Welcome to WOU’s Photoblog for Students Abroad!

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I’m pleased to introduce you to WOU’s photoblog for students who are studying or interning abroad.  I  invite you to follow our students on their journeys from pre-departure preparation through the return home.

Photoblogging is a wonderful way for students to share what they are learning, observing, and discovering in their new environments.  Enjoy the journey with them!

WOU’s photoblog is modeled on the Australian “Bringing the Learning Home” project developed by Jan Gothard, Greg Downey, Tonia Gray, and Linda Butcher, and with their permission, utilizes some of the materials from that project.  http://ozstudentsabroad.com/

It’s Just the Beginning

This week I have started getting the hang of it, like using the colectivo, knowing some of the streets, and really feeling comfortable in my work environment. Throughout my experience I have been meeting some lovely people here in the city of Buenos Aires most of whom I have had the pleasure to interact with at work. I must say the people here are amazing and beautiful.

This past weekend I got to see what the famous night-life is all about by walking around Palermo Hollywood and going to my first boliche (night club). I got to admit it is busy; it is true what they say, at night it all springs to life. It was a nice experience to get to see Argentina’s nightlife.

This week I was able to put some of my interpreting skills by helping my site coordinator interpret some papers from last week’s meeting about the OMGPIVC Worldwide Prevalence Study. Additionally, I was able to work and job shadow the primary prevention program and occupation here in the Sanatorio that focuses on childcare. I was really surprised on the emphasis of the childcare education in the Sanatorio Mater Dei. I was able to see the interaction with the childcare educator and her patients and hear her presentations and talks with the parents, but most importantly the mothers. One of the days will be a day I will never forget, because of the way she had helped a young mother with her first child. Witnessing what I did reassured me to continue to pursue my goal as a community health educator and nurse. I have learned so much from her this week, even though it was a short week due to the Paro (a strike) of all the closed access to the different systems of transportation in the city, such as buses, subways, taxis, and more this Thursday. The strike was to get the attention of the government, because of all the insecurity and the economy of inflation that has occurred in the last two months. This is why I am excited and looking forward to continue to learn and work with her again next week.

Even though the country has had some trouble it does not fail to impress me with its culture and people. One of the things I ran into is this week was a performance on the streets of the lovely Argentine Tango and for the first time I got to ride an underground subway. I have tried to see as much as I possibly could this week by walking around the city. I got to say there is so much to see, after all it is a city of about 2.9 million people.

 

I took this as I waited for the underground subway to take me around the city.

I took this as I waited for the underground subway to take me around the city.

The tango performance I ran into as I walked around the streets of Florida in Buenos Aires.

The tango performance I ran into as I walked around the streets of Florida in Buenos Aires.

Feeling Homesick

I know it has only been two weeks now, but I cannot help feeling homesick. Being in a different country with new people, new job, new home, new everything its very over whelming. This being my first time far away from home, I guess the feeling should have been expected. I am just thankful I have many people back home that have and continue to be there to support me. Like one important person said to me, “It is the first few weeks that are the hardest after that you might not even want to come back” and that is what I am waiting for.

A little advice I would give to others that are feeling the same way, would be: To take advantage of the opportunity, because it is a short period of time, and it is a once in a life time opportunity that does not come along very often, to take the experience as a growing opportunity, to see, do, and learn new things because new and change is good, to take everything in because when you do go home you will be taking so much with you. I do not mean just the souvenirs, and to know that you have everything and everyone waiting for you when you go home.

Now, even though I have been feeling homesick I have been surprising myself with how I have been adjusting to the culture, the city, the language, which my Latin background from Mexico has given me an advantage, my new home, and my internship. I still have so much to learn, but I am taking it all one-step at a time.

Many Firsts

This week was great I feel like I have so much to say. It was full of many new experiences.

Monday, I was able to start my very first internship at the Sanatorio Mater Dei in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since it was my first day I did not do allot. I was introduced to some of the employees, I received my uniform and locker, and I was shown a small glimpse of the history of the Sanatorio. Additionally, I was able to join my site coordinator from the Sanatorio to a meeting about the One Million Global Catheters PIVC Worldwide Prevalence Study (OMGPIVC). The PIVC stands for peripheral intravenous catheter that is used to medically provide intravenous fluids and medications directly to the vein, which has risks such as inflammation and infections. Due to the risks many institutions around the globe including the United States are participating to promote awareness and care. This study is known to be the largest international prevalence investigation. I was really fascinated and impressed to hear the process of this study and how about 50 countries are participating. I cannot wait to hear the results. After my internship I joined my new friend from Brazil from BAC to walk around to see the beautiful Congress to end my day.

This is my first day on my internship of the Sanatorio Mater Dei, a prestigious private hospital.

This is my first day on my internship of the Sanatorio Mater Dei, a prestigious private hospital.

During the OMG PIVC meeting with my site coordinator of the Sanatorio.

During the OMG PIVC meeting with my site coordinator of the Sanatorio.

Took this picture o the Congresso during my walk with my Brazilian friend.

Took this picture of the Congresso during my walk with my Brazilian friend.

Tuesday was scary. I was able to take the colectivo (bus) by myself to work and back which by the way I was successful at. In my internship I took a safety course that taught me all the regulations and procedures done when there is an emergency. Then I had the opportunity to meet some of the nurses in the neurotologist for babies and nursery section of the hospital where I was given a tour and had the opportunity to shadow them. After, I was able to take a course that is provided by the Sanatorio to teach mothers about the benefits of lactation. After my internship I arrived home with surprising news of my new roommate from Columbia, who by the way is so genuine. Not only that but I was able to join my BAC coordinator with my previous roommate for some helados (ice cream). What a great way to end my day.

A picture of the helado I had with my BAC coordinator and my previous roommate. It included banana split, chocolate mouse, and a mystery flavor. It is something to try here in Argentina.

A picture of the helado I had with my BAC coordinator and my previous roommate. It included banana split, chocolate mouse, and a mystery flavor. It is something I recommend trying in Argentina.

Wednesday, I did not go to work. Why?! Well because it was a holiday, which is a day to honor the Veterans from the Faulklands War between Argentina and the UK. Having the day off I was able to take a walk with my roommate from Columbia to Puerto Madero to eat and explore Argentina the rest of the day.

Getting some Mexican food with my new roommate in Puerto Madero.

Getting some delicious food with my new roommate in Puerto Madero.

La Casa Rosada (house of government), which is the executive mansion of the president of Argentina.

La Casa Rosada (house of government), which is the executive mansion of the president of Argentina.

Took this near the famous Casa Rosada (Government House) during my walk with my new roommate.

Took this near the famous Casa Rosada (Government House) during my walk with my new roommate.

This was my first empanada I tried here in Argentina.

This was my first empanada I tried here in Argentina after a long day of exploring the city

Thursday and Friday, were a little busier at the Sanatorio where I got to join the new nurses who were integrating to the hospital. After, work on Friday I had my first experience of getting lost trying to find the famous Obelisco of the city Buenos Aires. Fortunately I was able to find my way back, but wow it was scary. I cannot wait for what is more to come!!

Well till next time.

The Obelisco of the great city of Buenos Aires located at the Plaza de República.

The Obelisco of the great city of Buenos Aires located at the Plaza de República.

Hello America, long time no see!

Well I have been home for about a week now and it’s a weird feeling. I was told by my roommate who had been in Costa Rica before she came to New Zealand and who had returned home in between her travels, that when you arrive home it’s an odd feeling because everything is the same. I looked at her and thought that it was strange because surely after three months, things at home were going to be different… but I feel she is very correct on the feeling.

While I was getting ready to leave the US for New Zealand, I was anxious, excited, nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Arriving home I was sad, confused and was barely excited at all. I never thought those would be my feelings coming home! Coming home to the same thing made me feel like I wasn’t gone at all. I came home to my room looking the way it did when I left, my house was the same, the streets were the same, everything was exactly the same from when I left ( which is like a duhhh moment when I was only gone for three short months). It’s been a strange feeling that’s for sure.

I miss the people, they’re all so friendly. I miss the weather, as I came home to rain. I miss the friends I made who I left while I came home. I miss the beauty of the island, it was so hilly and green with lakes, hikes, parks, lots of sporting events and harbours and everything in between that was all in such close proximity. I fell in love with the city I lived in and I think that’s what I miss most. It was so safe, so fun, so pretty and so full of life. I could walk everywhere and never had to worry about driving. It’s easy to fall in love with a city when the surroundings and the people that live there are one of a kind.

I do enjoy certain things about being home, like having my dog back, being able to drive when I really don’t feel like walking, and having the familiarity of people, places and things that are subjected to the way I live my life in America. People keep asking me if there are things that I really missed while being away, and there is not one thing I can pinpoint except for my dog, family and friends. Which I feel like is expected. Adjusting back to life here in America has been a little bit of a challenge, but I know within a few more days it’ll be back to normal. I miss my second home and cannot wait to return one day. New Zealand stole my heart and I will forever be thankful for the opportunity I had and for the relationships I made.

I could post a million pictures to reflect on my time and what I am missing everyday, but the three pictures below sum up my most missed pieces of my journey.

This picture brings back so many thoughts and memories. This was my ultimate favorite spot in the city of Wellington. This is the Wellington Harbour, where I would go sit and read, reflect on my time, enjoy amazing gelato and take in the beauty of the island.

Every time I look at this picture, it makes me a little sad. I miss my office crew and the unique personalities of each one of them. We shared so many laughs in the little office we shared! Not only did they take me in like I had been apart of the crew since day one, there was never a dull moment.

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My two rocks while I was in New Zealand. I miss them both so much. My roommate and I shared so many memories together and clicked right away, which I was so thankful for! Ali, the guy on the right is a Kiwi who became such a good friend while I was there. He had the biggest heart and always knew what to say, he made my time in New Zealand just that much better with the friendship we had made.

It’s The Final Countdown

1 week left. In exactly 1 week, I will be back on American soil. I can’t believe these 3 months have flown by so fast. I have learned an incredible amount and my mind might explode if I try to comprehend anymore. I feel like it’s the week before exams and I have been taking 20 credits of 500 level philosophy and gender studies courses. I have always enjoyed writing essays for exams but have really re-kindled a love for writing, especially on socially, controversial topics. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts even there are many disagreements because their arguments also steam from an experience or up bringing. I have added it onto my life bucket list to ‘have something published.’ It may be an article, a short story or research findings but most likely it could be about these sensitive topics of education, arranged marriage or gender differences.

This past week we had some time for holiday since it was Holi so I became even more cultured on many subjects. I have taken a western religions class but this week was my eastern religions class. Most conversations had, were centered around Hindu traditions and the stories behind every ritual or festival. Next were discussions about the origins of Buddhism. I got the chance to visit Bodgaya where the tree is, that’s said where Buddha received his enlightenment. Next came discussions on Islam. Two of my friends’ fellows joined for a boat ride on the Ganges and evening snacks. One is very passionate about his being a Muslim and will share his beliefs with anybody so we challenged him on the importance of religion and why Islam? In Patna there is a big population of both Muslims and Hindus so it makes for an interesting society. It used to be very dangerous in that area but in the past 5 years it has really settled down and progressed. The danger isn’t due to a war on religion but rather a competitvity for land and resources. Bihar is one of the oldest civilizations in the entire world so there are many, many people living there and everyone is fighting for their space and basic needs. The normal human being isn’t born a thief but rather it’s in times of need or desire where the mind set changes. This leads into another point of national pride and hope in the human race. Indians have so much national pride often displaying the flag, being honored to join scouts and guards and often singing the national anthem very proudly with fists at each side. However, the people don’t have hope in their own kind. Yes, it all stems from a history and experiences but still there is something missing. When I was headed off to travel everyone was very, very worried about me. Understandable that I am a white, American girl traveling in India but I had my mobile and steady head on my shoulders with vast travel experience packed along. As they would give my travel tips I would already have that knowledge plus more to add on to it. I’ve done my research and made sure I knew what I was getting in to. I didn’t run into even one problem in my 11 days of traveling. I found everyone only the kindest and most helpful along the way. Most people speak English so I could ask questions if I had any.

During my travels I got to experience many wonderful things! There’s an instant connection when traveling as a foreigner with other foreigners. There are perks such as special fast lines and tickets while at the same time the locals try and rip you off. For those of us who have been living here for a while we can read the scammers and smell a rotten deal from a mile away. Needless to say it was great meeting other travelers and crazies off exploring the world just like me.

 

Celebrating Holi

Celebrating Holi on the rooftop

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Everyone enjoying the day and staying safe from the colors up above

Sitting on the banks of the the Ganges

The banks of the the Ganges in Patna

80 ft. tall Buddha

80 ft. tall Buddha in Bodgaya

The tree where it's said, Buddha received is enlightenment

The tree where it’s said, Buddha received is enlightenment

The gate before entering into the Taj Mahal

The gate before entering into the Taj Mahal

No explanation needed

No explanation needed.

Outside the main Agra station

Outside the main Agra station

My holiday was wonderful but now I am ready to enter my last week with full force moving forward. I have hit that spot where I am excited to go home yet just finally am feeling the breakthrough in the culture, with the people and at work. I am constantly looking to expand my mind and learn more about life happening around me. As much as this was a vacation it was more of also a learning experience, about myself and how I handle different situations.

My time here in India has been nothing under amazing. I have been living once in a lifetime experiences and meeting the most amazing people. After 3 months of living here, everyday things still happen where I simply must smile and laugh. Living in India is a day to day learning experience and the only thing that gets you through is an open and flexible mind and a sense of humor. I am thankful to everyone who has taken me and made me a part of their family for they made my time here so special. Who knows where the wind will lead me next but as for now it’s back to America. Back to Oregon. Back to Portland, my good ol’ stomping grounds. The final countdown, of my last days here in India has begun so I’m making it count. Next time I write it will be from back in the USA. ~Anna

“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”  ~ Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love

Arrival

As I landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina my heart started pounding as different possible situations were occurring in my head. Additionally, I had my parents’ voices and phrases repeating over and over such as,”Stay calm when you arrive, be smart, be careful, pay attention, if you get lost ask people around you to help, call immediately once you arrive, do not forget your luggage and to go through immigration, find who ever is picking you up as fast as you can, trust and do not trust people,….”

As I got off the plane I observed what everyone was doing and followed them which allowed me to go through everything much faster. After the long line of immigration my nerves started to kick once again, but as soon as I got all my paper work checked and got my luggage my mission was to find the individual, who was sent to pick me up from Buenos Aires Cultural (BAC). Once I spotted my name on a poster, like the movies, I walked right to him, who welcomed me with a surprise handshake and a kiss on the cheek. As we walked for a ride to BAC I could not help and notice all the traffic, people, buildings, and everything around me, I was in shock. I was able to calm down as he was able to point out buildings and teach me some common phrases used in Buenos Aires and so much more.

Once I arrived to BAC I knew I was not at home, I was in Buenos Aires an incredible and amazing city. As I walked in I was greeted with more kisses on the cheek, which I continued to be surprised from each time since I am not used to it, I guess you can say I was very welcomed. Then I was given a tour of my new, yet temporary home then my room, which I have enjoyed.

This is a picture of my bedroom.

This is a picture of my bedroom.

This is a picture of the hallway of my apartment, which you can see as you walk inside.
This is a picture of the hallway of my apartment, which you can see as you walk inside.

After I settled down, I was introduced to the rest of the diverse group of residents of BAC, who I joined to drink the traditional drink, mate (hot tea), which I found strange, but so very delicious all at once. Then I was able to have some interesting long conversations the rest of the night as we all enjoyed some delicious carne asada (BBQ), which is famous in Argentina. I could not have asked for a better first day in Buenos Aires.

This is the mate (hot tea), which I tried my first day.

This is the mate (hot tea), which I tried my first day.

The next day, Friday my coordinator from BAC took me for a walk to see a little of what the city has to offer. Then I had the opportunity to go to the cinema with a new friend, another student residing in BAC from Brazil to watch Captain America in Castellano, the native tongue here in Argentina. I had a plethora of fun! Saturday, I was able to join another friend, who I am very lucky to share a room with, to try the coffee of Argentina with some sweet facturas (pastry). Then I joined her again with my lovely coordinator and another friend to the shopping (mall) to watch another movie. Today, Sunday I have been able to relax and prepare for my first day tomorrow in my internship, which I am extremely antsy for.

This was a picture I took when my BAC coordinator took me for a walk in the city. There was a great amount of performances and other great things to see.

This was a picture I took when my BAC coordinator took me for a walk in the city. There was a great amount of performances and other great things to see.

This was another picture I took as I walked around the streets of the shopping (mall) districts with my coordinator.

This was another picture I took as I walked around the streets of the shopping (mall) districts with my coordinator.

This is a picture of the facturas (pastries)  and coffee I had with my roommate.
This is a picture of the facturas (pastries) and coffee I had with my roommate.

I am loving Argentina!

My 72 days of Adventure!

Many of us including myself seem to be waiting for something to come to us, for a change to happen. Well I decided that I was tired of waiting, so I decided to step out of my comfort zone, seek out opportunities, and challenge myself by taking on a new and different adventure.

I decided to make my own path by going out to a place for 72 days where I have never been, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

You might be wondering why Argentina. Well there are many reasons, a few are that it is a Latin country where its citizens are proud of their nation, how it is a family oriented country full of celebrations, a country influenced by music and other arts, and because of its healthcare system. Now, from all the places in Argentina I selected Buenos Aires not only because it is the capital, but because it is one of the largest cities in the world where I will be exposed to many new things.

I can assure you that when I decided to take on this amazing opportunity, which I have been blessed with, I was very nervous. I was nervous for the flight, because I have never been on a plane, let alone by myself. Not only that, but I was very scared and anxious to live in a huge city, because I have never lived in one, so I was afraid to get lost. I was excited to see a new culture and country where I would be part of the culture, get the chance to work in it, and meet new people. I felt sad knowing that I would be far away from my family for the first time. Now, even with all my research I felt uncertain, because even knowing what I might expect was not enough, because it is something new which can go in any direction, but with the support I had I was able to push forward.

Prior to my departure, I was full of mixed emotions. After my family said goodbye I was alone and all I could do was maintain myself. As I was trying to find my way to my first flight I was slightly confused, but I was very fortunate to have met friendly people along the way willing to help. I will especially be thankful to an angel of a woman, who sat by me from Portland to Houston, she was such a confidence booster. I can honestly say that for being my first flight, alone, I felt like I did pretty ‘good’ even though I was shaky every time the plane would take off and land. This was definitely a memorable and amazing learning experience.

I took both of these pictures, one before my departure and the other one as I was in the air heading to Houston, Texas from Portland, Oregon.

I took both of these pictures, one before my departure and the other one as I was in the air heading to Houston, Texas from Portland, Oregon.

I took both of these pictures, one before my departure and the other one as I was in the air heading to Houston, Texas from Portland, Oregon.

I took both of these pictures, one before my departure and the other one as I was in the air heading to Houston, Texas from Portland, Oregon.

Advice to Students Traveling to Costa Rica

I have been thinking of some things that I wish people had told me before I arrived, so I thought I would share with anyone else who may check here before studying abroad in Costa Rica!

1. Packing: Do NOT listen when they tell you to underpack because many of the same things are available to purchase in CR.
Everything here is WAY WAY WAY more expensive. I mean like $5-8 per bottle of shampoo/conditioner (yes even their brands) expensive. Once I left the airport, I never had to haul all of my luggage around anywhere, so as long as you can carry it in the airport you should be fine.

Here are some things to make sure you bring PLENTY of:
–Sunblock 30 SPF or higher. This stuff is like $20 per small/normal size bottle here, and even if you’re like me and NEVER burn in the States, it is inevitable if you don’t wear sunscreen here.
–Mascara/eyeliner. $22/bottle of Covergirl here. I found one knockoff brand in La Fortuna thankfully that was only $4, but obviously doesn’t work very well. The only brands I have seen are covergirl and loreal parís. Eyeliner is $10-15 per pencil too. Ouch.
–2 pairs of tennis shoes. The sidewalks here eat your shoes, especially sandals, so you will need two pairs of tennis shoes if you plan to be here longer than a month or two. Dont even think about buying some here unless you want to drop $150.
–Shampoo/Conditioner. $5-8 per bottle.
–CLOTHES. My goodness I way underpacked in regards to clothes. I was so proud of myself before I came for not overpacking and then regretted it for sure! Remember that you are LIVING here. Bring comfy clothes, workout clothes, a couple dresses/going out clothes, and normal outfits. Laundry is done 1-2 times per week so for example if all of your workout clothes are dirty then you are out of luck or have to buy more to get by.
–Book (or download ebooks): Honestly I do not read that much back home but you find that you spend a good amount of time in transit here, not just on the plane rides. It will help take your mind off of the busses.

2. There are a lot of American fast food restaurants here. Everywhere…its so strange to see. Wendys, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr, Popeyes…the list goes on and on. I would not recommend Burger King though because I know a few people who got food poisoning from BK… yuck.

3. Ticos (the locals).
In my experience the Ticos other than those who are in your host family are not particularly friendly. In fact the older they locals are, the friendlier they seem. Cab drivers will usually try to make conversation, but students your age just ignore you. If you really want to try and make local friends then do not be in groups of foreigners and you need to be able to initiate conversation.
I have met students here from Mexico, the US, etc. who speak Spanish well enough, but have yet to be able to actually make Tico friends. The students at my school are very self-focused and just seem to care about their arts (fashion, photo, architecture, etc). So MY advice would be to not spend all of your energy trying to make local friends to hang out with. Sure try and talk to them sometimes and interact when you can, but they also like to cancel last minute so don’t take it too personally if you aren’t making any local bffs. Instead enjoy time with you host family, new friends, and roommates. Find other people from the same program and start talking!
Also, they walk EXTREMELY slow for the most part. Like impossibly slow. So sometimes you just need to pass them and not worry about being rude, or you will be 15 minutes late to wherever you are going and will most likely have to stop multiple times on the sidewalk in order to not run in to them.

4. San Jose is kind of ugly, and if you go outside of San Jose to travel chances are lots of people will try to speak to you in English unless you look like a local. I was shocked as to how much English people tried to speak to me when I traveled on the weekends. If you respond in Spanish though they will often times switch back, at least to some Spanglish.

So to those reading, do not just think that Costa Rica is horrible and people are not friendly. While there is some truth to that, it is not necessarily true for all people here. I have met many friendly locals and I have the BEST host family ever! I personally just would have been happier and felt more prepared if someone had told be some cold hard truths before I arrived.

:)

My FAVORITE Weekend So Far!

This last weekend was AMAZING. I am so glad my roommates made me go!

I went to Monteverde (in the mountains) with 2 of my roommates and honestly had the best time of my life. We went on a canopy tour that was SO much fun, with the longest single cable in Latin America, as well as 2 Superman style LONG cables, a little rappel, and a tarzan swing.

It was a beautiful day, and I love zip lining so I had a blast! The tarzan swing was kind of scary at first, but it was used as out pre-bungee jump prep. Good thing we did that first!!

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If you are ever in Monteverde, Costa Rica I HIGHLY recommend the 100% Adventura Canopy Tour. It is definitely the most fun and is even cheaper than the one at Extremo. Plus the superman style is included in the price, and there are 2 instead of 1.

Then came bungee jumping. Oh. My. Goodness. I was in shock that I actually went through with it for a couple days afterwards, but that bungee jump was SO amazing!! It was crazy and terrifying for about 30 seconds total (pre jump and the first few seconds of the free fall), but so much fun! I am so happy that I went through with it! Here the only option is Extremo, which has the highest bungee jump in all of Latin America. And I went on it. Best $60 spent in my entire study abroad experience. What is really cool too is that you get to have a GoPro attached to your wrist, so I was able to purchase a sweet video of myself jumping and the GORGEOUS view for a very reasonable $15.

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Me bungee jumping, photo taken by my roommate.

The rest of the weekend I got to hang out with some other students from my school here who happened to be at our hostel too, look through the souveneir shops, and take pictures of the lovely little (VERY little) town.

Ready to dive into week three of March!!
Hasta luego!

And another week passes by… My advice to those learning a new language.

Wow, 2 weeks of March down already!

I am currently in my 3rd Spanish language/gramar class, but am struggling with my conversational Spanish now. My brain is so packed full of information now that I fel like I am hitting a Wall. It is disappointing and discouraging since I have been living here for three months, but since I am not as submerged in Spanish as I expected I am not progressing as quickly. Also, its important to remember that learning another language is no easy feat. So it should be expected to go through a period where you feel stuck or are just not speaking as much. At least that is what I tell myself to get by right now! The language clases here are very intensive and we cover a semester’s worth of material in 4 weeks, so I am just focusing on enjoying my time and not studying 24/7 since I will have time to continue to study what I am currently learning once I return home

My advice to students learning a new language, especially in another country:
1. Give yourself time. Immersion helps A TON, but if you’re like me and am not being as immersed as you expected, then don’t expect the exact same results. If you are speaking a lot of your native language still it will be harder to switch to Spanish-mode (or any other language that you learn.)
2. TRY to immerse yourself! When I first arrived, there was ONLY Spanish for the first couple of days and I was worried that it would just be so exhausting to keep up. I almost wonder though if it has been more exhausting for me to keep switching back and fourth between English and Spanish. Once I have been using my Spanish more it comes easier and I start thinking in that language, so try to get to the point where you can start using the other language for everything!
3.Practice your accent. Thankfully a native accent comes pretty naturally with my Spanish unless I am really tired and start pronouncing words as if they were in English, but I know most people are not so lucky. It pains me to hear other students speaking with more advanced gramar than I know, but with such an American accent that sometimes I dont even know what theyre saying. If youve come this far to speak ‘Spanish, make the effort to REALLY speak it, and not just say Spanish words in English.
4. Enjoy and be proud of yourself! You are a very capable person and are learning something that gets harder to learn once you are older!

Pura Vida!