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

The Return – My Last Post

Time July 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Everyone warns you about the perils of reverse culture shock. The readjustment period will take you by surprise and spin you round. you’re changed so much, but everything at home remains the same. But, in truth, going from NYC to the Midwest every summer isn’t very different.

I’m not discounting that there are things that threw me for a loop. Not translating everything to Spanish is one. Also I don’t have to be as aware of my iPhone al the time. (I’m counting it as a success that I never lost mine.) Not being able to take the sube or grab a colectivo is another. The lack of conversations between strangers is something I didn’t think I would miss. But I’m used to going through changes with every return.

I knew I needed to go home. I missed my family and friends. I had lots of projects I needed to catch up on and events to attend. I wanted to be in my home, in nature again.

But I already miss it. I miss the movement of the city, the pleasure of wandering the streets of Palermo. I miss engaging with people. I miss the interior of Argentina with all the different environments. I didn’t get to travel as much as I wanted and there’s still so much to see.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to travel abroad again and not sure I’ll return to Argentina for awhile. It seems a waste of my travel capital to go back so soon. I know I want to use my Spanish again for my next trip. I’ll be back to see more of South & Latin America.

In the mean time I’ll get used to the US. Enjoy the comfort of the lakes, go hiking. But I’ll always be thinking about how the rest of the world is so different from the US.

— Lily

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Friends/Amigos

Time July 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

One of the unsung aspects of study abroad is the friends you make through the study abroad program. I met some wonderful people through IFSA-Butler that made my time in Chile better than I could have hoped. This blog post is dedicated to my fellow Chile explorers.
Amelia Shannon: Amelia had been in Chile the previous semester and was the one to help us newbies find our footing. She was always around with a friendly smile and some Chilean advice.
Colin Monahan: “Doer of things.” Colin was always off on some crazy adventure or just finding the new cool thing to do in Valpo. He could always be found with his backpack and sense of adventure!
Dara Canchester: Dara loved life and the world around her. Whether in the city, the mountains, or a rural town, Dara was always able to find the wonder in every place and everyone.
Eliza Cohen: Eliza loved to explore the Valpo area and was always looking to go out with some of the IFSA gang to work in a cafe or have a night on the town.
Grace Riley: Grace was super fun and also really smart. A prefect example of work hard, play hard, she was always on top of her academics but also down to have a good time.
Jaimie Murray: Jaimie sucked the marrow out of the study abroad experience. Through her travel, relationships, and work, she made it a point to experience every aspect of Chile that she could.
Joseph Filardo: A great friend and helpful person. Always willing to help someone out and incredibly humble. Also, had great jokes and was a secretly good singer.
Kelli Duncan: Kelli wasn’t afraid of anything. Whether striking up a conversation with strangers, traveling in an unknown location, or hiking a dangerous path, she was always up for the challenge. An adventurous spirit who cared a lot about the world and the people in it.
Leila Walker: Leila was such a sweetheart and a kind soul. She loved getting to know the Chileans and was always practicing her Spanish.
Magaly Gonzalez: Super smart and hard working, Magaly put the “study” in “study abroad.” A fabulous friend to all in addition to being a fabulous student!
Meg Belinsky: Meg was super fun and always had high, bubbly energy. She was always down to explore Valpo, find a cute cafe to study in, or go on a fun travel adventure.
Megan Ganning: Megan was an incredibly friendly, funny, and fun-loving person. She put her heart into everything she did and loved all the world.
Naomi Takeuchi: Naomi was possibly the happiest and friendliest person I have ever met. She always had a smile on her face and a loving compliment to share.
Sarah Pearson: Sarah was an incredibly dedicated exchange student always practicing her Spanish and making connections with both Chileans and other exchange students.
I love all my IFSA-Butler companions and I know that these relationships will last a lifetime. I miss you all a lot and cannot wait for the next time we see each other!
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Uno de los aspectos menos obvio del intercambio son los amigos extranjeros que conoces durante el programa. Conocí a algunas personas increíbles con IFSA-Butler que han hecho mi experiencia en Chile mejor que podía imaginar. Ese blog es dedicado a esos compañeros, mis otros exploradores de Chile.
Amelia Shannon: Amelia ha vivido en Chile el semestre pasado y nos ayudó a encontrar nuestras nuevas vidas en Chile. Siempre estaba disponible con una sonrisa amable y unos consejos de Chile.
Colin Monahan: “El hacedor.” Colin siempre estaba en alguna aventura loca o buscando la nueva cosa divertida para hacer en Valpo. Siempre podía encontrarlo con su mochila y espíritu de aventura.
Dara Canchester: A Dara le encantó la vida y el mundo. Si estuviera en la ciudad, las montañas, un pueblo, o el campo, ella siempre podía encontrar lo increíble en cada lugar y cada persona.
Eliza Cohen: A Eliza le gustó mucho explorar Valparaiso y siempre estaba lista para ir a un café para estudiar o un bar para disfrutar la noche.
Grace Riley: Grace fue muy divertida y muy inteligente. Fue la ejempla perfecta de “trabajar mucho, divertirse mucho.” Siempre estaba lista con sus académicos, pero también lista para carretear.
Jaimie Murray: Jaimie disfrutó todo lo que podía de la experiencia del intercambio. Con sus viajes, relaciones, y trabajo se experimentó todos los aspectos posibles de Chile.
Joseph Filardo: Un buen amigo y una persona muy amable. Siempre estaba listo para ayudar y fue muy humilde. También, fue muy cómico y secretamente un cantador muy bueno.
Kelli Duncan: Kelli no tenía medio de nada. Hablando con desconocidos, viajando en un lugar nuevo, a haciendo trekking en un camino difícil, siempre estaba lista. Una persona aventurera que se preocupó mucho del mundo y de los seres humanos.
 Leila Walker: Leila fue muy cariñosa y amable. Le encantó conocer a los chilenos y siempre estaba practicando su español.
Magaly Gonzalez: Muy inteligente y trabajadora, Magaly puso el “estudiar” en “estudiar afuera.” Una muy buena amiga de todos además de ser una muy buena estudiante.
Meg Belinsky: Meg fue muy divertida y siempre tenía mucha energía. Siempre estaba lista para explorar Valpo, encontrar una linda café en que podía trabajar, o viajar en un lugar interesante.
Megan Ganning: Megan fue muy amable, cómica, y divertida. Actuó con todo su corazón en cualquier cosa que hacía y le encantó todo el mundo.
Naomi Takeuchi: Naomi fue, posiblemente, la persona más feliz y más amable que había conocido en toda mi vida. Siempre tenía una sonrisa en su cara y algún cumplido cariñoso para decir.
Sarah Pearson: Sarah fue muy dedicada a su experiencia chilena y siempre estaba practicando su español y hacienda relaciones con chilenos y los otros estudiantes extranjeros.
Me encantan todos mis compañeros de IFSA-Butler y sé que esas relaciones van a mantener durante toda mi vida. Les echo de menos mucho y no veo el momento hasta que nos juntemos la próxima vez.
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Siete Gringos in Siete Tazas

Time July 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

This is a trip I went on at the beginning of the semester that I didn’t get around to posting about until now.  Seven of us international students (siete gringos) and one Chilean mentor and friend went to Siete Tazas Radal national park in Curicó, Chile. We took a 5:00 AM bus out of Viña to get to Santiago and then took a three-hour train ride from Santiago to Curicó. From there we took an hour-and-a-half bus ride from the town to the start of Radal Park. At this point, we had a long and difficult 11 km uphill climb—with our 20-pound packs—to the Parque Inglés campsite where we were staying. It was a hard hike up a long dirt road, but we talked, sang, and worked our way slowly but surely to the top and reached the campground sweaty, tired, and with spirits high. After setting up camp, some of went for a quick dip in the cold river that ran next to our site. In the evening, we made dinner, told stories, and stargazed before eventually going to bed after a long and satisfying day. The next day we did some arts and crafts, went swimming in the river, and enjoying being in nature and in each other’s company. The day after we packed up camp and began the long journey back to Viña. We hitch-hiked halfway down the road stopping at Siete Tazas Park where we walked around the river system and waterfalls, explored a dried-out riverbed, and went for a quick swim in a freezing cold river hole. We just barely caught the last bus back to town and then, after a bit of stress and challenge involving missed trains and buses, we made our way back to Santiago and Viña after a wonderful weekend. I didn’t know it at the time, but this trip was the start of an incredible semester of traveling, exploring, and making new friends and memories.

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Ese es un viaje que he hecho en el principio del semestre, pero no había escrito nada hasta ahora. Siete de nosotros estudiantes extranjeros (los siete gringos) y una amiga chilena fuimos a Siete Tazas Radal Parque Nacional en Curicó, Chile. Tomamos un bus a las 5:00 de la madrugada desde Viña a Santiago y de allá tomamos un tren de tres horas hasta Curicó. Desde ese punto, tomamos otro bus de una hora y media hasta el principio del parque. En ese momento, empezamos la caminata de 11 km de un cerro—con las mochilas de 9 kg—hasta el Parque Inglés donde nos quedamos. Fue difícil y pesado, pero hablamos, cantamos, y caminamos lento pero seguro hasta el campo donde llegamos cansados, sudoroso, y felices. Después de hacer las carpas, algunos de nosotros nos bañamos rápidamente en el rio helado que pasó por el sitio. En la noche, cenamos, contamos cuentos, y miramos las estrellas antes de acostarnos después de un día muy largo y rico. El próximo día, hicimos arte, nos bañamos y saltamos en el rio, y disfrutamos de estar en la naturaleza y estar juntos. El día siguiente, salimos del parque y empezamos el largo regreso hasta Viña. Andamos por dedo hasta el Parque Siete Tazas donde caminamos por los ríos, miramos las cataratas, exploramos un río seco, y nos bañamos rápidamente en una laguna helada. Con suerte, tomamos el ultimo bus a Curicó y después de un poco estrés y dificultad de trenes y buses perdidas, llegamos a Santiago y a Viña después de un fin de semana increíble. No lo sabía en el momento, pero ese viaje fue el principio de un semestre inolvidable de viajar, explorar, y hacer nuevos amigos y memorias.

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Antofagasta & Atacama

Time July 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

 

I spent the past week traveling in the North of Chile exploring San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding area. Getting there is a bit of a trek—for me, it involved two buses to the airport in Santiago, a two-and-a-half-hour flight to the small coastal town of Antofagasta, and then a five-hour bus ride from Antofagasta to San Pedro—but it was well worth it. I spent my first and last days (Thursday and Tuesday) in Antofagasta wandering around the town and coastline there. Friday morning, I woke up early and got a 7:00 AM bus to San Pedro. On the bus, I met two very nice Argentinians who were sailing from their home town of Ushuaia in the South of Argentina along the coast of Chile. Arriving in San Pedro around noon, I stayed with the Argentinians who had found a very nice and affordable hostel which became my home for the next four days. There, I met two lovely Chilean sisters from Concepción who I went on most of my tours with. That afternoon I went to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) an incredible and mystical place in the middle of the desert. The following day I explored the small town of San Pedro in the morning, and in the afternoon went to Las Lagunas Escondidas (The Hidden Lagoons) where I floated in one of the natural salt lagoons. The water was quite chilly but the experience was amazing. The next day I woke up very early for a 4:30 AM tour of the El Tatio geyser. At 4300m above sea level and -12°C it was very cold but that didn’t stop me from going for a swim in the thermal fed hot springs. That afternoon I walked to Pukará de Quitor—an area of old ruins, statues, and caverns about 4 km from my hostel—and explored around there. On my last day in San Pedro I visited a few tiny neighboring towns and learned about the history and religion of the area. I also went to Laguna Chaxa which is a reserve known for flamingos and saw the beautiful yet awkward pink creatures in all their glory. I spent the afternoon wandering around some more and taking in the beauty of the desert and mountains that surround San Pedro. With one final vacation day in Antofagasta, I went for a lovely walk along the coast and spent some time knitting on the beach and enjoying the warmth and sun. Then, before I knew it, I was on my way back to Vina ready to enjoy my final days here in Chile before heading back home to the States. I had a fantastic trip and was impressed by the diversity of the north: from beaches, to valleys, to mountains, to lagoons, and more. I am certainly going to miss Chile and all of its’ rich and wonderful environments, people, history, culture, and everything else.

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Pasé la semana pasada viajando en el norte de Chile explorando San Pedro de Atacama y sus alrededores. Llegar allá fue un poco complicada—tuve que tomar dos buses al aeropuerto en Santiago, un vuelo de dos horas y medio al pueblito Antofagasta, y después un bus de cinco horas desde Antofagasta a San Pedro—pero valió la pena. Pasé mi primer y último día (jueves y martes) en Antofagasta explorando el pueblo y la costa. La mañana de viernes, me desperté temprano y tomé el bus a las 7:00 AM a San Pedro. En el bus, conocí a dos argentinos navegando desde su pueblo Ushuaia en el sur de Argentina hasta toda la costa de Chile. Cuando llegué a San Pedro, me quedé con los argentinos que habían buscado un hostal bueno y barato que pasó como mi casa por los cuatro días siguientes. Allá conocí a dos hermanas chilenas muy simpáticas de Concepción con que pasé la mayoría de los tours. Esa tarde fui a Valle de la Luna, un lugar increíble y místico en el medio del desierto. El día siguiente exploré el pueblo pequeño de San Pedro por la mañana, y por la tarde fui a Las Lagunas Escondidas donde floté en una de las lagunas salares. El agua estuvo frio, pero la experiencia fue increíble. El próximo día me desperté muy temprano para un tur a las 4:30 de la madrugada al geyser El Tatio. A 4300 m sobre el nivel del mar y -12°C, fue muy helado, pero eso no me detuvo bañarme en el agua termal del geyser. En la tarde, caminé a Pukará de Quitor—un área de ruinas, figuras y cavernas viejas más o menos 4 km de mi hostal—y exploré ese lugar. En mi último día en San Pedro, visité a algunos pueblos muy pequeños en el alrededor de San Pedro y aprendé sobre la historia y religión del área. También fui a la Laguna Chaxa que es una reserva para los flamencos y vi las bonitas, pero poco elegante, animales rosas de toda su gloria. Pasé la tarde explorando un poco más de San Pedro y apreciando la bonita natural del desierto y las montañas del área. Con un día más de vacaciones en Antofagasta caminé por la costa y tejé en la playa disfrutando del sol y calor. Y, antes de saberlo, estaba regresando a Vina, lista para disfrutar mis últimos días en Chile antes de regresar a los EEUU. Tuve un muy lindo viaje en el norte y me impresioné toda la diversidad entre las playas, las valles, las montañas, los volcanes, las lagunas, y más. Voy a echar de menos mucho todo lo que es Chile y sus lindos y ricos ambientes, gente, historia, cultura, y todo lo demás.

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Queridos apañadores, a bittersweet goodbye

Time July 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

Time is the oldest and most basic of social constructions that we have as humans, yet it never ceases to amaze me. The way it bends and buckles, the way it stretches and drags like an old-fashioned taffy pull one minute and then, the next minute, rushes past at dizzying speeds leaving only the bittersweet taste of nostalgia in its wake. It’s astonishing, the mysterious nature of time, but also equally astonishing is the power that it has over us as people. We have based our entire way of life around time. How much of it we have, how to get more of it, how we can spend it and save it. For us, time is equally precious as it is tortuous, but how absurdly irrational is that?

When we are waiting for something, we wish time away and stare at the clock with frustration as each tick of the hand seems to take longer than the last. But, adversely, when we are enjoying ourselves or doing something significant with our lives, whether it be spending time with loved ones or traveling to exciting new places, we want more and more time. We harvest a reverent hatred for the power that time has to rush us by, to age us and, eventually, to bring an end to our existence on this planet.

During these, my last few precious weeks in Chile before I will return the United States, I have caught myself getting frustrated with time. I have caught myself growing anxious about the dwindling amount of it that I have left in this beautiful country and cursing it for not being on my side. But, in reality, I know that time doesn’t take sides. It doesn’t bend or buckle, stretch or accelerate. No matter how much we wish it away or beg for more, time remains constant and unrelenting throughout the best and worst moments of our lives. What does change, however; are the ways in which we perceive time and in that respect, we can regain some control amidst the vast powerlessness. We can decide that we are not going to let life pass us by without our knowing. We can be present in each moment and appreciate it for the gift that it is. The times that I have had here in Chile have been some of the best in my life so far, so I know that it would be silly to mourn the coming end. My time here didn’t pass me by or slip away, I lived every second and every minute of it and I will continue to live every second of every day that I have left on this planet with the fervor for life that my experiences over these past six months have given me. Above all else, that is what I have learned from my study abroad experience and I will strive never to forget the importance of that lesson.

With that being said, it was certainly difficult (impossible, really) not to mourn the goodbyes. The hardest part, by far, about living abroad was having to leave behind the familiar faces and the life that I had made for myself in Chile. I truly don’t think that anything could have prepared me for the deep sense of heartbreak that I felt as my bus pulled out of the terminal in Vina del Mar and over the course of the preceding days when, one by one, I was forced to say goodbye to everyone that I have come to love here. I can’t seem to figure out a way to describe the sense of loss that I feel without relying on terribly cliché statements that probably wouldn’t hold much weight for anyone who hasn’t been in a similar situation. As I left for the Santiago airport to start my 13-hour journey to the U.S., I truly felt like I was leaving a piece of myself behind there, with all of my Chilean friends and family who have shown me an unimaginable amount of love and support over this past semester. But even in this heavy pain and this terrifying uncertainty of when I will be able to come back and see them again, I also feel a sense of tranquility in the realization of how serendipitous it is to be able to have these emotions about leaving a foreign country.

If you scroll back through a few of my blog posts, you can read about how nervous I was, upon arriving in Chile, that my Spanish-speaking ability and cultural differences would prohibit me from being able to establish deeper relationships with Chileans. I talked about how important it was to me that I would be able to reach that level of social immersion instead of remaining a foreigner, an outsider looking in. And now, looking back on this in the context of the current heartbreak I am experiencing, I realize how lucky I am to be heartbroken. Because it means that I reached that level and surpassed it. I made lifelong friends that I will never forget about and will never stop missing. I loved and was loved and am still being loved, from a distance, by the best group of Chilean friends that I could have possibly hoped for. They are passionate and kind and brave and each one of them has carefully sewn their influence onto the patchwork of my humanity so that they will always be a part of who I am. I know that I will go back to Chile one day in the (hopefully near) future, but until then I will cherish everything that my experiences there have given me. Hasta pronto apañadores. 

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Stranded in San Pedro

Time June 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 3 Comments by

Last weekend, I traveled to San Pedro de Atacama for four days which wasn’t nearly enough time to have spent in such an absolutely magical place. Although, I’m not sure if any amount of time could be considered “enough” to truly absorb that kind of natural beauty. San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the middle of the Atacama Desert made up of short, adobe buildings whose deceivingly humble exteriors give way to lavish resorts, hostels and tourism companies. The dirt roads of the town lead into the massive expanse of the surrounding desert allowing for an enchanting view of the snowy mountain peaks in the distance. My journey had a bit of a rocky start early last Friday morning when I missed my flight and had to wait in the Santiago airport for six hours until I could catch the next flight at 1 p.m. For this reason, when I finally arrived in San Pedro to meet up with a friend of mine who has been studying in Lima, Peru, I was anxious to make up for lost time.

That night, we watched the sun set fire to the mountains and paint the sky into a million hues of purple and blue as it sank behind the distant peaks. It was quite astonishing how quickly the heat of the afternoon dissipated in the darkness and left us shivering in our thin jackets. I had heard from my Chilean mom that the desert climate is made up of harsh extremes, but I suppose I didn’t fully realize what she meant until we went out that night to look at the stars. Without the strength of the desert sun, the breeze that comes down through the valleys around San Pedro de Atacama bites much more than one would think.

The trip hit a few more rough patches the next day when my friend and I set out to bike a trail to the North of the town in an area known as Catarpe. We had talked to an absurdly exuberant Chilean who worked at the hostel we were staying in who told us that the trail was very scenic and could be done in five to six hours, six if we were planning on stopping to take pictures (which, let me tell you, we did plenty of). However, we apparently had a miscommunication with him somewhere down the line because the trail took us much longer than we were led to believe. We ended up getting very lost in the valley of the Altos de Catarpe (the farthest point from civilization on the whole trail) for about three hours after the sun went down because we couldn’t find the trail to get back to the main road.

I know, such a typical ignorant tourist move right? But we swear, it really wasn’t entirely our fault. Just hear me out. Sure, we stopped to take about a million pictures and my friend spent twenty minutes trying to climb into some random ravine and I may or may not have walked my bike up a steeper area of the trail, but we really didn’t take long enough to justify getting stuck at the farthest point of the trail as the sun went down. We had been led to believe that, after reaching the end of the Altos de Catarpe, the trail would curve to lead us to an old church and then back to main road on which we could return safely to the town. However, as it turns out, the trail did not lead back to the road as the enthusiastic hostel employee had told us. Instead, we had to double back on the trail to find the road which was considerably more distance than we had been expecting. By the time we gave up our search for the non-existent continuation of the trail, it was already beginning to get dark and we didn’t have any source of light besides the flashlights of our iPhones.

As the sun disappeared and the stars (and with them, the cold) came out, our situation grew increasingly less comical and more worrisome. As we were just beginning to retrace our path through the cavern to find the tunnel that led out to the main road, I realized that my phone only had four percent of battery left because the extreme cold of the night had drained the battery abnormally quickly. At the same time that my phone died, my friend’s phone mysteriously turned off and wouldn’t turn back on, leaving us in complete darkness under the desert stars. Which, although breathtaking, did not help much to illuminate the way out.

During the next three hours of wandering the valley trying to find our way out, we went through all the emotional stages of getting lost in the desert (or at least what I am guessing that would look like, I have to admit that it was my first time) denial, panic, a little bit of hopelessness, and, eventually, acceptance of the possibility that we would have to spend the night in the valley. But through it all I was extremely grateful to have been with someone so positive because we never stopped laughing what we had gotten ourselves into which kept me from panicking more than I did. My friend also made sure that we stopped about every twenty minutes to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the beautiful jumble of the Milky Way spread out above us. It’s funny how sometimes the people you’re with can change your outlook on an entire situation. There was something kind of thrilling about being so lost amongst those towering rocks, hearing nothing but the sound of our own voices in the dark. It ended up being quite a serendipitous experience. I think that, if I could go back in time, I would gladly go get lost again.

We eventually found our way back to the tunnel leading out of the valley by doing some seriously sophisticated detective work using the times on photos that my friend had taken while we were riding through the valley to retrace our steps and find exactly where we went off the trail onto the stream bed. From there, he harnessed his inner boy scout to find bike tracks leading out of the stream bed and before we knew it we were back on the trail. After taking a brief “descansito” to pat ourselves on the back, take some pics of the stars and eat some peanuts (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was about 10 p.m. at the time), we got on our bikes and headed back to town. Thankfully, we didn’t end up having to make a fire out of arid plants or do jumping jacks all night to fight off hypothermia like we had planned.

There are plenty more stories that I could tell about my wonderful weekend in Atacama, but they only give me 1,000 words and I figured the fan base would probably want to hear the one about the time we almost had to spend the night stranded in a valley in the middle of the desert. Overall, the entire experience was breathtaking and I would say that the natural rock formations, salt flats and lagoons of the region are sights that absolutely cannot be missed if you happen to find yourself in Chile.

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To the Cape!

Time June 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

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Cape Reinga is the northernmost tip of New Zealand, known for its picturesque lighthouse, giant sand dunes, and 90 mile beach (which, by the way, is not 90 miles long. It’s not even 90 kilometers). I didn’t know I was going until 24 hours before we picked up the rental car, but this spontaneous trip was one of the best weekends of the semester.

At least, it was after the first night.

We started the drive at about 4:30 pm so that we could get to our “holiday park,” sleep, then wake up and have a full day ahead of us. This was all fine, until it was time to sleep.

In case you’ve never stayed in one, a holiday park is not luxurious. Essentially, the five of us were staying in a metal box with just enough room for the bunk beds. Which is fine, because we’re all on a pretty tight budget at this point in the semester.

The place was BYOB (bring your own blankets) and I SEVERELY underestimated how cold it was going to be, and of course these tiny metal boxes did not have any heating. So I spent the first night shivering under my duvet cover (just the cover. Not the duvet. Somebody tell me why I thought this was a good idea), wondering if I should pull down the curtains to use as an extra blanket and silently cursing the tiny metal box called a “holiday park.”

But finally the sun came up, and the next day was spectacular.

After breakfast we drove straight to 90 mile beach, which isn’t your typical lounge in the sun, read a book and dip your toes in the water beach. The point of going to this beach is to drive on the sand alongside the Pacific Ocean from the very bottom to the very top, and it was so much fun. We sped, we ghost drove, we waved to the surfers, and we blasted music the whole way. Hanging out the window and pretending to be Beyoncé in her Formation video is not optional.

88 kilometers later we didn’t think the day could get any better, but it did. Whoever decided that boogie boarding down giant sand dunes was a good idea might be one of the most underrated brain-powers of the 21st century. We rented boards, trudged up an enormous pile of sand, and threw ourselves down the steepest dunes we could find for the next three hours. It was like none of us had ever stopped being kids.

The sun was starting to set and we still had one last item on our bucket list, so we sped off (on a real road this time) towards the very tip of the cape. Here we saw the iconic lighthouse and the place where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. We could actually see a line of choppy waves that marked where two bodies of water collided, and just above this line the sun was sinking slowly below the horizon. It was a very peaceful end to an action-packed day.

Back at the holiday park we made s’mores in the communal fireplace and watched a movie. Thankfully someone lent me a blanket, so I was not completely miserable in our tiny metal box that night.

At the end of the day we collectively agreed that this trip might have marked the happiest we’ve ever been in our lives. But then again, we say that every other weekend in New Zealand.

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Experiencing a Wonder of the World

Time June 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

This blog is supposed to be about my experiences with the program and explorations around my host city, but with the end coming near I hope you all will indulge me. Here is a blog about one of the natural wonders of the world. It’s the one place all Argentine students must visit – Iguzaú.

Iguazú Falls holds the world record for largest series of waterfalls. That should be enough to convince any person who has the opportunity to go, to go. If that doesn’t, here’s my honest opinion: Iguazú is one of the most breathtaking visions I have ever seen in my life. I have seen a ton of waterfalls, including Niagara, but this moved every bit of me.

When my travel buddies and I arrived at the National Park, we first went up to La Garganta del Diablo. The Devil’s Throat sits on top of the falls, billowing mist and allowing for a spectacular view of many falls. It was a cold day and the mist seeped through my rain jacket, but I couldn’t have cared any less. I spent so long taking photos that I had to tell myself to put the camera down and enjoy the view.

Me in front of Garganta del Diablo   Garganta del Diablo

After a quick tram ride back to the main area we set off on the Lower Trail, which led us to a series of falls and a magical view. The waterfalls all in a row with a mystical island in the center. I wish we had been able to visit the island, but it was such a full day, we wouldn’t have had time.

From all the students who had visited before we had heard about a boat ride into the falls. We took a short trail down to the edge of the water, towards the boat launch. After putting our bags in drypacks and taking off our shoes, we were off. Seeing the falls up close was amazing. I could barely keep my eyes open with all the mist, but I fought it. This was to cool of an experience to miss. After the boat ride was over though, I really wished we had visited on a warmer day.

Falls from the boat

Our last bit of the trip was to hike the upper trail – a path that let us see another inspiring view and the tops of more falls. We sat and watched as the sun hit the tops of the trees. As we walked away from the falls we encountered our one and only monkey. It was unfortunately too quick for me to take a good photo.

A view from the upper trail

This experience was so fantastic. If you visit Argentina or come to study, you must go see Iguazú Falls. It’s worth the trip.

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Mountains, and Stars, and Penguins…Oh my!

Time June 14th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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Ode to Recreo

Time June 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

The other day when I was walking home from the bus stop, I was struck by how familiar and comfortable Recreo, my neighborhood in Viña del Mar, feels to me now. What struck me was not just that I feel at home here, but more so that I feel as if I am a part of the neighborhood, instead of just some foreigner stuck in limbo between vacation and immigration. My walk home from the bus stop is essentially uphill the entire way, but I never get tired of it. I get off the bus at Viña’s biggest icon and tourist attraction, “El Reloj de Flores,” which is quite literally a clock composed of flowers planted on a hillside next to the ocean. Now, ironically, the Reloj de Flores was recently wiped from existence when a giant pine tree was uprooted and fell down the hillside in a miniature mudslide caused by the unprecedented torrential rain of the past two days. The precious monument was destroyed without a trace and they are now estimating that it will take around forty million dollars to fix it. In my opinion, not worth it for a circle of flowers, but to each his own.

Anyway, as I was saying, the other day when I was walking home, before that weekend of rain and the Reloj’s tragic death, I was struck by how much my neighborhood had really begun to feel like my neighborhood. I know every dog and cat and where they hang around, basking in the sun and begging for food or attention or both. I know every crack in the sidewalk, every piece of graffiti. When I come up the stairs from the main, I wave to the store owner on the corner who’s almost always standing outside enjoying the day and talking with friends. He and his wife came over on Easter when my Chilean mom’s boyfriend made enough paella to feed a small army. I recognize the homeless men drinking beer on the steps near the park. I smile at the old man who always walks his poodle down to the lookout at the same time that I come home for lunch each day. I know at exactly what point the smell of Papa John’s will drift to me as I walk up to Diego Portales and turn towards my street, Arturo Prat. It seems that Chile shares the U.S.’s traditional of naming streets after historical figures that no one really likes and whom, outside of the nationalistic bias of history books, seem to have done more harm than good.

I have subconsciously memorized the barks of each dog that will sound off in order as I pass by their respective houses on the way to my own. My favorite is the paradoxical German shepherd three doors down who always sits perched on the ledge of house’s fence like a cat and whose bark is surprisingly high-pitched for a pup of (at least) 80 pounds. When I get to my house and take out my keys, I no longer have to study them to see which one has less rust (that one goes to the gate, the other to the house) because I can feel the difference.

I often recognize faces of people I know as I am walking around the Recreo neighborhood and it makes me feel proud. The man at the local liquor store, whose parents sent him to grade school in the U.K. so that he could learn English, always likes to practice speaking with me when I come in for cheap wine. My friend Amelia’s Chilean host mom who owns a boutique next to the sushi place by the train station, who is probably the sweetest, happiest woman I have ever met. My eccentric history professor who I always see reading the newspaper in Café Recreo. The parking attendant that always smiles and says hello when I pass by. The group of neighborhood guys that looked after my friend Colin and I when we first got here and are always excited to see me. Friends that I’ve made, young and old. And not just the people I have met in Recreo, but all of the friends that I have made here, friends that I truly care about. Friends that I can’t imagine leaving in a month and potentially never seeing again. They have all impacted my life here and who I am because of it, in their own way.

I have always been a strong believer that who we are as people is a patchwork made up of the influences of the people we encounter in life and the ways in which they help shape our heart, some obviously more so than others. There is an African philosophy native to the Nguni tribe in southern Africa called Ubuntu which, if you know me well you’ve most likely heard me talk about. Directly translated it means, “I am because you are.” But it is a way of life founded upon the belief that our humanity is constructed and nurtured through relationship with others, that we are all intrinsically connected in this way and, therefore, we should treat one another with love, graciousness and respect.

In that moment, walking down the street to my house, I thought about the people that I’ve met here in Chile and all I could think of was how fortunate I feel to have had them contribute to the ever-growing patchwork of my humanity. My heart is full!

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Isle of Skye Trip

Time June 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Our second trip that IFSA organized was to the Isle of Skye. It was a long 5 hour bus ride to get from Glasgow to the large island in the north west, but it was broken up by fun, quick stops in highland towns and continuous historical facts from our tour guide. Everyone was struck by the beauty and vast wilderness of the highlands which felt so purely Scottish. I hope my pictures can somehow do it justice.

Highland Shepherd

Picture 1 of 16

One of our first stops on our way up to Skye was to a working sheepdog farm. We were able to watch the shepherd's border collies wrangle the sheep at the sound of a whistle or a simple command.

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Road Trip (more UK travels)

Time May 26th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

My flatmates and I decided to take a little road trip to the northern part of England and Wales! We all really wanted to go to Wales and the only way to do that would be by renting a car and driving down. My flatmate, Julia, graciously offered to drive! She also let us stay at her aunt and uncle’s house! It was such a great opportunity so I couldn’t say no! I really love road trips and I was so happy to be going on one with my friends! We started our 3 hour journey from Glasgow! The drive really wasn’t terrible at all and to our surprise there wasn’t many cars on the road the whole drive. Of course a lot less people live in these areas than most places in the states! After our long trip we made it down to England. The house we stayed in was very quaint and it was along the shore about 10 minutes from Blackpool! We had a lovely home cooked meal and no meal is left without drinks. Without even realizing it I had a whole bottle of prosecco to myself! Luckily, it was over about 6 hours so I felt fine!

The next day we ventured to Liverpool in order to see the Beatles museum! Getting there was easy but parking in Liverpool was atrocious! We drove around the same street several times before we were able to find a parking lot! After the whole parking fiasco we walked up to the street to get to the museum and there was some type of train parade! We had no idea what we just walked into! It wasn’t too hard to navigate through the crowd but it was still strange! We saw a ferris wheel and decided that we wanted to go on it! The top was such a wonderful view of the city! We could really take in all that is Liverpool. Once we got back down to the ground it was time for the Beatles museum! The museum was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. It was one of my favorite things I’ve done this entire semester! It wasn’t set up like a normal museum. It was as if you were walking through their lives. It didn’t contain that many artifacts rather it contained storytelling and recreations of the actual pubs they played in. The audio tour provided most of the information. This is something that I would highly suggest for anybody who goes to the UK! I could really go on and on about the museum but you’ll just have to visit for yourself!  beatlesstory Don’t want to show too much so this is just the entrance! Read More »

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Life After Abroad

Time May 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Wow, I never thought this day would come. I was so back-and-forth on going abroad in the first place, I never thought that I would go and miss it so much. The only thing that’s getting me through being back in The States is knowing that I will go back to Ireland one day and show my loved ones around.

Looking back, there were many challenges. Adjusting at the beginning of the semester to a new country, seeing my friends go back to school and having FOMO from parties, figuring my way around a new city, new school, and new grading system, finding a balance between time by myself and with friends (as it was my first time living in an apartment), learning how to cook, the list could go on and on. But the challenges were little speed bumps. They were hard for a day or maybe even a week, but I was over them in no time. I knew how temporary this semester was going to be.

One of the first weeks I sat down and wrote out all of the weekends I had in Ireland. Then I added the two IFSA trips, a few travels of my own, and I realized how short the semester would actually be. Thinking about it being so temporary made missing out on fraternity parties and tailgates much easier – especially when I was traveling around Ireland or the rest of Europe! Read More »

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Flights, Trips, and Over Preparing

Time May 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

The title is actually a misnomer. I’ll give you a hint: there’s no such thing as over-preparing for a trip that involves needing your passport and leaving the country you’ve been given temporary permission to stay in. I’m a fairly laid-back person, and even I get that forgetting a detail here is a terrible idea.  I’m leaving to go on a nice, not-quite-two-weeks trip through Europe on Friday, and the only reason I’m not panicking right now (or possibly being dangerously oblivious) is because I’ve done a fair amount of plane travel before this. If you’re interested, I have a few tips and reminders to share. After all, it seems a shame not to make at least one big trip while traveling abroad – there’s so much that’s usually far away now just right next door.

First things to remember is the most important: your passport. Everything else you can usually find a way to print out, show an email of, or otherwise replace so long as you have enough time to do so. Passports aren’t replaceable, and they’re you’re only ticket into and out of any country you choose to visit. So remember to bring it with you, put it in a place that you’re sure you won’t forget about and you’re sure it won’t fall out from, and most definitely somewhere on your person that someone’s not going to just reach in and steal it from. Buy one of those stupid-looking necklace pocket things if you have to. Yes, you’ll look like a tourist, but I have news for you: you’re a tourist. Better to look stupid than to be stranded.

Second is the other important, can’t do without stuff. Boarding passes are next on the list. Different airports allow you to check in before your flight at different times, and only give you a boarding pass once you’ve done so. Figure out when you can check in, do so at the earliest opportunity, and then print out a couple copies of your boarding pass: one for your backpack, one for your bag, maybe even a carefully-folded one for your pocket or wallet or something. Make sure you have something to show to security when you arrive, is what I’m saying. After that, email records for where you’re staying. If you’re hopping from one hostel to the next on a daily basis like I am, this can get overwhelming, but their records aren’t perfect. Keep track of that confirmation email that says you’ve checked in, just in case their computer goofed and lost it. Train and bus tickets should also be printed when you can, and easy to pull up on your phone fast as well. Itineraries, meds, personal requirements, enough clothes for the right weather…. beyond that it’s a little more like the usual preparations. It should be fun, and well worth the effort.

See you in a couple weeks.

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Italy: The most surreal place

Time May 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

My flatmates and I looked up flights to Italy and we found some cheap flights to Milan! We all couldn’t say no so we booked them! We started off in Milan and quickly found a place to get some pizza! I think I ate more pasta and pizza than I ever have over the weekend. The second day we took a trip to Verona. Verona was very much like what I pictured Italy to be like. The architecture of the buildings was exactly what I pictured. Verona was so beautiful and it really felt like spring time! We had a funny encounter with choosing a restaurant for lunch! My friend looked up places to go and she found a cheap place for us to go. Well we walked up to the restaurant and looked at the menu outside. To our surprise there was horse and rabbit meat being served!After a few laughs we ended up choosing a different restaurant! That was one of the most culture shock things that I experienced with abroad! We climbed to the top of a tower where we could see the whole city. Overlooking Verona was one of the most surreal experiences of my life! Italy is seen as this dream destination and it was so surreal to actually be there. I honestly felt so free in that moment. I felt like I had overcome so much this semester and being in Italy made me realize how vast the world really is. It’s so much more than just picture;physically being there changed my view of the world. Read More »

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Saying Goodbye

Time May 16th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

When Ashley, our IFSA-Butler Ireland representative sat us down for our Welcome Event, she mentioned how fast this semester would go. Through the ups and downs, the cold showers, the studying late nights, the friendships, the traveling, and everything in between, I never thought Ireland would really become my home in such a short time. And I never realized how fast the semester would really go.

Luckily, I didn’t have to do it alone. With the other 15 IFSA-Butler students, and a few honorary members, we became a group of strangers to a family. I hope you enjoy my last few photos in Ireland as much as I do.

They say that some memories can make you happy, and some can make you sad, but the memories that make you the happiest looking back years later are the memories of travel. I’m so lucky to have traveled throughout Ireland during this semester, and am so thankful to IFSA-Butler for helping me through this crazy change in my life! Read More »

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Flying solo/Viajar sola

Time May 15th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by

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The Finale (Part Two)

Time May 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

I’m home! I’m surrounded by American accents and cars that drive on the right side of the road and boy does that feel weird. I’m out of money, finishing my last few papers, and sleeping in my own bed. I did it! I made it a semester abroad, with getting barely any bumps and bruises along the way. Here are a few things I’m feeling.

Sad. A place that once felt so strange became home and just as I got my feet wet in Cardiff I was shipped back to the U.S. My epic, European adventure has come to an end.

Culture shock. I remember attending my home university’s pre-departure meeting where they told me that I would experience reverse culture shock upon my return to the United States. I brushed that off, not thinking that I’d feel much different or have a difficult time adjusting back. But holy cow does it feel weird to be home. Everything’s the same, but it’s also different in the sense that everyone I left behind at home kept living their lives and whatnot, which sounds like an obvious thing but walking into it after four months of being away, is a lot to take in.

Happy. I am so glad to be home. I’ve missed my family and friends so much, and while I’ve kept in touch through Facetime, there’s nothing like hugging your parents after months without seeing them. In a few days I’ll head to Des Moines to see all of my college friends, so the happy reunions keep coming!

And finally, satisfaction. I’ve gotten most of my travel bug out (for now), and I’ve experienced so many things that I never dreamed that I would. Before I left I set out a list of advice for myself, and looking back at it now I smile knowing that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I took pictures, even though I’m usually so bad at remembering to. I drank good wine and ate (probably too much) good cheese, bread, and pasta. I called my parents, bought a few souvenirs, and wrote things down in a journal. I visited friends abroad in other countries, and did one or two crazy things that I told my parents about (after, of course). I went to Greece like I kept saying I would, because after all I did pack that swimsuit for something.

This semester I learned how to navigate countries where I don’t speak the native language, I learned how to use public transportation in cities I had never been to before, I learned how to make strangers into friends within one conversation, and I learned that the world has so much more to offer than I thought was possible. I knocked off a lot of countries off of my to-visit list this semester, but as I traveled and heard other peoples’ experiences in other places my to-visit list kept getting longer.

This post marks the end of a life changing, comfort-zone pushing, and challenging experience. I had no idea what life was going to look like once I stepped off of the plane in London a few months back, but I sure am happy I stuck around to find out.

I’m officially signing off, but this isn’t the end of my adventures, that’s for sure.

Cheers,

Alex

 

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Gringa’s first earthquake

Time May 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 1 Comment by

About two weeks ago, I experienced my first real earthquake here in Chile and, I have to say, it was much more terrifying than I had anticipated. For some reason, I had never really understood the panic about earthquakes. I mean, as long as no buildings collapse, it’s just a little vibration, right? Wrong. As it turns out, I am not a huge fan of them. There’s something deeply unsettling about the fact that the earth, which we often conceptualize to be the most physically stable thing in our lives, can suddenly begin to move underfoot.
I was walking back to my house with a friend when it happened. It probably only lasted for about 20 seconds in total but it felt like longer as we watched the cement buildings around us shake. Strangely enough, my first reaction was equal parts fear and excitement, as if all of that raw energy traveling through the earth’s tectonic plates had continued on through the soles of my feet and up my spine, terrifying yet strangely intoxicating. There was no visible damage where we were standing, so my friend and I shrugged it off and went on our way. I became more unsettled, however, when people started coming out of their houses onto the street and asking us if we were alright. Everyone was wide-eyed and tight lipped and their anxiety made my own heart begin to race.
The streets of my neighborhood suddenly felt eerily unfamiliar. The air cracked with a kind of strange anticipation, as if houses and residents alike were holding their breath to see what might happen next. The only sounds to be heard were the chorus of car alarms going off from the tremors and the dial tones of my neighbors’ phones as they called their loved ones across town. One man told us that we should save our water in case it got shut off and recommended that we go straight home. As the aftershocks started and the tsunami evacuation alarm sounded, the initial ignorant excitement of my first earthquake faded and I decided that he was probably right. Read More »

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Oh, Europe–I love you so!

Time May 5th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

It’s May. In one week from today I will be on a plane back to the states. I have papers and projects to do this week. There are a few things about this picture that really aren’t quite right.

This post is about what I did over Easter break, but before I get to that I need to just acknowledge how crazy it is that I’ve already gotten to the point in my semester where I’m writing this. January was spent getting my feet on the ground and adjusting. April was spent travelling. February and March, however, seemed like endless hours spent planning my Easter break endeavors. And now they’re done—the trips have been taken, experiences have been made, and lessons have been learned.

On Wednesday, April 12th I left Cardiff early in the morning and walked to the Sophia Gardens bus station where I departed for Birmingham airport. I spent most of the day travelling, but by 7 PM I was standing outside of the Barcelona airport, suddenly much too warm for my jacket. Now I won’t bore you with the day-to-day itinerary of what I did, but there are a few moments I experienced throughout the few days I was there that were pretty magnificent. First, walking through the city itself is kind of magical. The trees, buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí everywhere, the sun, and just the feeling of the city had an energy that was contagious. Another part of Barcelona I loved was Bunker Hill. It was an old Spanish Civil War bunker that sat on a massive hill overlooking the city, and the view was incredible. It was the city, the ocean, and the sunset, all in one beautiful picture. It was profound and magical and worth running up a large hill for. Later that night we went to a Spanish club—my last highlight of Barcelona. It was a city that made you want to dance and that night we all danced and laughed and tried to ignore the fact that we all had flights the next day taking us away from the beautiful city. Read More »

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Returning in time for the time crunch

Time April 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

I’ll be brief. Possibly. Don’t hold me to it.

I’m back from Edinburgh! Seeing my parents again after so long was lovely, as was having the stress of living and stuff taken off my shoulders for a bit. Admittedly I’m a rubbish cook and spend most of my time going to food courts instead of cooking, but still. Nice to have home-cooked food again, at least. Travel, as always, is both fun and exhausting. There’s something to be said for doing a whirlwind trip up the U.K., but the drain that puts on you from having to sleep somewhere new every night isn’t nothing. It’s worth it, though, and I think that’s what matters most.

So. I got back on Saturday night and had a prior engagement (read: Dungeons & Dragons, because I am a Nerd), which meant that Sunday was more properly the time I was back. And Sunday is a lovely day to come home on and all, it really is, but there was a slight hiccup in that I had an essay due. On Tuesday. Not a small essay either. There was some fretting, a lot of time spent in the library, and more coffee than either I or my stomach can comfortably think about. It got done, mind you, but it probably wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve written. I wonder if I should regret that, that my work suffered a bit, but I find that I don’t. Traveling abroad entails a little bit of putting the experience of travel in front of the experience of schooling, I think. I’m broadening my horizons in a deliciously literal sense, and if the grade I’m getting in a class that is only pass/fail suffers a bit for it, then I suppose that’s a price I can live with. That’s not carte blanche advice to flip school the bird and go off into the sunset, mind, but the scales needn’t be as exactingly even as you might have them be at other times. To each their own.

I’m still daydreaming about Vindolanda. Emperor Hadrian almost certainly stayed there while supervising the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, did you know? They found evidence of a really high-quality home under the stones recently; they think that’s probably where he lived. For buildings that no longer stand, the stones at Vindolanda still house a lot of amazing stories. I’ll tell you more about all that later, though. For now: more essays. And travel considerations. You know the drill.

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Travel Fun

Time April 24th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Greetings from Edinburgh and a cozy hobbit-hole home that’s outfitted like a mansion. The next few posts might be a bit out of order in terms of temporal progression; I’ve been doing a bit of travel, and things tend to get mixed up along the way. That’s a good sign. It means I’ve been having fun.

Now, it was last Friday that my parents came to visit. I’d been expecting the visit and looking forward to it, for the simple reason that I am a very, very tactile creature and there is a necessary adaptation period before you can hug your new friends without it being awkward. No such barrier exists among family; my parents have gotten many, many hugs over the last few days. It’s been very nice traveling across the U.K. with them in a car (the first time I’ve been in a car in three months, in fact), staying at places that range from a ridiculously massive and swanky hotel by the Thames in London to a tiny little inn out in Partney, Nowhere. All of the experiences have been great, especially since I’m not the one paying. Of course, not every piece of traveling with parents is ideal. After three months of setting my own schedule and not having to rely on or wait on anyone else for my plans, being just along for the ride is a bit jarring. Getting told what to do after a time of essentially making your way in life alone takes some getting used to. I imagine this is one of these things that’s more or less tolerable depending on the sort of person you are, and the sort of relationship you have with your family. I’m lucky – as long as I have a book, I don’t really mind what it is we’re up to. And the things we’ve gotten up to while traveling are well worth any small frustrating. Read More »

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UK Travels

Time April 19th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

During the month of April I went to England and Northern Ireland. My first stop was London, England. I was meeting a friend who’s also studying abroad this semester; the same friend that I traveled to Amsterdam with! London is a very busy city with a lot of people in it! At times it was a little overwhelming. It was nice that the public transportation was so easy though. It was also nice that it runs 24/7! That can be something frustrating about Scotland’s public transportation. Although the public transportation was pretty intense in London, it was relatively easy to navigate! Of course I was with somebody who knew where they were but I think it would have been fine if I wasn’t. On the first night we went to a play! It was called “A Comedy about a Bank Robbery”. It was pretty funny and was about exactly what the title says! The humor was just silly and didn’t require much thought! It was nice to just relax and watch a play for pure entertainment.

The next day we went to Westminster, which is the main tourist site! It was interesting because I had been there about 11 years ago and once I walked off the tube I had this overwhelming sense of nostalgia. I was transported back to my 9 year old self. It was such a wonderful and exciting feeling! I’ve never experienced something like that before. The power of nostalgia was so strong! At this moment I captured a picture of Big Ben, which I’m really proud of! I feel like it came out so well! Read More »

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Bonsoir and Happy Days

Time April 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

After a jam packed month filled with many weekends away, I concluded my March trips with a quick stop in Paris where I met up with my sister Hailey and my cousin Erin as they were passing through on their travels. Writing that sounds crazy, that we just “met up in Paris for the weekend,” because how often does that happen? Life is pretty cool.

Throughout the weekend we did the typical Parisian tourist activities; we walked through the Notre Dame, strolled down the Champs-Élysées, ate crepes and macaroons and drank good wine, and we saw the Eiffel tower. But I think my favorite part was just being with family. At night in our AirBnB we would play cards and chat just like we would any other time back at home, and after a few months away from home those moments meant so much.

paris paris2 eifel

And as for the city and Parisians, they’re a lot nicer than the stereotype suggests. We shopped at a French market one morning and all of the vendors were so kind to us. The city is dirty, as they say, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. To be honest, Cardiff is a dirtier city than Paris. Regardless, I recommend spending some time in Paris if you get the chance. There is literally nothing happier than eating a banana and nutella crepe while strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens. Although as hard as it was to say “au revoir” to the city, it was even harder to say goodbye to Hailey and Erin

Another glimpse of home I got recently was a visit from Joe—something I had been counting down the days for. On Wednesday at 2 AM I left my flat for the early bus to London, where I took a second bus to Gatwick airport. After waiting the longest 30 minutes I think I’ve ever waited, I saw Joe coming out of Arrivals and we got our movie like airport reunion. Okay that may be a little dramatic but it was so nice to see him after so long. We took a bus into the city and spent the afternoon in London. Read More »

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A Break in Uruguay

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.

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