Charlie’s blog: Quito, Ecuador

Charlie is participating on the MSID Ecuador program, and his blog is pure eye candy.  He’s got images of everything from incredible rain forests (rafting, plants, animals, etc.) to ice-climbing.

A journey by train with his host family.
A journey by train with his host family.

Check out more of his beautiful photos:  http://on-the-equator.tumblr.com/

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Time to Reflect…

We loved this particular post by a DU student currently in Argentina… she made two really great points:

“Being the foreign exchange student here has made me feel super guilty for how I have viewed foreign exchange students at DU. Probably 20% of DU is foreign students from China, and a lot of them are cliquey, and I haven’t tried to make any friends with them. I’ve found it a pain to work with people in classes who don’t speak English as well, because I was solely thinking about my grades. But now I’m in that exact position as the weird foreigner who cliques with the other foreigners, sits with the rest of the US kids, speaks English with the other exchange students, and am the one nobody wants in their group for class because I can’t do as quality work. I will never again take for granted how hard it is to switch cultures and be the foreign exchange student, and the intercambios at DU deserve so much more credit from students at DU.  DU prides itself in their inclusiveness, but I don’t think you can really understand the meaning of this until after studying abroad in a country with a different culture, different language, different customs…”

Argentinian street
Argentinian street, Photo by Rachel Firmin

“… It’s a trade off, choosing to travel or immerse myself completely into the city. It’s two different ways of experiencing Argentina and progressing my Spanish, and although I’ve seen amazing views, I wish I could say I’ve made lifelong Argentinian friendships, because I really haven’t. The people in my program are amazing, and we are already talking about reunions, but I can’t say that I have connected strongly with the people of Mendoza. This is probably the one major flaw in my experience abroad.”

You can read the full post here.  

Michaela’s blog: Valparaíso, Chile

Michaela Diamond

Michaela Diamond is studying abroad with IFSA Butler in Valparaíso, Chile.

Here is an excerpt from her most recent blog post:

“Honestly, 24-hour bus rides are not as bad as I thought they would be. When you are a college student traveling the world, buses are actually your best friend because 1) they are cheap, 2) you can travel through the night and therefore save the cost of one night in a hostel, 3) if the trip is short enough you can travel exclusively by night and thereby avoid wasting a precious day on travel, 4) you get to see endless landscapes at no additional cost, and 5) you are more motivated to finish that awful book your lit teacher assigned you over your break because there is quite literally nothing else to do.”

Follow Michaela here: http://runningtowardthefinish.blogspot.com/

 

Rachel’s blog: Mendoza, Argentina

Rachel is blogging from Mendoza, Argentina this fall semester.

Here is an excerpt from one of her recent posts.

“Sundays are big family days in Mendoza. It involves big family reunions, a lot of food, and a full day of Spanish practice for me. Today 18 people came over for lunch.  I woke up this morning to Carlina preparing for the big meal, and together we tried to fit a second table into the dining room through a doorway that was probably four inches too narrow to fit the table. We had to give up after taking it all apart and realizing that the frame of the table still wouldn’t fit. Instead we fit 18 people around their dining room table and one other small plastic table from outside.”

Check out her blog for her wonderful stories!

http://rachelfirmin1.blogspot.com.ar/

rachel firmin

 

 

Debunking Reasons against Studying Abroad

As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine September/October 2003

By Brian Harley

Where can I go to get to other places?” paraphrases a question that I once received from a student. The allure of education abroad, through study and travel (not necessarily in that order), surpassed my passé mantra of academic rigor, cultural entry points, and provisions for safety and security. Travel persuasion was not necessary. I could already imagine her standing before a world map, filling it with pushpins.

Other students need more assurance. The academic and personal leap of faith can be a process, not a plunge. Some students may feign having “just a few more questions”—ultimately indicating good old-fashioned hesitation. Study abroad advisers are in a unique position to help students see past needless constraints and encourage them to pursue their dreams. One can easily think of ten common concerns, which unanswered could prevent a student from having a transformative educational experience abroad. My “Top Ten Reasons Not to Consider Not Studying Abroad” reflect comments from real-live students as well as a condensed form of my answers, and resources that study abroad advisers should keep in mind.

Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student Studied in Spain
Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student
Studied in Spain

1. It will cost too much.

Students may be surprised! In many cases, students find that they pay no more to study abroad than to attend their home college for a semester or a year. Most state and federal financial aid transfers.

2. My grades will go down.

Students’ grades may stay the same. Despite the fear of a dropping GPA, many students return with the same GPA as when they left. If students study hard and keep up, their grades tend to show it (just like in the States). Advisors can help diminish this fear by citing some pre- and post-study abroad GPAs.

3. My courses won’t transfer.

If students plan ahead, courses will transfer. As soon as students arrive on campus the options should be described. At PurdueUniversity a letter was sent to over 7,000 first-year students before they arrived. The study abroad advisor should make sure that his or her advice agrees with the recommendations of the academic advisor. For example, courses should satisfy major, minor, or general studies credit requirements, not those few precious elective credits.

4. No university abroad will have the courses that I need taught in English.

Many study centers abroad have selected courses in most of the general academic disciplines. Urge students to look at course offerings both in English and in the language of the host country. Independent studies may be possible too, if arrangements are made in advance.

Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student Studied in Scotland
Photo: Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student
Studied in Scotland

5. I am an introvert.

Remind students that making a new home abroad for a semester or year is unnerving for everybody, and people who are naturally introverted may find themselves even more daunted after trying to make a conversation in a second language with new acquaintances. But they don’t have to be “the life of the party.” Introverts will learn language and culture just as well as extroverts, and they may grow in ways they never imagined.

6. I am a leader and my school cannot get along without me.

Great! These students can now become leaders overseas. Students’ concern that their school will “miss them” will eventually be far overshadowed by the experiences they will have. Students develop more self-confidence than they ever imagined and come home with even more mature leadership skills. But for that, they’ll truly “have to be there!”

7. I don’t know anybody who is going.

In many cases most students do not know the others in their group. But they all have one thing in common—willingness to risk the adventure of living and learning in a different country. Some have made life-long friends in the process.

Photo: Kaitlyn O'Sullivan, India
Photo: Kaitlyn O’Sullivan, DU Student
Studied in India

 

8. I have never done anything like this before.

Most people never do this. Emphasize to students that it is a tremendous privilege to be able to study abroad. On-site staff will help students to understand what they need to do to adjust to a completely new environment.

9. I don’t have very good reasons to study abroad.

There is not one single “litmus test” for study abroad. There are as many “good reasons” to study abroad as there are good programs. Students become international citizens. They learn a new cultural system and see their own from a new perspective. And, they build resumes and relationships while growing intellectually and culturally.

Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student Studied in Chile
Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student
Studied in Chile

 10. I do not know how to contact study abroad providers.

Study abroad advisers, providers, and other professional make it easy. Students can talk with on-campus study abroad advisers and other students who have studied abroad; surf the web; and read Transitions Abroad.

Study abroad advisers are uniquely positioned to view the transformation that comes from an overseas experience. Perhaps one of the chief constraints is the imagination of the student. Advisers are to be lauded for their challenging role as administrators, advocates, consultants, and, perhaps, detectives. Sometimes only after myths are debunked can students let their imagination wander overseas, followed by their body.

DR. BRIAN HARLEY, Director of Programs for Study Abroad at Purdue Univ. (www.studyabroad.purdue.edu). Contact him at bharley@purdue.edu.

Food is Comfort

 However, being abroad is about being “outside of your comfort zone.”

 New experiences tend to be intimidating and people are often hesitant to engage in the unknown, especially when it comes to food. During my time abroad in Spain, I always felt guilty when a friend would turn up their nose and make an unpleasant face when they were presented with a new dish. I kept thinking, if the Spanish are anything like my family, they would be offended to see somebody make faces without even trying the food. The cooks in my family are very proud of the dishes they create but they also understand that not everybody will be as fond of them as they are. Everybody has a very distinct palette and they prefer different tastes. Most of us prefer to eat what we grew up eating. When we are away from home we seek out the flavors we are used to. For me, a handmade tortilla will make me feel as warm as receiving hug from my grandma. A nice cup of Mexican hot chocolate will make me feel right at home. Food is comforting and when you are away from those you love, it provides a tiny moment in which you connect with them all over again.

Source: hilahcooking.com

I consider myself one of the pickiest people when it comes to food. The list of food that I don’t like is probably longer than the list of the things I will eat. However, I must remind myself to always try a dish once. Sometimes, this is harder to do because new dishes appear too different than what I am accustomed to. When I prepared to leave for Spain I already knew that I was going to have a hard time adjusting to the food. I could have traveled to Mexico and still had a difficult time. I simply had to get used to the fact that I was going somewhere new to have new adventures. After returning from Spain I can assure you that I most certainly did not love all the food I ate, but I did fall in love with new dishes.

Source: caminoways.com
Source: caminoways.com

I am very proud to say that I put on a brave face and tried what was set before me. I left my host family sure that I had no offended my host mom in any way, especially in her cooking and I let her know how much I appreciated that she would cook for us every single day. Being away from home is hard, and having your comfort food once in a while is normal but when abroad, remembers to embrace the new, the different, and even the slightly weird.

-Adrianna

DUAbroad Peer Advisor

Daniel’s blog: Salvador, Brazil

Daniel hopes to be a doctor one day (maybe even with Doctors without Borders, or a similar NGO), and he’s chosen to spend his fall semester in Brazil on SIT’s Public Health, Race, and Human Rights program.  Follow him here:

http://danielwithoutborders.tumblr.com/

…P.S. We also really LOVE that there is a link on Daniel’s blog to donate.  What a cool way to fund-raise for study abroad!

The Trill of it All

Teva-deva, teva-deva, teva-deva, teva-deva”

I am sitting in my room repeating these nonsense words in quick succession.

“I edited it. I edited it. I edited it. I edited it.”

Along with that sentence.

“TdZzzzzzzz…”

Sadly, that is the only sound I can produce.

I am trying to learn how to trill my r’s.

The trilled “r” sound is pertinent to properly spoken Spanish. That doesn’t mean it comes naturally to every Spanish speaker on the planet. It is, in fact, the last sound that Spanish-speaking children can successfully produce. Apparently, some adults never master the trilled “r”. They are labeled as having an official articulation disorder. I am afraid that I may be of that number.

As I’ve mentioned before, growing up in Texas means that you are exposed to many nuances of Spanish language and culture when you are young. In grade school, kids would run around the playground rolling their r’s extravagantly in exotic words such as “maracas” or “rojo”. Try as I might, I could never join in. “It’s easy!” they’d say. It was impossible.

While my classmates were happily trilling away like helicopters or purring cats, I was tackling a speech impediment. Each week, I would visit the school’s speech therapist, who helped me learn how to pronounce “th”, “ch”, “sh”, and “j”. It took me years of practice, and I still have trouble pronouncing these sounds, especially when I am tired. If I am not careful, I can easily slip into a lisp (not that this would be a problem in Spain). I wonder if my inability to pronounce these sounds when I was younger, and my inability to roll my r’s now, are one in the same problem.

A few days ago, my host father, Juan, told me I needed to practice trilling my r’s. He taught me this tongue-twister, which Spanish children use to practice their r sounds:

El perro de san Roque no tiene rabo,

porque Ramón Ramirez se lo ha robado.

In English, it means:

The dog of san Roque has no tail,

because Ramón Ramirez stole it.

The excess of r sounds in this sentence is meant to help one learn how to place the trilled r in everyday speech.

Yesterday in class, my professors taught us this same sentence. They also stressed the importance of learning how to properly place the trilled r. Apparently, there are only two times when one trills the r. Either when:

1)   It is the first letter, like in Roque or rabo

2)   There is a double r in the middle of a word, like in guitarra or churro

It is a good idea to repeat tricky sentences like El perro de san Roque until you are use to using the trilled r whenever you speak. That is, if you can trill your r’s in the first place.

Welcome to rudimentary Spanish pronunciation 101, where we learn to roll our r’s.

As I’ve said, I can’t roll an r to save my life. Yesterday, when my classmates, once again, were trilling away with ease, I tried to imitate them. It didn’t go very well. While we were walking down the street after class, my friends looked on with worried glances as I continued to try to make the appropriate sound

“I don’t know how to describe how to do it,” they said. In their attempts to help, they looked at me with intent faces and pointed at their mouths while they trilled. I tried to do the same, but ended up just blowing raspberries or hissing. I think a few Spaniards on the street were a bit worried at that point, too.

This morning, over café con leche, I told my host mother, Maria, that I was having trouble pronouncing my r’s correctly. She too said that she wasn’t sure how to describe how to do it, and also pointed at her mouth while she demonstrated how to trill: “perro”. In turn, I demonstrated my inaptitude at the process.

She told me that it was alright, a lot of Spanish-speaking children take years to perfect the “r”. I asked her if there are any adults that can’t trill their r’s.

“Some,” she said, “I know some people who can’t. But there aren’t many, because children learn when they are young”.

“Is it a problem?” I asked her.

“A little bit, because there is a difference between pero and perro, you see, but usually they can be understood”.

I told her I would be practicing my pronunciation, so if she heard me making strange noises around the house, that would be the reason why.

So, I went to my trusty advisor, the internet, and googled “how to roll your r’s”.

The first thing the websites tell you to do is to relax your tongue. Hence, the nonsense words I mentioned earlier. Basically, repeat anything that makes you tap the tip of your tongue against the space between your two front teeth and the roof of your mouth. This should loosen up the muscles in your tongue necessary for trilling and position your tongue in the right spot at the same time.

Once your tongue is nice and loose, float the tip of your tongue in the space between your two front teeth and the roof of your mouth. Apparently, this is called the alveolar ridge, for those who want to know. Next, attempt to pronounce a “dr” or “tr” sound with your tongue in this position. The added “d” or “t” should help, because English speakers naturally pronounce d’s and t’s with their tongues in the appropriate position for trilled r’s. Thus, the “d” and “t” sounds make it easier to roll onto the r sound.

I’ve been practicing all morning, and I’ve gotten it so I can roll onto the “r” from the “d” or “t”, but only for a moment before I lose it and have to repeat my tongue twisters again.

Maria comes to my door and checks on my progress. I try to demonstrate my limited newfound ability, but I don’t think she can tell the difference. We agree that I need more practice.

There is a rumor that some people simply can’t roll their r’s because of a genetic defect. I’ve read that if you can’t fold your tongue vertically, this is a sign that you will never be able to trill. Apparently Spanish-speakers also recognize a defect called Ankyloglossia, or “Tounge-tie”, which means that frenulum (the tissue that connects your tongue to base of your mouth) is too short. If you have “tongue-tie”, you cannot roll your r’s. People with “tongue-tie” have this defect surgically corrected as children. I don’t know if I have any of these problems (and I am not going under the knife in order to roll my r’s anytime soon), but maybe I am one of those who simply can’t trill.

Then again, I’ve also heard that the “genetic defect” rumor is complete nonsense as well. Here’s hoping.

Sites to help you learn how to pronounce the trilled r sound:

Tongue twister: http://www.tebytib.com/gest_web/proto_Seccion.pl?rfID=7&arefid=1647

Consonants: http://www.rocketlanguages.com/spanish/resources/pronunciation_spanish_consonants.php

A step-by-step guide: http://www.spanish-only.com/2008/03/how-to-roll-your-r/

More methods: http://www.wikihow.com/Roll-Your-%22R%22s

A linguist’s advice: http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-57.html

How to roll your R’s: http://wander-argentina.org/2011/06/how-to-roll-your-rs/

What if you can’t trill?: http://wander-argentina.org/2011/07/what-if-you-cant-trill-your-r/

— Emily Bowman, DUSA Student Blogger

Rayna’s blog: Mendoza, Argentina

“In a new place, situation, and/or language, you have to take a hard look at yourself because the rules that you’ve always lived by no longer apply. You realize that things that define you don’t translate. You are indefinable, or, at least constantly being redefined.”

Well said, Rayna!!!  Follow her while she is studying on the IFSA Mendoza Universities program, Argentina:  http://raynahealy.tumblr.com/

Katherine’s Blog: Valparaiso, Chile

Our DU students studying in the southern hemisphere are already starting their “fall semester” — Katherine will be blogging during her time with the ISA program in Chile.  Check out her adventures here:

http://ktadventurestochile.tumblr.com/

The “studying abroad” in study abroad

“Am I going to fail my classes abroad?”  “Are my grades from abroad going to transfer back?”  “How could I possibly take a history class in a foreign language?”  It’s normal to have a fair amount of anxiety about being a student in another country.  Here are some tips and things to keep in mind!  

Expect a different academic environment and experience.  Don’t make assumptions that things will be like your college courses at home.  When in doubt, ask questions!  Reach out for tutoring, if needed.  While you can’t control the new academic environment, you can control how hard you try.  Typically (and generally), good students at home make good students abroad.

Don’t fall for the “my-classes-are-so-easy-because-I-don’t-have-homework” syndrome.  In many other countries, courses do not include such a plethora of opportunities to earn your grade like in the US; such as quizes, homework assignments, papers, and group projects.  Instead, your grade may be determined by only one final exam and/or one paper.  So just because you don’t have a homework assignment each week, you should be doing your readings and learning the content as you go, on your own.  Many a study abroad student has learned this the hard way when final exam time comes around!  And hey, it’s kinda like practice for graduate school….

Grading may be different.  You’ve heard of “grade inflation, ” right?  It turns out that compared to many other countries, the US of A really does have a severe case of it.  In many other countries, most students are “average,” by definition.  Often, the perception in the U.S. is that you start out the class with an “A,” and you lose points if you don’t fulfill requirements of the course.  In many other countries, the philosophy is more that you start out with an “F,” and have to earn your way up from there.  Top grades are truly only given to students who go far above and beyond the norm.  And in some countries, the grading is entirely on a curve, meaning that you’ll be graded solely on how you compare with your classmates.

Figure out who your classmates will be.

  • If you’re studying in a foreign language, but taking classes only with other international students like yourself, keep in mind that the professor (and the course) is very aware that you are learning the language.  Don’t be intimidated to take classes in a foreign language — they will be targeted for students are your particular language level.
  • If you’re taking classes with local students, you will be subject to the local way of teaching and learning.  Be sure to reach out to your classmates to get suggestions on how they study and prepare for exams.

But even keeping all of those things in mind, don’t over-generalize.  You may get some suggestions and generalizations from students who have gone on your program before, but it’s also important to consider two things:

  1. Every student is different.  Your perception of your academic experience will vary from the other students in the exact same class.
  2.  Every professor is different.  Just like at home,  the person teaching your course will profoundly affect the course content, structure, and difficulty.

So try NOT to fall into the trap of believing or making broad general statements about studying in your host country.

What classroom experiences did you have studying abroad?  What did you gain from learning in a new academic environment?  Did you find yourself making broad generalizations about academics in your country when you came home?

My Abroad: A Broad Overview

              It’s been three years, three months, twenty days, and roughly eleven hours since I stepped off the plane back from Buenos Aires, Argentina.  It was there that I chose to study abroad through the Cherington Global Scholars program at DU in the fall of 2008.  I reminisce often, both with friends and family, or just in my head.  It’s interesting looking back on it, mainly because I am in a completely different stage of my life now.  Since then, I have graduated from the University of Denver, attended and graduated from graduate school at Daniels College of Business, moved to Dallas, TX, lost my father to lung cancer, and landed a job at an advertising agency.  Needless to say, a lot has changed since my return home. 

                It literally feels like only yesterday when I was a 19 year old sophomore, living with my best friends in my fraternity house and enjoying every minute of it.  It seemed to be all anyone in my class could talk about: “Where are you going abroad?”  Prague, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, London, Sydney, Auckland, Capetown, Dubai, Beijing; the list went on and on.  I really thought long and hard on where I should go.  I had been fortunate enough growing up to have traveled to Europe three times before the age of 18 (two school trips, and a hockey trip).  I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been and somewhere off the beaten path. 

                I remember one day sitting in the I-House talking with my advisor and looking up at a sheet hanging on her wall.  It was a long list of global cities and next to it was the number of DU students that traveled there the previous semester.  Obviously the European cities were the big ones, Australia after that, and then I saw it: “Buenos Aires: 5”.  I had some decent Spanish under my belt and always enjoyed Spanish culture.  Up until that point, I hadn’t really thought about South America.  It seemed…not far away enough, if that makes sense.  I didn’t really know anything about it.  I gathered as much information as I could about Argentina, Chile and Brazil and rushed home to look into it. 

                Buenos Aires immediately went to the top of my list.  Everything about it sounded so…for the lack of a better word: awesome.  I’d be lying if I also didn’t choose it because no one else seemed to be going there.  Summer flew by and on July 31, 2008 I boarded a plane for Buenos Aires.

                Buenos Aires is a great enormous city.  In the beginning I often felt anxious and very overwhelmed.  Like I said earlier, my Spanish was pretty good, but that was only if the Spanish was coming from my high school Spanish teacher who was talking to me like a five year old and teaching me colors, numbers, or days of the week.  I knew how to read a map, but not what busses to take to get there.  I knew how to ask “Where am I?” but any answer I got made no sense as I had no frame of reference.  Anyone that says study abroad isn’t scary at times is lying.

                Eventually it all started making sense and it became routine.  That’s a guarantee.  One of my favorite things about studying abroad is that you meet people that you normally never would in the United States.  Obviously that applies to the natives of that city but I’m talking about the Americans.  Everyone was just…friendlier.  This is very simple.  It’s because you’re a bunch of twenty year olds in a foreign country, away from your family, your friends, your home, your favorite fast food, your pets, your car, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your favorite radio stations, most of your clothes, and so on and so on.  The only familiar thing with you is yourself.  That’s it.  I didn’t recognize it at first, but it was the most liberating experience of my entire life. 

                What I mean by “liberating” is that you’re completely set free from all of your “social baggage”.  (I know there’s a better word for this but it’s been four years since I took Sociology and I’m a little rusty.)  By “social baggage” I mean all of the things that society tends to define people with: your friends, your family, the car you drive, the people you date, the late night shenanigans you may or may not involve yourself with, the town you’re from, the money you do or don’t have, etc.  All of this didn’t really seem to matter in (Insert Your Destination Here).  The only thing that mattered was me, myself and I.  Everyone is in the same boat and so people are a lot less judgmental.  You really can be the person you want to be.  If you’re someone who already is the person they want to be than that’s fantastic.  But for me, it took living in South America to figure it out.  It isn’t real life almost. 

                I’m not someone who by any means, NEEDED to rid myself of my “social baggage”.  I’m just saying that it did feel like a weight was suddenly lifted off my shoulders.  For me personally, it was the first time I was completely and genuinely myself.  It was something I got used to; something I loved. Studying abroad changed me for the better because I allowed it to.  It wasn’t just a trip; it was a challenge to grow from the experience.  I still talk to and hang out with dozens of people I met there.  I even lived with one of the guys I met there when we got back for a year and a half. 

                Another unique aspect was that when we were all abroad, the recession hit.  I remember talking on Skype with a girl back home and her saying, “Yeah it’s pretty bad, everybody is really stressed out.”  I didn’t concern myself with it at the time and probably went back to watching Family Guy in Spanish.  While the US economy was collapsing, I was sitting on a beach in Brazil watching the sun come up.  When people were losing their savings left and right, I was hiking in the Andes.  When the stock market was crashing, I was on a 20-hour bus ride to the largest waterfall in the world.  And when the world was in a panic, I was falling in love with South America.  We all were, really.  

                 If you’re someone who is about to go abroad, I encourage you to not be swayed about where to go, and pick somewhere YOU want to go to.  You only do this kind of thing once.  When you go, don’t hold anything back and experience everything you can.  You don’t have to go on elaborate trips to have an experience.  You can have an experience anywhere if you have an open mind.  For those of you who have already been abroad, I encourage you to look at your time there and think about what it meant to you overall.  Or get in touch with someone you were friends with there and see what they’re doing nowadays.  You’d be surprised.

Ciao,

Jonathan Armstead, DU Study Abroad Alum, Bueno Aires ’08

While in Chile—Don’t Miss Out on Easter Island

Easter Island/Isla de Pascua/Rapa Nui:

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Most remote island in the world
  • Home of the famous “bellybutton of the world,” the birdman cult, and the mysterious moai statues

Never heard of it?  That’s ok, most people haven’t.  But Easter Island is a stunning, remote and incredible island that officially belongs to Chile, although the indigenous Rapa Nui community claims independence.  Considered the most remote island in the world, its culture is related to that of native Hawaiians and other Polynesian groups, but without the massive over tourism that has turned many of those cultures into tourist attractions.  A five hour flight from Santiago, it is pretty difficult to get to from anywhere other than Chile, but if you’re in Santiago, it is an incredibly easy trip to plan.  I was there for a week, and it was fantastic.  I warn you though—it is an “outdoorsy” kind of trip.  There are no five star resorts, only locally own hostels and family ranches.  Activities available are pretty physical too—biking, hiking volcanoes, camping, horseback riding, scuba diving and snorkeling to name a few.  If you are looking for a week on the beach, this is not the place to go.  If, however, you’re looking for an incredibly unique travel experience (I’m still the only person I know outside my travel group who’s has been to Easter Island), getting to know an incredibly ancient culture and enjoying some outdoor activities, you can’t do better than this!

Planning is pretty simple—

  • LAN Chile is the only airline that flies to the island.  Roundtrip tickets typically run between $200-300 and go throughout the week.  Book the ticket early, since there are limited daily flights.
  • Hanga Roa is the main (and really only) town on the island.  There are multiple hostels and campsites just outside the town and is probably the best and easiest place to stay.  I recommend booking at least your first couple of nights, but you may decide to do some camping so leave yourself some flexibility.
  • Be prepared for higher costs of food on the island since almost everything needs to be flown from the “mainland.”  I would buy some basic staples in Santiago (bread, breakfast stuff, even water) to avoid having to pay the higher prices on the island.  Definitely go to the grocery store though, since it’s the only one on the island and a great way to meet locals.
  • I’m usually not a huge fan of the guided tour, but I do recommend it for the island.  In one day you can get around the entire island, see all the main sites and learn about the culture and history of the island, and then plan to go back to your favorite places later on.

Only locals can own land or be employed on the island, so wherever you end up, your guides and hosts will all be Rapa Nui individuals with a great pride in their heritage.  I highly recommend this trip if you plan on spending any time in Chile—it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

– Stephanie Roberts, DUSA Peer Advisor

Kissing Cheeks or Shaking Hands? Greetings Etiquette in Latin America and Beyond

I guess as a kid I took for granted the fact that you kissed cheeks to say hello.  My mom is Bolivian and I’m from Brazil, so kissing cheeks was the most natural thing in the world for me.  When we moved to the US, I remember the shock on my first-grade teacher’s face when I leaned in to kiss her on the first day of class.  That was when I realized that in the U.S., kissing strangers is just not ok!

When I studied abroad in Chile my junior year, it was fascinating to watch the Americans on my program have the opposite problem.  Suddenly, they were being kissed by everyone and anyone they met!  Men still preserve their macho reserve and only shake hands with other men (or they may give you a hug), but man-woman and woman-woman interactions ALWAYS start with a kiss (or maybe two, or even three!)

The “rules” for kissing will vary depending on which country you’re going to.  Europe and the Middle East are famous for this too, and while rules in Europe may be similar to those in Latin America, in the the Middle East, men generally should NOT try to kiss any women, and any cheek kissing they participate in will likely be with other men.  I can only really speak for Latin America and “Latin” Europe (France, Spain, Italy), so I thought I’d lay out some general ground rules for those regions:

Guys—be prepared to shake hands with other men and possibly a quick half-hug too, and make sure you look up the etiquette on how many kisses you should give women when you meet them (depending on if they’re single or married, this can change).

Girls—be prepared to be kissed by everyone!  Men, women, children…they will all kiss you hello and goodbye.

While is some countries you don’t exchange kisses on the first meeting, in others you kiss once you’ve been introduced.  Typically in a professional setting you won’t kiss your colleagues he first time you meet, but may be expected to kiss after that.  In some countries people will actually kiss your cheeks, in others, it’s more of cheeks touching and “air kisses.” Just follow the lead of whoever you’re with!

One last pointer—I can’t speak for other regions, but at least in Latin America make sure you individually greet everyone in a room, and do the same when you leave.  Waving hello or goodbye to the whole room is considered very rude.

Good luck, and enjoy all the smooching!

Stephanie Roberts, OIE Peer Advisor