Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alison in Uruguay!

Dear Reader, 

I have a confession.

I am a mutt. Yes, you read that correctly. I mean a mutt just like your precious pet “Maxi”, the one that you claim is your Poodle-Beagle-Rottweiler mix. You know exactly which one I am referring to. Your dog that has 4 differently sized paws, a mole in the center of his forehead which resembles a third-eye, and one ear pointing straight up while the other practically droops off his head. Please just admit it; you have no clue what breed Maxi actually is. Sometimes you doubt if he is even a dog. 

But I, too, am a mutt with my ancestry. Like many Americans, I claim to be a nice mixture of everything from Scottish and German to British and Irish. At times, when I consider my ancestry, I like to think that maybe, just maybe, a little “Luck of the Irish” was passed through my genes. However, at the beginning of study abroad here in Uruguay, I began to fear that maybe a warped, twisted “luck” was passed down to me instead. 

Now hear me out. I am not being dramatic. I would never be dramatic.

The Hollywood sign of South America. MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay

On my second day in the country, I rode the Montevideo city bus. This simple enough task finally came to an end after taking seven buses, wasting $10, and crying in front of bus full a strangers who had no clue what I was saying. My Spanish speaking abilities had failed me. 

A few days after the “bus incident”, I met the student who would be my flat-mate for the next five months. He had been in Uruguay since the previous semester and knew the town pretty well. Being the sophisticated and generous Brit that he was, he offered to take me for a walk around the city. It was one of the most beautiful, sunny days I have ever seen in my life. Not a single cloud dotted the sky. Not even a hint of gray graced the horizon. Suddenly, like something out of a movie - a horror movie- the sky began to laugh with its hearty thunder before pouring bathtubs full of water on us. “That’s never happened to me here,” he informed me in the most British accent possible. “You must have bad luck.” 

I knew it. 

Cabo Polonio: Most spectacular sea-side town.

Shortly thereafter, over the course of three days, I bought 3 different track phones, each of which broke. In order to replace each phone, I walked the entire city, crossing nearly every major highway.
My Dear Reader, I feel the need to spare you the grim details of my head-LICE infestation.
You don’t need to pity me too badly. (However, I will accept a little bit of pity if you are feeling generous). 

Then, one morning, as if the luck of the Irish had finally tossed a gold coin my way, I rolled out of bed and realized, “I live in South America!” SOUTH AMERICA. As cliché as it sounds, this experience is a dream come true. I had imagined this day since I was 15 years old. All during high school, I talked about one day traveling through South America and perfecting my Spanish speaking abilities. While studying in Montevideo, I’ve adventured up the coast of Uruguay, traversed through Buenos Aires, and will travel to a few more countries before returning to the USA.  It’s hard not to feel unbelievably blessed when I think about this stunning opportunity to see the places I have studied about for nearly five years now. I don’t think I will go home to good Ole ‘Murica (though my parents insist I have to come home regardless).  

Robin and I at Minas, Uruguay

The same morning this realization came to me, so did another. That two hour bus trip through Montevideo taught me how to use city busses and read a map. The rainy-adventure introduced me to one of my best friends here in Uruguay. We still laugh about that sunny yet rainy day. Likewise, the broken phones taught me all the major roads to use to get places quickly. But I know what you’re thinking, “How could head-lice have a positive spin?” Well, come on Reader; that’s just hilarious. The pharmacists who helped me were laughing hysterically as I, some random foreign girl, pointed at my head and screamed, “Help me! I have lice!” 

In addition to the crazy memories above. I’ve made friends from every corner of this earth who have forever left an impression on my life. Some of my favorite memories are the simple day-to-day lunches in the cafeteria with one of my Uruguayan friends who loves to talk politics. I’ll never forget the laughter and great fun we’ve had cooking traditional Polish, Russian, and Mexican cuisine. Nothing can beat the times arguing over which is better: a bucket of dulce de leche (sweet desert filling and spread) or a box of alfajores (traditional sandwich cookie). 

Learning how to make Polish Pierogies. Robin (Canada), Alexa (México), Justyna (Poland), Me

Having the ability to study in a foreign country is a gift and a blessing. Dear Reader, I am not going to lie to you. There will be bad days, but you will also make unforgettable, spectacular friends and memories. Whether you are a mutt or a purebred has nothing to do with your study abroad experience. You don’t need the luck of the Irish either. Only you can choose your attitude! So, choose to be thankful for the opportunity to have amazing adventures, enhance your language skills, and learn about life.

Lastly, My Dear Reader, if you get the opportunity to study abroad, (in the words of Nike) JUST DO IT!

Dancing the Tango in El Caminito, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Best regards from the never dramatic,

Alison Bean
Universidad de Montevideo
Montevideo, Uruguay

Monday, June 27, 2016

Robert in Rome

Hello everyone! My name is Robert Moody. I'm currently in Rome, Italy on a faculty-lead study abroad experience. Let me start off by saying this, I never had any interest in traveling to Rome. As my departure date drew nearer, I got increasingly anxious, even to the point where I couldn't sleep. However, I found that this adventure would be interesting as soon as I got off of the plane!
I've only been in Rome for about a week, so there isn't too much that I can say so far, but I already feel like I'm starting to navigate pretty well in the city. Sure, I've gotten lost almost everyday, but hey, when in Rome!

Altare Della Patria, or the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Because I'm on a faculty-lead trip, I and a group of other students are exploring Rome with a small group of professors. Even though I can speak less than elementary level Italian, communication hasn't been difficult, and the people are very friendly. I can already tell that some of the students are really starting to bond with one another. The food is about as amazing as you would expect, and the city always seems to be alive. My favorite part so far is probably the site-seeing. Being able to see some of the things I've read about in art history classes is almost indescribable.
There is just so much to see in Rome, and there's so much history. Sometimes, it can be a little overwhelming. But the gorgeous views make the heat and all of the walking worth it. The histories behind some of these buildings are mind blowing. All of the monuments, churches, and palaces have been stunning, and I'm so glad that we have three more weeks to see as much as we can while studying abroad. 

The eiling of the Church of the Gesù

Even though I hadn't anticipated studying abroad in Italy, I am actually beyond satisfied with my decision to study here. I'm excited to see what else is in store for this study abroad experience!
Robert Moody
Art in Italy (UNCG Summer Program)
Rome, Italy