The GoGlobal Blog

Month: April 2014

A Few Study Abroad Questions

A Few Study Abroad Questions

The realization that my time in Madrid ends in three weeks almost brings me to tears. I have learned so much about myself in this city and I have met many amazing people. It will be so difficult to leave! I have been receiving a lot of questions lately from students who are considering studying abroad. I decided to put together some of their questions. You can find the questions/responses below.

Do you interact with the students in your program?

  • Yes! They have become my family. All of my classes are with USAC students.

How many Spanish classes are you taking?

  • I am in Track III and taking two elective courses. The History of Spain through Cinema class is in Spanish and the History of Flamenco class is in English. This schedule has worked out well for me.

Have you seen improvements in your Spanish?

  • I do not speak as much Spanish as I would like. There are some days where I realize that I have not had a conversation in Spanish outside of school. USAC offers suggestions for getting more involved in the Spanish culture. Many students, including myself, have English tutoring positions. This has been a great way for me to build a relationship with a family in Spain and earn a little extra spending money. There are also volunteer opportunities and internships.

Is it easy to understand the Spanish spoken in Madrid?

  • I still struggling understanding the Madrileños. They speak extremely fast and do not enunciate their words. I have an easier time understanding people from South and Central America.

Are you living in an apartment or homestay?

  • I am living in an apartment with one roommate. Originally, I had two roommates, but things did not work out with one of the girls.

Are you happy living in an apartment or do you wish you had chosen a homestay?

  • I have been very happy with my living situation (ever since the crazy roommate left). There are days I wish I had chosen a homestay, so I could build a relationship with a family in Spain and practice my Spanish more. With that said, there are some people in my program who are not happy in there homestay. So, I don’t know! I think it depends on who your roommates are or what type of family you are placed with.

What are your thoughts on Madrid as a Study Abroad city?

  • Madrid has been the perfect place for my study abroad experience. There is so much to do in Madrid. There are great museums, parks, restaurants and nightlife. I have also felt very safe in Madrid.


Abandonment, Ice Cream, and Avatar

Abandonment, Ice Cream, and Avatar

I have never been one for extravagant spring break plans. Usually, they consist of coming home from college and preceding to engorge myself with all the food in the house while watching Netflix for the whole week. So, when I realized I was going to be spending my break this year not fighting Mother Nature and her apoplectic blizzards but traversing across Europe, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle myself. Overall, there were ups, there were downs, laughter, and an inordinate amount of bread (as if anything else could be expected).

We started off our trip in the City of Romance, Paris mon vieux ami, where I attempted to use my 4 years of French knowledge to navigate, only to realize that my lack of ability to form coherent sentences isn’t simply restricted to English. Word for the wise, Paris isn’t a city easily tackled in two days and the weather channel is a liar. What was expected to be a wet weekend of soggy shoes and frizzy hair turned into lovely days of sun and a ridiculous amount of walking. Naturally we saw all the sites that are usually pasted on the cover of a travel guide (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Versailles, etc). All of which were made more enjoyable by my roommate who’s knowledge of French history is more extensive than any history class I have yet taken, especially when it comes to the French Revolution and Napoleon (she about had a heart attack when we went to Les Invalides to see his tomb). This same roommate has also sparked a daily and insatiable need for ice cream and Paris was no exception to our addiction. The blueberry and raspberry combination that graced my taste buds almost brought me to tears and its deliciousness is only rivaled with the lavender and violet duo from Nice. France has raised the bar on the dessert game and now everything else I try is sub par at best.

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The Mona Lisa was definitely not the best part of the Louvre. I stumbled upon my favorite mannerist paintings called the Four Seasons representing winter, spring, summer, and fall.

We left Paris to head to the south of France, which proved to be in adventure in more ways than one. First of all, traveling by high speed train through the French countryside proved to be one of the most memorable experiences of the semester. The sun shone on the rolling green hills while I stared out the window listening to my classical music playlist. Classy? Check. Kind of nerdy? Double check. Am I abashed? Absolutely not. However, the peacefulness I acquired on the train ride shattered when I stepped into the station. At first glance, I noticed my roommates were not on the train platform. After walking around the entire station, I realized my roommates weren’t in Avignon at all. Commence panic. I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was something along the lines of, “I bet they slept through our stop”. Eventually, thanks to my good friends Facebook and wi- fi, we were reunited (cue Peaches and Herb). There was laughter, tears, and I was pretty happy to see them, too.

The sunny afternoon we spent in Avignon turned out to be perfectly lovely (despite the violent gusts of wind that made a good hair day impossible) once we got ourselves together. Compared to Paris, the South of France’s quaint and peaceful atmosphere provided a much needed relief from the hustle and bustle of every other European city I’ve been too. French people mull about, carrying on with their French lives with an air of ease that made me wish I could live my life in such a way. Nice, however, made me feel as if I had to rethink my view on life. As my mother can attest, I was the girl who despised the beach and everything for which it stood. The sun, the heat, the water, the sand… I would rather stay inside the air conditioned hotel room reading Harry Potter than spend two hours outside on the oceanfront. Or outside in general. I arrived to Nice with the same mentality, thinking one short day would be plenty in an area renowned for it’s Mediterranean coast and vacation spot. Upon waking up and walking outside the our hotel door I was hit with the realization that I was dead wrong. My feeble words are unable to describe the blue of the sea under a cloudless sky or the waterfall on top of the panoramic hill, which overlooked the whole city and its rocky beach. Perhaps 65- 70 degree weather is what I need to enjoy the outdoors but nevertheless, my heart was torn when we left Nice and the South of France behind for our next destination, Spain.

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They say a picture is worth 1,000 words so I hope this one will do in explaining the perfection and beauty of Nice.

When I think of Barcelona the first thing that pops into my head is usually David Tennant as the brand new 10th Doctor going, “Hello! Hmm… new teeth… that’s weird… anyway. Where was I? Oh, that’s right! Barcelona!” (I should probably mention he was talking about the planet, not the city). After a week it’s safe to say that Doctor Who is no longer my primary thought when this Spanish city is mentioned. Now, I think of Gaudí, the genius architect who’s crowning achievement (La Sagrada Familia) is still under construction after 130 years, or the Vespas that lined every street for blocks, and my two crazy roommates who got in the Mediterranean in 60 degree weather. Also, fun fact, there’s a bridge in Barcelona that you’re supposed to walk under backwards while making a wish, which supposedly will come true (I’m starting to think this is poppycock since Benedict Cumberbatch has yet to show up on my doorstep with a ring and a marriage proposal). The five days we spent in Spain was the longest we’d spent in one city so naturally this means naps were a daily occurrence. For me, however, I brought my laptop on spring break under the impression I was going to do work, but instead I watched the last half of season one and the entirety of season two of Avatar: the Last Airbender while my roommates recuperated from our hectic days of sightseeing. This situation gives you, dear reader, a look into my priorities. My favorite meals during this week consisted of visiting La Boqueria market everyday and wandering through the numerous stands of brightly colored fruits, smoothies, meat pies, fresh seafood, legs of ham, and trying to control the urge to buy seven of everything each time we stopped at a station. In an attempt to be adventurous I also tried a whole mini squid from my roommate’s seafood paella, although looking at it on the fork gave me the willies. Conclusion, swallowing tiny squid tentacles is a mental feat as well as physical and there’s a reason I don’t regularly consume small creatures.

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La Sagrada Familia, although still being worked on, is already massive and I can only imagine what it will look like when it is finally finished.

I doubt my spring next year (or the year after that, or the year after that) will be quite as exciting as the one I just experienced but I am hopeful for the future. All I desire is to return to Nice and lie on the rocks and listen to waves of the sea against the shore and feel the cool breeze. Now back to the wonderful city of Prague, which I love and dearly missed.




A Sweet Internship

A Sweet Internship

I’m just about to start my fourth week of class. Man, does time go by fast. I arrived in Santiago on January 10 and have completed almost three months since then. All the other students and I are talking about it – we’re at the halfway point. While that’s a little sad to talk about, I still have three months here that I will take full advantage of.

Unfortunately, my classes have been just okay. From what I gathered, the professors talk almost the whole class with few questions or comments from the students. Professors usually don’t ask students questions, and therefore the classes can seem to drag on for a long time. Plus, they are a little longer than my classes at Loyola, each session is a minimum of 1 hour and 20 minutes, with my two back-to-back classes lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes apiece. Chile Colonial is definitely my favorite, the professor is very good and the material, including the texts, is very interesting.

I tried out for the basketball team here during la selección and I made the team! We carry 12 players, practice twice a week, and have games once a week. For me, it’s the perfect balance between competitive yet still fun. The coach doesn’t mind if you miss some practices and the players are all very friendly and chill. On Thursday we had our first practice game, losing 46-40. My game is still pretty rusty after not playing organized basketball since high school, but it’s slowly getting better. I would compare the team’s skill level to a varsity basketball team in the States, with less fundamentals. Surprise! I can dunk here! Not sure if it’s because of the elevation, the gym, the hoop, or my athleticism (probably not that one) but it’s nice to throw down lol.

Two weekends ago I went to Curicó with mi amigo chileno Cristofer, who is on the basketball team and another exchange student (because he is not from Santiago). There I stayed with his family, who are very nice, and we went to la Fiesta de Vendimia, a wine-tasting/concert event. For those of you from Independence, I would describe it as a very large Home Days. A bunch of food booths are lined up in the plaza where you can eat, taste wine from the different wineries near Curicó, and listen to music. The main reason I went was because Yandel was singing for free there Saturday night, but it rained and they had to cancel the concert, but the weekend was still fun.

As part of my Poverty and Development class, I volunteer at a local high school and am an English teacher’s assistant every Friday. I’ve now gone twice and so far thoroughly enjoy my time there. Basically I follow around the English teacher, Martin, and help him with anything he needs. This past Friday I graded some quizzes, helped him teach for two classes, and even taught a class alone! The internship is awesome and a lot of fun – it’s great to do something so similar to my minor, English as a Second Language!

Without a doubt, there are some challenging parts to the internship. For example, the school – which is a vocational school, or una técnica – is located in a very poor neighborhood of Santiago, called Cerro Navía Joven. It is also somewhat dangerous there. Due to these factors, the students typically live in poverty, have family issues, and have received poor education before attending Colegio Don Enrique Alvear (that’s the name of the school). The majority of them do not want to learn English, a third of the students listen to music with their headphones during class, and many are disruptive – although there are a handful of role model students in each class. Despite these obstacles, I am determined to teach them the best I can. Although they may not be motivated to study, they enjoy having me in their class and have already asked me a barrage of questions.

Martin has allowed me to make a lesson plan for next week. Still not sure what it will be yet, but I’m hoping to do something interactive with the computer. We are teaching them simple present verb tense right now. Any suggestions?



Las Vacaciones 2 and Orientation

Las Vacaciones 2 and Orientation

I begin where I left off from my last post, so if you haven’t read my Las Vacaciones post definitely do that first and then come back and read this, they go well together.

After taking three ferries and three buses, I finally arrived in La Serena after traveling all the way from Chaiten, Los Lagos (look it up on a map, it’s over 1,500 km)! There I met my friends Dee and Gaby – Dee had been traveling in the south of Chile as well but Gaby went all the way to Argentina and Uruguay. It was great to be with some friends again after heading off solo. We stayed at a hostel that had a real strange vibe to it. Everything was in English and the people there seemed superficial and not that interested in Chile culture. Although we didn’t enjoy these aspects, it was nice to have some warm meals and a bed after camping.

In La Serena we explored the city (the second oldest in Chile behind Santiago!) and went to the beach where I was able to play sand volleyball with some locals. I almost surfed and crossed something off The List, (shout out to the bros) but I choose volleyball instead. We took a boat tour of a few islands in the Pacific, where we saw dolphins, sea lions, penguins and many other sea birds. That was a great time, plus on the bus ride there we saw guacos (similar to llamas) and a pygmy owl. From La Serena we spent a day in Vicuña, where we climbed un sendero, visited the museum of Gabriela Mistral, and where I saw the best stars of my life!

I then took a bus to Andacollo, a mining town near La Serena, by myself and stayed there for two days and one night. I really wish I had more time there, because it was the best part of my whole vacation! On the second day I met a Chilean miner, Lina, who offered to give me a personal tour of how the mining process works with individual miners like himself (not the big mechanized companies). Basically I followed him around for his whole day of work! We entered a mine 30 meters below the ground, extracted rocks from the mine, worked with electric and manual machines to extract gold from the rocks, and then sold the gold for profit! The whole process was incredible! These individual miners do a lot of work – they leave home at 5:30 AM to walk an hour and a half to the mine and don’t return home until 8:00 PM, making only about $60 a day.

I was only with Lina from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM and it felt like a super long day, especially working on the marays (pre-Hispanic Incan machines that break down the rocks and help separate the gold). The gold they extract isn’t a lot, Lina told me they usually get about 3 grams a day (1 gram is worth 15 mil pesos or $30), and then they have to pay for renting the equipment such as the trapiches (electric machines that break down the rocks), marays, and mercury (which help isolates the gold). All in all, it was an amazing, authentic cultural experience that I am so blessed to have been through! Mining is a central part of Chile’s economy and it was great to get to know the process, see the mines, and actually meet a Chilean miner! If I had another day in Andacollo, Lina was going to take me to the big mine of 150 meters, but unfortunately I had to return to Santiago for orientation. If you want a taste of what the mine is like, go on my Facebook and look at my video with Lina titled Mining (he’s also in my profile picture).

I got back to Santiago and jumped into to a week of orientation. There I met the other international students who had recently arrived from Chile. They come from countries such as Brazil, Germany, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Belgium and a few others. Orientation was great because I got to meet a lot of Chileans all at once. I quickly became friends with the first-year history students (who sure like hanging out with a gringo) and the people on the basketball team (which I am trying out for, read about in my next post).

In the beginning I was signed up to take Chile Colonial, América Colonial, Ética, Pobreza y Desarrollo, Chile Independiente II, and Pueblo Mapuche. However after the first two weeks, I was able to cut it down to the first four classes, giving me 18 credits for the semester in all. Again, I’ll talk more about my classes in the next post.

In short, traveling here has been the best experience I’ve had so far in Chile! The people I met, the things I learned, the places I went. I know I’m sounding very clichéd with all of this, but it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. Traveling alone for a period of time was probably the best decision I made on the trip. It’s so much easier to meat locals that way as it forces you to be social and make friends. To anyone looking to go to Chile, I highly recommend Patagonia and Andacollo, they were my two favorite places during mis vacaciones.

As always, if anyone has questions feel free to comment, shoot me an email, or post something on my Facebook (where you can see the pictures of my trip).