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

Post-Argentine Reflections

Time July 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Well it’s happened! I’m home! Back home in Massachusetts with my family and friends after spending nearly a year away from them between college and study abroad. Of course I feel incredibly happy to not only be a rising senior and done with finals, but it was so great reuniting with my family! I may not have felt homesick, but it did and does feel great seeing and spending time with them again. I’ve spent the days since my return regaling my adventures and sharing the many photos I took. In my time alone and in short thoughts throughout the day, I reflect on what my experience in Argentina has been and what it means to me.

I came to study abroad optimistic, excited and a bit nervous. After hearing the other students, I felt unsure about my ability to catch up and after spending the first week speaking and listening to Spanish all the time, I was left absolutely exhausted at the close of everyday. Remembering my final week, I am truly amazed how powerful just a few months can be! I would not say I’m fluent, but I really can manage in an area where relatively no one speaks English.  That is huge for me! I also came experiencing not only my first time in Latin America, but my first time in a country with absolutely no one I had ever met before. I could usually depend on family or friends to help me navigate and make decisions, but in Argentina, I was truly on my own. Walking the streets of Mendoza was quite scary for me at the beginning, yet at the end I breezed through them without much of a thought and equipped with all the safety tips I’ve picked up and practiced over the preceding months. Though even last year I really wondered, how will I ever read academic articles in Spanish, or even worse, write entire essays, I now have done both quite a few times and have shown myself it is possible (though still a crazy thought to me honestly). Adjusting to the slow pace of life and disorganization (along with the whole city essentially shutting down several hours a day for siesta and the entire weekend) were linked to some of my biggest challenges, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned quite a bit with dealing with a slower, more uncertain world. Maybe it’s not what I prefer, but I am sure it will prove an important life lesson for me in the future. Maybe I do need to slow down a bit and smell the roses?

Aside from better learning to deal with new situations, uncertainty and navigating unfamiliar streets, I learned about planning trips on my own, how to knit thanks to my knitting group and how to cook (a great way to save money because meals in Mendoza are expensive!!!). Study abroad brings you tons of other experiences to learn and develop that you probably wouldn’t expect –  you just have to make yourself open to trying and making mistakes! This has to be one of my biggest pieces of advice! I can be a hesitant and cautious person at times, but had I not firmly decided to seize the opportunities given to me to see new places, try new things, spend a little extra on worthwhile experiences and face some fears, I would have left Argentina with so much less of an understanding of its people, natural wonders and history. I would not have improved in Spanish as much, would have missed out on a lot of irreplaceable memories and friendships and come back to the US more or less unchanged. You will meet a lot of challenges. You will face some fears that you’ve never felt pushed to confront. You will be given choices and opportunities that will dictate what you get out of your time abroad. While I am not trying to say you should go overboard, I will repeat the cliche advice to get out of your comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable and sometimes you may feel regret, but overall, I have felt happy when I did.

Though happy at home, there will be a lot I miss about study abroad. I will miss the other students as I mentioned in my last post, I will miss spending dinners with my host family, I will miss classes with one of my professors a lot and miss volunteering among everyday Mendocinos each week. I will miss living at the foot of the Andes, where I can see those beautiful mountains through my window and virtually anytime I’m walking through the city. I will miss being able to walk anywhere easily and taking cheap public transportation the few times I need to (maybe I won’t miss the buses though!). I will especially miss the gorgeous Autumn colors Mendoza was painted in when I left. As my host mom drove me to the airport, I couldn’t help but feel an additional ache for leaving such a cute, pretty little city (though I eventually realized it wasn’t as little as I originally expected!). I will miss long random conversations with artisans I’ve chatted with in passing over the past few months in the central plaza and the Argentine sense of humor and way of telling stories which differs so much from what I’m used to at home. I will miss the touching close-knit relationships I was fortunate enough to see between families and friends. The closeness, comforting and care. It made me think even further about the variety and complexity of human relationships across cultures and especially how both Latin American and European influences intermingle in the Argentine people.

Though I am happy to say my Spanish has improved, my study is not over. Sure it will not be more immersion or nearly as in depth as study abroad, but I already have plans to continue Spanish classes during my final year in college. I have enrolled in a literature and film class which will assuredly test my essay-writing skills, film analysis skills and general understanding of the language and my ability to express my thoughts that I have worked on over the past few months. Hopefully, I will be able to prove how far I’ve come thanks to the Mendoza program. The Spanish-speaking ladies at work have already told me they want to speak to me in Spanish so it looks like I’ll have some people to practice with until then! As I said in my last post, my time in Argentina feels unfinished and I definitely hope to return someday! There are too many people I need to see again! I also HAVE to see Patagonia when the majority of it isn’t shut down for the off season. Hopefully, next time I will be bringing along friends and family to introduce them to this incredible country and its amazing, kind-hearted people! If you get the chance to go, I wish you all the best and hope you can enjoy Argentina and Mendoza as I have!

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Return Home

Time June 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Coming home has been such a bitter sweet experience. Towards the end of my journey I was really missing home and the lifestyle that I have. Colorado is such a beautiful state and I was really looking forward to seeing my family and friends again! I was so happy that I didn’t have to be long distance from my fiancee anymore and that we could finally be together! Long distance was one of the hardest things that our relationship has faced and I was glad to have it over. At the same time it meant that I had to leave Scotland and all of my friends there. Even though most of my friends are a short plane ride away, it’s so different than living together in the same flat. I’ve been home for two weeks now and I still feel like I should be waking up next to my friends and going on an adventure in Europe. Study abroad is such an interesting experience that I think only your friends abroad truly understand it. Of course I can describe to everybody back home how I feel but, nobody really understands it unless you experienced it.

I was supposed to return home on May 29th but my flight ended up getting canceled so I didn’t end up leaving until May 30th! Of course I was slightly sad to go home yet but, I was so happy that I got one more day in Scotland. That last day really made a difference. It felt like closure. The extra day I spent in Edinburgh with my closest friends and it felt so nice to have that last gathering together. I never would’ve thought that extra time would make such a difference but it really did! It was more relaxed and laid back than trying to pack everything and say goodbye to everybody at once.

Coming home and being able to reflect for a couple of weeks  made me realize a lot of things about myself. Before studying abroad I felt like I couldn’t handle the real world. I felt so dependent on my parents that I didn’t think I could handle graduating college. Even though I’m engaged I was worried about starting a life with my fiancee. Study abroad changed my view on being alone. Of course I still missed everything back home but it made me realize that I can do it. I can be on my own away from my parents. I will be able to get married and start a life with my fiancee. I would say that my view of the world is completely different as well. Traveling and going to new places really changes your perspective on how vast and wonderful the Earth is!

If you’re reading this and even considering study abroad you should do it. It’s the most incredible experience that will impact you for a lifetime. Don’t worry about expense because it’ll be worth it no matter the cost. In retrospect study abroad really is a pretty good deal. You’re paying much less than you would to live abroad for 5 months in a different setting. The best advice I can give is to go out and explore. The world is just waiting for you to go and see it!

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Life After Abroad

Time May 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Wow, I never thought this day would come. I was so back-and-forth on going abroad in the first place, I never thought that I would go and miss it so much. The only thing that’s getting me through being back in The States is knowing that I will go back to Ireland one day and show my loved ones around.

Looking back, there were many challenges. Adjusting at the beginning of the semester to a new country, seeing my friends go back to school and having FOMO from parties, figuring my way around a new city, new school, and new grading system, finding a balance between time by myself and with friends (as it was my first time living in an apartment), learning how to cook, the list could go on and on. But the challenges were little speed bumps. They were hard for a day or maybe even a week, but I was over them in no time. I knew how temporary this semester was going to be.

One of the first weeks I sat down and wrote out all of the weekends I had in Ireland. Then I added the two IFSA trips, a few travels of my own, and I realized how short the semester would actually be. Thinking about it being so temporary made missing out on fraternity parties and tailgates much easier – especially when I was traveling around Ireland or the rest of Europe! Read More »

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The Last Few Weeks

Time May 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

The last few weeks of studying abroad consists of a whirlwind of emotions. From the happiness of thinking ahead to the warm embraces of my friends and family, to the sadness of thinking of leaving my best friends here and leaving the beautiful scenery of Ireland, I can’t seem to keep my mind straight.

But, with the days down into single digits, I’m just trying to cherish every moment I have. Within the last few weeks I have taken two day-trips in Ireland, spent lots of time studying, and been with all of the people I am going to be sad to leave.

Here’s a look at my day trips to the Aran Islands (Inis Oírr), and my day trip to Letterkenny, County Donegal with dinner in Derry, Northern Ireland, my studies, and some smiling faces :) Read More »

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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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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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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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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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Home

Time January 9th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

After officially being home for two weeks, I decided that it was time to write my final blog about coming home. There were many things I missed while I was abroad. The number one thing, of course, was my family. Christmas was even sweeter, especially after missing Thanksgiving. Funnily enough, the second was Dunkin Donuts iced coffee! During customs and baggage claim, I was lucky (and spoiled) enough to have my parents get me my normal Medium Iced Coffee with Caramel Swirl and Cream from the Dunkin at JFK. Thirdly, I’ve missed my friends. Many of them I kept in constant contact with during my semester away but others it had been awhile since we had talked. Either way, we fell back together like we always do and it was comforting. Read More »

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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 »

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Mendoza with Amigos

Time December 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

The second half of my semester abroad flew by! My life got busy with planning trips, final exams and presentations, and my family visiting me. Trying to cram in as much as I could, combined with spotty wifi while traveling through Argentina, caused my blog to be pushed to the back burner. But, now I’m stocked up on amazing photos and stories to share about this crazy life abroad!

My friends and I decided to take a break from the city and travel Mendoza, Argentina for a long weekend. When we arrived to our hostel, we couldn’t help but giggle at the translation mishap that read “your funniest travel experience”. The sign was comical, but the rest of the hostel was overflowing with good vibes. We befriended some Germans backpacking through South America, and ate an amazing asado (barbecue) with them.

I was craving a little adrenaline, so I convinced my friends to sign up  for one of the excursions that the hostel offered. We woke up early and took an hour long bus ride from our hostel to the mountains. The first half the of the day we hiked with our tour guide to an over-hang that we could repel off of. I love heights and I was the last one to jump, so getting to watch the expressions on my friends’s faces who feared heights was priceless.

In the afternoon, we geared up in wet suits, life jackets and helmets and headed to the Mendoza River for “white” water rafting. Even though the water was completely brown from sediment and runoff, the experience was exhilarating. The rapids soaked us and our guide excellently guided us through the tricky parts.

After another full day of a bike tour through vineyards, we were exhausted and ready to get on the bus for the 14 hour trip back to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, at about 4:30 am we were awoken by an announcement that the bus had broken down. We waited for a new bus to arrive, but were then told that there were only 30 available seats. There was a titanic-esque moment when they announced that only women and children should get on this bus, but we were lucky enough to all find seats. The 14 hour bus ride ended up being closer to 20, but through the midst of the travel chaos I was able to snap a picture of the sunrise and was reminded that you need a certain amount of resilience and flexibility when traveling in a foreign country.

Besos,

Emily

 

 

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Christmas Markets

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

Since Scotland does not have the Thanksgiving marker to kickstart the holiday season, Christmas markets started in Edinburgh on November 18th. The markets are full of amusement park rides, Christmas music, festive beverages, and crafty shops. My Colgate friends, Sarah and Liz, visited me that weekend and kicked off the Christmas season with me. Liz and I had an incredible view of the city on the Ferris wheel. Sarah and I shared donuts covered in chocolate sauce.When my cousins visited, Madelyn and I braved the most intimidating ride of the markets. The “Flying-Star” were swings that went as high as the top of the Walter Scott Monument, or about 200 feet high. It was terrifying but we prevailed and celebrated this feat with Bailey’s hot chocolate and mulled cider. The Christmas markets are paradoxical in the sense that they induce a sense of homeyness and homesickness at the same time. I enjoy them but they also make me look forward to Christmas with my family.

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A Scottish-American Thanksgiving

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

November 24th was like any other day in Edinburgh. The grocery stores were not flooded with people picking up forgotten instant stuffing mixes, or that additional can of cranberry sauce, in case one wasn’t enough. Thursday classes were on schedule as normal at the university. No “turkey-trots” were closing the streets in the morning. However, for American students, November 24th meant Thanksgiving (most likely his/her first) away from home. IFSA Butler, my abroad program, threw an American Thanksgiving get-together the Wednesday night before. We had a Ceilidh, with a Scottish band and traditional Celtic dances. I got to reunite with many American students who I had not seen in awhile. However, when I got home, the worst wave of homesickness rushed over me. I come from a huge family of fifty-three (!!!!) cousins and the idea of not seeing a majority of them over this holiday was tough. I missed my parents and of course the many “dad jokes” that surface around Thanksgiving. I called my parents and they comforted me by reminding me that I was lucky enough to have two of my cousins flying in the following day to help me celebrate the holiday.

On Thanksgiving, I met my cousin Madelyn for brunch following her red-eye. We walked around the city a little and then grabbed an “it’s five o’clock somewhere” pint in true Thanksgiving fashion. When Roman, Madelyn’s brother, landed, it was time for me to go to my last seminar of the term. We met back up for dinner and although it was not a turkey with all of the trimmings, it was still an incredible feeling to be with family so far from home. After dinner, I Facetimed into my Aunt Rose’s Thanksgiving party and was promptly circulated around the gathering of roughly thirty of my family members. I even made it into a few pictures through the screen of my cousin’s iPhone. Afterward, Madelyn, Roman, and I celebrated with my American friends in our favorite pub. I am SO happy that they were able to come and spend the week with me. It was a Thanksgiving I will always remember but of course, I am looking forward to next year’s gathering surrounded by my whole family.

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Piece of Home

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

I was lucky enough to have a piece of home with me to travel with for a couple weeks. My older brother and I went to Auckland where we did the famous SkyJump, visited the aquarium and also checked out Waheiki Island for some zip lining before heading back to Wellington. While in Wellington, we took the Seal Coast Safari to see the seal colony at Red Rocks, and hiked the iconic Mount Victoria. The next weekend we traveled to Queenstown where we bungee jumped and saw the beautiful Milford Sound. We took a cruise around the sound and saw many amazing waterfalls and animals, such as New Zealand fur seals and dusky dolphins. 

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Homesickness

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Scotland | No Comments by

At Colgate, I go home for a long weekend during October. This weekend gives me the perfect dose of home, filled with parents, apple cider, and radical foliage. It’s the thing that gets me through to Thanksgiving. Of course, I could not go home this year. So on Halloween, I got a tinge of homesickness thinking about all of the fond memories I have had with my brother and parents over the years. As I look forward to Thanksgiving, I can already feel the oncoming sadness of missing my loud, loving family. This is an indication of how blessed I am to have a family that I love coming home to. Additionally, I am even luckier to have two of my cousins arriving in Edinburgh on Thanksgiving to visit me for a week.

To combat my homesickness, I have been video-chatting many friends and family. I have attached a few snaps I have taken of our conversations.

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Family Visits

Time October 17th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

I’ve been living abroad for several months now, and at times that inevitable feeling of homesickness hits. While I’m so thankful that I can FaceTime my friends and family back home, there’s a comfort of being in the physical presence of “your people” that can’t be achieved through a screen. I was ecstatic when my mom called to tell me that she and my aunt has planned a long weekend to come visit me in Buenos Aires. Neither of them speak any Spanish, so I embraced the role of translator/tour guide and showed them around my new home.

Picture 1: Jardín Botánico

My mom and I’s favorite thing to do together is go hiking. Since her trip was only for a few days and we didn’t have time to leave the city and hike in the mountains, we decided to get our nature fix by going for walk in the botanical gardens. The lush greenery made it easy to forget we were still in the capital. Butterflies fluttered around us while we walked through the aromatic flowers and the special Yerba Mate section of the garden. The leaves of the plant are naturally caffeinated and used in traditional Argentine tea. The taste is way to bitter for my liking, but it was interesting to see how it’s grown. Read More »

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Orientation Week: We’re Bonding

Time October 4th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Cuba | No Comments by

As I enter my second week of registration period at the University of Havana, I decided to take a moment and reflect on our group adventures thus far.
From Toronto, my group and I endured a 3 hour flight to Havana as well as an additional 3 hour wait for our bags. When we finally made it through customs, our director Michelle was waiting outside to welcome and deliver us to our families. Because of our late arrival from the airport, we were only able to exchange brief introductions with our families before going to sleep. Read More »

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Pre-Departure: #NervousbutExcited

Time July 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As the departure date for my trip halfway across the world, to Sydney, Australia, approaches T-9 days, the reality of my journey has begun to resonate with me. It feels like just yesterday I was an eager freshman visiting the Wake Forest University Study Abroad office discussing the opportunity. I was already fortunate enough to have explored Europe on two separate occasions, and as I narrowed down my choices I couldn’t get the hundreds of iconic pictures of Australian beaches, wildlife, and cities pinned to my “Bucket List” Pinterest board out of my head.  I immediately knew I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience ” the land down under” for myself. Read More »

Family and Friends

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Back home, my family and friends still have each other and life goes on as usual. The only difference for them is that I’m a long way from home. My parents, boyfriend, gran, and one of my aunts have taken it the hardest. I text my parents through an app and Skype, message my boyfriend through another app, and keep my gran and aunt updated with frequent pictures and posts on Facebook. I miss them all terribly. I text my parents every day or two and message with my boyfriend daily. I also have a weekly appointment to talk with my parents on Skype, and we usually talk for an hour or two, just talking and spending time with each other. At first it was really hard, seeing them made me really sad and homesick the first few weeks, but as I settled in here and made friends and started having a life here at school, it got easier to talk with them back home. I still miss them all terribly, but having ties here makes being away from them easier.

One of the hardest things to deal with is the homesickness. Most days it isn’t too bad, but sometimes it just suddenly hits really hard. One of the things I’ve found that helps is staying busy. I’m in 3 societies (clubs), I read a lot, and I hang out with my housemates. The more involved you are in life on campus, the easier it is to fend off being so homesick. When I do get really homesick, though, I talk to someone from home. Either by messaging them and sending pictures back and forth or Skyping. Just knowing that someone from home is paying attention to you and getting that reminder that they’re ok and you are too helps. Another thing that helps is to remember that the feeling will pass and in a few months you’ll be back home with everyone and everything you love.

 

Some helpful apps: What’s app (both parties have to have the app, uses data on both sides to text/message), GroupMe (you can text people, the app uses data and assigns you a random number from the same area as whoever you’re texting so you need to identify yourself the first time. If both people have the app it works better), Skype (video chats and messaging), Facebook Messenger. All of these apps are free and there are many more out there.

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El Garganta del Diablo (pt. 1 of 3 of my musings on Iguazu)

Time April 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Again, I’m about to begin one of my post with my seemingly obligatory “sorry this blog is late blah blah blah” remarks, but this blog is especially late, and I really am sorry that I took so long between updates (this is directed to the approximately 4 of you that actually read my blog regularly).  Anyway, this week;s reason for tardiness is that not only have my classes have amped up quite a bit, but my folks (2 of my ~4 regular readers) have come to Argentina and I’ve spent a lot of time during the last few days with them.  We’ve gone out to lovely dinners in Palermo and with my host family

 It’s been so wonderful to have them here, and having them around definitely makes me remember both how much I miss them and how grateful I am to have been raised by them.  I went out the other night with my parents and some of my awesome new Buenos Aires friends, and I was described as, “the average of my mom and my dad.”  Whatever that means, I’m lucky to have any part of them at all.

But sappiness aside, what having my parents around really means is ADVENTURE!  My family loves to take crazy trips together, for this trip the plan was to spend some quality time in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, Iguazu Falls.  This place is like nowhere else I’ve ever been, and it makes my creative juices start to pump nonstop.  So, in light of the falls, for the next few posts, I’m going to eschew my typical stream-of-consciousness blog style, and instead present to you “Writings from Iguazu”, where I’ll post a new poem or bit of prose (or “Poem-like Creation”) from each day that I am here.  Sound like fun?  Good!  Here’s day one: “El Garganta del Diablo”.

(Author’s note: Due to the necessary approval process of my employers, these blogs will likely not be published exactly on the day that they were written, so I’m sorry about the incongruence.  Just for completeness’ sake, I was in Iguazu from the 12th to the 15th of April.)

(Author’s note 2: I know I promised y’all Uruguay, and I assure that Uruguay will be my next post following my artistic stab into recounting my experience in Iguazu)

El Garganta del Diablo:

There is nothing quite like the feeling when you stand over the throat of the devil.  The wind is his voice, rushing past you, through you, tugging at your hat as well as your heart and gently imploring you to, “come just a biiiit closer”.  The water is his blood.  It rushes and roar around you, their power both inspires you to live fully and terrifies you of about the possibilities that such a life would entail.  The falls themselves are his body.  I could spend two lifetimes staring at it, my eyes exploring every nook and cranny, perplexed by the constant rhythm and motion.

The throat is a place of abrupt change.  It is a step of a staircase of a giant.  It is flat ground that abruptly becomes a sheer face, and it is the river above plummets suddenly to a torrential pool below.  It is the wind that howls, the edges the beckon, the vistas that capture.  Yet despite its name, the throat of the devil is a place sent from heaven.  Because from within the pool of chaos there forever blooms a rainbow.

Also, for all who are curious, this is the Garganta del Diablo (sorry I can’t post my own pics; my camera ran out of battery and I left my charger in Buenos Aires.  D’oh!)

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Rooftop Islands and Raging Oceans

Time March 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

My house here has a terrace on its roof, and sometimes when I find the time (which is never because between classes and errands and cafe time with my new friends I don’t even have time to call my family (sorry, Mom)), I like to sit up on the roof and look out at the world around me. Up high, on my rooftop, I feel like I am a sole inhabitant of a lonely island amidst a vast cauldron of noises, smells, and light.  Buenos Aires is an ocean of sensory overload that swirls around me, and I sit on a wooden stool and take it all in (here are some pics that I took while scuba diving with my digital camera)

.  Yet while I may be the only one on my island, I am not alone in being an islander.  All around me is an archipelago of other terraces on other rooftops, and from my vantage point I can see them going about their lives just as I go about observing theirs.  There is a father with his small son, teaching him how to kick a soccer ball through a 2-foot high goal.  There are a group of young men who come out to bring Quilmes and make bawdy conversation.  Their is an older woman, face wizened by age but her body showing no signs of it, who hangs her laundry on the line.  She waved at me once, and as I waved back I realized something weird: I was just as much a periphery character in her life as she was in mine.  She probably had her own little moniker for me in her world, and our lives certainly had no reason to ever overlap.  This woman has hopes, dreams, memories, and stories that consist of many people and many places, yet for a few brief moments, our respective narratives interacted.  It was a pretty cool feeling to be able to have this sanctuary from the tumultuous ocean of Buenos Aires on my little rooftop island, and to be a part of the lives of those on the islands around me, albeit in a minor way.  I enjoy my moments of sonder.

But enough about figurative oceans; this past week I went to a real one!  It was in a town called Mar del Plata, which is about 6 hours south of Buenos Aires (check out  “My Journey” to see where we specifically went) by omnibus, which is a type of giant bus that many people here use to travel instead of flying.  These buses are typically double-deckers, and the seats fold down into beds and they give you yummy complementary snacks and basically are vastly superior to most US travel buses in almost every way.  But anyway, Mar del Plata was right on the ocean (our hostel was about 4 blocks from the beach!), and it was, in a word, gorgeous.  I have always loved oceans, and having never really lived by one other than in 7th grade, I am consistently drawn to their vastness, power, and beauty.  My group (consisting of my new and awesome friends named Trevor, Morris, Christine, Stephanie, Henry, Catherine, and Ricardo) met up with some other students from my program and practically sprinted to the beach nearest us.   W spent all of the first day at that beach, and I took a lot of pictures

 and went swimming a bit too.  The waves were awesome, the beach art was fantastic, and the sun was to wonderful for words.  It was a good day.  That night, we headed back to the hostel with plans to imbibe in certain legal beverages (which can be picked up at corner stores for unbelievably cheap prices) and then head out for a night of shenanigans and tomfoolery.  It was Carnaval weekend, after all, and the city was bumpin’.  However, after a few valiant efforts to inspire the group to go out, we realized that we were all too tuckered and sunkissed to leave the hostel, so instead we headed up to the roof (yay rooftops!) of the hostel to play guitar, sing songs, and generally have a chill evening of camaraderie.  The hostel put on some cumbia music (link here) and some of us (naturally I was one of them) danced away.  It was a good night, that one.

The next day, we rose around 10:00, enjoyed (?) some complimentary hostel breakfast food, and headed off for another day at the beach.  This time, instead of sticking to the beach near us (which was lovely but crowded), we piled into a colectivo and shipped off down the coast for about an hour until we reached a beach that was (supposedly) the best one in Mar del Plata.  Well, upon first glance it wasn’t too bad, but as soon as we tried to find a spot on the sand to lay down our stuff, the lifeguards shunted us away.  ¿Um, perdon?  Yeah, turns out this beach was private, and we had to walk all the way down to a windswept point until the lifeguard deemed the beach a “public area”.  Not even our best efforts (in both Castellano and English) could sway the beach officials.  Yet despite this beach clearly not seeming the like best one in Mar del Plata (we learned later that the beach we were looking for had been about 5 more minutes down the bus route from us), we had a blast.  The waves were even better than they had been the day before, and my body changed color from marshmallow-esque pasty to slightly-cooked-marshmallow.  We left the beach a little earlier that day due to wind, and since our bus back to Buenos Aires was scheduled to leave the next morning at 7:30, we decided to would emulate the Argentinians, and just stay out until then.  It was a raucous night.  After a delicious pizza and beer dinner at the hostel, we went out to a boliche called Tai-pan, which overlooked the bay and was generally super cool.  Many hours of dancing, a few cab rides later, and NO SLEEP later, we were suddenly on the omnibus back to Buenos Aires.  Most of us slept like boulders, although my nap was cut short by a cute but godawfully loud baby near me who kept crying and screaming like his sole purpose was to undermine the much-needed rest of a terribly sleep-deprived American traveler (mission accomplished, baby).

It was lovely to get back home.  I had missed my host family already during my time in Mar del Plata, and they were very accommodating to my immediate desire to sleep before I told them anything about the trip.  After my nap, we chatted for a while and they told me that Anderson (a Brazilian PhD student who had been staying with us for a while), had left the day before.  Anderson is a wonderful guy, and though we had only known each other for a few days, he had been such a pleasure to converse with.  This last picture is of all of us, and Anderson is in the front on the left next to my host dad.

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Thanks for reading, and I know this post was a doozy.  Stay wonderful, everyone.

Besos,

Dylan

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Meeting up with friends in Dublin

Time October 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After we got back from dinner with my family we decided it was too late to go out (I know we’re boring).  Granted we had been up since 4:30am, so we planned what we wanted to visit on Saturday and headed to bed.

We got a much later start to Saturday than we were expecting, so we had to cross off some things on our list like The Book of Kells.  Luckily, my cousin gave us the lowdown on what to expect there.  His words not mine, “You go into the library and see all these old books and think, ‘that’s cool, but they’ll probably all fit in a Kindle anyways.’  Then you see two pages of the book of Kells and you’re done.”

We used the app Hailo to get a taxi from my cousin’s house.  *If you’re ever traveling and have a smart phone download Hailo.  It’s the best app for hailing a taxi.  It will give you the name of your driver, the license plate, and the ETA.  The best part is that you can also prepay using a credit card, so that they can’t overcharge you!*   And then we were off to Kilmainham Gaol.

Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1796 and was known as a “reform jail”.  Instead of having a ton of prisoners crowded into one room, each prisoner had his/her own room with a cot, a candle that had to last you two weeks, and a bucket (you know what for.)  This way you never knew who was in the cell beside you.

 

A typical prison cell

 

 

 

Door of a prison cell with a tiny hole

 

 

This is where Liam will go next time he gets in trouble

 

hundreds of cells with a pulley used to bring food upstairs.

Part of the rich history of this jail is that of the Easter Rising. 16 Irish men led a rebellion for Irish Independence on Easter morning 1916.  Unfortunately for them, it didn’t work out so well and they were all sent to Kilmainham, where they awaited death by firing squad.  The amazing this is what happened after.  One man in particular Joseph Mary Plunkett was able to mary his long-time love, Grace, moments before his death in the chapel at the jail.  This heart-breaking story is what caused many Irish to be moved and fight for independence.

Chapel where Grace and Joseph were married.

 

Cross that stands where 15 of the 16 were executed.

I would definitely recommend visiting Kilmainham Gaol if you’re ever in Dublin.  Our tour guide was great and it was really neat learning about the rich history that surrounds the Republic of Ireland.  You might even get lucky and have a girl who at the conclusion of the tour asks, “So is Ireland it’s own country now?”

 Next up was Temple Bar.  This is a really touristy area, but we were determined to get fish and chips and of course a drink at Temple Bar.  The Temple Bar area was really neat filled with little shops, pubs, and restaurants.  I was determined to find a 99 on the way from the jail to temple bar and in the temple bar area, but unfortunately we were unable to do so.

 

Fish and Chips at Burdocks

 

 

From Temple Bar we ventured to Dublin Castle, which was really pretty on the outside.  We were expecting it to be just as grand on the inside, but it wasn’t.  Troubled by the fact that a room entitled, “Queen’s Bedroom” did not contain a bed, we decided to ask one of the workers.  Apparently the Irish government is allowed to use the Castle for conferences whenever they wish, so they keep as little things as possible inside the rooms, so that it’s easier to set up for events.  Most of the original pieces are hidden away in storage!

 

Dublin Castle

 

Entrance to the Castle museum

 

Next up was St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We were too late to go inside, but the outside was so pretty!  The park would be a perfect place to study if you’re studying in Dublin.

 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

 

Pretty water fountain in the middle of the park

 

Outside the entrance

 

I was a little sad that I wasn’t staying later on Sunday, because it would’ve been wonderful to go to mass at St. Patrick’s, but after taking some pictures of St. Patrick’s we were back to the house.  We got ready fairly quickly and were off to see Caroline.  Caroline and a couple of other Americans studying at Trinity live in this beautiful big house.  To my surprise all the other Davidson students were there as well.  It was so much fun to see everyone.  We hung out at Caroline’s for a little bit before heading out to a pub and then a club called Dicey’s.  It was really fun at the club dancing with Americans (British people tend to not move a lot when they dance).

 

Davidson students do Dublin

 

Caroline and I
Dicey’s stamp on my hand

I had an awesome time in Dublin and am excited to be back there soon.  It is a much smaller city than London and is definitely a must see if you’re looking for the same social culture as London, but in a walkable place.

xx,

Francesca

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Reflections at the halfway mark

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

September 11, 2013

67 days.

67 days I’ve been in my new home of Costa Rica.

67 days until I go back home the U-S-of-A.

I have a  lot of mixed feelings about that revelation, some of them clichés but all genuine.

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Día de al Virgen de los Ángeles

Time August 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I meant to post this a while ago but lost track of the time.

My family drove to Cartago one evening to pick up other members of my family. They had just walked from San José to Cartago (no easy feat) to celebrate El Día de la Virgen de los Ángeles.

And we weren’t the only ones making the trip.

***

Follow the rest of my adventure throughout Costa Rica here at IFSA-Butler’s blog, at my blog, on Twitter or even on Facebook.

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When family visits its abroad student

Time August 20th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My head started to spin. I lost my appetite. I was confused.

I was going through reverse culture shock, three months early.

It’s an odd reaction to have when parents come to visit, but in this case, it makes perfect sense.

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