Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The News Atenas, Costa Rica (CS)

For this blog I chose to focus on a local newspaper written in Spanish and website new source called the Tico Times written in English. I tried to follow the news every night between February 27th and March 4th. The Tico Times has a Facebook page that I followed and so getting updates from them every day was straight forward and simple. However, the newspaper is usually brought over by one of the guards before dinner and there were a couple nights where the paper either wasn't brought over or someone else had taken it home with them so I wasn't able to read it every night. Also because it was written in Spanish I often only skimmed the headlines and had another student who had a better grasp on Spanish help me read an article or two so I was never able to read the whole newspaper. That being said I still felt as though I understood enough to get a grasp of what types of reports were written.

Both the Tico Times and the newspaper placed a high emphasize on sports, the environment, and occasionally politics. Most nights the front page of the newspaper was covering a fútbol game that had just happened. Then the side panels were usually dedicated to laws that had been passed or elections. The Tico Times similarly had articles about sports but the majority of the articles were written about laws being passed or lighthearted stories about festivals or events happening around Costa Rica. The Tico Times definitely had a more global focus, likely because it is aimed at English speaking expats who live in Costa Rica. Many of the articles on the website involved events or politics in the U.S, Brazil, and Nicaragua. One article was written only about the U.S presidential primaries. Both sources seem to have almost daily articles about the Zika Virus.

Both of the news sources seem to have an overall optimistic feeling. I feel as though often news outlets in the U.S highlight negative things happening in the U.S and around the world. Costa Rica news however seems to be more evenly balanced, they don't ignore when bad things happen in Costa Rica but the headlines also seem more factual and less sensationalized when they are reporting on a death, or a natural disaster, or really anything particularly negative. I would say that U.S news and Costa Rica news are pretty equally prideful of their own countries. Something about the local newspaper did seem a bit more serious than the Tico Times, perhaps because the local newspaper didn't run as many human interest stories whereas about a third of the Tico Times articles seemed to be human interest stories. 

Overall U.S news and Costa Rican news didn't seem that different. As a noted earlier Costa Rica news is less sensationalized. As a part of that it also is written in a more straight forward manner so that was they are reporting on is told in a succinct way. It also seems generally more optimistic. However, other than that there doesn't appear to be too many striking differences between the news in the U.S and news in Costa Rica. 

Cultural Identity & Intercultural Communication, Costa Rica (CS)

I had to approach this blog a little differently as all of the students and faculty members in the program are American or have spent an extended amount of time in America. With that in mind I decided to interview Yendry Arguedas, the program coordinator and Graciella one of the cooks on campus. Yendry speaks fluent English so I was able to talk to her on my own and she responded pretty directly to the interview questions. Graciella however, speaks no English so I asked another student who is fluent in Spanish to help translate for me. However, because of the language barrier our interview got a little off track and Graciella spoke more broadly about Americans and the students she’s encountered rather than respond directly to my interview questions. Both of the interviews have been slightly paraphrased for the blog simply because they devolved into conversations and I didn’t write down everything we talked about.
Yendry Arguedas (Program Coordinator)

How do you view America and Americans?

I think Americans are a lot like Costa Ricans, or Costa Ricans are a lot like Americans? Both are friendly, although Costa Ricans are a little friendlier than Americans, and both seem to like to have fun and to talk. Americans aren’t as funny as Costa Ricans, and don’t seem to place as much value on family, not that they don’t love their families, but family has a stronger influence on Costa Ricans. But overall I really like Americans.

What do you base your opinions of American’s on?

I’ve worked this job for many many years and the majority of students who join our program are American. I interact with them daily and spend my time planning trips and accommodations for them so I feel like I have a good idea of what Americans are like. Even before I had this job my family has lived for generations right across from the center (that’s what we call campus) and I’ve seen Americans since I was a little kid. My family used to host students on family host day.

Then ask them to describe you personally and share a story about you.

Yendry hasn’t interacted with just me and didn’t have any specific stories about me. She did describe me though.
You seem quiet, but very kind. You’re always ready to laugh and smile and seem like a good friend.

Did I fit your image of what America and Americans are like and why or why not?

You are a little quieter than most of the Americans I know, but I’ve met Americans like you before. I’ve met a lot of American’s over the years so I think I have a pretty broad perception of what they’re like.

From left to right Trent, Scarlet, and Yendry laughing at lunch 

Graciella (Cook)

As I said earlier Graciella’s interview was more of a conversation where I mostly let her talk about Americans. I had another student Jenny translate for me, so she is referenced in the interview below. Also, since Graciella is the cook at the center and before that had cooked at a restaurant in town that served Costa Rican and American type food she referenced American food a lot while talking about Americans.

What is your perception of Americans?

They’re nice, a little bit more daring than Costa Ricans. Americans are less reserved but also more uptight. They really care about their schedule and about things happening on time. When I worked at the restaurant in town American customers tended to be more concerned about when their food was coming, and if it was coming quickly than any of the Costa Rican customers. I do like that American’s eat a wider variety of foods, although some of them are really strange. Soy Sauce is so salty… why do you like it? And pancakes! They’re so heavy and sweet how can they be good at breakfast? It's more like dessert. Lasagna though is really good, I’m glad I get to make that for the students.

Do I (or Jenny) fit your idea of America or Americans?

She nodded her head here and then did really have anything else to say so I had Jenny ask her if anyone in our group had surprised her. She said Travis (who is the student activities manager and from America) is Costa Rican at heart. He has the Costa Rican sense of humor. She also said we like our juice really sour and doesn’t understand why we don’t add more sugar to it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Obstacles Overcome; Lessons Learned; Now What?: Buenos Aires (LB)

Just because this is my last blog post does not mean that the party is coming to an end. The prompt for this post is exactly the kind of questions I'm prepping myself for when I return to the states: "What’s the most difficult and challenging thing you’ve done while Away? What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome? What’s the most complex problem you’ve solved? What’s your greatest achievement? What skills have been most important to your Away successes?" And I want to be able to say that my journey has been something out of a Julia Robert's movie;  where the average everyday American girl wants a change in her life, so she packs up her things and decide to travel all around south of the Equator and finds herself through silly coincidences and cliche life lessons. But I don't think it has been anything out of a movie. 
I remember being so panicky for the first week. This was the first time in my life that I was truly and completely independent. Of course I figured it would be a great big "fiesta" and I mean it has been. But also it has made me do a lot of thinking about growing up. I had the very naive idea that I was going to return from this trip a 100% changed woman, but I still feel like I am the same Lynsey that I was four months ago, however just with a  better Spanish accent. 
Bonding with a stray dog on a corner in San Pedro 

But thinking back to how I was the first month of the trip, I was terrified and super stressed about things going wrong in my plans. For travelling, I would try to be as accurate and as precise as I could and would have fears of ending up in the wrong place, whether it be missing my flight, getting lost in a taxi, or taking the wrong bus to the other side of the city. In relation, looking at my other blog posts it reminds me of how I spent 85% of my first couple weeks here, lost and glued to our pocket map of Buenos Aires. I was panicky at first, but later realized that everything ended okay, and that it was not as grave as I believed for it to be. Just recently, I got into a taxi in sights of getting home on time, but somehow the taxi driver didn't understand what I said and took me to the other side of town. My fears had been confirmed, to the old Lynsey it would have been the end of the world. But, I laughed. It was going to be all right. Nothing was worth stressing out about, I would eventually make it to class and everything would work out. It would be all right. In comparison, I feel that as of now, I feel I have gained the confidence to be able to accept whatever life throws at me, and just make it apart of the plan.
The grave of Eva Peron 

Of course, my Spanish has improved itself too! During conversations I am seeing less confused faces and hearing less of, "Que?" or "Huh?" I always had confidence in speaking, (those who know me know I love to talk) but I would always feel like people only grabbed 60% of what I was trying to say. I recently talked to the sister of a friend yesterday who was born and raised in Argentina, but moved to Canada and has been there for six years now. She was going through the same thing I was, but reversed. She had been overwhelmed with learning and speaking English (not many people around her speak Spanish) that she was slowly forgetting Spanish. It was a conflict of the brain. I was (and now) am having trouble comprehending things sometimes. I was watching a movie in English (with Spanish subtitles) and I had a mini heart attack in which I could not understand anything that the actors were saying. Also, I am beginning to dream in Spanish. My friend's sister described it as a sort of "limbo" in not belonging in either of the languages. I don't know I feel about it, but I'm nervous about losing my Spanish since I won't be using it as much in Meadville. 
Not many people realize that learning a new language changes your way of thinking. One word in Spanish may not have an exact translation in English. Also, different words are used for different situations. It makes one realize how delicate words are and the choices we make to get across our feelings. Spanish is full of verb tenses, it's difficult to say something at the correct tense that you want to say it. I feel that I have burned conjugating verbs into my brain, but now it's just working on how to work them in smoothly into a conversation. Learning Spanish makes me have more respect for those who are learning English, I wish you all the best.    
"Find people that you can be yourself around."

I have been trying to evade the fact that I am returning home in a month half. It feels surreal, that this semester hasn't happened-- like a dream.  Next year I plan to graduate from Allegheny and be tossed right back into this wide open world.  It makes me sad to not know the next time that I will be down here. However, I have made some amazing friends, learned many tactical skills, and have memories for a lifetime that I will take back with me to the states. But as I stated in the beginning, I still have a month and a half left, and I plan to live it up as much as  I can! Viva Argentina!  
The Bonbonera (Stadium of Boca Juniors) 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Obstacles Overcome; Lessons Learned; Now What?: Buenos Aires (YO)

My third day in BA, my host mom showed me how to get from our apartment to my host site where I take classes in a neighboring section of town. While we were walking she showed me local stores to help me familiarize the neighborhood, the major streets that everybody knows and she even drew me a map in case I forgot anything. We rode the subway for six stops and walked four blocks in order to get to my host site. On our way we passed a lot of large buildings, rush hour traffic and big groups of people all trying to get where they wanted to go. When we made it to the door she gave me a hug and a kiss and told me to be safe. I reassured her and told her I would remember everything! I said, "You don't have to worry, I won't get lost"...I hate being wrong. 

Typical BA apartment

About 8 hours after class and walking to the famous Recoleta Cemetery with some friends which was about 4 miles away from the host site, I decided it was time to go home. Almost all the streets in Buenos Aires are a straight line so I figured there was no way for me to get lost. Well after about 30 minutes I didn't know where I was and I spent another 15 minutes retracing my steps until I finally found the subway station. Unfortunately, the specific line I use was closed because of a protest that was going on. Protests and marches are very common and sometimes unpredictable in the city. However, with this being only my third day in BA I had no clue of what to do in case one were to happen. By this time my host site was closed and I had no way of getting in touch with my host mom. So I decided to sit in a restaurant until I figured out a way to get home. I walked into this large place called La Opera. It sat on the corner of two busy streets called Callao and Corrientes. It was very nice with its white table clothes and high ceilings but comfortable due to its open space and kind staff. While sitting down, it was clear on my face that something was wrong. I was trying hard to keep calm but once I realized there was no bus either that would take me anywhere near my house, I started to worry. By this time I wasn't in the mood to eat anything. All the same I figured it was best that I ordered something since I was going to be sitting there for a while. One of the waiters came over to me and I faintly asked for the rice and tuna.

While I was waiting on the food, I was debating whether or not to ask for help in order to get back home. I know it sounds weird. If you're stranded in the middle of a new city why wouldn't you ask for help? To be honest, I felt scared being at the mercy of other people. I viewed my attributes of being a student from the States, having limited knowledge of the language, being alone and being a woman as too many things that people could take advantage of, all the while being in a different country that I only knew a handful of things about. Ultimately, I believed that if I kept everything bottled up and to myself I would be safer that way. Then as the sun started going down I realized that notion wasn't going to help me either. When the waiter came back with my food I decided to ask him for help. He ended up chatting with me for at least ten minutes, asking me where I was from, what languages I knew. We would go back and forth with him trying to ask things in English and me trying to respond in Spanish. We both laughed at ourselves with neither one of us being masters in each other's native languages. Finally when he asked how long I had been in Buenos Aires and I told him three days, he quickly realized why I needed so much help and was more than happy to oblige. He told me to take any available radio (commercial) taxi on the street (big difference between radio taxis and regular taxis, in short radio taxis are safer - especially for women/especially at night). He said that all of them know the city like the back of their hand and they would take me wherever I needed to go. Would you believe that I still go to that same restaurant, talk to that same waiter and without fail order the same rice and tuna?

BA food is phenomenal but I'd do anything to take its snacks back to the States

This is just one of many good experiences that I've had with the people here. Of course there have been bad ones too but looking back now, it seems as though whenever I needed to be proven wrong about the kindness and understanding of others, specific instances would always present themselves. People everywhere from program coordinators and students at the local university to my host mom and even my friend's Argentine boyfriend, all helped me with problems that I never thought I'd have and taught me things I didn't know I needed to learn.

I have gained a lot of useful skills here such as action planning, interpersonal sensitivity, deep cultural competence and high language proficiency. All of these look good on a résumé but what I gained more importantly are the abilities of being able to rely on other people, asking for help when I need it, not being ashamed of my mistakes, and most importantly not being afraid to embrace love in whatever form it presents itself. Gaining these abilities have been the most difficult and challenging thing I've done while away. I know it may sound like a cliché but it's the truth. The reason I came to Argentina was to become fluent in Spanish, learn about another culture firsthand and fulfill the need I had of proving something to myself. I'm not really sure how to put what that something was into words. Yet overall I know it was about overcoming my fears, insecurities, and doing something crazy like living in another country for almost half a year in order to see that I really could do whatever I set my mind to.

Countryside of Argentina

Saying all this now I realize that this experience in Argentina was just another chapter in my life. It was never about exocitizing a new place or going on a journey of self-revelation as so many people make study abroad out to be. Even though I have changed in some ways, I am still the same in a lot of other ways too. I am still an impatient driver, a perfectionist, the loudest one to laugh in my group of friends and the person you'll catch awake at 4am working somewhere on campus because procrastination is an art that I have mastered. The truth is, is that as people we change all the time. We all go through things that change us and we have to learn about the new person we've become. That's the very nature of life, to have subtle waves of stability along with the ever present undercurrent of change. I could have been anywhere in the world, even home, either way the experiences that I had here needed to happen in order for me to take the next step in my life. Yet as fate would have it they were meant to happen here at this time in my life for a reason. Of course I don't know what that reason is yet, life wouldn't be life if we always knew what was around the corner. Regardless, I feel so accomplished not only because of the goals that I've reached but also because I've learned how to embrace all the things that really do matter to me, how to not worry about things that are trivial or the things that I simply cannot change.                                                                             
Art here is famous for capturing significant moments in history & life 

Going back home in a month and a half seems almost surreal now. Mostly because I still remember all the thoughts and emotions from when I first arrived. Now everything here is so familiar to me, it feels as if I'm caught between the past, present and future. In spite of this, I don't think I have to worry about home feeling unfamiliar when I finally do go back. Everyday here I thought about all the people that I love, how they're doing, what they're up to and if they missed me as much as I missed them. This really hit me when the graduation of my brother and so many of my friends came rolling around and I wasn't there for any of them. On the one hand I was so elated for them that I wanted to cry. On the other hand I was humbled because I saw the people that I love living their lives and all I wanted to do was be there and share in those special moments with them. I use to think that your real home couldn't be more than one place but during that graduation weekend I knew that it didn't matter to me where I was. If I was around the people that I love then I was already home. All of this reflection is sort of eerie though. I remember my grandma saying that there are so many things the dead would tell the living if they could. I was very young so of course I didn't understand why she would say that. Yet now all these things that I'm sharing in a blog post for my college are helping me to genuinely appreciate everything I've learned. As I said before, I'm not sure why I needed to learn these lessons at this exact time in my life. However, coming from my grandma's perspective I think it was time for me to overcome myself as my biggest obstacle. I think it was due time that I started living my life without so much doubt in myself and in other people. A big part of me needed myself to just start living and to not be so afraid to live. 

My friend and me at the famous BA neighborhood of Boca

With that being said, I've shared one of the poems I've written during my time away. I use to write all the time and have been meaning to get back to it for some time, now I finally have. I hope you enjoy.


Obstacles Overcome; Lessons Learned; Now What? - Australia (MCS)

Scuba Diving in the Great Barrier Reef 

       It feels like I just step foot in this country yesterday, and now I am preparing to leave in just a few short weeks. There have been ups and downs, from bearing the heat (I'm a cold weather person), trying to find something to eat in a predominately meat-eating country (I'm a vegetarian), and adjusting to living in student housing that is completely different than what I am used to back at Allegheny (essentially living in a tiny trailer room with no roommates). Maybe those all sounds like negatives, but the experience of adapting to new situations, getting out of my shell to meet people when I couldn't just go across the hall to annoy my neighbors, and trying new things, were all very much positive.

       About 2 weeks after I got approved to study in abroad in Australia in the fall semester, I started to get very, very sick. I missed weeks of classes, played catch-up with assignments all semester, and was constantly feeling stressed about the fact that I would not be able to go abroad as I had originally planned. Thanks to some incredibly supportive family, friends, and doctors, I made it here. The biggest obstacle was finding a doctor here that I could afford and could help me get through my time here. From the time that I stepped foot in Australia on February 4th, I found my worries were unfounded and my health has gradually gotten better. Even though it may have seemed like a terrible idea a few months ago to still go abroad, through the ups and the downs both here and back in America, I was meant to be in Australia this semester.

    Going home will feel different, but I don't think that it will no longer feel like home. Not that I won't miss the friends that I have made and the experiences that I have had here, but while the people I have here are wonderful, the people who have been through thick and thin with me are back in Pennsylvania. I have done things and seen places that aren't even possible in America.  I have become accustomed and comfortable in the wildly dangerous (the bugs + animals) and crazy country of Australia and a part of my heart will always be here. But all things will eventually come to an end.
Coral Reef Geomorphology Field Trip 

Obstacles Overcome; Lessons Learned; Now What?: Australia (MAS)

Well, the last week of classes is nearly over here which means I have 23 days left until I am done with my semester here at James Cook University (final exams are spread out over a two week period) and 39 days until I am back in America.  Honestly, the most difficult thing about my journey abroad was booking my plane tickets home; I am not ready to leave Australia and all of the friends I have made here but I am returning to the States in early July.  I suppose at some point I will have to come to terms with reality and accept that I can't stay in paradise forever.  Yes, it will be nice to see all of my family and friends again, but I don't miss home nearly as much as I thought I would.  

Sunset on Orpheus Island.  The perfect ending to a great weekend away.

My five months abroad have been amazing and more than I ever hoped for.  Many things have changed since my arrival in February, especially my levels of confidence and independence.  I am no longer the little girl afraid to touch every single thing in this country.  For example, my Coral Reef Geomorphology course had a field trip at Orpheus Island a few weekends ago where we had to cover every inch of our bodies if we didn’t want to be stung by jellies during our daily snorkel trips.  Well, I was stung twice but I didn't mind because I was snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef!  I now pick up rocks and shells like nobody's business.  But I have also become a master trip planner as my friends and I typically go somewhere each weekend (trying to make the most out of our time left).  The biggest challenge I'm facing is booking my week and a half long trip to New Zealand coming up in a few weeks!

I have also made major adjustments to my lifestyle making Australia and Uni Hall my home.  I am much more flexible and relaxed in my daily routines.  I realized just how accustomed to the land I've gotten because my brother has been visiting and I've been playing tour guide for the last week.  It's amazing to feel like a local here even though I haven't been here for that long.  Given that it only took a few months for Townsville to feel like home, I think it is very possible to make other places in the world home.  After all, home is where the heart is.

Wallaman Falls - tallest waterfalls in Australia

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Obstacles Overcome; Lessons Learned; Now What?: Buenos Aires (MO)

Las Salina Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina
Leaving Buenos Aires in 2 months is not something that I am looking forward to doing in any type of way. It is becoming very stressful when people in my program, and my host family start talking about when I will be leaving, and when I will be returning to Argentina in the future? There seems to be an urge right now to travel the country lots and to experience as much as possible, because we are all realizing that our time here is limited. Many people have explained to me that when they first arrived it seemed like this semester would take forever, but now that we are rounding the last turn into the home stretch, it seems that nobody is ready for our experience abroad to end.

The beautiful Buenos Aires that is my new "home"
Through having already experienced living in a new culture, learning a completely new language, and learning new customs through my last study abroad experience in Germany, I feel sometimes that my experiences in Argentina have been completely different from those of others who are studying abroad with me. Fortunately my experiences in Argentina and in Germany have been completely different. For this reason there have been a number of obstacles that I have overcome while living in Argentina for the last 3 months. For me, the biggest and most apparent obstacle that I have overcome while living in Buenos Aires was living in an enormous city. Like I mentioned in my first blog post, I am from a very quaint area of upstate New York, and to me Meadville is a city. Therefore living in Buenos Aires is nothing that I could have prepared for, but is definitely something that I have come to love. I am able to access everything very quickly, well okay on argentine time, and have gotten used to knowing how many blocks away something is and the various options of public transportation I have to get there. I have learned to walk quickly on the sidewalk, and to always be cautious of my surrounding while on the subte. Without thinking I am able to get to the subte station, switch my backpack to the front (front-packing is real people), and squish into the most claustrophobic spot of your life in order to get to my classes every morning. I am able to hail and determine what taxi is legit in the middle of the night, and I am able to explain to the taxi driver exactly where I live when he gets lost, like they always do, on their way to my house.

Just a few of the wonderful friends I have made
Of course another large aspect of my study abroad experience that was an obstacle was the language and the accent of a porteño. I am proud to say that I can officially make the "ch" sound without thinking while saying my "y" and "ll" sounds, and I have learned many slang terms that only porteños use. I have gotten used to the speed of the Castellano that is spoken here and I have gotten used to the Italian pronunciation type thing that the porteños have going on when they get really upset. I feel that my drive to conquer porteño Spanish is a skill that really improved my time here in Argentina. I am able to get to know other porteños and share my feelings with my host mother. I am now able to read various news sources from Buenos Aires and understand while people have certain political views. Learning and showing my interest in Castellano has shown to the argentines that I am interested in their culture, and that I want to be here. This has greatly allowed me to connect with them on a different level, than a normal american tourist would. It is a great feeling when I am able to speak to other porteños, and they don't stare at me anymore with that blank face of having no idea what I am saying.

Having read many articles about "reverse culture shock" and having experienced it once before there is no doubt in my mind that it exists. Although it can be quite frightening thinking that what you considered normal in the past is no longer normal, it is actually something that I am looking forward to. I always find it interesting to see the things that I take for granted and to see the things that I forget about being different. I like the idea that my experiences abroad allow me to question how things work, and why things are the way they are back in the States. Reflecting back on my first blog post, all of these aspects of the argentine culture have become normal to be. I know one thing specifically that I will have a hard time not doing is kissing people when I greet them. I have already found myself kissing my american friends here when saying bye and of course that awkward moment when I went in for a kiss when I met Allie's american mother who was here visiting.
Pure happiness in Argentine countryside

I definitely agree with the statement that one can "make the world their home". I believe that it is very possible that a person has multiple different homes and that one can change where they consider their "home" based on where they are living and where they have connections with others, but I think that one's "home" changes. Right now my "home" is in Buenos Aires, but it has been in New York, in Meadville, in Augsburg, and Castrop-Rauxel, Germany. I have made many places my "home" over time and I look forward to creating other "homes". Although my "home" right now is in Argentina, I know that as soon as I step foot back into one of my other "homes", that place will once again will convert to being my "home".