and photography, which means I always have four different notebooks and three cameras on me at all times. Even though I know I would regret it if I leave one at home, I still worry that I won’t end up using them.

My flight leaves in two days. I believe I’m as ready as I can be, but with a new place there’s no way to be sure. It’s almost guaranteed that once I get settled into Buenos Aires, I’ll realize I left something important behind. As awful as that feeling is, I just have to accept it. Once I’m in Argentina, I can’t have my parent mail me items like they used to bring me my gym clothes when I accidentally left them at home. Plus, there’s an upside to this. If I find I’ve left something in the US, maybe I’ll realize it’s not necessary at all.

When I write next, I’ll be in Argentina – wish me luck!

— Lily Frenette

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Final Thoughts

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

I’m finally home!! After my program ended, I was fortunate enough to travel around Argentina with my parents for ten days before catching a flight back to the States (I’ll insert some pictures of our adventures below) and since then have been having a relaxing holiday week with family and friends.

To wrap up this blog series, I wanted to share three takeaways on my study abroad experience now that I have been home.

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