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Transitioning from Newbie to Native (More or Less)

A pic of me on a side trip to Morocco and the Sahara Desert!

Let’s be real: there’s a honeymoon phase to almost any new thing we do. Whether that’s starting a new job, new school, new hobby, or making new friends, there comes a point when you see the activities or the people for what/who they really are. You may still enjoy it, but you begin to know the true depth, see the flaws, and generally have a deeper understanding of reality as you become more accustomed and comfortable in that environment or with those people. I have definitely noticed a similar trend with studying abroad.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and for me, I even welcome it by embracing the sometimes uncomfortableness of the situation. When you reach this point, it is when you really begin to learn the culture and experience something new and beautiful.

For me, this process took over a month. I can’t pinpoint an exact day since it’s so gradual. But I do know that today, compared to when I first arrived in Spain, I am much more comfortable and feel like I blend in (most of the time) to the natives around me. Here is a simple example of when I first noticed this change:

In the busier, more crowded areas of Granada there are typically people stopping others to take a survey, sell a service or product, etc. They usually only target Spaniards, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t called out during my first month here as I probably looked so lost. However, one day a man stopped me in the street, and said (in Spanish), “Is your family missing?” There was definitely something lost in translation (because what I thought I heard could not have been correct…I still have a lot of Spanish to learn) and I repeated back to him with surprise what I thought he asked and he quickly said in English, “Oh, you’re not from Spain?” I replied that I was from the United States and he apologized for stopping me and moved on without a second thought. I, however, was so honored! It was so simple and kind of silly, but I was so proud that someone thought I was a local. Usually being stopped like that by people of the street would bother me, but in Spain it means that I come off as one of their own. I feel that in myself, as well. I am so much more comfortable here than I was at the beginning: I walk more relaxed and continually feel more at home.

Hiking in Alpujarra, Spain. If you look very closely you can see the Mediterranean Sea between the mountains.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I love traveling. But this is more than traveling- it is a learning experience. I learn more about the culture, the people, the history, and myself every day. It’s not all pretty, but it is the reality and that’s what I want to know. I don’t want a sugar-coated semester: I want raw and real. I want to understand the economic crisis of Spain and how that is making it difficult for Spaniards, especially young people, to find secure jobs, forcing them to live with their parents until they are 25-30 years old, for example.

But at the same time, I have loved learning about the good things that this country has to offer. Like the fact that most students pay less than $1,000 for college per YEAR as opposed to universities in the United States costing anywhere from $10,000-$60,000 per year, causing most students to be in extreme debt. The government of Spain understands the importance of education and it shows in the prices of attending university. Spain’s education system and general economy may have its own flaws (for example, the reason that college is so “inexpensive” is because taxes are much higher), but at least it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg outright to attend college. It’s all much more complicated than I know, but that’s pretty incredible.

There is so much more I could discuss regarding the culture and the people. It’s an intricate and complex country with a lot of history and depth. And I haven’t even mentioned what I have learned about myself and my own beliefs by being immersed in this culture. There are still things that I have discovered but haven’t fully grasped and can’t articulate quite yet. I don’t think it will be until I return home and have time to process the semester in its entirety that I will understand how this semester has impacted me. I am looking forward to those realizations, because I’m sure this time has affected me in more ways than I know.

Thank you, Spain (and all other countries I have been fortunate to travel to this semester), for welcoming me, teaching me, and showing me all that you have to offer.

The mosque of Cordoba (now a Catholic church).
La Plaza de España (The Plaza of Spain). A few scenes from Star Wars were filmed here!

Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Joys of Hiking

Tomorrow it will have been 2 months since I left the United States and landed in Spain! 2 MONTHS! I can hardly believe how fast this semester is going. Midterms are just around the corner and then after that it’s a mere 5 weeks until finals! When studying abroad for a semester, you think you have so much time, but in reality it really does zip by.

Anywhere you are – traveling, moving to a new city, at school, at home, it is important to find something that fills your heart and that makes you feel connected with your environment. For me this semester that something has been hiking. It never fails to make me feel at peace and rejuvenated. Granada’s population is more than 230,000 inhabitants, whereas my hometown, Liberty MO, has roughly 31,000. Not only is the population greater in Granada but also the city is much more condensed. You can easily see from the city by walking in 1-2 hours, but Liberty is much more spread out than that. Additionally, I live in an apartment, with my host mom and roommate, that is about the size of my main floor at home in Missouri. It gets to feeling a little crowded at times, in the streets and at my host home.

When I need some space to myself, hiking is a lifesaver. I don’t dislike the city or my apartment, but there is nothing quite like the silence, solitude, fresh air, and the openness and freedom found in the mountains. No traces of cigarette smoke or exhaust are smelled. The air is crisp and inviting. The view of the large mountains on the horizon and the tiny cars of the city in comparison remind you just how small you are, how small your problems are, and how much more there is in the world beyond your minuscule and often clouded perspective.

I can’t express how much I love the mountains and the joy that they bring me! There are no mountains in Missouri, which may be why I love them so much: it’s extra special when I am near them. I take every opportunity I can here to explore the vast trails of the mountains while I have them in my backyard. From my apartment to the start of the trails is about a 45 minute walk; at home it’s a 9 hour drive to Colorado to find the best mountains. I am so grateful to be studying where I am.

What I have particularly enjoyed is the two times my friend and I went hiking at 6:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It is truly magical. For starters, the walk through the city to the mountains is quite tranquil: the only people in the street are those returning home after a night out at the club (it’s very common to stay out all night here… I can’t keep up!) When we get to the mountains, I love how the sun first lights up the surrounding peaks before fully revealing itself to you. After hiking for an hour or two, my friend and I are of course very sweaty. As we sit and wait for the light to break over the peaks, our sweat is drying and it is quite chilly. Through this experience I realized how often I take the sun for granted. As my friend and I were shivering from the brisk wind and cool air, we jokingly contemplated would happen if the sun just decided not to rise that day: we would miss out on the beauty that it brings with it and we would also still be very cold. When the sun finally shines over the crests, I instantly feel its warmth and began to thaw. Mmm, I could just bask in the sun all day. With the sunrise, the world rises around us. What a treasure is the new day that the sun brings. And in the mountains it is even more magical.

I didn’t expect to be able to write so much about hiking, mountains and nature, and I could definitely go on. However, I will conclude with a thought I had on one of my hikes. This activity lends itself well to somewhat cheesy (yet profound) metaphors for life, and I love that. Here is my most recent one:

When hiking, it’s okay, and even encouraged, to look back at how far you’ve come and all that you’ve passed through. But if you turn around and walk back the way you came, focusing too much on that path (your past), you will never know what views and experiences lie ahead, where life will take you moving forward. Occasionally when hiking, through the mountains and through life, you will get lost and you’ll be forced to go back and retrace your steps (to spend a short time in the past), but this is only so that you can find a better path forward the next time around.

Go out and experience the nature around you! Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.


Camille Meeks is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Volubilis

It was a rough ride on the bus, as hardly any of the roads are paved here, but I could not sit still for this particular bus ride anyway. My heart skipped a beat as I had finally stepped foot on to my first site of Roman Ruins. Right here in Morocco! We all know the greatness of what the Roman empire used to be but who would have thought, they too, were also in Morocco.

The city of Volubilis is over 2000 years old. Ancient history is my kind of thing, so of course, I wandered away from the group and tour guide. I got to see parts of the city the group didn’t get to and I don’t regret it! A slab of floor to what used to be a common place for people to gather and tell stories STILL had all the labors of Hercules intact, and in color. Running like a child with too much excitement I couldn’t help but believe I was touching and feeling all the columns and stones and carvings that the Romans created all those years ago. Some stones have a sea shell to represent Venus (Aphrodite in Greek). There were alters for Diane (goddess of the hunt) with the writing still on them! You could feel yourself step back in time and just imagine the everyday life in how fabulous this city used to be, and to me, still is.

The best part? Volubilis is only partly excavated. They say there are still many parts of the land to dig into, and our tour guide even said they are waiting for the day they find the Colosseum of the city.

It was in the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD that Volubilis became a flourishing center of the late Hellenistic culture. Annexed to Rome about AD 44, as a reward for supporting Rome during the revolt of Aedmon; Volubilis was made a municipium. (This means the people here had partial Roman citizenship.) This city became the head inland of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana. In the end, the town was deserted (in 285AD) when Diocletian reorganized it. In Arabic, the providence was known as Oulili or Walila. Volubilis then became the capital of Idris, within the Idrisid dynasty, after 788AD.

As my feet touched ground here and my hands touched the floor of the labors of Hercules, I could feel the carvings in the alters for Diane. I walked through what used to be a Pagan church. I sat down where animal sacrifices used to be made. I climbed the steps to overlook the town as the political officials used to do there. I walked through and discovered the origin of the steam bath, which are culturally known as Hammam baths. Overall, I was so thankful and heartfelt for this experience, that a single tear fell down the right side of my face.

Leaning up against the ancient wall near what seemed to be the old exit from the town, I raised my right hand to brush back my hair. A piece of the ancient wall chipped off of the stone and onto my knuckles. I took it as a sign.

And I will keep this piece of Volubilis with me, forever.

I’m sure it will last another 2000 years.

Kaylee at the Ancient Roman Ruins of Volubilis. Located in Morocco

Kaylee Tindle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is studying International Relations with a minor in Arabic. Kaylee will spend the semester abroad with the ISA Meknes, Morocco: Language, Culture and Society program. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Kaylee is a United Sates Army veteran having served as a Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. Although her service in the military has ended, Kaylee still plans to serve the United States of America through the world of politics.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

It’s not goodbye, it’s a see ya later

It’s been two weeks since I got back from Argentina. I sometimes forget that I don’t need to constantly speak Spanish. Driving felt weird as well since I was constantly walking to get to places while abroad instead of driving. Whenever I have driven around since returning home, I have been more cautious, especially on the highway. I kept worrying if I was driving in the center and not merging into the other lanes correctly. I still remember what the highway was like in Argentina. The memory haunts me from driving. I kind of miss walking around to get places. Everything was so conveniently located since most places were all close to each other.  As soon as I got back to the U.S, I ate my favorite food every day until my stomach could burst. I gained some weight as well. I was kind of disappointed by how much I gained.

I can’t really tell if I experienced any culture shock since I got back or if I am currently experiencing it. My daily routine has definitely changed. My eating habits have been changed as well. Argentina was experiencing winter at that time and didn’t have many fruits and vegetables available for purchase. Host families will not buy a lot of vegetables and fruit due to the high cost of seasonal produce. Luckily I was able to receive plenty of nutritious food from my host mom. She was a nutritionist. Her food was amazing and was better than the food that I found outside the home. I have been making adjustments and changes throughout my return. I definitely think that I have learned a lot from my study abroad experience. For example, I think I improved in listening to Spanish. I wished that I was able to study abroad longer and improve my skills more. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to go study abroad and travel by myself. I wouldn’t have done it without the support from my family and friends. There were many difficult and happy times throughout my study abroad trip as I was able to explore a new country and eat different types of food. If I had an opportunity to do this again, I definitely would. Hopefully, later in the future, I will be able to visit Argentina again and explore more cities and landmarks. My journey of studying abroad ends here but I will cherish these memories until I die. There are not many people who have the opportunity to study abroad and therefore I am thankful for this opportunity and hope others have an opportunity like I did.


Julie Jeong is currently a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Chemistry, Entrepreneurship, and Spanish. Julie will spend the summer with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She plans to attend UMKC’s Dental School after her undergraduate study. She plans to use Spanish in her career as a future dentist who strives to help patients and eliminate miscommunications.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Countdown Dwindles & Adventure Begins

As I write this post, I am a mere 6 days away from departing on my flight for a semester-long journey in Granada, Spain. The excitement and anticipation are growing with each passing day, but so are the nerves, questions, and expectations. However, the emotion that best encompasses how I am feeling is alegría (joy)! I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to spend four months overseas in a country I have always dreamed of visiting. Now, not only do I get to visit, but I get to live in Spain and truly immerse myself in what I know will be a beautiful culture and all-around amazing country. Here are just three of the many aspects of this adventure that I am most anticipating.

1. Improving Spanish

I have been learning and studying Spanish since the second grade, but you wouldn’t believe that if you heard me speak. I am probably better at the language than I consider myself to be, but living in Spain will be the true test. I have always had a desire to become fluent in Spanish, but classroom learning simply doesn’t do it for me. I believe that immersion is the best teacher and I am looking forward to the improvements that will come, especially increasing confidence in myself and my speaking, writing, reading and listening abilities. One way that I will improve is through the housing that I’ve selected for the semester: I opted to live in a homestay with a Spanish family. I thought that this would be the best way to not only learn more about the culture and lifestyle of Spain, but also to essentially be forced to speak Spanish around the clock. It would be too easy for me to use my housing situation as an escape from speaking Spanish, so I chose the homestay as a catalyst for me to continue practicing, even when I am at the home, a place where I usually would let my guard down and relax into English speaking habits. That is why I chose to challenge myself in this way. I’m sure my expectations will be met!

2. Self-discovery and independent travel

I love traveling! If I could, I would make it my full-time job. I’m pumped for this semester in Europe where I will have the freedom to travel in addition to completing my coursework. This is the first time that I will be traveling outside of the United States alone. It’s intimidating, a little scary, but also exhilarating. I’ve heard from other solo travelers that this is an amazing way to really learn more about who you are. I don’t doubt that for a second! I have always been pretty sure of myself, but I am looking forward to learning more about who I am. There are things I haven’t yet discovered simply because I’ve never been in this situation before: I’ve never been away from my family for more than a few weeks at a time, never traveled abroad alone, and certainly have never lived my life using another language in every-day circumstances. All of these scenarios, and more, are sure to highlight many of my strengths (and weaknesses, also important to understand about oneself) that I had never realized I had. I fully expect to be stretched beyond my comfort zone, but I am embracing it. I know this semester will be a challenge, but I am up to the task, whatever Spain has for me!

3. The city, culture, and people

Okay, okay, I know that is three aspects in one post, but I can’t help it. How could I only choose three to discuss? I first fell in love with Granada when I read three simple words describing the city: eclectic, mountainous, historic. I read these descriptors in the International Studies Abroad (ISA) packet that contained all of the study abroad locations available to students. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Granada before researching where to study, but when I read those words I actually became misty-eyed. I felt so drawn to the city. For one, I love mountains. They are so majestic and they make me feel so small but in the best way. They seem to speak to me saying, “There is more in the world beyond yourself,” if mountains could speak, of course. My affinity for mountainous regions makes living in Missouri kind of a bummer, but that’s what traveling is for. Anyway, all that to say, I know this city, like most cities in Europe, will be lovely. I hear (and have seen through pictures) that the city of Granada is beautiful. Likewise, I hear that it is as beautiful as the people who inhabit it. Everyone I have talked with who has been to Spain raves about the kind and welcoming nature of Spaniards. Additionally, I love other cultures that are different from my own and I strive to experience them from the perspective of the locals. I am looking forward to experiencing the diversity that Granada has to offer by living in such an eclectic city with quite a rich history. I enjoy how traveling allows one to meet so many different people from all backgrounds, each with their own unique stories. I am excited to have the people of Spain as a resource to make my experience the best it can be. As a generally introverted and reserved person, I am not typically one to initiate conversations, especially with strangers. However, I want to use this experience to break that cycle since I desire to have an authentic Spanish semester.

Pictured is me wearing the only luggage I plan to bring: a 60 liter Osprey backpack (it’s much roomier than it looks)! I’m embracing simplicity this semester!

There is no telling whom I will meet,what I will discover, the experiences I will have, or the things I will see. The mystery and uncertainty going into this semester is what makes me so excited. All I know is that I will have breathtaking adventures, eat amazing food, meet incredible people, and walk A LOT (I really enjoy a good walk) all while gaining confidence in myself and my Spanish-speaking abilities. This is going to be a semester of learning and discovery. I may not know the details of all that I will encounter, but that is all part of the process. I have an open-mind, an open heart, and the flexibility I need to have a truly maravillosa (wonderful) adventure in Granada, Spain.


Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literatures with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Reflections on my Aussie Study Abroad Experience

Now that I’m back up top from the down under, I shall reflect on my experience studying abroad in Newcastle, Australia. If I had to sum up my whole trip in one word, it would be “fulfilling”. Fulfilling because this study abroad program satisfied all my cravings for adventure, relaxation, challenge, and fun. Going to a different country across the world, studying there, and exploring all it has to offer independently is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve basically visited almost all the major places of eastern Australia. Exploring all the places I’ve visited and studying in a different college environment have all been a great adventure for me. This trip has also been very relaxing. Newcastle is a very laid back, relaxed coastal town. This, combined with easy access to the town’s beaches, gave me many opportunities to sit back and wind down. This was especially nice since this was my last semester. Doing a study abroad trip has also exposed me to challenges that I have learned to overcome independently. Whether it’s getting used to stricter grading or dealing with flight cancellations, this journey has helped make me more self-confident and responsible. Lastly, this experience has also been very fun. I did many exciting things I never thought I would ever do from hiking up mountains to riding a camel to learning to surf. I am very content with my Newcastle study abroad experience and am happy with ISA for organizing such awesome activities and having such great, supportive staff. I also very much enjoyed my time at the University of Newcastle (UoN). UoN is a great campus with friendly, cool students, professors and staff, excellent facilities, and plenty choices for socializing, clubs, and entertainment. If you’re hungry for a study abroad that offers adventure, relaxation, challenge, and fun all in one program, then I would strongly recommend the ISA Newcastle Program. I loved it and so will you!

Home Sweet Home

Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Retransition: Coming Home

My mom and I when she picked me up from the airport

Some people have asked me what I miss most from Argentina, expecting an answer about a food, the weather, or a daily ritual. In truth, I miss the struggle of trying to communicate with less-than-fluent Spanish abilities, the discomfort of not knowing how to behave in an unfamiliar situation, and the unpredictability of wandering through six weeks with a loose schedule. After throwing myself completely into experiencing and enjoying the difficulties of studying abroad, the ease, comfort, and predictability of life back home seems foreign.

I was warned about “reverse culture shock” (the culture shock one experiences when returning home from study abroad) even before I had left for Argentina. At the time, I didn’t take it that seriously. Home is familiar, I thought, how could coming home be shocking? Towards the end of my stay in Argentina, as our class discussions turned more frequently to the prospect of returning to the United States, I began to consider it more seriously. Our professor, who has had lots of study abroad experience, advised us that the “shock” would come from the abrupt, begrudging return to reality, to real responsibilities and obligations, to due dates and work schedules and to-do lists. So this is what I expected upon my return to the U.S.. After all, though study abroad is definitely not just a vacation, it did often feel like a break, or at least like a separation, from “reality.”

What I have struggled with most, however, is not the abrupt return to reality but the feeling that a part of me is stuck in South America. It’s messaging in Spanish with friends I met in Santiago who are now skiing in Patagonia while trying to appear interested in my aunt’s small town gossip. It’s reading contemporary Argentine novels then watching the American Netflix shows I missed while abroad. It’s sharing memes about capitalism in the group chat with my classmates from Argentina while trying to catch up on the missed inside jokes in the group chat with my Conservatory friends. It’s trying to finish up coursework for my Argentine culture class while trying to prepare to return to a intense semester of music education classes. It’s having left my mind and heart in Buenos Aires while my reality and responsibilities are here in Kansas City. This would be my definition of reverse culture shock: feeling shockingly not ‘at home’ in your own home.

A lot of people say that one of the best parts of traveling is the feeling of coming home. I would argue that the beauty of traveling is gaining more homes in places and people scattered around the world. Even if I never feel totally “at home” here again, I think the experience of building new “home”s abroad is more than worth the cost.


Amber Litteken is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Amber will spend six weeks of the summer abroad with the UMKC Faculty-Led Spanish Language Summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Gilman Scholar. Amber is from Breese, Illinois and plays bassoon.

Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Three Days Without Internet? Yes, Please!

After finishing our final exams concluding weeks of intensive language courses in the bustling city of Buenos Aires, all of us “Kansas people,” as our dear ISA staff liked to call us, were ready for a leisurely escape to the rural northernmost provinces of Salta and Jujuy. The highlight of our trip to the north was our 3 day/2 night stay with el Rey de Campesina, an indigenous farming extended-family living in the foothills of the Andes mountains. After spending 4 days traveling around on buses, we were all thrilled to be staying in one spot for a few days and I, for one, was particularly excited about the complete lack of Internet connection.

Upon our arrival, we hiked up through the brush with our luggage to be divided up into the different homes of the family members. After settling in and enjoying an evening snack with our hosts, we all reunited at one house to enjoy a huge welcome dinner; the 13 members of our group and the 8 or so family members sharing one long table outside in the dark and freezing cold.

The next morning, after breakfast in our respective homes, we enjoyed a tour of the family vineyard and bodega (artisanal winery). Then we learned how to make empanadas for lunch.

This meal was one of my favorite memories from our trip to the north – all of us sitting around the same table eating, laughing, and drinking homemade wine, soaking up the warm sunlight, surrounded by beautiful mountains. After lunch, the patriarch Enrique and his nephews led us on an intense half-day trekking, which proved to be more rock climbing than walking, and pushed all of us to our physical limits.

Dinner that night was quicker and more subdued as we were all exhausted from the day’s adventures and eager to fall into our beds. The next morning we had talleres (workshops) in basket weaving or tapestry loom weaving from indigenous artisan women.

After a bittersweet farewell lunch, we packed up our things, said goodbye to our gracious hosts, and headed back down to load the bus and begin the journey back to Salta, then Buenos Aires, then back home to the United States.

This experience was my favorite part of my study abroad program in Argentina. I wish I had taken more pictures with which to remember the people I met and the places I saw. At the time, however, I was surrounded by so much natural beauty it was impossible to decide what to take pictures of. Besides, I was too busy experiencing everything and living in the moment to think about pausing to take photos that could never capture what I hold in memory.


Amber Litteken is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Amber will spend six weeks of the summer abroad with the UMKC Faculty-Led Spanish Language Summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Gilman Scholar. Amber is from Breese, Illinois and plays bassoon.

Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Service Learning: An experience of a Lifetime

As my time abroad is coming to an end, I would like to share my experiences about service learning and all that it has entailed. Service learning is a way for students to be placed in a community, where they can observe and learn from professionals in their field of interest. It has allowed me to be actively engaged in a community that is much different than my own, and along the way I have built numerous relationships. It has, at times pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I have grown so much in this unique experience.

For the past four weeks I have been in a dental clinic here in Cusco Peru, and from day one I was welcomed with open arms. The clinic has two dentists, three assistants, and one woman who runs the front desk and answers the phone. I work at the clinic on average of about five hours a day and throughout my time I have seen a multitude of different procedures and met with dozens of patients. As far as the procedures go, it is much the same in the United States but one thing I have noticed is that it is not as sanitary as I am used to back home. For example, only the doctor wears glove’s when working with a patient, rather than both the doctor and the assistant. This was something that was different for me, but it was consistent every day for the past month.

Aside from some of the differences, one of my favorite parts is seeing how the dentists and their assistants interact with each and every person that walks through the door. The Peruvian culture is much more welcoming than I am used to back at home in the United States, but they are so genuine. They take time to talk with each person and ask how their families are doing and they hug and kiss everyone as if they are family. I love the personal connection that is displayed here each and every day and that is what has stuck out most to me at my time in the clinic.

I am so grateful for the people of Cusco, but especially those that I have had the privilege to work with and shadow for the past month. They truly showed me what a great work place looks like, and how to help one another along the way. They let me be a part of their family and they showed me how to care for one another. This experience is second to none that I have ever been a part of, and for that I am so thankful.


Mollie Maupin is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying Chemistry and Psychology. She will spend four weeks in Peru with the ISA Service Learning: Cusco program. While in Cusco she will shadow in a dental clinic, learning from numerous professionals.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The One Time I Try To Make a Plan

During a long four-day weekend off of classes in Buenos Aires, I decided to take advantage of the cheap flights to Santiago, Chile. This would be my first trip anywhere (let alone a new country) by myself as well as my first stay in a hostel. I booked my excursion with no plans besides my plane ticket and hostel reservation.

On Friday and Saturday, I had enjoyed simply wandering somewhat aimlessly about the city on my own during the day and then returning to the hostel at night for dinner and the (literally) daily fiesta. On Sunday morning, however, I wanted to do something more specific/planned, but less expensive than the tours most of my new hostel friends suggested. At breakfast, my new German friend Debbie told me about her plans to climb Cerro Pochoco, a “mini-mountain” accessible by Santiago public transit. This sounded perfectly accessible and affordable, so I did a little research while my phone recharged and then set off determined to climb a mountain.

After two hours navigating the Metro (subway) and colectivos (buses) to the outer limits of the city, I arrived at the end of my Google directions. Looking around, I did not see the parking lot and trailhead I had read about online. After wandering about for a bit and receiving confused, contradictory directions from two different locals (I did not have data to search the Internet for answers), I noticed a street sign labeled Calle Cerro Pochoco. I double-checked my phone and realized that Google Maps had directed me to a street named after Cerro Pochoco instead of the actual Cerro Pochoco. I was on the wrong side of the city.

A little dismayed, I began walking back towards the Metro station when lo and behold I ran into Debbie and her two friends. They had made the same mistake I had. Her friend Servi, who could use data on her phone, set a course for a new cerro to climb and invited me to come along. I agreed and we set off on the Metro together.

Through the train windows, the bright canopies of a féria caught my attention, so I left my new friends and hopped off the train at the next station. This féria was very different than those I had visited in Buenos Aires. The férias in Buenos Aires were full of artists and vendors selling crafts and homemade goods, whereas this was more like an open-air Walmart, with everything from fruits and vegetables to toilet paper, clothing and books to small electrical appliances. The best difference of all was that it was not intended for tourists. I was the only white person (and probably the only foreigner) there. Instead of tourists looking for souvenirs, I met Chileans doing their grocery shopping.

After walking about absorbing the authentic Chilean culture, I enjoyed a hearty lunch of whatever the amicable waitress recommended because I didn’t recognize anything on the menu. It was an excellent opportunity to talk to some more locals, eat affordably for the first time that weekend, and enjoy the sun and the heat after three weeks of cold in Buenos Aires.

I had noticed I small cerro in the distance and started walking off my lunch in that direction. I noticed some families and dogs climbing around and found the entrance to a rough trail. Once I reached the top, I realized just how far from downtown and how close to the Andes mountains I had wandered. Even from such a small cerro, the views were breathtaking. After catching my breath, soaking up the moment, and taking some obligatory selfies, I started heading back “home” to my hostel, completely satisfied with “lost” day.

The one time I tried to make a plan, it failed. But that mistake created my favorite day in Chile (and one of my favorites all summer) and provided an opportunity to experience a side of authentic Chilean culture far from the city center.


Amber Litteken is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Amber will spend six weeks of the summer abroad with the UMKC Faculty-Led Spanish Language Summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Gilman Scholar. Amber is from Breese, Illinois and plays bassoon.

Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.