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Preparing for Abroad

The time is finally here. The time to pack up my bags, say goodbye to family and friends, and say hello to a new country and a new adventure. I have wanted to study abroad ever since my freshman year at UMKC, but now that the time is finally here, I am not sure what to think. See, up until this moment it has been a dream, a journey that always seemed far into the future. But now it is here, waiting for me to get on a plane, abandon my routine and comfortability, and open myself up to countless new adventures, new friends, and the opportunity to experience the world through a different lens; and for that, I couldn’t be more excited.

My name is Madison Keller, I am on the Pre-Medicine track at UMKC triple majoring in Chemistry, Psychology, and Spanish, and will be studying abroad for 6 weeks in Valencia, Spain to continue learning about the language and culture. I discovered Spanish in eighth grade during a world languages course and was hooked from the get go. I am now a senior at UMKC and have taken a Spanish course every year, for the last eight years. I know what you’re thinking, “wow, she must be fluent by now!” No… I am definitely not, but I am hoping that living in the country and being fully immersed in all aspects of the way of life in Spain will help push me toward my goal of fluency and increase my confidence in speaking the language with natives.

Image result for valencia spain map
I will be studying in Valencia, Spain!

On top of taking two courses in Valencia, one in grammar, and another in culture, I also have the opportunity to complete what is called an Independent Study on a topic of my choice for additional course credits at UMKC. Because I want to go into the medical field, I thought what better way to incorporate the two things I am passionate about; Medicine and Spanish! So, I will be researching the differences in the health care systems of the United States vs. Spain and narrowing in on mental health and emergency medicine. I will be conducting interviews with physicians and pharmacists, do a LOT of research and then compile it all into a minimum, 30 page paper! Seems like a lot, right?! Maybe so, but I can’t wait to get started learning. So, on top of hearing about my courses, the city, and all my adventures, you will also probably be hearing about my independent study and the progression of my research! So exciting!

This is my pup, Mowgli.. as you can see, he did not want me to pack for Spain.

Now, getting ready for this trip seems like it has taken me forever. Everyone says to “pack light”, but when you are leaving for 6 weeks, what does that even mean?! I have packed, re-packed, and re-re-packed like 4 times all in an effort in trying to “pack light” and I still don’t think I have done it as “light” as maybe it should be; but oh well. The hardest part in getting ready to leave the country though is not packing. It is saying goodbye to my pup, Mowgli. You see, he is VERY attached to me. Not seeing his dorky, hilarious, lovable personality and squeezing his face for six weeks is definitely the hardest part about leaving. He’s my rock and my best little friend so it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t dedicate part of this post to him. But I have to take this once in a lifetime opportunity and I know he will be safe and happy while I am gone and get LOTS of love; even though all of that is WAY easier said than done and I am going to be crying like a baby when it’s time to leave.

While I am excited and a little uneasy about leaving, I know once I get there and settle in, I probably won’t want to come home. I think I am ready for this incredible journey in T-minus 2 days, and I am excited for you to follow along with me and my adventures! Let’s do this!

 


Madison Keller is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She is on the pre-medicine track, triple majoring in Spanish, chemistry, and psychology. Madison will spend the summer abroad with the ISA Valencia, Spain Hispanic Studies Program. Madison’s career goals are to attend medical school and incorporate Spanish into all aspects of her life and career.

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.

Copenhagen, Here I Come

I can’t believe it! The time is finally here. In just 24 short hours I will be embarking on a journey that I couldn’t have imagined just a few short years ago. To say that I’m excited to be living in Copenhagen, Denmark for the next six weeks would be a gross understatement. As I type this post, however, I’m feeling nervous and anxious in more ways than I can count. I’ve only flown domestically a handful of times, so I’m not sure what to expect when it comes to an international flight. What if something is wrong with my booking? Did I bring all the right documents? What if there’s traffic on the way to the airport? Will I miss my flight!? Did I even remember my passport!?!

(That last potential crisis was, fortunately, averted…thanks mom)

While many of these are admittedly unnecessary concerns, that just seems to be the way my brain operates. To combat this I simply try to remind myself that no matter how overwhelmed I may feel right now, I know that it will all be worth it the second I touch down in Copenhagen. I just can’t wait to try foods I didn’t existed, to learn things I didn’t know I needed to learn, and to take a million and a half pictures. I may be anxious, but it’s a good anxious. I have no doubt that this study abroad experience will change my life in ways I can’t even begin to think about. To conclude this opening post, I’ve included my favorite picture of Copenhagen that my study abroad provider, DIS, concludes all their emails with.

 

 

Pictures like this make me giddy with anticipation, and I can hardly believe that I’ll be standing there in just a day and a half.

 

-Jacob


Jacob Furry is a sophomore Trustee’s Scholar at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in music education along with a psychology minor. Jacob will spend the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark with the DIS Copenhagen program studying multicultural and special education.

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.

Dear Future Globetrotter

Flamenco show in Granada, Spain

Spain is amazing. Traveling is such an adventure. Studying abroad is a gift. I truly cherish the months that I have had the privilege of living in this beautiful country and all that it has taught me. As the semester comes to an end, a handful of consejos (advice) come to mind that I think are important for anyone about to embark on their own journey abroad. These are some things I have learned (in no particular order) during my time in Granada, Spain. Everyone is unique and has their own story, struggles, and journey abroad, so they may not apply to every person out there. But, I do think what I have observed and learned is very useful and I hope you find it to be as well.

1. Make every effort to get out of the American bubble. You are going to make new friends in your program and in your classes, and that is wonderful! But odds are most, if not all, of those people will be from the United States, which means you will mostly be speaking English and it will be more difficult to meet locals. This happened to me, and while I love the friends I’ve made, I didn’t meet many locals. It was a lot more challenging than I expected. I spoke English more than I imagined I would when at the start of the semester I really believed the majority of the language I used would be Spanish. All I’m saying is to find a balance and be intentional about meeting the locals in your city.

2. Don’t wait until you have the perfect friend(s)/group to do something you are interested in… Similarly, don’t be afraid to do things alone. The biggest example of this for me was when I took a solo trip to Manchester, England. I went for the sole purpose of visiting the Chatsworth House, which is Mr. Darcy’s home in the newest movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I really hadn’t found anyone that was interested in going there, so I went alone. It was a very challenging experience but one I really cherish. I’m the type of person that loves to share experiences with others, so at times during the trip, I felt very alone. However, this also meant I got to learn even more about myself: what I like, what I don’t like, how I travel without outside influence, and so much more. It’s okay to do things alone and you’ll even grow from it!

3. If you’re abroad to learn and practice a new language, don’t shy away from continuing to speak in that language if the person you’re talking to responds in English. This happened to me far more often that I would’ve liked. It’s usually in situations where the person I’m speaking with is in a hurry and I’m taking too long to get my point across (like ordering food at a restaurant). It sometimes made me question my Spanish abilities. Were they switching to English because I wasn’t speaking Spanish well enough? I was there to learn so I wouldn’t let that stop me from speaking. Who knows? Maybe they want an opportunity to practice their English. Just keep practicing! You’re there to learn.

4. If you see something potentially interesting or are curious about something around a corner, through an archway, up/down stairs, go explore! You won’t regret taking those few extra steps and seconds to check it out. Even if it doesn’t end up being that noteworthy, you won’t leave the country wondering what could’ve been. Plus, you just never know what you will find!

5. Learn how to use public transportation systems; it’s a great feeling when you get it down. I still struggle with it at times, but Google Maps is a lifesaver. Keep in mind, some countries are easier to navigate than others with this mode of transport, but you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Front load the time you’re living in the country by doing a lot of activities, exploring, eating new foods, meeting locals and new friends. Time really does fly when you study abroad and you don’t want finals week to suddenly be upon you and you still have so much on the table. It’s not fun to be studying for finals and still trying to cram a few more activities in. It just it makes it hard to enjoy it all. I was a victim of this… the procrastinator in me really revealed itself this semester. Don’t wait!!

7. Just take it all in! Enjoy every second and find special moments in each day. I know this is very general, but there is so much to discover and take in. Make the most of your time!

Thank you for joining me this semester and for taking the time to read about my adventures! I hope that those who are planning to study abroad have a wonderful experience. And if you are still on the fence about whether you should go or not, I have one piece of advice for you: do it! You won’t regret it.

The Alcázar in Segovia, Spain

 

Picos de Europa, northern Spain

 


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Argentina FIFA World Cup

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup begins. The World Cup is a four to five week tournament in which countries from across the world compete to take home one of the most sought after titles ever. Though the entire world takes this series of fútbol matches very seriously, this tournament is especially important for Argentina. My host dad was quick to inform me that since their last World Cup victory in 1988, Argentina has been thirsty for another title, and now, they are lead by Lionel Messi who assisted them to the runner-up position in 2014.

Messi has become a figurehead for Argentina’s success, and he maintains a godly reputation in Argentina. Businesses throughout Buenos Aires take advantage of this event, and advertisements feature Lionel Messi everywhere. On the sidewalks, he is pictured on fast food and sports equipment street signs in his Argentina game jersey. On the subway he is in clothing advertisements, dressed to the dime in a fitted suit. And on billboards and in television commercials, he can be seen in his jersey, juggling a soccer ball, and drinking mate–an infamous tea-like beverage from Argentina. These advertisements have become rather complex; one particular subway advertisement is interactive and constructed in layers, each layer containing a different aspect of Messi’s face. To focus on his image, the viewer has to stand in such a way to see all the layers from a single perspective, taking time to line each layer up with the next.

Outside of the advertisements, the people of Buenos Aires have a strong passion for their game and country. My host mom was so entranced by the game that she was late to pick us up on our very first day! Argentina’s anticipation the morning before they played Nigeria was outstanding; numerous commuters on the train and subway had painted their faces, wearing jerseys, or carrying flags. Every person knew the significance of the game–middle schools, high schools and universities alike ended class early, whole business closed, and the busy streets calmed to watch the game. In bars and restaurants, waiters sat beside patrons and cooks stood, the whole building filled with the tension. But my favorite place to watch the games was in Plaza San Martin. Here, hundreds of people gathered on a hill slope to watch the game on a 50 foot screen, booming the announcer’s commentary across the city. Throughout the Nigeria game the crowd screamed, yelled, oohed and ahhed in unison with each play, strike, and call of the referee. The whole plaza was filled with raw emotion and anticipation; thirsty for the next goal to win the game. The crowed erupted, screaming, crying, jumping, and hugging each other when Messi and his teammates managed to work past the Nigeria defense to score the final goal. Never before have seen the same amount of unity. The environment and emotion of the entire day, a whole country united around a single cause with expectations of a victory placed heavily on a single player–Messi.

Imagine an entire country united behind a single subject; this is Argentina during the World Cup. For Argentina this game is a release, a moment to join the country in unity behind a single cause. As a study abroad student in Argentina, I am blessed to be in Argentina during this time. Through this experience, I was able to learn more about both the people and country, and participated in an irreplaceable cultural event. Only in Argentina can you feel the intense passion and electricity that I felt during that time!


Felix Amparano is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Chemistry, Spanish, and Biology. Felix is excited to spend six-weeks of his summer studying Spanish in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the UMKC Spanish Program. During his time abroad, Felix hopes to gain a better understanding of Argentine culture and health care with the hopes of becoming more culturally competent in his approaches to patient treatment.

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.

Fill Your Life With Adventures…

It is unbelievable to me that I am already done with my six-week program in Lyon.

I feel simultaneously as if I just got here, and as if I have been here for a long, long time. There are so many things that I love about this city, and yet at the same time so much that I miss about home, the duality of life is more evident to me now than ever. I am sad to leave my new friends, this beautiful country, my lovely host family, and the many things I have come to love about this country, but I am also so happy that soon I will be home, able to see my dog and my brothers again, to be able to go get food at any time of day, to be able to eat my families homemade food and also tofu again (oddly enough, there is not a lot of tofu here). But it feels right, this balance of happy and sad, it makes me believe that I have found a decent balance while here.

While I will only have been in France for six weeks, I will have been to Nice, Annecy, Avignon, and Paris, that is amazing! I think everyone should, at some point in their life if they are given the opportunity, travel to another country and learn about the way other people live. Living in another country, even for as short of a time as I have, has opened my eyes to so many things. Learning to navigate within the social norms of another culture is both amazing and scary.

A quote that I believe to be entirely true is this: “Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell not stuff to show”. This could not be more true, exploring the city and meeting new people, saying yes to things I would most likely have said no to at home, and just trying to make the most of my time here in France has been so much better than any material thing could be. I would much prefer to go to a concert somewhere or just wander the city finding new things than I would go shopping, I would much rather spend less money on stuff so I can instead spend it to go on an adventure to somewhere new or afford to have a new experience. I also believe that one of the most amazing parts of traveling, for me at least, has been the people that one meets while traveling. I have met the most amazing people from this trip, people I would never have met otherwise, people from other parts of the United States, and people from many other countries. Meeting such a variety of people has opened my mind even more than just being in another country has, other students and I compared the things we are used to from our countries and cultures with the things that are normal here in France, and in doing this I got to learn differences not just between US culture and French culture, but also US culture and the culture of many other countries. Meeting these many new people also means that there are bound to be people with many different thoughts and opinions, this was very true for this trip and that was a learning experience for me as well. I feel that I learned much, much more from just living in Lyon and living with a host family than I did from my classes because, in reality, life and language don’t work like the classroom. Learning a language in the classroom is so unbelievably different than actually using that language and learning the way it really works and the way it is used by native speakers.

I can truly say that this trip has changed my life. I have made friends that I will doubtless keep in touch with, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone time and time again, experienced a whole new country and a whole new way of life, and I know that Lyon, as well as the people in it and the people I met here,  will always have a piece of my heart.


Sydney Serrano is a freshman studying Psychology and French at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Sydney will spend the summer abroad with the UMKC French Summer Program in Lyon, France. Sydney is a member of Alternative Spring Break and Pride Alliance at the University of Missouri Kansas.

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.