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

An English Thanksgiving

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

Thanksgiving is consistently one of my favorite times of the year. It comes at a very stressful time during the semester, so it’s always so nice to go home for a week, be spoiled by my parents, and eat comfort food. I completely forgot that the English don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (understandably so) and come September I realized that for the first time in my life I would be celebrating the holiday away from my family.

Initially, I was really nervous – truthfully more than I expected to be. My parents even offered to fly me home for the long weekend because my tutorials on Monday/Tuesday allowed me to do so without missing anything important. However, I declined their kind offer because I felt that a part of being abroad is to adapt to new, potentially uncomfortable situations. Being away from my family on a day that I have never been without them definitely fell into this category. Read More »

Share

Double, double Cultural Boil and Trouble

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I was gonna write a different blog post today, likely something trite about how much time and have left in Argentina (answer: not that much eeek), and how I should be consistently conscientious (stuff I referenced a bit in THIS post) while I am here to get the most out of my abroad experience.  It would’ve been straightforward, mildly (psh, more like SUPER) interesting, and safe. 

But I don’t want to write about that today.  I’d rather write about what’s been actually perturbing me lately, much more than my efforts to be a well-behaved cultural traveler.  What’s been perturbing me lately has been culture shock.  Culture shock, aka the buzz-word of every study abroad program story ever, is defined by our friend the Webster Dictionary as, “the feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to.”  However, Noah Webster also never left the United States, and while he was a brilliant revolutionary thinker (and also certainly never contributed the phrase “Culture Shock” to the lexicon that now bears his name), he had no experience with this sensation first hand.  So, for his posthumous (RIP Noah) information, and for yours, I would like to explain what culture shock means, at least to me.  

First, let me start with the word, “Shock.”  In my case, it’s a misnomer.  It wasn’t as if one day, out of nowhere, all of my doubts and fears and petty annoyances about living in Argentina came crashing down like a lightning bolt from the heavens; and as I lay smote between the calles, the denizens of the Whitman Off-Campus Studies office cackled at my dismay between cries of “I told you so!”  No no, nothing like that.  It’s more of a Cultural Boil, really.  This feeling is subtle: tough to quantify, and can sometimes take a while to kick in; but by the end of it you’re in hot water and you’re not really sure how you got there (even if the signs were all there).  One day, it’s the feeling of inadequacy as I fumble through a foreign language while trying to do something as simple as tell the bus driver my destination.  The next day it’s stepping in the dog shit that laces the streets of downtown Buenos Aires.  Today, it was getting sandwiched between two smelly people on the bus while yet another politically-charged protest spilled into the streets of my route, hopelessly clogging traffic and thus causing my commute to turn to a standstill.  I was en route to change money on calle Florida so that I could pay for an excursion onto a glacier in Patagonia (my weekend destination, because my life here is still unreal), and despite having had a pretty good day up until that point (see the preceding parenthetical statement), I all of a sudden felt overwhelmed by everything.  I almost wept, just because it was all just so damn different and so damn obnoxious.  WHY did the people had to protest about every little thing in this country?!  All of these grassroots political parties want the same stuff, and it’s not like rioting in front of the Casa Rosada every freaking week is going to make the president see you in a better light.  And WHY was I crammed into this crowded bus to go get swindled by a sleazy merchant and then go wait in line so that I could pay something that I could do by credit card if I were at home!?  WHY don’t the people walk faster in this country, HOW should I be expected to get to class on time if the commute is always this chaotic, WHAT do I need to say so that the people here don’t look at my foreign self as though I were a beetle, and WHERE can I find a decent cup of coffee (most of the coffee here is rubbish)?!  WAAHHHH!!

ahem.  Pardon me.  Give me a second to collect my aching mind.

Alright, we’re good.

After my deluge of feels subsided, that’s when I realized I had been well and truly culturally boiled.  It wasn’t fun, but I think it was actually a super necessary part of my abroad experience, especially since I wasn’t really expecting it.  Despite a childhood in which I was unable to leave on a week-long backpacking trip without crying myself to sleep every night because I missed home (this was at age 14, mind you), I’ve recently become a person who embraces new experiences, thrives on change, and is comfortable with pursuing multiple different passions.  To me, studying abroad was a natural extension of my curiosity, and I couldn’t imagine how people could ever get fed up with the experience (especially someone who is lucky enough (as I am) to live in a house with a family and hot food and running water and internet).  I had read many of my friends’ blogs about culture shock (shoutout to my pal Rachael Barton’s post, especially), and while I had enjoyed learning of their insights, I never really took it much to heart.  “That sort of doubt and annoyance is for other, less adventurous people” quoth I, “and I’m never going to feel anything like that.  Besides, Argentina is too fun!”  And I was right, to an extent, but I also had no idea really what to expect.  

See, culture shock is different for everybody and for every situation.  I absolutely adore Argentina, pretty much every day here is fantastic, and because I was so happy here I assumed that culture shock (a presumed “sad thing”) would never catch me.  But cultural shock isn’t happy, nor is it sad.  It’s a realization, a state of mind that caught me in the middle of an everyday discomfort that made me realize how (despite my high level of comfort in this city) unfamiliar every damn thing was.  However, it is a necessary realization, and one that I am honestly grateful for, because so many people live their whole lives without realizing the unbelievably vast amount of culture that exists on this planet.  Therefore, today was a learning experience for me, and while I definitely wanted to Skype my family and hug my fat cat again today, I also took a step towards realizing the beauty that lies within the innumerable bits and pieces of culture that separate the Argentines from me.  

Gosh, it feels good to write this out.

Yes, I still hate how misogynistic the men here can be.  Yes, the commutes can absolutely suck.  Yes, I sometimes just miss having the familiar twang of English wash over me as compared to the constant rush of oft-indecipherable Castellano.  And yes, today these differences all got to me in a pretty emotive way.  But I wouldn’t trade these feelings for blissful happiness, or really anything else, because without these realizations, I would never have realized how many new things I am absorbing during my time here.  After all, sometimes it takes a shock to get the heart beating again.  

Share

Finding Pura Vida in LA

Time July 31st, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

After five months particpating in the IFSA-Butler study abroad Costa Rica program,  and hundreds and hundreds of new faces and places, I’m home. I feel very different, but yet unchanged at the same time. Maybe it is because I changed little by little and never really noticed a big leap. The first chance I get to show off my spanish, I am on it like bread on butter. At a family party with all my best friend’s family surrounding me, I let it all flow out and I could not even believe it myself as I spoke a smooth string of vowels, consonants, syllables, verbs, nouns, phrases…WOW! I impressed myself.

Since it has been a couple of weeks since my re-entry, do you wonder, whats LA like? Well I’ve had tons of small spanish encounters but I am certainly lacking in the in-depth, meaningful or between friends-playful spanish that became so familiar to me. I often struggled at first with my English, either I would respond to someone in Spanish or mix up words from both languages. It became sort of a joke that I would be taking ESL courses alongside some of my Los Angeles buddies! Good ol’ East Los Angeles, I always regarded it as sort of its own Spanish-speaking community but at the same time, it does not compare to Costa Rica in the least.
South Gate...
Photobucket
It is the little things that I miss the most, like sharing some sweet bread with my host Mom, watching soccer with my host Dad or running around the house with my host brother. Just the other day my mom here bought me a “Cars” balloon for my birthday and the first thought that came to mind was, Matias would love to have that. Every store I walk into, I can’t help but see shirts, cups, plates, toys…etc. from the movie “Cars,” and I always say the same thing, “I would get that for Matias.” Unfortunately, the realization hit me, I may never see him again. I try not to think that way though because I’m almost certain I will be back to Costa Rica.
So as I go about my days seeing everything for the first time again, being amazed by the small things even. I am amazed at the smoothness of the roads, the five-lane roads, the huge gas-guzzlers that zoom by me on the streets and the price of food, movies, and fun altogether! I try and make everyday meaningful here, because it is, whether it be going to the beach, driving around hollywood or going to scenic views of L.A. just to soak it all up. I realize that people are pretty much alike anywhere you go, just in different sizes, shapes, shades and languages. The only tools you need to have to travel the world are basically an open mind and an adventurous spirit! Just as I say to all of Costa Rica, until we meet again, PURA VIDA!
Photobucket
Photobucket

Share