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

Week One (Primera Semana): Maintaining Sonrisas

Time February 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Cuba | No Comments by

My Cuban host father picked me up in a black Led Zeplin t-shirt and what appeared to be a pair of new, dark-brown Timberland’s. His wife, my new host mom, emerged from behind him, a giant, welcoming smile — “sonrisa” (I love this word because it sounds like they refer to smiles as sunrises) — in tow. I ran to them and awkwardly planted the traditional Cuban-one-kiss-greeting on their cheeks as we embraced. This is mi familia for the next four months, along with their twenty-five year old daughter, Nelli, and two adorable dogs: Sombra (Shadow) and some other name I have yet to make out (it starts with a “C” I think, but only those with an ear for the Cuban accent can confirm, which is not me — at least, not yet).

I live in the most amazing old casa. The ceilings are so high I get dizzy looking at them, the long halls are stacked with painting after painting (in which I find a new detail each time I pass), and the sound of birds chirping on the red-budded tree outside the stain glass window in our room greets my roommate and I each morning. I am immediately filled with questions about how a family living off of the equivalent of twenty dollars a month can afford such a beautiful home, but maybe it is government owned or maybe they are able to afford it because they are paid so much to host us (and in the past, tourists). And what are the homes of other Cubans like? I want to ask about my host dad’s job with the radio station — whether he can broadcast whatever he wants or only what the government tells him — and I want to ask my host mom about being a woman in Cuba and what she has done with the prestigious, free education she has benefitted from. I want to know the word for every foreign object and type of food, the instructions on how to unlock the front door (I’ve been fumbling with that), and the biographies of every human who seems to come and go daily from this big ol’ house. Most of these are questions that I expect to either find out the answer to myself in the coming days, or questions that I feel can only be asked after a close, trusting relationship has been formed. My host padre has already said that he is here to answer any and all of our questions — just not to comment on politics. We’ll see. Read More »


My First Week in Dublin ♥

Time September 12th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

I believe that there are few things that are as chaotic as your first week in a foreign country. Everyone around you is scrambling to get kitchen supplies, food, mobiles, travel cards, friends—the full gamut of human panicking upon realization that ‘I’m going to spend a semester in this place.’

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La Semana Primera

Time February 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

That’s Spanish for “The First Week,” which has been amazing (but also strap in, because it’s been full of stuff). I arrived in Buenos Aires last Friday morning, and I stayed in a hostel until Monday morning. The hostel was fun, but it was definitely a party hostel – They had one every night, and then they took you to “un boliche,” which is a nightclub. I only participated in this one night of the three, but it was crazy. The bus from the hostel dropped us off at 2 AM and the club was almost empty, but by 5 AM it was packed. Los Porteños party until the sun comes up, that’s for sure! We left around six, and it still wasn’t clearing out. I met some really cool girls from England, and I roomed with some guys from Germany, and most of them were just backpacking around South America which I think would b be really cool!

Here’s the view from my balcony:


While at the hostel, I went exploring around Buenos Aires for a bit, and probably my favorite thing that I saw was the Casa Rosada – this is their version of the white house, although the president doesn’t live there. Evita gave one of her most famous speeches on the balcony there, and it was an amazing feeling to know that.


Then on Monday, it was time to move in with my host mom. She’s a single, older, woman who is one of the nicest people I have ever met. We live in the barrio of Ricoleta, which is a really nice area with a lot of shopping. She showed me around the neighborhood and we had ice cream together, and I began to feel like maybe Buenos Aires could be home.

Orientation has been jam-packed. My program is really small, only six people, and they’re all really cool people that I’m excited to spend the next five months with. Monday, after settling in with my host mom, we went to dinner at a really good Italian restaurant, and Tuesday we had a long presentation on what was safe, what our healthcare plan was like, and a lot of valuable information. After that, we went on a tour of the city; we saw the Ricoleta Cemetary, and I got to see Evita’s tomb, which is something I have been wanting to do for as long as I can remember. We also saw San Telmo, which I have a feeling is going to become my favorite neighboorhood; our tour guide described it as “very bohemian, and where the artists live.”

I’m also having to figure out the public transportation system which is crazy – it gets so packed in the morning that sometimes the buses won’t even stop! It seems kind of difficult now, but the city of Buenos Aires has a transportation app, which has proved to be very helpful.

We also started our intensive spanish class – it’s killer; it’s four hours each day of speaking and listening only in Spanish. On top of my host mom only speaking to me in Spanish, I think my brain is going to melt. However, even in the five days the program has been going, I can understand and speak so much more Spanish than I could when I got here. I’m also a lot braver – it turns out that people get really excited when you just try to speak their language, and they can usually get the idea of what you’re saying. Here’s a view from my school (our class is on the ninth floor).


So far, adjusting to the culture has been pretty easy. I know it gets harder as time goes on, and then it evens out, but right now I feel like this city is where I am supposed to be. I mean, of course, I miss my dog, my sister,  and my family, but I’m making some pretty cool friends here, and I know that everyone at be waiting with open arms (and wagging tails) when I get back.

That’s pretty much all I can think of to post for today (It’s not like there isn’t a lot here), so I guess I’ll go do some homework.

Ciao! :)