I walked into the patient’s room leaving my usual nervousness at the door. I always take a final deep exhale before encountering a new patient, as if to release my body and mind of any stress, fears, worries, and concerns. I know my Spanish is not great, but what I lack in language, I make up for in personality. Read more
Posts from the ‘ELAP℠’ Category
Amanda Arroyo is a student at California Lutheran University and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures blogger corresponding with the Study Abroad Center at Cal Lutheran. Amanda is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Fall 4 program.
When I decided to study abroad, I not only wanted to immerse myself into a new culture but I wanted to get the most out of my experience. I wanted to give back to the community that I was going to be living in. I wanted the most life changing experience. Once I found out about ELAP through ISA, I knew in my heart that that was going to be the only way to get the kind of experience that I wanted.
Katie Thompson is a student at the University of Michigan and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katie is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on the ELAP Summer 8 program.
When your computer gets a virus you wouldn’t mind being home to fix it. When your body gets a virus all you want is to be back home. That’s how I was two weeks out from the end of my stay in Costa Rica: stuck in bed, wanting some chicken noodle soup and my mommy. I’ve been sick abroad twice now, and let me just say, it really sucks. It is with this mindset I entered my final week in San Jose. I felt better, but my head was already back in the States. Then I got out of bed, got out of the house, and Costa Rica made sure I would bawl my eyes out before I left.
The thing about living abroad is there will come a time you feel completely comfortable; a time when you’ve found your groove. You’ll have friends to go out with, you hardly think about how you’re getting around or what you need to do, and life just feels completely normal. Basically, you ingratiate yourself into a new group of friends, a new culture, and a new way of life.
My last week there my coworkers took me out on a “paseo” through the country-side for the whole day. On my last day of work my boss brought me presents and a cake to thank me for the past three months. A couple other coworkers got me small gifts as well. Then, they took me out to dinner and we all went out to karaoke and made fools of ourselves (I should say I made a fool out of myself, my coworker who sang sounded good). I had so many of the people I work with say I could stay with them when I come back to visit that I can’t possibly imagine not doing so.
Not only was I touched by all of this, it made me think about the fact that if I stayed I could do this all the time. You create a new life for yourself, and somehow it is right at the end you realize just what you’ve made, and just what you’re leaving behind. There will always be loose ends, there will always be a change, and there will always be something or someone you’re leaving behind. I’ll accept it; I have to, because I can’t stop here. There is always a new place just along the horizon to explore. My roommate discovered over the last few months that I have a tendency to say “I want to be there,” and point off to some distant, unexplored location. All I have to do now is decide where the next distant, unexplored location is.
Pura vida, mae.
I’m close to wrapping up my trip here and I wanted to leave some advice for places that you should visit if you’re ever in the Viña and Valpo area.
Viña del Mar (and a few others):
1. Calle Valparaíso- start from Teatro Municpal and work your way towards the ocean. You will pass an array of restaurants serving local Chilean cuisine (empanadas, chorrillanas, etc) and local art shops. One place I really recommend is Margarita on Quinta, they’re food is Mexican with a Chilean twist! They also have karaoke :) There is also a dance studio on Calle Valparaíso that offers group classes for all of the local dances: salsa, la cueca, chacha, etc.
2. The mall- This mall is huge! Four floors of every store you can imagine that is also attached to a grocery store. I have also found the Starbucks here that brings me back to home with my non-instant coffee (you either get used to Nescafe or learn to live without coffee here). There are all art shops around the mall on the plaza.
3. Reñaca- okay well this isn’t in Viña del Mar, but you can catch a bus to go there! This is a more touristic place with tons of fresh seafood restaurants and beaches to visit! You will get more of a tourist vibe here but the city is beautiful and worth seeing to do some shopping, eating, and relaxing on the beach.
4. La Campana: this is at the other side of the metro in Limache. This is a must do for any outdoor adventurist! But make sure you plan a full day for this! It takes about 8 hours round trip up and down the mountain. This is a mountain that takes you up about 7 km to the top where you get an amazing view of just country. This is one of the most peaceful and quiet places I’ve been so close to a large city. You are surrounded entirely by nature. This is also physically challenging so there is a way to drive up the mountain too! The first 5 km are not too bad, but the last 2 km to the top be prepared to be crawling up rocks on your hands and knees! By the time you reach the top, you’re looking down on the clouds.
1. Cerro Concepción: Find the little orange cafe with black and white tiles that overlooks all of Valaparaíso! This place is fantastic. Amazing coffee, dinners, desserts, and what a view! This is a frequent visit when I just want to sit back and relax and reflect on that I am actually living here, in Chile, on the ocean.
2. The ascencors in general! They hall have beautiful views and local artwork that lines all of the walls. The stores up there are a little bit more pricey but they seem to be better made products. We had a tour here from the school but it was more fun exploring all the nooks and crannies on my own. There is a ton to discover here for all those art lovers!
3. Puerto- this is the end of the metro and it ends at the harbor. There are again more art shops here and a variety of churros! You can take a boat tour around the shoreline here for really cheap and learn about all of the ships that come in. Make sure you bring a jacket if you go during the winter months, its breezy!
4. Bellavista and Calle Ecuador- this is the heart of Valparaíso with the most activity through the day and night. There are many art vendors here mixed in with every shop that you can imagine. It is also lined with many restaurants and cafes where you can sit down and enjoy Chilean cuisine or a delicious cup of real coffee (a rarity!).
There is so much more than I can explain about these places. They are all filled with cultures and opportunities if you just keep your eyes open. No matter how many times I go back to the same place, I always discover something new!
Kpop, aka Hallyu, has been something that has slowly been gaining attention over seas and that’s what drives many students to gain an interest in Korea… Myself included. So, when it was official that I was going to be going to Seoul for the summer, I scoured the internet and found out who was going to be playing while I was there. And I just happened to get lucky and have some of my favorite groups preforming while in Korea.
To make things simple and much less long, I’ll just tell you all about the differences in Korea Pop concerts and the ones I’m accustomed to at home in the US.
Fangirls. Compared to the girls, and guys, at home, American fans are not nearly as devoted to their groups as they are here. Fans here not only have signs, but also bring their tablets for LED signs, dress up as their favorite band member’s cartoon character, and not to mention the screams going out of their mouths that don’t quite sound human. Fans in Korea are very devoted to their groups, and it shows. If you’re going to a concert just to go, don’t let anyone else know or you’ll get glared at! Also, if you’re in the standing section, get ready to get pushed by little Asian high school girls in a desperate attempt to touch their favorite band member. The Koreans don’t do anything half-hearted when it comes to fan-girling.
Fan Chants. When I went to my first concert here, this really threw my for a loop. I had been vaguely aware of the chanting that the fans do at concerts, but I had no idea how elaborate they were! If you’re going to a Kpop concert, it wouldn’t help to Google the group’s fan chants so you don’t look as silly as I did just standing there with a dumb look on my face as all the fans yelled out things in unison to the members.
Light Sticks. This is my favorite thing about Kpop concerts! It’s very, very common to see the fans in the crowd with light up sticks (think glow-sticks, but with a battery instead of glowing chemicals and the band’s name on it.) I’d say at least 70% of all people in attendance have their light sticks and wave them proudly during the concert. It give the audience a really cool look as well as showing support for the group performing on stage. If you don’t have one of the group light sticks, don’t worry! You can buy them at the concert, either official ones from the company of the group… or cheaper ones from off-brand sellers. Either way, pick one up if you’re going to a show!
Severe Lack of English. This one is really obvious, especially since I’m studying in a country where most of the people don’t speak English, but it was a bizarre thing to me regardless. The groups here, just like any other group, likes to talk to the audience between their songs… except I couldn’t understand a word of it. The group members would ask something to the audience (you could tell by the way their voices went up at the end of the sentence) and I would promptly respond with my loudest “NAE!!!!!” which means yes in Korean. Even though all of the groups we saw are Korean groups and their English isn’t very good for the most part, I was hoping to get a few English sentences out of them. Some groups are better than others with this, but usually the English is left out. So if you’re going to a concert, make friends with a Korean who speaks English so they can help you!
Crazy Ajumma fans. First of all, let me explain Ajumma to you. Ajumma is the Korea equivalent of Mrs. and usually is used for women over the age of 45. I was very, very surprised at home many women my mother’s age were at the concert. I had expected a few parents with their kids, maybe, and then mostly people High School to College aged. But again, I was very wrong. There were Ajumma’s all around us who were just as hardcore fans as the people my age. But watch out, they’re mean! Don’t get in their way or they’ll mow you over on the way to grope their favorite band member.
Length of the Concerts. This was another thing that really surprised me about concerts in Korea. For starters, the concerts I’ve been to have not had starter bands, just the main group who was holding the concert. Each concert is usually two hours longs, filled with solid singing and dancing by the groups. If I was in their position, I would have been practically dead by the time the end of those two hours finally finished. But, each show was awesome, even though I could tell the artists were exhausted. The groups here really care about their fans and really want to give them the best show possible. (And this is often expressed in a song to the fans where the singers will start crying… This actually happens often…)
Overall, my experience with concerts here has been awesome! They’re been far better than I had ever expected and they definitely top the list of my all time favorite concerts.
Below are a few pictures from each of the concerts I went to, a picture of the light sticks I mentioned above, and my little Korean friend that helped me translate at the 2NE1 concert.
I can hardly believe that as of yesterday I’ve been here for one month already! That means I am half way through my journey. I still have so much to learn and I’m running out of time. I’m very excited to stay in the Viña and Valpo area this weekend and have free time to just explore, get lost, and make mistakes.. its the only way to learn! Its always an adventure here.
This past weekend, nine of us traveled to La Serena. If you are going on this trip anytime in the future I highly recommend taking the short journey there. But as always, nothing every goes as planned. As we were leaving for the bus (we always take TurBus), my friend realized she lost her ticket. Turns out here that if you find a bus ticket you can return it back to the station for the money, it doesn’t matter who purchased it. After some headache, the bus driver just told her to get on the bus and we would figure it out as we went. I learned from this experience that is very hard to try and talk in Spanish when you’re frustrated and in a hurry. Luckily it all worked out!
On a lighter note, when we arrive we stayed at the most homey and cozy hostel ever – Hostel al Arbol. The people who ran the hostel were very nice and it was more like a house than a hostel. As you walked in you were greeted with a warm fireplace and smiles from everyone. All of the other travelers in the hostel were from all over and all spoke English. I really enjoyed my time spent talking with them at the table and learning about their lives. Our beds were also AMAZING. The most comfy bed I have every slept in and always warm. We also got free breakfast every morning that consisted of bread (of course), jelly, butter, coffee, and juice. Each of us were served individually by the nicest woman ever, Isabel. Probably the best part about the hostel, we could all sit together, hang out, and watch some American TV shows (That 70′s Show, Friends, etc). You don’t realize how much you’ll miss the simple things like this until they’re given back to you!
On our second day in La Serena, we went to a place to learn how Pisco was made. It was interesting because I didn’t know that it originates from wine and turns in to pisco after going through a fermentation process. After our Pisco tour we went on the most amazing tour ever- we went horseback riding through the mountainous Pisco Elqui. This was unlike any other horseback riding tour I’ve ever been it. We rode for almost three hours and the guide let us just take free reign of the desert; “You see this desert, its all yours”. Since I previously had horseback riding experience I truly enjoyed being back in the saddle and being able to enjoy myself and get to know the Chilean horses. If anyone is going to La Serena, look up Mundo Caballo and look for Marcelo! He really knows his horses and is passionate about what he does.
The last day that we were in La Serena we took a tour to Isla Damas. I realized how much faith we put in the people here and how different their culture here. Everyone here is much more patient and welcoming than in the states. Our tour guide picked us up from our hostel and took us on the tour but also showed us parts of his personal life. On our way to the marina (about a two hour drive from the hostel), he pointed out all of the different wildlife around that area. We even stopped to watch some men herd about two hundred goats up the mountain side! We also saw llama/deer type animals and donkeys on our way. When we arrived to the marina and saw the boats we were all a little bit scared of taking them on ocean. I don’t know what I was imagining that we would be taking to Isla Damas, but we ended up in what I would call an over sized wooden canoe. On our route to Isla Damas, we were able to see the dolphins, penguins, native birds, sea lions, and otters! The tour guides were very knowledgeable about all of the animals. They even had a “flute” that the dolphins would respond to and come closer to the boats. On our way back, our tour guide took us to a lady’s house that grows olives. She sells these olives and also makes homemade olive oil. It was a little house in a small town that without being with a native, we would have never known about. Even though I did not try the olives (not a fan), everyone else said that they were the best olives that they ever had. Although it was a bit cold this day, it was still an amazing experience I will never forget.
Overall, La Serena was beautiful and I got to spend more time with the friends I made here. I would love to travel again to another city to get to know more of Chile but I am also excited to get to spend time here with my host family. Until next time – besos.
In only a few short days, I will be back in the United States after eight and a half weeks of living and volunteering in Cusco, Peru! I am quite excited to return to the US, but some things will be difficult to leave here in South America. Easily, the thing that will be the most difficult will be leaving my host family.
Naturally, I was quite nervous and yes, even scared, to live with a new family that I did not know at all and who all spoke a different first language than me. Would I get along with them? Were we going to be friends? Was I going to feel included and happy living there? Would I fit in? It was one of my biggest preoccupations about studying abroad, regardless where I went in the world.
Well now, fast forward two months to a few days prior to heading back to the United States, and I can’t believe that they’re not coming with me! My host family has been one of the best things about Peru, hands down. When I was sick, my host mom took care of me and made me some really yummy soup :) When I told my host sister that I was really bad at reading things in Spanish out loud, she happily sat each night when we had time to listen to me struggle through “Harry Potter.” On Sundays, our whole family hops in the car and eats together, and when my host mom is out for a bit, my two and a half year old sister comes to find me and sit on my lap until mom returns. My host family has been the best that I could ever ask for in the whole wide world, and I can’t believe they won’t be coming with me to the States.
Luckily, I know that we’ll keep in touch. We’ve talked about having my Peruvian family come to visit my Minnesota family sometime soon, and I promised my host mom that I would for sure send her an invitation when I got married! It’s so nice to know that I am loved here, and I (and my Minnesota family) appreciate it more than they will ever know. Thank you, host family!!
Noraebang is very, very popular in South Korea. This past week I finally got to experience the magic that is a Korean Noraebang. A few Korean students brought some of my friends and I out to a Noraebang on Thursday evening. The easiest definition of a Noraebang would be Karaoke, but let me tell you that it’s way more awesome than just Karaoke.
Norae is equivalent to song or singing and bang is the Korean word for room. So if that doesn’t tell you what it is, here’s a little more explanation. There are millions of Noraebangs in Korea, and especially Seoul. It’s a popular place to go after clubbing once the subways have shut down, or to go on an evening with friends. A Noraebang is a room that you rent out, and depending on the place you go, there can be a bar within the Noraebang. Sometimes there are also costumes and tambourines that you can use while in the room as well.
Just like Karaoke, you pick out as many songs as you like and then sing your little heart out. You pay for the Noraebang room by the hour, so it’s best to have a few songs in mind when you get there so you don’t waste any time looking for what to sing. They have songs in Korean, Japanese, Cantonese, English, and a few songs in Spanish, so you’re likely to find at least something you know.
I decided to show off to my new Korean friends, and picked as many K-pop (Korean Pop) songs that I could. We sang 2ne1, Secret, SHINee, Big Bang, and a slew of other Koreans songs as well as Spice Girls, Green Day, and a few other English artists. The only hard part about Noraebang is the Korean. We were lucky and had native speakers with us to help us out, but I for sure would have struggled if they weren’t there to show us how everything worked. My other downfall were the K-pop songs I picked. Not speaking Korean made it hard to sing along with my favorite songs, but I belted out the English (and often times Engrish, which is poor English) phrases that appeared in the songs and then mumbled my way through the Korean parts. All the Korean parts of the songs were in Hangul, so I could have eventually read them, but the songs would have had to been slowed down by 500% for me to effectively do so!
Overall, my Noraebang experience was awesome! It has all the fun of Karaoke, but not so much of the awkwardness of being in front of a crowd. I will definitely be going again and again while I stay in Korea! Here are a few pictures from the Noraebang we went too. But since the Noraebangs aren’t usually well-lit since they have cool club-like lights instead, many of my pictures were too dark to post. There is a picture of all of the students I went with, a shot of us and the Noraebang, and then finally, myself singing a song.
Katie Thompson is a student at the University of Michigan and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katie is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on the ELAP Summer 8 program.
1. Canyoning in La Fortuna
You rappel down waterfalls. Really that should explain it all, but if you’re not convinced here’s a little more: They hook your harness up, turn you around, and you have no other option but to take a leap of faith. It feels like you’re flying and falling and swimming (due to the waterfalls) at the same time.
2. Canopy in Monteverde
This is the zip-lining you’ve heard about if you’ve researched anything on Costa Rica. You zip from platform to platform through the forest and over tree-covered mountains. As if that weren’t enough, you can also “Superman”, meaning you lay flat for one zip-line and truly feel as though you’re flying. Finally, you do the Tarzan Swing…where you jump off a platform, free fall, then swing back and forth like, well, Tarzan. Even if you scream bloody murder you’ll want to do it again right away (a…friend…told me).
3. Swim under a waterfall in La Fortuna
It would be worth the hike down just to see the waterfall; a fountain of white water springs from more greens than you think can possibly exist, and somehow the pool at the base of the waterfall is both turquoise and clear at the same time. You can actually get in the water at the base of the waterfall too, though! You can’t swim close enough to the waterfall for it to hurt you, and while you’re swimming below a waterfall you won’t believe this is real life.
4. Stand a Foot Away from a Monkey in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio is a natural park with forests along the Pacific Coast. Not only are the beaches in the park gorgeous, but you can see tons of animals in the forest. When I went I saw a sloth and her baby up close as well as a monkey a foot away from me. Calm waters perfect for swimming, and monkeys jumping over your head, what’s not to like?
5. Eat Termites on the Caribbean Coast
The Caribbean coast is chill and when you get in the water it feels as though you’re stepping into a bath. So you should be relaxed enough to try some termites when your snorkeling guide asks if you want some. They taste like mint and bragging rights.
6. Climb Trees with Monkeys
Monkeys appear on the list again! First of all, the tree you must climb is a Strangle Fig, which is a tree that criss-crosses over another tree and eventually kills it, allowing you to climb inside a tree. Not only can you climb all the way to the tree-tops with this type of tree, you just might get lucky enough to do so when all sorts of monkeys are jumping around the trees by you. The tree I went to was in Monteverde.
7. Hike Through a Fairytale Forest to See a Volcano
Visiting Volcán Poas is a half-day trip well worth the stop. The forest around the volcano is mossy, green, and gnarled; basically where you would expect any fairytale to take place. The volcano itself isn’t the classic volcano you generally imagine, but it has a green lake at its center and is still smoking, so it’s really cool (even with the rotten egg smell of sulfur).
8. Dance with Guys Who Know How to Do More than Grind
Sure, there are guys back home who can dance, but in general, if you go out to clubs or bars you’re only going to get grinding-like music and dancing. Here guys will twirl you around on the dance floor to salsa, meringue, bachata, etc. And, if you’re a guy, you can learn how to do all these moves…it’ll go a long way! Take some dance classes and hit the discotecas!
9. Drink Batidos on a Hot Day
While the temperature might not rise too high, the humidity will make you feel like you’re dying. The best medicine is a Batido, which is basically a smoothie. They have Batido shops everywhere here, and all they do is throw fruit and ice in a blender, but somehow it’s amazing. I don’t know how I never considered this option before! You can also add ice cream to the mix, which tastes amazing.
10. Relax Under a Palm Tree on the Beach
White sand + clear water + shade from a palm tree = contentment.
If you’re interested in more you can check out my personal blog at https://katieslog.wordpress.com.
Right around the corner from my host family’s house, there is a marvelous little bakery that is the best spot in the whole wide world!
La Basílica has the most amazing munchies that are fresh baked daily. In addition to fantastic pastries, muffins, cakes, breads, sandwiches, drinks, ice cream, and funsies much the same, it is a wonderful spot to meet up with friends and chat about the day. It is conveniently located near three different host houses, and as all the other ISA people living around here are attending summer classes, it is a great spot for us to meet and catch up.
That is one thing that I really appreciate. Here, as a volunteer, I operate very independently. On one hand, this is great! I get to practice my Spanish individually and thoroughly at my placement, choose how to spend my free time, and from there, explore what the city of Cuzco (fun fact: there is no official spelling of the city’s name! It can be Cusco, Cuzco, Qusqu, or Qusqo in order to honor the Inca and Spanish heritages) has to offer! On the other hand, at times, it is hard to spend time with the other ISA students because they are in class while I’m volunteering. Luckily, ISA has helped to solve that problem, planning fun get-togethers, excursions and adventures throughout our stay! Another easy set of solutions is to make a Facebook group of all the people in the destination city, and to exchange phone numbers once you get a phone. Sounds simple, but it really helps!
Volunteering in a foreign country is a really unique opportunity. I am currently volunteering at El Jardín de Niños de San Cristobal, a school for kids from ages four to five. It is so fun to go everyday, because each day brings something completely new. I get to learn a lot about the different teaching techniques from this culture as compared to American culture, and I also get to learn about the different types of lives the kids lead. Also, it’s really convenient to be working in a school – it’s a great way to brush up on beginning Spanish! ;)
Well, that’s all I have for now – Peruvian life calls!