Reflection of arriving in Costa Rica

Jamir studied abroad this past summer in Costa Rica for six weeks. This is his second journal on the blog. Check it out!

Jamir Nahuel Kai

15 May 2016

Study abroad reflection #1 

It’s hard to accept reality. A strange articulation, I know, but I can’t express the bulk
of my feelings right now in any other way. I’m experiencing a surreal blend of comfort,exhilaration, and unease. Primarily, I’m overwhelmed by the gorgeous climate this evening. Fresquito is how my host-sister’s boyfriend described it. I would agree, cool and fresh feeling.

Secondarily, I miss my fiancé already. We haven’t spent more than a day apart for the last three years, and the plane ride to Costa Rica was enough to make me feel the distance between us that is to last for the next six weeks. Once I process the tropical breeze alongside the pangs of missing my beloved, I begin to tear up.

I can’t believe I’m finally here! I’ve been dreaming about this very place since ninth grade. That’s six long years of fantasizing about walking amongst the mountains and the bugs (so many bugs) and seeing beautiful, diverse, Spanish-speaking people all around me. And now I’m here. Los ticos do indeed, as all the posts I have read claimed, greet kindly all passersby. And greetings are specific to the time of day. 

My host-sister is a ray of sunshine, but busy. To make sure I got to see the beauty of the town and surrounding towns, she and her boyfriend took me for a sunset drive around the highs and low of Carrillos Alto and Carrillos Bajo. We took an even further trip out to a bigger town called Grecia and I tried my first authentic Costa Rican dish! I didn’t like it all that much. But that’s okay! Dinner by my already loving and caring host-mother, Alicia, was fabulous and filling. First day of school is tomorrow. Bright and early.

UVa in Costa Rica Pre-departure reflection

Jamir studied abroad this past summer in Costa Rica for six weeks. Check out his journal before he left on his trip.

Jamir Nahuel Kai

12 May 2016

Pre departure reflection

My passport has finally arrived! My new duffel bag has finally arrived! I just picked up a new pair of sunglasses and my two ounce travel bottles are filled with sunscreen, body wash, and bug spray. I’ve spent hours online researching various aspects of Costa Rican culture and I’ve had a long conversation with my host parents’ daughter about my stay in their home. It is now officially feeling quite real that I will soon be leaving for Costa Rica and living in Alajuela for an entire six weeks. But even though everything feels prepared, the butterflies in my stomach are telling me otherwise….

What if I don’t like the food? What if my host family aren’t okay with gay people? Will I be able to stay in contact with my mom without an international phone plan? And what am I going to do without being able to sleep next to my fiancée and our two dogs every night for a month and a half??? The truth of the matter is I’m equally as worried as I am excited for this imminent trip.

However, as a teacher candidate in my fourth (out of five) year at the University of Virginia, I recognize the value and importance of studying abroad. I can’t wait to start experiencing the new culture, meeting new people, and improving my Spanish. I’ll be doing a semester-long teaching internship at Monticello High School in the fall and taking standardized assessments in July, so I want my fluency to be as perfect as possible before returning home to the states. I also can’t wait to be capturing moments, sharing them with my loved ones, and transmitting my experiences in various forms. Above all, I’m very thankful for this opportunity as I’ve never been out of the country and I’m the only person in my entire extended family to attend college, let alone spend a month abroad to study a foreign language. I shall return stronger, more knowledgeable, and with un montón de memorias that I’ll utilize and cherish forever!!

Home again, home again

Rachel is a third-year studying Spanish literature. This past summer she spent time in Chile studying abroad. This is her third post from her journeys 

Unfortunately, many good things in life must come to an end at one point or another. After a jam-packed last couple of weeks, I said chau to Chile and hopped on a plane that shot me back into the northern hemisphere. Now I’m a couple weeks into my old routine of pumping gasoline into my car, heating up frozen meals, and Googling information whenever I please. Here, no one shouts at me to guard my iPhone with dear life or to wear my shoes in the house because I might get a cold and die. And the best part? My listening comprehension is 100%.

Some days, I’m confused by the weather and weirded out that life back home has gone on without my presence. Other days, it feels as if I never left and this collection of South American memories is nothing more than a dream. Either way, it’s a strange sensation living and seeing and doing and learning all of these things in this other place and having no real clue how to convey any of it to anyone who wasn’t there. For now, I answer their questions about the food and classes and my favorite activities abroad. My hope is that if I spit out enough words with enough excitement in my voice maybe my friends and family can catch some sort of glimpse into the world I experienced for seven weeks.

Home is great. However, the more comfortable I feel here, the more restless I become for the things I am not guaranteed to relive any time soon.

I miss strolling along the boardwalk under a full moon, fingertips burning from the hot cheese dripping out the corners of a fresh shrimp and queso empanada.

I miss having to plan out questions before I verbalize them and that face that people make when I ask them to repeat themselves for the fourth time.

I miss the thrill of predicting whether that night’s metro performer would be belting a scene from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto or rapping a little too loudly into the mic to the latest from Calle 13.

I miss travelling long distances without enough money for the ride home, sprinting across cities to catch a bus before it leaves, and hunting down storefronts with a Wifi logo posted in the window so I can GoogleMap where the heck I am.

I miss these things and more, but I don’t feel unhappy to be back in the States. I’m grateful that I’m already 21 and I have seen so much of the world, and that I’m only 21 and have so much life left to live. Although I still have no quite finished processing this trip and the many ways it has changed me, I am ready to jump back into another school year, put to use any recently developed skills, and hear the stories and experiences of my fellow students and friends.

I’ve learned a thing or two

Rachel is a third-year studying Spanish literature. This past summer she spent time in Chile studying abroad. This is her second post from her journeys 

July 17

chile3Although it is not without its occasional hardships and frustrations, time in this country is good for me in a lot of ways. It fills my soul with some of the very things that make it feel most full. Last week, I stepped off a bus during a spontaneous trip north and breathed in the air of the Andes Mountains. The mountains were tall and indigo, rising from the cactus-speckled ground out of a thin layer of fog. It was an untouched terrain, except for the foxes and birds and guanaco that roam as they please.  Standing there, I felt small and infinite at the same time. I knew that the dry earth upon which I placed my feet was the same earth to inspire generations of writers, workers, educators, and political revolutionaries. I was standing on a land home to the type of suffering and resilience I have never experienced in my lifetime.chile4

My eyes have seen some incredible sights in Chile – tranquil valleys filled end to end with vineyards, the sun dipping behind the snow-capped peaks that tower over the city of Santiago, pelicans on otherwise uninhabited islands perched upon black rocks resisting the tumultuous crash of turquoise waves…the list goes on.

But far more interesting than any view are the people who make up the history and culture of this land. As part of a research project for class, I had the opportunity to visit the Valparaíso fish market in the early hours of the day as fisherman were just arriving at the pier. As they picked fish out of the nets one by one and lined them up on trays to be sold directly to customers, they spoke to me of the difficulties experienced over the last fifteen years as a rise in industrialization has led to all sorts of fish shortages and laws that leave their nets empty and their families hungry.   chile5

In the month that I have been here, the city’s thousands of university students have been on strike, sacrificing their time and education on behalf of the large population of Chileans who don’t have access to such opportunities. Education in Chile is not free, and students nationwide understand the limitations that fact places on future generations.  It is not uncommon to see them marching through the streets demanding to be heard, taking each step with new hopes of defeating inequality.chil6

Yesterday, I visited Santiago’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights. For several hours, I saw footage and read documents and testimonies of the oppression suffered by the nation under the 16-year dictatorship of August Pinochet, a period of darkness and terror provoked by the 1970 election of Salvador Allende, the continent’s first democratically elected Marxist president. Though my head ached from the tales of torture and defeat, I was moved by an image in the final exhibit of mass of smiling Chileans displaying a banner that read “joy is coming”.

chile7On a weekend trip to Valley Elquí, I strolled through the quiet hometown of Gabriela Mistral, the first woman in Latin America to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. As a female intellectual in a male-dominated society, she wasn’t able to spend her entire life in the Chile that she loved, but instead devoted her life to improving the quality of rural education across the continent and promoting the rights of women and children. Like Pablo Neruda, the nation’s other famous poet, she was a writer with a mission. Her very existence cried out for justice.

This is why I love Chile.  The characters that make up its history and its present give me a better picture of what it means to endure and live selflessly in a world that is broken, and to give up everything in order to stand with those who were given nothing. It is a country rich with people as vibrant as its landscapes. I’m not sure anymore what I was expecting when I came “learn about culture”, but these are things I have learned, and for that I must say: Thanks, Chile, for blowing my expectations.




First impressions– “Valparaíso, que disparate eres, qué loco, puerto loco…”

Rachel is a third-year studying Spanish literature. This past summer she spent time in Chile studying abroad. This is her second post from her journies

July 5, 2016

“Valparaíso, que disparate eres, qué loco, puerto loco…” –Pablo Neruda

chileToday, I write from my desk by the window in Viña del Mar, Chile as the sky casts shadows of splendid pinks and yellows onto the sea below. Behind the sea rise clusters of houses containing every color imaginable, stacked and scattered in the chaotic way that is so characteristic to Valparaíso. Along the coast runs the metro, which I ride on a daily basis, never without feeling like I’m on the brim of bursting with joy because of the vast beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

I have been in Chile for two weeks now, a fact I am still not convinced is true. Now that I have settled into the rhythms of life in this quirky port town near the end of the earth, I feel as if I have always been here. As if maybe this is home. However, this sentiment wasn’t always so. My journals from the first three or four days express thoughts like: It is too cold here. Cold and gray. I don’t like the food. Something is making me sick. I will never make friends. Chilean Spanish is way too hard to understand. Thankfully, by the end of the first weekend and throughout last week, I realized what lies I had allowed myself to believe. I began to take joy in simple activities like strolling along the beach at sunset, chatting somewhat effortlessly with street vendors and university students, coming home to steamy hot soups that warmed my body from the inside, and geeking out at the poetry scribbled along walls all over the city.


On a typical weekday, I wake up between 6:30-7 and head downstairs where Abuela Teresa has faithfully prepared me a cup of coffee and hot bread with either honey and butter or ham and cheese. By 7:45 I am out the door and on my way to the metro station, which is a quick three minute walk from home. I am taking two classes at Pontifica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV), Latin American Film and Literature in the morning and Chilean Culture and Conversation in the afternoon. My favorite part of the day is when I go home for my 2pm almuerzo with the family. Lunch is the most important meal of the day and usually consists of a soup, a main dish, a salad, and if I’m lucky, a dessert. The meal is always lengthy and relaxed and I love the mental challenge of accurately following and appropriately contributing to the conversation.

chile3I typically use the rest of my day to become acquainted with the neighboring cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. My adventures thus far have been many and diverse. My feet have taken me up the city’s famous funiculars, around painted labyrinths of streets and staircases, and into ice cream shops, cafes, markets, and discotheques. My taste buds have sampled street foods either fried in oil or doused with mayonnaise and avocado. I was fortunate enough to arrive in the country in time to sit in a crowded bar with a sea of screaming soccer fanatics as Chile won against Argentina in the Copa America (and to experience an after-party of flag waving, car honking, and chanting that lasted until the sun shone again the next morning).  I saw my first Spanish movie in theaters and had my first encounter with blubbery, snorting sea lions rolled out lazily on the beach. After the first week of classes, a group of friends and I treated ourselves to sandboarding followed by a fancy seafood dinner and a glass of local wine. Navigating public transportation has been an adventure in itself, but Chileans are chile4generally friendly and willing to help me out. If I ask a guy for directions, he will often respond by asking for my Whatsapp number. Sigh, thus is life as a foreigner…

One of my favorite experiences was a weekend trip to the capital city Santiago, which is thankfully only a 90-minute bus ride away from Valparaíso. After a chilly yet exhilarating day of exploring art museums, parks, historic homes, and seafood markets, we ended up at the city’s central plaza shortly after sunset. From there, I got the chance to sit in on a Catholic mass in the massive cathedral constructed in 1551 and then watch a parade of political protestors, two elements of life critical to the culture and history of Chile. I sat on a bench and smiled at the sights and sounds of a city all around me– a dad spinning his daughter around, someone preaching into a
chile5megaphone, several couples exchanging passionate kisses, a young woman selling scarves and winter hats, a man curled up by a tree with his hands open in hopes of receiving a few pesos. The vibrancy of humanity. The jumble of architectural styles spanning a few centuries. The backdrop of mountains faded by smog. The sting of winter air. Needless to say, Santiago was magical.

It has been two weeks and I could easily write a novel’s worth narrating things I’ve learned, but for now I’ll stick with this brief summary of my experience: I love it.



Livin’ la vida limeña

Rachel is a third-year studying Spanish literature. This past summer she spent time in Chile studying abroad. This is her first post from her journies

June 21, 2016

chile1Lima was a whirlwind of delicious food and new sights. In the city, I strolled through the streets filled with parks, plazas, and fun juxtaposition of both modern and colonial architecture. In one 30-minute flight, I journeyed from the cliffs of the Pacific to the Andes Mountains, basically in tears the whole time because of the beauty of it all.

My trip to Peru was a sweet transition into the southern hemisphere and Spanish-speaking world.  I lived for the first week with a missionary family in their apartment in the residential neighborhood of Miraflores just a few block from the coast. As Americans who had been in the country for seven years, they had all kinds of cultural tips to share with me. They generously let me be a part of their daily life, taking me to work and church, introducing me to their welcoming community of missionary and Peruvian friends, and showing me the must-see spots in Lima.

chile2After a week of fountain light shows, malls dug into the side of cliffs, coffee shops, cathedrals, local lunches, historical tours and a fine dining experience in the two-story McDonald’s, I flew out with them to the mountain city of Huánuco. Situated in a valley at 6,000 feet above sea level, I will remember the city as a place of neon lights, a zillion moto taxis, and a shockingly beautiful view of the Andes from every single direction.   Our days were spent building relationships with the Quechua people, asking questions, and sharing stories in small villages a few thousand feet above Huánuco. At lunch, the most important meal of the day, the group’s translator Arturo would have everyone rolling in their seats with laughter over hot plates of lomo saltado, ají de gallina, antichuchos de corazón, papa rellena and chaufa, a Peruvian-Chinese fusion dish. I quickly learned non-carbonated water is a drink for the gringos (white foreigners), and grew to enjoy chicha morada (corn drink), emoliente (barley drink), or everyone´s favorite soda Inca Cola.

Thanks to Peru, I finally got a chance to use my Spanish in the “real world”. I learned a lot about the andino people and the process of ministry, and left with an overwhelming sense of joy at seeing passionate Americans and Peruvians coming together and tirelessly pouring out their hearts.  The country is a special place, and I’m glad I got to take a sneak peak into all it has to offer.






Not exactly according to plan in Cordoba

Olivia Kosciusko Tritschler shares her experiences in Cordoba, Argentina and how she is getting closer to “tranquila vida”.
I have never been terribly patient in my life. However, the bus system here in Córdoba always takes way more time than necessary, just to teach me this life lesson I’m sure. It is extremely frustrating to arrive at a bus stop just as my #32 colectivo drives away (probably laughing at me)packed full of people. And then I wait not just 15 or even 30 minutes, but up to an hour or more for the next one! The worst time was when a bus arrived but because there were so many people in line I had to wait another 45 minutes to catch the next one.
There is no type of schedule; so one day I end up waiting only ten minutes, and other times I start contemplating walking through the city to my house (which could possibly take only 45 minutes according to Google maps). But then it comes down to my stubbornness anddetermination. I WILL wait for the next bus.
Another struggle with buses in Argentina is with the omnibuses that travel between provinces.Usually, depending on where they are going (Mendoza for example), they are a little morereliable. However, when I took a bus to Jujuy it arrived at the terminal in Córdoba at the time itwas scheduled to leave. But that wasn’t it…my friends’ window cracked only ten minutes into thetripe and at the first stop it made two employees took 20 plus minutes taping it. Then, in themiddle of the night something broke in the engine and after a hour and a half we started to switchbuses. All in all, the bus arrived three to four hours late in the capital of Jujuy (called SanSalvador de Jujuy or Jujuy for short). This meant I had missed my connecting bus to the smalltown of Tilcara. The only good thing about bus travel in Argentina is is pretty cheap (although more expensive than other Latin American countries).
Buses aren’t the only thing that demonstrates the near lack of a concept of time in Argentina.Yesterday I went to a church service that is “planned” to start at 10:30 am and officially starts at11:00 am usually. But yesterday the service continued for much longer than the normal hour anda half. I finally had to sneak out early after sitting there for three hours! I had other plans for the day and I was really craving food.
So I might not have fully adopted the lax attitude about time/being on time that the city runs on,but every day the system forces me a little bit closer to the “tranquila vida” my host mom always advises. By the time I leave I will probably be showing up to social events 30 to 60 minutes“late” (which is actually on time here) and planning excess time for commuting into NuevaCórdoba (the barrio with all the restaurants and boliches). However, I can’t forget all the promptness and strict schedules of the U.S. because I return in 3 months. This is only one more thing that makes me realize I will probably become accustomed to the life style here in my fifth month and then have to return and re-adjust all over again to my old lifestyle