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Neither Here Nor There

Thank you for joining me for the second installment of my journey through Ireland. These last few weeks, much like the first few, have had their share of excitement, discovery, and head scratching moments. Since my last post, I have done quite a bit of exploring, mostly around southern Ireland. In reality, classes have picked up a bit, so I have to pick and choose my days to wander. Still, it is mainly just lecture as they do not believe much in homework apparently, which is more than fine with me. With that it leaves me quite a bit of extra free time to go to cool places during the week. 

I have a break in class from Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening, so that has become my exploration time. These have been some of my favorite trips because they involve little to no planning and a lot of figuring it out on the fly. For example, on the 17th of September, I hopped a bus up to Killarney and spent the day touring the castle and gardens. I walked around for hours before sitting down at a fishing dock away from the crowds to take in the scenery. There I met a guy named John, who had been backpacking Europe for a few months, and struck up a conversation. The conversation lasted a couple hours and ended with John eventually deciding he would buy a plane ticket to head back to the states to get a fresh start. I can’t take any credit for his realizations, but I wish him the best in his new pursuits. After that whirlwind, I attempted to walk back to Cork, got lost and ended up hailing a cab to get back to my apartment. That’s a story for another time. 

The next weekend I was lucky enough to embark on a fly fishing trip to a small town in the next county over. Late on a Friday night, I made the trek over to the town of Clonmel where I rented a last minute AirBnb. The nice lady who owned the house called me a cab for the next day in order to get to the fish shop. After arriving a bit early the workers and guide showed up and started collecting gear. Once we were armed and dangerous it was time to snag some trout. The day consisted of catching a few fish, learning some tricks of the trade, and seeing a ton of awesome country. The guys were extremely knowledgeable and kind as almost everyone has been. All of this made for a great day on the water.

Jumping ahead to this week, again with a few friends, we went and toured the town of Kinsale on the southern coast by way of bike. There we went around the city and out to an old military fort dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. I was able to learn a bit about the area’s history and take in the scenery. To no one’s surprise the views out over the Atlantic were nothing short of amazing.

This leads us to this Tuesday. A few days ago, I was sitting in my morning class thinking I had not done anything spontaneous in a minute or two, so I headed to the bus station as soon as we were dismissed. I had remembered reading about a bike trip through the Gap of Dunloe that was a must do, so I bought a ticket and was off. Upon arriving in Killarney, I rented a bike from a local place, nodded as the guy went through the local stops to make, and tore out of town. About 8 miles in I chained up and began to ascend a hiking path. An hour or so later I stood at the top of Slippery Bridge or “Big Gun” peak looking over more country than I could even take in. After staring in amazement for awhile, I headed back down realizing I would be in a real time crunch to make the last bus back. From there I picked back up the bike trip and headed through the Gap of Dunloe. I would try to explain the surrounding scenery, but it’s just one of those places you have to see for yourself. I attached a picture below, but it does not even do it justice. Five or so miles later of pedaling up the rugged terrain and down through the Black Valley, I finally got a bit of signal and realized I had an hour and a half to bike 15 miles back either direction. With the steepness of the surrounding hills, that just would not be possible. With a little detour and a lot of luck I was able to find a flooded walking path back through the forest and out to the main road. A couple miles and a soaked pair of shoes later I was right back on track. From there it was a long but manageable 8 miles back into Killarney. Legs burning and heart racing, I chugged along cursing myself out, and made it just in the nick of time. I chained up the bike and hustled to catch the last bus as it pulled in, a great success. 

As I look back on these last few adventures, I realize they are not things that can be strategically planned out. Life is about adjusting on the run, so sometimes you just have to buckle up and let it fly. I know these are the times I will look back and appreciate the most because they weren’t supposed to happen. I can’t be quite sure if it’s curiosity, determination, or just plain stupidity, but the three combined seem to create something special, something an itinerary will never capture. These trips are just more meaningful. They are about the journey and not the outcome, more about the story of getting there and less about the end result. That’s life.

 Again, thanks for reading, and I will continue to keep updating as often as possible. Much obliged. 


Photo courtesy of The Gap of Dunloe


Matthew Twaddle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in civil engineering. He is attending the University College Cork in Ireland through the UMKC Direct Exchange Program during the fall semester. Matthew is from Maryville, MO and is excited to continue his education in Cork, Ireland where some of his family still resides.

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.

Arriving in London

     I’ve been in London for four days now and I’m still pinching myself! I still haven’t gotten the chance to see central London, which is a bummer, but I’ll find a way. In my home in Kansas City most people rely on their cars for transportation, but in London it’s the opposite. Mostly everyone here relies on public transit, which is great, but I’m not used to it at all.

Today I missed the opportunity to go explore central London with fellow international students. The jet lag has been real, and has finally caught up with me! When I first arrived in London I didn’t feel tired at all. It was just yesterday that I began to feel extremely exhausted, but I have been staying up very late due to me getting used to new surroundings. Due to that I completely missed out on exploring the city today.

While I’ve only been here for four days, I’ve already met some great people from my flat and orientation. I’m happy to be putting myself out there in social interactions, and meeting new friends. One person who has really made an impression on me is my flat rep Dre. He has been very kind and understanding. Sometimes, I cannot understand a word he is saying but he won’t hesitate to repeat himself!

So far I’ve been to Asda (a “Walmart” like supermarket), a student friendly bar on campus, and a campus movie night. I feel great so far, but missing out on photo frenzy is kind of getting me down. If I didn’t explain already, photo frenzy is a day when all international students go out into central London and explore the town. The University of Roehampton even set up a clue game to have fun finding historical pieces.

It sounds very fun, and I hope to go enjoy the city soon. As I’ve said already i didn’t go into the city so I have no pictures of the city. Instead here are some pictures of my view right now.


Kierra M. Fayne is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying theatre performance. Kierra is spending the fall semester abroad with the Missouri-London Semester Program: University of Roehampton. She plans to study theatre in London to seek new techniques and tools that will help her tackle performances with more ease. Kierra was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where she has made connections that have helped her identify her goals to study theatre performance. She is now ready to spread her wings, find connections, and make new friends in London.

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.

Small City Dreams

Ye gods but Oxford is beautiful. I’ve been here for one whole hour and I am already in love. I’m staying in the dorms in Magdalen College; it’s the one with its own deer park. Can you imagine UMKC having a deer park in the middle of Kansas City? That would be wild. Don’t get me wrong, I love our quad, but there’s a distinct lack of deer. 

London’s West End has some great shows!

It is SO much quieter here than in central London. I had to stay at a hotel near Tottenham Court Road for the first couple days, just to get situated with my IFSA program. London is BUSY BUSY BUSY GO GO GO!!! There’s a constant flow and irregular heartbeat to the city that was very new to me. I can completely understand why people choose to make it their home. The tall buildings and narrow winding streets hid treasures around every corner. We took a VERY long walking tour and I got to see things I’d only read about in Dumas books. But, as I’ve lived in Kansas City for most of my life, it was a bit too much close quarters for me. I’m VERY glad to have learned that about myself before I committed to living in London or a similar big city. 

The deer get right up close to my window!

Oxford, on the other hand, is so far exactly what I wanted it to be. The buildings are shorter, the birds are louder, and there is grass to lay in. Also, some castles and the Hogwarts dining hall. But, I’m really ready to just settle into school here. The tutorial system of education is new to me and I am greatly looking forward to experiencing it. I have also brought a half empty suitcase that I’m looking forward to filling with books!

 

 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

What Even is Time?

I have no idea how long a month is. I mean, I know how long a month is. But I don’t know how long a month is. Time is weird and it doesn’t make sense to me. There are only three times: right now, the far off future, and never. Hence why I’m sitting in the airport writing this blog post like I should’ve done a week ago. My friends keep telling me a month is a really long time, that I’ll have SO much time to see EVERYTHING in England. I just keep telling them I have homework. Because, again, time is hard and I do not have a good grasp on how long a month is. Also, I’m taking 11 credits in one month, which genuinely seems like a lot. 

I know we are supposed to talk about our plane trips, but… ok so from MCI to Georgia was like, an hour and a half? And that’s how far my cousin’s house in Iowa is. So Georgia is a close as Iowa. The flight to England is 8hrs and that’s how far Colorado was, so England is like going to Estes Park for me. 

I guess what I’m getting at is: if you have a study abroad trip, don’t worry about how long you’ll be there or how far away from home it is. Time and distance are completely meaningless and incomprehensible. 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

“You´re 25 and you´ve never seen the ocean???”

I’m 25 years old, and I have only just now experienced the ocean, which luckily was during my study abroad trip in Costa Rica. Guys, this place is absolutely gorgeous.

I am elated to say that I have now seen 9 beaches here, three which are on the list of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches. I also got to see a beach in Panama.

I’m referencing this article if you´re interested! (P.S., I´ve been to numbers 1, 2, and 4!)

I’m going to make this blog post about my absolute favorite beaches, and the remarkable experiences I had there.

The first area we went to was Playa Manuel Antonio, listed as the 2nd most beautiful beach. In that area, I saw 4 separate beach areas. My first experience was marvelous, there were monkeys playing on the beach (and on the lookout for things to steal from the beach goers). Here´s a link to UMKC study abroad´s insta if you´re interested in seeing a bit of that cuteness.

Playa Manuel Antonio

The next weekend, we headed to the Guanacaste province to check out Playa Tamarindo, listed as the 4th most beautiful beach. This place was gorgeous.

Playa Tamarindo

There were even howler monkeys outside of our Airbnb, while we were in the pool!

Howler monkey

Sunday, before we left Tamarindo, two of my friends and I got up really early in the morning. Our mission was to see the number one most beautiful beach in Costa Rica: Playa Conchal. Notice how the word Conchal looks like conch? As in the shells? Perfect, because that´s what this beach is all about. Playa Conchal has a large part of it’s beach area where instead of sand, you see itty bitty broken pieces of polished shell. This place is honestly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life, my little Kansas mind absolutely could not handle it!!!

Playa Conchal: Bonita!

How could I tell you it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen if I didn’t provide proof? Well, that would almost be……shellfish of me!!!

Clear waters of Play Conchal

Can you believe how clear this water is??? Even the waves are clear and completely gorgeous.

Even the waves were crystal clear!

When I tell you I’m ready to go back…that’s no joke! The last weekend I stayed in Cahuita. I took a short drive south to see Playa Negra in Pureto Viejo.

I can’t decide if Playa Conchal or Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo, where we went on my last weekend were my favorite.

I could not get enough of how cool this was!!!  I’m not quite sure why there was a random barge there…but it was super cool!

Playa Negra.

I love this picture because of the contrast between the white waves and black sand.

White waves on Playa Negra.

I don´t think I could have picked a better study abroad program. This program was awesome because it has so many places to visit, so much wildlife, and so many amazing beaches. Not only that, my Spanish improved dramatically! Now that all of my degree requirements have been met, I’ll take that Spanish degree now.

You better believe that my mind was blown during the entire program, and that I absolutely will be returning one day.

Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

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.

No Worries in Café Clazic

A typical day for me looked like this:

My friends and I walk, three in a line, down the sidewalk to the café I had looked up online two hours prior to our designated meeting time. We met at the CU, “convenience store 4 you!”, outside our shared campus dorm, and started the familiar stroll down the sidewalks leading away from Dongguk towards the Chungmoro subway station.

The thing about walking after driving a car for, well, forever is that it seems like a hassle at first. But then it becomes less annoying. Then it starts to turn into a slight enjoyment. And then that small joy in the act finally culminates into a full-blown appreciation. Walking is now like second nature and I wish more of the United States was walkable.

The sky is overcast and looks like it could pour down rain any minute, but none of us had thought to bring an umbrella. On our walk to the nearby café, we make small talk concerning our university course load, the other areas in Seoul we’ve been to, and the topic that had my stomach in knots: our last days in South Korea.

They were coming fast and dwindling down into hurried goodbyes, tearful promises of meeting again, and long flights back to the countries we came from.

My last two weeks in Seoul made me realize something. Nothing big or dramatic, but still relevant to the person I was growing into. That something then slowly crystalized into a myriad of feelings and emotions that eventually snowballed into a seemingly all-encompassing pressure on the person I thought I was.

Our trio passes the familiar GS 25, their signs a signature blue and red and white – inviting and welcoming to all searching for the nearest convenience store, then the Two-Two fried chicken restaurant which was always busy, and finally the ever-faithful Tteokbokki Party. The chain store acts as a marker for me, either traveling to campus or to the station, that I am on the right path and close to where I want to be. Instead of taking the left to cross the street and find the stairs that lead underground to Chungmoro station, we keep walking across the pedestrian crosswalk spanning six lanes hoping the drivers, who weren’t known for their “pedestrian first” mentality, wouldn’t do anything reckless.

After safely making it across, we continue straight on our path watching the darkening sky hoping it wouldn’t decide to rain. This part of town seems darker and gloomier than the other side of the street – the streets we knew well and came to love. It seems like a “wrong side of town” kind of feel. Much less tourist-y and full with hole-in-the-wall mom and pop type of shops. Finding the café I chose is much harder and more difficult than I anticipated. We wandered the streets crisscrossing and backtracking multiple times, all three of us too stubborn to give up.

Finally, I pull out my Naver maps, the Google maps of Korea, and type in Café Clazic. According to my maps, we were standing right in front of the coffee shop. Frantically we look around hoping the map app is trustworthy and we were closer to getting some caffeine. My friend spots the sign advertising the café and pointing to the building on our left with the letters “2F” indicating it is on the second floor.

Relieved, we make the climb to the second level and pause at the unassuming door double-checking within the group we are entering the right place. Reassured, we slide the door to the side and are greeted with the rustic interior of Café Clazic. The inside is dark, an old attic type of ambiance, with wooden chairs and desks scattered around. The ordering bar and expresso machines are located on the far right side. At least one mirror adorns every wall, giving you a glimpse of not only yourself but the other customers in the single room. Off to the side, another small room is connected but with a drastically different theme. This room is bright and light and filled with plants and flowers. In the middle, for decoration and the main point (according to the multiple Instagram posts tagging the location) is the claw-foot bathtub artfully filled to the top with leaves and petals. Small stools and crates surround the tub indicating the tub itself is usable as a table. This is further supported by the clear covering laying over half the tub on the end allowing drinks to be placed on top of that side.

Cafés like this, themed and artistically decorated, dot the landscape and seem to be deeply embedded into the culture of Seoul. From a complete pink environment, to plants and flowers bringing nature to the concrete city center, to animal-inspired themed cafes – Seoul has it all. This is the place to come and be surrounded by environments you see in magazines, movies, Instagram discover page, and what you imagine how you would decorate your future apartment when you have the money and the freedom of adulthood. These are places to meet friends, do business, study, or just enjoy what the city of Seoul has to offer.

Within the cafes of Seoul, for me, there are no worries. There are only good coffee and good company in a city I have come to love and feel comfortable in. Here in the center of one of busiest cities in the world, there’s peace and quiet in whatever café you choose or happen to chance by. Sitting in the chairs, nestled in the atmosphere that is quintessentially and unmistakably Seoul, enjoying either your own singular presence in the bustle of the country capital or that of a like-minded friend there is a quiet inner understanding and feeling of being settled for that small moment of the forever that seems to be your life.

Seoul is cafés and friends and traveling and endless opportunities to do and be whatever you want. At least as an exchange student. These past two weeks, I have learned I am stronger than I give myself credit for and I can endure much more than I think.


Emily Stahl is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Marketing at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. Emily will spend the semester abroad in South Korea participating in the Dongguk University exchange program. She is a member of the Delta Zeta sorority, Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, and Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. Being from a small town north of KC, Emily is excited to live and study in the city of Seoul for 4 months. She looks forward to gaining a better perspective and understanding of the culture and society within South Korea. Emily is also eagerly anticipating expanding her knowledge of business interactions on an international scale and to meet people and make new connections while abroad.


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.

Home and Dreaming of Travel

I’ve been home for a few weeks now and I am still thinking about Prague. They warned me before I left about reverse culture shock I may feel upon coming home. I figured this was something that only happened to some people and I would be fine (because I was afraid of being homesick and having bad culture shock when arriving in Prague). I did, however, get reverse culture shock.

When studying abroad, be aware of this. You have so much fun and it goes by so quickly when you are traveling. Then, when it’s time to go home, you are usually excited because you finally get to go home and see your family, friends, and everything else you have been missing at home. When you get home, you will probably be exhausted from travel, but excited to share your experiences with everyone. It gets hard after you have been home for a while though. You start to miss the routine you had while you were abroad, the different life you were living, and for me especially, my new friends.

I recommend making the most of the final days in your country of study. Whether that be going to the final places you haven’t been, going to some of your favorite spots, or just hanging out with the people you had the most fun with. For myself, this meant all three of these things. On our last day, some people had left, others had gone in their own direction, but it ended up just being a group of around 8 of us left. We had a farewell lunch with our program leader and professor, then it was off to enjoy the day.

Me and my group of friends at the Lennon Wall.

We wrote on the Lennon Wall, each with our own quote that would stay on the wall as a happy sentiment. We made sure to all take a lot of pictures that day as well.

Then, we all decided to go to the Vlatava River in the center of Prague to go for a paddle boat ride. This was the most relaxing time I had in Prague and I got to just soak up my surrounding and the time I was having, which was really nice.

After dinner, we ended our time in Prague by walking around the city and retracing the steps we had taken on the very first night. Passing the old town square, the pub where we introduced ourselves, and finally making our way back home for the last time to our apartments. The goodbyes were hard. A lot harder than I thought they would be. We all agreed we would keep in touch, and although we don’t all live in the same place, we would come visit each other and maybe one day, make it back to Prague. The hardest goodbye for me was my new friend I had made, Emma. Throughout that month we had been with each other non-stop and it is weird not to have that anymore.

Me and Emma.

In ending my travels, as well as this blog, I would just like to give one final piece of advice:

Wherever you go, and whatever you do in your travels, make sure you take it all in, do things you have never done before, and just simply enjoy yourself because you never know when you’ll be able to do something like this again.

Isabelle Pekarsky is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying political science. Her hometown is KCMO. Isabelle is spending the summer abroad with the Developing Dynamics of Democracy Program in Prague, Czech Republic. Isabelle’s goals are to attend law school after graduating in May 2020 and possibly pursue work in international relations. She believes her experiences studying abroad will help her learn more about democracies in other countries.


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.

Exploration

As of today, I’ve been in Lyon for exactly three weeks. In spite of this fact, I still haven’t been able to shake the excitement that I feel when I think about the fact that I’ve been living in Europe. It’s kind of silly, I know, but that feeling of excitement still hasn’t worn off. Even though, I’ve been able to explore a lot of the city by now, there is still so much I haven’t seen as there is so much to do and see here. I love everything about Lyon, the people, the food, but especially the architecture. To me it is the most beautiful part of the city and it is so full of history.

For example, there is a section of the city called Vieux Lyon, which literally means old Lyon. That part of the city holds all of the oldest buildings and is one of Europe’s largest Renaissance neighborhoods. Vieux Lyon is divided into three sections, each of which has its own specific style of architecture. There is the Saint Jean quarter, which was constructed in the Middle ages, where all the buildings in that region exemplify gothic architecture. The best example of this is definitely St. Jean’s cathedral, which is pictured on the right. Walking around in that cathedral was completely surreal and it left me wondering how they could have possibly managed to build something like this at a time when flashlights where not even an idea that had been imagined yet. However, it is nothing compared to the Basilique de Fouvrière (on the left), which has ceilings so beautiful that most people who enter the cathedral spend half of their time there, just gawking at the ceiling.

Then there is also the Saint Paul section, where many Italian bankers/merchants had settled in the 15th and 16th century. As a result of this, all the buildings in this region resemble those that you would find in Italy. Finally, and probably the most interesting section, at least according to me, is the Saint Georges quarter, where there are actually secret passageways throughout the buildings known as les traboules. It might have my inner child or just the fact that I love adventure movies, but even though they were created for very practical reasons, to help silk weavers transport their products, walking through les traboules was probably one the most exciting part of exploring the city for me.

With that said, I feel like it’s only fair that I share the downsides to living in Lyon, all two of them. Firstly, almost everyone smokes and they smoke everywhere: in the house, in the university, on the metro, and at the bus stop. Just everywhere! You can’t escape it. No matter where you go, you will always be choking on someone’s cigarette smoke. However, I’m pretty sure that this habit isn’t just specific to Lyon. Secondly, the bathroom situation is a source of continual annoyance. Either, the bathroom is incredibly disgusting or you have to pay to go to the bathroom. Yes, you read that correctly, pay to use the bathroom! I’m sure they have a semi-logical reason for doing this, which at this point I don’t know and can’t think of, but I will never understand paying to use the bathroom. If you need to use the bathroom, you just have to use the bathroom. This isn’t something you can control. And I know you must be thinking, “Oh you could probably just sneak in”, but no, you really can’t, as there is a worker who stays in the bathroom at all times, monitoring who comes and goes to the bathroom. A riveting job, I’m sure! In spite of these two things, I wouldn’t trade my summer in Lyon for anything.

 


Hannah-Kaye Carter is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in chemistry and psychology with minors in French and biology. She is spending her summer abroad with the Faculty-Led UMKC French Language Summer in Lyon, France. Hannah-Kaye was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where she lived until she immigrated to the United States at 9 years old. Currently, Hannah-Kaye is a member of the UMKC Pre-Med Society and a member of the Educate Organize and Advocate Committee. Additionally, she volunteers at the W.E.B. Dubois Learning Center as an assistant teacher in their subtraction classroom every Saturday morning. Her hope is to someday go to medical school, become a doctor, and eventually become a member of Doctors without Borders. 

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.

Tranquilidad, a Costa Rican way of life

Tranquila.

If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s a word that describes calm, a general free from worry, and most importantly, the laid back attitude of Costa Rica.

It’s also one of the most common phrases or expressions you’ll hear, especially if you’re an American with an anxiety disorder who worries about literally everything. Typically, this word is used as an adjective in Spanish, but in Costa Rican Spanish, they’ve adapted this word into a command, and a way of life.

Before I left, I had read about this, and noted that it was best to remain calm in all situations here, because Costa Ricans value peace over everything.

My first real experience with this expression was during an Uber ride home…after dark. It gets dark around 6:00 P.M. here, so even if you´re not out super late, it feels like you are.

Also a fun side note, in Costa Rica, addresses are a bit…different, to say the least. The way they navigate through a city is by using a focal point (we use the local mall), then describing how far you have to walk in a direction from that focal point…then describing what the house looks like.

There are street signs, people have tried to modernize the address system, but the old ways have stuck. Which means if you’re not a local, you could be stuck scratching your head while you’re trying to ask for help from strangers.

Back to the Uber ride.

Because addresses are different here, Uber only let me put in the beginning of the address, which luckily was the name of the area. It won’t exactly take the driver to your home stay, but it’ll land you somewhat near there. I also have a picture of the front of the house so that I remember what it looks like.

Nuestra Casa Costarricense, Our Costa Rican House

So the Uber driver stops where we’re apparently supposed to get out, but my roommate and I aren’t quite familiar with the area yet and its also dark…so my anxiety starts to set in.

I nervously tell the driver in Spanish that we don’t know where we are, and that we are new here. He genuinely tries to help us, but it’s hard because Spanish isn’t our first language, and we don’t exactly know what to do in this situation.

I remembered that our host mom had written down the ‘address’ on a piece of paper and gave it to us, so I gave this to the driver and also pulled open Google Maps so that I could try to get a sense of where we were in the area. I vaguely remember a bit more and tell the driver, but he completely passes the area and gets back on the main road.

And then, the anxiety started to creep in even more.

While my roommate and I have gotten a bit more of a sense as to where we were, my nerves got the best of me and I tell him too excitedly that he passed it, and that we have to go back.

“Tranquila.”

This was the word he uttered to me as he turned around and attempted to get back to where we needed to be.

My roommate described this to me later because I didn’t see it, but I guess he gave me a look, like he was genuinely concerned for me and also not sure why I was so on edge.

Of course, we made it home, and we thanked him a million times. One of my Costa Rican friends told me that people here will genuinely try to help you, and he technically did not have to go so out of his way to make sure we made it just to the house, because the Uber application told us we had reached our destination that we put in. I made sure to tip him well.

So with one week down, I’m remembering to keep my head together and stay calm in a foreign country. And remember my friends,

“Tranquila.”

Everything will be all right.


Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

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.

Spain, you have stolen my heart

Part of the city of Arts and Sciences. I live 5 minutes on bike from here and it is breathtaking.

Wow, it has been 2 weeks since I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. You guys want to know a secret??? Spain is AMAZING!!! I know… it is hard to believe. I am walking/biking about 6-10 miles a day in Spain, yes…most of the time I feel disgusting and sweaty, but so does everyone else so who cares?! The driving here is horrible, gas is $8 per gallon or more, traffic is a nightmare, and there is not a lot of available parking so most people walk, bike, bus, or scooter. My roommate and I chose biking to get some exercise and burn off the calories from all the delicious foods we are eating! Plus, there is a bike system built into the roadways called Valenbici so you’re never too far away from transportation.

Café and a delicious pastry = always a great day!

Want to know another secret?? Coffee in the United States sucks. Did I think that 2 weeks ago? Lol, no. But, Spain is known for having amazing coffee along with the rest of Europe, and that is no lie. It’s pretty funny because everyone in Spain, including my host family laughs at how Americans make coffee; (lots of water and very little café so they say). Here it’s about 3-5oz, super concentrated, and VERY strong. While it is a very different taste than what I am used to, it is a very delicious one.

I am loving my new host mom and dad (we had to get re-homed after our first 4 days in Valencia because we were being “neglected”… yikes, I know, but that’s a story for a later date). My current host family is a very sweet couple without any kids of their own, and my roommate and I are the first adults they have ever hosted and for the longest amount of time. They usually host 13-14 year old French students for 4-5 days at a time, but made an exception for us due to our previous situation and we couldn’t be happier that they did. I have been to Madrid, Toledo, Valencia, and Barcelona so far in Spain and I have to say… my host mom makes food better than anything I have had in a restaurant in any of those places thus far. My host mom is also Colombian so we get a mix of Spanish and Colombian foods and it’s always fresh and made from scratch. Did I tell you she is an amazing???

I will never get tired of the views here.

Even though I may be eating a lot here (is it really that much when you’re burning them all? I think not). I feel healthier because a lot of “things” in foods at home are not legal here. The fruit is the sweetest and freshest I’ve ever tasted (pineapple here is out of this world), the meat is very different and always fresh, and I will never look at a “tortilla” the same again. I put the word tortilla in quotes because the tortillas here are made with eggs and potatoes (and other things depending on the type) and are about an inch thick. No, you can’t wrap it like a burrito or make it into a quesadilla, it’s like a side dish. When we told our professor what a tortilla was back home she said it sounded disgusting. After having these I think so too!

A view from “El Castillo” a castle in Peñiscola, Spain. Fun fact, Game of Thrones used this castle to film the city of Meereen!

There are some things I’m missing from home…like water. Calm down, I am staying hydrated, but it is nowhere near as accessible in Valencia as it is at home. There are no water fountains (except a few in the park for runners), and everyone buys giant things of plastic water bottles for their homes because there is no faucet connected to the fridge. Ice is also almost non-existent, but, with all that being said, it’s only one pitfall of being here and I’ve found some pretty creative ways to stay hydrated and get water, so, I’ll survive.

With everything I have experienced in Valencia so far, I think my favorite is going to the beach. There are so many cool things about the city and places to explore, but living in the Midwest, where beaches don’t exist, I love being able to just go put my toes in the sand and hang out. It is usually peaceful and empty during the week and I love going in-between my classes to lay in the sun, listen to the waves, journal, and just fully enjoy and soak up my life right now. The ocean is still pretty chilly though (June is the start of their hotter months) but after laying out or playing sand volleyball for a while it is nice and refreshing to get in.

One view from the top of the castle in Peñiscola. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have met so many amazing friends in my program and they are all wonderful people. This country/program has brought together 28 students from all over the United States and after a short 24 hours together, most of us felt like we had been friends for years. Everyone in our group is at different levels in their Spanish journeys which I think kind of makes this trip more fun; learning from those above you and then teaching those who are aren’t as strong yet in their Spanish abilities. Nevertheless, we all mess up and struggle with things and that is just part of learning.

I still have so much I want to share with you about my journey thus far. I am not trying to write a novel for you to read so you will just have to stay tuned for another update and probably some crazy stories.

¡Hasta luego, mis amigos!

¡One happy chica!

 


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.