In Spanish class we learned that the way to say goodbye is “Adios!” At least in Chile, though, that’s not how you do it. Everyone says “Chao!” as goodbye, and it’s accompanied by a kiss on the cheek, maybe a hug, cuídate, nos vemos!

Despedirse is something you do every time you leave a social gathering. And it’s required for everyone there. You have to go around the room and say goodbye to all the people you’re with before it’s okay to leave.

At the beginning of my time in Chile, this was really uncomfortable for me, because I wasn’t sure how to insert myself in someone’s conversation to say goodbye. I always felt like I was interrupting something. Or that I was holding up my family from leaving. The truth is, though, that they’re never in a hurry, and the cultural value of acknowledging others trumps the extra inconvenience.

For me, this shift in cultural values requires extra effort, and to be honest I’m still not the best at the practice of despedirse, but that’s something I want to keep working on until I have to leave.

The end of my study abroad program is coming up just on the horizon. We have a month and a week before we all part ways. I’m anticipating that this goodbye will be very difficult.

In my time here I have made a lot of wonderful friends. Both my amigos gringos and amigos chilenos have made a remarkable impact on me. I have been greeted with such kindness, invited into a new family, and accepted for who I am. I can share my heart and soul with the people I have met here, and for that I am so grateful.

I’m not ready to say goodbye.

Here I am with some friends from my program on a trip to Mendoza, Argentina. I love that the other gringas are always up to travel and share cultural experiences!
My community of jóvenes from my church in Chile. Here we are at a weekend retreat. My host dad Séba is the one taking the selfie.
These are my host family’s relatives. From aunts and uncles to abuelos y nietos, everyone came together for fiestas patrias and they’ve done an incredible job of including me in their family.
Some of my chilean church friends and I at a despedida (farewell party) for Gabriel (not pictured) who’s leaving to learn English in the US for a couple months. This was the first of many goodbyes for me and it got me feeling super sentimental.

From Santa Teresa to Cervantes

“Medieval walls? Santa Teresa de Jesus? A 16th century home?” were questions that were going through my head as I toured the nearby cities of Avila and Alcala de Henares. I could not contain myself when I found myself face to face with thousands of years of history. What topped off the experience was that both cities were having medieval festivals!

One of Avila’s centuries-old gates awaited our arrival into the bustling city center inside.

Avila, Spain, which is an old city to the west of Madrid, where I am studying, shattered my expectations as my host mom and I inched closer and closer to the city center where the behemoth wall stood. The wall is almost 1,000 years old and encircles the historic city center. We went through one of the main entrances and were greeted by lively folk music, people in colorful medieval costumes, and a plethora of vendors selling souvenirs and food.

Avila’s ancient wall stretches far and conforms to the hilly landscape of central Spain.
Avila’s “plaza mayor” or central square was flooded with people from all over Spain, enjoying the atmosphere of the annual medieval festival.

On my way out, I did not hesitate to try Avila’s famous Patatas Revolconas, to visit the ancient Cuatro Postes, or to learn more about Santa Teresa de Jesus who lived in Avila.

The inner city’s street were adorned with festive decorations and decorations alluding to religions such as Judaism.
Los Cuatro Postes is an ancient site on a hill with a fantastic view of Avila where it is said that Santa Teresa de Jesus and her brother decided to become heroes for Christianity.
Trying hard not to slip, I inch away from one of the best views of Avila and its medieval walls.
“Patatas revolconas” is a famous dish in Avila made with pureed potatoes and pork meat. This hit the spot!

My thirst for history led me further to Alcala de Henares, an ancient city just east of the city of Madrid. I felt honored to stand in a city founded in pre-Roman times. I was able to visit an archeological museum where million-year-old fossils were displayed along with Roman mosaics and other ancient artifacts. I also received a tour of the house where 16th century author Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, was born. Stepping outside into the streets of Alcala, I found charming streets bustling with people who have come for the medieval festival. Mini parades of people dressed in armor and mystical creatures livened the avenues of vendors.

One of Alacala de Henares’s street reminded me of downtown Holland with its short trees, charming store fronts, and friendly people.
The University of Alcala was founded in 1498, a just 6 years after Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain!
Alcala de Henares’s central square was lively with decorations of varying cultures representing its multicultural history.
I was able to explore the 16th century home where Miguel de Cervantes, author of the famous book Don Quixote, was born!
While Alacala de Henares was founded even before the Romans arrived, the city’s archaeological museum held millions-of-years old fossils found in present-day Spain!

Growing in Faith and Understanding.

Wow, I am already finished with week 7 of my semester off-campus. I knew that I would grow in many ways, but these five were not what I expected.

Research is hard.  

Where do I even begin here. Research is something I always have found interesting. I like learning things I didn’t know before; but, there are so many  types of research intended to bring subjects to light in different ways. Humanities research, as my professor this semester would say, is, “obsessed with the past. Humanities looks at the impact of something at its time, and only its time.” That struck me to my core. Since being in Chicago, I have learned that Humanities research, although incredibly fascinating, is not where I want to spend my time—not entirely, anyways. Although this may be a difficult “pill to swallow,” I am thankful I learned this about myself now, rather than later.

Pasta DOES get boring after a week of eating it. (?!)

Go out, people! I am serious, you are only off campus in this cool city/town/place once. I spent a week straight eating pasta for dinner every night. “Who could get sick of pasta?” you might ask. I am telling you, everyone could. Eating out only becomes expensive and unhealthy if you are not careful. Eating in can be just as unhealthy and expensive! I have made many a microwaved meal, and I am up for a home-cooked meal. Mom? Dad? Where are you in your infinite cooking wisdom?

Branching out is necessary.

This week I have been so blessed to reach out to other students in my program. The first couple weeks I had become close with my roommates, but only my roommates! That being said, I wanted to get to know the other students on the program. On a Monday, in the midst of intense studying, a group of us took a look around the room. Nobody wanted to be reading another page of their book. Someone sighed, “I just want a donut.” No wiser words have been spoken in that library! Immediately a group of us got together and ventured out into Chicago. We stumbled upon a quaint donut shop named, Glazed and Infused. If I hadn’t branched out, I would have missed out on some cool conversation with some people who are now becoming good friends of mine. I could explain to you the joys of this delicious donut, but I would rather show you.

God works in mysterious, mysterious ways.

This is probably the most important thing, that I am still learning about! I have loved this program in how it has brought me closer to God. My reliance on Him has grown stronger every day. I find it important to dedicate my time, when I have it, to digging into His Word. Through my time exploring different devotionals, I have come to understand the Bible in a new light, and God’s Love in a deeper way.

Ask me about my off-campus experience,

and I will tell you that it has been eye-opening in the best way possible.

Ser Humano

IES Santiago offers a clinical observations program for future healthcare professionals. We explore the Chilean healthcare system by observing medical professionals in private and public hospitals, clinics, and health centers all around Santiago. Yesterday I observed in the neurology unit in Hospital Sótero del Río, a public hospital that provides care to 10% of Chile’s entire population! Here is one of the most impactful experiences that I have had thus far from the this week’s clinical observations:

It was a moment where the language barrier didn’t matter. It was as if the entire world stopped, even just for that split second in time. The regulated beeping of machines continued and brought me back into the reality of the present moment.

“Se falleció,” the nurse shared. I hadn’t even heard of that verb before, but the shared response of the hospital room was enough to know. Their faces dropped– every patient, kinesiologist, therapist, doctor, nurse, tech, and visitor. My own heart sunk, too, and it was a strange feeling. I had seen the patient in a coma just minutes before the news broke. I had no connection to her nor to her family. I didn’t even know the state of her condition and, yet, I could still feel the pain. It was a purely human moment.

The therapy sessions progressed, the conversations continued, and life at Hospital Sótero del Río went on, as it always does. I briefly departed my current observation to confirm what I thought was the situation. I went next door to the room of 6 neurology patients to find the loved ones of the deceased woman grasping onto her in the hospital bed, still so close and yet so far from her last breath. The nurses, tears in their eyes, continued their routine duties in preparation for the next patient to take her very place in the already-crowded room.

It felt so human. As future health professionals, we talk a lot about how to separate our feelings from our jobs and how to not bring our work home with us. We will evidently become a bit desensitized to the looks and groans of agonizing pain of our patients, even the sight of death of a patient whose life we have fought and cared for. In this moment, however, I don’t believe the nurses or doctors were worried about hiding their sadness or avoiding the emotions that were provoked. Instead, I saw sympathy and understanding. I saw gentle looks exchanged between medical personnel and the loved ones of the woman. I heard the booming noise of silence that resulted from a lack of any words that could have possibly alleviated the pain of the situation.

I, too, felt helpless. Even if I had the words in Spanish, I wouldn’t have been able to convey them in a way that could have helped anyone. There was no easy fix. Death is a reality of life, but it was a beautiful moment of unity and humanity that exists apart from language or culture. It was simply an aspect of “ser humano” (being human).

The Referendum

I’m not sure how much coverage the news in the States has given to Spain and its political situation recently, but there has been some very important stuff going on here. On Sunday October 1st, there was a referendum in the Catalonia region (northern area) of Spain. Those who live in the Catalan region and who are 18 years or older were eligible to vote. The voting to make the Catalonia region independent is technically illegal according to the Spanish Constitution, so the police have made efforts to stop the campaigning and voting. I have been watching the news with my señora during lunch and dinner and there has been lots of footage of demonstrations and protests in Barcelona. Some have become confrontational and escalated into violence between the opposing sides. Even though the voting already happened, protests and strikes still continue, which are being monitored by the police force.

Another important event happened on October 1st, which may seem irrelevant, but is actually the opposite: the Barcelona and Las Palmas soccer game. This wasn’t a typical soccer game because it was played behind closed doors due to the political tension in Barcelona. There was no audience, no fans allowed inside. The Referendum and its effects have been a discussion topic in many of my classes. In my Anthropology of Sports class, we talked about what would happen to Catalonian athletes such as Gerard Pique who publicly support the independence of Catalan. If Catalan does not become independent, will he be able to continue to play for the Barcelona soccer team? Will he be eligible to compete in the Olympics for Spain? All interesting questions, but they remain unanswered until the final decision of Catalan’s independence is reached.

Even though the Referendum is happening in the northern Catalan region and I am studying in the southern Andalusian region, there have been some effects in Seville. There have been peaceful demonstrations in front of the ayuntamiento (city hall) related to the Referendum. Numerous houses have hung the flag of Spain on their balconies to show they support the unity of Spain. There were even signs of political opinions during the Carrera Nocturna del Río Guadalquivir (night race by the river), which I had the amazing opportunity to participate in. There were over 24,000 runners and the entire race had a positive and fun atmosphere! Spectators encouraged the runners cheering “Vamos, vamos! Ánimo!”, there was live music, and some participants dressed up in costumes. There were a few groups of runners who proudly ran with the Spanish flag chanting “Yo soy español” which most likely signified that they disagree with the independence of Catalan and support the unity of Spain.

President Mariano Rajoy, King Felipe VI, along with other political leaders have made public announcements addressing the independence movement. We were told that the final decision of Catalan’s independence would be announced Monday, October 9th, but has been rescheduled to Tuesday, October 10th (because it’s Spain and everything is on European time, which means life moves at a slower pace than the United States). So, make sure to check the news to see what happens/ed!


First Week of Classes (Finally)

After what seemed to be ages of multiple orientations and time spent on Manly Beach, week one is officially here! Leading up to this week, I was so curious to see what my classes would be like compared to what I’ve taken at Hope. Finally, I could log into the ICMS app and my timetable appeared! Four classes, similar to a schedule at Hope, but the similarities end there. At ICMS, we have class once a week, and each class lasts three hours. That being said, we only have a few days of class per week, meaning we have loads of time for studying and homework… or beach days, parties, and exploring Sydney!







Since ICMS is an international school, I have met so many people from around the world – surprisingly a lot of Germans! There are a few schools that are partnered with ICMS, so it gets a large influx of students from various schools in Germany and Asia. That being said, this September term is high on international students compared to locals. I wasn’t expecting it to be rare to meet Aussie students, but it is so exciting to know people from all over!

My first week of classes didn’t take much getting used to. Though different, the way they schedule classes here is simpler than in the US. I don’t have class on Mondays or Fridays, so I was able to ever so gently ease into school life. Spending

First day of school! First day of school!

most of Monday on Manly Beach building sand castles, reading, and watching surfers and swimmers in the glistening ocean waves seems to me like a well-spent day! Tuesday rolled around and I had to get it together. Dressing in a slacks, blazer, and flats instead of my swimmers and (of course) Chacos, definitely is a bit of a change, but after a few weeks of fun, its about time! Though three hours of class feels much longer than three hours, I can hardly complain. All my teachers give me coffee breaks about two hours into class, so that always helps me get through the last hour!

Though this first week has been pretty basic (much like most first weeks of classes are), I know I will have plenty of papers and projects in the near future! But for now, here’s to swimmers, sand castles, and sunshine!

Yeah… we build a lot of sand castles