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

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 »


Debajo de tu piel vive la luna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Losing signal and finding connections

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


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



Time March 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | No Comments by



It is impossible to walk through the beautiful old and new streets of Valparaiso without seeing incredible works of art on nearly every wall you pass.


Es imposible caminar por las bellas calles antiguas y nuevas del Valparaíso sin ver arte increíble en casi cada pared que pasas.


The Chicas Take Chile

Time February 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I.            Chile at a Glance

II.            Santiago

III.            Valpo again

IV.            Reñaca

V.            Concon

VI.            Life After Chile

VII.           Vocabulario

VIII.        Previous Posts


I.                   Chile at a glance


My friends had been planning to visit Chile in November all semester. As much as I wanted to be with them, I resisted for a while because I was afraid of missing out on other travel opportunities. I was dying to travel north to Salta and Jujuy. Unfortunately, I never had the chance. Weather and conflicting travel plans meant that I’d probably die of heatstroke and be doing it alone, so I decided to shelve that trip for another day. I finally decided that Chile was probably worth revisiting, especially because I hadn’t had a chance to do everything I wanted to do the last time. It turned out to be a very, very good choice.


It felt really nice to go back. I’m glad that I was able to spend enough time there that I understand a bit of the culture and slang and I can laugh at the jokes that Chileans and Argentines make about each other.


After spending a decent amount of time in Chile, I feel like I can say a few things with confidence:


-Chileans are terrible at giving directions. Just terrible.

-Chile has cuter cafes than Argentina…but less outdoor seating.

-It has better bread than Argentina, but fewer varieties of alfajores.

-The buses are easier to use

-Clothing is cheaper and more “Americanized”

-It’s a pretty neat place.


Someday in the future, I’d like to visit Atacama and Patagonia as well. But for now, I had some fun adventures where I did go.


II.                Santiago



First stop was the capital.


I think if I had to live in South America, I’d like to live in Santiago. It’s surprisingly clean for being so large, and it’s got nice parks. It’s got a little of everything, in fact.


A week earlier, one of my friends had a piojo mishap (it’s much more common in this part of the world), so we decided that we needed to visit the (in)famous bar, La Piojera. They’re best known for a drink called the terremoto, which is wine + pineapple ice cream. (We also had grenadine in ours.) Worth trying. Even if you don’t want a drink, La Piojera is worth visiting just for the atmosphere. It’s dark and crowded inside, bodies pushing up against you from all sides, and the furniture is vaguely reminiscent of a medieval pub. But the cool thing about it was that you were equally likely to see, a group of preppy girls, a pair of novios, kids who were barely legal to drink, and someone’s grandma all in this one place.

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On the way back to our hostel after exploring the city, my friends and I caught the after-work rush hour. Unlike Mendoza, there is no siesta in the middle of the day, so the work day ended much sooner than we were used to. The result was being jammed like sardines onto the subway—and I was very nearly smashed in the door! Luckily, we all made it with all of our limbs attached. Call it part of the adventure.


Valpo Again


Returning to Valpo was another kind of homecoming. It was the coolest thing to be able to show my friends around and explain how things worked—I really had learned a thing or two on my last visit! Even better, I loved that my chicas, those crazy girls I love, also loved the city I loved.


We attempted and failed to go to La Sebastiana—the only one of Pablo Neruda’s houses that I didn’t visit. We got distracted by the city and by each other. It was a fair tradeoff, I think.


One night, we indulged in a luxurious seafood dinner (as opposed to the cheaper version) in Valpo. Quote of the night:

“What’s in this cake!?”




IV.             Reñaca

In Reñaca, we went sand boarding. I think it was 2500 Chilean pesos ($5 USD) an hour to rent boards, but that could be completely wrong. It was cheap—I remember that much. And it’s no small wonder: there’s no “board rental establishment,” of course. There’s a lady with a truck and boards in the back. The dunes themselves are plenty big—we were higher than the ocean fog, so we look like we’re in the clouds in all of our pictures. The bottom of the biggest dune was rimmed with old tires—you know, for safety. (Right…)

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One thing you should know: the sand is really, really hot going up. Don’t be tempted to go up barefoot.


If you’re expecting snowboarding but with sand, don’t even bother. We had a blast because we were being goofy and laughing at each other, and for us it was very worth it. If you want real adventure sports, go hang-gliding or something else.


After that, we bused back down the coast to Viña for lunch and the beach.


When we asked people for directions for good places to eat, they directed us to the piers along the coast. …Silly. What restaurants we saw were way too expensive (there were tablecloths and the waiters wore ties, man). There were also churro stands (dipped in chocolate, full of dulce, or both), but that didn’t do it for us either. We ended up walking about 8 blocks inland, where we found the absolute best empanada stand.


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The dough was delicious—fried or baked were available. The fillings included everything from corn to mariscos to beef and back. One of mine was full of machas, clams.




Then we did beach things.


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When we arrived on the beach, we met up with my US roommate and some other friends from the program that had come with us. Our program friends were getting to know Chile’s alcohol selection. (We did our own thing, being amused at them from afar.) That was all fine and funny until
1) The drunk folk got sunburned
2) Someone’s backpack was stolen


It was obvious we were Americans and that they were drunk, so it was an easy target for one Lucky Chilean who made off with $200 USD, an American passport, a photocopy of the same passport, an Argentine visa, and our friend’s ego.


Everything worked out in the end, but I think it never hurts to have a few WARNINGS AND REMINDERS on that front:


-Never carry important documents in your backpack

-Don’t leave your important documents unattended (or in the care of drunk people)

-Keep your passport and the copy of your passport separate

-If you do any of those things and something bad happens as a result…don’t panic

-Contact the program director


V.                Concon

The next day, we went back up the coast to Concon beach to search out a horseback riding excursion. We found the stalls but no horses. Apparently it happens every day of the week…except the day we chose to go. Doh. I feel like it was a Monday or a Tuesday. Try to check beforehand with the hostel, and good luck.


We still had a nice time soaking up the sun and talking about our lives. And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave for our next adventure…


VI.             Life After Chile


Chile was more than just a beautiful place to visit or another adventure for us. It was an anchoring point in our friendship in a very Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way. For a weekend, Valparaiso was ours.


On the bus to Reñaca, with a world of color and chaos whizzing past us, we made a promise to ourselves to return someday to this beautiful part of the world. Together. We decided what we want to do with our lives, that we are unstoppable, that we really do mean that much to each other.


I won’t even try to explain, because that moment belongs to us, but it was a big deal.


Back in Mendoza, finals came and went like the blink of an eye. Then it was time for me to pack my bags for Buenos Aires…and for the chicas to go our separate ways. Lorri and Ale would be meeting me in BA for a few days, but Lisa was off to Chilean Patagonia for a few weeks of backpacking with her sister. Before we split up, there was one last thing we had to do. There’s a bridge in Parque San Martin, and we closed a love lock around the rail. One key we kept, and the other we tossed into the lake. The lock will remain in Mendoza, one of many tiny symbols of our life there that we left behind, until we return together to reopen it. To end with a bang, we had a party on Lisa’s balcony with the last of our pisco sour from Chile. It ended with us sobbing, of course. Beso’d Lisa goodbye and her tears were on my face. And, because we’re the cheeks, our crying turned to laughter as we made our way down the street back to my house, arms locked.


Separate, but connected.




For all the Chile pictures (because I took approximately TOO MANY of almost anything that held still long enough), look here and here.


  1. Vocabulario


Botilleria – convencience store

Macha – clam

Cabalgatas – horseback riding


  1. VIII.       Previous Posts


1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 


16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 

19. Student Life in Mendoza

20. Trabajo Voluntario

21. San Rafael


Coming Soon:

The Return to BA

Mar del Plata

Goals Revisited

Culture Shock and Life After Study Abroad



Time December 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Leaving the country again?
II. Valparaiso
III. Viña del Mar
IV. Santiago
V. La musica de la semana
VI. El vocabulario de la semana
VII. Links to previous posts
VIII. Coming Soon


I. Leaving the country again?


Last spring, not long after I first decided to come to Mendoza, my roommate, Ranya, chose Valparaiso, Chile, and we made plans to visit each other during our spring breaks. Hers fell first, so Ranya crossed the Andes to come hang with me in Mendoza.


(Ojo –because of the ferriado, holiday, LOTS of people wanted to visit Mendoza, which meant lots of people crossing over to customs, which meant a 3 hour delay from the predicted arrival time.)


I had a great time showing her around “my” city—so reassuring that I understood the crazy mess well enough to explain it to someone else!



Mate in the park.



Also visited the zoo


Then, after Ranya left to briefly explore Buenos Aires, the city of Mendoza had a celebration for Chile’s independence in our Plaza Chile. (Argentines and Chileans LOVE to talk crap about each other, but they secretly love each other.) After sampling some Chilean foods, I was more excited than ever to get out of Argentina for a while.


However, three things made me very nervous about leaving Mendoza:

  1. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of being completely lost and confused by a city again, so soon after I had finally gotten a grasp of Mendoza.
  2. Although I was excited to see my beloved roomie, I was bummed to be traveling without my chicas. Lisa went south to Bariloche while Ale and Lorri went north to Salta, Jujuy, and Tilcara. I didn’t have the chance to travel to any of those places (the time flies so quickly!), but the girls each had a great time and highly recommended their spring break travel destinations.
  3. During Ranya’s visit, I lost my debit card. I had no problem cancelling it and applying for a new one (contacted my mom through Facebook and had her make all those calls for me) but the card wouldn’t arrive for about a week, meaning I’d have no way to get money without Ranya.


Debit card or no debit card, friends or no friends, I was off on a bus to Chile as soon as Ranya came back from BA. The journey got off to an interesting start when we bought snacks for the road…but forgot that you can’t bring things like oranges and nuts across the border. The Chilean aduana mean business, and can you blame them when they export so much food to big buyers like the US? But, at the very least, the view through the Andes was pretty nice, even though it was nighttime. The immense silhouette of the mountains beneath a spread of stars… And when I woke up, Chile was waiting for me.


II. Valparaiso


To get started, here are some hints I picked up while I was there:
-Don’t eat seafood on Mondays (the fresh catch comes in on Tuesday, so whatever’s there Monday has been there all week.)
-For safety reasons, don’t take the stairs at night. Walk up and around the hill or take an ascensor.

Acensores close at 8

-There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE.


That said, I feel so deeply in love with Valpo.

They don’t call it the graffiti capital of Chile for no reason. Everywhere you turn, there’s gorgeous (or sometimes not-so-gorgeous) street art. It’s like a treasure hunt trying to spot it all. The entire city is a giant game of exquisite corpse that the whole city has been playing for years. I was geeking out the entire time. The street art also makes it easy to find your way–lots of landmarks. Which is fortunate because the streets aren’t marked too well once you get off the 5 or so streets that make up the plano (the grid) before the hills start. I found my way mostly by following the shape of the road on the map more than by the street names. You´re gonna feel the stairs in your legs, especially if you’re out at night after the ascensores stop and you have to walk all the way up the hill. (And perhaps that’s why Chileans like to brag that they have the best legs?) But the view from the top of the hill of the city lights over the water at night–to die for.


The buses are also little different than in Mendoza. No bus card—your change is actually useful and necessary here. The buses are also smaller, and there are more of them. The routes and the pick up/drop off points are also more fluid than in Mendoza.


Things I ate:
Cazuela + Pebre + Pisco sour = $8 USD

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Sushi with octopus


Real raw salmon, real wasabi and ginger, real chopsticks handed to me as the default. I struggled with the, (so sad because there are so many Japanese kids at my school!) but stubbornly used them anyway with a fair amount of success. I’m not sure how authentic the addition of queso cremoso (cream cheese) was, but it was all delicious.


Where I stayed:

Hostal la Colombina – $16 USD/night

Not a bad place to stay at all. The owner was actually a porteño—an Argentine!—so it was great to chat with him about “home” because I was missing the Argentine culture badly.

Cooked in the kitchen for dinners to save myself money.




What I did:

Pablo Neruda’s house in Isla Negra. Did not have time to visit the Sebastiana in Valpo itself, oops. Not too worried because I’ve heard it’s the least nice of his three houses. Left in the early AM, came back in time for a late lunch.


Open-air mural museum: neat but not as neat as most of the amateur art scattered around the city.


But by far my favorite part was simply wandering around and getting to know Valpo.

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I’ve literally got too many pictures to upload on my poor wimpy little Argentine internet connection, so I’m just going to attach a link to photobucket later. Especially because I went to Chile AGAIN and took even more pictures. I took pictures of anything that held still long enough!


III. Viña del Mar


Felt very much like SoCal to me—very different from Valpo’s chaos and color and grit. More expensive. Nice apartments, big American-style mall. Demonstration of Chile’s economy being on the upward swing…especially in comparison with Argentina. Their clothing is much cheaper than in Mendoza because a) It’s not as expensive to ship from the capital to Valpo/Viña as it is to ship from BA to Mendoza and b) it’s all made in China and the U.S.


Sunset on the beach + chocolate-dipped churros—the ones I see at home don’t have chocolate!! Some stray dogs started a fight near us :(


For more on Valpo and Viña, check out Rachel’s blog with IFSA.  Aside from being quite a nice girl, Rachel’s blog is very informative. She’ll break down everything you’ll need to know about buses, food, the students’ movement, etc.
IV. Santiago


Only an hour and a half from Viña by bus. Super easy to get to. I got lucky because the one day it was rainy and gross in Valpo and Viña, it was sunny and beautiful in Santiago.


Ranya and I took one of several free walking tours of Santiago and had a traqui day seeing a bit of the city. One thing we learned about that I thought was kind of hilarious was Café con pierna (coffee with legs), which is like the Chilean version of Hooters, but with an emphasis on the legs instead of boobs. I told you—Chileans love legs.


Subways—mind-blown. So easy!



Overall, less character than Valpo! Much like any other city in any other country. Then again, I didn’t have time to see too much of it. I was surprised by how clean it was though, or at least the parts I visited!



Mote con huesillo
Similar eating experience to boba/bubble tea, which was awesome because over the summer I downed that stuff like it was air. It was nice to get it back, sort of. It’s peach juice with a dried peach in it and some sort of grain (barley?) at the bottom. Eat it with a spoon. Sugary, cold, and delicious.


Lunch: Caldillo de congrio, inspired by Pablo Neruda! + jugo de chirimoya

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V. La musica de la semana


I’m sorry that all the songs I’ve been linking you to have been in English… but I have a cool story about this one from my trip to Chile.


One night, I started chatting with the owner of the hostel I stayed at, and it turns out he loves Pearl Jam. “One of the best things to come out of your country!” he said. So he whipped out Youtube and pulled out this video.

He pointed to the lead singer. “That’s my shirt,” he said.


“Yup, I see it has the Argentine stripes,” I said. “Why did he decide to wear an Argentine jersey in Spain?”


“No,” he said. “It’s MY shirt. I took it off, threw it onto the stage, and he put it on!”


I stared at him. “Sos un copado!”
VI. El vocabulario de la semana


Chilean Spanish is infamously hard to understand, not only because it’s very fast and mumbly but because it’s got its own, weird slang. Armed with these words, you’ll be able to survive in Chile no problem.


Huevon – You’ll hear this word in Mendoza a lot too, but it’s more Chilean. It’s also very crude—don’t say this to any delicate old church ladies! It’s basically like saying BALLS in English.
Cachai – You know? / Get it?

Po – Doesn’t actually mean anything. (Though a Chilean girl I know back home said that it refers to an indigenous word for “the people.”)  It’s used as a filler, to emphasize, and to further confuse non-native Spanish speakers.

Caldillo – chowder, no to be confused with caudillo, chief.

Chascona – woman with messy hair

Bacán = copado/a

Taco – In Mexico it’s food, in Argentina it’s the heel of a shoe, and in Chile it’s a traffic jam. (In Guatemala Chinese tacos = eggrolls. In Argentina Chinese tacos are wedges. As far as I know, Chile doesn’t have Chinese traffic jams, but maybe I wasn’t there long enough to find out.)

Colectivo – In Argentina, this is just another word for bus. Not the case in Chile. Only micro refers to buses in Chile, and colectivos are collective taxis. There are also regular taxis, which are hardly used in comparison to the taxis in Mendoza.
VII. Links to previous posts


1. Antes de que me voy  Before I Leave 

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 


VIII. Coming Soon


The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The split up and the return to BA



adventures during semana santa

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

This post is way long over due, but better something than nothing! 😀

During Semana Santa (March 30th-April 7th), some friends and I headed to Chile, where I had one of the most enjoyable and relaxing vacations of my life! I was obviously excited for the trip, but I had no idea how much fun I would have in Chile.  I learned so much from the culture, met incredible people, indulged in delicious food (seafood and sushi, YUM), and loved every minute of it. Everyone studying abroad in Argentina should head on over to Chile! Luckily for us in Mendoza, it’s only a 5-6 hour bus ride with some amazing views 😉

so many curves while crossing the andes

view from the bus ride

We spent two days in Santiago, trekking through the metro (and getting shoved in the process, there were a lot more people that weekend particularly because of the music festival), frequently treating ourselves to delicious gelato after long walks in Santa Lucia, trying pancho con palta + mote (national drink of Chile with peaches and rice, very sweet!), constantly buying water (urgh, that was annoying) and admiring the street art and architecture. The style of the buildings was something I noticed immediately. First off, it was very different from Mendoza, and second, the architecture reminded me of….Spain. I couldn’t really place a finger on it. The vibe of the city was also hard to characterize. There were many, many tourists and it was a relatively busy city, yet, the palm trees, artists casually sketching the scenery, and the local people sauntering by just gave Santiago a chill, sleepy vibe.

pancho con palta

architecture in the square


central administration

horses and police were everywhere!

so much color compared to mendoza

street art!

indulging in some delicious helado!

pretending we were at lolla

at the top of santa lucia

view from santa lucia

busy church for easter

After Santiago, we took a two hour bus to Vina del Mar. I was so taken back by the scenery during the ride! But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about/get sick of the scenery here. Everything is just too beautiful :)

For the rest of the week, we walked around Vina then took a metro to Valparaiso (the transportation was so convenient!).  I was absolutely in love with these two cities…..we took the elevator to go up the steep hill so we could explore the fun, colorful houses that were stacked up on the hills. And of course, once we were at the top, the view was amazing. I could see the ships near the port, some people lounging by the ocean, and the stray dogs aimlessly sauntering in the streets…..I particularly liked the view from Pablo Neruda’s house. He could see everything from his room!

beach at vina

reloj de flores


houses along the beach

steep neighborhood

a sunny day in vina

The street art is another story. Calling it “graffiti” simply doesn’t do justice to the talent of the work. Walking around in Valparaiso was like receiving tickets to a free art exhibition.

Although I was in Chile for only a week, I feel like I got an authentic essence of the three cities I visited. Vina and Valpo, in particular, were two places that didn’t seem to be engineered toward tourists and so, I felt like I was exploring the true culture and dynamic of the city. I loved being able to talk to the people on the streets, striking up a conversation about various Chileans wines with a friendly man at the supermercado, and learning about the ascensors (elevators) from a nice woman while we we were waiting to go up to the cerros (hills). Needless to say, it was hard for us to leave.

favorite street art

piano stairs

colorful houses in valpo

valpo, the port city

another fave!

steep ride up

I was particularly drawn to Valparaiso. It felt like the people in Valpo really knew how to utilize every inch of space given to them! Every wall was adorned intricately and each building had its own character. The houses are all neatly  stacked on the mountains, with each cerro (hill) having a different reputation. Nothing was uniform in terms of design, but in the sense of aesthetic appeal, the buildings provided the eye with a homogenous pattern of colorful splashes of beauty. It was similar to Vina….yet I loved Valpo more. I felt as if I was walking into someone’s home, exploring their lifestyle and trying to adopt their habits as my own and make myself familiar with their ways. Everything was set in its original, functioning place and nothing was altered for the benefit of tourists. It was ridiculously convenient to hop on the metro from Vina to arrive in Valpo within minutes. I loved the transformation from a cool, unique port city into a crazy wild scene at night. Oh, Valpo.

I loved striking conversations with vendors, having people approach me out of genuine curiosity while I was waiting for a friend at the plaza, befriend other travelers, and walk up and down the long, steep hills (and award myself with delicious gelato after). The people here get their exercise (RIDICULOUSLY long stairs with many steps)!!! We took a free walking tour (I believe it was called Tours for Tips, there is also one in Santiago as well!) and we learned so much about the city! As we walked up and down the hills, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the tourists “touring” the city on a bus; walking is the only way to get a real feel for the city! We passed by so many beautiful artwork (free exhibition!), got to talk to locals and eat some delicious cookies and swig some pisco sours. Not to mention, we met awesome Europeans on the tour, and we all went for DELICIOUS (and cheap) sushi afterward. Ahh. I’d missed sushi. In Mendoza, sushi/seafood is expensive, not THAT delicious, and I had to pay for chopsticks! Grr. The delicious and cheap seafood is something I’ll miss! It is truly a unique port city tucked away, and I could feel the immigrants’ presence from years before.

orgasmic sushi

Before we left, my friend and I deemed the one cent peso (un peso) cute, and thought it’d be a cute idea to give them away as souvenirs. (Maybe punch a hole in it to make a bracelet or keychain?) But since it is of so little value and rarely in use, we had a hard time finding a store that had those pesos. Strangely enough, a male cashier in a lingerie store ended up being able to trade 10 pesos for the ones we wanted. He thought our idea was funny.

slanted :)

so much valpo pride

color splashes

pablo neruda's house

Things we did not anticipate: the unreliability of buses. As it was getting closer for us to leave, I realized that I wanted to stay a little bit longer. But since we bought all of our tickets in advance (Vina–>Santiago–>Mendoza), I decided to just go along with the original plan. This was mistake #1. To my future self: make hostel reservations in advance, but if possible, buy tickets at the terminal of the destination once I have a better idea of dates/how much longer I want to stay. Because in reality, you meet friends and encounter places you want to spend more time exploring. Mistake #2 happened when the bus was 40-60 minutes late. Hence, we missed our bus from Santiago to Mendoza, and had to spend the night in Santiago. We also had to buy another set of tickets because the offices weren’t open early enough, and we didn’t want to risk waiting any longer. Luckily, the tickets were cheap, but this mistake could have been avoided. To my future self: don’t buy bus tickets in advance; be flexible with travel plans!!

On our way to Chile, we traveled at night, so I was comfortably asleep for most of the ride and the entry process was very efficient and quick, as there weren’t too many travelers. But since we were returning to Argentina during the weekend, amidst the peak traveling time, we ended up waiting at the border for three hours. I mean… didn’t feel that long, though. We made friends with the people (only four of us on the bus, haha) and was asked the popular question, “do you like Chile, or Argentina, better?”  😀 We waited a long time because the entry process consists of a bus driver registering every passenger on his bus. Lots of buses=lots of people=long time. But eventually, we got through and it wasn’t too bad, like I said. The mountains were breathtaking and we mostly sat around and relaxed.

vina, night time

I couldn’t  help but feel jealous of the many European students we met along the way, who were traveling the continent by themselves.  The freedom! The adventure! But then again, it’s wonderful to be back in Mendoza, and I’ll be going to Peru in two weeks!






Time June 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Remember that time I got a chocopanda (mullet) in Chile? Well, now you won’t forget. I took some footage of the event and made tiny production out of it. Hopefully you enjoy it. The process was definitely a great distraction from my neglected homework. June in Chile= finals month, so it was a much needed study break.


p.s. In hindsight, eating potato chips while getting your haircut is a bad idea

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The last day as an American

Time February 22nd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The day before I leave for Viña del Mar and Valparaíso Chile! Feel free to leave comments

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