This past weekend, I went on an IFSA-sponsored trip to Cacheuta, a small touristy town about 45 minutes away from Mendoza. Despite some bad weather, the trip ended up being really fun and a great way to wrap up almost four months in Argentina.
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
With IFSA orientation completed I moved into AUS as an Exchange Student! The living accommodations are definitely better than my home university. I have a room to myself for sleeping and homework and share a bathroom and kitchenette with a single suite mate. The room is spacious and very comfortable. All I have done is added new sheets, leopard print, and a rug I bought while at the Central Souk. (Bartered for it and paid less than half the first offer!)
Thankfully, I did not have to start class immediately after moving into campus and IXO, International Exchange Office, had its own orientation planned. This was another great way to get accustomed to the area and the cultural norms as well as meeting other students who are in the same situation as myself. Something I quickly noticed was this week was very much like freshman orientation at my home university. There was a lot of small talk as I tried to meet new people and find others with similar interests as myself. Luckily, I was able to meet some great people!! After the initial awkwardness of ice breakers and small talk, IXO took all of the exchange students on many excursions within Sharjah and also in Dubai. These trips helped me become more comfortable with area, the culture, and with my fellow exchange students. A difficulty of the excursions is traveling with large groups, I realized that traveling in large groups can be very difficult and that splitting up is definitely the way to go.
IXO also provided cultural seminars about the UAE and Sharjah in particular. They do a great job at explaining the many consequences of not following the law and cultural norms, but many times it seemed as though it was more focused on scaring us from doing “wrong” rather than being realistic about what occurs on campus. Sharjah is the most conservative Emirate, but you still see couples talking together in public, holding hands, and other things couples would do in the United States and I have yet to see anyone be deported for sitting too close to someone of the opposite sex!
The pictures attached to this blog include the Sharjah Light Festival, an annual event where many Mosques, government buildings, and other buildings are illuminated with colorful designs, the Burj Al Arab, the only seven star hotel, the Eye of the Emirates, a much smaller London Eye, pictures from a short boat ride we had and the main building at AUS.
I will be posting one more post and I will finally feel caught up to present!
This past weekend, we went on a program excursion to San Rafael! It was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekends that I’ve had in a while. We woke up extremely early on Saturday morning, drove for four hours to San Rafael, and even inside the bus, the view was breathtaking. San Rafael is a very popular destination for tourists (surprised?) and after google searching the region, I was definitely pumped for the trip.
When I woke up from the bus ride, the sun was rising through the cracks of the Andes mountains and we were served (very) sweet cookies and coffee (a note to coffee drinkers: so far the coffee I’ve had is of the instant variety, and not strongly caffeinated). We checked out our cabins and I was particularly happy to see that there were TWO pools with a beautiful view of the mountains, and a gorgeous rose garden. So naturally, we spent several hours at the pool, cooling off from the hikes and reading “beach books” (my friend read “The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo; I read “Julie and Julia,” which made me hungry). Yet it was very tempting to day dream or take naps because of the cloudless, perfect sky and the tranquility of the scenery that was presented before us.
All of our meals were served outside right by a small “lake.” Occasionally, while we were sipping on Coke (another VERY popular drink here), munching on a milanesa or empanada, a fish would mysteriously emerge from the dirty water and double flip in the air, scaring one of us. And at dinner, it was hard not to be in a peaceful, happy mood with the delicious food and the stars glittering above the woods. Although I felt annoyed at the bugs and mosquitoes, it was hard to stay mad for long because everything was so alive, natural, and for the most part, untouched. Definitely something rare in Boston! 😀
The first day, we climbed down a set of rackety steps to board a ferry that took us to a shore where we could relax by the lake. The water shimmered aqua green and I was perfectly content in alternating between lying underneath the sun and floating on the lake with my eyes closed. I haven’t experienced such stillness in a long time! At school, I’m accustomed to a hectic schedule where every hour of my day is planned with a specific task, and the brief moments of tranquility I have is when I’m sleeping (but even then, there are the occasional dreams of missing assignments, etc). Needless to say, this is a very welcome change Mendoza is where it’s at!
The next day, we hiked a series of small hills, and the intricacy of the geography was fascinating. We even saw a colorful snake winding its way toward its hole….
But my favorite part of the trip was rafting. Unfortunately we didn’t get to take pictures of us actually rafting, but I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable moments of my life. The whole time, I couldn’t help but think, “Am I really rafting in Argentina??” Sure, I got soaked and my arms were sore from rowing, but the view is also unforgettable and all of us were smiling the entire adventure The pictures I took don’t really do justice to the scenery. I have the mountains, the noises of the rapids, the friendly people waving alongside the river, and the adrenaline rush etched in my brain.
It finally feels like Mendoza is my home more and more each day. I’m walking to places without the help of maps and looking like an obvious tourist! Life is good!
note: I sincerely apologize for the order and organization of the posts (particularly the format of the photos)! For some reason, my internet has not been cooperating with me, and blogging has been difficult. The post “Under the Mendocinian Sun” should come AFTER “First Impressions.”
from top to bottom: cabins/rose/part of the rose garden/pool/at the beautiful lake/more lake/on the ferry/huge slope/rafting/more rafting site/end of the hike/snake/slopes/more mountain/obligatory jumping picture/IFSA love!/end of the hike triumphant pose