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Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

“Why do you leave? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there you see differently, too. Coming back to where you started is never the same as not leaving.” Terry Pratchett

For the sake of continuity, I’m starting my last post with another quote. After almost 24 hours of travel I’ve now been home for two weeks, and besides the extreme change in weather the transition has been pretty seamless – it’s kind of scary how easily I slipped back into my usual routine. It’s been kind of overwhelming only hearing English around me for the first time in five months, and I sometimes find myself thinking in Spanish, but otherwise going back to the US has been fairly uneventful. I think going back to college will be the toughest part of resuming life in the US, after a brief two-week vacation. While I’m excited to see my friends, teammates, and professors, I’m nervous about returning to the craziness of the trimester system and juggling track practice, work, academics, and extracurriculars again.

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Isla de Pascua

Time December 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

It’s one thing to book plane tickets and plan a trip to one of the most isolated places on Earth, and quite another to actually set foot there. This past weekend, in the midst of exams and papers, a friend and I flew to Isla de Pascua, also known as Easter Island or Rapa Nui. We spent four incredible days exploring the island, seeing the sites, and hanging out with our fair share of stray dogs, cats, cows, and horses. To be honest, I still can’t believe I was there, that the pictures on my camera were taken with my own hands. The tropical flora and fauna were a welcome break from the concrete and smog of Santiago, as were the occasional downpours that ensured we never completely dried off; my watch still has some condensation inside.

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Academics in Chile

Time December 1st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Friday, November 18th, marked the last day of classes at la Universidad Católica. While this was one of the first sure signs that time in Santiago is winding down I can’t relax too much yet; I still have three classes to worry about and a slew of assignments to complete over the next two weeks. Conveniently, I’m also going to be spending the next four days without wifi, which only complicates the end-of-term academic onslaught. However, with the warm weather and increase in people selling ice cream on the metro, my mind is definitely looking forward to finishing up the academic side of study abroad. Before I do so, I just wanted to do a more comprehensive overview of academics in Chile. When I was investigating programs it was hard to find a lot of definitive information that really explained how difficult (or easy) classes were in Chile or how they were structured. While most of this information will really be comprised of my own opinions, I hope it is helpful to anyone curious about academics in Chile!

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Comida Chilena

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

While I haven’t travelled that much (yet!) one of my favorite things to do upon arriving in a new place is to check out the grocery stores. Food is such an important part of culture that, for me, a simple stroll through a market can provide a good amount of information. In Chile there are naturally some differences between the products available here and in the Midwest/mid-Atlantic United States. For starters, most jam is sold in bags that you snip the corner off to use. Mayonnaise is so adored by Chileans that stores have entire aisles with dozens of varieties. As someone who is lactose-intolerant, I was pleased to learn that there are a lot of lactose-free products available, ranging from milk to chocolate to yogurt. Bread, which holds a rightful place in the center of the Chilean diet, is plentiful, and can be found (freshly baked!) essentially every 5 feet, sold in grocery stores, corner markets, and from street vendors. Another major difference worth mentioning that doesn’t explicitly involve food is the checkout process here: as I learned, when a store employee bags your groceries you are expected (but not required) to tip them a couple hundred pesos or so on your way out.

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La Serena

Time November 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

This past weekend a friend and I took advantage of the final long weekend of 2016 to take a trip north to La Serena, a beach town that is roughly a 7-hour bus ride north from Santiago. Since everyone else in Santiago had the same desire to get out of town it took close to two hours just to make it out of the city, but the bus ride was otherwise uneventful. Bus travel in Chile is truly amazing; the buses (not the micros, which travel within Santiago) are one of the few things that seem to run mostly on time and travel all over the country and even into Argentina. If you really wanted to, you could take a bus all the way to Arica, a town in the northern-most part of Chile. The seats are spacious and comfy, movies are shown, and there are even vendors who hop onto the bus to sell newspapers, snacks, beverages, and sandwiches.

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Some Highland Adventures

Time October 31st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

Oh boy have I been gone a while. Before I get into how mentally exhausting abroad can be if you’re living with mental illnesses, I wanna pump up this blog with a couple fun, exciting things I’ve done while in Scotland.

Firstly, I ventured to the Highlands with my study abroad group from IFSA-Butler and traveled to the emerald greens of hidden waterfalls to the rocky mountains up north. I discovered what whiskey smells like while distilling, and how it blackens the trees in contrast to the white of the stony factory. I watched a shepherd hand-sheer a sheep with the little squad of sheepdogs parading around him like puppies ready to pounce on each other.

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Halfway

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

I’ve now crossed the halfway point of my time in Chile! While it’s hard to believe I’ve been here for nearly three months, it’s even more difficult to grasp that the days have already begun to dwindle. That statement might be a bit dramatic seeing as how I’m only halfway done, but if the second half of the semester is anything like the first the days will continue to fly by. The next few weeks also brings a lot of excitement: IFSA is taking us to San Pedro de Atacama, a desert in the north of Chile which may be the dryest in the world (as my parents said when I told them this fact, can one desert really be that much dryer than another?!) and a friend and I are planning a trip to Easter Island. Of course, classes will also continue with tests, papers, presentations, and final assessments. The seasons are also changing; while my Facebook timeline is filled with excitement over fall, we’re enjoying the allergies and increasing daylight of spring! Read More »

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A Glimpse into Queer Santiago

Time September 26th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

First of all, I’d like to preface this post by saying that I did not, in any way, participate in the march I’m going to talk about below. The IFSA staff were very clear on letting us know that, as foreigners, we would risk being deported by doing so! Thankfully, just hanging out in what was more or less the staging area for the march and watching it depart was a valuable experience.

With that fun tidbit out of the way, the fun can begin! On Saturday a friend and I went to check out the marcha LGBTI por derechos filiativos y ley de igualdad del género, or in English, the LGBTI march for familial rights and gender equality. Not to be confused with pride, a large-scale celebration of the queer community, this march specifically focused on the push for rights for non-nuclear families and trans folks. There were many different groups represented, each with their own distinctive banners and the ubiquitous rainbow flag. There was a wide range of ages represented in the march, with everyone from kids to older adults taking to the streets. Despite the heavy police presence, there didn’t seem to be any tension between marchers and officers, and there were no groups protesting against the march (at least, not at the beginning of the march where we were taking everything in).

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Las Fiestas Patrias

Time September 19th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

The past week here has been defined by two major historical events in Chilean history: September 11th (1973) and September 18th (1810).
September 11th has long been a notable day in the lives of people from the US, given the terrorist attacks that took place on in 2001 in New York City. However, this day has held importance in Chilean history for much longer, as it marks the day the US-backed coup led by Pinochet occurred in 1973. While we haven’t quite gotten to this point in my history class, it’s very apparent that the coup remains a polarizing topic. On the 11th there were numerous marches, protests, and even celebrations throughout the city and country; in Santiago there was one march to and one march from the general cemetery. One week later, on the 18th, is Chile’s independence day, celebrated with gusto for most of the month of September. These festivities are called the fiestas patrias, and they’re marked by massive celebrations.

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Classes in Chile

Time September 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

This slightly lengthy post will reflect on about class structure in Chile, and the differences between La Universidad Católica and La Universidad de Chile. I’ll first try to explain the general university environment before breaking down the differences and similarities between the two universities I’ve enrolled in.
As a student at a small liberal arts college in rural Minnesota, attending classes at universities with over 20,000 students in the midst of a major city is a very unfamiliar world. Carleton has 2,000 students, and it takes roughly 10 minutes to walk from one end of campus to the other. Most of my classes there are discussion-based, with reading usually assigned as homework and frequent assessments that more often than not are essays or research papers. While in class students are quiet, and most of the time we’re given opportunities to discuss questions and observations with those sitting around us In Chile, classes are usually lectures where the professor still interacts minimally with students . Homework consists of reading, and assessments are much less frequent and almost always tests. Classes usually start late, and students pass time by taking notes, surfing Facebook, sending messages on WhatsApp, and chatting with each other.

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Life Update

Time September 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Last weekend I skyped my parents (and grandparents!) for the first time since arriving in Chile. We’ve been chatting via Snapchat and WhatsApp, but of course there’s no substitute for a face-to-face interaction! I’m notoriously bad with communication, so it was really nice to be able to debrief and talk about the last month and a half at length, telling them about what I’ve been up to while feeling bad for not skyping them sooner. Reflecting on this experience, I thought I’d also post a blog entry that has similar content so that you can see what I’ve been up to. Anyone considering studying abroad in Santiago can also hopefully get an idea of the flexibility IFSA gives you to really make your study abroad experience unique.
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Coming Out in Chile

Time August 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

This post is a reflection on my coming out process in Chile, as a cis gay woman. It’s based solely on my experiences and opinions and is not at all intended to be a blanket statement regarding the queer community in Chile or the coming out process.
I really hate coming out, and don’t see it as something that is necessary. This might be an unpopular opinion, given the number of emotional coming out stories and videos that exist, but for me being gay is just another part of who I am and not something everyone necessarily needs to know or care about. I prefer to express myself as I want to, without having to worry about explicitly saying “I’m a lesbian!!!” in whatever situation I may find myself in. I do, however, believe that there are some situations in which people should know how I identify, like a study abroad program in which I’ll be living with a host family. I think it’s important to be out while abroad. There are some countries where it is relatively okay to be gay, some where being queer comes with scorn and disgust, and others that ban deviant sexualities altogether. Chile is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and thanks to the stereotype I hold that links religion with a dislike of the queer community, I was ready to keep my identity on the down low. Thankfully, I’ve only had mostly positive experiences as an out queer woman and have also had my aforementioned bias challenged.

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Life in Another Language

Time August 15th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

It’s late Friday morning and 30 seconds after walking into what I thought was my Spanish literature class I realize I’ve made a mistake. I quickly pick up my backpack and walk out of the room, closing the door against the snickers of the class I’ve briefly invaded.

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting on a rock in front of a waterfall, eating a muffin and laughing with three other girls from the program as we take a break from hiking in Parque Aguas de Ramon. The sun has just come out, appearing from the smoggy city we’ve emerged from thanks to a clueless taxi driver who gave us the runaround and claimed not to know where we wanted to be taken to.

It’s early Tuesday morning and I’m returning from a run. While waiting to cross the street a stream of cars pass, along with a garbage truck with two men hanging off the back. One shouts, “Hey baby!” as the truck passes me, and I continue to stare blankly ahead. In the same spot a few days before, a man had boldly walked into the oncoming traffic in order to stop the rush hour traffic to allow an ambulance to weave it’s way across the street.

It’s late Sunday morning and I’m having lunch with my host dad while we watch the news, catching up on Chilean athletes at the Olympics, the Pokemon Go fever that is sweeping Santiago (and the rest of Chile I assume), and the recent time change since Chile has just started Daylight Savings Time.

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Pokémon, Dogs, & Boliches

Time August 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

First thing’s first- Pokémon Go has officially arrived in Argentina! On the streets, in parks, on the Subte, I’ve seen sooo many people playing the game. I didn’t even know Pokémon was ever a thing in South America. I specifically remember deciding not to download the game when it first blew up back in the U.S. for I didn’t want to get obsessed with something I could only acquire in Argentina via sketchy means. Even still, petty theft is still something to be cautious about, so I think I’ll wait to have my iPhone out all the time trying to catch Pidgeottos.

Second, I now have an Argentine “sister”. Laura is from the south of the country and has returned from the winter break to continue her studies at a local university. She’s lived with Marta the past two years, staying in the room right next to mine. Ever since the dinner table dynamics have changed, with the conversations livelier and more natural. I really appreciate her presence, not just because she’s friendly, but having lived with past exchange students, she could be a good resource. Read More »

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Jumping In

Time August 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Imagine watching your favorite movie on TV. You’ve seen it a million times. Not every line is familiar, and you still notice new details every time you watch it, but you know the plot and the characters inside and out. Suddenly, someone comes into the room and starts flicking through channels on the TV, settling on some for a few seconds, others for a few minutes, and others still for entire episodes of unfamiliar series. Some programs are easier for you to understand; you easily pick up which are cooking shows and recognize certain cartoons instantly. However, the channels keep changing, and even when you figure out a show well enough to follow along, you still lack the background information that can only come from being invested for multiple seasons, story arcs, and characters. Read More »

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Embracing the Unknown

Time July 13th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

“porque el desconocido guía aun cada uno de mis pasos” Maria Luisa Bombal, La última niebla
“because the unknown guides each of my steps”

I’m starting this first post with a quote (from a Chilean author no less!) because it’s more or less become my motto over the last few days. There’s something comforting about the unknown, about only being able to prepare so much for the path ahead because I have no way of knowing what my time abroad will be like. There are just so many moving parts to consider that I’ve decided to worry further down the road, when I can focus my concerns on something instead of everything. Right now I’m focused on preparations; since my internship ended I’ve had to actually begin thinking about leaving, which is good and bad. The time before my flight(s) has dwindled to less than 7 days, but the list of things I still need to do keeps growing. Thankfully, I do have my passport and visa, so worst case my sloppily packed bags and I will be in Chile in a few days.

One thing I know that I’ll definitely carry with me abroad is my identity. As you may have noticed thanks to the little tag next to my name, I’m an LGBTQ blogger (cue the glitter)! I’ll be publicly blogging about my time as a gay cis woman abroad. To preface this, I’m not actually “out” to a lot of people outside of my college community, mainly because I’m not good at coming out to people and don’t see it as something that’s necessary in most situations. Being gay is just one part of who I am, not the entire story, so I’ve never really been concerned with how others perceive my sexuality. However, this blog is more or less doing the job of coming out for me, which is likely a good thing. As someone who’s bad at coming out, I’m definitely interested to see how my time abroad is shaped by my identity, and if stereotypes in/about the Chilean queer community are similar to those in the United States.

To close out this first post, I can say that I’m genuinely excited to be traveling to Chile in a matter of days! While I’m (obviously) anxious about what lies ahead, the unknown still holds a strange sort of appeal. I’ve prepared as much as I can, and had many of my fears subdued thanks to IFSA Butler. I might have more questions than answers, but that’s ok. Thank you to my parents, family, friends, professors, and everyone else who has helped me get to this point in my life; I really appreciate all of the advice I’ve been given about this trip, and I’m grateful to have so many people on my side as I embark on an adventure I never imagined being able to take. I’ll stop before this gets too cheesy – catch y’all on the other hemisphere!

Peace,
Abs

screenshot_20160711-194455 My most significant preparation: summiting the fake mountain in my local REI store while trying on hiking boots.
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A Retroactive October post..

Time December 21st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Cuba, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Thank you all for bearing with me and the ups and downs of my wi-fi connection in Havana. A few of my blog posts never quite made it but I think they serve to illustrate my experience even arriving a little late. Below is a post I made in October but was not able to upload!

Hey everyone! October has been so wonderful and warm, it hardly feels like October at all. The fact that Halloween is coming up feels so entirely unreal to me- like I know that most of the states is covered in spooky decor but that couldn’t feel more far away from my reality. Sometimes it feels like time is standing still and when I get home I will still have all of fall and winter ahead of me.

Today a few friends and I went to Micayito beach to relax and scope it out. We had heard from word of mouth that it is a gay friendly beach and a lot of fun. What we found was a narrow shore against a tall rooty sandbank. It wasn’t too busy and after only walking for a short while we found a huge cluster of beach chairs, umbrellas, and chaises on a crowded and plant-less chunk of the sand bank. Between all of the people a huge rainbow flag was beating in the wind, which was a surprise since I rarely see rainbow flags here and while its association with the gay community exists in theory, in practice it is almost never used as a marker or identifier of people or spaces. Unsurprisingly the beach was mostly populated by gay men, very few children, and very few women.
We found a soft spot on the sand near and emptier stretch of the sandbank and sunned. Swimming wasn’t too great because the wind and waves were a little brutal and impossible to relax in. A few people talked to us, on was a lesbian only a year younger than us who quickly wanted to know our sexual orientations and who stuck by us most of the afternoon.
Overall it was really interesting to see the beach but I also suspect that this isn’t  the busiest time of the year to go, (a friend did say that the first  official day of summer is amazing and packed with people of all sexual orientations from all over Havana to enjoy the weather, music, and drag shows.)
I am curious to see what Halloween night will look like in Havana, our resident director has mentioned that there were costume parties when she was a student and that the Cubans in her classes were so excited to see how dressed up all of the Americans got.
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