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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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!
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 »
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.
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 »
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
I was lucky enough to have a piece of home with me to travel with for a couple weeks. My older brother and I went to Auckland where we did the famous SkyJump, visited the aquarium and also checked out Waheiki Island for some zip lining before heading back to Wellington. While in Wellington, we took the Seal Coast Safari to see the seal colony at Red Rocks, and hiked the iconic Mount Victoria. The next weekend we traveled to Queenstown where we bungee jumped and saw the beautiful Milford Sound. We took a cruise around the sound and saw many amazing waterfalls and animals, such as New Zealand fur seals and dusky dolphins.
So sorry this is about a week late!
I struggled to decide what to write about for this week’s post – should I just write a happy update and leave politics out of it? Or should I address how I’m feeling in Argentina after the results of the 2016 presidential election? I’ve decided to share a little bit about my feelings on the election, as well as an update of what I’ve been up to for the past three weeks.
It’s unbelievable to me that I leave in four days. This semester has gone by in a flash and yet, at the same time, it has taken eternities. Now, with so little time left, I am filled with both excitement and sadness. During my exam period, I was lucky enough to travel around the South Island and see the most incredible places. However, it was also during this time that I began to do some more exploring of Dunedin. Within the last few weeks, I have spent more time in the “Botans” (Dunedin Botanic Gardens) than I did all semester. I let myself get lost among the flowers, trees, and birds. As it is (finally) spring, the flowers are in full bloom and are stunningly beautiful. I can’t help but occasionally take a moment to close my eyes, hear the sounds of the birds and smell the sweet life of the plants around me. These little things are filled with just as much beauty as the grand glaciers and crystal lakes.
If there is one thing New Zealand has taught me, it is that there is beauty everywhere, in everything. Sometimes you just have to search a bit Read More »
Even though I’ve been on many adventures in Chile, my adventure in Buenos Aires, Argentina was definitely one to remember. While I was accustomed to certain social injustices in Santiago, I wasn’t (or maybe I was?) expecting the distinct effects history of immigration has on a population’s socialization. On Friday night, one of my friends activated a group going-out app to meet other groups of jóvenes who were going out. Among ridiculous conversations about a random assortment of things, we stumbled upon a group of Argentinian jóvenes who wanted to show us a little bit of porteño culture. One guy sent us a song to listen to and another promptly responded, describing the song as “n*gger music”
My friend and I showed each other the messages simultaneously, in disbelief that, despite the porteños having such a radically different context and conceptualization of race, they would feel inclined to use that word so freely and around someone of color. The group unmatched but I thought about that comment all night and decided to later ask a porteño friend what that word meant for them, or him at least.
He explained to me, or at least tried (I wasn’t really having it) that the word “n*gger” had nothing to do with the color of someone’s skin but was rather a synonym of “poor, fleite, commoner” and was more to do with socioeconomic status.
For me, I was more accustomed to the classism I had been experiencing in Santiago more than anything else so to encounter this ignorant response to a word blatantly dipped and soaked in racist history and thought left me amused and puzzled. I’m actually still processing this event so I’m going to stop writing here but maybe when I’ve accurately gathered my thoughts I’ll write another blog post!
For my first (but hopefully not last Dieciocho) I was invited to a dieciocho familiar with one of my friends I made in a class. It was a little bit to the south of Chile in an old, traditional house with connecting rooms, space for a farm and a separate area for asados. The first night we hung out by the asado area and enjoyed the infamous piscolas and a drink whose name I can’t remember that was a combination of orange Fanta soda and beer (sounds disgusting but it was so good). We settled into our rooms at around 1AM to prepare for the next day filled with more asados and a local fondo where I had the best terremoto of my life. The next day we woke up at around 10:30AM and had a small breakfast but the asado was the best thing of my LIFE! There was an old family friend to help with meals and cooking because there were about 40 of us staying in the house and she made salad along with empanadas while the guys in the group slow cooked slabs of meat for us to eat in little pieces. Everything was so relaxed and I really felt that we got to learn more about Chile and its social customs during this time. Plus, the fondo allowed us to have a glimpse into the life of a rural Chilean lifestyle.
On the last day of Atacama, we traveled with our guide to Valle de Arcois where we had the most incredible send off (and view!) I got the chance to fearfully climb a few mountain structures and conquer my fear I developed when I split open my knee and hand on a rock the previous day. We ate a few empanadas of pino, vegetarian and pollo and were given a personal tour of the whole area. It was really relaxing to a weekend of semi intense activities and climbing and a chance for the whole group to laugh, talk and play music. Our guide’s playlist was fire so of course we had a sing along to every classic American jam that came up. Atacama has my heart, ¡siempre!
A couple of weeks ago, the IFSA crew and I took a trip to San Pedro de Atacama, the northern part of Chile and very very very very dry. Way much drier than Santiago and that’s seriously saying something. While there, we had an incredible experience but it was filled with lots of trekking and athletic adventures. The first day we toured the Valle de la Luna and got the chance to run barefoot down a sand mountain structure while observing the salty tops of the other valle. When we got to the end, we were all out of breath and laughing about how much fun we had experienced. A little while later, a couple of us went out into the center to explore the town of Atacama and found a cute little restaurant with live music. We shared a plate a fries with fried eggs and sausages and of course a couple of Chilean drinks. It was an amazing start to an amazing adventure.
There are T-minus 16 days until my twenty-first birthday, not that I’m counting or anything…
This being said, ever since I turned 18 I have been dreaming of how amazing my 21st would be. I dreamt of a nice dinner with my closest friends and family, celebratory champagne, and a night out clubbing with my best friends all while wearing a birthday sash and crown. However, celebrating a twenty-first birthday here in Australia is nowhere near as exciting as in America.
So far in Australia I’ve celebrated three of my closest friends’ twenty-first birthdays. While they have been amazing and special to us, whenever we go out to our favorite bars/clubs to ring in the big day, the staff and fellow Australians look at us like we’re crazy. Of course they understand that every birthday is special, but we certainly haven’t gotten the stereotypical 21st birthday treatment we would have if we had been in the U.S.
So while I’m counting down the days until my birthday, I’ll be celebrating both here in Australia AND one week later when I return to the U.S… who says you can only turn 21 once?
Well, campus here is officially in study mode. Everyone is locked in the library or another study space for hours on end. Most of the finals count for like 50% of your grade so it’s pretty important to do well on them. Just as important studying is, I want to make sure I’m soaking in my last few weeks in New Zealand. Last week, I visited Mount Cook/Aoraki and hiked the Kepler Track. These definitely cracked the top 5 NZ experiences so far and I definitely recommend making trips to both. It’s kind of weird writing this post because I think it’s my last one…? I feel like I should be reflective and get all sobby about leaving NZ in a few weeks. But I’m not going to do that. I’ll just give 5 pieces of advice for those lucky enough to enjoy this country next.
- Aioli makes everything better – What is Aioli, you ask? Pretty much garlic mayonnaise and let me tell you, this is a gift from God. That thing goes with sandwiches, cheeseburgers, chips (fries), etc. Definitely going to look into getting some back in the States.
- Be Open Minded – I considered myself a pretty open minded person before I came and I think that served me well in coming here. Try new things, get outside your comfort zone. It’s strange at first, but it may be one of the cooler things you do in NZ.
- Get Outside – That’s almost a given. New Zealand scenery is by far the most beautiful nature I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Even the views from the road will take your breath away. Nothing is more picturesque than a million sheep grazing in a green field with snow-capped mountains as the backdrop.
- Road Trip – One of my best memories is spending a week in a campervan touring the North Island with friends. Sharing a living space as small as a van teaches you a lot about what you need and don’t need. It also shows you really don’t have to shower that often! You learn a lot about yourself and also about the other people you are “vanning” with. Also, you get to see some of the sickest things in the country.
- Positivity is Key – Alright, a little deep on this one, I’m sorry. But this is probably the number one thing I’ve learned while being in New Zealand. As great of a country it is, you’ll go through some rough times. Everyone does, it’s just part of it. There are some things you can’t control, but you can always control your mindset. Being positive will help you get through anything and once you do overcome it, you’ll be a better person.
So I think that’s a wrap. If not, I’ll write another one and be back at it with something else to say.
Cheers to you, New Zealand and all that you have taught me over the past 5 months.
On my blog, I have often highlighted exciting trips or fun moments from Mendoza. So I thought that this week I would switch it up a bit. Here’s how a typical Monday (October 24th) in Mendoza goes for me:
8:50am – Wake up. I tried to get up a little earlier this morning because I thought that I needed to put more minutes on my Argentine phone. I tried two stores with no success, but then realized that I didn’t actually need to call anyone (email did the trick).
I am in a chair. It is a wooden chair at a gleaming wooden table, lit up by the adjacent window. Outside, cars whoosh past, birds scavenge for food off the sidewalk, students hurry past leisurely couples, backpacks tight against there backs. Soft music plays in the background. Sometimes it is Hozier. Sometimes it is Sara Bareilles. Always it is calming. Always it is good.
This is my seat.
During my first two months at the University of Otago, I traveled around town, with the goal of eventually getting to every cafe. After a while, this goal became futile, as I discovered that some cafes were much more enticing than others. I had favorites, and I didn’t want to risk spending money on a coffee that wouldn’t compare.
Soon enough, the workload for school increased, and my favorites (RDC, Modaks, The Perc, Morning Magpie), though wonderful, didn’t meet all of my needs. It was at this time that I started coming to Governor’s Cafe. Prior to this time, I’d held a grudge against Governor’s, as I thought it was too close to school. In my ideal world, there wouldn’t be other students at my cafe, which would allow me to forge my own way through the semester. However, I soon learned to appreciate how close Governor’s is to campus, along with many other things.
Let me tell you why Governor’s is so great:
- It has wifi (necessary for most of my work)
- It is only a twenty minute walk from my flat (not close, but only five minutes farther than the library)
- It is open until 7PM on weekdays (and as a student, sometimes studying must be done later than 4PM–when all the other cafes close)
- The coffee is fantastic (especially the mochas)
- There is a $6 coffee + slice/scone/muffin deal (anyone who knows me knows I can’t resist a good deal)
- No one seems to know about the upstairs room (meaning I’m often able to study alone)
- The food is good (although, being a broke college student, I haven’t had the opportunity to try much of the “real” food)
- They have a “Buy 4 coffees, get the 5th free” deal (AGAIN with the deals!!)
- They know me (seriously. They all know me now because I come here so often)
Governor’s has become MY place, here in Dunedin. It is my place to come and drink coffee and talk to the workers and read and write and draw and study and FaceTime my parents and edit my brother’s college essays and socialize with friends and procrastinate doing my homework. It is one of the few places where I can always count on feeling at home. Humorously, the man who owns the place is American–he’s from Colorado. I never even registered his American accent until Holly, my friend from class who works here, mentioned it to me. I think I was too intimidated by him to notice his accent… let me explain:
One Sunday, I came to Governor’s to spend the day studying for a psych test. I got the $6 deal and ordered my mocha and one of the savory scones. “Can I have my scone in like, an hour, though?” I asked, in as charming a voice as I could muster. He just looked at me.
“Sure.” He said, unaffected.
“I’m sorry for being so difficult.” I chuckled, hoping he’d smile and make me feel better about being so difficult.
“It’s really not that difficult.” He said, totally stone-faced. “Just come up here when you’re ready.”
And I did. An hour later, I went back up to the counter and was like, “I’m ready for my scone!” He just shook his head and went to the back to warm it up for me.
After that day, I was terrified of him. I really thought he hated me for being an annoying American customer. Turns out, I was wrong. He must’ve been secretly charmed by my dorkiness because now he always smiles and talks to me when I come in.
But that’s just it. They all know me, here! When I come to Governor’s, I don’t get treated like a stupid, obnoxious, American tourist. I get treated like a regular. I get treated like I belong here. They expect me and I love being expected.
Governor’s has become my place. It has become the place that I will miss the most when I leave. Obviously, I am going to miss more than just one coffee shop–I will miss the adventures and the people and the beauty of New Zealand as a whole–but as a singular, specific, entity, Governor’s is the place I will miss the most.
So thank you. Thank you to every person that works at Governor’s Cafe. Thank you to every wonderful mocha, warmed muffin, and slice that I swore I would save half of for later and then ate the whole thing anyways. Thank you to this chair next to the window and outlet upstairs, where I have spent numerous hours studying, writing, drawing, and reading.
Thank you, Governor’s, for making a home for me in New Zealand.Mocha + Muffin Mocha + Vegan Apple Loaf Me in my chair with my mocha and food My Spot
I’ve met a lot of foreign exchange students here in Santiago—from all over Europe, Latin American, and the United States.What I’ve come to notice is that my study abroad experience is totally different from theirs in one major respect: living with a host family. While all ten of us IFSA-Butler program students are staying with Chilean families, I’ve come to realize that we’re living an unique experience that most other students I’ve met do not get to enjoy. Living with a Chilean host family has come to shape my experience abroad, and I decided that it is an important aspect for me to share for any students who are considering studying abroad with IFSA-Butler.
As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, moving in with a new family was an adjustment for me. For the first couple of weeks I struggled with the loss of my newfound freedom and independence that I found in college. However, I have grown to love it more and more each day. Perhaps this is what inspired today’s blog post: last night I had a dream that I was going to be moving from my host family’s apartment into a student-housing residence for the rest of my duration in Chile. I found myself panicking. I didn’t want to move—I realized I would miss my Chilean host mom, home-cooked meals, and playing with our dog, Toldito. Most importantly I feared no longer having a family to come home to at the end of the day to talk to in Spanish. The next day, as I am writing this blog post, I now know that it was all a dream (or nightmare). But it made me really recognize the fact that I now truly feel at home here.
A few weeks ago, my mom (biological, not host mom) came to visit me in Santiago. I showed her all the touristy sights, the beautiful view at the top of Cerro San Cristobal; we ate amazing food, and even toured some wineries on a weekend getaway in Santa Cruz. At the end of the week, I asked my mom what her favorite part of Santiago was. I guess I should not have been so surprised to learn that it was meeting my host family. My host mom Pili was very excited to invite over my real mom for lunch, and as soon as my mom stepped through the door, Pili excitedly told her to “Make herself at home, my dear.” While Pili speaks some English, it was my job to translate between English and Spanish for my mother and host family. While it was definitely chaotic and confusing, it was also very fun and amusing. My host dad, Ivan, would explain a complicated history about Chilean exports in Spanish and then excitedly direct me to translate for my mother. There were plenty of us around the table sharing empanadas—six of us including my host parents, my host brother and his girlfriend, and my mom and I. Every single one of them was so kind to my mom, and the lunch that my host mom prepared, as usual, was delicious. Discussing it later, my mom and I compared my experience with my brother’s homestay in Spain. A few years ago, while visiting my brother in Grenada, my mom and I had lunch at his host mother’s house; the difference was, we concluded, that she was not as warm and friendly as my host mom is. Unfortunately, my brother’s host mother was not so interested in forming a relationship with the exchange students she hosted. I am so lucky then, to have a Chilean host mom that truly wanted to bond with my real mom. Later that week, my mother and Pili went out to lunch by themselves, though neither of them knows much of each other’s language. I found it adorable and I was so proud of the both of them. My positive home stay experience can be explained by many factors: the general warmth of Chilean culture, the great job that IFSA did in finding us host families, and the fact that I was just lucky enough to be placed with special people.
No matter what the explanation is, I have been showered with kindness and affection. Whether it’s my host brother packing me lunches when my host mom’s away, Ivan introducing me to his friends as his “hija gringa,” or my host mom giving me a hug when I come home from class, I have been accepted into a family that make me feel like their home is my home. I’ll admit that there are both pros and cons when deciding between doing a homestay and living with other students, but the choice I made is one of my favorite parts of studying in Chile.