First week abroad!

I am just ending my first week abroad in Siena Italy, and wow!  In just this week alone I have heard so many interesting historical stories, myths in this culture, seen historical places, and the culture it’s self.

In this post I really want to talking about the contradas.  Now you may be asking what is this; a contrada is an area in Siena.  Sieana is broken down into 18 different contadads each having their own mascots.  Some mascots are the eagle, tortes, snail, and the unicorn.  A persons contrada depends on where you are born and grown up.  When you are born you are baptized in a fountain in your contrada ( this is not a religious thing, more like a right of passage.)  Now I live in the Unicorn contrada. Each contrada has its own flag and colors.  Everyday you can hear drums from one of the contradas and see parades with flags, music, people following.  It is a big deal here.

So what is the point of this?  A big horse race called the palio will be happening on July 2nd and all the contradas, come and watch this race hoping for their team to win.  People carry flags of their contradas and wear their colors,

Each contrada  has an enemy, for example the eagles hate the fish.  People know when they step in a different contrada  because immediately the flags change and all the lamps and statues now match the new contrada.

I learned all my information by my school,  they took us on two all day tours of the city and its history.

Below I attached 3 pictures:  1, of the fish flag, 2. where two contadas meet, and 3, a parade( of the unicorn contrada :) )

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Cusco, Peru in four short days!

When I first imagined studying abroad I must admit I was thinking somewhere in Europe. However, through some exploration I began to realize that I wanted something out of the ordinary, somewhere I hadn’t gone, somewhere I could get lost, a place that I feel I can discover for myself. I then began my search for my host country. Peru, and more specifically Machu Picchu have always had a place on my bucket list. When I discovered that I could study in the city was is considered “the gates of Machu Picchu” and better my Spanish at the same time, I knew it was just my place.

My trip this whole time seemed so far off but yet here I am four days out. I would tell people my summer plans to study abroad but it became more real when I bought my ticket and even more real as I sit four days from leaving, writing this post. It also became more apparent that it was actually happening when I received the information about my host family yesterday. I am beyond excited to meet them and find it hilarious that my host mom and real mom share the same name and favorite hobby. To my advantage that habit just happens to be cooking!

Right now I look forward to the anxiety that airports bring, the lack of sleep when traveling, and the culture shock that comes with being in a new place for the first time. I look forward to these challenges because I know it will only build upon my character. However, that being said for those of you who know me, you know I hate missing out on things and I cannot help but feel a little sad for the experiences I will be missing out on here. Although, there are always more summers in Oregon to be apart of so I know I will get over it…probably when gazing at the ruins of Machu Picchu,if I had to guess.

Here’s to my summer 2015, may the odds ever be in my favor!

-McKenzie Stepper

Before I Go…. Queretaro!

Well, today is the day. My flight leaves at (yelp!) MIDNIGHT! As a person who goes to bed kinda early, this will be interesting. It doesn’t feel real yet. Today just feels like a normal day. There’s nothing to indicate that I am about to leave the country for 6 weeks…aside from the packed suitcases on my floor. I honestly don’t think it will feel real until I’m there, and even then maybe not for a little bit. I am excited but not quite sure what to expect. I think it’ll be fun and I’m ready to experience what living with a host family is like. I’ve been to Mexico once before, but that was a totally different situation, so I’m going in with an open mind! I hope I don’t miss everyone here too much, but I know I will some. I am pretty much ready to go. So here’s to my new adventure!

Pre-departure, the Alex Reimann edition

I think my host culture in Mexico will lead me to all kinds of new learning experiences that I never could have possibly learned here in the United States. Of course with learning, there is always the possibilities of making mistakes which is something I still need to learn how to handle, even now. The fact that it will be my first time in Mexico, so far from home, makes me very uncertain and nervous. I wish I felt more excited doing the program like everyone else is, but I think I might have to wait until I am actually there and in the routine before I can assure myself everything will be fine. Nevertheless, I am happy I have the opportunity to better my Spanish and to become immersed in an environment that places much importance into it. This will be a major experience in my life, and I know it will lead to incredible progress towards becoming more mature and more capable in the career path I have set for myself. With these improved skills, I hope to not just become a better Spanish speaker with better comprehension, but also one who is capable of communicating with the family that mostly knows Spanish (I was almost never able to do so before, since I only knew English). While many emotions may envelope me, I will still try my best to make this experience a positive one.

Images: Feelings of fear, of being overwhelmed with new challenges in a new place, and feeling of hope towards triumph.




Arrival post

Upon arriving at the airport in Italy I was pretty tired and burnt out from the long plane ride and not being able to sleep. When walking into the airport I knew that I had to go through customs and get my bag and then find my driver to take me to my destination. There was so much going on and all these people running in different places like they usually are at airports. I flew into a rather large airport so there were tons of people. I was also warned about pickpockets so I was scared and over protective and hyper aware of my belongings and where they were at all times. The signs were in Italian and thankfully… also in English. I was excited but nervous and also just hyper aware of my surroundings. I was trying to take in everything but at the same time my senses were overloaded. Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing and had their own agendas. Everyone would just walk around someone who was in their way because they had places to be. At that point I was just so tired I wanted to get to my destination and catch up on the sleep I had missed out on. Upon arriving to my destination I was thrown into a room and told to go up the 5th floor. My first experience of Italy was the extremely creepy elevator shown below. I had no idea how to work it at first and I wasn’t entirely sure it would hold both my luggage and myself. Driving to my destination I realized Italian drivers being crazy was no joke. There was so much traffic and honking everywhere. People would cut each other off and not let other people in. So that drive was pretty scary but on the way I saw some gorgeous buildings and monuments that I was able to quickly snap a picture of.

The actual elevator. Made out of wood.

The actual elevator. Made out of wood.

The creepy elevator that I had no idea how to use. This was the outside cage.

The creepy elevator that I had no idea how to use. This was the outside cage.

A monument I passed leaving the airport.

A monument I passed leaving the airport.


Hello, my name is Elaina Snow and I am studying abroad in Sienna Italy.  I am going for three week for the deaf studies program,  I will be taking three classes; Italian sign language, Spoken and written Italian, and deaf history and culture.

I picked this program for a couple reasons.  I am an ASL interpreting major so I was hoping that this will boost my ASL skills both signing and receptive. I want to meet more signers and deaf people to get different perspectives on signs.  Also I have always wanted to go to Europe so this is the perfect chance.  Lastly my grandparents are from Italy and they always cook authentic Italian food and it is so good,  and they talked about how pretty it is so  I decided to pick this program for both educational and personal reasons.


Well as soon as I got off the plane it was raining, probably harder then it does in Oregon, except it was warm rain so that was nice.  As for shorts and skirts; nothing almost everyone was wearing pants and tee shirts.  I probably looked pretty crazy for wearing shorts.

I needed a phone because mine couldn’t find wifi so I asked a desk at the airport and they said that they do not let people use the phones and that i had to use public phones outside,  that just struck me as odd.

When I was trying to get to my hotel I had a car pick me up from my hotel.  These Europeans drive crazy!  People where cutting each other off squeezing in everywhere they could it, it was insane. Another thing I found strange was that there was people trying to sell stuff to drivers that were stopped in traffic,  they were just walking around in the middle of the street.

The last weird thing to me was my Hotel I expected that to be pretty normal, but it was not my hotel was in the middle of a building with other business I had to go to the 5th floor out of 10 to reach the reception office to check in,  There was a really creepy elevator, that only let one person at a time on it was pretty much something out of tower of terror.  It was just strange only one person at a time


Sorry its sideways I couldn’t figure out how to rotate it.  It looks like it is out of tower of terror right!


I think Italy will be fun but a total culture shock.  I think there will be tons of smoking everywhere, pick pocketing, and supper crowded.  I’m guessing it will be hot and sunny most if the time and people will be wearing shorts or skirts.  I think that most places like restaurants have someone that speaks a little bit of English but not all of them.

I plan on trying to dive right into the culture trying to learn words as I go,  seeing historic places, and talking to new people.

I am supper nervous because I have never left the country and I will be alone in a place that doesn’t speak English.  It is also really stressful because of the money situation,  I didn’t have  extra money laying around to get plane tickets and everything else I needed and Financial aid doesn’t come in until June 19th and I start school on the 20th.  Plus learning how euros work,  I’m sure that will be a fun adventure



Last week we had our midterms, and that let me tell you. I don’t think I have ever studied so much for a midterm. I want to say that my KLI midterm may have been the hardest one. I studied for that midterm about one and a half weeks. My mind was so focused on how well I had to do on all these midterms that I didn’t really think about anything else. I want to say that I didn’t even leave the dorm for a week, because all I was doing was studying. Now that I don’t have a job, I find it easier to find time to study, and meet up with friends. Midterms in any school is a pain, but having a midterm in speaking is even more painful. Especially when you don’t know the language that well. I was scared I would walk in and not know a single thing the professor was talking about. Thankfully I managed to understand everything, but my responses weren’t well thought out. I need to work on making complete sentences.

On to a better weekend! As a way to reward myself for surviving midterms I went to two concerts last week. I also had to educate myself on who they were. I had heard about these groups before, but I never really listened to them as much. Thanks to my friends though, I ended up liking these groups, and I think I will listen to them often. The groups are Epik High and Big Bang. The Epik High concert was a rap beat show, so it wasn’t only Epik High but also other rappers. Granted I did not know all the songs, but I still had so much fun and the people I went with also had a great time. I was close enough that I got some pretty good videos, my pictures weren’t so good so I had to get rid of them. This concert happened Friday night and the Big bang concert was on Sunday. For the Big Bang I was also prepared enough to know more than half of the songs they played. Leading to me fangirling a lot. The only bad thing was that, it was super hot. Summer is coming in early I believe and the weather has been hot and humid lately. Something an Oregonian like myself is not use to. Anyways these concerts were the first concerts I had ever been to, and I still can’t get over the music and the atmosphere. I find myself humming their music and just remembering that day with the people I went with. Here are three of the people I went with to the Big Bang concert. Yuogang was sitting in subway. All in all last week was the most dreadful,as well as the most memorable week of my life. Thanks ladies for an amazing weekend!1430064718153

Busy, Busy, Busy!!!

I apologize for not keeping you guys updated on what is going on these past few weeks. So here is a quick run down; classes have already started I am already in my fourth week now, I have gone to a noreabang (karaoke), picked up my ARC on my own, have had 6 quizzes already, went bungee jumping and spent the night at the place where I went bungee jumping. I have done other things as well but so far that is what I can remember. Bungee jumping happened on Saturday, and let me tell you that it was amazing. I went with a group of girls I have gotten close to since I have been here. So close that I even call one of them my daughter XD. What surprised me that most was how cheap bungee jumping was, I thought it was going to be around 70,000 won but it wasn’t even close to that. I did two things that day, I bungee jumped, and did this swing bungee thing that only costed me 45,000 won. Super cheap I think for doing two things. Although taking into account other expenses, it ended up being 100,000 won for the whole day. Anyways, it was amazing what was even cooler and not in our plans was that we are going to show up in the news. Since we were Americans he wanted to interview us and talk to him about why we went and what we were feeling before the jump. You know just the normal interview questions. After the bungee jump we had to wait an hour to get back to the city we were at, and also find a place to go eat. The restaurant we went to was delicious and the lady serving us was amazed at how well we ate. She said we were basically natives! It made me feel super happy, I don’t know why but it did. About the ARC, it was just a proud moment for me because I went all by myself to go pick it up and I didn’t get lost using the subway system. I mean there are only so many ways the subway can go before I realize I am on the wrong one. Noreabang is super fun if you go with people who aren’t shy and are willing to sing. I want once before with some people from my KLI class and then again with almost half of my KLI class because it was my friends birthday. On my friends birthday we spent 3 hours singing and people wanted to keep singing. I was so tired and my I throat hurt. Although only two people have the mic, if you know that song everyone sings with them. Some people even danced while singing. It was just something that I had never done before and I was so happy that I went with people that were willing to sing and dance and just be goofy.

Now, time to get real, classes. Wow, I know I am definitely learning from every single class. More from my KLI class but KLI is everyday for two hours and then almost an hour of studying every night what I learned that day. Speaking of which I have a vocab quiz tomorrow on 102 words. So today is a definite study night. The format for classes here is different, it is like one day it is two hours of that one class and then another day of only one hour. I think it is like a block period or something like that. I think I have a weekly quiz for one of my classes and then then another weekly quiz for the other class. KLI is more of speaking Korean and learning the spelling as well as how to address certain people that are older than you; using honorifics for that individual. KLI is becoming a little bit easier, I can understand more for when my professor is asking us a question or when she is only asking me. I am super nervous for our midterm. It is one day of reading, one day of writing, and one day for speaking. We get graded separately for each one. I have a hard time speaking and using the right terms for what I am talking about, so I know my speaking test is going to kill me. Anyways, things have been great classes are getting harder, but it is not like I don’t know that feeling. Life is good right now, and I have to study right now so until next time! 안녕!!!