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

Reflecting on Chile/Relexión de Chile

Time August 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

I had an incredible experience during my time abroad in Chile. I met fantastic people, saw incredible places, and learned new and interesting information. But I found study abroad to be more than just a chance to study and travel; it was also an opportunity to learn about the world and gain a greater perspective, understanding, and appreciation for it. Living in a different country and different culture can be challenging and at times upsetting. Adjusting to new social norms—such as less personal space, stricter gender roles, and a looser interpretation of times and dates—can be shell-shocking and difficult. People greeted one another with a kiss on the cheek or a hug rather than a handshake; it was not uncommon for men to stare at women; and saying that you would meet at 4:00 could mean anytime between 4:00 and 6:00. When differences such as these surrounded, it was initially hard to find the similarities with which I could relate to those around me. However, I was forced to look beneath the surface and discover the common-ground that lay beneath. Eventually, I was able to embrace many of these cultural differences and my perspective shifted to fit my new understanding of the world.

In addition to expanding my personal worldview, I was also able to expand my circle of friends and family with my fellow study abroad companions, the Chileans I studied with and met during my travels, and my incredible and loving family. I know the relationships I formed while in Chile will last my lifetime and while I will certainly miss them, leaving Chile was not a “goodbye” but rather a “see you later.” I don’t know when I will return to Chile but it has certainly not seen the last of me nor I of it. For now, I will settle with readjusting to being back in the US and expanding my personal horizons here. Studying abroad was by far the best thing I have done in my college career to date, and I cannot wait to continue my travel and exploration of the world and all the people, places, animals, environments, and overall wonder it offers!

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Tenía una experiencia increíble mientras que estuviera en Chile. Conocí a gente fantástica, vi lugares increíbles, y aprendí información nueva e interesante. Pero mi experiencia en Chile fue más que simplemente una oportunidad de estudiar y viajar; fue una oportunidad para aprender del mundo y ganar una perspectiva y agradecimiento más amplia para la gente, el ambiente, y la cultura. Vivir en un país distinta con una cultura diferente puede ser difícil y algunas veces molestoso. Adaptarse a nuevas normas sociales—como menos espacio personal, roles de género más fijos, y una interpretación de tiempo y fechas más floja—puede ser discordante y complejo. La gente le saludaba con un beso en la mancha o un abrazo en vez de un apretón de manos; fue común para los hombres mirar fijamente a las mujeres; y decir que van a juntar a las 4:00 podía significar cualquier tiempo entre las 4:00 y las 6:00. Cuando diferencias como esos rodeaban, al principio, fue difícil encontrar las similitudes con que podía conectar con mis nuevos compañeros. Pero, eventualmente acepté muchas de esas diferencias culturales y mi perspectiva cambió para ser apta a mi nueva idea del mundo.

En adición de expandir mi propia visión del mundo, también expandí mi círculo de amigos y familia con mis otros compañeros extranjeros, los chilenos con que estudié y conocí durante mis viajes, y mi familia chilena increíble y cariñosa. Sé que las relaciones que hacía en Chile duran toda mi vida y aunque les echo de menos a todos mucho, salir de Chile no fue un “adiós” sino un “hasta luego.” No sé cuándo regresaré a Chile, pero sé que Chile ya no había visto el fin de mi ni yo de él. Para ahora, estaré contenta reajustarme a los EE. UU. y expandir mis horizontales personales acá. “Estudiar afuera” fue la cosa mejor que he hecho en mi carrera de universidad hasta ahora, ¡y no ver el momento hasta que continúe mis viajes y exploración del mundo y la gente, lugares, animales, y maravilla general que existe!

 

 

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Friends/Amigos

Time July 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

One of the unsung aspects of study abroad is the friends you make through the study abroad program. I met some wonderful people through IFSA-Butler that made my time in Chile better than I could have hoped. This blog post is dedicated to my fellow Chile explorers.
Amelia Shannon: Amelia had been in Chile the previous semester and was the one to help us newbies find our footing. She was always around with a friendly smile and some Chilean advice.
Colin Monahan: “Doer of things.” Colin was always off on some crazy adventure or just finding the new cool thing to do in Valpo. He could always be found with his backpack and sense of adventure!
Dara Canchester: Dara loved life and the world around her. Whether in the city, the mountains, or a rural town, Dara was always able to find the wonder in every place and everyone.
Eliza Cohen: Eliza loved to explore the Valpo area and was always looking to go out with some of the IFSA gang to work in a cafe or have a night on the town.
Grace Riley: Grace was super fun and also really smart. A prefect example of work hard, play hard, she was always on top of her academics but also down to have a good time.
Jaimie Murray: Jaimie sucked the marrow out of the study abroad experience. Through her travel, relationships, and work, she made it a point to experience every aspect of Chile that she could.
Joseph Filardo: A great friend and helpful person. Always willing to help someone out and incredibly humble. Also, had great jokes and was a secretly good singer.
Kelli Duncan: Kelli wasn’t afraid of anything. Whether striking up a conversation with strangers, traveling in an unknown location, or hiking a dangerous path, she was always up for the challenge. An adventurous spirit who cared a lot about the world and the people in it.
Leila Walker: Leila was such a sweetheart and a kind soul. She loved getting to know the Chileans and was always practicing her Spanish.
Magaly Gonzalez: Super smart and hard working, Magaly put the “study” in “study abroad.” A fabulous friend to all in addition to being a fabulous student!
Meg Belinsky: Meg was super fun and always had high, bubbly energy. She was always down to explore Valpo, find a cute cafe to study in, or go on a fun travel adventure.
Megan Ganning: Megan was an incredibly friendly, funny, and fun-loving person. She put her heart into everything she did and loved all the world.
Naomi Takeuchi: Naomi was possibly the happiest and friendliest person I have ever met. She always had a smile on her face and a loving compliment to share.
Sarah Pearson: Sarah was an incredibly dedicated exchange student always practicing her Spanish and making connections with both Chileans and other exchange students.
I love all my IFSA-Butler companions and I know that these relationships will last a lifetime. I miss you all a lot and cannot wait for the next time we see each other!
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Uno de los aspectos menos obvio del intercambio son los amigos extranjeros que conoces durante el programa. Conocí a algunas personas increíbles con IFSA-Butler que han hecho mi experiencia en Chile mejor que podía imaginar. Ese blog es dedicado a esos compañeros, mis otros exploradores de Chile.
Amelia Shannon: Amelia ha vivido en Chile el semestre pasado y nos ayudó a encontrar nuestras nuevas vidas en Chile. Siempre estaba disponible con una sonrisa amable y unos consejos de Chile.
Colin Monahan: “El hacedor.” Colin siempre estaba en alguna aventura loca o buscando la nueva cosa divertida para hacer en Valpo. Siempre podía encontrarlo con su mochila y espíritu de aventura.
Dara Canchester: A Dara le encantó la vida y el mundo. Si estuviera en la ciudad, las montañas, un pueblo, o el campo, ella siempre podía encontrar lo increíble en cada lugar y cada persona.
Eliza Cohen: A Eliza le gustó mucho explorar Valparaiso y siempre estaba lista para ir a un café para estudiar o un bar para disfrutar la noche.
Grace Riley: Grace fue muy divertida y muy inteligente. Fue la ejempla perfecta de “trabajar mucho, divertirse mucho.” Siempre estaba lista con sus académicos, pero también lista para carretear.
Jaimie Murray: Jaimie disfrutó todo lo que podía de la experiencia del intercambio. Con sus viajes, relaciones, y trabajo se experimentó todos los aspectos posibles de Chile.
Joseph Filardo: Un buen amigo y una persona muy amable. Siempre estaba listo para ayudar y fue muy humilde. También, fue muy cómico y secretamente un cantador muy bueno.
Kelli Duncan: Kelli no tenía medio de nada. Hablando con desconocidos, viajando en un lugar nuevo, a haciendo trekking en un camino difícil, siempre estaba lista. Una persona aventurera que se preocupó mucho del mundo y de los seres humanos.
 Leila Walker: Leila fue muy cariñosa y amable. Le encantó conocer a los chilenos y siempre estaba practicando su español.
Magaly Gonzalez: Muy inteligente y trabajadora, Magaly puso el “estudiar” en “estudiar afuera.” Una muy buena amiga de todos además de ser una muy buena estudiante.
Meg Belinsky: Meg fue muy divertida y siempre tenía mucha energía. Siempre estaba lista para explorar Valpo, encontrar una linda café en que podía trabajar, o viajar en un lugar interesante.
Megan Ganning: Megan fue muy amable, cómica, y divertida. Actuó con todo su corazón en cualquier cosa que hacía y le encantó todo el mundo.
Naomi Takeuchi: Naomi fue, posiblemente, la persona más feliz y más amable que había conocido en toda mi vida. Siempre tenía una sonrisa en su cara y algún cumplido cariñoso para decir.
Sarah Pearson: Sarah fue muy dedicada a su experiencia chilena y siempre estaba practicando su español y hacienda relaciones con chilenos y los otros estudiantes extranjeros.
Me encantan todos mis compañeros de IFSA-Butler y sé que esas relaciones van a mantener durante toda mi vida. Les echo de menos mucho y no veo el momento hasta que nos juntemos la próxima vez.
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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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Antofagasta & Atacama

Time July 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

I spent the past week traveling in the North of Chile exploring San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding area. Getting there is a bit of a trek—for me, it involved two buses to the airport in Santiago, a two-and-a-half-hour flight to the small coastal town of Antofagasta, and then a five-hour bus ride from Antofagasta to San Pedro—but it was well worth it. I spent my first and last days (Thursday and Tuesday) in Antofagasta wandering around the town and coastline there. Friday morning, I woke up early and got a 7:00 AM bus to San Pedro. On the bus, I met two very nice Argentinians who were sailing from their home town of Ushuaia in the South of Argentina along the coast of Chile. Arriving in San Pedro around noon, I stayed with the Argentinians who had found a very nice and affordable hostel which became my home for the next four days. There, I met two lovely Chilean sisters from Concepción who I went on most of my tours with. That afternoon I went to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) an incredible and mystical place in the middle of the desert. The following day I explored the small town of San Pedro in the morning, and in the afternoon went to Las Lagunas Escondidas (The Hidden Lagoons) where I floated in one of the natural salt lagoons. The water was quite chilly but the experience was amazing. The next day I woke up very early for a 4:30 AM tour of the El Tatio geyser. At 4300m above sea level and -12°C it was very cold but that didn’t stop me from going for a swim in the thermal fed hot springs. That afternoon I walked to Pukará de Quitor—an area of old ruins, statues, and caverns about 4 km from my hostel—and explored around there. On my last day in San Pedro I visited a few tiny neighboring towns and learned about the history and religion of the area. I also went to Laguna Chaxa which is a reserve known for flamingos and saw the beautiful yet awkward pink creatures in all their glory. I spent the afternoon wandering around some more and taking in the beauty of the desert and mountains that surround San Pedro. With one final vacation day in Antofagasta, I went for a lovely walk along the coast and spent some time knitting on the beach and enjoying the warmth and sun. Then, before I knew it, I was on my way back to Vina ready to enjoy my final days here in Chile before heading back home to the States. I had a fantastic trip and was impressed by the diversity of the north: from beaches, to valleys, to mountains, to lagoons, and more. I am certainly going to miss Chile and all of its’ rich and wonderful environments, people, history, culture, and everything else.

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Pasé la semana pasada viajando en el norte de Chile explorando San Pedro de Atacama y sus alrededores. Llegar allá fue un poco complicada—tuve que tomar dos buses al aeropuerto en Santiago, un vuelo de dos horas y medio al pueblito Antofagasta, y después un bus de cinco horas desde Antofagasta a San Pedro—pero valió la pena. Pasé mi primer y último día (jueves y martes) en Antofagasta explorando el pueblo y la costa. La mañana de viernes, me desperté temprano y tomé el bus a las 7:00 AM a San Pedro. En el bus, conocí a dos argentinos navegando desde su pueblo Ushuaia en el sur de Argentina hasta toda la costa de Chile. Cuando llegué a San Pedro, me quedé con los argentinos que habían buscado un hostal bueno y barato que pasó como mi casa por los cuatro días siguientes. Allá conocí a dos hermanas chilenas muy simpáticas de Concepción con que pasé la mayoría de los tours. Esa tarde fui a Valle de la Luna, un lugar increíble y místico en el medio del desierto. El día siguiente exploré el pueblo pequeño de San Pedro por la mañana, y por la tarde fui a Las Lagunas Escondidas donde floté en una de las lagunas salares. El agua estuvo frio, pero la experiencia fue increíble. El próximo día me desperté muy temprano para un tur a las 4:30 de la madrugada al geyser El Tatio. A 4300 m sobre el nivel del mar y -12°C, fue muy helado, pero eso no me detuvo bañarme en el agua termal del geyser. En la tarde, caminé a Pukará de Quitor—un área de ruinas, figuras y cavernas viejas más o menos 4 km de mi hostal—y exploré ese lugar. En mi último día en San Pedro, visité a algunos pueblos muy pequeños en el alrededor de San Pedro y aprendé sobre la historia y religión del área. También fui a la Laguna Chaxa que es una reserva para los flamencos y vi las bonitas, pero poco elegante, animales rosas de toda su gloria. Pasé la tarde explorando un poco más de San Pedro y apreciando la bonita natural del desierto y las montañas del área. Con un día más de vacaciones en Antofagasta caminé por la costa y tejé en la playa disfrutando del sol y calor. Y, antes de saberlo, estaba regresando a Vina, lista para disfrutar mis últimos días en Chile antes de regresar a los EEUU. Tuve un muy lindo viaje en el norte y me impresioné toda la diversidad entre las playas, las valles, las montañas, los volcanes, las lagunas, y más. Voy a echar de menos mucho todo lo que es Chile y sus lindos y ricos ambientes, gente, historia, cultura, y todo lo demás.

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Packing Reflections

Time July 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

So here I am again, alone with my suitcase.

Except this time I’ve got no qualms about what to pack. I basically just have to gather everything in my room, stuff it into this bag and hope that it weighs less than 23 kg.

Looking at this job ahead of me I’ve realized two things:

1. I should have less stuff.
2. I’m just as unprepared to go home as I was to come here.

For all the weekend trips we went on I lived out of a small backpack filled with only what I needed for a day – that was usually an extra shirt and a whole bunch of snacks. Even when I spent three weeks travelling around the south island, I only brought a very small bag in addition to the backpack. Granted, I wore the same pair of pants for about a week straight, but I promise my standards of hygiene only go that low when I’m on the road.

And now I’m looking at all the crap that I brought over here and I realized that I only needed about a third of it. Something warm, something waterproof, and a good pair of shoes would have gotten me through this semester just fine. Why I thought it was a good idea to bring three sweatshirts and two pairs of heels remains a complete and total mystery.

Packing “stuff” isn’t the hard part of preparing to go home. For about a week now I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the fact that this semester-long adventure is actually coming to an end. I’ve come to love Auckland and New Zealand, and even though I want to see my family and friends back home I’m really not ready to leave. If it weren’t for my home school’s darn liberal arts requirements then I would be back here next semester in a heartbeat.

But my ticket is paid for and my dog is waiting, so I guess I’m getting on a plane whether I’m ready or not.

Cheers to a wonderful five months, New Zealand.

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Second Time’s the Charm

Time July 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

I’ve been here for a while now. It’s only been about four months, but that was long enough to see most of the major spots in the north island and a decent amount of the south island.

Four months is also long enough to start seeing places twice, with the right company.

My mom came to visit Auckland for ten days, and I wanted to show her how amazing this country that I’ve been living in is. We spent the first week in and around the city. This was great, but for me the best part of living in New Zealand is going on a road trip.

So when the last few days of her visit came around, we packed a backpack, hopped in the rental car, and started driving south.

The plan was to tour the Waitomo glowworm caves before heading up to the Coromandel peninsula for the night. I hadn’t seen the glowworm caves yet and they were on my bucket list, but Coromandel was actually one of the first places that we took a weekend trip to. It was one of my favorite places that I’ve been to in all of New Zealand, so I was excited to revisit it.

The caves were incredible, and the endless green, sheep-speckled hills that surround what seems like New Zealand’s only road (highway 1, takes you anywhere and everywhere) never get old. But seeing the Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove for the second time was pretty special (especially since this time I wasn’t the one paying for gas).

Sitting at Cathedral Cove with my mom, I was proud to have studied in New Zealand. This is a wonderful country like no other in the world, and I relished being able to show my mom a small part of what makes it so great.

So even though it was a repeat trip, Coromandel might have been even better the second time around. I wish that I could share New Zealand with everyone I know, but they’ll just have to settle with looking through thousands of landscape pictures and listening to me talk about it for the next several months.

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City Lights Leaving Orlando

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

Just like at the beginning of this journey, before landing at home my feelings were all over the place. Considering how late my program ended I was definitely excited to see my family and friends and start my summer. However, I made a lot of my closest friendships toward the end of my semester and it was sad to leave them not knowing when I would see them again. Since being home I’ve definitely been hyper-sensitive to my surroundings. For example, quarters feel much smaller in my hand, compared to colones, and my backyard looks much bigger. But overall, I’m grateful to have had such an incredible experience abroad. Costa Rica will always have a place in my heart.

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To the Cape!

Time June 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

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Cape Reinga is the northernmost tip of New Zealand, known for its picturesque lighthouse, giant sand dunes, and 90 mile beach (which, by the way, is not 90 miles long. It’s not even 90 kilometers). I didn’t know I was going until 24 hours before we picked up the rental car, but this spontaneous trip was one of the best weekends of the semester.

At least, it was after the first night.

We started the drive at about 4:30 pm so that we could get to our “holiday park,” sleep, then wake up and have a full day ahead of us. This was all fine, until it was time to sleep.

In case you’ve never stayed in one, a holiday park is not luxurious. Essentially, the five of us were staying in a metal box with just enough room for the bunk beds. Which is fine, because we’re all on a pretty tight budget at this point in the semester.

The place was BYOB (bring your own blankets) and I SEVERELY underestimated how cold it was going to be, and of course these tiny metal boxes did not have any heating. So I spent the first night shivering under my duvet cover (just the cover. Not the duvet. Somebody tell me why I thought this was a good idea), wondering if I should pull down the curtains to use as an extra blanket and silently cursing the tiny metal box called a “holiday park.”

But finally the sun came up, and the next day was spectacular.

After breakfast we drove straight to 90 mile beach, which isn’t your typical lounge in the sun, read a book and dip your toes in the water beach. The point of going to this beach is to drive on the sand alongside the Pacific Ocean from the very bottom to the very top, and it was so much fun. We sped, we ghost drove, we waved to the surfers, and we blasted music the whole way. Hanging out the window and pretending to be Beyoncé in her Formation video is not optional.

88 kilometers later we didn’t think the day could get any better, but it did. Whoever decided that boogie boarding down giant sand dunes was a good idea might be one of the most underrated brain-powers of the 21st century. We rented boards, trudged up an enormous pile of sand, and threw ourselves down the steepest dunes we could find for the next three hours. It was like none of us had ever stopped being kids.

The sun was starting to set and we still had one last item on our bucket list, so we sped off (on a real road this time) towards the very tip of the cape. Here we saw the iconic lighthouse and the place where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. We could actually see a line of choppy waves that marked where two bodies of water collided, and just above this line the sun was sinking slowly below the horizon. It was a very peaceful end to an action-packed day.

Back at the holiday park we made s’mores in the communal fireplace and watched a movie. Thankfully someone lent me a blanket, so I was not completely miserable in our tiny metal box that night.

At the end of the day we collectively agreed that this trip might have marked the happiest we’ve ever been in our lives. But then again, we say that every other weekend in New Zealand.

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Final Reflections

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

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a few weeks now, with a busted laptop and a ton of responsibilities concerning moving and starting a new job. I’ve taken time to reflect on the good and the bad of my semester abroad in Glasgow, and here are some tips:

  • If you attend the art school, your tutors will not be around a lot of the time. If you need feedback, or advice, it is up to you to go find them and articulate what you need specifically and concisely. This, in addition to primarily working independently, can make your time pretty isolating if you don’t work to socialize. Introduce yourself to your neighbors around the studio, go to events at The Vic, go to zine fairs at the CCA and vintage sales down by the Trongate. It’s not that people won’t be friendly, they just tend to focus on their work pretty intensely.
  • I might have considered independent housing after seeing some of my friends’ apartments in Glasgow. Much of the architecture is very old, so the flats had high ceilings with wide open floor plans, and could be as little as £300 per month. However, if I had done this I wouldn’t have met the close friends I was fortunate to have been assigned student housing with. (There are also security, safety, and insurance reasons associated with student housing – but ask your Ifsa-Butler representative to go over options with you!)
  • Take pictures of everything!! Film things!! Especially if you attend GSA, try to draw daily! I personally entered a pretty bad rut this past semester with my work; I had a lot of trouble creating, and that made me feel useless a lot of time, cause like duh, I’m an art student, I’m supposed to make art. Sketching, filming, taking pictures – even splurging and getting yourself some really nice watercolor paper – can make you feel more productive, even it means taking baby steps.
  • Yo if you’re Jewish and you miss celebrating Passover when springtime rolls around, go to Cafe Cossachok in the Trongate area and get some smoked salmon potato pancakes and borscht. I missed Kosher delis, but Russian food is pretty close. P.S. they do not call smoked salmon, “lox.” Nobody will know what you’re talking about if you ask for it.
  • Soak up your time in the highlands as much as you can. The Argyll forest and Isle of Skye are really indescribable. Words will not do their beauty justice – just go.

I can say that this semester has proven to be one of my most challenging, but in ways that differ from past semesters at my host college. At a liberal arts college in the U.S., students find themselves juggling an array of subjects while trying to complete their decided major and graduate within 3-4 years. This, of course, poses its own challenges and may nudge more neurotic thinkers (such as myself) into a worm hole of self-deprecating thought processes: “I’m taking classes X, Y and Z at levels A, B and C and I’m better at Z than X – why aren’t I better at X? Why aren’t I good at everything? That person over there is great at X. If I’m not good at X I must not be good at Z either. Oh, my god I’m not good at anything.”

At the Glasgow School of Art, however, I focused on one thing: my artwork. No assignments, no exams. I had one midyear paper for a gender studies class that met once a week, which didn’t really compare in intensity to my classes back home. My hubris led me to believe that that would make things easier. However, focusing exclusively on one thing actually put more pressure on it. But, like my tarot-reading former housemate has observed in her monthly horoscopes, “calling your capabilities into question doesn’t really help anyone much. It’s very subjective.” Perhaps people should think of themselves from the perspective of cover letters that embellish our talents for the grazing hand of employment. If one exaggerates their faults, they should be allowed some self-indulgent arrogance to balance the morale see-saw. I had an incredible time in Scotland, I 3000% recommend it to anybody thinking about studying abroad, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t face challenges; I reached out to my Ifsa-Butler representative and she set me up with a therapist that was payed for with the program’s insurance. I didn’t expect to have such a hard time adjusting, but I did, and it was the definitely the right move to make. Self-doubt is an easy labyrinth to fall into, especially in a new environment. Remember to look up – there is sunlight above the hedges.

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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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Passionate Professors

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

This photo was taken on the last day of my “Human Genetics, Society, and the Environment” class. My professor taught us many things about eastern medicine and self-care. We spent this day practicing Aikido, a type of martial arts. It was incredibly refreshing to learn alternative ways to heal one’s body through nutrition and meditative activities, as opposed to western practices. It was also very obvious that he is passionate about what he teaches, which shone through in his lectures and always kept me interested. I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him during my time abroad.

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Mountains, and Stars, and Penguins…Oh my!

Time June 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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Return Home

Time June 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Coming home has been such a bitter sweet experience. Towards the end of my journey I was really missing home and the lifestyle that I have. Colorado is such a beautiful state and I was really looking forward to seeing my family and friends again! I was so happy that I didn’t have to be long distance from my fiancee anymore and that we could finally be together! Long distance was one of the hardest things that our relationship has faced and I was glad to have it over. At the same time it meant that I had to leave Scotland and all of my friends there. Even though most of my friends are a short plane ride away, it’s so different than living together in the same flat. I’ve been home for two weeks now and I still feel like I should be waking up next to my friends and going on an adventure in Europe. Study abroad is such an interesting experience that I think only your friends abroad truly understand it. Of course I can describe to everybody back home how I feel but, nobody really understands it unless you experienced it.

I was supposed to return home on May 29th but my flight ended up getting canceled so I didn’t end up leaving until May 30th! Of course I was slightly sad to go home yet but, I was so happy that I got one more day in Scotland. That last day really made a difference. It felt like closure. The extra day I spent in Edinburgh with my closest friends and it felt so nice to have that last gathering together. I never would’ve thought that extra time would make such a difference but it really did! It was more relaxed and laid back than trying to pack everything and say goodbye to everybody at once.

Coming home and being able to reflect for a couple of weeks  made me realize a lot of things about myself. Before studying abroad I felt like I couldn’t handle the real world. I felt so dependent on my parents that I didn’t think I could handle graduating college. Even though I’m engaged I was worried about starting a life with my fiancee. Study abroad changed my view on being alone. Of course I still missed everything back home but it made me realize that I can do it. I can be on my own away from my parents. I will be able to get married and start a life with my fiancee. I would say that my view of the world is completely different as well. Traveling and going to new places really changes your perspective on how vast and wonderful the Earth is!

If you’re reading this and even considering study abroad you should do it. It’s the most incredible experience that will impact you for a lifetime. Don’t worry about expense because it’ll be worth it no matter the cost. In retrospect study abroad really is a pretty good deal. You’re paying much less than you would to live abroad for 5 months in a different setting. The best advice I can give is to go out and explore. The world is just waiting for you to go and see it!

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Everyday Sights on my Walk to the University of Glasgow

Time June 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Murano's Cat

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This is one of the many cats that I saw around Glasgow. It must have lived near the Murano Street student flats because I would always see it nearby. Here, it is walking along a wall next to one of Murano's stark brick buildings.

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Santiago

Time June 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

This post is a compilation of photos from three separate trips to Santiago. The first two were through IFSA-Butler: the first to learn about immigration in Chile, and the second to visit the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (the Museum of Memory and Human Rights) and learn more about the political history of Chile. The third was to visit my Chilean sister Cata who studies in Santiago. The first trip was interesting and fun. We went to the Parque Palestina for a discussion on middle-eastern immigration in Chile, had lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant, spoke with a professor about racism, and went to a street festival celebrating immigrant culture. The second trip was interesting, enlightening and upsetting. At the museum, we had a tour about the history of the Chilean dictatorship during the 1970s-80s. Then we went to a memorial park which—from 1974-1978—had been the largest torture center in Santiago. There we had a tour with a survivor of the camp which was difficult to listen to but also very important and insightful. In the evening, saw a play about a Mapuche boy that was murdered by a police officer. It was an emotionally exhausting day but very important and interesting. The third trip was super fun and it was great to spend the weekend with Cata. She took me to San Cristobal and Santa Lucia–two beautiful cerros (large hills/small mountains) with great views of Santiago. Overall, Santiago is a great city with lots to offer. It has history, culture, and nature as well as great places to eat, see, and/or visit. Each of my trips were distinct and gave me a unique perspective on Chile and its’ lovely capital.

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Ese post es una compilación de fotos de tres viajes distintos a Santiago. Los primeros dos fueron con IFSA-Butler: lo primero para aprender de inmigración en Chile, y lo segundo para visitar al Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos y aprender más sobre la historia política de Chile. En lo tercero, visité a mi hermanita chilena Cata que estudia en Santiago. El primer viaje fue divertido e interesante. Fuimos al Parque Palestina para una discusión de inmigración árabe en Chile, almorzamos en un restaurante mediterráneo, charlamos con un profesor sobre el racismo en Chile, y fuimos a un festival para la cultura inmigrante. El segundo viaje fue interesante, esclarecedor y triste. En el museo, tuvimos un tour sobre la historia de la dictadura chilena. Después fuimos a un parque de memoria que—durante 1974 y 1978—era el centro más grande de tortura en Santiago. Alla tuvimos un tour con una sobreviviente que fue difícil de escuchar, pero importante y perspicaz. En la tarde vimos una obra de teatro sobre el asesinato de un chico mapuche por un carabinero. Fue un viaje muy pesado pero muy importante e interesante. Mi tercer viaje fue muy divertido y fue genial pasar el fin de semana con mi hermana en Santiago. Cata me trajo a San Cristóbal y Santa Lucia—dos cerros muy lindos con vistas maravillosas de la ciudad. En fin, Santiago es una ciudad con mucho de ofrecer. Tiene historia, cultura y naturaleza además de muchos lugares para comer, visitar, y/o ver. Cada uno de mis viajes fueron muy diferentes y me dieron una perspectiva única de Chile y su lindo capital.

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Homeward Bound

Time June 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Well, that’s the semester done. I traveled, trained, trammed, troubled, traversed, and triumphed. And then I had my exams, and I have an entirely different slew of words for how that went, mostly of the four letter variety. Regardless, though, I made my way through, and I’m currently using my phone as a hotspot in Heathrow because the wifi here is allergic to functionality.

It’s a weird feeling, knowing that by tomorrow I’ll be back in the states. It’s not necessarily a bad feeling – I have missed my home, my friends and my family quite a bit these past six months –  but it is an odd one. Nothing feels quite real right now, because I’ve just packed up and left a place I got to call home for a half year, and there’s a good chance I’ll never be back in the area again. I don’t know that I like that, so for right now I’m determined to keep as many memories of the place as I can. In my own fashion, that probably means I’m going to have Norwich, if not UEA, appear as a backdrop in one of my next novels. It’s certainly suited for it, with all the charm and old architectural styles that surround the city center. Even if I don’t end up walking those streets in person, I get to write about them, and that’s almost as good.

Studying abroad has been an adventure in self-maintenance, or personal growth if you’d prefer the self-help phrasing. A lot of what I’ve been doing, both by virtue of living completely alone and without an immediate, close support network as well as the far more hands-off approach of universities in the U.K., has been entirely driven by me. Figuring out what I want or need to do every day and how I’m meant to manage that hasn’t always been easy, especially during my recent trek through Europe (I think I might have run at least a mile just trying to catch my trains alone). It has been edifying, though, and it’s one of those moments where once I’ve done something, no matter how unpleasant or hard the experience was, I know I can do that something again if it comes to it. Out of all the things I’m bringing back with me, that knowledge is probably what I’m most grateful to have.

I also brought back some fancy tea, of course, but that sounds less impressive. I’ll have one more reflections post in the next few days to wrap things up, but for now, I await my plane and try and figure out for the tenth time if everything is where I left it. It is, but try telling my anxiety that.

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Isle of Skye Trip

Time June 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Our second trip that IFSA organized was to the Isle of Skye. It was a long 5 hour bus ride to get from Glasgow to the large island in the north west, but it was broken up by fun, quick stops in highland towns and continuous historical facts from our tour guide. Everyone was struck by the beauty and vast wilderness of the highlands which felt so purely Scottish. I hope my pictures can somehow do it justice.

Highland Shepherd

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One of our first stops on our way up to Skye was to a working sheepdog farm. We were able to watch the shepherd's border collies wrangle the sheep at the sound of a whistle or a simple command.

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Road Trip (more UK travels)

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

My flatmates and I decided to take a little road trip to the northern part of England and Wales! We all really wanted to go to Wales and the only way to do that would be by renting a car and driving down. My flatmate, Julia, graciously offered to drive! She also let us stay at her aunt and uncle’s house! It was such a great opportunity so I couldn’t say no! I really love road trips and I was so happy to be going on one with my friends! We started our 3 hour journey from Glasgow! The drive really wasn’t terrible at all and to our surprise there wasn’t many cars on the road the whole drive. Of course a lot less people live in these areas than most places in the states! After our long trip we made it down to England. The house we stayed in was very quaint and it was along the shore about 10 minutes from Blackpool! We had a lovely home cooked meal and no meal is left without drinks. Without even realizing it I had a whole bottle of prosecco to myself! Luckily, it was over about 6 hours so I felt fine!

The next day we ventured to Liverpool in order to see the Beatles museum! Getting there was easy but parking in Liverpool was atrocious! We drove around the same street several times before we were able to find a parking lot! After the whole parking fiasco we walked up to the street to get to the museum and there was some type of train parade! We had no idea what we just walked into! It wasn’t too hard to navigate through the crowd but it was still strange! We saw a ferris wheel and decided that we wanted to go on it! The top was such a wonderful view of the city! We could really take in all that is Liverpool. Once we got back down to the ground it was time for the Beatles museum! The museum was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. It was one of my favorite things I’ve done this entire semester! It wasn’t set up like a normal museum. It was as if you were walking through their lives. It didn’t contain that many artifacts rather it contained storytelling and recreations of the actual pubs they played in. The audio tour provided most of the information. This is something that I would highly suggest for anybody who goes to the UK! I could really go on and on about the museum but you’ll just have to visit for yourself!  beatlesstory Don’t want to show too much so this is just the entrance! Read More »

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Mendoza, a city of culture

Time May 25th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

One thing I was looking forward to during study abroad aside from a new academic environment, was getting to know and even getting involved in the community. Mendoza may be a smaller city, but cultural events are not only important, but varied, frequent and often free or of little charge. Several areas in the city are known for screening movies weekly, often for free. You can find older and modern movies and movies from Argentina, the US and many other countries (of course with subtitles). Live plays happen all the time too so if you’re Spanish is good enough to follow them (mine is not) they are also a cool thing to check out. There are not only formal concerts like celebrations of classic rock and Argentina’s take on jazz and the blues as well as classical music events, but you can often happen upon informal mini concerts in the parks and plazas. Some even involve dancing. Personally, I really enjoy going to events that involve dancing. Not boliche-type dancing (I can’t dance at all) that happens late into the night at clubs, a young person’s typical pastime here, but actually watching the small dancing events put together by the city or other groups. Sure you’ll see much more tango in Buenos Aires, even in the streets, but I have been lucky enough to attend events involving the tango, mamba, samba, milonga and baile folklorico (which is more traditional). They all have different histories, dress and meanings and derive from around South America, but I can saying that I’ve been impressed by all that I’ve seen. Last week there was even an event in the one of the largest theatres in the city where you could watch a world famous traveling dance troupe. Tickets were only about $3.50 USD plus a donation of milk powder to the local food bank. Of course I was too late and the tickets sold out, but this just speaks to one of the great opportunities I’ve seen in the past few days. There’s a lot to discover if you look for it and luckily IFSA sends you updates of upcoming events too! As much as I like to watch dancing, I refuse to actually learn it it seems. However, if you are interested, not only can you take dancing classes at a local institute and possibly get some credits for it, depending on your university, but there are free dancing classes at the park too (as well as low-cost painting, photography, and other skill classes). Mendoza is a city that truly celebrates culture and has a wealth of events for those interested!

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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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Second Year Gallery Show

Time May 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Footage from the set up, opening, and critique for the end of the year show for GSA second year students. It was rewarding to be a part of such a collaborative production that showcased everyone’s hard work.

 

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Flights, Trips, and Over Preparing

Time May 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

The title is actually a misnomer. I’ll give you a hint: there’s no such thing as over-preparing for a trip that involves needing your passport and leaving the country you’ve been given temporary permission to stay in. I’m a fairly laid-back person, and even I get that forgetting a detail here is a terrible idea.  I’m leaving to go on a nice, not-quite-two-weeks trip through Europe on Friday, and the only reason I’m not panicking right now (or possibly being dangerously oblivious) is because I’ve done a fair amount of plane travel before this. If you’re interested, I have a few tips and reminders to share. After all, it seems a shame not to make at least one big trip while traveling abroad – there’s so much that’s usually far away now just right next door.

First things to remember is the most important: your passport. Everything else you can usually find a way to print out, show an email of, or otherwise replace so long as you have enough time to do so. Passports aren’t replaceable, and they’re you’re only ticket into and out of any country you choose to visit. So remember to bring it with you, put it in a place that you’re sure you won’t forget about and you’re sure it won’t fall out from, and most definitely somewhere on your person that someone’s not going to just reach in and steal it from. Buy one of those stupid-looking necklace pocket things if you have to. Yes, you’ll look like a tourist, but I have news for you: you’re a tourist. Better to look stupid than to be stranded.

Second is the other important, can’t do without stuff. Boarding passes are next on the list. Different airports allow you to check in before your flight at different times, and only give you a boarding pass once you’ve done so. Figure out when you can check in, do so at the earliest opportunity, and then print out a couple copies of your boarding pass: one for your backpack, one for your bag, maybe even a carefully-folded one for your pocket or wallet or something. Make sure you have something to show to security when you arrive, is what I’m saying. After that, email records for where you’re staying. If you’re hopping from one hostel to the next on a daily basis like I am, this can get overwhelming, but their records aren’t perfect. Keep track of that confirmation email that says you’ve checked in, just in case their computer goofed and lost it. Train and bus tickets should also be printed when you can, and easy to pull up on your phone fast as well. Itineraries, meds, personal requirements, enough clothes for the right weather…. beyond that it’s a little more like the usual preparations. It should be fun, and well worth the effort.

See you in a couple weeks.

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Flying solo/Viajar sola

Time May 15th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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Exam Time

Time May 15th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Essays done. Exams loom. It’s a big thing back in the US, but the way exams are viewed over here puts that to shame. At UEA, at least, this period is called Revisions, because that’s what you need to be doing all the time: revising. Now your essays, mind you; those are already turned in, and whatever grade you’ve received on them is already written in stone and on your final grade. No, revisions refers to the near-endless process of preparing for all the things you need to write during exams, and that’s a lot. I’ve received a lot of advice I can best term as faintly alarming, the most memorable of which was to practice writing out an essay for an hour so that I can clock my handwriting endurance, how long it takes for my hand to start cramping, and just how many words I can squeeze out in a 50 minute period. When people tell me to practice my words per minute, I start to get nervous.

A large part of this, I think, comes from the difference in class structures and grading systems from the US to the UK. Exams are weighted a lot more heavily; I have some friends for whom their exam or final essay counts for 100% of their final grade. That’s a lot of pressure on  one small, timed event, so it’s little wonder that every professor is stressing heavily just how much time you ought to spend preparing to take it. I’m lucky in that I only have one exam to take, for my Witchcraft course. I’m less lucky in that I’m not fond of the course material and I’m not looking forward to reviewing and memorizing it all, but still. Another difference is the amount of guidance that you’re given. Optional readings outnumber required course reading for courses over here by a sizable amount. Essay questions you’re given on exams, and given early to prepare for what questions might be asked during the exam, are the definition of open-ended given to extremes. There’s no bullet-pointed list of things for you to memorize and regurgitate: you need to have an answer ready that you’ve come up with yourself.

It is, in short, a bit stressful. But such is the price you pay for a more relaxed workload during the rest of the time. In a couple weeks I have a break until my actual exam, so I’ll be traveling a lot. And studying. Should be fun, and I’ll post again soon.

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Much to See Walking Around Glasgow

Time May 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | 1 Comment by

As the semester is nearing, I’ve been reflecting on how jaded I’ve become to how many amazing things one can witness in a day just walking around Glasgow; such as performers busking on Buchanan and Sauchihall street, wandering the necropolis, or discovering unmarked book stores tucked away in a close. I’ve had to remind myself at times that even when I feel as though I’m accomplishing very little, I’m still seeing and experiencing more than I might appreciate in the moment. Looking back, I really haven’t had many dull days.

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