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

Debajo de tu piel vive la luna

Time April 4th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 3 Comments by

How to describe Valparaiso? Well, the golden-tongued prodigy, Pablo Neruda, lived here for most of his life and even he was at a loss for words at times so I am not sure that I can. All I can say is that I have absolutely, irrevocably fallen in love with this place and the surge of excitement that it gives me every time I look around. And how easy it must be to fall in love living by the sea, to fall in love with yourself, with others, with the electric motion of the ocean’s waves. Everything feels so galvanized, so full of sights and sounds that intoxicate the soul. Somehow, I feel infinitely more alive than I ever did in the U.S. Every part of me, every molecule, vibrates with delicious energy; every simple thought and feeling consumes me. Perhaps it is just the enormous potential for growth that living in a new place has presented, or perhaps there really is something magical about living by the sea.

Probably the only real worry that I had about coming to live here was that I would not be able to develop my Spanish well enough to make friends that wanted to spend time with me, not just in an effort to include the white girl, but because they genuinely enjoyed my company. I know this may seem like a silly thing to be worried about and I am confident in my ability to communicate in Spanish, but there is an added difficulty when it comes to expressing yourself well enough to foster relationships with people across language barriers. This requires so much more than simply translating words in your head. It requires enough depth of emotion and understanding to form memories and bonds which is hard enough to accomplish in your own language, much less someone else’s.

I was nervous that I would not be able to keep up in conversations between native speakers and that, because of this, they would feel burdened by my presence to speak slowly or simply. I was also worried that my somewhat limited vocabulary would make me seem dull or uninteresting because, as funny as I am (not) in English, it is exponentially harder to be funny in Spanish as my bad jokes and sarcasm don’t always translate well.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make friends compared to what I had built up to be in my head. At first I often became frustrated with myself when I would have trouble explaining something to one of my Chilean friends, but their graciousness and patience have taught me how to be more patient with myself. I feel very fortunate to have found such caring friends so far who also keep me from failing all of my classes.

Last weekend, some of the kids from the IFSA-Butler group and I decided to go hiking for a long weekend in a national park called Siete Tazas, about a five hour journey from Valparaiso. We camped in the park for two nights and three days and spent the entire time climbing around astonishing rock formations, jumping into exhilaratingly frigid natural pools and admiring the most breathtaking view of the stars I think I have ever seen. On the last day, one of the park rangers helped us crawl through a barbed wire fence to get to a part of the park with another chain of crystal-clear pools that is normally off limits to hikers. After finding it and jumping in, a few of us decided to swim farther down the stream where the water deepened and traveled through a massive cave-like overhang of rock. Our excitement quickly turned to fear as we swam through near pitch black waters and began to consider the potential creatures that could have been swimming along with us. Thankfully, by the time we started panicking we had reached the other end of the overhang and climbed out of the water onto the jagged rocks and into the sun.

We took a few minutes to bask in the glow of our adventurous accomplishment and, after being warmed up by the sun, we weren’t too keen on jumping into the freezing water again to swim back to our group. So we decided to try to climb over the rocks to get back through the cave instead of swimming the entire way with our unknown freshwater friends. As we were climbing over the slick rocks, half of the time on all-fours just to keep our balance, I heard my friend shriek and looked down to see that my outstretched hand was about two feet away from a massive tarantula. Yep, you heard me. A tarantula. Not behind glass at the wildlife center where they should be…on the ground. Right in front of me.

My friend’s shriek passed down the line of us like a game of telephone until it reached my friend, Colin, who screamed and then asked why we were screaming. After we had evacuated the area we pointed out the tarantula to him and I immediately started to hyperventilate as the reality of the situation set in. If there was one tarantula, then that meant the possible existence of more tarantulas. That meant that I was currently in a location where tarantulas existed in real life, outside of glass aquariums. Suddenly, the icy stream water and its mysterious inhabitants didn’t seem so unappealing. We all immediately jumped in and swam back to find our friends. When we found them a few minutes later, panting and wild with adrenaline, we eagerly told them the story of what we had done. While all of the other exchange students were equally as astonished by our bravery, the one Chilean in our group just laughed and said the tarantulas in the area were harmless and that she used to play with them as a kid. Feeling a bit deflated by her lack of appreciation for the near-death experience that we had just narrowly survived, I politely informed her that playing with tarantulas was one cultural difference that I was never going to assimilate to.

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Losing signal and finding connections

Time March 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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The rest of our travels passed in a blur of long bus rides, new experiences and adrenaline. We often went without wifi or service for days at a time and when we did have internet connection, it was not strong enough to work on my computer. Although this made it difficult to blog, it allowed me to take a step back from the comfort and personal value that I had been conditioned to place in my phone as a means to connect with the people around me. Not having access to internet reminded me that the way to truly connect with the world and with others expands far beyond a two by five-inch screen. This, it seems to me, is perhaps the most widely acknowledged yet rarely practiced idea relating to our relationship with technology today. We all make jokes about walking around like zombies with our heads bent into our phones and as soon as the laughter stops we go right back to refreshing our Instagram pages every ten minutes looking for posts and connections to people that we barely even know beyond the realm of social media. And why? Because it has become a social construct that is engrained so deeply within us that it’s difficult to truly understand it as a type of addiction until we are forced from it by one thing or the other. For me, I was amazed by how many times I would be traveling through rural Paraguay or Bolivia and I would unlock my iPhone and stare at the screen or start to open Facebook, knowing full well that I didn’t have service or internet connection. My hands moved automatically out of habit and it took a frustratingly long time to decondition myself but, once I was able to, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and simplicity in being able to enjoy each moment without distractions. Read More »

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Triumphs and trials in the Islands

Time February 28th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

The transition from staying with my friend and her family to traveling on my own with a limited budget was a bit rough at first. But I have been glad to have my travel buddy with me to do all of the tourist activities that I missed out on in my first week in Cartagena. Not to mention he has successfully restored my confidence in my Spanish-speaking ability by comparison to his own. No longer able to rely on others to communicate for me, I have felt dually electrified and terrified by the challenge that traveling alone has posed and, more so, by the effect that is has had on me. Within a few days, I began to feel Spanish words and phrases coming to my mind with increasing speed and clarity. Within a week, I had my first dream in Spanish (Shakira took me shopping – it was awesome, she says that red is my color).

Our first day as tourists in Cartagena was spent on the beach in Boca Grande where I learned that laying in the equatorial sun at mid-day means multiple sun screen applications always. Later, we went downtown for a free walking tour of the oldest part of Cartagena. There are free walking tours offered in most every major city in South America and I strongly recommend them as the tour guides are extremely passionate about their cities. In Cartagena, free tours are offered in Spanish and English. We over confidently joined the Spanish group and ended up quietly slipping away to join the English one after five minutes of sheer confusion. As it turns out we don’t have much of a repertoire when it comes to Latin American history vocabulary. After two hours of learning about Colombian history and architecture, our guide ended the tour with an impassioned speech about his love for his country and how proud he is that Colombia’s international reputation is evolving from a country wrought with corruption and violence to a country of beautiful landscapes, rich culture and loving people. Read More »

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One Month… Already?

Time February 17th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | 1 Comment by

Well lads, it’s been exactly a month since I have arrived here in Ireland.  One month… already? How could that be? People I spoke to who have studied abroad warned me of how quick the time would go, but damn, I did not think it would go this fast.  Regardless, I am having an absolute blast and truly enjoying my time here in Limerick.  I’ve been able to become very comfortable in UL and like I said in my last post, classes are going smoothly thus far.  It’s been great to stay with my Aunt Antoinette and cousins Gemma, Jodie and Mark on the weekends when most of the Irish students go home themselves. They live not more than 5 minutes down the road and have treated me like gold since I have been in Limerick.  Mind you, I only met them upon arriving here.  Their hospitality and good nature has been something I will never forget.  The majority of students who study abroad don’t have this luxury so for that, I thank them.

Tonight I look forward to playing some soccer with Cloughjordan F.C. located in Tipperary.  It is a bit of drive so the manager has arranged a ride for me.  I am still trying to get involved with a local club here so tonight should be a good chance to show what I’ve got.  The manager told me that they are current North Tipperary Premier Shield champs, number 2 in the Premier League at the moment and Tipperary Cup finalists the last two years… I will let you know how I fair!

I have a tripped planned to Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend which I am looking forward to.  I am very excited to see the differences between what I have seen in the Republic versus the British influence in the North. I will definitely be taking photos and posting to Facebook and Instagram, so keep a look out for those.  This trip includes a full day excursion of the North Antrim Coast. We will stop at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway, three of the country’s most spectacular sights. The next day I am especially excited for.  We will be taking a “Black Taxi Tour” to get a feel for what life life was like during “The Troubles”.  On the tour, the local taxi drivers will bring me to both Catholic and Protestant parts of the city to explain what life was like during the conflict.

Crazy to think that a quarter of my experience is already over, but I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time has in store for me.  Definitely looking to make a few trips elsewhere, but I will keep you posted about that!

Until next time.

-CJR

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Helloooo EE.UU.

Time July 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sunday, July 8–No puedo creer

7.01 am

I’m not ready.  Not ready to be here.  Not ready to not wake up in the city.  Not ready to hear English.  Not ready.

I cried on the plane watching the lights of Buenos Aires disappear behind me.  Not bawling, just a few tears.  But now that I have arrived in Atlanta 10 hours later, it feels like the last 5 months might have just been a dream.  20 weeks of ups and downs.  I don’t like how cheesy it sounds, but studying abroad has really changed me.  The things I used to focus on don’t seem as important anymore.  I’m not saying I’m not still excited to go shopping when I get home, but I’m more focused on financing my trip/potentially moving back to BsAs than buying a new pair of wedges.

It didn’t really hit me as real until I was waiting in line to board the plane behind a giant group of teenage Americans. (and it still hasn’t really kicked in that going back isn’t definite…yet) But they were probably around 15-16 years old and it seemed like there were 100 of them. all talking, mostly complaining, in English and just being the epitome of obnoxious Americans.  The idea of going back to that made me sick to my stomach.  I wanted to tell them to calm down and quit complaining, but I didn’t want to talk to them in English and give it away that I’m American too.  So instead I walked around their giant group and let two Argentines in front of me as the line finally started moving.

But thank god when the girl who ended up sitting next to me responded to me in Spanish after I asked her “de donde sos?”  funny thing was, she’s from New Jersey, but is living in Buenos Aires now.  She said she was relieved when I spoke to her in Spanish bc she was afraid I was with the group of kids.  She was probably the best plane friend I could have asked for, because, for one, she wasn’t an obnoxious American, and also she had been through the same thing as me a couple of years earlier after she studied abroad in the city.  Instead of giving me a weird look as I began to tear up, she gave me tissues.  After having met so many (not obnoxious) Americans like her in Buenos Aires, it makes my dream of moving back seem more tangible.  We exchanged information and I told her she might be getting a facebook message soon from me freaking out with reverse culture shock.

Sitting in the Atlanta airport, I’m already overwhelmed hearing English everywhere.  It’s not as easy to zone out on as Spanish, so it’s kind of giving me a headache.  Good I’ve still got some of the good Argentina ibuprofen (I think it’s prescription strength).  I just called my mom and left her a message in Spanish bc I don’t wanna do it yet.  I don’t want to speak English and be one of them.  I was fine speaking English with my plane friend because we knew Spanish was an option.  For some reason, that was more comforting.  But now, it’s kind of scary because it means I’m here to stay.  And I don’t want that right now.

I’ve been excited to come back to the warm summer on the lake since the cold started in BsAs, but now that the time’s finally arrived, the cold is looking that much better.  But I can’t lie that I am still really excited to see my friends and family.  and to eat a giant salad. with jalapeños.  and to not have to spend money every day.

I don’t know what to think right now.  It’s all just weird.  just got to go day by day, I guess?

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My first week in Scotland!!

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

My first week in Scotland has been absolutely amazing!! :) I arrived at Glasgow airport on Thursday afternoon!  :)  I am staying with my grandparents for a week before I start at the University!  First things first though: The plane ride from Seattle, WA to Heathrow, London was about 9 hours (About 3 hours more than I found comfortable lol)!  I flew on British Airways and their food was DELICIOUS!!  😀  At the airport in Heathrow, I ate at a place called “The Giraffe” :)!!  I had a Farmer’s Vegetable Burrito, and a mango strawberry smoothie.  It was amazing food!!  So far, my stay with my grandparents has been amazing :)  I met my half-sisters for the first time and that was very exciting; lovely girls!!  :)  Cannot wait to see them again!  My family took me to see the Robert Burns museum in Ayr….to be honest it was not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, my grandparents (who live in Ayr), weren’t impressed either lol; at least it was free that day!  :)  Today I went shopping with my Granny for groceries and I was stunned at some of the prices.  I was aware that it was more expensive here, but some items are absolutely ridiculously priced lol.  There were definitely great deals at Asda though; Asda is like a Wal-Mart just not as large.  I bought candies, fruit, and tea :)  YUM!  Lol I also picked out some juices that we do not have in the states!!!  😀  (I am a bit of a juice-fanatic) lol. Yesterday my Granny and I went for a look about town and I love all the little shops!!  Friday(February 3rd), my grandparents drove me to Stirling so I could visit the campus!! The campus is absolutley gorgeous and very easy to navigate! There are swans in the water, you can see the wallace monument from my floor’s kitchen, and you can see Stirling Castle from the campus!  Orientation starts tomorrow (February 8th), in Edinburgh! I can’t wait to meet everyone and to start school!!

Cheers!

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