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

Excursion to Kilkenny

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

With the semester halfway through, I am getting less and less excited to go back home. One of those reasons? The friends I have made here. I am a mid-west girl already planning my travels to the New England area to see my friends once we’re back in the States. Luckily, IFSA Butler provided us with an excursion as part of IFSA Ireland. And although not all of the Galway Gang could make it, the group of Galway Girls were great to hang out with and get to know better. A girls weekend down in the books! Here are some of my favorite moments from the three day weekend in Kilkenny! Read More »

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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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Voice From Beyond (or perhaps not quite that yet)

Time January 30th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Hi again! It’s been a little while since my last post, but this is just to say that I’m alive and, um, doing. I’d say doing well, but at the moment I’m currently struggling with what is probably the flu. I’d like to say this has lent me a lot of time for introspection, but really, it’s just been kinda gross all around. Still, I have some awesome stories from before I landed myself with a cold, so I’ll share them now to valiantly ignore my current well-being.

Last weekend I got the chance to head back into London for couple days, to visit my friends Rebecca and Miranda! They’re also on the IFSA program, just at Kings College in London instead of out here in Norwich with me. We had promised each other many adventures together, and we did our best to start that. Rebecca spearheaded this weekend’s charge. Our target? The Magical Lantern Festival, out in some middle-of-nowhere park in London. As a newbie to the tube, I was wholly reliant on the solid one week of experience my friends had to guide me around. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t get lost. I was half-expecting to be like, one of those ghosts just doomed to eternally wander the London underground without ever reaching my destination. I have it on good authority that that’s a thing. That, and apparently the story behind the “mind the gap” voice guy will make you cry every time you hear it.

So we made it out to Chittiwick Gardens (the spelling of that may or may not be atrocious), and after some fruitless wandering and then defeatedly asking a friendly passerby for directions. Once we were finally there, though, it was worth it. The Magical Lantern Festival definitely lived up to its name, with displays of cultures from all across the world rendered in brightly-lit cables and sculptures that stretched across the lawns. I got myself a mulled wine to keep my hands warm, and wandered among designs that showcased the entire Aladdin cast to a rendition of a giant masted galley ship in bright blue and white lights. For lack of a better word, it was a magical night.

The following morning, I had to go back to Norwich, but I wasn’t in too much of a rush. Plus, morning by college standards more or less means any time before dark. We spent a little time wandering Hyde Park, and then went off and had afternoon tea at a tiny little french cafe that made me feel horribly underdressed on principle. It was a wonderfully British experience.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and it’s not like Norwich doesn’t have its own appeal as well. I came back to campus, went to class, got the chance to do a little pub exploring (the Adam and Eve pub is apparently over a thousand years old, which amazes me), and visited the beautiful Norwich Cathedral as well. I’ll tell you more stories later; right now, I’ve got a cold to beat.

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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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Salta + Jujuy

Time December 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

Part 2 coming soon!

Music:

Whispy by Hyleo (w/ Ollygon)

My Heart by Subtact

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Spring Break Down Under

Time December 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

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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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Tick- tock…is it time yet?

Time November 30th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

The countdown has begun! In less than a month, I will be back home, home to the peach state of good ol’ Georgia. I can’t believe time has flown as fast as it has. I’m so excited to be home. The other day as I was cleaning my room, I got inspired and I started to pack. I packed all the winter clothes that I had brought to Peru (there is really no need for them now that it is spring time here). I also packed some of the souvenirs that I have bought from when I went to Iquitos and Cusco. I have yet to be close to finishing with my souvenir shopping, but for now, I’ll pack everything that isn’t breakable into my massive pink and black suitcase. I’m hoping mom will take it back home when she comes to visit me for Thanksgiving break…

In preparation to my leave, I plan to exercise as much as I can because I’m going to be eating as much Peruvian food as I can, because truthfully I will miss it. Peru has a huge variety of fruits and potatoes. My host family is not much of vegetable eaters, so getting back to the U.S. will be good for that reason. The main reason though that I want to be home is that I miss people. Peru is a very (VERY) affectionate country. You are greeted with a hug and a cheek kiss, but it doesn’t fully make me not want to be hugged and kissed by my family and friends. *cough, cough, and boyfriend.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day I go home. It’ll be a good change of things. I’ve gotten used to having my breakfast waiting for me in the mornings, and I need to do my bed more than I should. I also need to eat better. Having a sweet tooth is not good when you are staying in Peru for 6 months. There’s delicious mouthwatering sweets at every corner. Peru is too good for my own good. Haha. I just hope time flies and that final exams are not too stressful! Smooth sailing is the plan. Let’s hope it happens that way. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying Peru.

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A Weekend in Amsterdam

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

This past weekend, I traveled to Amsterdam with Norah, one of my IFSA-Butler friends. On Friday, we started at the Anne Frank Huis. We waited in line for almost two hours but it was undoubtedly worth it. I felt that the museum was presented so well. Otto Frank insisted that the rooms be unfurnished, leaving only items authentic to the Frank family and their helpers to be showcased. There was a reverent atmosphere, especially in the annex of the top floor of the house.

Following the Anne Frank Huis, we walked down Prinsengracht, a scenic street along a canal towards our hostel. After checking in, we had dinner at an Indonesian restaurant and splurged on a
Rijsttafel, a rice table of appetizer-size portions of meats, seafood, vegetables, egg rolls, satays, nuts, and fruits. Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian food due to colonisation, and it did not disappoint. Following dinner, we walked through the Red Light District, the hub of legal prostitution in Amsterdam. It was a surreal, thought-provoking experience that led to good ideas and conversation.

On Saturday, Norah and I started the day with an hour-long canal ride through the city. We learned about the city and saw some of the historical sites. Next, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, my favorite part of the weekend. I loved this museum so much because it displayed Van Gogh’s pieces in chronological fashion. I absorbed his evolution as a painter and as a human. There is a room devoted to letters Van Gogh wrote to his friends and family. I watched Van Gogh dive into the world of modern art and eventually into his manic last stage as a painter. He painted 70 paintings in the final three months of his life. These paintings, showcased on the final floor of the gallery were the most poignant to me. I felt connected to his story and found them to be beautiful. I have seen individual Van Gogh works, but it was especially meaningful to see over 200 consecutively.

The rest of the weekend was spent walking around the city in different restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops! It was a much-needed break from the emotional stress of the United States election and a weekend well spent with a good friend.

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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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Atacama in my heart

Time October 28th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

On the last day of Atacama, we traveled with our guide to Valle de Arcois where we had the most incredible send off (and view!) I got the chance to fearfully climb a few mountain structures and conquer my fear I developed when I split open my knee and hand on a  rock the previous day. We ate a few empanadas of pino, vegetarian and pollo and were given a personal tour of the whole area. It was really relaxing to a weekend of semi intense activities and climbing and a chance for the whole group to laugh, talk and play music. Our guide’s playlist was fire so of course we had a sing along to every classic American jam that came up. Atacama has my heart, ¡siempre!

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Mel(burn)

Time October 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

G’day Loves!

This weekend was yet another trip outside of Wollongong, this time a venture to Melbourne, Victoria! We took another hour and a half flight out of Sydney and got to Melbourne late on a Thursday, stayed in a quaint AirBnB (so nice to actually have someone who knew the city to give us the best go-to tips) and took our time exploring the city and surrounds over three whole days. Since we had a total group of eight people we split up in two groups and drove a rental car (wonderful freedom, yet driving on the left is STILL bizarre even three months later).

The first whole day we spent driving south down the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles — fun fact, there are only 8 total rocks, maybe they just sound better as 12? — with pit stops at lookouts, beaches, and cafes along the gorgeous stretch of windy roads on the south coast of Australia. We saw the Apostles then hopped around to the London Bridge, the Arch, then chased the sunset back to watch it set over the Apostles again on the water (which is very rare to see on the East coast). Read More »

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Singing With Kiwis

Time October 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

I am a singer. I’ve been singing my entire life and I consider it to be a major part of my identity. However, in the context of school, I am a science major. Back home, I am a member of an a cappella group and I participate in student-run theater. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get involved in music while abroad, but–luckily–I was wrong. All semester, I’ve been involved in a paper called “Musical Theater Voice.” Class each week involves taking voice lessons, choosing songs, and singing them. My final examination is a concert, in which I will perform four songs (yes, THIS IS FOR CREDIT). The paper also involves a weekly GROUP class, in which a large group of us learn, sing, and (sometimes) dance to full-cast numbers from musicals.

I think this paper has been very enriching for me, both as a course and as a cultural immersion. I am the only international student in the group, and it’s been so special for me to intimately get to know a group of kiwi students. I feel as though the American abroad experience can be somewhat limiting in who you get to know, as international students tend to mainly interact with each other. This course has made it possible for me to truly befriend a group of Kiwi students and they are absolutely wonderful.

3girls Fiora (left), Sam (right), and me before our lunchtime concert

 

We had a performance a week ago, in which we performed a handful of group and solo numbers. My small group performed a song called “A New World.” The six of us had worked on our harmonies and blending for weeks prior to the concert, so it sounded incredible the day of. The large group numbers came together nicely–practically everyone remembered the choreography! I could feel the support of the group around me, and it filled me with warmth. It just proves that music can bring anyone together, no matter where you come from.

perf The final pose from “I Got You,” one of the major group numbers

 

After the concert, we all met up at Eureka, a cafe/bar right next to campus. We sat and ate chips (fries) and wedges (wedges) and the most delicious brownies. The conversation centered around the weird little differences between America and New Zealand. For instance, our desserts at home are served with whipped cream or ice cream, as opposed to whipped cream or yogurt. Along with that, an “iced coffee” at home would be cold coffee with ice in it. In New Zealand, it is a blended drink made up of coffee, ice cream, whipped cream, etc. No wonder it costs so much more!!

brownie The most delicious brownie ever (and yogurt) at Eureka

 

If I appreciate anything from this experience, it will be the people I’ve met and the things they have taught me. Living in another country is only half the battle–to really immerse yourself in the New Zealand lifestyle, you must befriend the people.

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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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Top Five Mouthwatering Restaurants In South Bank.

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

We all know that the only reason students go abroad is to eat delicious food and take pictures of it for Instagram. So, to make sure you guys knew where to get the good stuff in Brisbane I decided to turn into a restaurant critic for a day. From date night to experiencing a new world or just enjoying some comfort food, here are the five places you need to eat at if you live in South Bank, Brisbane:

14550704_10154078754621936_1118433407_o Read More »

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Halfway Point

Time September 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

“Cuanto más participa menos observa y cuanto más observa menos participa.”

Translation (roughly): “The more you participate, the less you observe and the more you observe, the less you participate.”

I found the above quote in one of the readings for my anthropology class. It stuck out to me because, much like an anthropologist, I am living and studying in a new environment for a specific amount of time. And although I am not taking field notes and conducting interviews, I am constantly observing the culture, habits, and traditions that I grew up with and comparing them to those of my new environment (never in a better/worse comparison, but more in an “Oh, this is different. I wonder why they do this here and I do something else in the United States?” kind of way).

But because I tend to “observe” more than I “participate”, I sometimes feel like I am not making the most out of my experience in Mendoza. Like the quote above suggests, I sacrifice participation time for observation time.

I see this discrepancy most acutely in my relationships. For example, I have not made any local, Argentine friends. Of course, I have acquaintances that I’ll greet before my classes and who will help me if I don’t understand something. And I know one, super-sweet girl through a mutual friend. But these people have never invited me out to a bar or a picnic in the park.

To be fair, going into this semester, I did not expect to make any Argentine friends I know myself well enough to understand that the mere act of living and studying in a new country (as well as making friends from other colleges in the US) would be difficult enough; the observer in me would already be stretched to participate in customs and activities that were out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it is difficult to watch other people on my program making friends (or even acquaintances) with Argentines because I always second-guess myself, “Are they making more out of their experience than I am?”

For the past two weeks, I have been mulling over this question and working to reframe it: “How can I make the most out of my experience in Mendoza?” After all, my idea of the best study abroad experience is not necessarily the same as a classmate’s idea. We all move at our own pace and need different things to thrive in our environments (something that I always need to remind myself).

So at this halfway point in my semester, I have made three goals for the rest of my time in Mendoza:

  1. Say yes to every opportunity.
  2. Always try something new.
  3. Speak as much Spanish as possible.

Keeping my fingers crossed that opening myself up to new opportunities and experiences results in an even more well-rounded and fulfilling experience. (Because don’t get me wrong, I already feel so happy and excited to be in Argentina for the semester!)

So far (as the pictures below suggest), saying yes has only resulted in good things :)

(Except for a small bout of food poisoning, but that’s a different story…)

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Farewells, Friends, and Lots of Feelings

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Holy cow, this post is a long time coming! I’ve been home for a little while now, but I’ve been procrastinating on writing this final post because it means that the semester is officially over. I’ve completed my finals, flown home, received my transcript, filled out the surveys, and begun preparing for the next semester. This wrap-up post was the last thing I needed to do as part of my time abroad and I was not ready.

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Reflection in Retrospect

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England | No Comments by

Hey there! Well, I’ve been back home from my study abroad trip for a few months now, and I was looking back over my blog, and I was thinking I’d like to reflect back on my experiences, now that some time has past.

First of all, I want to say that my whole experience was absolutely AMAZING. I mean, just wonderful in every way – everything I dreamed it would be and more. I feel like that doesn’t often happen in life. When we hope and dream about something for a long time, it’s easy to end up disappointed. I’m not going to say that my experience didn’t have its ups and downs, but… all in all, it was just so, so wonderful.

So what exactly made it so great?

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November in Galway

Time December 1st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

So instead of jet setting like I’ve been doing for many weekends here, I’ve spent the last 4 weekends in Galway. The first picture you’ll see is that of my late umbrella — it became that sad little pile of cloth and metal after a walk to campus one day. Everyone warns you about the rain in Ireland, but no one prepares you for the wind! Some days it just comes out of no where, and your umbrella just isn’t up for it. (Update: I’ve bought a new umbrella since the demise of this one).

The next you’ll see is that of my friend up on stage. She’s one of the Irish friends I’ve made here and she has an incredible singing voice, so we were out supporting her at a competition!

You’ll then see a few from the Galway Christmas Market — one of the actual market, one of the amazing cheese stuffed bread I had for dinner, and one of the candy stall (I stop here every time I’m down by the market).

After this you’ll see my friend and I holding matching drinks. This is another Irish friend of mine, and we were out celebrating our friend’s 21st birthday! Even though turning 21 doesn’t mean anything special here in Ireland, the Irish still make a big deal out of it.

After this is a photo of my friend buying his daily coffee from the Coffee Hut. The owner uses the small opening below the billboards as a small cafe and gets loads of customers.

The oysters in the following picture are local Galway oysters, and they were delicious! I’m always a sucker for oysters, so I had to try the most famous ones in Ireland.

After this are some photos of our Thanksgiving dinner in Galway, which we called “Friendsgiving” (I made that stuffing from scratch). Our two roommates from France shared their first Thanksgiving experience with us, and said they hadn’t eaten so much food in very a long time. We explained that that’s what Thanksgiving is all about!

There is also a photo of a few of my friends and I trying on some hats — there is a little vintage store in Galway that we love to visit.

In the gallery you’ll see an updated picture of the foal up the road that was born at the beginning of our semester here. We’ve watched him grow up!

Last are some photos from our breakfast at Dungeons and Doughnuts, a local shop that sells both board games (e.g. Dunces and Dragons) and some very creative donuts! They were perfectly sugary and definitely worth sharing.

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Last Big Trip for Awhile — London and Brighton, UK

Time November 4th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Ok, so this will be my last jetsetting-across-Europe post for awhile (I’m exhausted and getting a bit tired of my weekly trip to the Dublin Airport). But what a weekend to end on! I got to London very early  in the morning on Friday and met up with a friend of mine who is studying there at Royal Halloway (not sure if that’s spelled correctly). She showed me some of the big sights of London, including Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, before bringing us to a really cool tea house called Sketch (definitely recommended! See the picture below of a room that looks like it’s full of giant eggs, that’s the bathroom). But the main part of my trip was visiting some family friends about an hour outside of London, or rather about 15 minutes from another big British city: Brighton. After getting my first good night’s sleep in weeks, we took a beautiful walk through the South Downs, a preserved area near where they live. I was able to get some great shots of the British countryside (as well as some of my new best friend, Otis the Water Dog!) Later that day we took the train to Brighton, which sits right along the English channel. Brighton is known for its artists and its proximity to the beach, so we made sure to see both before the sun went down. You can see some graffiti and some shots of the pier/beach below. All in all it was great to see my family friends, as well as see such a cool and different city in Europe.

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Weekend in Edinburgh

Time October 20th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend I took a flight “across  the pond” to Edinburgh to visit one of my best friends from Johns Hopkins, who is studying abroad through IFSA-Butler and interning in the Scottish Parliament. One of the first things we did was go to the Elephant House, famous for being the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the entire first Harry Potter book. We then walked past an adorable statue of a scottish terrier (look up Greyfriar’s Bobby if you’re interested in the story behind it!), and on to a graveyard behind the Elephant House where JK Rowling used to take walks, and accidentally named some of her characters after the names on the headstones (see Tom “Riddell”‘s grave photo). Later we took a tour of Hollyrood Palace, where the Queen of England stays when she visits Scotland. The palace was also where Mary Queen of Scots lived during her days in Edinburgh. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside the palace, but you can see some photos of the front fountain and abbey.

The next day we hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a famous mountain right in the middle of the city. Although  it was difficult, we were really proud of ourselves for getting to the top!

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Hotsprings, Hiking, and Hangliding (and wine): One Heck of a Good Time in Mendoza

Time July 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Guys: traveling is so so cool.  I know this is not a new observation, and I’m sure that as humans we have been exploring and pushing the boundaries of our known worlds at least as long as recorded history.  But I’m finally discovering this feeling for myself, and it’s wonderful.  The bug is real (the travel bug that is), and after my most recent trip I’m already planning on how I’m going to scrounge up the funds for another adventure.  Maybe I’ll just become a wandering minstrel…

On this travel note, last weekend, I went to Mendoza with two of my best friends here: Ali and Morris.  They’re the best.  However, the timing wasn’t, considering the trip was planned for the weekend before all of my parciales (FINAL EXAMS), so my trip was going to eat into some pretty important study time.  But, since we were taking Omnibuses to get there, this meant had a 15 hour drive to hit the books.  

(Plus, now that I’ve finished all of my parciales, I would like to report that they went SWIMMINGLY.  This note is for you, parents)

Yet despite the small cloud of academic worry that hung over us, we entered the weekend with high hopes, and we were not disappointed.  Not in the slightest.  Mendoza was, though not as visually striking as Patagonia or Salta, the best place I have traveled to in Argentina.  I was in heaven.  

Mendoza is gorgeous, a mix between the Sierra Nevadas and Napa Valley with a hearty dose of the Andes Mountains thrown in.  The weather was absolutely perfect; mid-sixties without even a hint of anything less than sunshine.  Is it even winter here?  We hiked all around her foothills while breaking every rule that I’ve ever learned as a hiker (we didn’t bring enough water, we didn’t tell anyone where we were, we went slightly off-trail, and we had no real destination or plan on getting home).  We also paragliding off the summit of Cerro Arco, and spent an afternoon perusing the many parks, fountains, and a few of the art museums that the city had to offer.  

Mendoza is delicious; I had probably the one of the top 5 desserts in my life (a chocotorta, in a splendid restaurant called El Mercadito), as well as some delicious wines, salsas, and liquors.  One day, we did the popular bike-wine tour; we took a bus out to wine country, rented some bikes, and spent the day tasting some of Mendoza’s best offerings.  We went to big wineries (LaGarde), small wineries (Carmelo Patti), organic wineries (Pulmary), and places with everything in between (A La Antigua).  

Mendoza is tranqui.  For a large (9.5 million people live in the city and the surrounding area) place, Mendoza doesn’t appear overly bustling in massive.  People smile more than they do in Buenos Aires, and the city pretty much shuts down every afternoon for a siesta.  It was a winning combination of the exciting buzz of a metro area with the comforting feel of a smaller town.  We also took a day trip to the Cacheuta Hot Springs with some British friends who we met at our hostel, and it was a day of fantastic food, peaceful soaking, and striking views.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in Mendoza.  I couldn’t asked for a better trip to send off my time in Argentina.  

If you want more of Mendoza, you can check out some pics below.  They’ll tell you more than my words could.

Also, on a separate note, I couldn’t really have asked for a better hostel than Hostel Mora, the hostel that happily housed us in Mendoza.  (Cue shameless plug here).  Hostel Mora served us breakfast to-order every morning (fo’ freee), which included EGGS (something that they never serve for breakfast here, and I had been missing), dulce crepes, fresh fruit, and a variety of pastries.  But, in addition to that, I adored the folks we that we met and spent time with at the hostel.  There were Alex and Becca, an American couple who were traveling the world after Alex sold his startup company.  Nick and Charlotte were a British couple who had been traveling in southern South America and were freaks about soccer.  Remy was an Australian girl my age who had be traveling for the better part of the last 5 months on her own, and had just spent a few weeks in Brazil at the World Cup.  And, of course, best for last were Oli and Dan, a pair of best friends from London who were on a gap year in South American and became our best friends in Mendoza.  They were a hilarious one-two punch who are low-key social media celebs.  Between shenanigans in the hostel, a dinner adventure, and quality times with a waterproof camera at the hot springs, we certainly made some great memories together.  I hope that I can visit them in London one day. In my experience, hostel dwellers are by and large pretty cool, but these ones were the best that I’d met so far.  It made me want to travel more.  

Now, I’m back in Buenos Aires.  I survived my examenes finales, have fanatically supported the USMNT with random gaggles of Americans throughout the city, and am starting to get sad about leaving.  As of now, I have 5 days left in Buenos Aires.  What the hell.  Also, my summer job just fell through due to restructuring in the company I would’ve  been working for, so after this stint as a blogger ends I’ll be officially unemployed.  Looks like Craigslist is about to become my best friend. 

Keep it real, stay classy, and take care.  I’ll write again soon.

Dylan

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Empanadas de Salta

Time June 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Geez, I’ve certainly been traveling up a storm recently!  When we last left off, I had just returned from the Argentine Patagonia (check my story out HERE), and I barely had time to catch my breath in Buenos Aires before gearing up for my next trip, which was to the city of Salta in the extreme Northwest tip of Argentina.  My friends and I scored a sweet deal on the travel and accommodations with the same travel agency that took us to Calafate, and after kissing my host family goodbye (it seems as though I had just said hello to them), I was on a plane to the high-altitude deserts and rugged Andes Mountains of the north.  

Before I had left, my host Dad took me aside and advised me that Salta was famous (food-wise) for its empanadas, tamales, and wine; and he urged me to try all three.  So, after landing, dropping our stuff off at the hostel (and saying hi to the kitten that lived there), we set off in search of delicious and authentic Salteñan food and drink.  Our trusty Lonely Planet app steered us towards a restaurant called Doña Salta, which, while kitschy (the waiters dressed up like Gauchos), had extraordinary food and wine.  I sampled the empanadas (which are more like empanaditas; they’re pretty small in the Salteñan style) with delicious dried meat only found in Salta, and enjoyed my first bites in a long time of  tamales (yum!).  I also had Locro, which is a lamb stew popular in the Northern regions of Argentina.  The food was all rich and hearty, which proved to be a theme for all the food that we ate that weekend.  It seemed appropriate for chilly and mountainous region in which we found ourselves, and my tummy certainly didn’t mind.  We told ourselves we would crash early that night since we had a tour planned at 7 the next morning, but since we are silly college students who were stoked to be in a new city, we naturally didn’t sleep much that night (note: this is a very consistent theme for this trip, and I probably averaged only four hours of sleep a night #restandrelaxation?).  

The next morning found us excited if a little exhausted, and we had barely shook the sleep from our groggy eyes before we had hopped onto a combi (a giant van-type vehicle for carrying larger groups of people) and began our photo adventure to Cafayate, which is a wine town tucked into the nape of the Andes.  We had a van photo/food/informational tour planned for each day, and each tour that we took had a different mood depending on who our fellow riders were. Today, the mood was ENERGY.  We were with a crew of middle-aged women from Mar del Plata (shoutout to the first city that I ever traveled to in BsAs) who liked to have fun!  That day was the birthday of one of their members (Ramira), and I lost track of how many times we sang “Cumpleaños Felíz” during that drive.  We also saw amazing vistas, drank yummy pink wine, enjoyed some llama empanadas, and I bought an alpaca sweater.  The women were wonderful company, they were tickled pink that we were American but spoke comfortable Spanish.  We ended that day with quick stroll into a canyon for our last photo stop, and while we were there a ukelele player took full advantage of the acoustics of the canyon with a few tunes, which inspired our new friends to dance wildly and sing along.  Then, the ladies from the sea gathered us all into a circle and we prayed for Paz Mundial.  #blessed.  What an amazing day.  

Day two (Saturday), however, was the one we were all waiting for, the (longggg) day trip to the Salt Flats of Jujuy.  After staying up way too late the night before (again) with our new friends from the hostel, we crowded into a new van with a new crew and hit the road for the Salt Flats.  If yesterday’s theme was energy, then today’s was absolutely adversity.  The day started auspiciously enough; we met some cool new friends who were staying in Tucumán and took some enthusiastic photos with us next to the Train to the Sky.  However, after one of our first photo stops, our guide couldn’t get the car in gear (basically every vehicle is stick-shift here), and he turned to us and explained that without the ability to shift gears, our car wouldn’t be able to drive.  We had no radio, no cell service, and no idea what to do.  Our guide, fortunately, happened to be a mechanic, but after taking apart the whole front panel of the The mood of the group rapidly began to sour until another combi trundled along and we were able to flag it down.  After about an hour (from when the car broke down to the end of the tinkering), our driver had jury-rigged the gearbox cables together with a piece of wire from the toolkit that the other combi had.  And that jury-rigged system lasted the ENTIRE 12 hour day, including some really rough driving.  Color me impressed.  But broken-down autos aside, that Saturday was also obscenely windy, and the towns that we visited were all out in the open and duuusty.  By the time we finally pulled up to the salt flats, most of us were tired and ready for the attraction that we had traveled so long (about a 5.5 hour drive thus far) to reach.  However, the flats were absolutely worth it.  We braved the wind and took a ton of goofy photos, and afterwards we hopped in the car and passed around some mate.  Between the excitement of the salt flat and the mateína, the mood and morale definitely improved.  Still, we were a ways away from Salta when we were at the Salinas, and it was a long haul back home.  When we finally made it back to our lodgings, darkness had long since fallen, and hostel food had never tasted so good.  

Finally, for our last day, our van tour promised us a trip to Cachi, which is another tiny mountain town that is known for both its goat and having spawned a former Argentine president.  To get there, we drove up a winding mountain road that offered spectacular views of a cloud-cloaked Salta.  The were cacti everywhere, and between the hardy desert plants and the color of the soil, I felt like I was in Tucson, Arizona (a town I know and love).  On the drive up, our affable (my personal favorite) guide introduced us to the mountain tradition of coqueando, which means the process of chewing coca leaves.  While each leaf contains a minute amount of cocaína (yes, the stuff in cocaine, but it’s more like caffeine than anything else in the leaf form), our guide assured us that people chewed these leaves the “help with the digestion”, before opening his mouth and cramming about 500 leaves into it.  Oh well.  However, our guide also asked if anyone in the car (which was populated today by a bunch of retired Argentines.  We, like every other day in Salta, were the only Americans in the car) if they wanted to perform music with him at the restaurant in Cachi.  Someone volunteered me (granted, I would have volunteered myself if given the chance), and before I knew up I was perched in front of a crowd of elderly Argentines singing Creedence Clearwater Revival (I forgot a verse but just made up the words in English and they were none the wiser).  I also ate goat for the first time.  Fantastic day.

And then, a god-awfully early morning flight later, I was back in Buenos Aires with some fantastic memories (and a lot of homework that needed doing) under my belt.  Once again, I felt incredibly lucky to travel, and I had spent the weekend with some of my favorite gringos that I have met during this program.  Plus, we were all photogenic and avid photographers, so between the 6 of us we probably took about 1000 photos.  I assure you that I made sizable cuts to get to the 88 photos that I’m posted here.  What a fantastic weekend.

Now, I’m in Buenos Aires and World Cup fever is in full swing.  I’m writing this while watching Colombia beat Greece and doing my best to balance academics with soccer (soccer might be winning).  It’s hitting me a little harder each day that I only have 3 weeks left in this fantastic country.  Definitely not ready to leave.  Not yet.  I no doubt will write some overwrought and unnecessarily verbose reflection when I end my days here, but until then, I’ve still got some more adventures.  Mendoza this weekend!  See you on the other side!  Dale, vamos!

Dylan

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