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

Final Thoughts

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

I’m finally home!! After my program ended, I was fortunate enough to travel around Argentina with my parents for ten days before catching a flight back to the States (I’ll insert some pictures of our adventures below) and since then have been having a relaxing holiday week with family and friends.

To wrap up this blog series, I wanted to share three takeaways on my study abroad experience now that I have been home.

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Post-election Thoughts and Short Update

Time November 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

So sorry this is about a week late!

I struggled to decide what to write about for this week’s post – should I just write a happy update and leave politics out of it? Or should I address how I’m feeling in Argentina after the results of the 2016 presidential election? I’ve decided to share a little bit about my feelings on the election, as well as an update of what I’ve been up to for the past three weeks.

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Rooftop Islands and Raging Oceans

Time March 12th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

My house here has a terrace on its roof, and sometimes when I find the time (which is never because between classes and errands and cafe time with my new friends I don’t even have time to call my family (sorry, Mom)), I like to sit up on the roof and look out at the world around me. Up high, on my rooftop, I feel like I am a sole inhabitant of a lonely island amidst a vast cauldron of noises, smells, and light.  Buenos Aires is an ocean of sensory overload that swirls around me, and I sit on a wooden stool and take it all in (here are some pics that I took while scuba diving with my digital camera)

.  Yet while I may be the only one on my island, I am not alone in being an islander.  All around me is an archipelago of other terraces on other rooftops, and from my vantage point I can see them going about their lives just as I go about observing theirs.  There is a father with his small son, teaching him how to kick a soccer ball through a 2-foot high goal.  There are a group of young men who come out to bring Quilmes and make bawdy conversation.  Their is an older woman, face wizened by age but her body showing no signs of it, who hangs her laundry on the line.  She waved at me once, and as I waved back I realized something weird: I was just as much a periphery character in her life as she was in mine.  She probably had her own little moniker for me in her world, and our lives certainly had no reason to ever overlap.  This woman has hopes, dreams, memories, and stories that consist of many people and many places, yet for a few brief moments, our respective narratives interacted.  It was a pretty cool feeling to be able to have this sanctuary from the tumultuous ocean of Buenos Aires on my little rooftop island, and to be a part of the lives of those on the islands around me, albeit in a minor way.  I enjoy my moments of sonder.

But enough about figurative oceans; this past week I went to a real one!  It was in a town called Mar del Plata, which is about 6 hours south of Buenos Aires (check out  “My Journey” to see where we specifically went) by omnibus, which is a type of giant bus that many people here use to travel instead of flying.  These buses are typically double-deckers, and the seats fold down into beds and they give you yummy complementary snacks and basically are vastly superior to most US travel buses in almost every way.  But anyway, Mar del Plata was right on the ocean (our hostel was about 4 blocks from the beach!), and it was, in a word, gorgeous.  I have always loved oceans, and having never really lived by one other than in 7th grade, I am consistently drawn to their vastness, power, and beauty.  My group (consisting of my new and awesome friends named Trevor, Morris, Christine, Stephanie, Henry, Catherine, and Ricardo) met up with some other students from my program and practically sprinted to the beach nearest us.   W spent all of the first day at that beach, and I took a lot of pictures

 and went swimming a bit too.  The waves were awesome, the beach art was fantastic, and the sun was to wonderful for words.  It was a good day.  That night, we headed back to the hostel with plans to imbibe in certain legal beverages (which can be picked up at corner stores for unbelievably cheap prices) and then head out for a night of shenanigans and tomfoolery.  It was Carnaval weekend, after all, and the city was bumpin’.  However, after a few valiant efforts to inspire the group to go out, we realized that we were all too tuckered and sunkissed to leave the hostel, so instead we headed up to the roof (yay rooftops!) of the hostel to play guitar, sing songs, and generally have a chill evening of camaraderie.  The hostel put on some cumbia music (link here) and some of us (naturally I was one of them) danced away.  It was a good night, that one.

The next day, we rose around 10:00, enjoyed (?) some complimentary hostel breakfast food, and headed off for another day at the beach.  This time, instead of sticking to the beach near us (which was lovely but crowded), we piled into a colectivo and shipped off down the coast for about an hour until we reached a beach that was (supposedly) the best one in Mar del Plata.  Well, upon first glance it wasn’t too bad, but as soon as we tried to find a spot on the sand to lay down our stuff, the lifeguards shunted us away.  ¿Um, perdon?  Yeah, turns out this beach was private, and we had to walk all the way down to a windswept point until the lifeguard deemed the beach a “public area”.  Not even our best efforts (in both Castellano and English) could sway the beach officials.  Yet despite this beach clearly not seeming the like best one in Mar del Plata (we learned later that the beach we were looking for had been about 5 more minutes down the bus route from us), we had a blast.  The waves were even better than they had been the day before, and my body changed color from marshmallow-esque pasty to slightly-cooked-marshmallow.  We left the beach a little earlier that day due to wind, and since our bus back to Buenos Aires was scheduled to leave the next morning at 7:30, we decided to would emulate the Argentinians, and just stay out until then.  It was a raucous night.  After a delicious pizza and beer dinner at the hostel, we went out to a boliche called Tai-pan, which overlooked the bay and was generally super cool.  Many hours of dancing, a few cab rides later, and NO SLEEP later, we were suddenly on the omnibus back to Buenos Aires.  Most of us slept like boulders, although my nap was cut short by a cute but godawfully loud baby near me who kept crying and screaming like his sole purpose was to undermine the much-needed rest of a terribly sleep-deprived American traveler (mission accomplished, baby).

It was lovely to get back home.  I had missed my host family already during my time in Mar del Plata, and they were very accommodating to my immediate desire to sleep before I told them anything about the trip.  After my nap, we chatted for a while and they told me that Anderson (a Brazilian PhD student who had been staying with us for a while), had left the day before.  Anderson is a wonderful guy, and though we had only known each other for a few days, he had been such a pleasure to converse with.  This last picture is of all of us, and Anderson is in the front on the left next to my host dad.


Thanks for reading, and I know this post was a doozy.  Stay wonderful, everyone.





Time July 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

a) You will never understand the concept of “cheap” until you’re in Peru. You’ll also fall in love with bartering for the souvenirs you’ve acquired and the stories you’ll hear from the vendors.

b) Never again will you share mate & wine with your professor before, during, and after class.

c) Never again will you see a orange and red colored school buses instead of the familiar banana yellow bus.

d) Never again will you have the most relaxing time of your life. When I first got here, I had to suspend the continual, persistent question: “Am I supposed to be doing something right now? Why do I have free time?” NOPE. Never again will you be comfortable with free time anywhere else.

e) When you’re placed in a country that speaks another language, survival instincts will kick in and you will understand and learn so much more quickly than you ever imagined.

f)  You will never have 2-3 days canceled due to the Viento Zonda (instead of a snow day or something; ” wind day”), and where people attribute headaches & illnesses to the wind (there ARE fires and such, but in northern part of Mendoza. Where I live, it was just really windy and there were higher temperatures).

g) Only in this continent, will you hear Adele EVERYWHERE. Bars, clubs, and restaurants will BLAST the soulful, passionate songs of Adele.

i) Only here, will you walk by people and everyone will be reeking of perfume and cologne. Especially the men. Including the plumbers and street cleaners. Apparently,  cologne marks cleanliness and “freshness.”

j) Only here, will you be reminded every minute, moment, day, of your ethnicity and your status as a foreigner.

k) Only here, will you get the MOST FLATTERING compliments (I will probably never have someone stop traffic for me again, ha) of your life, and the MOST OUTRAGEOUS catcalls of your life.

On another note, if you can understand some Spanish….this video is a parody of “Shit X says.”





my opinions on the academic system

Time June 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As a student of the US academic system, let me just say that I have never had to exert so much effort to attend class before. ….! Whereas I’m used to a clear-cut and organized structure with an emphasis on the importance of education, here, it is purely at your will whether you want to learn or not. Below are some of my observations…

1. Education is free here. Which means that no one is forcing you to go to school. It is only for the benefit of obtaining a good job in the future. And to my knowledge, I think that financial aid is available, but only with the condition that students not work.  This also means that since education is free, the students who choose to attend universities are very intelligent. Sometimes, there are older adults who enroll simply to expand on their interests.

2. There are no majors or minors here. No words or concepts exist in Spanish. Instead, students declare “carreras” (careers) in a facultad (department).

3. Students choose their carrera before entering the university, which has a set track. Therefore, everyone already knows each other in the same facultad, but never cross paths with other students who aren’t taking classes with them. And since they’re all on a set track, it’s nearly  impossible to take a variety of classes in different facultades, since they all overlap. We discovered this early on.

4. Nothing is online. Information can change last minute. The student has to go to a bulletin board of their facultad, where class info is posted. Everything is done in person, and tend to be disorganized.

5. Classes never start on time. Professors show up late (and sometimes super early), and often there are technical problems that delay the lecture or presentation. (One time, in my art class, someone asked who was the first one to show up to class. My professor remarked, “Obviously the Americans!” It was all lighthearted, but true).

6. Classes also end very late or very early.

7. Classes are also canceled frequently due to strikes, commemorations, and numerous holidays.

8. Usually, there isn’t a huge emphasis on attendance (and professors tend to be more flexible toward exchange students), and often share mate with the students during class. (My professor would begin the lecture, pause, ask for mate, take a sip, then resume).

9.  There is a lot of activity during class: students walk in and out  (usually to get  hot water for mate), and talk/text/show PDA.

10. Students don’t buy textbooks. They go to a fotocopiadora, where they pay  for the readings & materials. A cheaper option than textbooks, but so much paper! Note: there are always loooong lines at the fotocopiadora!

11. Students and professors often engage in passionate and intensely charged debates that take up most of the period. Both extremely interesting and difficult to follow.

12. When the professor says, “and that presentation was by the foreign students, who clearly had difficulty with another language,” or “how difficult it must be for the foreign students, who are trying to work through a new language,” it is considered a courtesy.

Although I’ve had some frustrating moments, I’ve also learned a lot from my classes here. At first I felt intimidated to ask other students or my professors for help, but I found that everyone was patient with my Spanish and very helpful. My professors were also lenient about the work (“It’s okay if you want to turn this in later, since you should be traveling instead/you’re still learning Spanish,” etc). They were certainly more understanding than I thought they would be!

On the last day of my class at UNCuyo, we sipped on (good) wine and everyone kissed each other goodbye. We exchanged double kisses and everyone told me “good luck, ” and “it was nice to have you in class.” Sigh. I certainly wish that I spoke up more instead of sitting there, trying really hard to understand the rapid flow of conversation and feeling intimidated! But all in all, I definitely had a valuable experience.


scattered thoughts

Time June 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Yesterday, I woke up to see my host family lounging in the kitchen, because classes were canceled for the day due to the wind. So instead of a snow day, it was a “wind day.” Haha, who would’ve thought? The temperatures were significantly higher (though it didn’t feel that humid to me), and it wasn’t until we were out eating ice cream in the afternoon that it got really windy. We had to protect our ice cream from the leaves and debris with napkins! 😀 Apart from the wind bothering my eyes and the cooler temperatures today, it wasn’t too bad. We were warned that feelings of sadness, fatigue, and headaches can be attributed to the wind, but nothing of the sort happened. 😀

On another note…..lately, I haven’t been able to make dinners and lunches with my host family. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to; it was because of class schedules, birthday dinners, outings with friends, and the occasional times when I fell asleep early that caused me to miss meals. Plus my host sisters have been so busy that when we all finally got together a couple of nights ago, it seemed that the last time we all ate together was a loong while ago. Anyway, for dinner that night, my host mom bought sushi (complete with the soy sauce, haha), and a full array of vegetables. She told me how she noticed how I hadn’t been eating recently (she also notices what I eat and don’t eat), and that she put out sushi so I could actually have my favorite food for dinner. I was really touched. And how did she know I missed vegetables like crazy?? Siiigh, how am I going to leave this place???

Also, earlier this week, my computer crashed, so I had to leave it at the repair shop. It was extremely frustrating having to pay someone (who didn’t seem to understand me, and I couldn’t understand him either, mainly because I am not a computer person) to have them tell me four days later that my computer is basically unable to be fixed. Right now I’m frantically moving all of my important information over to another location so I don’t lose all the pictures I took during the semester. Aghh. This was definitely an unanticipated problem!!!

Different topic: recently I’ve been thinking of some misconceptions that arose during conversations with other people in the program/with others in general, and I wanted to quickly address some of them…

1. Before leaving what held me back from being completely and thoroughly excited was being paranoid that I wouldn’t be able to speak. Or fail my classes since it was in another language. Everyone told me, “it’ll be fine, you’ll learn faster than you think,” blah, but that was so hard to believe. But seriously, everything falls into place so quickly. There is something about being directly exposed to the culture of a country that makes you grasp the language instantly. Granted, everyone learns at different paces, but for the most part, you will learn much more of the language (and much more quickly) during your semester abroad than during any semester or class you took before going abroad. So, don’t worry, be excited; it will only get better! Just step outside your comfort zone and let yourself go. Immerse, you’ll be fine!

2. What also held me back was being scared to talk to people one-on-one, since I was terrified that I wouldn’t understand what the other person would say to me (most of the time I knew what I wanted to say), then I’d just stare back helplessly. And for the most part, this situation repeated itself numerous occasions, and even occurs to this day (like at the repair shop…). But the only difference from the early weeks of my semester is that I’m not embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask the person to repeat themselves so I can try understanding again. The more you practice, the better!

3. There is a belief that Argentines eat nothing but meat, cheese, and dulce de leche. And drink nothing but wine. OBVIOUSLY a part of this is true. You will always see those foods in Argentina. Always. But veggie lovers, vegetables and fruit ARE here! There is variety in your meals!

Alright, back to moving my files!