Archive for the ‘Summer Study Abroad’ Category

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Anna: Growing on me…

July 28, 2009

After 2.5 weeks here, I can say that Argentina has really started to grow on me. It helps that the weather has warmed up a bit and I was able to do a little more exploring this past weekend than I had done previously. On Friday night I partied it up like a porteño, making it home at about 5 am (only 15 minutes before our host-sister came in). Saturday I went with a group to the city of Tigre, an river delta area where the majority of the town is located on islands accessible only by boat. Then Sunday I took a long bus ride out into the country to visit an Estancia (a type of ranch) where I rode horses, watched a gaucho show, and was treated to a fabulous dinner served on the lawn of the ranch.

My Spanish skills are also constantly improving and though I am a long LONG way from fluent and can’t even imagine using the language effortlessly, I understand more and am able to express more every day. I still feel like an idiot when I have to ask someone to repeat sentences multiple times, or when I use the wrong word, or completely misunderstand something, but at the same time I am proud of how far I’ve come. That is a really good feeling…

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Kate: Ciao, Roma

July 25, 2009

On Wednesday we did our Made in Italy presentations and then took our final. We were so thankful to be done! Wednesday evening was spent out for our group dinner and I was lucky enough to sit at the end of the table with Tim Gunn. He told us about one of the small Italian villages he lived in when he first moved Italy. He talked about how Italians will never decorate the outside of their houses because they want the glory all to themselves and will decorate the inside. When he moved to this town he bought a small house with a pathway to the church. He remodeled the house and bought all new furniture, and kept one wall exposed with the beautiful 15th century stone it was made from. Anyway when people would visit his house they would say things like “Are you going to finish this wall?” and “Do you like this furniture?” to which Tim Gunn said, “no, I just bought the furniture for the hell of it, yes I liked the furniture!” So then he told us about he purchased an olive tree for the Piazza in which there was a fountain that hadn’t had water running in it for over 30 years. He said old people used to sit on the stone wall and stare at each other because the fountain was so ugly they didn’t look at it. After he had the Piazza cleaned up all the townspeople said it was their idea and had told the mayor years ago to re-landscape it. Needless to say, dinner with Tim Gunn was fabulous.

After dinner the roommates stopped at the Trevi fountain to throw a coin in. We took pictures and enjoyed watching all the interesting people there. Clare and I are pretty sure some Spanish woman took of a video of the two of us talking to one another because she had the camera pointed directly at my face. That will make for an interesting vacation video.

On Thursday we took the train down to Ascea. Micah and I played gin. I lost. I have decided Micah is not a person I want to play gin with for a while. In Ascea we met up with the rest of the group, who all took earlier trains and yet our apartment beat everyone to the beach-that’s right, we have mad skill. We frolicked in the water and then went to the residence to get ready for the night. We discovered we had no hairdryer and 9 girls with very wet hair. Also the power kept going out. We would be trying to put on makeup or do someone’s hair and suddenly there would be no power. Our entire group improvised, but Micah was the winner. Not only did he go on a trip with 9 girls but he also showered and got read, sans contacts, in 4 minutes. I timed him.

The Fashion show in Ascea was super fun. I really liked the designers and was impressed by their talent. These students were between the ages of 19-24, it was very impressive. After the show Gianni turned on Salsa music and we all danced on the beach under the stars. As a group we ran through the water and enjoyed our last night together. We hung out with the models who were very excited to hear we had facebook. On the way home all 10 of us piled in the back of Gianni’s truck, as in the truck bed, and drove back to the hotel. The night had a warm wind and the stars were shining as we rode under a clear midnight sky. It was the perfect ending to our trip.

Friday was spent in the sunshine and saying goodbye to Fabiana, which could be the most difficult thing I have done on this trip. We took the train back to Rome, and had our own couchette. After losing another game of gin to Micah we discovered we could make our couchette into one large bed. It was really fun until some random guy decided to come sit in our couchette. At home we have been cleaning and packing. I sit writing this blog on my bed as the floors dry. We leave for the airport in a few hours and then are off to London. The group flight left a few hours ago and the rest of us are all off going our separate ways.

So from my European adventures what do I recommend? What do I wish I would have done differently

Favorites

  1. Ascea and La Poseidonia beach club
  2. Castello Banfi and Florence
  3. The Frigidarium near Piazza Nuvono in Rome
  4. Salzburg
  5. Prague, and climb up the Astronomical Clock Tower
  6. The Cathedral in Koln
  7. Jersey Boys in London
  8. Trier, Germany. Everything is idyllic
  9. Saint Chapelle in Paris
  10. Our little pizza place next to the Pantheon
  11. Schonbrunn
  12. Versailles

And what would I change?

  1. Italian Regional Trains- just don’t do it.
  2. Frankfurt
  3. Hotel Europa- Frankfurt. Primitive Bathrooms as I believe Clare put it
  4. Living on the 5th floor of an apartment building in Rome with no air conditioning, but it was worth it
  5. the 64 bus at 8:15 in the morning. You will never feel that close to strangers ever again
  6. Culture, Society and Ethics in Modern Italy
  7. The B Line, ok really no metro system is close to The Tube. MIND THE GAP

And that’s all I have for you, but really this trip was everything I could have wished for and more.

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Erica: Artsy field trip

July 23, 2009

Last Tuesday for my Cross-Cultural Communication class we went downtown and visited some art museums.  It was my first time taking a buseta (little bus) and seeing some of the art scene of Merida.  It was really interesting, and I always love walking around downtown.  Though I was disappointed that the solitary pan-flute player wasn’t in the Plaza Bolivar playing Celine Dion or that song from the movie Ghost.

One of the places we stopped was an old church built in the 1800’s that had a bunch of paintings and sculptures from that time.  It smelled old, damp and musky.  Next to the tall windows were little seats built in so young, unmarried women could look out onto the street (though normally there would be some kind of wooden cross-stitched panel so that they could not be seen).  We also stopped at what was formerly some kind of Governor’s Mansion with tons of portraits of former governors of Merida.  My profesora pointed out how each of the plaques below their names showed the years through which they governed.  Pretty much all of them spanned three years, because that’s generally how often they have elections.  However, the dude in power now has been there since 2000, because he is a buddy of Chavez.  And there just haven’t been any new elections organized.  Pretty sketchy if you ask me.  I can’t imagine something like that happening in the U.S.


I won’t be around this weekend because I’m (FINALLY) going to the beach!  We leave tonight and have rented a private bus so I don’t need to be nervous about falling asleep and having my things run off with someone else.  It’s something like a 9-12 hour bus ride, so we’ll be able to wake up and be at or very near the beach.  One of the young english profesoras at VENUSA is organizing it for us, and I’m pretty sure we’re staying at some kind of beach house that is owned by someone at VENUSA.  Also, some kind of boat is included in the cost, so we’ll be able to get off the main beach to visit some islands.  As per usual, I’m pretty fuzzy on the details.  But I make up for it in enthusiasm.
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Anna: Things I’ve learned about BsAs

July 21, 2009
  • The annual rainfall here is something like 4 inches. I think today we got at LEAST that much and this kind of rain does not make porteños or their gutter systems or roofs very happy.
  • Usually the rain is much more of a mist.
  • During a downpour, roofs in even nice building leak.
  • People eat eggs on almost everything… on sandwiches, hard-boiled on pizza, hard-boiled inside pastries, etc. but never for breakfast.
  • Breakfast here consists of coffee or tea and toast, crackers, or these sweet croissants called medialunas that are to die for.
  • There are several Jewish temples, but keeping kosher here must be quite a challenge since meat and cheese (usually together) are huge staples of the diet. Also…
  • Beef may be a strong part of the economy and the pride of Argentina, but ham is their other favorite meat. There are several different varieties of ham flavored snack crackers available at every snack stand and every restaurant has several options of ham-based meals. Bacon is also popular although it’s not crispy and resembles ham more than American bacon.
  • People do not clean up after their dogs here, and there are a lot of them, which means you really need to watch your step.
  • There are TONS of pigeons here, one of which almost pooped on me further lowering them in my opinion. I have grown to loathe pigeons.
  • There are very few controlled intersections so driving and walking is always an adventure.
  • In the intersections that are controlled, they give a yellow light warning when it changes from green to red, but also when it turns from red to green letting people know to get ready to GO and FAST.
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Kate: Let’s play catchup

July 21, 2009

It has been such a long time since I have updated the blog. Since I last left off we have done a plethora of things.

On the 11th Clare and I accompanied her Mom, Dad and brother, Ross, on a 13, even though it turned into about 15.5 hour excursion to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Pompeii was spectacular and I was very excited to see Vesuvius. After Pompeii we drove through the mountains and down to the water on the Amalfi Coast. Little did Clare and I know we would take a boat to the town of Amalfi. Putting two girls who are prone to seasickness on a boat unaware is not always the best idea. But never fear, we survived. The ride back to Rome was a little more difficult though. The three girls who shared our car, driven by our driver Mo (or Don Fabrizio as Clare and I lovingly called him) decided to sing as loud as they could to the cds Mo played. I did not appreciate their singing and Clare did not appreciate the music. It was quite the combination. Anyway 12 hours turned into 15.5 because the three girls were constantly late for all the meeting points, and the Euro-trash mom in the other car decided to get motion sick and vomit. I still don’t understand why our perfectly healthy van had to wait for her, but all in all, it was a great day.

That Sunday Clare and I refused to move except to apply aloe. Our day of rest was much needed.

So since that point what have we done? Well our group did another pub crawl. I have never seen such a large group of people wearing matching t-shirts. I believe we had a school group from Spain with us, I know this because they sang in a large group different Spanish football songs and cheers. There were points in the night where I thought the group was going to get in trouble due to the amount of noise outside of the bars. In Rome you are not supposed to make noise really after 10 pm so I don’t think the residents of the various neighborhoods appreciated it.

We have been working on our marketing project and term papers and studying for our finals like crazy. I don’t believe I did anything remotely worth talking about this past weekend because I was writing. Well I did two fun things in the last 11 days worth writing about.

We saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It was wonderful. After the first viewing we were very critical of the choices of story material and after the second viewing (in leu of writing our papers) we found it to be hilarious. I recommend seeing it. However if you have not seen the previous 5 movies, now is not the time to start. There is too much information missing and you would be dreadfully lost. I’m sorry if I’m the bearer of bad news.

And now here we are, refusing to study for our finals. Clare announced around 7 pm she was not going to study and simply started to watch The Dark Knight. Whatever gets you through the day.

And now I leave you. You will most likely get another update in a few days, perhaps at the end of the trip. Until then, ciao ciao. Baci Baci!

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Anna: La Boca

July 19, 2009

Yesterday we went to the neighborhood of La Boca which is the most colorful and vibrant part of the city surrounded by the worst (and notriously most crime ridden) slums.

The 9 or so blocks that are fit to go down, however, are very interesting. The buildings are painted a variety of bright colors and the pedestrian-only streets are lined with restaurants, shops, and art galleries. In the streets themselves are Tango dancers, Gaucho dancers, and other street performers.


Wandering around the area was the most fun I’ve had exploring the city so far. Even the cold weather and our cab driver’s warnings about the dangers of La Boca didn’t prevent it from being a good day. The restaurants there were a bit on the pricier side for the city but the souvenirs were good prices and there was plenty to do and look at for free.

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Alyssa: On Being Back…

July 19, 2009

I have been back in the United States for two weeks. The feeling is indescribable, but not so much in a good way. As I prepared for my trip, I came across a graph showing the emotions one goes through when planning, experiencing, and returning from a study abroad experience. It began with intense excitement and happiness as one decides to go, then drops a bit during the preparation due to the forms and fees one experiences, then goes up as departure approaches and the program begins, then drops as the frustration of a new place sets in, then up when one gets comfortable and begins to experience the culture, then down when the reality hits that you must leave. After returning your mood elevates as you get to see your family and everyone is happy you are home.

But after that, it drops. It dips down quite quickly as the people around you lose interest in your stories, you have to go back to work, and then come to the reality that you are flat broke in a place that lacks the same interest as your host city did.

That is exactly where I’m at. Suddenly I’m completely alone in my apartment in a city that doesn’t really fascinate me anymore. I feel as if I’m here for my last semester of school and for no other reason. I feel anxious and uneasy with the lack of excitement I had gotten so used to while abroad.

To try and combat these feelings, I plan on purchasing a guide book for the Twin Cities to ease back into the culture here. Although, I need to wait about a month before I get paid for that to happen. I’m trying to stay busy and creative but it’s proving to be quite difficult. It also doesn’t help that I’ve caught another weird and unexplained sickness that won’t seem to go away.

I’m hoping this is all part of the roller-coaster of emotions I’m supposed to experience as part of a study abroad trip and everything will get back to normal. (what’s truly normal at this point, I don’t know.)
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