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

Cultural adjustment or bust

Time May 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 4 Comments by

Valparaiso has begun to feel more and more like home. I have yet to experience the fall after the high that the IFSA program directors warned us to expect. I think they referred to it as the readjustment stage or something along those lines. A name for when the initial charm of all things new and exciting begins to take on a stale flavor in your mouth. You are no longer so overwhelmed by the thrill of change and, thus, no longer blinded to the not-so-charming aspects of your new home. This transition creates a “low period” until you are able to reach “full cultural adjustment.” This can take on a number of forms (homesickness, anger, frustration) and differs widely based on the person, or so they say.
But, for me, I think I genuinely skipped this stage. This is not to say that I am blind to the litter on the street or deaf to the (at times exceedingly vulgar) catcalls of construction workers, and I definitely no longer walk around with a giant smile plastered on my face all the time like I did for the first few weeks. But I have yet to experience anything that I think could be described as a low period. Overall, I have continued to feel very fortunate and serene in my new home. I feel a certain satisfaction in having gotten to know the city well enough to appreciate the ugly alongside the beautiful. I never experienced any striking moments of culture shock. Every day has been so full of new things to experience and people to meet that I haven’t had time to think about being homesick. For this reason, I am a bit nervous that my culture shock will come when I return to the U.S. in July and my world shrinks back to size. Read More »

Share

The (Study Abroad) Spanish Test

Time May 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Welcome to my study abroad Spanish test. Carefully read all instructions before beginning.

party

Photo: Mirtha Alcayaga, 2016.

This test will measure your ability to be a vocal citizen of the Hispanophone world. It will take place in universities, discos, bakeries, terminals and bedrooms. You will be tested during first dates, popular assemblies and soccer games. There are no multiple choice questions and no blanks to be filled. True and false are but a matter of perspective. Please respond to all questions thoroughly. If you do not know the answer, guess. Or get homesick and cry. Use Spanish and, only when necessary, the miming equivalent of stick figure drawings.

Read More »

Share

Becoming Porteño

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I know last week (or maybe it was two weeks ago now) I talked a lot about the excursions and the exciting things I had been doing, so I figured this post could talk about my day to day life and how adjusting to life in Buenos Aires has been.

I have started classes, and as I mentioned before, I’m taking film theory, theatre, and Latin American politics as well as the required literature course. I’ve only had one film class, but it seemed to be interesting, and I’m excited to learn about the different aspects of film, and we also get to make our own short film throughout the semester! Theatre is amazing, it’s one of my great loves, and I’m excited to get to have an opportunity to look at a culture so rich and full of theatre and playwrights. It’s also very fun because we get to do a lot of improv. Latin American politics is by far my most difficult class, but it’s interesting to learn about the political structure and history of this culture. I love my literature class so much – my teacher is amazing and cool and I love reading and literature anyway.

Adjusting to the city has been kind of crazy, but also one hundred percent average. There are three stages of culture shock: Excited to be experiencing a new culture, absolutely hating everything and wanting to go home, and being adjusted to life in your new city. The first and second stages for me kind of mixed together – Sometimes I was excited to explore the city and everything just seemed surreal and amazing, but other times I missed home and my dog and my friends so badly that I couldn’t imagine being here for the rest of the semester. At this point, I’ve evened out. Of course I still miss everyone, but it’s easier as I get closer to the people here. Often, I miss certain conveniences of home, but I also find myself thinking “How am I supposed to live without (insert Argentine thing here)?”

It’s not always a picnic – speaking Spanish all the time and having to think about exactly what i’m trying to say can get really tiring, but I also notice my Spanish improving every single day. I find myself stopping at least once a class to think “this is amazing that I can understand this.” I really think that all the hard work is worth it.

My host mom is so kind and I am so grateful for her. I live with her and two other American students, we get along so well, and we laugh all the time. Also she is an AMAZING cook – I’m always happily full after dinner. On the weekends, I will usually go to read my book in the park for a few hours, then my friends and I get dinner, go to a bar, and then sometimes we all go to a boliche, but I don’t really like dancing, so I usually head home after we go to the bar. After school most days, I stop at the little empanada place by my house; they’re so kind there and they know my name and my order, which really makes me feel like this place really is home. Day to day life is pretty normal, but still different from anything I’m used to in the states.

It’s hard to believe I’m close to being halfway through the program – time has really been flying! I really feel as if I’m adjusting to the culture and (hopefully) becoming passable as a Porteño. I think it’s working because I have less and less people asking me where I’m from, and I have more and more people asking me for directions.

Next week, over Semana Santa (Easter break), my friends and I are headed to the beautiful Iguazu Falls for the full moon, and I can’t wait. That’s what I’ll be talking about next time! Until then, have a great week! :)

 

Share

Week 3

Time August 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The Weather

It’s kind of cold here, mostly because of the humidity.  I’ve been wearing sweatshirts, or at least long sleeves, every day, but unfortunately, I only brought three sweaters/sweatshirts, and somehow I managed to lose one of them in my first week here.  Also, I have only seen the sun three times in my three weeks here.  That’s not an exaggeration either… the first time I saw the sun here was my first day, when one of the guys who as been here for longer pointed it out and was amazed to see it.  The second time was during one of our orientation classes (which take place in this really awesome partially-outdoor brick courtyard thing) when somebody saw part of the courtyard become fully illuminated, a clear distinction from the shadows everywhere else.  He alerted everyone in the class, and we all frantically got up out of our seats to run over and look at the sun, before it was gone.  The third time was a few days ago when I went to an art museum with some friends. I should mention that all of these times, we didn’t have a clear view of the sun; we could just clearly see the glowing outline of where the sun was through an unusually thin layer of clouds, and only on one of those occasions did the sky look blue and like anything that could be considered something other than cloudy.

Even though this makes it sound bad, I actually really love the climate.  It’s very comfortable as long as you have a light jacket or a sweatshirt to put on when you are cold.

Chorillos

I caught my first glimpse of real poverty in Lima when I went to the Chorrillos district on Sunday.  My host mom invited to to come along to a family picnic with her daughter, her daughter’s husband and two kids.  We were in a nicer part of Chorillos in a gated community connected to a country club, where we went for the picnic, but driving through parts of Chorrillos I began to see how many people in Lima live.  There were stray dogs everywhere and looking up into the hills off of the main roads were densely-packed, self-built houses separated by dirt roads.  I can’t wait to start working with people from these areas of Lima when we start the volunteering part of the program in Villa El Salvador next weekend.

The Art Museum

I went with some friends to the historical area of Lima to an art museum.  Unfortunately, almost all of it was closed and being renovated, but one pre-Incan exhibit remained open and it was pretty cool, and the building itself was very interesting.

Pictures of Miraflores, Chorrillos and the Art Museum

Classes

I don’t have a whole lot of hope for getting Computer Science/Engineering credit while I am studying abroad here, so I decided to expand my horizons a little bit and take some random classes that interest me.  In addition to the two IFSA required courses, both of which are basically Peruvian History/Culture classes that seem fairly interesting, I will be taking Bio-Huertos (which in English is something along the lines of ‘Urban Farming’), Actuación 1 (Acting 1), and Cine (Film).

Urban farming is something I have always been interested in, and I came here wanting to take an agriculture class or do something related to agriculture with my volunteer work, so Bio-Huertos appealed to me.  Plus there is a lot of class work time in the gardens, where I will hopefully be able to make some Peruvian friends.

Film seemed like a good mix of a fun time and a cultural immersion class that involves discussion and watching films in Spanish.  Our professor has said that he will be exposing us to films from all over the world from all different eras and genres.  The first film we watched this week was the American horror movie, The Exorcist.

Acting has been interesting thus far… I was originally going to take it because I was having trouble finding courses and because there was a chance that it would give me credit for a public speaking requirement I have for Northwestern, but after I went to the classes, I realized that, not only is it pretty fun, its a very verbal-communication heavy class, and I am the only non-Peruvian student, so it has been great for my Spanish, as well as interacting with local students, and we already have a class Facebook group!  If I can learn to act in Spanish, I’ll probably be able to do just about anything in Spanish.  But the class has been unlike any class I’ve had before thus far… Through the reading I have learned things like ‘An actor must have an exceptional perception and sense of sight, hearing, touch, pleasure and smell’, or ‘Being an actor requires an insatiable curiosity for the human condition’, and that ‘Actors must be physically and mentally stronger than other people’.  In class so far, we have mostly made verbal presentations and played games.  We even spent about forty minutes one day ‘exploring the space’ where the class was held.  It was awesome.

All in all though, I think Tobias Fünke’s portrayal of acting is pretty accurate thus far.

Spanish Skills

My Spanish is improving quickly.  I can easily understand all of my professors, or anyone else speaking clearly.  Speaking is much harder, but I’ve been able to make some impromptu verbal presentations that were slower than everybody else’s but still coherent and I said everything I wanted to say.  The hardest things for me are vocabulary and understanding people at stores, on the street or in social settings when I am not initially devoting all of my attention to listening to them.  Also, at the end of the day, I find I am much more tired than I would be if I were speaking English all day.  English also becomes much harder when you are in that Spanish groove, and so I often find myself unable to communicate a complex idea in English or Spanish. tl;dr: My Spanish has improved a lot here but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Share

The Ultimate Macro-organism

Time March 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hola a todos.  I finally have found the time to sit down and write a blog post, and it’s amazing how overwhelmingly incredible this place is.  I’ve been pretty much going nonstop since my arrival, and between hanging out with my new family, orientation with IFSA-Butler, getting lost in the city, and checking out the boliche (club) scene, I’ve scarcely had time to sleep (which, apparently, is very normal for Porteños (locals).  No one sleeps here, and let me tell you that after coming off of a month of sedentary action, the struggle is REAL).  However, despite my limited z’s, I cannot even begin to describe how much I love this place already.  I’ve said this before, but I’d like to reiterate for the sake of this post: city life is pretty new to me.  Each day, I marvel at how many things there are to discover; new cafes, off-beat streets, hip stores, and bustling squares.  I could live here for 5 lifetimes and still never be able to take it all in.

Now, as some of you may know, I’m the son of two scientists and a pretty big science nerd myself.  So, it may not come as a surprise to many of you that when I finally took the time to sit down and brainstorm  and a process all of the thoughts that I’ve had since arriving, I came to the conclusion that Buenos Aires makes me think of multicellular life.  This city is a gargantuan, massively complicated macro-organism.

It has a circulatory system: My house is in near the city center, in a barrio called Almagro, but I might as well call in Corazón as it provides the vibrant pulse of energy that is carried throughout the city.  Las avenidas (Corrientes, Santa Fe, Córdoba) are the vessels; they carry the lifeblood that stems the beat of the barrio.  Upon these streets, cars rub shoulders with pedestrians who pay little heed to traffic signs, and bicyclists fill up all the remaining space.  Everywhere I look I see people running, walking, or haphazardly zooming around on motorcycles.  The buses run constantly, and the ground churns with the rumble of subways.  The energy of this organism cannot be curtailed into a slow-moving body.

It has a nervous system.  My house has a terraced roof with a porch that overlooks a few blocks, and from my perch on this rooftop island I can see 24 communication towers scattered across various tall buildings.  But cellular communication (consisting of companies called Movilstar, Personal, and Claro, to name a few) comprises only a few of the nerve endings.There are about 100 Wi-Fi networks (all password protected, of course) at any given point within the city, and if you’re out and about and looking for a conduit into cyberspace, you merely need to drop into a cafe, order an empanada, and jump onto the complimentary wifi.  However, the fastest and largest cluster of nerves is the people.  Many locals know this city (or at least their respective barrio) like they know fútbol (that is to say, that know a lot about it), and if you are lost or confused the friendly folks are very willing to step in to help.  The castellano (Argentinian type of Spanish) flows thick and fast and constantly; the streets are constantly buzzing with greetings, salutations, and interjections, as well as casual conversation.

It has a skeleton.  Buildings tall and short spring up haphazardly around me like bones in an elephant graveyard, yet the individual differences between each building does not stop at the sizes.  I look around and see stark white walls jostling for position next to dirty cinderblock; trees sprout up everywhere they possibly can, and a contiguous color scheme between buildings is a heretical idea.  Yet it is the very discontinuity of the individual bones that makes this skeleton so complete.  Viewed separately, sure, one may see chaos, but when I take a step back and view the skeleton as a whole, the incongruous pieces blend together into something complete.

Sorry for the text-heavy post, y’all, but hopefully my words can help you conjure up an image.  Next post, I promise, will be loaded with pretty pictures taken by yours truly.  Now, stay awesome, and thanks so much for reading.

Ciao,

Dylan

Share

Sarchí: The land of colorful oxcarts

Time October 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

About a month ago our Spanish classes visited the small town of Sarchí, known for its beautiful, hand-painted oxcarts. We toured the factory, where we painted little wheels in the same style and fashion as the professionals, whom we also watched at work.

We also went downtown to see the largest oxcart in the world, made in the same factory we visited.

This from Lonely Planet: “Costa Rica’s most famous crafts center, where artisans produce the ornately painted oxcarts and leather-and-wood furnishings for which the Central Valley is known. … It’s a tourist trap, but it’s a pretty one.”

Picture 1 of 21

The whole group, plus our Spanish teachers and program associate in downtown Sarchi, at the biggest oxcart in the world.

***

Follow the rest of my adventure throughout Costa Rica here at IFSA-Butler’s blog, at my blog, on Twitter or even on Facebook.

Share

Customer service at Claro at its worst

Time October 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just like the States, choices between cell phone providers are limited. Here, Claro, Movistar and Kölbi reign supreme.

I bought a Claro cell phone one of the first days I was in Costa Rica. And for months, I’ve been trying to get them to stop harassing me with promotions and ads in the form of text messages multiple times a day. Buy these minutes! Two for one minutes today! Buy today!

This is a story of lies, doublespeak and corporate incompetence.

Read More »

Share

Learning Spanish, poco a poco

Time July 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

July 13, 2013

Today was my last full day in Liberia, one of the bigger cities in Guanacaste, the northwest region of Costa Rica.

I had a great time climbing volcanoes, touring the clubs and dancing/singing with ticos.

But one the best, worst parts of my first week here: Spanish.

Read More »

Share

Week Two and class selections

Time March 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I have now been in Lima f or two weeks. Orientation is over but it was amazingly fun while it lasted. The entire group here is great and they are all very fun to be around. Through orientation we learned strategies to keep ourselves safe in life as well as interesting slang that is only used here. We ate lots of cool Peruvian food and also explored the closest place to get a decent Burger and Pizza. We traveled all around Lima, from the Plaza de Armas to El barrio Chino. All of which was very fun and interesting. A couple of days ago I was able to go down to the beach for the first time since arriving and that was really fun, we all just chilled and listened to music while the sun shone and vendors came around selling Inka Kolas (Peru’s national soft drink, also utterly delicious) and Churros.

 

One of the things that has been difficult to get use to is the traffic here. As a resident of New Hampshire I view any sort of traffic as inherently evil. In Lima traffic is hell. Riding around in the small, cramped and always full combis while stuck in rush hour (which feels like it always is) is torture beyond belief. Not to mention that in Peru textbooks are incredibly expensive so Professors just photocopy the text. This means that as a student we have to go to the Fotocopiadoras and ask for them to copy the required reading. This wouldn’t be awful if Peruvians believed in lines. But alas they do not and it is typically a giant mass of students yelling there class codes to get the texts they need. It’s incredibly inefficient and it is easily one of my least favorite aspects of being in Peru.

 

There are some very interesting aspects to Peruvian culture that either does not exist in the United States or is slightly different. Something that I have struggled with is the amount of public displays of affection. It is not uncommon to walk down the street or ride a bus and see a couple sharing a passionate kiss. Another thing is that Peruvians tend to disregard personal space, obviously not out of rudeness but because it’s just not a cultural thing here. The “personal bubble” is a very United States invention and it’s sometimes off putting when speaking with locals who will stand very very close to you. I have only experienced this once or twice and each time it came from none Limenos. Another thing that I have struggled to get use to is the besito, also known as the kiss on the cheek, when greeting or leaving the company of a woman. It’s very strange and can make you uncomfortable but it’s something that’s done here and something that I will have to overcome.

 

Lima is classified as a desert so it never ever rains. However, it is the most humid place I’ve ever been to in my life. The Summers here are much the same as the one in New England with a high in the 80s or so. The place where it differs is the humidity. In New England the humidity fluctuates day to day and some days are better than others. In Lima, it is always humid. Typically your average day is about 90%-98% humidity. This makes living here an absolute killer. There are days when just getting up from bed has caused me to break out sweating. It also makes me much more tired by the end of the day. But the weather is always consistent which is something to be said. Lets face it, New England can’t exactly say the same.

 

My time in Lima has been short but I can honestly say that I enjoy being here. There’s something to be said about living in a place that truly feels alive. I use to hate cities but this may change my mind about them. So far my experience has been a rather positive one, there will always be some things that may upset us as people in a new culture but for the most part I can look past most, if not all of them. Some days are obviously harder than others. Some days you miss your friends and family, while sometimes you just simply miss your culture, you miss the consistency of the things you know. In another culture you are always wondering what to do next. But I am happy and that is what counts and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in future posts.

Share

Finding Pura Vida in LA

Time July 31st, 2009 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

After five months particpating in the IFSA-Butler study abroad Costa Rica program,  and hundreds and hundreds of new faces and places, I’m home. I feel very different, but yet unchanged at the same time. Maybe it is because I changed little by little and never really noticed a big leap. The first chance I get to show off my spanish, I am on it like bread on butter. At a family party with all my best friend’s family surrounding me, I let it all flow out and I could not even believe it myself as I spoke a smooth string of vowels, consonants, syllables, verbs, nouns, phrases…WOW! I impressed myself.

Since it has been a couple of weeks since my re-entry, do you wonder, whats LA like? Well I’ve had tons of small spanish encounters but I am certainly lacking in the in-depth, meaningful or between friends-playful spanish that became so familiar to me. I often struggled at first with my English, either I would respond to someone in Spanish or mix up words from both languages. It became sort of a joke that I would be taking ESL courses alongside some of my Los Angeles buddies! Good ol’ East Los Angeles, I always regarded it as sort of its own Spanish-speaking community but at the same time, it does not compare to Costa Rica in the least.
South Gate...
Photobucket
It is the little things that I miss the most, like sharing some sweet bread with my host Mom, watching soccer with my host Dad or running around the house with my host brother. Just the other day my mom here bought me a “Cars” balloon for my birthday and the first thought that came to mind was, Matias would love to have that. Every store I walk into, I can’t help but see shirts, cups, plates, toys…etc. from the movie “Cars,” and I always say the same thing, “I would get that for Matias.” Unfortunately, the realization hit me, I may never see him again. I try not to think that way though because I’m almost certain I will be back to Costa Rica.
So as I go about my days seeing everything for the first time again, being amazed by the small things even. I am amazed at the smoothness of the roads, the five-lane roads, the huge gas-guzzlers that zoom by me on the streets and the price of food, movies, and fun altogether! I try and make everyday meaningful here, because it is, whether it be going to the beach, driving around hollywood or going to scenic views of L.A. just to soak it all up. I realize that people are pretty much alike anywhere you go, just in different sizes, shapes, shades and languages. The only tools you need to have to travel the world are basically an open mind and an adventurous spirit! Just as I say to all of Costa Rica, until we meet again, PURA VIDA!
Photobucket
Photobucket

Share