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

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 »


The First Week

Time January 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Hey guys! My name is Kate Leahy and I’m a sophomore Speech-Language Pathology Major studying at the University of Tulsa. I’m from St. Louis, MO and excited to spend my semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway! Follow my journey as I explore this beautiful city, some of the country, and hopefully a few other adventures around Europe.

One week in Galway, Ireland includes departure, a city tour, trying to find campus, good food, live music, trying Guinness for the first time(!!!), getting lost (at least) four times, exploring down the coast, and making new friends! Read More »


A Break from Reality: A Photo Essay

Time April 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I was required to create a photo essay, a clear narrative told through photographs, for my Photographic Cultures course and I figured I would share it with you all. The photo essay had to contain no more than ten photographs and had to have a piece of writing (500 words) to accompany the images. There were four topics to pick from for the photo essay but here is the assignment directions for the topic in which I chose:

Choose a suburb or a street of Sydney to observe. Produce a photo essay that tells a story about the rhythms of the urban space.

This was the final product:


A Break from Reality

The American Students’ Perspective from Bondi to Bronte: A Photo Essay
Laura Rhodes


Bondi 1

The journey started at Bondi Beach with the waves crashing up against the rocks and the strong smell of sea salt in the air. The destination was Bronte Beach, but there certainly was no rush to get there. This was going to be a day of relaxation and serenity−a break from the real world, an escape from all worries.

Bondi 2

The short dirt path with greenery was a nice change from the paved sidewalk. We did not know where the path led−all we knew was we wanted to go and there was nothing holding us back.

On the way to Bronte 3

We reached the top of the hill and felt on top of the world. At that moment in time, nothing could bring us down. The wind in our hair, we were invincible.

On the way to Bronte 4

We didn’t think that the view could get any better, but then we turned around. A family on the hill with their little dog was silhouetted by the intense summer sun. We were caught in awe and rudely could not stop staring. It was like we were in another world. I do not think that I have ever seen the sun shine so bright, especially not in The States. It was one of those moments that I will never forget. The sun lit up the sky and all it touched.

On the way to Bronte 5

After we experienced such a sight, it felt like we were flying, soaring through the sky. The seagulls mimicked our emotions. They took off from the nearby rocks and headed towards Bondi Beach’s main shores. They were flying backwards, but we were headed nowhere but forwards.

On the way to Bronte 6

She watched the seagulls fly by, winding blowing through her hair, sun blaring on her back, warming her already sun-kissed skin. Not a worry in the world was going through her mind. Even though the schoolwork was building up and chemistry had to be dealt with later that night, later was not now. This moment was hers and she wasn’t going to let any stressful matters get of the way of enjoying the beautiful site in front of her.

On the way to Bronte 7

We walked a little ways and then once again stopped to enjoy the views and take some photographs to document our journey. We noticed a courageous surfer out on the rocks. What was he thinking? Although I didn’t know from experience, the rocks looked slippery and dangerous. I gave him credit for going out there.

On the way to Bronte 8

After admiring the brave surfer, we trekked on singing some popular tunes. We were in our own little worlds, doing our own thing−loving what life had offered us on such a breathtaking day.

Bronte Beach 9

We had almost reached Bronte Beach when we saw this adorable couple enjoying the scenery, just as much as we were. Conversation and laughter were flowing and it was clear that they enjoyed each others’ company.

Bronte Beach

It was a sad moment when we had reached our destination of Bronte Beach. It meant that our adventure was over and it was time to catch the bus back to the uni. When we boarded the bus, we all sat quietly and reflected on our afternoon. It was a good one to say the least.


Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata

Time February 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My last adventure with the chicas (minus 1) was to take a relatively short journey to South America’s east coast for some sun and sand.

We’d been researching (sort of) this trip since November, and everyone told us that we should go to a smaller beach town, like Pinomar to avoid the summer hordes. Of course, Latin American life intervened in our plans to plan, and the actual structuring of this adventure took place mostly two days before it happened. Typical. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we had some major trouble booking rooms and transportation. First the usual mess with phones, saldo (pre-paid minutes), and sluggish internet connections. Then, when we finally got the info we needed, we couldn’t believe how pricey the hostels were! Fate and dwindling bank accounts pushed us to Mar del Plata. Although it had been the furthest thing from our intentions, it ended up being a good thing.

The bus to Mardel was about 4 hours, with nice views. Getting back to the campo after hectic BA life (more details on that later) was a real breath of fresh air.

Our first adventurous act was when we decided not to take a taxi to the hostel like most tourists would. No way. We’re traveling pros. We knew by then how and whom to ask. So we took our chances with the bus, even though we’d never set foot in the city before and had no idea where the buses would take us. It was an epic success—we aren’t just awkward outsiders, we’re media Argentinas! The #112 bus dropped us off within a block of our hostel.

Our hostel was the cutest place, by the way. It felt more like a hotel than any other hostel I’ve been to. The staff loved us, and it was the first time I really felt like I was on vacation. And with two girls I adore—who could ask for me?

Mardel had a Mendoza-like vibe because it was quiet and there were convenience stores scattered everywhere… but of course with that classic beach town feel. We liked it right away.

The section of the beach we hung out on was in a bay, which was a new experience for me. The water was so calm with so few waves, you could lie on your back and just float, watching the clouds go by. I was so relaxed I felt drunk on it all. We lived like children: we ate and slept. Rinse, repeat. It was a welcome break from the “real” world.

I loved being able to strut around in a bikini and a t-shirt knowing that my friends at home (and even other friends abroad) were bundled up in layers at that moment.

I managed to sunburn one half off my butt. Moral: ALWAYS USE MORE SUNSCREEN.

Get yourself a good scarf: in a pinch, you can use it as a sarong, shirt, sun protector, emergency stuff sack, and a beach blanket.

We spent one night climbing on the rocks on the far side of the beach. We sat in shared silence and contemplated infinity, the lights of the city dancing on the water like fireflies. Nearby, a couple fishermen sat doing the same. It felt so right for all of our adventures, challenges, emotional swings, and frustration to end in a moment of such deep peace.

All the same, it was hard not to think how close we were to the end of this moment in our lives.

I wanted to feel the sand under my toes, so I headed up the beach alone. The chicas caught up with me later, and I said,

“Oh look. A message in the sand. We had better read it before the waves come and wash it away…”

Some things are more beautiful because they’re impermanent.

As usual, I left everyone else behind and went back to BA early to take care of some other business. (I had originally intended to visit family in Montevideo but it turned out to be more time-consuming and expensive than I had anticipated. Next time!) Settled back into the city…and started bracing myself for some difficult goodbyes.

Previous posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile

The Chicas Take Chile

Time February 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I.            Chile at a Glance

II.            Santiago

III.            Valpo again

IV.            Reñaca

V.            Concon

VI.            Life After Chile

VII.           Vocabulario

VIII.        Previous Posts


I.                   Chile at a glance


My friends had been planning to visit Chile in November all semester. As much as I wanted to be with them, I resisted for a while because I was afraid of missing out on other travel opportunities. I was dying to travel north to Salta and Jujuy. Unfortunately, I never had the chance. Weather and conflicting travel plans meant that I’d probably die of heatstroke and be doing it alone, so I decided to shelve that trip for another day. I finally decided that Chile was probably worth revisiting, especially because I hadn’t had a chance to do everything I wanted to do the last time. It turned out to be a very, very good choice.


It felt really nice to go back. I’m glad that I was able to spend enough time there that I understand a bit of the culture and slang and I can laugh at the jokes that Chileans and Argentines make about each other.


After spending a decent amount of time in Chile, I feel like I can say a few things with confidence:


-Chileans are terrible at giving directions. Just terrible.

-Chile has cuter cafes than Argentina…but less outdoor seating.

-It has better bread than Argentina, but fewer varieties of alfajores.

-The buses are easier to use

-Clothing is cheaper and more “Americanized”

-It’s a pretty neat place.


Someday in the future, I’d like to visit Atacama and Patagonia as well. But for now, I had some fun adventures where I did go.


II.                Santiago



First stop was the capital.


I think if I had to live in South America, I’d like to live in Santiago. It’s surprisingly clean for being so large, and it’s got nice parks. It’s got a little of everything, in fact.


A week earlier, one of my friends had a piojo mishap (it’s much more common in this part of the world), so we decided that we needed to visit the (in)famous bar, La Piojera. They’re best known for a drink called the terremoto, which is wine + pineapple ice cream. (We also had grenadine in ours.) Worth trying. Even if you don’t want a drink, La Piojera is worth visiting just for the atmosphere. It’s dark and crowded inside, bodies pushing up against you from all sides, and the furniture is vaguely reminiscent of a medieval pub. But the cool thing about it was that you were equally likely to see, a group of preppy girls, a pair of novios, kids who were barely legal to drink, and someone’s grandma all in this one place.

img_3561   img_3563

On the way back to our hostel after exploring the city, my friends and I caught the after-work rush hour. Unlike Mendoza, there is no siesta in the middle of the day, so the work day ended much sooner than we were used to. The result was being jammed like sardines onto the subway—and I was very nearly smashed in the door! Luckily, we all made it with all of our limbs attached. Call it part of the adventure.


Valpo Again


Returning to Valpo was another kind of homecoming. It was the coolest thing to be able to show my friends around and explain how things worked—I really had learned a thing or two on my last visit! Even better, I loved that my chicas, those crazy girls I love, also loved the city I loved.


We attempted and failed to go to La Sebastiana—the only one of Pablo Neruda’s houses that I didn’t visit. We got distracted by the city and by each other. It was a fair tradeoff, I think.


One night, we indulged in a luxurious seafood dinner (as opposed to the cheaper version) in Valpo. Quote of the night:

“What’s in this cake!?”




IV.             Reñaca

In Reñaca, we went sand boarding. I think it was 2500 Chilean pesos ($5 USD) an hour to rent boards, but that could be completely wrong. It was cheap—I remember that much. And it’s no small wonder: there’s no “board rental establishment,” of course. There’s a lady with a truck and boards in the back. The dunes themselves are plenty big—we were higher than the ocean fog, so we look like we’re in the clouds in all of our pictures. The bottom of the biggest dune was rimmed with old tires—you know, for safety. (Right…)

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One thing you should know: the sand is really, really hot going up. Don’t be tempted to go up barefoot.


If you’re expecting snowboarding but with sand, don’t even bother. We had a blast because we were being goofy and laughing at each other, and for us it was very worth it. If you want real adventure sports, go hang-gliding or something else.


After that, we bused back down the coast to Viña for lunch and the beach.


When we asked people for directions for good places to eat, they directed us to the piers along the coast. …Silly. What restaurants we saw were way too expensive (there were tablecloths and the waiters wore ties, man). There were also churro stands (dipped in chocolate, full of dulce, or both), but that didn’t do it for us either. We ended up walking about 8 blocks inland, where we found the absolute best empanada stand.


img_3705 img_3707


The dough was delicious—fried or baked were available. The fillings included everything from corn to mariscos to beef and back. One of mine was full of machas, clams.




Then we did beach things.


img_3711 img_3716   img_3723   img_3738   img_3740


When we arrived on the beach, we met up with my US roommate and some other friends from the program that had come with us. Our program friends were getting to know Chile’s alcohol selection. (We did our own thing, being amused at them from afar.) That was all fine and funny until
1) The drunk folk got sunburned
2) Someone’s backpack was stolen


It was obvious we were Americans and that they were drunk, so it was an easy target for one Lucky Chilean who made off with $200 USD, an American passport, a photocopy of the same passport, an Argentine visa, and our friend’s ego.


Everything worked out in the end, but I think it never hurts to have a few WARNINGS AND REMINDERS on that front:


-Never carry important documents in your backpack

-Don’t leave your important documents unattended (or in the care of drunk people)

-Keep your passport and the copy of your passport separate

-If you do any of those things and something bad happens as a result…don’t panic

-Contact the program director


V.                Concon

The next day, we went back up the coast to Concon beach to search out a horseback riding excursion. We found the stalls but no horses. Apparently it happens every day of the week…except the day we chose to go. Doh. I feel like it was a Monday or a Tuesday. Try to check beforehand with the hostel, and good luck.


We still had a nice time soaking up the sun and talking about our lives. And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave for our next adventure…


VI.             Life After Chile


Chile was more than just a beautiful place to visit or another adventure for us. It was an anchoring point in our friendship in a very Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way. For a weekend, Valparaiso was ours.


On the bus to Reñaca, with a world of color and chaos whizzing past us, we made a promise to ourselves to return someday to this beautiful part of the world. Together. We decided what we want to do with our lives, that we are unstoppable, that we really do mean that much to each other.


I won’t even try to explain, because that moment belongs to us, but it was a big deal.


Back in Mendoza, finals came and went like the blink of an eye. Then it was time for me to pack my bags for Buenos Aires…and for the chicas to go our separate ways. Lorri and Ale would be meeting me in BA for a few days, but Lisa was off to Chilean Patagonia for a few weeks of backpacking with her sister. Before we split up, there was one last thing we had to do. There’s a bridge in Parque San Martin, and we closed a love lock around the rail. One key we kept, and the other we tossed into the lake. The lock will remain in Mendoza, one of many tiny symbols of our life there that we left behind, until we return together to reopen it. To end with a bang, we had a party on Lisa’s balcony with the last of our pisco sour from Chile. It ended with us sobbing, of course. Beso’d Lisa goodbye and her tears were on my face. And, because we’re the cheeks, our crying turned to laughter as we made our way down the street back to my house, arms locked.


Separate, but connected.




For all the Chile pictures (because I took approximately TOO MANY of almost anything that held still long enough), look here and here.


  1. Vocabulario


Botilleria – convencience store

Macha – clam

Cabalgatas – horseback riding


  1. VIII.       Previous Posts


1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 


16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 

19. Student Life in Mendoza

20. Trabajo Voluntario

21. San Rafael


Coming Soon:

The Return to BA

Mar del Plata

Goals Revisited

Culture Shock and Life After Study Abroad


“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Embarrassing…only half this post went up and I’m not sure why. So here it is again, but different because of course…I didn’t save the original!

Last weekend I took my first international weekend trip since I’ve been to Ireland! I traveled quite a bit before arriving in Galway but it was my first trip to Hungary (the country where my dad’s side of the family immigrated from), and the first time where coming back to Ireland felt like coming home.

Unfortunately, a few nights before I left my wallet was stolen at a bar in Galway. In all honesty it was probably more my carelessness that enabled someone to take it than anything else since I’m the only one from my program to experience any kind of problems here.

Luckily my immigration card wasn’t in my wallet but I did lose some money, my NUIG student ID, and most unfortunately, my debit card. On a positive note, I have some amazing friends who helped me out and loaned me money while I cancelled my card and ran out of the cash I had at home. Since I opted not to open an Irish bank account and my bank is a smaller state bank, I had to wait for them to send my card to my home address in the US and have my mom forward me my card here, where it got stuck in customs for a few days because it needed some kind of special form to be filled out. Then there’s no post on Saturdays and Sundays and this past Monday was a bank holiday so again the post service wasn’t open. I finally received my card though, and all is well. But a little word of advice: maybe don’t bring your card with you when you go out and also have some kind of contingency plan with your bank so that there’s a faster way for you to regain access to your money!

Luckily, this little hiccup did not stop me from having an amazing time in Budapest! It was really one of the best trips of my life and I am already trying to find a way to return.

Alleyway in Budapest. St. Stephen’s Basilica is in the background covered by the smog/haze that seemed to coat the city.

View of the Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament building from the bridge leading to Margaret Island.

Hungarian lace and linen at the little market we ran into on the streets of Budapest.

Me standing on the Chain Bridge that leads over the Danube to the Budapest Castle, it was absolutely beautiful!

Stall at the market where the delicious Transylvanian Chimney Cakes were being roasted over a coal burning fire. These were so good and unique tasting that we went back the next day for more!

And of course we had fun at our hostel when they organized an open mic night and some of the guys sang part of a song…over and over again! [youtube][/youtube]

Since I didn’t have much money, I had a nice excuse to have a weekend exploring Galway, something I should have done long ago. I went to the fresh market Galway has on Saturdays downtown, and on Sunday walked to Salthill, a suburb right on the beach outside of Galway.

We got some delicious hot and fresh donuts from one of the stalls at the fresh market! Seriously it was so fresh and hot that it got squished from being in the bag for only a minute or so.

Fresh carrots and onions from one of the vegetable stands at the market.

One of downtown Galway’s main roads on an early Sunday afternoon.

Galway Bay, on the walk to Salthill

View of Salthill from the diving platform…where we saw several people swimming in the freezing cold water, some of them not even wearing wet suits!

The little explorations of Galway came at just the right time, though. After having so much fun in Budapest I was feeling the excitement of Ireland starting to wind down after being here for 2 months (especially since school was starting to get a little more serious with midterms and essays and presentations due and that was what I had to look forward to on my return from Hungary), I was just feeling a little tired of Galway. But exploring the city and the surrounding areas got me excited about Ireland again. Sometimes you just need to change up your routine a little to shake off any bad feelings.


Manuel Antonio!

Time August 6th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend I got to go to Manuel Antonio, one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing while I’m here in Costa Rica. We had a short week of classes this week, due to a Thursday holiday. I have no Friday classes, and I left with some friends really early on Thursday to head down to Manuel Antonio. We wanted to limit how much money we spent, so we found a hostel near the beach that only cost $10 per night. We spent Thursday afternoon on the beach, and Friday walking through the national park and swimming at a park beach. It was really beautiful, and I took some pictures so that I could post them here:


This is one of the rooms that we stayed in. This is also my friend Julian, who is part wolf.

While I recognize that this picture does not show much of the beach, I felt the need to include it, mostly out of respect for the dog. He remained sitting in exactly that position for a large portion of the afternoon. I think he might have been a lifeguard.

Friday we spent a lot of the day hiking through the national park. I took a bunch of really poor pictures of the trail and decided not to include them, although the trail involved substantial amounts of mud and multiple crossings of small bodies of water. This was what we found at the end of the it.

Naturally, I climbed the waterfall. And took a picture of Shannon. Notice, if you will, her left hand, specifically it’s lack of any sort of laceration. This will be important later.

This is the beach that we found in the park. It was beautiful, and very resort-ish. The water was clear and the waves were not as big as the beach outside the park. It was very relaxing swimming there.

This is what happens when you don’t respect the “smaller waves” at the beach. They sneak up on you and get all your stuff wet. This is the aftermath of that situation. The biggest casualty was Julian’s camera, which no longer functions. Also, Karina’s phone seems to have drowned. My camera survived. Obviously. On that note, I would like to give a brief shout out to the Lowepro camera case, which, to my surprise, kept my camera dry. Also to Carmen, who dove into the water to throw the bag with my camera to safety before the wave could drag it into the ocean.

This is a sloth, or “oso perezoso” in Spanish. For those of you who do not speak Spanish, that translates to “lazy bear”. This one was near the beach and I waited a long time for it to turn its head towards the camera for this picture. A long time.

One of my friends who went on this trip is Shannon, and she is an artist. We were talking about whittling on the way down to the park and Shannon decided to give it a go. She is making a turtle and it is not done yet. I will keep you updated on the turtle progress.

The bottom hand in this picture is Shannon’s and represents a twenty second lapse in concentration while whittling. It looked a bit ugly at first but a friendly man at the beach gave us Neosporin and a bandage. It did not deter her from turtle carving. The top hand is mine, and represents a chronic lack of forethought, which in this case led to the storage of a razor in the bottom pocket of my backpack. I would advise my fellow shavers not to do this. Or to look inside backpack pockets before reaching in there. My finger looks goofy in this picture but it’s fine. The bulge is a cotton ball, not something more sinister.


Despite the wounds, the weekend was a lot of fun and the park was beautiful. If you are thinking of going I would definitely recommend it. We went the cheap route and had a great time, so I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to have fun there. The hostel had cheap rooms and breakfasts, and backpackers are generally pretty cool people. That being said, there seemed to be some cool options that were a bit more expensive as well. Also, if you don’t have a car, be prepared to take a lot of buses. I took five today on my way back to the house. Overall a fun weekend, and I still have Sunday to get my homework done.




Time March 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

16:44- Café Tolón, Palermo Alto, CABA, Buenos Aires, Argnentina

This is going to be a recap of all of my adventures from the last couple of weeks, so I’m gonna try to organize it by adventure so I can keep my thoughts a little organized too. I think I’m going to start writing a little bit every other day as fun stuff happens, just because I feel like nobody really wants to read the giant posts (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t…) jajaja Así que, empiezo:

Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia, Uruguay:

The last place I left off was right before our IFSA-funded trip across the Rio de la Plata to a little town in Uruguay called Colonia.  We hadn’t even been in the country two weeks before we were hopping the border.  As if it wasn’t cool enough that I’m living in one of the biggest/coolest cities in the world.  But this trip was the perfect counterbalance to the slightly overwhelming transition from small-town, Arkansas (where I’m from/spent most of my break) to the hustle and bustle of the big city.  Colonia is a slow-paced small town on the Rio de la Plata that caters to tourism and a safe, relaxed lifestyle.  The hotel room I shared with two other IFSA girls was possibly the best of all of ours, not to say they weren’t all amazing.  But we had two personal balconies overlooking the street and the bar next door, a beautifully tiled bathroom complete with bedét, and three beds.  LeeAnn (another girl from Tulane) and I played rock-paper-scissors for who got to sleep alone in the queen-sized bed, and the other two each had a twin-sized bed.  I won! :) Not to say we spent that much time actually sleeping in them… The majority of the trip was planned out by IFSA with a city tour, a beach trip, lots of delicious free meals, and, the highlight, the trip to Mario’s ‘plantation.’ Mario is the director of IFSA here (I think?  I’m not exactly sure of his job title, but I know he’s in charge of big stuff. jaja)

But we had all been hearing about this infamous trip to Mario’s house in Uruguay since we got to Argentina.  I had heard a little about it from my host mom, and between a couple friends, we had a picture of its magnificence all painted out in our heads.  And, as it turns out, The Casa de los Limoneros, as it’s called, did very well at living up to our expectations.  The place was designed by Mario’s partner who is an architect, and it doubles as a hostel. It was absolutely amazing; I don’t think I can do it justice by describing it, so I’m definitely attaching pictures.  But we had lunch there (more like a feast) of a traditional asado, with chorizo (sausage) and delectable steaks and pork and I’m not even sure of some of the things we ate.  But it was all absolutely delicious.  Then after lunch, once we were all full to the brim, we changed into our swimsuits to hang out by the pool.  jajaj so that probably doesn’t give you the best mental picuture, but it was still basically paradise, at least for me because I wasn’t there to impress any of my American IFSA friends. :)  Just as we were starting to feel a little less full, Mario and his friends/(possibly family?) brought out the tortas (desserts). Dios Mio. I thought the meal was amazing, but the desserts just reaffirmed the excellence of the whole day.  jaja ok maybe a little dramatic, but still, they were delicious: one, a bread pudding that was more flan-like was absolutely to die for.  I told Mario’s partner that in New Orleans we make bread pudding with rum, and lots of it; he thought it was a grand idea! :) also, there was dulce de leche out the wazoo, tons of fresh fruit, and a torta de apples.  Have I mentioned yet that dulce de leche is everywhere on everything?  We were joking that it probably wouldn’t be bad on a steak… maybe pushing it, but why not? jajaja

the pool! Colonia, Uruguay

Punta del Este, Uruguay:

Our tip in Colonia was from Wednesday to Friday funded by IFSA, but a lot of us decided to take a bus to another city past Montevideo, about 4 hours away, called Punta del Este (literally Point of the East) for the rest of the weekend.  After three days in Colonia, I was ready to see a little more action;  to put it in perspective as to the crowds the two cities were catering to, Colonia has only one boliche (dance club) that isn’t consistently open, whereas Punta del Este has tons to choose from that are full of Argentinos and other young travelers.  So, we enjoyed our relaxing in Colonia but were definitely ready to see more people our age.

My friend Brittany and I took a later bus form Colonia and ended up getting to Punta del Este around 11pm, to be welcomed with a parade!  I’m not exactly sure what the holiday/event was, aside from the arrival of the americanas (jajaja chiste!), but it was so awesome to see so soon after missing Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Even so, it was more of how I picture Carnaval in Brazil, with women wearing pasted on jewelry-clothes and covered in glitter as the dance down the street.  Luckily nobody ever sleeps and places never close anywhere in the Cono del Sur (obviously an exaggeration, but, maybe almost true), so we went to dinner at midnight and watched the parade from a table outside at a little fast-food cafe.  The one downside about Punta del Este was that most of the prices were more equivalent to what you would pay in the states, like most of the restaurants would be around $15USD for dinner, which seemed outrageous when we had gotten used to almost always less than $10USD for anything.  But we were able to find a delicious little empanada place down the street from our hostel that had empanadas for only $25uruguayos, which translates to a little over a dollar a pop.  Aside from the mini-carnaval, we also were there during a surf competition, which was pretty cool.  We spent most of Saturday on the beach, but it was so full of people, it was kind of hard to tell what was going on with the competition.  But the better side of the competition being in town was the people it brought.  jaja There was a group of surfers staying in our hostel too, so we obviously made friends with them.  We all went out around 2am (because that’s when things are just getting started) and danced at a few different boliches.  I love to dance, so that obviously was a lot of fun,  but the best part, I think, was after we left and we all went to the beach to walk around and put our toes in the water.  It was just surreal: am I really “studying” abroad right now?  But now, after struggling with registering for classes that start this week, I’m a little bit closer to the studying part.


Mini-adventures, here and there:

Taking a step back, I forgot to mention the trip to a milonga (a tango dance club) that we had the night before leaving for Colonia.  Another IFSA-funded dinner/event, I went with the group for my concentration in human rights that I’m doing here through IFSA.  We had pizza and got to take a class on the basics of tango!  It was so cool to learn a little bit about it, and absolutely mesmerizing to watch the two instructors dance it.  It’s just such a sexy and serious dance, but at the same time they made it look effortless and smooth.  I hope to find somewhere nearby to take some dance classes in tango, salsa, merengue, etc.  I took a couple of classes when I was in Costa Rica a few years ago, and it’s one of the best ways to meet people and, obviously, it’s so fun!

Random things I didn’t expect: ~there are tons of McDonald’s here!  And some of them are 24hrs, some deliver, some have a whole separate room for the McCafe, because they’re all about cafés here (there are literally like 15 on every block) ~they spend a lot of money on clothes.  The shopping is awesome (I’ve seen Armani suits, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Lacoste, Nike, Swarovski jewelry stores, Zara’s everywhere, and tons of little boutiques), but a lot of the stuff costs a lot more than what I would normally pay in the states.  Even so, there’s so much cute stuff!  Also, millions of shoe stores, and the average pair of shoes is over $50USD (and that’s right now when everything is on sale: changing from summer to fall/winter) ~At the mall near my house, there’s a TGIFriday’s…odd? ~There are a lot of Starbucks and the prices are around the same. ~The streets are nicer here than in New Orleans. ~People are beautiful.  I’m 5’11” and blonde, so I obviously stand out, but less than I expected, and kind of for different reasons.  The majority of the women are very thin, and they’re obsessed with Pilates, which I love too. jaja But there are a lot of taller people here too, and some blondes, but most aren’t naturally blonde, so I guess I still stand out.  Men dress well, too, so it’s always nice in the mornings on my way to IFSA class to see all of the modelesque men in business casual attire.  I don’t know what it is here, maybe something in the bottled bubbly water, but they somehow have figured out the perfect mix of european features and culture to make an absolutely beautiful and fascinating city.  ~semi-strange thing: they like never drink the tap water, even though it’s perfectly clean and drinkable.  Water in restaurants is always bottled (a lot of times in glass) and you have to ask for it to not be bubbly.  I haven’t decided yet if I like the bubbly water, but it’s kind of fun because it’s more exciting than normal water.

On another random topic, this past Wednesday: #1 I saw a lady carrying a ferret on the street… normal? #2: I saw my first paro, or strike, which was a pretty big group of teachers and supporters, I believe, who were marching because they don’t get paid enough in the schools.  They actually stopped traffic on one of the larger streets, and Brittany and I were eating lunch in a cafe watching it pass.  #3: I was walking home around 7:30/8:00 pm and, though it’s completely normal for here, it still took me by surprise that most of the restaurants I passed were just opening and getting ready for the dinner crowd, but I don’t think I saw one person out eating dinner.  Dinner time is 9pm or later, and they stick to it!  jajaja  Actually I had dinner last night (a Saturday) at an Indian restaurant around 11:30/12:00, and when we left around 1:00am, we weren’t the last people there.  I don’t know if I like it better, or if it’s just different, but it is kind of nice to have so much more of the day to do stuff without having to worry about being home for dinner at 7.  #4: The lights went out in my whole apartment building, and several around us.  It was right around dinner time (so 9pm-ish), and my host mom was preparing the food and then all the lights went out.  We lit candles and it wasn’t a problem, but the strange part was that it was only a few buildings.  The ones across from us still had light.  My host mom was explaining to me how the electricity is supplied to the buildings on three different circuits, I think, but it was still just kind of confusing.  jajaja But she called the electric company after about an hour, and literally less than a minute after she got of the phone the lights were back on; she said that the company had no idea the lights had gone out.  jajaja

This past Thursday was full of awesome, too.  After my Castellano class at IFSA from 10-12, I walked around a bit and then finally stopped in this little bar/tavern/restaurant to have lunch.  For the equivalent of about $12USD, I had a beer, bife de chorizo (which basically means steak), salad, and fruit salad for dessert.  But this wasn’t any normal steak; it was like the best thing I’ve ever tasted.  Pre-Argentina I heard from basically everyone that the steak will be awesome because this is the beef capital of the world; and I didn’t doubt them, but my dad can make a mean steak.  But this was just in a class of it’s own.  There was this magical sauce on it and it was perfectly cooked and basically it was just awesome.  But then to make the day better, I met up with a friend to go to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Madres who always march around 3:30 there for their disappeared children.  But Thursday was also a national holiday, Women’s Day (what a great idea, no?!), so there was a lot more going on in the plaza having to do with women’s rights and the topic of abortion, which is illegal here.  It was really cool to see how proactive they are about things like this.  There were tons of news stations there and people just filming the event, too.  It was just unreal to be there and semi be a part of it.  But then to make the day even better, my friend and I walked to a palacio de something where you can go to the roof (or I’m assuming it’s ok, because we did…) and see the whole city.  It was breathtaking.  Also, we both realized how much of the city we haven’t seen.  It’s so huge!!! Dios mio.  Then, on our way home, we stopped in a really cute leather shoe store that was having a super sale, but sadly there wasn’t anything that exciting in my size because the place had already been picked over.  The last really cool thing to make my Thursday was the conversation I had at dinner with my host mom.  I told her that I had gone to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Madres, and she surprised me with her own account of the genocide.  She was in med school at UBA when the disappearances started.  She said she got pregnant with her first son and had to drop out of school, which she said more than likely saved both of their lives.  She had lots of friends that disappeared during that time.  It’s so scary to hear of that first-hand.  It was women just like her, that were in the University that were the ones who were getting abducted.  The government didn’t have to have reason; they would just take people if there was even a slight possibility that you were against the government, and being in the University was excuse enough.  People her son’s age are the ones who were taken when they were babies from their moms and adopted, often by government families.

Women's Day in Plaza de Mayo

Concentration: Human Rights

I had a meeting with my advisor for my concentration in human rights this past Friday at a cute little café in Palermo, and we discussed what internship I want to do for the semester.  We talked about the structure of a few, and instead of choosing what I originally thought I wanted to do working with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo or a social/political rights group, Luti (my advisor) made me fall in love with two different organizations, which are a bit of a 360 turn from the other two.  The other two are a lot more informal, but I think their form of work will be a lot more fulfilling for me and for what I’m studying.  My first choice is a group of Bolivian immigrants that work for immigration rights, I believe, and it’s largely composed of people of indigenous heritage or from the more rural areas of South America.  I’m really excited for this because I’m really interested in the indigenous populations of South America, and being in the super-europeanized city, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see or participate in this sort of activity.  My second choice is a co-op that employs youth in la Boca, which is a super-touristy barrio, but also home to a very poor population.  The co-op employs kids/teens in making alfajoritos (mini-alfajores, the delicious treats I talked about in my video!) that they sell to tourists in the area.  This internship reminds me a lot of the type of work that I did through Manna Project International in Ecuador, where the actual work you’re doing doesn’t matter as much as the outcome and the overall point of it.  This seems like a great organization made to help these kids get off the streets and give them an opportunity for employment and, ultimately, help make their futures better.

Patio Gastronómico, Mar. 10, Avenida de Mayo:


Yesterday, a friend and I went to the Patio Gastronomia down next to the Plaza de Mayo.  It was a really cool event with tons of little tent/booths set up for a wide variety of countries with food and information about their countries.  There was so much food!  I ate a little fried something with chicken in it from the Brazil booth, a hotdog/sausage from the Germany booth, and some amazing cake thing from a booth for a country that I don’t think I know of in English (or at least I couldn’t figure out the translation from Spanish).  There were people dancing and they gave out awards (not sure exactly what for) but Perú, Japan, and Germany all won something and the people who went up to accept the awards were dressed in traditional clothing, which was so pretty!


A Walk of Coogee

Time October 31st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A little walking tour of the town where I live. Only 2 more weeks!



Time February 22nd, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend I headed to small city of Marina (El Alamein), located an hour’s drive outside Alexandria with some friends.

Marina is a coastal resort city that caters to the super wealthy and elite in Egypt…most houses cost (far) over a million Egyptian pounds and are typically occupied for a few months.  Access to Marina is prohibited to the public and one must be a resident or a guest of a resident in order to enter the city. According to our host, Marina is composed of some 20 islands all connected by bridges. Apparently the Bin Laden family owns one of the islands in Marina. In order to purchase a house on said island you must submit a resume and have interviews with one of the Bin Laden’s. It’s apparently a very serious process.

Dr. El Komi’s good friend (our host), Dr. Zain owns a chalet close to the ocean and was kind enough to rent it to 9 of us for a small price. He was amazingly kind throughout the entire trip.

When I arrived, I was struck by how how deserted it was. There was hardly anyone around besides us…the reason being that this time is considered “off season” and “too cold”. However, by our American standards of weather, we could not be happier with +70 degree weather and ocean breeze.

We spent our days lazing on the beach, swimming in the frigid waters, and visiting the near by mall/hotel, Porto Marina, fully equipped with an in-built Venetian-styled canal (with gondolas, of course) and an especially decadent Chili’s restaurant. The last night we went to the beach and lit a small fire all while gazing at the million stars above. We became ancients guessing constellations and tracing our own pictures across the black horizon.

The breathtaking beauty of the Mediterranean and Marina is only enhanced by the desolate and barren land surrounding the city. Gated communities are an amazing thing; this phenomenon seems to have no borders and is a common global characteristic among the rich and elite. One must contemplate the desire to physically segregate living-space from “others” (i.e. a high wall and a guarded gate) based on class differences. It is profound how much a sense of physical distance between one and another can create a sense of security and hetero-distinctiveness.

To me, class lines in Egypt are very distinct and recognized openly. In our Arabic classes we have learned over 12 titles for people based upon what class they appear to belong. For example, we are to address a man with glabiyya (long traditional gown) in one way, while a man wearing western clothes or a suit is to be addressed in another way…and yet another way for a person that has completed the Hajj. The distinctions continue based on the person’s occupation, age, gender etc etc.

Note that I am not suggesting that somehow Egypt’s class distinctions are completely unique or that such things to do not exist in the U.S…we have our own distinct way of denoting class and we inherit social attitudes towards people of different social standings.

The segregated experience in Marina conflicts with another experience I had when Egypt played a soccer match against Algeria (about one month ago). In this instance, sport tied in with nationalism created a sight of unlike anything I had seen before in my life. When Egypt beat Algeria the streets of Cairo were literally on fire. People from all walks of life celebrated the night away in absolute bliss. I ran through the streets in my tweed suit (this celebration was right after I attended the Egyptian Opera) with my doorman (and now friend) Taamir.

The crowd of celebrators grew thusly: first a group of people would start waving flags and chanting certain slogans, then more strangers would come (with percussion instruments like tablas) and continue the chant. Typically after about 20 to 30 people have gathered several people would take aerosol cans and lighters to make home-made flame throwers. At this point traffic would cease as the celebration spilled onto the main streets. In the mean time groups of other celebrators would come and join thus growing the crowd at an exponential rate. Then all of us (several hundred by this point) would run on of the bridges over the Nile in order to join the nucleus of Cairo’s celebration. Literally thousands of people had descended upon one city square, all of them in absolute bliss.

As I observed random people hugging each other (some wearing thobes and others with western clothes etc.), it seemed as though nationalism outweighed many of the class differences that night. However, this nationalism was spurred on by competition against “the other” (in this case Algeria). The tenuous rivalry between Algeria and Egypt goes far beyond sport. The attitudes of Egyptians towards Algerians as a people is highlighted with negative comments referring to their “overly-French” pride and brutish tendencies towards violence. Furthermore, Egyptian  nationalism is directly tied in with Islam! There is no real conflict between “church and state” as there is in the U.S.; Islam and the state can coexist quite nicely (but this subject can be reserved for another day).

I will upload some photos later.


Tropical Tamarindo Tales

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

At the beginning of April this year, a huge religious festival took place, Semana Santa or Holy Week. Its full of parades, masses, pastries and most of all travelling. Everything closes their doors for the last few days of the week and people are encouraged to make their ways to the famous beaches of Costa Rica. People travel from all over the world to relax, surf and go out at the beaches in Tamarindo. I went with a group of three others from IFSA-Butler Costa Rica study abroad program and we headed out Friday afternoon for the six hour trip to Guanacaste. The trip was not nearly as bad as it sounds, the six hours go by in a flash when everything you see on the road is new and exotic.

We had reservations at a charming little hostel named La Botella de Leche, five minute walk from the beach. There were tables and hammocks that opened up into a mini courtyard, an internet station with two computers, a shared kitchen for cooking and a t.v. with cable and tons of seating around it.
As soon as we arrived and dropped all of our stuff of, it was just after sunset, so we walked to the beach to feel the sand and water between our toes. The water had to be the absolutely perfect temperature, I could just imagine what the next day would be like. We headed back towards the hostel and stopped at the Super Compro to pick up something for dinner. We ended up deciding on spaghetti and managed to buy it and breakfast necesities for all of us for just about 5 bucks each. What a deal! The next morning we woke up around 9 and fixed breakfast before heading out to the beach. When we got to the beach, the sun was blazing hot and its almost as if you could feel your skin frying! We were out at the beach from about 11 to 2 and then made our way back for lunch and to relax. As soon as I stepped in for a shower, I realized that I was head to toe burnt. It was a fiery red and I was scared for how it would feel the next day.
When I woke up Sunday I relaxed for the first half of the day and decided not to go out to the beach until around 4 when the sun was setting. That turned out to be the perfect time of the day to go for beach soccer. I saw a group of ticos playing some pick up soccer on the beach with sticks for goals and I went over and invited myself into the game. I ended up playing an hour and a half and had so much fun. They played me the ball and looked for me just about everytime. Every other time I saw any of those guys playing soccer on the beach or selling beach chairs and umbrellas, I had some friends to talk to!

Who would have thought that just after about three days of heading to the beach around 3 or 4, that all that burn of mine, would bronze out into a beautifully even tan? I know that I was sure surprised! So I had been really excited about going to Tamarindo because its a surf town and there are tons of places to rent boards and I was dying to try and learn to surf. It took me about four days to muster up the courage to rent a board and go out there, do or die! I needed the first two days to relax and soak up the sun, then another two to scope out the waves and the surf scene. Wednesday rolled around and I rented a board with one of my IFSA-Butler Study in Costa Rica program friends, only 10 bucks the whole day, split between the two of us. Once I get excited about something like surfing, Im completely captivated and engulfed in it. That first day I spent about 4 hours in the water, 3 from when that board first hit the water and then another after lunch! I tried and tried and tried until I finally started to get it at the end of the 3rd hour, so after lunch, I was ready to get back on that board and stay on! The last hour was amazing and it actually gave me hope for picking up surfing as a hobby in the future. Thursday and Friday I rented boards from two different places, looking for the best price and the complete deal. After a few hours on the board and no rash guard, you learn the hard way what those cool looking, fitted shirts are for.

All in all, I had an amazing time. If it weren’t for the 6 hour bus ride, I would be out there every weekend or every other weekend. Beautiful beach, amazing surf, soccer on the beach and hot, blazing, frying sun- what more could I ask for?