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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Wrapping up a dream

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

Every time I leave a place, it doesn’t seem to hit me and leaving Mendoza is no different. I walk through the tree-lined streets to my universities, meet in one of the plazas with friends, laugh over the stories of my host brother and pop into the IFSA office as if this will go on forever – not like it could be one of the last or the last time I do so. I’ve gotten so comfortable, life has become so normalized and routine and real, that I do not feel it can end. Fewer new experiences surprise me and there are less times that I am faced with a situation that leaves me lost. I guess I should take this as evidence that I have adapted pretty well.

I still pause when I speak and need to ask what words mean or for synonyms all the time, but I’m not struggling and re-conjugating every verb like I was at the beginning. More and more my professors and the other students have been mentioning how far I’ve come, as easily one of the poorest Spanish speakers (maybe the poorest of our little group of 10) when I arrived. This honestly has surprised me a lot. At the beginning, which was somehow just 4 months ago, I remember being so intimidated and self-conscious. I convinced myself, at my level, it was impossible to improve vastly in less than 5 months. I improved pretty quickly in the first month, but felt I hit a plateau in improvement. At that time in order to not disappoint myself, I accepted that maybe my Spanish wouldn’t improve greatly from that point, but I could work on expanding my vocabulary at least. Something happened in the final month. Out of nowhere (it appeared to me) I could speak with so much less effort. Even effortlessly at times, something I never expected to feel. I felt it most when chatting with my host family or fellow volunteers about topics I used to feel I did not have the adequate words to describe and then just resolved to listen. I also felt it during unexpected class presentations when we were supposed to just talk on our own, naturally and freely about different topics we studied. It’s like the words I got tongue-tied over were finally flowing out! I have to say it felt good, reassuring and gave me a new confidence to contribute more to conversation and share more of my ideas and opinions in different settings. Looking back at my personal notes where I wrote to just accept where I was at, despite the low level, and just do my best to improve, make me smile now. Although there were times where I had serious doubts about how effective my studying was and how well I’d be able to manage the language throughout the program, it seems at least some doubts were definitely unfounded. I am not done yet, but I feel I will be able to leave Mendoza with a sense of accomplishment and pride in my efforts and of course, great appreciation for the teachers, students, my host family and countless other Argentines that shaped my learning experience so profoundly. Read More »

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Siete Gringos in Siete Tazas

Time July 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

This is a trip I went on at the beginning of the semester that I didn’t get around to posting about until now.  Seven of us international students (siete gringos) and one Chilean mentor and friend went to Siete Tazas Radal national park in Curicó, Chile. We took a 5:00 AM bus out of Viña to get to Santiago and then took a three-hour train ride from Santiago to Curicó. From there we took an hour-and-a-half bus ride from the town to the start of Radal Park. At this point, we had a long and difficult 11 km uphill climb—with our 20-pound packs—to the Parque Inglés campsite where we were staying. It was a hard hike up a long dirt road, but we talked, sang, and worked our way slowly but surely to the top and reached the campground sweaty, tired, and with spirits high. After setting up camp, some of went for a quick dip in the cold river that ran next to our site. In the evening, we made dinner, told stories, and stargazed before eventually going to bed after a long and satisfying day. The next day we did some arts and crafts, went swimming in the river, and enjoying being in nature and in each other’s company. The day after we packed up camp and began the long journey back to Viña. We hitch-hiked halfway down the road stopping at Siete Tazas Park where we walked around the river system and waterfalls, explored a dried-out riverbed, and went for a quick swim in a freezing cold river hole. We just barely caught the last bus back to town and then, after a bit of stress and challenge involving missed trains and buses, we made our way back to Santiago and Viña after a wonderful weekend. I didn’t know it at the time, but this trip was the start of an incredible semester of traveling, exploring, and making new friends and memories.

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Ese es un viaje que he hecho en el principio del semestre, pero no había escrito nada hasta ahora. Siete de nosotros estudiantes extranjeros (los siete gringos) y una amiga chilena fuimos a Siete Tazas Radal Parque Nacional en Curicó, Chile. Tomamos un bus a las 5:00 de la madrugada desde Viña a Santiago y de allá tomamos un tren de tres horas hasta Curicó. Desde ese punto, tomamos otro bus de una hora y media hasta el principio del parque. En ese momento, empezamos la caminata de 11 km de un cerro—con las mochilas de 9 kg—hasta el Parque Inglés donde nos quedamos. Fue difícil y pesado, pero hablamos, cantamos, y caminamos lento pero seguro hasta el campo donde llegamos cansados, sudoroso, y felices. Después de hacer las carpas, algunos de nosotros nos bañamos rápidamente en el rio helado que pasó por el sitio. En la noche, cenamos, contamos cuentos, y miramos las estrellas antes de acostarnos después de un día muy largo y rico. El próximo día, hicimos arte, nos bañamos y saltamos en el rio, y disfrutamos de estar en la naturaleza y estar juntos. El día siguiente, salimos del parque y empezamos el largo regreso hasta Viña. Andamos por dedo hasta el Parque Siete Tazas donde caminamos por los ríos, miramos las cataratas, exploramos un río seco, y nos bañamos rápidamente en una laguna helada. Con suerte, tomamos el ultimo bus a Curicó y después de un poco estrés y dificultad de trenes y buses perdidas, llegamos a Santiago y a Viña después de un fin de semana increíble. No lo sabía en el momento, pero ese viaje fue el principio de un semestre inolvidable de viajar, explorar, y hacer nuevos amigos y memorias.

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Daily life/Vida cotidiana

Time June 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my travels throughout Chile and visiting different wonderful places. While that is a large part of the study abroad experience, I haven’t really spoken about what goes on in my daily life here in Valpo. I live with a fantastic host family consisting of my mom Mónica, sister Cata, and brother Christian in Recreo, Vina del Mar. Also part of the family are six cats and two dogs who keep home life fun and interesting. The house itself is lovely with a gorgeous view of the ocean and a beautiful outdoor patio where Monica loves to garden. Outside of life at home, I am taking six academic courses—three biology classes and three Spanish classes—so during the week, when I am not at home I am usually in class. Getting to class, and around Vina and Valpo in general, usually involves using the metro and/or the micros (small buses that are often packed with people and drive ridiculously fast on very narrow roads). On the odd weekend where I am not traveling or cuddled up with the kitties, I can often be found in an outdoor plaza or in a local bar with some of my fellow IFSA friends. So, while maybe not as exciting as hiking in forest, stargazing on top of a mountain, or seeing awesome wildlife, everyday life in Chile is pretty great in and of itself.

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He hablado mucho en ese blog sobre mis viajes y excursiones de Chile a varios lugares bonitos e interesantes. Aunque esa es una parte grande en la experiencia de Intercambio, no he hablado sobre mi vida cotidiana acá en Valpo. Vivo con una familia chilena fantástica que consiste de mi mama Mónica, hermana Cata y hermano Christian en Recreo, Viña del Mar. La familia también inclusa seis gatos y dos perros que mantienen la vida divertida e interesante. La casa es muy linda con una vista maravillosa del mar y un patio muy bonito donde Mónica le gusta jardinear. Fuera de mi vida en la casa, tomo seis ramos académicos—tres de biología y tres de español—entonces durante la semana, cuando no estoy en casa generalmente estoy es clase durante. Ir a clase, y alrededor de Viña y Valpo en general, usualmente consiste en usar el metro y/o los micros (buses muy pequeños generalmente con mucha gente que van muy rápidos en calles muy chicos). En los fines de semana cuando no estoy viajando o regalando con los gatos, muchas veces estoy en una plaza o un bar local con algunos de mis compañeros de intercambio. Entonces, aunque probablemente no tan emocionante como hacer trekking en un bosque, ver las estrellas desde la cima de una montaña, o ver animales y naturaleza increíble, mi vida cotidiana en Chile es genial en si mismo.

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Coming to terms with my last weeks of Study Abroad

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

It’s now past mid-June and many of my friends who studied abroad this semester have already returned home or are traveling following their programs throughout the world. In fact, my boyfriend is heading back to the US from Japan as I write this. It is hard to imagine I too will be returning in just a couple weeks. Seeing them go home, one by one, has been a potent reminder for me to take advantage of every last opportunity I have to spend time with my host family, the friends I have made here, see the places I’ve hoped to see and return to the places I enjoyed. I’ve made it a point to go out more with the other students, knowing we’ll disperse in all different directions once back in the US. I traveled to Potrerillos with one of them, went to the top floor of the municipality building to get a bird’s eye view of Mendoza, took a cooking class with IFSA Butler, finished up my list of presents for family and friends and we put together our own bridal shower for one of the students who will be getting married soon after her return to the US – checking off all the things we’ve been putting off all semester. It’s been lovely, but also bittersweet. I enjoy each memory, but with the sad reminder that this may be my last time visiting x restaurant, spending hours in x plaza or getting the whole group together for an afternoon. I’ve also been trying the last types of Argentine food I never got around to – lomo and choripan for example. Tomorrow, I will be heading to Ugarteche for the third and last time with my host mom, possibly our last outing together as well.

You may wonder: this is the last few weeks, so how do you have time for this? Honestly, it’s been difficult. I’ve been quite busy with exams, essays, presentations, classes and just typical homework. It may be a lot less work than I get in the US, but it can be tough to balance when you are trying to fit in as many last memories as you can while still in your host city (or last minute trips like some of the other students!). That compounded with it being winter here (which means less motivation and energy for me and less likeliness people want to go out), means taking advantage of your final opportunities is that much more difficult. It’s been a happy busy though. Mostly. I do have to admit that Argentina’s lack of organization, communication and planning ahead that bleeds into so much of its culture and daily life continues to challenge me. In most ways, I have come to accept it and handle it well, but it is sooooo difficult when it comes to academics. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Northeast so I’m pretty used to things being timely, set to strict schedules and more predictable (and don’t like when things are the opposite)… or maybe it’s my personality, but I do not like uncertainty when it comes to major assignments, final exams and final grades. I know it is part of the culture and overplanning and inflexibility is not good either. It has probably been a good challenge for me, but at this point, I am trying to make sense of my unpredictable schedule, working hard and hoping for the best. Hopefully, I will come out of this with good results to reflect my hard work and having learned how to better navigate uncertainty, unpredictability and mixed messages.

Some photos I took in Potrerillos with some beautiful and varied landscapes and cute little street dogs!

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Colors of the Sea in the Mountains

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

This picture was taken on my last full day in Costa Rica, which was spent with a friend in Prusia, a forest in the province of Cartago. I’ve never seen so many gorgeous mushrooms nor ones with colors I would only expect to find in the sea. This was one of my favorite days spent in this country. I’ve met so many incredible people towards the end of my time here and I feel disappointed that I wasn’t closer to them before so I could have enjoyed their company for longer. However, these people are so great that I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to spend any time at all with them.

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Thoughts after Bariloche

Time May 26th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

The other day, I got back from my last major trip of my study abroad program, San Carlos de Bariloche. It came at an interesting moment in my time here. Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little down, unable to put my finger on why. I haven’t felt homesick and everything was going fine. I guess I was just having a lull where everyday was feeling more or less the same, I had a little more work than I wanted and while I wasn’t homesick, things were happening at home and at my home university that I was missing out on. Other study abroad and university friends were preparing for summer break and to go home to family and I still had over two months a head of me. Another IFSA student reminded me of the “S” or “W” curve (depending on who you talk to) that describes the highs and lows during a semester abroad (and by extension, life in general!). I was halfway through my program and felt like I could predict everything that was left, unsure how much highs were even left for me. I shook off my lull to prepare for probably my final adventure outside of Mendoza, Bariloche.

I was already a little disappointed that I came to Argentina and couldn’t see Patagonia (since it’s been getting colder, more and more of the trails and excursions are closed so I didn’t think it would make sense paying to fly down there). *Important point: If you are coming in US Fall semester, the months get warmer so it makes sense to wait for nicer weather or even after your program to travel down there…if you come in US Spring Semester, try your best to go earlier in the semester when it’s still warm and you’re not running out of breaks!* Still wanting to see more of Argentina’s beautiful Patagonia landscape, a friend with IFSA in Buenos Aires and I decided to meet in Bariloche, a beautiful city just North of Patagonia with an abundance of lakes, mountains, forests, excursions, tours and ways to get to know a very different part of Argentina than our host cities. My disappointment on missing Patagonia definitely ended once I arrived (but of course I would like to see it someday!).

Having little experience booking and planning trips on our own, we figured out transportation, lodging and excursion plans individually ahead of time, collecting advice from host families, IFSA staff and other students. We traveled from our respective cities alone (this was new to me so I was a little nervous, but it turned out fine and I managed to solve the little issues I encountered along the way!). From there, we were on our own and since it’s low season, we were often traveling completely alone in forests, up mountains and across landscapes we were all but familiar with and with few signs to tell you you’re going the right way. We would even go hours without seeing a single other human, with unreliable cellphone service and a map that was quite lacking in detail. Many people we met were surprised these two “chicitas” of only 20 and 21 years of age were traveling in Argentina on our own, not even fluent in the language! That’s when I realized the breadth of what I was doing. Before college, I never traveled anywhere alone. Just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine traveling internationally alone. At the start of the program, I was nervous about walking around my host city alone. Somehow, now I was traveling across the country alone exploring new natural landscapes with only my friend at my side. And we were doing fine! I felt and I feel such a strong sense of joy that I’ve been able to grow in this way so quickly. It has been such a smooth transition in getting more comfortable and pushing my limits that had I not taken the time to reflect, I would not have noticed.. at least for a while. Read More »

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The Little Things

Time May 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

At first glance, not much is different here in New Zealand. They speak English, eat all kinds of food, go to school, talk about Donald Trump, and watch their own version of the Bachelor – pretty much the same as the United States. However, after a couple months of living here some small differences stand out.

  1. Shoes are not required. I often walk around the grocery store (which is in the middle of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city) and see people grocery shopping without shoes. I’ve also seen this is in at least two restaurants. No shirt, no shoes, no problem.
  2. The farmers’ markets. They are freaking incredible here. Not only is the produce big and beautiful, but it’s all locally grown and organic. Now you may be thinking, “yeah that’s what farmers’ markets do.” But I know that when I think of farmers’ markets back home, I think of the hefty price tag that comes along with this uptick in quality. However, in New Zealand, these plump fruits and vibrant veggies cost about half of what they do at the grocery store. When you’re a student on a budget, it pays to get up early on farmers’ market mornings.
  3. The “as…” mystery. It’s really common here for people to say “sweet as,” or “nice as,” when they’re describing something. But they never finish the sentence. The beach was “sweet as” what? The cheap take-away restaurant was “dodgy as” what? The essay you just turned in was “crap as” what?? They literally give you no point of reference for what their saying, and this linguistic trend just leaves me hanging time and time again.
  4. Tea time. This might be one of my favorite parts about New Zealand culture. During our program orientation and during the short time I worked on a vineyard I was on a schedule made by New Zealanders, and both of those schedules included two strict tea times per day. Essentially, halfway between breakfast and lunch everyone stops what they’re doing to have a cup of tea (or a cup of coffee) and a snack and chat with each other. And then they do it again between lunch and dinner. If you suggest to a New Zealander that tea time be pushed back, shortened, or ignored, they will give you a look that says, “Americans are crazy and I would be perfectly happy never to see another one of you again.” Tea time is no joke.
  5. Speaking of warm beverages, coffee. In New Zealand, filtered coffee only exists in the memories of exchange students and other foreigners. So if you’re coming here, either prepare yourself for instant coffee or bring your own French press.

Overall, the differences between New Zealand and the US are not extreme. Some of them I would like to keep (snack time twice a day? Yes please) and some of them I could do without (please wear shoes in the grocery store, I don’t want to smell feet while I’m picking up bananas). When it comes down to it, New Zealand is a land all of its own, and I’m glad this is the place I get to spend my semester abroad – even if it turns me into a tea drinker.

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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 Art of Relaxation

Time April 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

This is a photo of something I painted while on a field trip with IFSA to the city of Sarchi. While we were there we visited the Lankester Garden where we took an art class. At first, everyone was stressed out about staying within the lines and not making any mistakes. As the teacher told us that we should simply relax and enjoy our time, someone joked, “We’re Americans, we don’t know how to relax.” In a way I think that’s true, but after about fifteen minutes of painting with birds chirping in the background and a gentle breeze surrrounding us, we did all learn to relax. It was the most gorgeous garden I’ve ever been to and a beautiful place to learn such an important lesson.

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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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Finally hit by “Everyday Life”

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

Coming from a university where all students study abroad, perhaps I am not as surprised with some of the “unexpected” phases of living in another country most students go through. I was well aware that the initial few weeks of excitement eventually give way to a more patterned, less-exciting daily life. While it usually takes students about 2-3 weeks to get to this point, I think mine came in my 4th week when one day I woke up knowing exactly my weekly schedule (organized around my classes),  knowing how to get everywhere I needed to get and knowing fairly well what I needed to prepare for money-wise, food-wise and timing-wise. Of course, having more structure in my life is what I was craving the initial weeks of confusion and new experiences. I was often tired from running around the city all day, every day, getting used to speaking Spanish all the time, and adjusting to the lack of order in Argentina compared to my home of New England. It’s nice to finally be more organized and used to things and honestly, I’m perfectly fine with life slowing down a bit, at least for now. Looking back just a month ago, I am actually quite surprised how nervous I was about walking around the new city alone. Yesterday I passed a place I had passed once when I was lost and realized I was only actually 7 minutes from my house, yet I ended up taking a really long windy way home. I thought finding my way around would take maybe two months…it probably ended up taking a week and a half until I was pretty comfortable and confident getting around without a map or anyone to help. That is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments so far, given my tendency to just rely on my friends’ sense of direction everywhere I’ve gone over the years. Then again, Mendoza is organized in a very easily understood way(basically a grid in the center of town) but still it’s a start for me! Read More »

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Debajo de tu piel vive la luna

Time April 4th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 3 Comments by

How to describe Valparaiso? Well, the golden-tongued prodigy, Pablo Neruda, lived here for most of his life and even he was at a loss for words at times so I am not sure that I can. All I can say is that I have absolutely, irrevocably fallen in love with this place and the surge of excitement that it gives me every time I look around. And how easy it must be to fall in love living by the sea, to fall in love with yourself, with others, with the electric motion of the ocean’s waves. Everything feels so galvanized, so full of sights and sounds that intoxicate the soul. Somehow, I feel infinitely more alive than I ever did in the U.S. Every part of me, every molecule, vibrates with delicious energy; every simple thought and feeling consumes me. Perhaps it is just the enormous potential for growth that living in a new place has presented, or perhaps there really is something magical about living by the sea.

Probably the only real worry that I had about coming to live here was that I would not be able to develop my Spanish well enough to make friends that wanted to spend time with me, not just in an effort to include the white girl, but because they genuinely enjoyed my company. I know this may seem like a silly thing to be worried about and I am confident in my ability to communicate in Spanish, but there is an added difficulty when it comes to expressing yourself well enough to foster relationships with people across language barriers. This requires so much more than simply translating words in your head. It requires enough depth of emotion and understanding to form memories and bonds which is hard enough to accomplish in your own language, much less someone else’s.

I was nervous that I would not be able to keep up in conversations between native speakers and that, because of this, they would feel burdened by my presence to speak slowly or simply. I was also worried that my somewhat limited vocabulary would make me seem dull or uninteresting because, as funny as I am (not) in English, it is exponentially harder to be funny in Spanish as my bad jokes and sarcasm don’t always translate well.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make friends compared to what I had built up to be in my head. At first I often became frustrated with myself when I would have trouble explaining something to one of my Chilean friends, but their graciousness and patience have taught me how to be more patient with myself. I feel very fortunate to have found such caring friends so far who also keep me from failing all of my classes.

Last weekend, some of the kids from the IFSA-Butler group and I decided to go hiking for a long weekend in a national park called Siete Tazas, about a five hour journey from Valparaiso. We camped in the park for two nights and three days and spent the entire time climbing around astonishing rock formations, jumping into exhilaratingly frigid natural pools and admiring the most breathtaking view of the stars I think I have ever seen. On the last day, one of the park rangers helped us crawl through a barbed wire fence to get to a part of the park with another chain of crystal-clear pools that is normally off limits to hikers. After finding it and jumping in, a few of us decided to swim farther down the stream where the water deepened and traveled through a massive cave-like overhang of rock. Our excitement quickly turned to fear as we swam through near pitch black waters and began to consider the potential creatures that could have been swimming along with us. Thankfully, by the time we started panicking we had reached the other end of the overhang and climbed out of the water onto the jagged rocks and into the sun.

We took a few minutes to bask in the glow of our adventurous accomplishment and, after being warmed up by the sun, we weren’t too keen on jumping into the freezing water again to swim back to our group. So we decided to try to climb over the rocks to get back through the cave instead of swimming the entire way with our unknown freshwater friends. As we were climbing over the slick rocks, half of the time on all-fours just to keep our balance, I heard my friend shriek and looked down to see that my outstretched hand was about two feet away from a massive tarantula. Yep, you heard me. A tarantula. Not behind glass at the wildlife center where they should be…on the ground. Right in front of me.

My friend’s shriek passed down the line of us like a game of telephone until it reached my friend, Colin, who screamed and then asked why we were screaming. After we had evacuated the area we pointed out the tarantula to him and I immediately started to hyperventilate as the reality of the situation set in. If there was one tarantula, then that meant the possible existence of more tarantulas. That meant that I was currently in a location where tarantulas existed in real life, outside of glass aquariums. Suddenly, the icy stream water and its mysterious inhabitants didn’t seem so unappealing. We all immediately jumped in and swam back to find our friends. When we found them a few minutes later, panting and wild with adrenaline, we eagerly told them the story of what we had done. While all of the other exchange students were equally as astonished by our bravery, the one Chilean in our group just laughed and said the tarantulas in the area were harmless and that she used to play with them as a kid. Feeling a bit deflated by her lack of appreciation for the near-death experience that we had just narrowly survived, I politely informed her that playing with tarantulas was one cultural difference that I was never going to assimilate to.

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A Break in Uruguay

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.

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A Long Overdue Reflection

Time March 13th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

I have now been in Argentina for 11 days and it’s been quite a ride! The other program students who I did not even know 2 weeks ago, already feel like good friends, the city of Mendoza’s roads are slowly taking shape in my brain and I feel quite comfortable with my host family and their daily routine.

So I arrived in Buenos Aires with many other IFSA students yet only one seemed to be going to Mendoza with me. Turns out, the others were so hard to find because we have only 9 students in the group this year, along with 1 full year student! For me, 10 students has been great since we’ve all gotten pretty close and we will likely get a lot more personal attention and support this semester than if we were a group of 50 or more students. For some reason, I left my college feeling I have a pretty strong command of the language since I have taken Spanish for 8 years, but turns out, I still have much more to learn than just eroding my American accent! At first, I was intimidated knowing the other students were much more fluent than me and had actually taken serious, complex Spanish classes back in the US. I was constantly pausing and tripping over words which was frustrating (it’s way easier to conjugate on paper than in your head in real time!) . Sure we’re all in the same Spanish class since we’re a small group, but being expected to know more and surrounded by students who can already speak well will undoubtedly force me to catch up and learn quickly.

We spent our first days in Buenos Aires largely doing tours, adjusting to the Argentine accent (it’s not as hard to understand as people led me to believe thankfully), and trying typical Argentine dishes (Argentina’s beef definitely lives up to its fame!). Those few days flew by and by the end, I had seen La Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest highway in the world), Recoleta Cemetary (a huge cemetery where some of the most influential Argentines have been buried the past 2 centuries), El Ataneo (a theater converted to a bookstore), La Casa Rosada (the White House for Argentina) and so much more that I had only heard or read about before! It was truly an incredible and exciting few days.

Still, I think we were all pretty eager (and a bit nervous) to meet our host families. After a short plane ride, we arrived in the lovely city of Mendoza where we will primarily be living the next few months. I was lucky enough to get a fantastic host mom and brother, in a well-located part of town and even get to enjoy the cuteness that comes with having a pet guinea in the house. Mendoza itself is a great city, full of fantastic views, cute cafes, friendly people, walkable streets, a great park and nice plazas for relaxing or spending time with friends. The Andes mountains are not only amazing to see, but provide plenty of opportunity for hiking which I really love! Though Mendoza may not be the capital or even the second largest city, it has quite a lot of unique features. It happens to be the home to the Aconcagua (the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas), be the site where the largest dinosaur remains in the world were found and be the birthplace of one of Argentina’s most beloved comic writers, Quino (who created the popular series “Mafalda”). The timing of our program couldn’t be better as we were able to watch the parades and Fiesta de la Vendimia which occurs after the grape harvest (a very important crop in this region of the country). Watching the parades helped form my understanding of not only Argentine culture and the parts they take pride in, but also specifically Mendocino culture which is rich and complex itself. At the Fiesta, I watched some of the most beautiful dancing I’ve ever seen and could not help but feel incredibly thankful for the experience. Honestly, I wish more people would enroll in this program to get to see and learn about all of this!

While I am really enjoying myself, I have realized that this program appears to be perfect for my needs. With little experience with following maps or public transportation, Mendoza has allowed me to slowly practice and get better while the city is safe enough and organized enough that I don’t have to be too worried when I do get lost. There is also such little English spoken and such few other students, we are all forced to continually use Spanish and thus I’d say we have all already seen a fair amount of improvement! Overall, those and many other aspects of Mendoza give me confidence that is may be the ideal place for me to challenge myself, try new things and continually strive to improve many aspects of my life.

Our time since our arrival in Mendoza has been dedicated to orientations, the first of our Spanish classes, getting to the know the city and acclimating to a very different way of life. Classes will begin next week and hopefully that will give me more of the routine I have been craving, though following schedules is not always easy in Argentine society. I know it’s early on, but right now, I am entirely content with my choice to come to Mendoza and am excited to see what the next few months have in store!

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Academics Away from America

Time February 2nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Academics Abroad: The reason why you chose the country/program you chose. The most important thing about studying abroad, the studying! And yes, I still focus on school while I’m abroad having fun, but going through IFSA-Butler made it so much easier.

Prior to leaving: I had no idea where to go. I knew I had to make sure I would still graduate on time, since I had not planned to go abroad (again). I knew I had two psychology classes and statistics that I needed specifically, and two electives. I made many phone calls and emails to the IFSA staff once I had chosen Ireland, wondering how many classes Irish students take (typically 6, or a lightened course load of 5). I knew I needed Tulsa to approve the classes before I left. I had Tulsa approve 8 classes with the help of the IFSA staff and their syllabus bank, and contacting a professor as statistics can have prerequisites and as a sophomore I was planning on taking the senior-level cognitive psychology class! Ah! Luckily they had previous students take the psychology classes that had passed the class. Statistics was still in the air, but we would see when I got here.

While here: I got to meet the other 15 IFSA students here. Luckily, I had students in both of my psych classes, and one of my electives, Celtic Mythology! As I went to my first sociology lecture, I realized it wasn’t for me, but here at NUIG there is a two-week add/drop period. I contacted Ashley, the IFSA rep, and asked for help to switch into Celtic Archeology, another elective class that had many IFSA students in it. She easily helped me and I emailed the international office here to get a course outline, to email back to Tulsa! And within a few days Tulsa had approved it too, yay! The only thing left in the air was statistics, so I waited after the first lecture to introduce myself to the professor, who was incredibly kind. He said that last semester half of his class got high honors (basically an A) and he wanted to help me achieve that. His office was open Monday – Wednesday for tea and help, gave me two class representatives to ask, and the campus resources and the hours that they have statistics tutors. I knew I could succeed in such a positive environment (he also passes around candy each class, so that was a perk). After the two-week add/drop period, we had to register online to get Blackboard and register with IFSA. Ashley came to campus to help us through the process – wow! Read More »

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Pre-Departure Video Blog

Time January 9th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

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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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Final Thoughts

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

I’m finally home!! After my program ended, I was fortunate enough to travel around Argentina with my parents for ten days before catching a flight back to the States (I’ll insert some pictures of our adventures below) and since then have been having a relaxing holiday week with family and friends.

To wrap up this blog series, I wanted to share three takeaways on my study abroad experience now that I have been home.

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Thanksgiving in Uruguay

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

After we finished our final exams, all 50-something students on the IFSA Argentine Universities program got to go on an excursion to Uruguay to celebrate the end of the semester and Thanksgiving. At first, my friends back in the states were jealous that I was already finished with school, but when I reminded them that my semester started in July, they realized that my semester was just as long as theirs. Read More »

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Wonder of the World

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

The Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, are the largest waterfall system in the world and one of the natural wonders of the world. A lot of my friends traveled to the falls on a bus with a travel company called BAIS (Buenos Aires International Students). However, the bus ride is about 22 hours, and after my experience with the broken down bus on the way home from Mendoza, I decided to save this trip for when my family visited and take a 2 hour plane ride instead.

The trip can be done in two days because the tiny town of Iguazu itself doesn’t have much to offer besides a small downtown area with some restaurants and tourist shops. It’s possible to see the falls from both the Argentina and Brazil sides, but it’s extremely expensive to get a visa to visit Brazil. Unless you play on traveling more in Brazil, it’s best to stay on the Argentina side.

If you’re going to see the falls, you MUST pay the extra money to go on a boat ride that goes right under them. It is so worth it. The sound of the water falling is thunderous, and you get soaked from head to toe. You’re given dry bags to put you shoes and electronics in, and we dried off quickly in the hot summer sun.

The waterfalls were truly the most beautiful thing I witnessed in Argentina. After the boat ride there’s a ton of trails and boardwalks you can walk on to see the falls from all angles. I felt like a monkey while walking through the jungle, so I couldn’t help climbing a tree and posing like one for a picture.

Standing on one of the lookouts and viewing the waterfalls framed by a perfect rainbow from all the mist was an unreal moment. I’d seen pictures and postcards of this place, but they don’t do it justice. You know that you made the right decision and that all of the struggles of studying abroad were worth it when you get to see a view that takes your breath away.

Besos,

Emily

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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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My advice to you

Time December 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

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Whether you are staying for a week, half a year (like I did) or an entire year, I think there is a few tips you should take into consideration before coming to Peru. For one, your experiences will be different from mine, but I doubt it’ll be super different.

Based on my experiences, I have a few tips/words of advice. I don’t know about you, but for me personally, the fact that I know I will leave eventually is a bit detrimental when making friends abroad. I don’t really make lasting connections. It’s not their fault, its mine, and even though I recognize it, it’s hard for me to be super engaging with others. My only friends that I hang out with are the kids from my program. There’s 11 of us total. We go to bars and clubs to go dancing and. We go out and eat together and just hang around. Though it’s great, I wish I had made Peruvian friends. I guess I blame it for leaving campus as soon as class is over to head to the bus so I can avoid traffic instead of hanging out around campus and getting involved in some of the activities. So advice #1: be more outgoing and meet people. Make new friends and get out more! If you don’t follow my advice and are like me, you’ll still be fine, don’t worry. I don’t want you to regret not making more connections with the limited time you have.

Advice #2: Travel and explore! The places I traveled to were amazing! I went to Iquitos and enjoyed the Amazon, and I also went to Cusco and visited Machu Picchu as well as el Carmen. The thing is though, those trips were all organized by our study abroad program. Now that there is little time left, I wish I could have gone on other trips on my own time with a group of friends. Oh well…

Advice #3: I recommend you get a gym membership or motivate yourself to workout. I lost a bit a weight, but I sometimes wonder how much weight I would have gained if I hadn’t done any sort of exercise. I eat a lot so that wouldn’t be such a pretty picture.

Advice #4: Talk. Talk to your host family and get to know them. I love my host parents! Even though they are in their 60s and work during the day, I get to spend some quality time with them when we get together for dinner. They make me laugh and they are good to talk to if you want know what is happening on the news. They are so intelligent and there’s so much to discuss with them.

Advice #4: Splurge a little on yourself. I had a day all to myself one day and it was a great time. I got to enjoy a movie and supper all by myself and it was a pleasant experience. I was able to reflect about life and I felt independent. It was nice being aware of myself.

Advice #5: Don’t be afraid. I mean I’m sure there will be scary moments that appear, but you should definitely not curl up into a ball and not do things because of it. Just because your surroundings don’t look familiar, that doesn’t mean there’s danger at every turn. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a lovely coffee spot or an eclectic little hole in the wall restaurant.

Advice #6: Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll learn a lot about yourself if you do so.

Advice #7: Seize the day! So what if you are sleepy at 12 in the afternoon? Go outside and do something instead of nap. (I’m a napper so not napping is a bit hard) Make the most of your day. Go for a walk, make a donut and coffee stop and just contemplate life.

Advice #8: Be productive! I can’t stress this one enough. Being in Peru, has been a bit of a cake walk compared to what I face at Holy Cross. Once I’m back on campus for the spring semester, I’m afraid that I’m going to get slapped on the face with a reality check. I have so much time on my hands and I mostly use it to watch Netflix, hit the gym, nap or waste my time away on social media. I started to read a book for “fun” because being unproductive was stressing me out haha. My motivation levels definitely lowered so, yes be productive! Or else you will struggle getting back to the swing of things when you go back home to your university/college (trust me).

Advice #9: Be happy! I always smile to myself on random occasions when I take in all the good in my life. Studying abroad is a big deal, and to be able to be in a different country and having the opportunity to enjoy it is a tremendous lifetime experience.

Advice #10: Cherish your time in Peru…or anywhere that you are. Enjoy yourself. All we have is the now, so we might as well take advantage of our waking time to live life.

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Semester Favorites in and around Mendoza

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

It’s my last few days here in Mendoza (wow time flies!), so I thought that I would do a wrap-up of some of my favorite places and things to do (as well as some tried-and-true tips and tricks) in and around the city!

Food:

Top 3 places to get ice cream (obviously the most important thing):

  • Bianco & Nero – Any flavor is good to be honest. I went there so often that the woman who works there felt comfortable enough correcting my Spanish…
  • Mailhó – The oreo flavor is my favorite!
  • Ferruccio Soppelsa – Go for the fruity flavors here

Yummy Argentine foods:

  • Milanesa de pollo – Chicken milanesa is most definitely the best of the milanesas.
  • Homemade alfajores – Kiosks sell packaged ones, which can also be good (try Avila or Pepitos brand). But best of the best are homemade with dulce de leche in the middle and coconut flakes around the outside – most bakeries sell them!
  • Medialunas – Pure flaky, buttery yum
  • Tartas – My host family made a lot of tartas (kind of like quiche, but without egg) – my favorite was spinach and chard.
  • Empanadas – Done right, they are absolutely delicious.
  • Gnocchi – In Argentina, it’s good luck to eat gnocchi on the 29th of every month. Not all families abide by this tradition, but mine often did!

Fav packaged snacks:

  • Toddy’s chocolate chip cookies – The perfect cheap cookie (tentative consensus that they’re better than Chips Ahoy)
  • Frutigran cookies – My “healthy” cookie of choice
  • Peanuts – In the search for a healthier and more sustaining snack than cookies or bread, I came to discover a soft spot in my heart for peanuts. I often go for the unsalted just because I eat a lot of salt here already. But other good variations are maní japonés and maní con miel.

5 fun restaurants:

  • Fuente y Fonda – Traditional Argentine food in large portions for sharing.
  • Anna Bistro – Get the vegetable salad with goat cheese pastries!!
  • Decimo Resto Wine Bar – I haven’t actually eaten here, but the restaurant is on the 10th floor of a building so it’s the ideal spot to share a bottle of wine and watch the sun set.
  • El Club de la Milanesa – A good place to take someone visiting Mendoza that has never had milanesa before – huge portions and lots of fun milanesa toppings!
  • Brod – Super fun for a more American-style brunch – definitely get the ginger and mint lemonade!

Places to study/hang/get wifi:

My favorite cafés:

  • Café Petrona – Cute, tea party vibe with an outdoor patio!
  • Café Leon – Simple place, friendly staff
  • Kato Café – The service here leaves something to be desired and the wait staff can get a little snarky, but it’s a good place to study i.e. never too busy, open during siesta, comfy couches, lots of space and plenty of fun (and sometimes distracting…) throwback music
  • Silla 14 – Haha haven’t been but I’ve heard it’s great!

Good places to get free wifi (if like me, your home wifi slowly crumbles before your eyes or you just need to send a text while out and about):

  • IFSA office – Always dependable if you arrive while it’s open (plus air-conditioning)
  • Outside of the IFSA office – The wifi still works when you stand outside of the door!
  • Outside of Starbucks – The Starbucks outside of the IFSA office has wifi without a password, so it’s easy to connect when you’re on the run. I would also recommend Starbucks as a study space – lots of nice tables and chairs, wifi, air conditioning when it’s hot. There’s also more of a typical “college-student studying” vibe going on there than in any other part of the city, which can be nice at times.
  • Outside of McDonald’s – Same deal as Starbucks – no password, so free wifi outside!

Bonus: On the go and need to pee? The Carrefour on Belgrano and Las Heras has free public bathrooms!

Activities:

Tried-and-true things to do (in no particular order):

  • Hike Cerro Arco – The classic thing to do for tourists in Mendoza, but I think it’s worth doing once.
  • Go to all the ferias – It’s always fun to go to ferias artesanales (artisanal fairs) when they pop up in Mendoza, specifically in Plaza Independencia.
  • Try out events in the plazas – I went to an event in Plaza Chile to celebrate Chilean independence and an event in Plaza España to celebrate the Spanish harvest.
  • Take a trip to Chile – It’s a cheap and easy bus journey to get to Santiago and/or Valparaíso – both are definitely worth a visit! I’ve also heard amazing things about the desert in the north of Chile – San Pedro de Atacama – if you’re in the market for a longer adventure.
  • Go to happy hours – Lots of bars and restaurants have happy hours where you can get 2 for 1 drinks or drinks at a discount (Antares has artisanal beer and also delicious peanuts)
  • Sip mate in a park/plaza – Argentines like to “no hacer nada” (not do anything) and can spend hours just sipping mate and chatting with friends – it’s a great way for us Americans to learn how to “take a chill pill” if you will and not be on and doing something every second of the day.
  • Exercise in Parque General San Martín – A great place to take a run (I recommend around the lake) or to go to a free exercise class.
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On Iguazu, Mendoza, & Salta

Time November 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

I realized I haven’t talked about any of the trips I’ve been on during my study abroad trip. I’ve been exceedingly blessed to have gotten to explore so much of Argentina. Buenos Aires is lovely and chaotic, but it has been nice at times to leave the pollution-filled air behind to travel to sparsely populated provinces. All of these trips feel like centuries ago, so I am going to try and generally summarize them instead of providing a lot of details.

My first trip outside Buenos Aires was to Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I went with some of my closest friends here, and it was super fun! That trip was definitely a blast because of the nature and companionship. I would say the hostel we stayed at was one of the best I’ve been to in Argentina.

Speaking of hostels, it’s really interesting how the quality of hostels vary so widely. You really never know what you’re going to get. Some are $10 a night and basically 5 stars(as far as hostels go) and some are $10 a night and really feel like you’re getting the absolute minimum for what you paid for. Isn’t that interesting?

Continuing on, Iguazu deserves its name as one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. I was in awe most of the time. The surrounding town was  quaint and had a lot of nice murals that my friends and I took pictures next to. I remember going to a Mexican food place that was decidedly not Mexican food. Well, they tried.

In Mendoza, I got to ride a horse! That was my highlight. I also got to eat bread and olive oil, which is always nice. Wine tastes the same to me no matter the brand, so I must admit I got a little bored on the wine tours. Still, I’m glad I got to go on them. I got sick on the bus coming back from Mendoza which was the opposite of fun. But overall that trip was really fun.

Salta was a lot of exercise, travel, and beautiful scenery. I don’t even know how to describe Salta/Tilcara. I think, in this instance, a picture is worth a thousand words. I remember coming back very dusty from that trip. I miss the sun and the dry heat of Salta. In Buenos Aires, when it’s hot, it’s sticky and humid.

Well, that’s a not-so summary of my experiences. I’ll end by saying I had an amazing time in all 3 places and am definitely blessed that I had the opportunity to travel to 3 very different places within Argentina.

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