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

My First Day Back and the Water is Fine

Time March 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When I was a floaty-wing-wearing, seaweed-fearing toddler swimming in the lake for the first time, I learned a universal truth: Water may feel cold as you dip your toes in, but it can begin to feel warm if you tread water for long enough. In fact, the water can become so warm that the air actually starts to feel cold by comparison and you never want to get out.

Now that I’m a young adult who needs no floaties (but still fears seaweed), I am finding that this principle of relativity and adaptation applies to more than natatorial temperature.

Take, for instance, study abroad. Last August I waded into Chile and now, after a winter break in the cold Minnesotan air, I’m diving right back in. This time, there is no shock nor breath to be caught. Binge-watching late-night U.S. television to pretend I’m back home has lost its appeal. The water is fine.

Like waves lapping on the shore, familiar moments wash over me one by one.

The peck on the cheek from my host mother. The fist bump from my host brother. The bark of an airport official telling us to get a move-on. The rolling hills beyond the highway billboards. The rolled R’s on the radio. The beep of the automatic toll transponder. The crunch of pebbles in the driveway. The triangular seating arrangement at the kitchen table. The first mouthful of charquicán. The five-minute walk to Plaza Ñuñoa. The animalista slogans spray-painted on bank facades. The embrace of a friend who exchanged audio messages with you all vacation. The screech of two chairs being pulled up to a curbside table. The bite of pisco sour. The thrill of having a three-hour debate about university politics in a language you just learned. The clumsy calculation of pesos owed. The two o’clock walk home. The fleeting chill of loneliness. The warmth of a bed that is yours. The host brother’s snores. The surreality of the reality of it all.

(Click on photo below to view slideshow.)


The Ultimate Macro-organism

Time March 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hola a todos.  I finally have found the time to sit down and write a blog post, and it’s amazing how overwhelmingly incredible this place is.  I’ve been pretty much going nonstop since my arrival, and between hanging out with my new family, orientation with IFSA-Butler, getting lost in the city, and checking out the boliche (club) scene, I’ve scarcely had time to sleep (which, apparently, is very normal for Porteños (locals).  No one sleeps here, and let me tell you that after coming off of a month of sedentary action, the struggle is REAL).  However, despite my limited z’s, I cannot even begin to describe how much I love this place already.  I’ve said this before, but I’d like to reiterate for the sake of this post: city life is pretty new to me.  Each day, I marvel at how many things there are to discover; new cafes, off-beat streets, hip stores, and bustling squares.  I could live here for 5 lifetimes and still never be able to take it all in.

Now, as some of you may know, I’m the son of two scientists and a pretty big science nerd myself.  So, it may not come as a surprise to many of you that when I finally took the time to sit down and brainstorm  and a process all of the thoughts that I’ve had since arriving, I came to the conclusion that Buenos Aires makes me think of multicellular life.  This city is a gargantuan, massively complicated macro-organism.

It has a circulatory system: My house is in near the city center, in a barrio called Almagro, but I might as well call in Corazón as it provides the vibrant pulse of energy that is carried throughout the city.  Las avenidas (Corrientes, Santa Fe, Córdoba) are the vessels; they carry the lifeblood that stems the beat of the barrio.  Upon these streets, cars rub shoulders with pedestrians who pay little heed to traffic signs, and bicyclists fill up all the remaining space.  Everywhere I look I see people running, walking, or haphazardly zooming around on motorcycles.  The buses run constantly, and the ground churns with the rumble of subways.  The energy of this organism cannot be curtailed into a slow-moving body.

It has a nervous system.  My house has a terraced roof with a porch that overlooks a few blocks, and from my perch on this rooftop island I can see 24 communication towers scattered across various tall buildings.  But cellular communication (consisting of companies called Movilstar, Personal, and Claro, to name a few) comprises only a few of the nerve endings.There are about 100 Wi-Fi networks (all password protected, of course) at any given point within the city, and if you’re out and about and looking for a conduit into cyberspace, you merely need to drop into a cafe, order an empanada, and jump onto the complimentary wifi.  However, the fastest and largest cluster of nerves is the people.  Many locals know this city (or at least their respective barrio) like they know fútbol (that is to say, that know a lot about it), and if you are lost or confused the friendly folks are very willing to step in to help.  The castellano (Argentinian type of Spanish) flows thick and fast and constantly; the streets are constantly buzzing with greetings, salutations, and interjections, as well as casual conversation.

It has a skeleton.  Buildings tall and short spring up haphazardly around me like bones in an elephant graveyard, yet the individual differences between each building does not stop at the sizes.  I look around and see stark white walls jostling for position next to dirty cinderblock; trees sprout up everywhere they possibly can, and a contiguous color scheme between buildings is a heretical idea.  Yet it is the very discontinuity of the individual bones that makes this skeleton so complete.  Viewed separately, sure, one may see chaos, but when I take a step back and view the skeleton as a whole, the incongruous pieces blend together into something complete.

Sorry for the text-heavy post, y’all, but hopefully my words can help you conjure up an image.  Next post, I promise, will be loaded with pretty pictures taken by yours truly.  Now, stay awesome, and thanks so much for reading.




Go Big or Go Home

Time January 6th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Not that going home is really an option at this point. This London trip certainly feels like I’m trying to fulfill that cliché. It is a trip of many daunting firsts. The first time I have left the US. The first time I have flown. The first time I have lived in a city. All of these things really hit me this morning after getting off the plane in London. I was exhausted. I tried to sleep on the plane, but that was pretty much impossible due to how uncomfortable I was combined with the novelty of flying. As a result, getting off the plane was pretty stressful. Nothing really went wrong. I made it through immigration pretty easily, found my checked suitcase, and found the Butler team without any issues. But the tiredness I felt combined with the fact that I couldn’t get my phone card to work left me feeling pretty frustrated. This was only compounded by my decision to go buy my mobile. I had no idea what I was doing and ended up just purchasing whatever phone the guy offered me. I only spent around 20 pounds including the top-up but I felt rushed and probably could have gotten a plan better suited to my needs if I hadn’t been so tired and in a hurry to call my parents. Oh well. After my nap I felt much better and I am pretty satisfied with my purchase after all.

Butler took us all out for dinner tonight at a place called Porter’s English Restaurant. They served us mashed potatoes and a chicken and mushroom pie. It was pretty good, though I may have been the only person at my table to finish the whole thing. For dessert they had Spotted Dick which despite its name was pretty tasty.  After dinner I came back to the hotel to see if I could do some reading and maybe find some free wireless. Unfortunately the wireless was a fail and it seems like I’ll have to either go out and find some somewhere or just wait until I move in on Wednesday to check my email (and post this blog).

Well that’s it for now. I am still very tired and missing my family and boyfriend a lot. However I’m really excited to move into my dorm in two days and to start classes next week (I think). Orientation starts bright and early tomorrow at 9am (That’s 4am back home!) so I’m definitely taking it easy and probably going to try and get to bed early.


(Written January 3rd, Posted the 5th)