Clásico Club Hípico de Santiago

my first Horse racing Reporting experience abroad

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Mandatory “Directorio” balcony selfie

Before I even left for Chile, my parents made a request: that I don’t spend all of my time there at a racetrack. This didn’t mean not to spend any time. It was just their way of expressing the importance of going out and seeing the world beyond the smoky and character-filled confines of the racetrack. I have my entire life to visit tracks, and being that life is unpredictable, there’s no guarantee I’ll ever be back in Chile again after these four months.

However, aside from my mind-altering trip to Patagonia (comparing the two is like apples to oranges), I think I may have just taken part in one of the greatest opportunities that could have possibly presented itself during my entire study abroad experience.

Despite my parents’ warnings of spending too much time at the track, I probably researched more on racing in Chile above anything else before landing in the country. And I had a date written on my calendar…

May 22, 2016: Gran Premio Club Hípico de Santiago. Continue reading

Morning at a Racetrack in Chile

the Valparaiso Sporting Club – My favorite hidden gem in VIÑA DEL MAR

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The Puente Cancha entrance to the Valparaiso Sporting Club

If you aren’t actively looking for it, you’d hardly notice the wrought iron gates set in the graffiti-covered wall across from Puente Cancha in Viña del Mar, Chile. The wall, which parallels 1 Norte Street, shields the backside of the Valparaiso Sporting Club from the honking cars and smoking buses trying to deliver anxious people to work on their Wednesday morning.

Unless you poke your face through the bars of the gates, the only indication of a track on the other side is a sign emblazoned with a victorious racehorse and bold lettering, announcing in Spanish the dates of the 2-year-old Triple Crown Races.

A guard, seated in a small guard shack just inside, is expecting me. He motions me in as I push open the surprisingly heavy gate, leaving behind the raucous outside environment and entering into different world. A gray paved road stretches out before me, lined by trees and shedrows. Steaming horses covered with brightly colored sheets clatter up and down the drive as they’re cooled out by hot walkers. Continue reading

Torres Del Paine

An experience like no other

After working on a beast of a paper all weekend and most the week prior to flying out for Patagonia, I welcomed the transition in scenery with open arms (but not literally because I was carrying a huge backpack). A person can only sit at a dining room table learning about 1800s export-import growth in South America for so long before you start to question your sanity.

I spent the Wednesday morning before I left at the Valparaiso Sporting Club, the racetrack in Viña del Mar, touring the backside and watching morning workouts. Safe to say I was pretty high on life and horses by the time I charged out the door with my pack that evening. Freedom never tastes quite as sweet as it does when you’re escaping the busy city life and a 10-page paper.

Although I originally wanted to plan my trip to Patagonia myself, I decided to book through a tour group called the Valparaiso Exchange Network. The company offers organized and practically all-inclusive trips to students of Chilean universities, providing a more affordable trip experience. I highly recommend this option to my fellow amateur campers out there. Although I’ve camped before, I didn’t know enough about the gear I would need to go it alone, and this would give me the chance to observe camping pros in action so I’m prepared for the next trip.

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Fall colors out in full force

Three of my friends from my university had booked the same trip, so the four of us lugged our bags to the bus station to catch an 8:30 p.m. bus to Santiago. Still wound up from my morning at the track, I must have been quite the sight as I galloped and skipped across streets and into the bus terminal carrying a pack almost as big as me. At least by now my exchange student pals are well-accustomed to my frequent horse chatter. Continue reading

Reaching half-way: The beginning of five new challenges

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The photo-bombers in this pic make me laugh (taken at the racetrack Club Hipico de Santiago)

When you step off the airplane and into the airport of the country where you’ll spend the next four months of your life, you feel as though you have all the time in the world.

In barely one week from today, I’ll reach the half-way point of my time in Chile. And this scares the dickens out of me. Because for as much as I’ve already done, there’s so much more that I want to accomplish while I’m here.

Throughout the first two months I’ve experienced highs and lows. I’ve missed tall glasses of ice-cold milk (it’s not very common to drink milk here), blueberry French toast and my family. I’ve gone on adventures, been lost and confused, found my way with the help of kind people and even puked up an olive (don’t eat too many empanadas before getting in a car if you get motion sick). And I have no regrets for any of it, even the toughest of learning experiences that knocked me on my butt. Continue reading

Metros, Busses, Taxis and Hitchhiking

Funny how you can wake up imagining your day is going to play out one way, and go to sleep thinking, ‘Wow, didn’t see any of that coming!’ Studying  abroad is a lot about expecting the unexpected.

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Chile vs. Argentina

Last Thursday I took a bus to Santiago to attend my first big “partido de fútbol” – A national soccer match between Chile and Argentina (awesome game, but sadly, we lost), and spend the holiday weekend with my host family’s family.

I slept in a rowdy hostel Thursday night – and by slept I actually mean laying there wide awake to the techno music that played into the wee hours of the morning.

Why didn’t you join the party, you killjoy? – is probably what you’re thinking.

Well I awoke around 6:30 a.m. on Friday with plans to hike at Cajon del Maipo, a national park located an hour or so out from Santiago. Despite the early start, my hiking buddy Kaitlin and I didn’t head out until almost 9 a.m. because the hostel didn’t serve breakfast until 8:30 – and I wasn’t about to leave without filling myself with all the fresh bread and jam and dulce de leche that I could eat. This girl doesn’t hike on an empty stomach. Continue reading

Horse racing in Chile – It’s a small world

My first experience at a Chilean racetrack was nothing less than aWESOME

Ever since arriving in Viña (as the city is fondly called) I’ve been dying to check out the racetrack. My bus drives past the Valparaiso Sporting Club on its way to deliver me to classes, and my university, situated on a hill overlooking the city, provides a convenient view of the track. My breaks between classes are generally spent sitting in the lush, vibrantly green grass and watching the morning workouts. Yes, I do believe I picked the right place to study, and I swear I didn’t even plan that!

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Morning workouts

My curiosity got the best of me last Thursday, and I walked to the track for morning workouts, which are apparently not as common for people to watch as they are in the states. I bypassed the open door where maintenance staff was entering the grandstands, not wanting to tempt fate and have a run-in with security guards. Instead I played it safe and stood next to a low gate along the outside rail of the turf course. It wasn’t an up close and personal view, but I wasn’t complaining. I attached the zoom lens to my camera and started snapping away.

Aside from two or three who I saw putting in timed workouts, the majority of the Thoroughbreds here gallop without saddles, just a pad and a girth. The atmosphere was quiet and relaxed, nothing like the bustling morning traffic at Saratoga. Continue reading

Let it go

Studying abroad is about being adaptable – not holding on for dear life

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The view from my Chilean university at dusk

School has always been important to me, and the start of each new semester generally means clutching to my schedule with a white-knuckled death grip. Homework and grades always come before going out and having fun. I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am.

Many of my friends and family members told me how brave I was to leave home and study in another country. But I don’t think it has anything to do with bravery. The true challenge is being adaptable.

Before I left for Chile, all I could imagine was traversing the globe with friends, eating exotic foods and dancing the night away at raucous clubs.

Most people who’ve ever read my blogs or know me personally realize that I like plans. Life feels easier when it’s organized – compartmentalized neatly into a schedule. The hardest thing for me since arriving here in Chile is letting go of all that. Because even though grades are more important than clubbing, seeing the world will give you far more of an education than anything you learn in the confines of a classroom. Continue reading

The advice every traveler needs to know

As the saying goes, you can’t fool a fool. But what they don’t tell you is that you can fool someone who is naïve and overly trusting.

And that’s me. Actually, I should say that was me. Sometimes it just takes learning lessons the hard way before you figure things out.

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¡Hola Chile!

I was feeling pretty confident when I landed in Chile. I had a plan: pass through immigration, pick up my luggage, go through customs, and find the person from the university who was going to pick me up.

I made it all the way through customs before everything went awry.

As I searched for the location to meet the group of students I would ride with, a man with an official airport badge walked up and asked what university I was going to. He had a kind smile and easy-going mannerisms, and acted as though he was there to meet students. He then informed me that my group had already left. I was confused, but this didn’t seem like an impossible occurrence. Originally, since I had booked my flight myself rather than through my study abroad company, I was supposed to take a bus to my city. But because I happened to be arriving at the same time as several other students, someone from my university said I could ride with them.

So there I was, following this seemingly helpful guy through the airport. I don’t blame you if you’re yelling at the computer screen right now telling me how stupid that was. But I come from the Midwest, land of Minnesota nice and ‘”Ya sure, you betcha.’ I totally thought this guy was trying to help me.

Because I couldn’t connect to wifi in the airport and my cell phone service didn’t work at the time (I’ve since purchased a new SIM card), the guy offered to let me use his phone to call someone from the university. However, he must have had this planned out and dialed a different number than what I gave him. He put me on the phone with a man who said the best and safest way for me to reach the university would be via taxi. Thinking this was someone from the university, I fell right into it. Continue reading

Traveling to Chile!

February 28

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Last time I’ll be wearing a winter jacket for a while!

My journey southward has begun, and by the time you read this blog I’ll already be in Chile.

Crazy how life countdowns go. It’s almost like playing hide and seek on steroids. One second you’re sitting in a comfy hiding spot, thinking you have all the time in the world to prepare. Meanwhile, the days are slowly tick-tocking away and before you know it, you’re on the way to a different country.

But ready or not, I’m sitting in the Dallas airport, waiting to board a flight that will take me to another continent.

Thankfully my flight is at night and I’ll arrive in Chile fairly early in the morning, so it will be a good time to sleep on the plane. As flying is not my favorite activity, I’m well-stocked with drowsy Dramamine. Continue reading

Leaving Home

Make sure to enjoy being home before leaving it

Perhaps you know and perhaps you don’t, but in 11 days from today I’m leaving to study abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile.

Excited? Definitely.
Nervous? Without a doubt.
Prepared? As good as it’s gonna get.
Worried? Not at all. Yeah, that was sarcasm.

I write this as I sit on the couch, serenaded through my headphones by Youtube’s version of “traditional Chilean music.” I know not whether it’s traditional or Chilean, but they’re singing in Spanish, so I guess it does the trick. They’re also yodeling. Didn’t realize Chilean yodeling was a thing.

It’s hard to believe that in less than two weeks from today, I’ll be sitting on a plane flying over who-knows-what country. For now, I’m just enjoying home, family, friends and my horses.

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Larry being Larry. Sometimes he thinks he’s a Tyrannosaurus-Thoroughbred.

It dawned on me tonight how much I’m going to miss horse chores. The horses are what get me out of bed every morning. Sometimes when it’s insanely cold, they’re the only reason I go outside. As I chiseled frozen crap from their loafing shed, I watched the horses watching a herd of deer.

My gelding Larry stared intently, on high alert. In an instant he wheeled around and took off bucking, narrowly missing my head with one of his kicks as he danced, leaped, reared and skittered across the paddock. “The girls,” as we call our mares, followed suit. Misty – who becomes, shall we say “bodacious,” in the winter – flagged her tail and stretched out in a floating extended trot, snorting snot and steam. She almost didn’t look chubby for a moment. Little bay Goldie just humped her back and crow-hopped along. Continue reading