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

Lessons outside the classroom!

Time May 1st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

My last post discussed my experience studying in Argentine universities, but without a doubt, I am learning plenty outside of class!

For Semana Santa (Easter Weekend) last week, 5 of the other IFSA students and I took a rather uncommon trip. Rather than going somewhere more normal for study abroad long weekends like Chile, Iguazu Falls, Cordoba or Buenos Aires, we went to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) for a long weekend in the middle of the desert and far from civilization. When we planned the trip, we were excited for Ischigualasto Provincial Park with its unique sites and history. Little did we know going there meant driving far into the desert where tiny towns were few and far between. Our hospedaje ended up being in a town of only about 20 residents! What a huge contrast from our first days in Buenos Aires! This actually speaks to the incredible diversity you will see in Argentina; though I was in Mendoza that morning, a few hours on a bus brought me to towns with much less people, a much drier climate and a completely different way of life with different traditions, housing and beliefs. Driving the same distance or a little further in other directions could bring me to colder and wetter climates, more urbanized cities, more natural surroundings, a whole different array of plant and wildlife and pretty different versions of Argentine cultural staples. Read More »


adventures during semana santa

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This post is way long over due, but better something than nothing! 😀

During Semana Santa (March 30th-April 7th), some friends and I headed to Chile, where I had one of the most enjoyable and relaxing vacations of my life! I was obviously excited for the trip, but I had no idea how much fun I would have in Chile.  I learned so much from the culture, met incredible people, indulged in delicious food (seafood and sushi, YUM), and loved every minute of it. Everyone studying abroad in Argentina should head on over to Chile! Luckily for us in Mendoza, it’s only a 5-6 hour bus ride with some amazing views 😉

so many curves while crossing the andes

view from the bus ride

We spent two days in Santiago, trekking through the metro (and getting shoved in the process, there were a lot more people that weekend particularly because of the music festival), frequently treating ourselves to delicious gelato after long walks in Santa Lucia, trying pancho con palta + mote (national drink of Chile with peaches and rice, very sweet!), constantly buying water (urgh, that was annoying) and admiring the street art and architecture. The style of the buildings was something I noticed immediately. First off, it was very different from Mendoza, and second, the architecture reminded me of….Spain. I couldn’t really place a finger on it. The vibe of the city was also hard to characterize. There were many, many tourists and it was a relatively busy city, yet, the palm trees, artists casually sketching the scenery, and the local people sauntering by just gave Santiago a chill, sleepy vibe.

pancho con palta

architecture in the square


central administration

horses and police were everywhere!

so much color compared to mendoza

street art!

indulging in some delicious helado!

pretending we were at lolla

at the top of santa lucia

view from santa lucia

busy church for easter

After Santiago, we took a two hour bus to Vina del Mar. I was so taken back by the scenery during the ride! But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about/get sick of the scenery here. Everything is just too beautiful :)

For the rest of the week, we walked around Vina then took a metro to Valparaiso (the transportation was so convenient!).  I was absolutely in love with these two cities…..we took the elevator to go up the steep hill so we could explore the fun, colorful houses that were stacked up on the hills. And of course, once we were at the top, the view was amazing. I could see the ships near the port, some people lounging by the ocean, and the stray dogs aimlessly sauntering in the streets…..I particularly liked the view from Pablo Neruda’s house. He could see everything from his room!

beach at vina

reloj de flores


houses along the beach

steep neighborhood

a sunny day in vina

The street art is another story. Calling it “graffiti” simply doesn’t do justice to the talent of the work. Walking around in Valparaiso was like receiving tickets to a free art exhibition.

Although I was in Chile for only a week, I feel like I got an authentic essence of the three cities I visited. Vina and Valpo, in particular, were two places that didn’t seem to be engineered toward tourists and so, I felt like I was exploring the true culture and dynamic of the city. I loved being able to talk to the people on the streets, striking up a conversation about various Chileans wines with a friendly man at the supermercado, and learning about the ascensors (elevators) from a nice woman while we we were waiting to go up to the cerros (hills). Needless to say, it was hard for us to leave.

favorite street art

piano stairs

colorful houses in valpo

valpo, the port city

another fave!

steep ride up

I was particularly drawn to Valparaiso. It felt like the people in Valpo really knew how to utilize every inch of space given to them! Every wall was adorned intricately and each building had its own character. The houses are all neatly  stacked on the mountains, with each cerro (hill) having a different reputation. Nothing was uniform in terms of design, but in the sense of aesthetic appeal, the buildings provided the eye with a homogenous pattern of colorful splashes of beauty. It was similar to Vina….yet I loved Valpo more. I felt as if I was walking into someone’s home, exploring their lifestyle and trying to adopt their habits as my own and make myself familiar with their ways. Everything was set in its original, functioning place and nothing was altered for the benefit of tourists. It was ridiculously convenient to hop on the metro from Vina to arrive in Valpo within minutes. I loved the transformation from a cool, unique port city into a crazy wild scene at night. Oh, Valpo.

I loved striking conversations with vendors, having people approach me out of genuine curiosity while I was waiting for a friend at the plaza, befriend other travelers, and walk up and down the long, steep hills (and award myself with delicious gelato after). The people here get their exercise (RIDICULOUSLY long stairs with many steps)!!! We took a free walking tour (I believe it was called Tours for Tips, there is also one in Santiago as well!) and we learned so much about the city! As we walked up and down the hills, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the tourists “touring” the city on a bus; walking is the only way to get a real feel for the city! We passed by so many beautiful artwork (free exhibition!), got to talk to locals and eat some delicious cookies and swig some pisco sours. Not to mention, we met awesome Europeans on the tour, and we all went for DELICIOUS (and cheap) sushi afterward. Ahh. I’d missed sushi. In Mendoza, sushi/seafood is expensive, not THAT delicious, and I had to pay for chopsticks! Grr. The delicious and cheap seafood is something I’ll miss! It is truly a unique port city tucked away, and I could feel the immigrants’ presence from years before.

orgasmic sushi

Before we left, my friend and I deemed the one cent peso (un peso) cute, and thought it’d be a cute idea to give them away as souvenirs. (Maybe punch a hole in it to make a bracelet or keychain?) But since it is of so little value and rarely in use, we had a hard time finding a store that had those pesos. Strangely enough, a male cashier in a lingerie store ended up being able to trade 10 pesos for the ones we wanted. He thought our idea was funny.

slanted :)

so much valpo pride

color splashes

pablo neruda's house

Things we did not anticipate: the unreliability of buses. As it was getting closer for us to leave, I realized that I wanted to stay a little bit longer. But since we bought all of our tickets in advance (Vina–>Santiago–>Mendoza), I decided to just go along with the original plan. This was mistake #1. To my future self: make hostel reservations in advance, but if possible, buy tickets at the terminal of the destination once I have a better idea of dates/how much longer I want to stay. Because in reality, you meet friends and encounter places you want to spend more time exploring. Mistake #2 happened when the bus was 40-60 minutes late. Hence, we missed our bus from Santiago to Mendoza, and had to spend the night in Santiago. We also had to buy another set of tickets because the offices weren’t open early enough, and we didn’t want to risk waiting any longer. Luckily, the tickets were cheap, but this mistake could have been avoided. To my future self: don’t buy bus tickets in advance; be flexible with travel plans!!

On our way to Chile, we traveled at night, so I was comfortably asleep for most of the ride and the entry process was very efficient and quick, as there weren’t too many travelers. But since we were returning to Argentina during the weekend, amidst the peak traveling time, we ended up waiting at the border for three hours. I mean… didn’t feel that long, though. We made friends with the people (only four of us on the bus, haha) and was asked the popular question, “do you like Chile, or Argentina, better?”  😀 We waited a long time because the entry process consists of a bus driver registering every passenger on his bus. Lots of buses=lots of people=long time. But eventually, we got through and it wasn’t too bad, like I said. The mountains were breathtaking and we mostly sat around and relaxed.

vina, night time

I couldn’t  help but feel jealous of the many European students we met along the way, who were traveling the continent by themselves.  The freedom! The adventure! But then again, it’s wonderful to be back in Mendoza, and I’ll be going to Peru in two weeks!





Tropical Tamarindo Tales

Time June 2nd, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

At the beginning of April this year, a huge religious festival took place, Semana Santa or Holy Week. Its full of parades, masses, pastries and most of all travelling. Everything closes their doors for the last few days of the week and people are encouraged to make their ways to the famous beaches of Costa Rica. People travel from all over the world to relax, surf and go out at the beaches in Tamarindo. I went with a group of three others from IFSA-Butler Costa Rica study abroad program and we headed out Friday afternoon for the six hour trip to Guanacaste. The trip was not nearly as bad as it sounds, the six hours go by in a flash when everything you see on the road is new and exotic.

We had reservations at a charming little hostel named La Botella de Leche, five minute walk from the beach. There were tables and hammocks that opened up into a mini courtyard, an internet station with two computers, a shared kitchen for cooking and a t.v. with cable and tons of seating around it.
As soon as we arrived and dropped all of our stuff of, it was just after sunset, so we walked to the beach to feel the sand and water between our toes. The water had to be the absolutely perfect temperature, I could just imagine what the next day would be like. We headed back towards the hostel and stopped at the Super Compro to pick up something for dinner. We ended up deciding on spaghetti and managed to buy it and breakfast necesities for all of us for just about 5 bucks each. What a deal! The next morning we woke up around 9 and fixed breakfast before heading out to the beach. When we got to the beach, the sun was blazing hot and its almost as if you could feel your skin frying! We were out at the beach from about 11 to 2 and then made our way back for lunch and to relax. As soon as I stepped in for a shower, I realized that I was head to toe burnt. It was a fiery red and I was scared for how it would feel the next day.
When I woke up Sunday I relaxed for the first half of the day and decided not to go out to the beach until around 4 when the sun was setting. That turned out to be the perfect time of the day to go for beach soccer. I saw a group of ticos playing some pick up soccer on the beach with sticks for goals and I went over and invited myself into the game. I ended up playing an hour and a half and had so much fun. They played me the ball and looked for me just about everytime. Every other time I saw any of those guys playing soccer on the beach or selling beach chairs and umbrellas, I had some friends to talk to!

Who would have thought that just after about three days of heading to the beach around 3 or 4, that all that burn of mine, would bronze out into a beautifully even tan? I know that I was sure surprised! So I had been really excited about going to Tamarindo because its a surf town and there are tons of places to rent boards and I was dying to try and learn to surf. It took me about four days to muster up the courage to rent a board and go out there, do or die! I needed the first two days to relax and soak up the sun, then another two to scope out the waves and the surf scene. Wednesday rolled around and I rented a board with one of my IFSA-Butler Study in Costa Rica program friends, only 10 bucks the whole day, split between the two of us. Once I get excited about something like surfing, Im completely captivated and engulfed in it. That first day I spent about 4 hours in the water, 3 from when that board first hit the water and then another after lunch! I tried and tried and tried until I finally started to get it at the end of the 3rd hour, so after lunch, I was ready to get back on that board and stay on! The last hour was amazing and it actually gave me hope for picking up surfing as a hobby in the future. Thursday and Friday I rented boards from two different places, looking for the best price and the complete deal. After a few hours on the board and no rash guard, you learn the hard way what those cool looking, fitted shirts are for.

All in all, I had an amazing time. If it weren’t for the 6 hour bus ride, I would be out there every weekend or every other weekend. Beautiful beach, amazing surf, soccer on the beach and hot, blazing, frying sun- what more could I ask for?