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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Making Friendships to Last

Time October 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

For five nights I slept in a small one room shed-like house on Kangaroo Island. Remote, and away from anyone else, myself and 4 other girls spent these days traveling around the island completing a field research project, cooking meals together, playing endless rounds of “would you rather” on car rides to field sites, and just getting to know each other. Three of the girls were Australians and the fourth is an international student from Norway. We went into this trip none of us knowing anyone very well, and came out with friendships to last.

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It was my first time since coming to Australia that I’ve actually been able to hang out with Australians and get to know them on a personal level. I couldn’t be more thankful for the group of girls I was paired with. It was complete luck as I remember sitting in our Conservation and Restoration practical on the first day of classes that I ended up in this amazing group project. Everyone in the class seemed to know each other for years, all set in their majors for a while and the course being offered later on in the degree. I sat in the classroom, seemingly alone and then the professor announced that the big assignment of the semester would be a group field research project. Great. I looked around the room already seeing people whispering to their friends around them. I sat still, completely frozen until the girl next to me asked if I’d like to join their group. I don’t think I’d ever felt so relieved in my life, and then the excitement set in because we would be asking for the Kangaroo Island project. An island of kangaroos, sign me up! The three Australians, Charlotte, Esther, and Izzy, couldn’t be sweeter and then another exchange student from Norway, Miranda, asked to join our group and there we were, 5 girls ready to head on an adventure to Kangaroo Island.

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During the second week of mid-semester break I packed up a duffel bag and hopped into a truck with the group early Sunday morning to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. Though I was still a bit shocked from the temperature drop coming back from Cairns, I was so excited to get to the island and to get to know the girls I would be spending the next 5 days with. Arriving at Izzy’s parents house, which she was nice enough to offer to us instead of camping, I was in awe. The property was immense with rolling green hills continuing all the way to the ocean. It felt so open and so secluded. I fell in love quickly. Then I went to the bathroom and was greeted by a lovely little Huntsman spider (what you’ve all been expecting since I’ve arrived in Australia).

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After we got settled in our little home for the next 5 days, it was time again to focus on the actual task at hand. Our research project was a project that has been ongoing for years now, looking at the conservation efforts of the Drooping Sheoak on Kangaroo Island. The Drooping Sheoak is a tree that produces cones with seeds inside them. The Glossy Black Cockatoo eats only these cones and its population is struggling, Kangaroo Island being the only place they’re currently found in South Australia. Monitoring their food source and observing whether or not chewed up cones could be found under the trees we were marking, is a good indicator for where the cockatoos are feeding and what sites are doing well. We visited 8 sites over the span of 5 days, some being on private property, conservation sites, and re-vegetation sites, counting the cone production of 40 trees on each site (a very tedious process, trust me). The entire time, as many cones as we were counting, we had so much fun driving around the island, sharing stories, and returning each night to our little home.

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With no wifi, cellphone service, or TV, we had plenty of time to get to know each other. This consisted especially of just having fun listening to each other’s accents, trying to imitate it in our own accents, much to our amusement. Charlotte, Esther, and Izzy definitely did not get tired saying “Hey! I’m walking here” anytime New York happened to come up, while I couldn’t quite get down “There’s a shark in the water!” One night while we began to play some card games, I asked (thinking it was a complete shot in the dark) if anyone had ever heard of the game Mao, a card game my friends and I love and play back home. To my surprise, Esther and Charlotte knew what I was talking about. Here I was all the way on the other side of the world about to play a game I must have played countless times Freshman year with my hall-mates. Such a small thing like a card game, in that moment, meant the world to me.

The next few days consisted of plenty of field work, but not without spotting some of the (adorable) wildlife on Kangaroo Island…

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…Including my new favorite animal: the echidna. LOOK AT IT.

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As its name suggests, Kangaroo Island is home to mainly kangaroos (shocker I know). What was shocking was how many kangaroos this actually implied. As we drove up and down the island, I counted 6 kangaroos that had ran in front of the car (way worse than any deer you’ll face in upstate New York or when you’re driving out to Montauk). They. Were. Everywhere. And it was absolutely amazing!!!

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The different field sites we visited were also gorgeous in themselves, but coming back to our humble little abode after a long day of field work was always the best feeling. Master chef Izzy (no exaggeration) always prepared delicious dinners for us all and again nights were spent getting to know each other, discussing things as silly as what celebrity crushes we all would marry to social issues shaking all of our countries right now.

On one of our last nights, we had invited another group from our class, also doing research on the island, to come over during what would be the worst storm to hit South Australia in 50 years. Luckily the house ran on solar power so we were not hit with the huge power outage that South Australia experienced, but we did miss a day of field work. At some point during the night of the storm we had begun to swap ghost stories, some spooky enough to definitely raise the hair on the back of my neck. Of course, after the stories were shared I had to go to the bathroom, conveniently located in a separate shed next to the house. As I tiptoed to the restroom with the stormy wind and rain whipping around me, I shined my phone’s flashlight into the darkness in front of me. I kept telling myself that the scariest thing that could be in the bathroom was a spider and even that wouldn’t be so bad. When I began walking back toward the house, right as I reached the front door I heard a loud thud to my left. I couldn’t see anything, the porch light not reaching very far, but I could hear the thumping on the ground grow louder like footsteps coming toward me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to scream and fight some ax murderer when a little kangaroo hopped into the porch light. I learned it’s quite easy to get the spooks when you’re living on an island in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a storm, and believe me I was laughed at quite a bit when I walked back inside, but all in all I had such a great time with some great people. Learning more about Australia while making new friendships was definitely the highlight of Kangaroo Island. 

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I did not want to leave the island on the last day and return to Adelaide where the start of classes awaited me. Especially after I had met 4 amazing new friends, it made getting on the ferry back to Adelaide even tougher. Now classes have started once again along with final papers and exams. I only have so many days left in this beautiful place, but I’m trying to push that thought as far away from my mind right now. 

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Higher Ed in Chile Pt. 2: Majors as Communities

Time June 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In the United States, liberal arts college students apply to an entire school, sample various academic departments for a year or two before picking a specific major and even then continuing to study a minor. In contrast, higher education in Chile (and most of the world) is a system of earlier specialization in which even elite university students apply to a carrera — nursing, law, publicity, chemistry, etc. — within a university, study only that subject for the next three to five years and, if all goes according to plan, emerge with a professional title.

In short, whereas I spent my first two years of college dipping my toes in the water, my Chilean friends dived right in.

Dive Right In

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The Chicas Take Chile

Time February 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I.            Chile at a Glance

II.            Santiago

III.            Valpo again

IV.            Reñaca

V.            Concon

VI.            Life After Chile

VII.           Vocabulario

VIII.        Previous Posts

 

I.                   Chile at a glance

 

My friends had been planning to visit Chile in November all semester. As much as I wanted to be with them, I resisted for a while because I was afraid of missing out on other travel opportunities. I was dying to travel north to Salta and Jujuy. Unfortunately, I never had the chance. Weather and conflicting travel plans meant that I’d probably die of heatstroke and be doing it alone, so I decided to shelve that trip for another day. I finally decided that Chile was probably worth revisiting, especially because I hadn’t had a chance to do everything I wanted to do the last time. It turned out to be a very, very good choice.

 

It felt really nice to go back. I’m glad that I was able to spend enough time there that I understand a bit of the culture and slang and I can laugh at the jokes that Chileans and Argentines make about each other.

 

After spending a decent amount of time in Chile, I feel like I can say a few things with confidence:

 

-Chileans are terrible at giving directions. Just terrible.

-Chile has cuter cafes than Argentina…but less outdoor seating.

-It has better bread than Argentina, but fewer varieties of alfajores.

-The buses are easier to use

-Clothing is cheaper and more “Americanized”

-It’s a pretty neat place.

 

Someday in the future, I’d like to visit Atacama and Patagonia as well. But for now, I had some fun adventures where I did go.

 

II.                Santiago

 

 

First stop was the capital.

 

I think if I had to live in South America, I’d like to live in Santiago. It’s surprisingly clean for being so large, and it’s got nice parks. It’s got a little of everything, in fact.

 

A week earlier, one of my friends had a piojo mishap (it’s much more common in this part of the world), so we decided that we needed to visit the (in)famous bar, La Piojera. They’re best known for a drink called the terremoto, which is wine + pineapple ice cream. (We also had grenadine in ours.) Worth trying. Even if you don’t want a drink, La Piojera is worth visiting just for the atmosphere. It’s dark and crowded inside, bodies pushing up against you from all sides, and the furniture is vaguely reminiscent of a medieval pub. But the cool thing about it was that you were equally likely to see, a group of preppy girls, a pair of novios, kids who were barely legal to drink, and someone’s grandma all in this one place.

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On the way back to our hostel after exploring the city, my friends and I caught the after-work rush hour. Unlike Mendoza, there is no siesta in the middle of the day, so the work day ended much sooner than we were used to. The result was being jammed like sardines onto the subway—and I was very nearly smashed in the door! Luckily, we all made it with all of our limbs attached. Call it part of the adventure.

 

Valpo Again

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Returning to Valpo was another kind of homecoming. It was the coolest thing to be able to show my friends around and explain how things worked—I really had learned a thing or two on my last visit! Even better, I loved that my chicas, those crazy girls I love, also loved the city I loved.

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We attempted and failed to go to La Sebastiana—the only one of Pablo Neruda’s houses that I didn’t visit. We got distracted by the city and by each other. It was a fair tradeoff, I think.

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One night, we indulged in a luxurious seafood dinner (as opposed to the cheaper version) in Valpo. Quote of the night:

“What’s in this cake!?”

“..MAGIC.”

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IV.             Reñaca

In Reñaca, we went sand boarding. I think it was 2500 Chilean pesos ($5 USD) an hour to rent boards, but that could be completely wrong. It was cheap—I remember that much. And it’s no small wonder: there’s no “board rental establishment,” of course. There’s a lady with a truck and boards in the back. The dunes themselves are plenty big—we were higher than the ocean fog, so we look like we’re in the clouds in all of our pictures. The bottom of the biggest dune was rimmed with old tires—you know, for safety. (Right…)

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One thing you should know: the sand is really, really hot going up. Don’t be tempted to go up barefoot.

 

If you’re expecting snowboarding but with sand, don’t even bother. We had a blast because we were being goofy and laughing at each other, and for us it was very worth it. If you want real adventure sports, go hang-gliding or something else.

 

After that, we bused back down the coast to Viña for lunch and the beach.

 

When we asked people for directions for good places to eat, they directed us to the piers along the coast. …Silly. What restaurants we saw were way too expensive (there were tablecloths and the waiters wore ties, man). There were also churro stands (dipped in chocolate, full of dulce, or both), but that didn’t do it for us either. We ended up walking about 8 blocks inland, where we found the absolute best empanada stand.

 

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The dough was delicious—fried or baked were available. The fillings included everything from corn to mariscos to beef and back. One of mine was full of machas, clams.

 

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Then we did beach things.

 

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When we arrived on the beach, we met up with my US roommate and some other friends from the program that had come with us. Our program friends were getting to know Chile’s alcohol selection. (We did our own thing, being amused at them from afar.) That was all fine and funny until
1) The drunk folk got sunburned
2) Someone’s backpack was stolen

 

It was obvious we were Americans and that they were drunk, so it was an easy target for one Lucky Chilean who made off with $200 USD, an American passport, a photocopy of the same passport, an Argentine visa, and our friend’s ego.

 

Everything worked out in the end, but I think it never hurts to have a few WARNINGS AND REMINDERS on that front:

 

-Never carry important documents in your backpack

-Don’t leave your important documents unattended (or in the care of drunk people)

-Keep your passport and the copy of your passport separate

-If you do any of those things and something bad happens as a result…don’t panic

-Contact the program director

 

V.                Concon

The next day, we went back up the coast to Concon beach to search out a horseback riding excursion. We found the stalls but no horses. Apparently it happens every day of the week…except the day we chose to go. Doh. I feel like it was a Monday or a Tuesday. Try to check beforehand with the hostel, and good luck.

 

We still had a nice time soaking up the sun and talking about our lives. And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave for our next adventure…

 

VI.             Life After Chile

 

Chile was more than just a beautiful place to visit or another adventure for us. It was an anchoring point in our friendship in a very Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way. For a weekend, Valparaiso was ours.

 

On the bus to Reñaca, with a world of color and chaos whizzing past us, we made a promise to ourselves to return someday to this beautiful part of the world. Together. We decided what we want to do with our lives, that we are unstoppable, that we really do mean that much to each other.

 

I won’t even try to explain, because that moment belongs to us, but it was a big deal.

 

Back in Mendoza, finals came and went like the blink of an eye. Then it was time for me to pack my bags for Buenos Aires…and for the chicas to go our separate ways. Lorri and Ale would be meeting me in BA for a few days, but Lisa was off to Chilean Patagonia for a few weeks of backpacking with her sister. Before we split up, there was one last thing we had to do. There’s a bridge in Parque San Martin, and we closed a love lock around the rail. One key we kept, and the other we tossed into the lake. The lock will remain in Mendoza, one of many tiny symbols of our life there that we left behind, until we return together to reopen it. To end with a bang, we had a party on Lisa’s balcony with the last of our pisco sour from Chile. It ended with us sobbing, of course. Beso’d Lisa goodbye and her tears were on my face. And, because we’re the cheeks, our crying turned to laughter as we made our way down the street back to my house, arms locked.

 

Separate, but connected.

 

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For all the Chile pictures (because I took approximately TOO MANY of almost anything that held still long enough), look here and here.

 

  1. Vocabulario

 

Botilleria – convencience store

Macha – clam

Cabalgatas – horseback riding

 

  1. VIII.       Previous Posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 

15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!

16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 

19. Student Life in Mendoza

20. Trabajo Voluntario

21. San Rafael

 

Coming Soon:

The Return to BA

Mar del Plata

Goals Revisited

Culture Shock and Life After Study Abroad

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Habia una vez en los Andes…

Time October 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

(Once upon a time in the Andes…)

 

This entry is long overdue, because a) this is still one of my favorite things I’ve done in Argentina so far and b) it happened waaay back in August. Oops. But it’s alright—that just means I’ve been having too much fun to pause and write about it.

 

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Manzano Historico de Tunuyan
II. The moral of the story
III. Musica de la semana
IV. Previous posts
V. Upcoming posts
VI. A special bonus video

 

 

I. Manzano Historico de Tunuyan

 

Our first long weekend in Mendoza, my friends and I had a panic trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. Jose finally recommended that we visit Manzano Historico, because there was going to be some sort of celebration for San Martin there.

 

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San Martin-related activities!

 

Last minute emailing and calling… STRESSMESS. Two tips on that front: 1) Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead! 2) Don’t be surprised if no one picks up when you call during siesta. Derp derp.

 

We finally rented a cabin here for $1500 pesos for 4 people for 2 nights = about $40 USD/person for the entire stay.

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(For anyone wanting to make a trip up, you might like to know that you can fit up to 7 or 8 people in one of those cabins. We also went during the off-season—it’s cheaper in the summer.)

 

I’d say we got out money’s worth.

 

The most obviously cool thing we did was climb a waterfall called the Chorro de la Vieja, a hike guided by the owner of our cabin.

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Although there was no snow in town, there was definitely some up in the Andes. I couldn’t believe it was still summer in the US! In the summer apparently you can hike further up, past the waterfall. I smell a return trip in our near future!

 

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The views of the Andes were incredible. Dazzling every time. No matter what you do, the photos just do not do them justice.

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the view from the cabin window

 

However, as cool as our waterfall adventure was, I think my favorite parts were just hanging around in the cabin. (Which is good, because we were all getting sick that weekend and didn’t have the energy to do too much adventuring.)

 

We did a lot of cooking, partly to save money and partly because we really, really, really wanted salad. We made stir fry one night, spaghetti another.

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Our friend Lisa also taught us how to make chapatti, African fry bread, which she learned how to do in Kenya.

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Possibly the best decision we made over the weekend was to pull the mattresses off the bed frames and put them all together on the floor so we could sleep in a pile.

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The cuddle puddle

 

We were super warm and toasty.

 

Our adventures ended with meeting a new “friend” on the bus, the most attractive Argentine we’ve seen yet. He was enchanted by Lisa’s big blue eyes and ended up giving her a folklore dance lesson in the bus terminal. Hilarity ensued.

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Bad photo, sorry–you’ll just have to take my word for it.

 

Ultimately, it wasn’t a weekend about traveling to anyplace in particular or doing anything in particular. It was about us. It was about spending time together. This was the weekend that really solidified our friendship. I feel like I’ve known these three girls my entire life, and I have no idea how I’ve survived 20 years without them! They were there the first time I was drunk and when I got my first kiss, and there are still countless adventures ahead of us. Argentina is a big & confusing country, and you never know what’s going to come at you next; but I know that no matter what these girls will be there to support and share the laughs. That right there has been the best part of my study abroad so far.

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Here’s a little video about some of our shenanigans.

 

 

II.  The moral of the story

 

1: You don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel super far away to have fun adventures on study abroad. Tunuyan is very close to Mendoza and our trip was very tranquil overall, but it was still definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had so far. What matters is who you go with.

 

2: Don’t buy box wine. Just don’t. If you’re going to spend the money, spend it on the good stuff.

 

III. Musica de la semana

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Ojos de cielo por Abel Pintos
Check out the letras (lyrics) here because it’s a beautiful song.

 

I’d also like to share this song with you, even though it’s not in Spanish, because I think it exemplifies the spirit of study abroad.

Here’s hoping you’re all laying the past and fears about the future to rest and being joyful about the present, wherever you are.

 

IV. Previous posts

 

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave) 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation 

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?” 

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires 

5. Looking Good, Mendoza! 

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas 

8. Daily life if Mendoza 

 

V. Upcoming posts

 

-Road trip to San Juan

-Spring break in Chile

-Reunion in Neuquen

-Trabajo voluntario

-Life of a student

-Trip to Cordoba

-The Argentina/Uruguay soccer game

 

VI. A special bonus video

 

Shenanigans continued. (Embedded below.)

 

We ARE planning on making this a full-length movie, mostly as a record for ourselves. Each moment here has been so beautiful, and I don’t want to let it slip away. I don’t know whether we’ll decide to let it be publicly on the internet, but if we do I’ll post it here for sure as an example of a real experience studying abroad with IFSA.

Because study abroad is about LIFE.

 

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