Motos and More: Travels to San Andrés Day 4

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.

After eating Dramamine with a side of eggs for breakfast (totally kidding, I only took two), we waited for Luis to pick us up for our second day of diving. After having made two successful dives the day before, I was more excited than anxious for this round.

After previously mentioning to Luis that we were interested in renting a moped for touring the island, Luis brought a friend with (I was not expecting this) to coordinate the delivery of a moto to our posada (lodging) the following morning. I discovered after the fact that Luis did not know this guy particularly well, but was trying to do him a favor by acquiring some business. However, said-friend, whose name was Ronald, ended up being a bit of a shyster. And I don’t appreciate shysters.

More on that in the next installment.

Divers gathering before making our descent

For me, diving was incredibly relaxing ­– especially after ditching the sea sickness and vertigo. As I breathed in, the air made a life-sustaining hiss as it traveled from the cylinder, through the regulator and into my lungs. The bubbles that rose to the surface as I exhaled made gurgling crackle-pop sounds around my face.

I had to make four open water dives to complete my certification, so on this particular day I only had two more to go. After arriving at a dive site, anchoring the boat and taking the plunge into the water, divers gather at or around the anchor line to make a descent. Depending on the current, certified/experienced divers can make a free descent, letting the air out of their BCDs (buoyancy control devices) and sinking slowly into the depths. Continue reading

Motos and More: Travels to San Andrés Day 3

Taking the plunge

What a stunner.

I’m not sure if I was thrilled or terrified, but the day arrived when I would scuba dive for the first time in a body of water that wasn’t a 12-foot-deep indoor pool.

The concept of diving sounds incredible, surrounded by deep, clear water and colorful fish. But when you think about being 60 feet under the surface with a small tank of air and a few hoses strapped to your back, it sounds more like pure madness. But I had already gone this far, and I wasn’t turning back.

Tarcila, our Airbnb housekeeper made us breakfast at 7:30 am so we would be ready for our driver from the dive shop to pick us up at 8. I left the researching of dive shops to my mom, and she booked with Karibik Diver – arguably the best decision we (a.k.a. she) made. The place is run by a German gentleman named Christian. While their rates were a bit more expensive than other shops we (a.k.a. she) checked prices for, they had a lot of positives going for them: Continue reading

Motos and More: Travels to San Andrés Days 1 & 2

I like big beaches and I cannot lie… And breakfast. I like that too.

Day 1 ~ Touch Down!

Completing tourist paperwork in the Bogotá airport

At Thanksgiving, I always say my eyes are bigger than my stomach, because I usually dish up a plate of food larger than my head, eat half, and survive off the rest for the entire week that follows. The same goes for the number of books, magazines, adult coloring books and podcasts loaded into my backpack and on my phone for a single trip.

Expectation: I’m going to read and listen to smart things and be super intellectual! Reality: Sleeping and watching movies is cool too.

Our route took us from Fargo to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to Bogotá, Colombia, and finally to San Andrés. By the time the plane touched down on the very short San Andrés runway around 11:15 pm – to the cheers of passengers, exalting at not having crashed through the barbed wire-lined airport fence and sliding into the ocean ­– I had flipped through a few pages of a book I meant to finish last year, and listened to half of a 30-minute podcast. #productive Continue reading

Introducing… Motos and More: Travels to San Andrés

Part 1 of 9 installments about traveling to San Andrés, Colombia

My view, beachin’ under a palm tree on San Andrés

Car rides with strangers can get you in trouble… I’ve learned that the hard way. But it’s also funny how you can meet random people at just the opportune time, know them for a few hours, maybe a day, and they influence an important decision later down the road.

Last year – it must have been in May – I went with a group from my university in Chile to go white water rafting at Cajon Del Maipo, a gorge near Santiago. The entire crew gathered outside of Museo Fonk, a museum dedicated to the Easter Islands, which served as our designated meeting spot throughout the semester. A little caravan of tiny cars pulled up, driven by our campus advisor and friends she recruited to go along.

I can’t even remember the color of the car I picked, but I jumped in a front seat and started making friends with the driver. She was from Colombia, and was in Chile visiting friends and heading to “bucear” along the coast of Chile. Initially, I had no idea what the Spanish word bucear meant, so when I finally looked it up and realized she was talking about scuba diving, we had plenty to discuss throughout 3 hours of driving. I had always wanted to become certified so I could dive with my mom, and she convinced me there was no better place to learn than the Colombian island of San Andrés. Continue reading

El Derby, mi caballo Larry, y SCUBA

What’s better than horse racing in Chile, my own horse, and learning to breathe underwater?

This is the third time I’ve restarted this blog, because I no sooner write a few paragraphs that I have to stop. ‘This will be an easy semester,’ I once thought. Joke’s on me, because it’s been anything but! For now, I’m sitting in the NDSU Minard Hall coffee shop, enjoying a much-needed coffee after my 8:00 am intro to acting class, writing a fun little read for your Tuesday.

Three things:

  1. El Derby
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Bad screenshot, but quite the crowd at El Derby, 2017! Screenshot from Sporting.cl live feed

I’ve had the itch for a while now to write about Chile. In fact, I’ve never missed Chile as much as I did on Sunday, February 5. Memories from last February keep nudging me, reminders of when I was packing my bags to study abroad, oblivious to the challenges I would face and overcome – challenges that created a human of more substance than I was just a year ago.

Sunday the 5th, after a mouth wide open, dead to the world nap on a van back from an IHSA horse show (where I rode and practiced my Spanish by interviewing my teammates and translating their responses), I walked in the door of our house, on a mission to finish homework and return to my sleepy bliss as soon as possible. Continue reading

Case of the missing college credits

Keeping track of study abroad transfer and substitution credits

It’s not even Christmas break yet and I already have spring break on the mind.

Last Sunday evening, as I hammered out a long-procrastinated Latin American History paper due the following morning, an email from my advisor jingled as it popped into my inbox. It’s contents informed me that I’m several credits short for graduation, putting me more than a semester behind.

What ensued was a tantrum of stomping up and down the hallway of our home and yelling phrases of frustration at my laptop screen (not an unreasonable reaction when such news is sprung upon someone). How could I have possibly overlooked multiple courses despite meticulous planning of my college career? That just couldn’t be… something had to have been overlooked with my transfer credits from studying abroad.

The following blog is intended to share my experiences with other students who are currently or preparing to study abroad. While I can’t give exact advice on what to do if you encounter a situation like mine — simply because every university has their own, albeit similar procedures for transferring credits and substituting classes — I can help you understand the transfer credit process and how credits can be accidentally overlooked. Continue reading

Study Abroad: Not what I expected

Everyone’s experiences are different, some more challenging than others

I flipped through pages of the black spiral notebook I used while in Chile, fingers brushing over hastily scrawled notes written in anticipation of upcoming travels. I tore out randomized papers from the “Cultura Chilena” (Chilean Culture) Spanish class I took while I was there and stashed them in a blue folder to submit to my Spanish adviser at NDSU.

Last Wednesday at 11:30 I walked into her office and plopped down in a chair, ready to explain the class units and review essays and exams so she could determine if it would fulfill the requirements for my minor. After a coursework discussion that took less than five minutes, our conversation wandered to my experiences in Chile.

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Chillin’ in Santiago

When people ask me if studying abroad was the time of my life, I’ve always hesitated.

“It was quite the learning experience!” I respond honestly.

So as I sat in my adviser’s office, staring at a shelf of colorful Spanish textbooks and other resources, I wondered if she would fault me for admitting that studying abroad wasn’t what I expected – it hadn’t been the walk in the park I anticipated. Continue reading

The Buildup

Tomorrow’s the big day! Here’s a recap of my latest adventures…

The good news is that I made it to Saratoga! The better news is that tomorrow is opening day. And the bad news…? Honestly, there really is no bad news, except for the impending doom of being a college senior and having to figure out where I want to go with my life.

But I won’t think about that now, because did I mention tomorrow is opening day at Saratoga?!

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View of the expanse where the Battle of Saratoga took place

As my mom I pulled off of Interstate 87 on Sunday and drove into Saratoga Springs, a strange sense of nostalgia washed over me. Time passes so quickly, but our recognition of places we love and fond memories we hold have this strange way of making you feel like not a single day has gone by. The scary part is that the vividness of this mental connection can make other things feel like they never happened. My last semester at NDSU might as well have been years ago, along with my travels to Kentucky for the Keeneland January sale, my visit to New York and not to mention 4 phenomenal months in Chile.

But here I am back in Saratoga, and it’s almost as if I never left. Continue reading

The Beginning of the End

Studying abroad in Chile was 4 months well spent

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Museo Fonck, where it all began

My final 12 days in Chile were fast and furious, so much so that I promptly came down with the flu the day I returned home to the States. Thankfully, my body held off just long enough for me to pack several weeks’ worth of adventuring into a matter of days.

I didn’t travel nearly as much as some students during my 4 months in Chile. I have friends who went to Argentina, Brazil, Patagonia, San Pedro and a number of other locations within Chile. While I would love to have seen other South American countries, I had my own list of adventures that I partook in. And I don’t feel at all like I missed out, for I had my own motives for choosing each particular adventure. Continue reading

San Pedro de Atacama — A world of its own

Spending a weekend in one of the most famous deserts on the planet

Okay so I’ll admit, I’m already home from Chile. I’ll also admit that I’m waaaaay behind on blogging. Because of that, I’m only going to write a couple more blogs about my experiences in Chile. I can’t sign off without telling you about my trip to San Pedro de Atacama, as well as a few other adventures with my mom when she came to visit. Then I’ll write a final wrap-up about what I learned and suggestions I have for fellow travelers and study-abroaders. Because summer is here and Saratoga is only a few weeks away, so my content is going to shift from travels in Chile to horse racing!

When I left for Chile, I was dead-set that I didn’t want my parents coming to visit. I thought that I was more than capable of putting on my big girl pants and going without seeing them for the entirety of my 4-month study abroad.

But shortly after I arrived, I realized two things: Life is short, and although independence is important, you should always welcome a visit from your loved ones no matter where you are in the world. And secondly, I wanted to share my new life with others who would appreciate the quirky differences from my “regular” life. Namely my mother.

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Reunited  ❤

So my second-to-last week in Chile, my mom flew down for a visit. I probably looked like a paranoid crazy person as I waited for her at the Dunkin Donuts in the airport. Every few seconds I whipped my head around to see if she was approaching. And when I finally saw my tiny little momma pushing a cart with two enormous pink pocodotted suitcases (which I requested she bring to get all my stuff home), I jumped up with my tea in one hand and donut in the other, practically tripping over myself to give her a hug. I’ll even admit to crying just a little – my mom is my greatest cheer leader, most inspiring life coach, trustworthy therapist and closest friend, and I had missed her a lot. Continue reading