Introduction

From Viña del Mar to Saratoga

Lifeless brown leaves crackled under the weight of feet on the grey cobblestones of the Valparaíso Sporting racetrack paddock in Viña del Mar, Chile. Their dying colors contrasted with bright red, yellow and pink pompoms braided into the manes of Chilean Thoroughbreds, leaving their saddling stalls to stride around the ring. I leaned against the paddock rail, scrutinizing the foreign race program and glancing up at Thoroughbreds walking past.

Trabajaste en Saratoga? – you worked in Saratoga?” a man in a baggy tee shirt asked me in Spanish as he walked by, racehorse in hand. Word had spread that the United States exchange student girl who hung around the track every Wednesday had worked at Saratoga Race Course in New York. Continue reading

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Preface: Furlongs Across Frontiers

The fruit of my labor is finally being published!

The following series of blog entries is the result of the final capstone research paper for my International Studies major at North Dakota State University. I graduated from NDSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Communication and International Studies with a minor in Spanish. International Studies is a secondary major designed to provide a more global perspective to your primary degree track and career goals by taking additional courses with an international focus, and studying abroad. The objective of the capstone paper is to select a topic that combines your anticipated profession with your study abroad experience and primary major. The series of events that led me to my topic began two years ago.

In January of 2015, I traveled to Amarillo, Texas for an internship with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). Because of my hard work and passion for horse racing, I was enlisted to work at the 2014 AQHA Racing Champions Announcements and Heritage Place Winter Sale in Oklahoma City with Andrea Caudill, editor of the AQHA racing magazine, Quarter Racing Journal. Interested in applying my Spanish skills during the experience, I was intrigued when she asked me to join her in a bilingual interview with Mexican horse breeder, Anselmo Aguilar. Andrea did not speak Spanish, so she spoke through an interpreter to learn about his transition from doctor to businessman, and now horse racing enthusiast (Caudill, 2016). Continue reading

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
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-5-00-02-pm

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

A bed. A window. A new year.

the best thing you can do is find a comfortable spot to look ahead

I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed, facing my window. My laptop is propped up on a maroon-colored antique stool with pink and orange flower embroidery that I inherited from my grandmother.

I was sitting in this exact same position yesterday, staring out the window, lost in thought as I tried to focus on studying my PADI open water diver manual. And I realized something. Strangely enough, and maybe this is just a disjointed correlation that can only be made in my brain alone, but just less than a year ago I was sitting cross legged on a bed, laptop propped up in front of me, sun shining in through a large glass window and sliding door – in another country. Continue reading

Thank you Ginger

I met my first love when I was 8 years old. Young, huh?

We were introduced with a note. It was wrapped in a small box and handed to me by my mother on Christmas Day of 2003. Undoubtedly the best day of my life – not only for what happened that day, but for the series of life events it triggered, like the first domino in an intricate pattern, each one clinking and falling against the next, forming loops and circles and long lines.

I unwrapped the box, I think it had once held paperclips, and pulled out a note scrawled in my mom’s neat and elegant handwriting: “Go to the window and you will see, a friend to hug and love with glee.”

img_5018The best day of many people’s lives is when they look down the aisle of a church and take the first steps toward the one they will spend the rest of their life with. And maybe someday that will be one of the best days of my life as well. But on that Christmas Day, I pushed my chair away from our dining room table and a plate with a half-eaten caramel roll, and took my first steps toward the kitchen window, hardly daring to hope for what, or who would be waiting for me when I looked outside.

I’ve always wondered, out of all the little girls who ask for a pony for Christmas, how many are actually granted their wish. I was one of the lucky ones.

I stood on my tip-toes and leaned over the kitchen sink to peer out the window. Tied to our front deck was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen: a pony with a thick, red roan-colored winter coat and a big, red bow hanging around her neck.

Her name was Ginger. 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