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

Extreme Adventures with the Kiwis

Time October 4th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

G’day mates!

After spending ten whole days experiencing the South Island of New Zealand (or N Zed, as it’s nicknamed) I can finally say I’ve had the experience of a lifetime. A friend and I flew over to Christchurch together, managed to make it through customs by the hair of our teeth, and start our journey with a group of about 50 other students and one Kiwi tour guide attempting to corral us on a daily basis. We toured in a charter bus together for ten days, driving south as far as Milford Sound and Te Anau, seeing everything from cheeky endangered Kea birds, Fiordland penguins, glaciers, filming places for Lord of the Rings, and permanently snow covered mountains surrounding us on either side, plus so much more. We spent a few days driving along the coast to make it to Queenstown, NZ, the largest city on the south island, and also lovingly the “adventure capitol of the world.” And believe me, we did plenty of adventurous things.

Our first day in Queenstown we spent in the Shotover River, riding Shotover jetboats and pulling 360 spins within inches of the canyon walls. Then we got suited up for white water rafting, and took a helicopter ride (SO incredible, 100% would recommend it for the amazing views and excitement), then spent the afternoon floating through the icy river rapids and bonding with our Kiwi tour guide.

Day 2, we rode up the Skyline gondolas up to the lodge and saw the most beautiful views of Lake Wakatipu (literally translated in Maori to “sleeping giant,” as it looks like a giant asleep in a fetal position and is the longest lake in NZ). We played on the luge rides and rode down the hill on the scenic track, then decided to bungee jump off a ledge only attached to a big rubber band, essentially. The adrenaline rush was wild, as well as was the view while being hoisted back up and staring down into the city of Queenstown. That night we had a pub crawl as a group and went to the Ice Bar, one of the few in the world, where everything — including the glass you drink out of! — is made from pure ice.

Day 3 a friend and I decided we weren’t done with the adrenaline, and went out to be dropped into a canyon by metal strings on the Nevis Swing, the world’s largest swing! Much, much higher up than the bungee jump was, and therefore much scarier to me, yet it was fantastic bonding with my new friend; the employees also love to mess around with you while they gear you up, like pretending to push you or making jokes that they haven’t hooked you in correctly. Abso-posi-lutely terrifying, but great fun.

For the rest of the days on our trip, we spent touring glow worm caves, visiting farms and seeing sheep shearing, eating fish and chips in pubs, stopping to view gorgeous scenery — which is essentially the ENTIRETY of NZ, because everywhere you look is a new snow capped mountain range to gawk at — and chatting it up with our wonderful Kiwi tour guide, who taught us a lot about Kiwi humor all throughout the week. There is not one second of the trip that I didn’t love, and there are so many amazing places we saw and things we did that were once in a lifetime experiences with people that I will remember forever. None of the pictures do the beauty of New Zealand any justice, but the only advice I can give is to make it a bucket list requirement in life. The country has “Pure New Zealand” written on every locally made product, store, restaurant, water bottle, etc., and I can guarantee that everything definitely fits into that ideal, and will stay close to my heart forever.



The Headaches of Traveling

Time September 14th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

The past weekend I traveled outside BA for the first time since arriving almost two months ago to the famous Iguazú Falls. It was my first trip outside the city, not counting the suburb of Tigre, and despite some bumps along the way, the trip turned out much better than expected.

At home whenever I traveled with my parents, my mom would always be the one to spend hours planning our itinerary, and my dad would be the one to make sure we were always early to our points of travel. Now it was just myself who had to do all those things- reserving flights and the hostel, calculating how many pesos to bring, packing sufficient clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, and accounting for all the little miscellaneous items. I got advice from Marta as well as friends who traveled there the previous weekend, yet it was up to me to put everything into action. This made the week before the trip very stressful planning everything between classes and homework.

I was going with 5 other friends in the program, however, because of our differing schedules we were all arriving/leaving at different times. This made meeting up somewhat chaotic and dependent on Wifi to contact each other.

There was also a moment I nearly missed the whole trip together. My mandatory meeting at Migrations to apply for long-term residency was scheduled for the day of my flight so I had to push my flight for later during the day. However, as a government agency, Migraciones has the same speed as the DMV, so it ended up being more than two hours, leaving me little time to catch my new flight. I flagged down a taxi to speed me to Jorge Newbury Areopuerto instead of taking a collective as I planned. I arrived 35 minutes before my flight, but I couldn’t check in because the minimum time to check in before was 45 minutes…thankfully there was space on the next flight to Iguazú leaving a few hours later. I am not good with rushing and being late, so the whole experience put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day…Yet I was on my way, and from there on everything fell into place. Read More »


Weekend in Edinburgh

Time October 20th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

This weekend I took a flight “across  the pond” to Edinburgh to visit one of my best friends from Johns Hopkins, who is studying abroad through IFSA-Butler and interning in the Scottish Parliament. One of the first things we did was go to the Elephant House, famous for being the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the entire first Harry Potter book. We then walked past an adorable statue of a scottish terrier (look up Greyfriar’s Bobby if you’re interested in the story behind it!), and on to a graveyard behind the Elephant House where JK Rowling used to take walks, and accidentally named some of her characters after the names on the headstones (see Tom “Riddell”‘s grave photo). Later we took a tour of Hollyrood Palace, where the Queen of England stays when she visits Scotland. The palace was also where Mary Queen of Scots lived during her days in Edinburgh. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside the palace, but you can see some photos of the front fountain and abbey.

The next day we hiked to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a famous mountain right in the middle of the city. Although  it was difficult, we were really proud of ourselves for getting to the top!


Ruminations (1)

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

Why study abroad? Before leaving I would have said “TO TRAVEL!!”, just like that, all caps and bold with exclamation points at the end. In the months leading up to my departure my expectations, hopes, and dreams for my study abroad experience all focused on traveling. I had essentially planned to spend every second of the day I wasn’t in class traveling. My desire to travel was almost obsessive and, in my last hours in the US I was almost numb from the idea that I was finally going to see all that I had dreamed about for the last month. And then I got here.

For various reasons, I slowly came to realize that my vision of nonstop travel was not going to become my reality. It was a painful realization and, one that I fought with anguish and tears. I had convinced myself that the only way to fully take advantage of this opportunity was to see every last square inch of Costa Rican soil and then some. But lo’ my epic Costa Rican adventures were not to be! So the question became, if I’m not traveling then what? If I don’t spend my weekends traversing through the beautiful emerald green cloud forests atop tamed jaguars does that mean I’m doing this (studying abroad) all wrong?

I’m sure for some people study abroad is essentially an extended vacation where they see and experience a million places outside of their homestay city. And that’s a beautiful, valuable, and perfectly valid, way to spend one’s months abroad. But I’ve learned that that’s not the only to make a study abroad experience. So, how do you study abroad “right”? You do what makes you happy and don’t forget that you decide what makes a valuable and worthwhile experience. Whatever it is and wherever you are, you just have to dig in deep and keep in mind that it is your experience. Study abroad is about immersing yourself. Whether that means immersing yourself in what’s at hand, or immersing yourself in what’s a little farther out, is up to you. So, as my good friend Mark Twain once said, “Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”


Besitos and abrazitos,

Hilda, with an H

P.S. Forgive me if you felt that that I did not live up to my promise of making a short post. Relatively speaking, this post was shorter than the last.

P.P.S. I also ask that you forgive me if you feel that my content was in any way cliché. Although I am of the persuasion that cliches are every bit truthful and valuable. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be cliches.

P.P.P.S Couldn’t figure out the photo gallery… so sorry! Until next time.




Trusting Yourself

Time September 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

–James Joyce

Terminals always make me phlegmy.

I can’t quite explain why, but I think it has something to do with the cheap starchy food you find in the restaurants; it glues to the back of your throat and you cough and sputter and finally try to wash it all away with water and Pepsi, but of course that only makes things worse when you realize that Pepsi is pretty much all corn syrup and sugar and very likely much more ill-equipped for dislodging chunks of potato than nothing at all. Of course, you can still attempt to cough it all away, but when you do be forewarned that any spectators who catch you attempting this will think that you’re either hacking up a fur ball or choking on one.

There are solutions: don’t eat from airport restaurants, consume a huge breakfast, or stick to the light stuff like soups and salads (though these, remarkably enough, can still prove to be a gamble). Maybe attempt Lipton or coffee instead of soda if you’re having difficulties.

Aside from that, there’s not much more I can think of. Phlegmy throats and coughing fits are a characteristic of terminals that I have never been able to circumvent in all my years of traveling, no matter how adequately I prepare myself. To say I’ve gotten used to it would be an overstatement, though by now I can admit to having achieved a level of complacency. Braving terminals may mean a day of hacks and wheezes, but all things considered, I prefer knowing my inconveniences beforehand so I can prepare for them. And on a more optimistic note, a grainy throat is a small price to pay to go to the places I’ve gone to.

None of this really has anything to do with my upcoming excursion to Ireland per se (three hours and counting until my flight leaves) and you may very well chock these paragraphs up to personal problems and stop reading here. They are personal problems, I’ll be the first to admit, but there’s a traveler’s truth behind them: amateur travelers, experienced go-abouters, and cosmopolitans alike can share an experience of nothing, ever, going as intended.

This is of course true wherever you go, and yet nothing quite brings you into its universal focus until you’re immersing yourself in another culture and realize that every word you say or frivolous hand gesture that you make has the potential to mean something different from what you intended. We forget that culture is as much a concept as it is a developing organism: it adapts to the times and to people and to trends, even borrowing form sister cultures, and always emerging different from its source material.

This is not my first time overseas. I’ve frequented New Zealand and tramped the streets of Prague; I’ve hiked the Swiss Alps and gotten yelled at by the Austrian police for an invalid bus ticket. I consider myself an experienced traveler not because I’ve had the opportunities to go abroad and taken them, but because I’ve made more mistakes abroad than most other people. As recently as last year, I found myself walking a three-hour journey back to the home of my host mother in Austria at four in the morning, having taken the wrong (and coincidentally, last) bus away from the city center. This is hardly an isolated event.

The thing about it is though, mistakes, until proven harmful, are only unintentional paths. Stephen Dedalus had it right when he called mistakes the “portals to discovery”, though it doesn’t have to be only geniuses that make them. If anyone can make a mistake, anyone can be a pioneer.

There is a theme here, in case you were wondering. Getting lost at four in the morning in a foreign country and culture itself: they’re both just mistakes that led to chance products, ones that history, being ineluctable and perpetual history, has simply had to carry on with. The word ‘mistake’ itself does not do us any favours either; mis-intention is perhaps the more appropriate term.

Clacking away at my keys in the corner of the terminal takes the mind off problems like the phlegmy throat, but only for so long. Sometimes, once you realize that the only-so-much-you-can-do isn’t quite good enough, you’re more comfortable with your situation than you were in the beginning. This can go for anything: packing for a semester-long excursion three thousand miles across the world, researching a foreign country in the hopes of having a better understanding of your future home, brushing up on current politics so that you’re careful not to say anything offensive to your fellow countrymen. Accept the fact that you’ll probably forget something (portable toothbrush) or accidentally insult someone and you feel immensely better.

I’ve been researching Ireland for the past five years—from Famine politics to Gaelic poetry of the Great Blasket Islands, the music of the Dropkick Murphys to traditional ceili and everything insignificant in-between. This may sound a bit like bragging: this is definitely a bit of bragging. Even so, after all is said and done and with all my research, I can safely confirm that I know next to nothing about Ireland or its culture. With preparation one can only learn to speculate: culture moves too fast for anyone who’s grounded only in books to have much of a realistic idea about what it means or what’s important about it.

I’m not saying all of this only because I’m feeling philosophical, but rather because most of the pre-departure blog talk you’ll here is pretty much the same. There’s much talk of nerves and worries, packing woes and cell phone troubles, all of which is overlaid with an emphasis on how excited the traveler feels to be traveling. Describing all of these sensations is a fine way of explaining how one feels about setting off on his or her adventure. Most of it is useless.

I imagine that most people realistically don’t care what I’m feeling about going to Ireland. Adventures are adventures only to those who take them; everyone else’s job is to be polite when they regale you about them. Which means that I’m not going to set out and explain to you how I’m feeling or why I’m excited: what you’ll get here are the stories, as many as I can provide, with as much culture as I can possibly squeeze into the gaps.

I’ve probably rambled away for too long. Too much talk leads us in circles like pony trails: better to make your mis-intentions than talk yourself out of doing anything at all. And so, from now until my plane takes off:

Sláinte agus saibhreas!

PS: Attached some pictures here. Still don’t really know how the add images toggle works so I just threw them down without much consideration.

IMAGE 1: My attempt at sporting some Irish cool

IMAGE 2: My attempt at sporting some Irish sexy

IMAGE 3: Packing despair: do we pack the hurling cleats or the stepdancing heels? Every man’s worst nightmare.


Willkommen: My Holiday in Berlin

Time April 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone!

This week you’re gifted with another video! I spent the first week of my Easter holidays in Berlin with some friends. Enjoy the video and the pictures! This weekend, I’m headed to Kingussie, Scotland to stay with a host family before welcoming my actual parents to London. Talk soon!


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University


This Post is About Heather Traveling to Edinburgh

Time February 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Hey readers!

Once I was all settled in to Lancaster
, my American friends who were also studying abroad started thinking about places they wanted to go. First up on our list was Scotland! We just went to Edinburgh for the weekend (Friday day to Sunday night), and it’s possible that we’ll go to Glasgow on a future day trip.

One of the best things about Edinburgh (pronounced like Eddin-burrow, but you should slur that last syllable a bit so it’s not heard) is that it was so European! When I first came to London I was disappointed that it felt so much like New York City. The stores were all chains that we had in America, except for a few little boutiques. The traffic was the same, the crazy street performers, it all felt very familiar.

I hated that! I was here for some culture, dangit, and I did get that a little bit when I came to Lancaster. Going to Edinburgh though, it was so beautiful! Everything was so rich with detail, all of the buildings and the roads, and it was done on a massive scale. I felt like I could take a picture of anything and it would be something to share with my friends at home.

We took a tips-based walking tour around the city so we could hear all the back-stories to the big touristy attractions, and I totally recommend that to anyone going to a big city.

Last tip, bring extra cold-weather gear if you’re going in the middle of winter. I felt like I wouldn’t be warm ever again by the time we got on the train back to Lancaster.

Anyway, here are a few pictures!

The Edinburgh castle is behind us:
Castle behind J, K, and Me

Jo Rowling walked through Greyfriar Kirkyard looking for inspiration and names:
Tom Riddle's tombstone

New School Edinburgh:

The Scott Memorial:

Looking down into New Edinburgh:

Old royal living quarters in the castle: