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

Returning in time for the time crunch

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

I’ll be brief. Possibly. Don’t hold me to it.

I’m back from Edinburgh! Seeing my parents again after so long was lovely, as was having the stress of living and stuff taken off my shoulders for a bit. Admittedly I’m a rubbish cook and spend most of my time going to food courts instead of cooking, but still. Nice to have home-cooked food again, at least. Travel, as always, is both fun and exhausting. There’s something to be said for doing a whirlwind trip up the U.K., but the drain that puts on you from having to sleep somewhere new every night isn’t nothing. It’s worth it, though, and I think that’s what matters most.

So. I got back on Saturday night and had a prior engagement (read: Dungeons & Dragons, because I am a Nerd), which meant that Sunday was more properly the time I was back. And Sunday is a lovely day to come home on and all, it really is, but there was a slight hiccup in that I had an essay due. On Tuesday. Not a small essay either. There was some fretting, a lot of time spent in the library, and more coffee than either I or my stomach can comfortably think about. It got done, mind you, but it probably wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve written. I wonder if I should regret that, that my work suffered a bit, but I find that I don’t. Traveling abroad entails a little bit of putting the experience of travel in front of the experience of schooling, I think. I’m broadening my horizons in a deliciously literal sense, and if the grade I’m getting in a class that is only pass/fail suffers a bit for it, then I suppose that’s a price I can live with. That’s not carte blanche advice to flip school the bird and go off into the sunset, mind, but the scales needn’t be as exactingly even as you might have them be at other times. To each their own.

I’m still daydreaming about Vindolanda. Emperor Hadrian almost certainly stayed there while supervising the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, did you know? They found evidence of a really high-quality home under the stones recently; they think that’s probably where he lived. For buildings that no longer stand, the stones at Vindolanda still house a lot of amazing stories. I’ll tell you more about all that later, though. For now: more essays. And travel considerations. You know the drill.

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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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Family/Familia

Time April 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

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You are lucky in life to have one loving, kind, and supportive family. I am fortunate enough to have three such incredible families: my biological family, my Spanish family, and my Chilean family. It was so wonderful introducing my original family to my adoptive family here abroad. My parents speak no Spanish and my Chilean mom speaks no English, but (with the help of me and my Chilean siblings translating) we were all able to connect and relate. It was so much fun sharing the people, places, food, and adventures abroad with my family from home. And much of what has made my abroad experience here in Valpo/Vina so great is my host family. I am so grateful for the relationships I have formed here and for the beautiful home and outdoor environment that I get to live in. While I certainly miss my home in the States, I feel perfectly in place here in Chile, in large part to my Chilean family. I have loved expanding my global family and am so lucky to have so many different places to call home.

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En la vida, tienes mucha suerte la tiene una familia cariñosa, simpática, y comprensiva. Yo soy tan afortunada de tener tres familias así: mi familia biológica, mi familia española, y mi familia chilena. Fue tan lindo introducir mi familia original a mi familia adaptiva acá in Chile. Mis padres no hablan nada de español y mi mama chilena no habla nada de inglés, pero (del ayuda de yo y mis hermanos chilenos traduciendo) todos conectaron y hicieron una relación.  Fue tan divertido compartir la gente, los lugares, el comido, y mis aventuras en Chile con my familia de los EEUU. Y mucho de lo que ha hecho mi experiencia acá en Valpo/Viña tan buena es mi familia anfitriona. Estoy tan agradecida por las relaciones que he formada aca y por la lindo ambiente y hogar en que tengo la oportunidad de vivir. Aunque me extraña mi casa en los EEUU, siento muy cómoda y contenta en Chile, y mucho de eso es por mi familia chilena. Me encanta expandir mi familia global y soy muy, muy afortunada tener tantos lugares para llamar “mi casa.”

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Isle of Skye

Time April 24th, 2017 in Scotland | No Comments by

Glasgow School of Art exchange students Eric and Rachel meet up with the Ifsa kids from Glasgow University, St. Andrews, University of Edinburgh, and University of Stirling to attend a bus tour to the Isle of Skye! Experienced demonstrations in sheep herding, a hike up the Old Man of Storr, and some faces were dunked into the fairy pools for 7 seconds to obtain Eternal Youth™.

The sprawling Scottish Highlands, with its towering snow-peaks and glimmering valleys, are sure to make one step back and consider their gratitude to play even a small part as an individual in history and on this beautiful green planet.

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Travel Fun

Time April 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Greetings from Edinburgh and a cozy hobbit-hole home that’s outfitted like a mansion. The next few posts might be a bit out of order in terms of temporal progression; I’ve been doing a bit of travel, and things tend to get mixed up along the way. That’s a good sign. It means I’ve been having fun.

Now, it was last Friday that my parents came to visit. I’d been expecting the visit and looking forward to it, for the simple reason that I am a very, very tactile creature and there is a necessary adaptation period before you can hug your new friends without it being awkward. No such barrier exists among family; my parents have gotten many, many hugs over the last few days. It’s been very nice traveling across the U.K. with them in a car (the first time I’ve been in a car in three months, in fact), staying at places that range from a ridiculously massive and swanky hotel by the Thames in London to a tiny little inn out in Partney, Nowhere. All of the experiences have been great, especially since I’m not the one paying. Of course, not every piece of traveling with parents is ideal. After three months of setting my own schedule and not having to rely on or wait on anyone else for my plans, being just along for the ride is a bit jarring. Getting told what to do after a time of essentially making your way in life alone takes some getting used to. I imagine this is one of these things that’s more or less tolerable depending on the sort of person you are, and the sort of relationship you have with your family. I’m lucky – as long as I have a book, I don’t really mind what it is we’re up to. And the things we’ve gotten up to while traveling are well worth any small frustrating. Read More »

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UK Travels

Time April 19th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

During the month of April I went to England and Northern Ireland. My first stop was London, England. I was meeting a friend who’s also studying abroad this semester; the same friend that I traveled to Amsterdam with! London is a very busy city with a lot of people in it! At times it was a little overwhelming. It was nice that the public transportation was so easy though. It was also nice that it runs 24/7! That can be something frustrating about Scotland’s public transportation. Although the public transportation was pretty intense in London, it was relatively easy to navigate! Of course I was with somebody who knew where they were but I think it would have been fine if I wasn’t. On the first night we went to a play! It was called “A Comedy about a Bank Robbery”. It was pretty funny and was about exactly what the title says! The humor was just silly and didn’t require much thought! It was nice to just relax and watch a play for pure entertainment.

The next day we went to Westminster, which is the main tourist site! It was interesting because I had been there about 11 years ago and once I walked off the tube I had this overwhelming sense of nostalgia. I was transported back to my 9 year old self. It was such a wonderful and exciting feeling! I’ve never experienced something like that before. The power of nostalgia was so strong! At this moment I captured a picture of Big Ben, which I’m really proud of! I feel like it came out so well! Read More »

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Bonsoir and Happy Days

Time April 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

After a jam packed month filled with many weekends away, I concluded my March trips with a quick stop in Paris where I met up with my sister Hailey and my cousin Erin as they were passing through on their travels. Writing that sounds crazy, that we just “met up in Paris for the weekend,” because how often does that happen? Life is pretty cool.

Throughout the weekend we did the typical Parisian tourist activities; we walked through the Notre Dame, strolled down the Champs-Élysées, ate crepes and macaroons and drank good wine, and we saw the Eiffel tower. But I think my favorite part was just being with family. At night in our AirBnB we would play cards and chat just like we would any other time back at home, and after a few months away from home those moments meant so much.

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And as for the city and Parisians, they’re a lot nicer than the stereotype suggests. We shopped at a French market one morning and all of the vendors were so kind to us. The city is dirty, as they say, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. To be honest, Cardiff is a dirtier city than Paris. Regardless, I recommend spending some time in Paris if you get the chance. There is literally nothing happier than eating a banana and nutella crepe while strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens. Although as hard as it was to say “au revoir” to the city, it was even harder to say goodbye to Hailey and Erin

Another glimpse of home I got recently was a visit from Joe—something I had been counting down the days for. On Wednesday at 2 AM I left my flat for the early bus to London, where I took a second bus to Gatwick airport. After waiting the longest 30 minutes I think I’ve ever waited, I saw Joe coming out of Arrivals and we got our movie like airport reunion. Okay that may be a little dramatic but it was so nice to see him after so long. We took a bus into the city and spent the afternoon in London. Read More »

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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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Visita con los Mapuches (visit with the Mapuche)

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

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The Mapuche are the indigenous people of Chile and I had the incredible opportunity to spend a few days with them with my IFSA-Butler group here in Chile. We left early Thursday morning to head to Lago Budi–the largest saltwater lake in South America–where we spent two days living with a group of Mapuche people. We stayed in “rukas” the old cultural houses of the Mapuche and that evening had a discussion about Mapuche ideology and traditions as well as a demonstration of traditional Mapuche musical instruments. The next morning we went kayaking on the lake and our lovely guide Carlos told us about the history and ecology of the area. From there we traveled four hours from the coast to the border of Argentina where we stayed in Curarrehue with another group of Mapuche. We went on a hike and explored the beautiful natural environment that the South of Chile has to offer. Following this trend, on our last day we visited Concon where we went zip-lining and rafting to complete our Southern adventure.

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Halfway Point

Time April 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

The middle of March was the halfway point of my program and my time abroad! It’s a bitter sweet moment. I think about how I’ve had such a great time here and how I’ve made such wonderful friends but, I do miss things about home.

So far I’ve experienced wonderful things in Scotland! I’m so happy that I chose the University of Stirling for so many reasons. The campus is really great and the scenery is beautiful! My favorite thing about Stirling is how the campus is removed from the city. I like that it feels secluded. The campus really is it’s own little town in a way! My home university is a commuter campus and I live at home, so being able to live on campus has been a great new experience for me. I enjoy being able to cook for myself and having freedom to have my own schedule! I’ve been able to grow in ways that I can’t describe. Having independence abroad has made me feel more like an adult. Before I left, I felt like I was in between an adult and a teenager but, coming to Scotland has made me feel like a capable adult! Read More »

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Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | 1 Comment by

Spring has sprung! And Cardiff is filled with blooming daffodils that are literally everywhere. Each day that I run through Bute Park (gotta counteract all of those Welsh cakes) brings more and more of the bright yellow flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. I’m pretty convinced that by the end of the month I won’t be able to see grass anymore, just daffodils. Speaking of the end of the month, it’s March. Who would have though I’d have made it this far?

Anyways; it’s March, my hair has gotten longer, I’ve turned in three essays, I’ve learned how to make a proper meal, and I’ve gotten to season six of Gilmore Girls. And if you have any intentions of watching Gilmore Girls sans spoilers I suggest that you stop reading this now because I am about to spoil the ending of season five, and I’m deeply sorry for any pain this may cause. Rory is leaving Yale. She’s dropping out. She’s having an existential crisis, doesn’t know what she wants out of life, and is making rash decisions that will have pretty big repercussions in her life.

So you’re probably thinking, Alex, why are you writing about Gilmore Girls? Well I’ll tell you: watching her make these big, monumental decisions made me feel some sort of solidarity with her. Not that I’m dropping out of Drake, or Cardiff, or moving into my grandparents’ pool house, but I’m reaching the point in my semester where I’m questioning what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. I’ve blinked and suddenly I’m halfway done with my time here. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m realizing one distinct fact: four months is not enough time abroad.

I remember my first week here—I was so sick, which made me homesick, which made me wonder what I had gotten myself into. I remember talking to my mom about how many of my friends who went abroad for j-term were just getting home and getting ready to go back to Drake for the semester. I asked her, “Should I have just done that?” She told me no, I’d be mad at myself if I didn’t have a whole semester.

Mom, I know you’re reading this and so I’m just going to encourage you to refrain from jumping up and down with glee as I write these three words: you were right. A j-term simply wouldn’t have been enough time. It wouldn’t have given me a chance to get homesick every now and again, to struggle through the tough days where everything seems unfamiliar, and to learn how to be on my own. All of which aren’t always pleasant experiences, but what self-growth comes from easy days and familiarity? A j-term also wouldn’t have been enough time to travel everywhere I want, to see all of the sights that are on my bucket list (which seems to get longer and longer every time I go to cross something off), and to make the friendships that I’m finding myself surrounded by. I’m not even sure four months is enough for all of those things even with every weekend jam-packed with travelling like mine have been, which I will now segue into describing.

The other weekend I left my cozy room in Cardiff to head to the lovely town of Lucerne, Switzerland—a place I fell in love with completely. It was one of those places that make you say “I have to come back here someday.” It had all of my favorite things—mountains, a lake, and really great cheese. The weekend was magical for many reasons, but there are two things in particular that I will probably always think back on with a smile when I reminisce on my trip to Switz: Fasnacht and Mount Rigi.

Fasnacht taught me something about the Swiss people—they are doing something right. It’s a carnival that runs from Thursday to Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday that’s dedicated to eating, drinking, and dressing up in elaborate costumes that put my 20 years of Halloween outfits to shame. Confetti covers the streets where marching bands parade up and down playing music all throughout the night (and at 5:30 on Monday morning because apparently that’s part of the tradition too). Food trucks are everywhere with grilled sausages, raclette cheese, and warm wine. There were people of all ages, all adorned in costumes, and all seemingly having a wonderful time. It was amazing. It was filled with joy, and I consider myself to be so incredibly lucky that my one weekend in Switzerland fell over this carnival.

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But it gets better. Ever heard of the Swiss Alps? That was a joke I’m sure you have. Have you ever seen them from across a sparkling lake on a sunny day? I’m bragging now but Katie, Annelise, and I hiked up Mount Rigi and had lunch on a grassy hill with a view that can only be described as a glimpse of heaven. I’m pretty sure I heard the hallelujah chorus to Handel’s “Messiah” as I took a bite out of my prosciutto sandwich.

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My final note on Switzerland is the inspiration for this blogs title “Trains, Planes, and Buses that Depart at 2 AM.” I’ve decided that when I’m old and rich and much less spry I am always going to get the most direct mode of transportation everywhere I go. And I say this because Katie and I left our flats at 2 AM to catch our first bus, which took us to London. After, we took a second bus to get us to the airport. We flew. We landed in Zurich, late, and had to find our way through a Swiss train station and figure out how on earth to get to Lucerne. Our trip took 15 hours. That’s all that needs to be said on that.

Another trip that took half a day (literally 12 hours on a bus) was my journey to Scotland. Riley and I left our flat at 6:30 AM and were on a bus for pretty much the rest of the day. We ate dinner that night at a place called “The Boozy Cow” and were so hungry I think we both finished our burgers in under four minutes. On Saturday we went on an all day tour through the highlands, saw loch ness (the lake not the monster), and met a few other girls who were also travelling. We went out with them that night and on a walking tour through Edinburgh with them the following day. Then it was back on a bus for 12 hours, but Scotland was beautiful and the trip was so worth it.

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In between Scotland and Switzerland was a weekend trip to Lake District, England planned by IFSA-Butler. The food was delicious, there were mountains abound, we went Ghyll Scrambling, and most of all: it was a trip that I didn’t have to plan a single thing for. I was told when and where to be places and all I had to do was show up and enjoy the weekend, which feels like paradise after a weekend of navigating a 15-hour long puzzle of transportation.

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So I’m at this point in the semester where I’m halfway through and I’m wondering what I want out of my time here, and if I’m getting it. And here’s the answer: I don’t know what I want out of it anymore, but I’m getting something. When I first signed up to come abroad I thought it was going to be all adventures and wild stories but I’m finding it to be more of an educational experience than anything. I’m learning how to travel, how to interact with people who have had completely different upbringings than myself, and I’m learning what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve learned how to travel independently, how to cook a meal, and, thanks to my flat mate Katie, how to say the longest Welsh city, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

So you stuck with me through this odyssey of a post and another small glimpse of my time abroad. Enough realizations about life and such for now—I’m off to go eat more Welsh cakes.
Cheers,

Alex

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Scheduling, Train fun, and York

Time March 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

This isn’t a process unique to traveling abroad, but it’s rather more applicable now than it is when I’m at home. University is going well; I’m enjoying two of my classes, and surviving my third, which in a pass/fail environment is just fine. I’m enjoying my free time on campus immensely, but a lot of the time I want to travel. Sometimes to London, and sometimes somewhere else. The challenge is finding the time, when weekends are often booked with closer-to-home activities. Thankfully, the trains here run like clockwork, and my schedule has an open Wednesday. Enter York: a one night, one-day trip with a loooooot of train time at both ends. When your weekends are for travel and manuscript editing, creativity, booking in advance, and bringing a good book for the train are your best friends.

York is only about four hour’s travel from Norwich by train. Not awful, but not great either. I picked it because I wanted to meet my friend Conor, who’s currently studying at St. Andrews up in Scotland, somewhere roughly halfway between us. York was the answer we came up, more than slightly influenced by the absolutely gorgeous architecture and historic sites the city is known for. I booked the train tickets and the student hostel we spent the night at a couple weeks in advance to save money, and so the journey was set. We both left Tuesday afternoon, and arrived just in time for a late dinner in the city. We were tempted to stop at the Pizza Express that had taken residence in the fanciest building I’d seen thus far, complete with marble pillars outside and everything. Seriously. I guess that’s what happens when all the buildings in the city center are centuries old: you get to have fun with the space you rent. We spent the following day hitting all the sites York is famous for: York Minster, the cathedral with some of the most stunning stained glass I’ve ever seen and a climb to the top of the tower that almost killed me, Clifford’s Tower (famous for less pleasant reasons, but still a very pretty standing ruin on a hill covered in daffodils), the York Castle Museum, the old Roman bathhouse ruins preserved under a local pub, and of course the walls that still surround the city center. Walking around the city from atop centuries-old walls was probably the best way to start the day that I could have imagined.

And then it was over. We had a great time, and got on our respective trains and back to our respective universities a little after ten o’clock. I don’t know how eager I would’ve been for the trip if I hadn’t spent so much time planning it out in advance, so let me just make that very clear: planning ahead is your friend, especially when you need to get creative about not missing class. Studying abroad has it in two words, and you can’t forsake one entirely for the other. So spend that extra hour making sure everything is good to go a week before it happens, and see if you can’t squeeze in that visit to a centuries-old cathedral between classes.

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Adventure in the Argyll Forest with IFSA Scotland

Time March 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Our first big excursion organized by IFSA was to the Argyll Forest, one of the oldest national parks in Scotland. We left on a Friday afternoon by taking a private bus into the highlands, including a ferry ride over the Holy Loch from the town of Gourock to Dunoon, our destination. According to our driver, we were accompanied by dolphins on the ferry ride back, but none of us could spot them.

Once arriving at our home for the weekend, the Benmore Nature Education Center, we met IFSA students from the other Scottish universities (Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and Stirling) for the first time. We spent Friday night exploring the impressive nature surrounding us through an exhilarating night hike through the gardens in the pitch dark with no “torches” (flashlights) to guide us. Read More »

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Argyll Forest Weekend

Time March 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

For the first ifsa-butler trip we visited the Argyll Forest! We left University of Stirling at 2:00pm and then headed out to pick up Glasgow students! After we picked them up we drove to the coast and then took a ferry across the water! It was crazy that the coach bus fit on the ferry! I had never been on a ferry that was able to hold an entire bus so it was an interesting experience for me! Once we made it to dry land again we had to drive to the hostel that we were staying at. It looked more like a castle than a hostel! Finally, we were able to unpack our things and get settled in our bunk beds. We proceeded to have dinner and then went on a night hike! The night hike was interesting because it was so dark so you didn’t even really know who was next to you! It was nice to be outside in pitch black and have to experience through senses other than sight! I was very happy that I brought my rain boots on this journey because most paths were pretty muddy. After a long day of travel I laid down to sleep! The next day would be action packed! Read More »

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La Campana

Time March 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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Waking up at 6:00 AM is never something I enjoy doing but it was well worth it for this trip. La Campana is a beautiful national park about 90 minutes from the city of Valparaiso. Myself and nine others arrived at the park around 9:30 AM–after taking two buses to get there–and began the steep and challenging 5K hike to La Mina (the mine). It took about three hours to reach it but the time was well spent with stories, laughter, and great views shared among all.  Upon reaching La Mina, we were greeted by a spectacular view of rolling mountains and open blue sky. In addition to the beautiful scenery, La Mina also housed an old mine open for exploration. It was a little creepy and most of us decided not to venture very far in but, what is study abroad if not embracing your discomfort, so me and another girl Kelli explored the caverns and tunnels for a while pondering about the people that would have once worked there and how their lives must have been. After relishing in the beauty of our surroundings and enjoying a nice picnic lunch, we began the journey down the mountain. The trek back  was filled with more bonding discussion and we didn’t even realize we had finished until we were back at the welcome hut. We returned back to Valpo that evening thoroughly exhausted but incredibly happy with the day and the memories made.

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Classwork and Comfortable Seats

Time March 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

So passes what the University of East Anglia refers to as “Do Something Different Week.” In theory, this is a week where no students have class, the professors and lecturers get to go free and happy, and everything is wonderful on campus. Events have been carefully created by the faculty to address student interests in numerous areas, ranging from a stress therapy coloring session in the Faith Centre to an intensive course on making your entrance into the publishing industry (I very much wanted the latter, but unsurprisingly it filled up fast). I suppose it was a nice dream, but the reality is that everyone scatters and goes on vacation for a week, leaving the campus with a skeleton crew and a ghost town vibe. I didn’t mind; London is very nice this time of year. But that’s besides the point. Do Something Different Week is a vacation whether it’s billed as one or not, and as everyone knows, work builds up after vacation. Thus we enter crunch time, and the deadlines are fast approaching. Essay plan for History? Sure. Collection of short works and a writerly appraisal for Poetry? Why not? Complete short fiction and a workshop for Prose? I imagine you get the idea, and I’ve no doubt others had it far worse than I did. So let’s talk survival instead. Read More »

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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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Finding Nessie: A Trip to Inverness

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

Inverness

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The city of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands is quiet and quaint, a must-see for those choosing to study away in Scotland. A classmate told me it's the rainiest city in Scotland, but the freezing rain and forceful winds didn't stop us from enjoying as much of the city as we could. I would advise leaving early on Sunday, the town is pretty sleepy and most shops and attractions are closed.

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The importance of good tea (and timing the trains right)

Time March 6th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

I’m running on less sleep than is probably wise, but that comes as a university standard across the world, I think. Granted, for me it’s more to do with out-of-university affairs than anything, but we’re aiming for relatability, here. Fortunately, there’s a little thing that the Brits really have down right that helps a lot with sleepiness, exhaustion, and more or less everything else in life: tea. I’m no connoisseur, but I’m learning. My tastes go a little fruitier than most, but even so. (and I’ll never quite manage to leave coffee behind, I suspect. Too many years of dependency.)

First off, tea is an excellent writing companion. I’m drinking tea as I’m writing this, I was drinking tea as I worked through revisions last night, and I have no doubt that I’ll be drinking tea when I’m outlining that essay plan I’ve been putting off for three weeks tomorrow too. …I’m not saying tea is an enabler of bad behavior, but, um. Read into that as much as you like. Some teas are caffeinated, others are herbal, others taste a little like someone contemplated adding some milk to that sugar and decided at the last minute that no, sugar’s probably enough on its own. Everyone can find something. I’ve been fond of the red berry tea for a while now – the fruity taste is just enough to make it feel like a treat, and the hot beverage aspect of it is enough to calm my mind and settle my thoughts into something I can work with. It’s also pretty cheap though, and this is the land of tea; I wanted more. Read More »

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Valparaiso

Time March 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

 

It is impossible to walk through the beautiful old and new streets of Valparaiso without seeing incredible works of art on nearly every wall you pass.

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Es imposible caminar por las bellas calles antiguas y nuevas del Valparaíso sin ver arte increíble en casi cada pared que pasas.

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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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Normal, Mundane, and Other Synonyms for School

Time February 21st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

Sometimes you do pretty normal things even on a different continent.

As I said in my very first, pre-departure post, you get a lot of advice before you leave the country. You hear a lot of stories from those who have studied abroad before you and you see pictures and blogs from peers who spent semesters in Spain, Rome, or wherever the wind took them. But here’s the problem: they only tell you about the adventures. The beautiful sunrises they saw over mount-whatever; the fun nightlife in a certain city; the amazing and inspiring people they met. Yet there is a fundamental detail that is left out of all of these tales—studying abroad involves a lot of completely normal moments. No one tells you that you will still binge-watch Gilmore Girls in bed, or that you’ll have quiet nights where you do nothing, or that you actually have to study for the classes you’re taking.

While this seems like a pretty obvious part of being away for an entire semester, it took me two weeks into classes to actually be okay with it. For the first part of my time abroad, I hated any gaps of free time I had in my schedule. I felt like I always needed to be doing something to make my time here valid and worthwhile. If I didn’t do something fun every night, I wasn’t getting the full “abroad” experience. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my Wednesday morning seminar the other week that I had a huge breakthrough—we were discussing the reading we were supposed to have done for class and I sat there not knowing a thing. I didn’t do the reading because I’m a student abroad, and students abroad most certainly don’t need to do the readings. But as I sat in class in a bubble of confusion wondering why pre-Raphaelite art was considered scandalous to upper class Victorian-era citizens I realized a fundamental fact: I came here to take classes because I’m in college. Read More »

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Ready for take-off?

Time February 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | 1 Comment by

My plane leaves for Auckland, New Zealand in less than 24 hours.

Am I finished packing? Nope.

Do I have all the documents I need in a neat little pile? Of course not.

Do I know what to do with my phone when I get there? Not really.

Honestly, the only thing I really have going for me in terms of preparedness is that my Chacos just arrived in the mail. And you know what? I’m not worried about it.

One of my closest friends spent last semester studying in Wollongong, Australia, and she’s been my go-to girl for study-abroad related questions. Earlier this week I texted her in a moment of panic, convinced that I am going to show up to New Zealand and be totally lost, lugging around two suitcases full of nothing that I actually need. And the only piece of advice she had for me was,

“That’s part of the adventure. It’s no fun to be over-prepared.”

So I’m sitting here in my chaotically messy bedroom with a half-full suitcase and I know that if I left right now, I would be laughably under-prepared for a semester abroad. Not just because all my socks are still in the laundry, or because I can’t find an umbrella in the house to save my life, but also because I have no idea what to expect out of the next five months. And when Ellen told me that it’s not the end of the world to show up to a new country unprepared – that it may actually make my experience more memorable – I embraced my nerves and my anticipation for the upcoming semester. As far as “stuff” goes, I can always find a Target (or whatever the New Zealand equivalent of a Target is) and pick up what I need. But for me, the most important thing is to be mentally prepared to show up unprepared and take on the adventure of studying abroad.

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