Culture Across a Town

Hello again! Now there’s only a month left in the semester and classes are starting to wind down as finals come closer. Normally a student at KU (Katholieke Universiteit) would take 6 classes a semester but my coordinator here at KU set up an opportunity for me to do an internship while I’m here to replace some of those classes. My internship is two-fold: For the first part I intern at a local children’s bookstore. There my main project is creating a way to explain the Christmas tradition of Sinterklaas to the parents of English-speaking families. To do this, I created a poster to be handed out to the parents during an informational event. In the poster I explained Sinterklaas and compared him to Santa Claus. Doing the poster was interesting because I got to research about Belgian holiday traditions and it was really cool to see how they differs from American ones.

 

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Outside of De Klein Johannes, the children’s bookstore I intern for!

 

The second part of my internship is at the local art museum in Leuven, Museum M. Through this internship I was able to talk to the head of the Public Relations office, and she explained how the museum is trying to create educational activities that use art as a universal language to break language barriers and act as a unifying tool for the whole Leuven community. My main task is to shadow different tours and educational activities to see how children interact with museum and the art in the museum. Though most of the programming is done in Dutch, my contact in the museum wanted me to follow the programming as an outsider and just read the crowd and see how the students react to the museum and the tour guide. As an Anthropology major, I’m used to reading the texts of anthropologists who do fieldwork like this, so it is very exciting to be doing this at a smaller scale, but also in the field that I am trying to pursue in the future.

 

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Outside view of Museum M! It’s very new and modern!

 

My favorite thing about my internship is seeing how hard my coordinator at the bookstore and my contact at the museum try to cultivate a community across Leuven- across different cultures and families by using art and literature to bring them together. They are trying to break boundaries and the classist and social stigma surrounding an art museum and literature. They want an inclusive community in Leuven and they are really doing an amazing job at it. Hearing what my contact at the museum says about the power of a museum was really inspiring and has reinforced my passion to pursue museum education in the future. This wasn’t something I was expecting to experience when I came to this internship, but is something that I will always remember.

 

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A children’s picture book that Museum M published. They publish one every year and base the museum’s educational activities on the theme of the book! This one is Called Geluk voor Kinderen, or “Happiness for Children.”

 

Throughout this internship I also learned a lot about how to connect different parts of a scattered community to become one cohesive unit and how to try and make a shared culture become the central part the community – one where people from different walks of life can find comfort. People like my coordinators are trying their best to make the marginalized and forgotten community in Leuven feel welcome and also uplifting the positive characteristics of the community.

I’m so happy I was granted the opportunity for this internship and it definitely added a different angle to my time abroad that I would not have otherwise gotten.

Until next time!

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Filed under Nhi in Belgium, Western Europe

Welcome to the Wild, Bridled, Mid-West

On my first foray into the Scot lands in 2009, I stayed at a charming hostel perched on the edge of Loch Ness and hobnobbed with the venue management over drinks in the evening.  Inspired, as I recall, by a customer’s sordid tale, the bartender imparted to me a truism, as she implied, on Scottish temperament: if you fall and crack your head open on the curb, the Scots will pick you up, dust you off, and send you on your way with a bandaid and a pat on the back.  I did not, of course, take this story literally.  But I did infer from it that the Scots were a laid back sort of people, warm but resilient and able to take a few knocks.  In a world of ever-growing restrictions in the name of public safety, I was attracted to the idea of a more relaxed climate and attitude toward personal responsibility.

When I was a wee whipper-snapper, my favorite playground equipment was a horizontal bar just high enough from the ground for me to do flips on.  Nowadays, at least where I come from, you’ll rarely see so much as a metal slide (burn hazard) much less anything you might risk cracking a skull on.  And the red tape isn’t limited to the little people; try to sit, stand or walk anyplace not strictly approved for the purpose and you’ll be yelled off on charges of “safety.”  I can only assume that this pattern of paranoia is a product of the lawsuit culture in the United States.  The “safety” really being referenced is the city or the property-owner’s protection from liability.  Even erroneous lawsuits are costly and damaging to reputation.  I was looking forward to living some place where the laws were a little more permissive and I could explore my environment without fear of being yelled off by the authorities.  After all, if I want to stand in the shower while drying my hair, that’s my right as an idiot.

At first blush, my intuition seemed sound.  As I was discussing job prospects with a local friend, he mentioned that Law was not a very lucrative discipline in Scotland, as there just isn’t enough work to be had in the field.  A fascinating idea, coming from a place where Law is considered an extremely responsible degree with excellent prospects.  So it is all the more confounding to discover that, far from the land of hard-knocks I had envisioned, Scotland is extraordinarily regulated.

The last time that I lived in school-accommodation, I was dumped into a small apartment with three other people and then immediately and entirely forgotten until the rent came due.  The contrast with my latest experience is enough to make you long for the days of administrative apathy for your existence.  In the Halls at St Andrews, not a week goes by that something isn’t being tested, inspected, handled and branded for safety regulation compliance.  It’s an active, ongoing cycle that can’t be buggered to back off while semester’s in session.  One day the porter needs access to inspect the fire equipment, another day it’s the ever-foreboding shower head that requires immediate investigation.  Cleaning inspections run monthly, and our adrenalin systems – that is, the fire alarms – are tested Every. Single. Tuesday. Morning.

Additionally, each semester an electrician requires permission to enter the premises and test every cord, contraption and cable that ever even dreamed of harboring an electric current.  He then glues a large purple sticker to each and every device lest it be caught horrifically naked and unstickered and summarily confiscated. From where I sat on the bed after the electrician had had his way with things, purple stickers could be seen adorning the television, television cables, refrigerator, dishwasher, thermostat, lamps, stove, tea kettle, and the kitchen sink.  (Okay, that last one was a bonus.)  And personal possessions were not immune: everything from my laptop to each individual mobile charger had been tagged.  It reminded me of an old roommate who used to put stickies on all of her property with the words, “Do Not Touch!” throughout the apartment.  I was discovering formerly unnoticed stickers for days.

 

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A storm of stickers.

 

But the height of the insanity snuck up, as it often does, in the wee hours of the night.  I was awoken one Tuesday morning to the soothing sound of an electric trill.  As I slowly drew myself up from the alternate universe of unconsciousness, I calculated the date.  Yes, it was Tuesday.  Fire alarm test.  The trilling stopped and I drifted back toward the siren call of blissful slumber.  The alarm sounded again and my eyes popped open, landing on it suspiciously.  I checked the time on my mobile: not yet 5am.  Was the system glitching?  Tripping a few hours too early?  Was this a real alarm?  I couldn’t smell smoke or hear screaming.  Most likely it was a glitch or a drill, but I hadn’t read anything on the noticeboard about the latter, so I had to prepare for the worst.  If I was going to be standing outside in the Scottish night for untold hours,  I’d need protection from the cold. I pulled on my jacket, shoes and hat.  Should I save anything?  I started to leave empty handed, then reconsidered and went back for my laptop – that way I could let my family know what was happening and keep busy until (something like) order resumed.  I proceeded cautiously, checking closed doors for heat, then finally exited the building.  I skirted the large crowd loitering just outside the door and put some distance between myself and the prospective inferno, looking back to search for signs of smoke.  I noted that no authorities had yet arrived, which I would expect even in the case of a false alarm.  Just as I was wondering how long we’d have to wait, I heard a voice announce from the crowd that we were free to return.  A drill.  It was all just a drill – a thing I have not experienced in twenty-odd years, and never in the dead of night.  And not just a drill, but a timed one.  The Warden was less than impressed.

Presumably, all this safety paranoia in the Halls stems from an administration in abject fear of over-protective parents, many of whom may hail from the lawsuit-happy U.S.  But the regulation-frenzy isn’t relegated to the Halls.  I had another surprise when I attempted to access a classy website catering exclusively to adult sensibilities on my mobile.  Mobile providers, and indeed internet providers as well, block any and all 18+ content by default.  Even high brow literature, such as I was plainly seeking, is not immune.  It’s not enough to be the authorized owner of a device – access to, shall we say, sophisticated content requires not only a manual change in the Account settings but the submission of a valid form of ID.  Since I don’t have a Scottish driver’s license and am opposed to censorship on principle, I had to proffer the exhaustively long serial number attached to my government-issued passport.  Short of these, you won’t sample a paper thimble’s worth of undressed vanilla.  Since “adult sites” can be interpreted very broadly, you’d be surprised how much falls behind the veil.

A less salacious shock came in the form of counter-shock measures.  UK regulations do not permit any outlets in the bathroom, with the solitary exception of one exclusively for shavers built into on a small lamp above the mirror, presumably to keep it sufficiently removed from sources of electrocution.  It is also not uncommon for switches in the bathroom to be on pull-cords, reputedly to prevent wet hands coming in contact with electric outlets.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with light switches generally being located outside of the room they are intended to light, but I am certain that they are an endless resource for pranksters and small children.

 

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Shavers only need apply.

 

Scotland isn’t quite the land of hell-hardened warriors that I thought it was, but the overbearing public oversight isn’t all bad.  There are a number of social services that we could use in the U.S.  When I went to order tickets for a show, I found discounts offered not just to seniors and students but to the unemployed.  The railway even provides an avenue for mature students, like myself, who ordinarily age out of student benefits to prove our academic status to qualify.  Tenants are liable for property taxes, known as tarrifs, but these are waived for undergraduate students who rent privately.  And there are full-service discount stores here selling the same essentials (like mulled wine) you can buy at the more expensive chain stores for a fraction of the price.  St Andrews is considered by the locals to run toward the high end in cost-of-living, and judging by the way property prices plummet as you head out of town, that must be the case.  But coming from the Bay Area of California, living has never looked more affordable.

 

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Price tiers.

 

So, Scotland may ere more on the side of a Coddling Nursemaid than a Nanny-state and be refreshingly lawyer-free, but until the day that I can surf my laptop from the bathtub, it will never be the savage land sold to me by Braveheart and a little bartender at Loch Ness.

 

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“Careful Visitors Welcome.”

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Trading Buses for Boats and Pavement for Sand

Isabela Island

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Just a nice reminder, respira olores y colores meaning “breathe in scents and colors,” and there is no better place to do that than the Galapagos, that I promise you!

 

Droplets of the sparkling, turquoise water slowly began to cover my face, creating a blur of mystery during the two-hour boat ride to Isabela. As we grazed through the waves of the ocean, each bump was (not so gently) reminding me of my surroundings. The hairs on my arms shot up as the gusts of fresh, salty air danced around my face and neck, sending chills of excitement and incredulity down my spine when we approached the beautiful island of Isabela.

 

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It doesn’t get any more picturesque than this, folks. Shout out to my friend Tyler for his perfect pose for a reflective photo. There is something so personal for me when I am out on the water, usually leading to some self-reflection. Perhaps it resides within the fact that the ocean is immensely profound, leaving me to feel minuscule but also at peace.

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Here we are doing some kayaking on our first day on Isabela! Featuring the incredibly blue/turquoise/indescribable water of the Galapagos…you have to see it to believe it!

 

When we disembarked from the boat, we were greeted at the dock by some very danceable Latino music alongside lots of smiling faces – not only those of other tourists but also those living and working on the island, who were incredibly inviting. Aside from people, we were also greeted by some marine iguanas, lots of different birds, and some rather relaxed sea lions. As we all tried to hide our excitement as to not scare the animals away, the wooden dock slowly converted into a mixture of pavement and sand. This seemingly miniscule detail was something that stuck with me throughout my time there and still now after my return, as I am continuously discovering sand in my shoes from the trip. It also instigated a sort of reflection about the differences in a life with sand or pavement under the soles of your shoes, such as a life on Isabela or a life in Quito, two different cultures and communities I have been able to experience first-hand during this study abroad experience.

 

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Here are two beautiful sea lions advertising how Isabela “crece por ti,” or how Isabela grows for you.

 

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before leaving for this trip that the Galapagos was going to be an overly tourist-focused place, since I have heard that lots of island destinations usually are. Although Santa Cruz, the island with the highest populated town in the Galapagos Islands, seemed to be more focused on ensuring a pleasant experience for the tourists, Isabela, an island with only about 2,000 inhabitants, was significantly more focused on the natural way of things and less concerned with ensuring the picturesque experience for its tourists. However, it was also very easy to have an incredible time on Isabela due to the culture and the people of Puerto Villamil, the town we stayed at, who all knew each other and were very friendly, helpful, and informative.

 

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These pictures are from when we went snorkeling and my lovely friend Haley used her GoPro to take some incredible photos of the animals we saw, and told me I could put some of the photos up on my blog!

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This photo was taken by the USFQ (Universidad San Francisco de Quito) alum who planned the trip, Juan Francisco. We swam with this shark! I was only *slightly* terrified – but I survived because sharks are as friendly as Finding Nemo shows them to be!

 

Isabela Island was an incredible escape from my past few months in the city of Quito, which is just as equally as beautiful- a mountainous and breathtaking city full of its own wonders, just as the Galapagos is filled with wonders of nature, warm weather (even at night), and incredibly safe and trusting communities. I will never forget the experiences I had during my time in the Galapagos, and if you ever can go please do not hesitate! I can very confidently say that you will have the time of your life there, discovering the turtles, starfish, manta rays, penguins, flamingos, tortoises, marine and land iguanas, sea lions, sharks, sea horses and much more when snorkeling or even when just walking around the islands, as well as see incredible views of our amazing world, meet friendly and loving humans, learn about the history of the islands, Charles Darwin, and the volcanoes (some still active) on the islands, and most importantly, reflect on yourself and the impact that you have on this beautiful world.

 

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Not only was I able to discover these incredible islands during this time, I also got to know some amazing women from across the U.S. who are on exchange at USFQ as well! (We outnumbered the men, so we got our own very artsy photo.)

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A photo of the group from afar during our last hike on Isabela.

 

If you are interested in looking at more photos/videos of what I did during the Galapagos, my inspiring friend Caitlyn made a snapshot video of our time during the Galapagos and told me I could share it on my blog post so here it is! I highly recommend you check it out to get a little more of a feel for our experiences on the islands.

Thanks for reading!

¡Gracias por leer!

Hasta el próximo post,

Alicia❤

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Filed under Alicia in Ecuador, south america

7 Things To Do in Leuven

Hey guys! Now I’m more than halfway into the semester! Time has flown by and I can’t believe I only have 7ish weeks left in Belgium. From my study abroad experience here so far, I’ve created a list of 7 things you must do if you study in or travel to Leuven, Belgium:

1. Go to Oude Markt.

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Oude Markt.

Oude Markt, or Old Market, is the place to go to for a night out. With dozens of bars lining a main pathway on two sides, Oude Markt is the go to place for anyone looking to go dancing or catch some drinks with friends. Oude Markt is also just beautiful, both during the day and at night. The architecture is beautiful and it’s just a few steps away from the Old City Hall. During the day, the bars act as a place to grab a yummy lunch. At night it transforms into a lively place where thousands of people are strolling around dancing and socializing. It’s a MUST GO when visiting or studying at Leuven. Funny enough, at the end of Oude Markt there is a secondary school, so at 2 pm you’ll see hundreds of students pour out of the gates on their bikes riding through Oude Markt.

2. Go to Grote Markt.

Grote Markt, or Large Market, is a large plaza in front of the Old City Hall and stretches into a shopping center in central Leuven. Grote Markt has a large outdoor market every Saturday morning where you can buy fresh cheese, fruit, and other foods. You can also shop for some antiques at the Saturday market and other little knick-knacks at the surrounding stores. There are also a handful of food places you can grab a bite to eat at- either a quick on-the-go meal or a nice sit down meal. Also, the Old City Hall is also here. You can behold the beautiful building where thousands of hand-carved figures detail the structure. It’s always bustling in this area due to the fact that the market center leads into several main streets.

3. Visit the Stella Artois Brewery.

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At the Stella Artois tour with our vests.

Leuven is home to the original Stella Artois Brewery. You can take a tour through the brewery for as cheap as 7-8 euros and see the process of how the city’s famous beer is made. You also get a few goodies on the way out! It’s fun and you get to wear a neon orange vest when making your way throughout the factory. The people there are kind and are passionate about brewing quality beer and its really fun to see how much the beer means to them as a community.

4. Visit Museum M.

Museum M is a newer art museum that opened in 2009, but it is very popular and such a fun place to visit! Museum M is also where I do half of my internship but I’ll talk more about that in my next post! The people who work at the museum have worked very hard to make the museum a true community space where everyone is welcome. Even though most of the programming is in Dutch, they believe that art and creativity is a universal language that can be understood by all. If you have a Culture Card, which is usually connected to your student ID card, you can gain entry for only 3 euros! And if you buy a student member card for only 10 euros, you can get in as many times as you want for a year!

5. Visit OTHER Cities in Belgium.

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Me and the girls in Gent, a BEAUTIFUL city an hour and a half train ride away from Leuven.

Though Leuven is bustling with a lot to do, it’s also important to explore Belgium’s other cities. Brussels is only a 20 minute train ride away, and other popular cities like Ghent or Bruges is only an hour and half to two hours away by train. It’s definitely worth it to make day trips out there and see the beautiful cities Belgium has to offer. On the weekdays round-trip tickets are usually about 12 euros but on the weekends it’s significantly cheaper. Or you can buy a Go Pass for 50 euros and get 5 round trip tickets! It’s totally worth it! Those pictures you look up on Google about Belgium really do not do any justice to the reality. Every time I visit a new city, I just stand there in awe of the beauty of it all and feel so grateful and lucky to be able to study abroad.

6. EAT EAT EAT!

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Fries with Andalouse sauce!

You’re in Belgium so eating some frites, waffles, and mussels is a must! But also eat the Speculoos gelato you can find at the numerous gelato shops around Leuven. You won’t be disappointed! Eat at Domus, which is a restaurant on Tiensestraat, right by the Grote Markt, which boasts authentic Belgian food. Taste the authentic Belgian beers with your meal and really indulge yourself in the food culture of Leuven. The food culture also involves stopping by Panos and getting a large sandwich on a baguette to go, or getting waffles slathered with chocolate sauce in between classes! Enjoy it!

Fun fact: a lot of Europeans call cream cheese “Philadelphia.”

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Eating some yummy gelato at Ostende, a coastal city in Belgium.

 

7. Indulge in the Culture of Others

Leuven is a huge international hub where students from all over the world come to study at KU (Katholieke Universiteit). Take advantage of that. Not only immerse yourself in Belgian culture, but also the culture of the other international students you will live with in dorms or have classes with. I’ve not only learned about the Belgian culture but I’ve also learned about Spanish, British, and German cultures because of my hall mates. It has been a really transformative experience and one I am so grateful for. Make sure to not stay in only your circles. Reach out and go to the events that KU provides and really try to meet new people. With them, you’ll learn and experience new things that you’ll never forget.

 

I hope this hopes anyone planning to study abroad in Leuven! I’ll check back in a few weeks to talk about my internship! Tot Ziens!!

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Filed under Nhi in Belgium, Western Europe

Newsflash

Newsflash: In the weeks prior to Election Day in the United States, my American friends were all wondering who I planned to vote for and why. My Italian professors also seem interested in who my candidate of choice was. I didn’t really think people in Europe cared about American political issues. But on the contrary, Italians are a lot more interested in American culture, history, and political issues than I expected they would be. What’s more interesting is just how knowledgeable they are of what is going on in our country. I went to this café and got a hot chocolate and my waiter asked me if I liked Obama and what he has done for our country. He started talking about our health care system and education and he knew wayyyyy more about that stuff than I did. He said America just always seems to handle issues better than this country.

I think I knew what he meant by issues; for the past 2 weeks, there have been multiple strikes and protest about the state of the economy in Florence. As a result, many buses, transportation services, trains, etc. have been experiencing issues due to workers going on strike. Apparently these strikes that involve transportation happen very often. I heard that the strikes happen for many reasons other than economic issues too, like workers just simply wanting to take a break.

Additionally, when I visited Rome a couple weeks ago, there was a huge protest going on at the Colosseum, something that involved Muslims protesting the closing of mosques and other places of worship in Italy. Maybe a few hundred or more Muslims were on the floor praying, some holding signs saying ‘peace’ and ‘let us pray.’ It reminded me of the silent demonstration put on back at Fairfield last year in the library in response to the issues of racial inequality. As I thought about this comparison, it made me feel like these countries really aren’t so different. The food, language, and clothing vary from country to country, but there will always be issues, and issues will make people come together.

Uhh newsflash: Another thing that I wasn’t aware of was the state of the weather conditions in Italy. There were two earthquakes this past month that struck central Italy, mainly in the regions of Macerata and Perugia. There was also a tornado that struck Rome yesterday or the day before. And a couple weeks ago while I was on my way to see the Statue of David (since it is free admission on Sundays) there was a terrible storm. I mean, really bad.  It did not stop me from getting my free entrance, but besides what I learned about the David statue, I was also informed that it was the 50th anniversary of the flood of the River Arno that did a lot of damage to people’s lives and the city itself. This reminded me of Hurricane Sandy hitting areas of New York back home around this time a few years ago. Definitely a weird coincidence, but it helped me get to know something about the city that I probably would have never known.

 

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The Statue of David.

 

Apparently (as told by some random Italians) the city is still in danger of floods, but President Sergio Mattarella wants everyone, Italians and foreigners included, to feel safe. And this risk of flooding doesn’t stop people from visiting to learn about Italy’s rich culture, or studying abroad here like I am. And besides the strikes, it doesn’t stop local Italians from trying to show the outside world just how beautiful and special their country is. These people really value the way Italy is viewed and they try to promote and inform others of their culture and history. It makes me feel accepted when everyone is willing to help bring me in and make me feel comfortable. Even going into restaurants, the staff just seem to enjoy my presence. It’s a joy to be around.

 

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Trying squid for the first time.

 

So last newsflash: I’m still having a blast studying abroad here. Living the dream. I only have a few weeks left, and there’s still so much to do!

 

 

 

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Filed under Christopher in Italy, Western Europe

A World of Firsts

Making the decision to study abroad wasn’t an easy one. Going abroad meant I’d be further away from my parents than I have ever been. When I was deciding what college to go to,  I chose one close to home so I could make it back to my parents whenever they needed me. My parents and I were used to being able to seeing each other weekly, so the idea of going 4 months without seeing each other was scary. But it was my parents who in the end pushed me to go. They knew it was an experience I would never get otherwise. So off I went, ready for an adventure of a lifetime that was both exhilarating and terrifying.

Being a first-generation college student means that all of my college experiences were firsts. So when I was applying for study abroad programs, I didn’t have anyone to tell me what the best countries to go to were or to help me with the process of getting my visa. I was on my own. My parents supported me in any way they could, but in the end it came down to me doing everything independently. No one in my family knew anything about Belgium, so I had nothing to go off of besides reading what I could off of Google. I think this is the biggest thing that sets me apart from other students studying abroad. I had to try and figure everything out myself. Though going through the process of applying, choosing a program, and getting ready to study abroad was definitely a growing experience for me. It made me become more independent and grow more confident in myself.

I knew my parents couldn’t come to visit me half way through like most of my friends’ did. I knew I would be without family for the entirety of my abroad experience. I see a lot of my friends get excited that their family will be coming to visit and I know that that will never be me, that I will never fully share this experience with my own family. That being said, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t try to take them with me! I had an idea of taking family photos for every new place I visited. So, I went to Hema (it’s like Target but smaller) and printed out 3 large photos of my parents and brother and took them with me around Belgium and to a trip out to Luxembourg! My mom got the family photos after all!!

 

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Me and my family in Arlon, Belgium! Arlon is the smallest town in Belgium and right near the border to Luxembourg.

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A panorama of Luxembourg! So pretty!

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A photo of houses in Luxembourg City.

 

To any first-generation college student thinking about studying abroad, I would absolutely say do it if the circumstances are right! The fear and uncertainty that come with studying abroad dissipates as soon as you get settled in your home abroad. When things get overwhelming, take a deep breath and remember what your goals are. Filling out dozens of papers and going through hoops and obstacles to get your visa will be worth it in the end. Things will be crazy and you will go through a whirlwind of emotions, but once you feel settled, you’ll look around wherever you are and you’ll see how it was all worth it. For me, I knew I wasn’t studying abroad for just myself; I’m studying abroad for my parents too so they can see glimpses of the world through my pictures and they know I’m taking Europe on for them!

 

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Duck faces with my family in Luxembourg City!

 

Tot ziens! Until next time!

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Filed under Nhi in Belgium, Uncategorized, Western Europe

Speaking More Like an Ecuagringa Everyday

The title is a little funnier than you might think. Gringos (the Spanish term for anyone from a non-Spanish speaking country, although more specifically people from the U.S. who don’t speak Spanish very well) put Ecua in front of everything when speaking English to refer to something being more Ecuadorian. For example, to ask if someone has a phone number that works in Ecuador, you might say: “do you have an Ecuaphone?” which makes no sense, and that’s probably why it’s just so much fun! Or if someone is telling a story about their family and you’re not sure if they mean their family back home, or their host family, you might ask: “are you talking about your Ecuafamily?” It’s rather counter-productive, since it’s a pretty obvious marker that you’re not from Ecuador, but hey, what’s the fun in fitting in?

But that’s just gringo slang and here I want to focus on the infinite words and dichos (sayings) that exist in Ecuadorian Spanish. Ecuadorians are incredibly fun, cheerful, and loving, and this is also shown through the equally as colorful words that flow from young Ecuadorians’ mouths when talking with their peers that I have been attempting to mimic like a seven-year-old would her older sister.

5 ways to show enthusiasm in Ecuador (that I know of):

¡De ley! or ¡De una! – absolutely, definitely, of course

Simón – yeah, for sure

Chévere or bacán – cool

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An Ecuadorian might say that this view of the Panecillo is muy chévere or muy bacán, and I would definitely agree with them! This is from a trip to a museum in the Historic Center, a breathtaking area in Quito that I had the pleasure of visiting with my wonderful friend, Haley!

 

Quiteño ways to greet a friend in Ecuador:

¿Qué fue loco/a? – What’s up, friend? (Literally, “what happened, crazy?”)

¿Qué más? – What else is up? Usually used after asking ¿que fue?, but I’ve heard it as an intial greeting frequently as well.

¿Qué haces ñaño/a? – What are you doing, brother/sister? Ñaño is a Kichwa word for sibling but in Ecuadorian Spanish is also used to refer to a close friend. The influence Kichwa (an indigenous language and people that mainly live in the Sierra/Andean region of Ecuador) has on the Spanish here adds to the uniqueness of the Spanish spoken in Ecuador.

 

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A group of some ñañas that I have been so lucky to make during my study abroad here. This picture is from our trip a few weekends ago to the coast of Ecuador, to a town called Atacames. It was my first time in the Pacific Ocean and it was incredible!

 

Ways to ask someone for a favor:

Acolítame – help me out or come with me

No sea malito – no real translation, just used when a favor is needed. Literally means “don’t be bad” but doesn’t sound that harsh when Ecuadorians use it.

 

Kichwa terms that are used in everyday Ecuadorian Spanish:

¡Achachay! – a Kichwa expression used by Ecuadorians and Kichwas alike when they are cold (which is pretty much all the time, even when I’m ready to use arrarray)

¡Arrarray! – a Kichwa expression used when it is hot or if something is burning

¡Atatay! ­– a Kichwa expression used when something is gross

Guambra – Kichwa for child

Guatita – The diminutive of guata which means belly, either referring to a typical Ecuadorian food made with cow’s stomach, or the love handles someone might be trying to get rid of at the gym (or not).

Guagua – Kichwa for baby or small child

 

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Guagua de pan y colada morada, a traditional Ecuadorian pastry in the shape of a baby accompanied by a sweet semi-thick beverage (served cold or warm) during el Día de los Difuntos, celebrated on the second of November. It is a day of honoring those who have passed.

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A selfie with one of my favorite Ecuadorian guaguas!

 

Other fun traits of Ecuadorian Spanish:

Adding the suffix -ito/a to pretty much anything: ahorita (ahora; now), cafecito (café; coffee), gringuito/a (gringo/a), dolarito (dólar; dollar)

¡Qué bestia! – This saying has a lot of different uses. It can be a way to show surprise or sadness, meaning something like “how crazy!”

¡Chuta! – Shoot! Or no way! Used to show frustration or surprised. The more you are, the longer uuuu you should give it.

O sea – used as a connector between thoughts or sentences, like “um” in English. It’s usually dragged out like ooo seeeeaaaaaa (pronounced like say-ah, sort of). Probably one of my favorite aspects of Ecuadorian Spanish, probably because I like to use “um” and “like” frequently when I’m speaking in English too. Oops.

Adding “nomás” after any command, which basically makes no sense and is part of all the fun of Ecuadorian Spanish. It literally means “no more”, but when used in Ecuadorian Spanish means “no hay problema” or “no problem,” or “right along.” You might frequently hear “come nomás” (especially when eating at an Ecuadorian’s house) and “sigue nomás”, meaning “keep eating” and “keep going.”

One other fun aspect of Ecuadorian Spanish (and I would keep going if I could!) is that there are also some English loan words that have the same or similar meanings, but are pronounced as they would be in Spanish which makes them chévere in my opinion. A few examples are full which means “a lot” or “total,” depending on the situation. It usually precedes a noun, such as “había full gente”, meaning, “there were a lot of people.” Súper is also popular and is used in place of muy or demasiado, meaning “very” or “too much.”

 

I know this list is long, but there are just too many Ecuadorian slang words and sayings to choose from! If you ever visit Ecuador (Quito specifically) this list is sure to help you! Either way I hope y’all enjoyed learning about some specific Ecuasayings that I have had the pleasure of being surrounded by and attempting to use for the past two and a half months!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you keep on reading! (Or should I say, ¡lee nomás!)

Besitos❤

-Alicia

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