Aussie Quirks

Since arriving in Australia, I haven’t had much of a culture shock necessarily since it is an English-speaking, developed country. However, Australia does have its quirks – some commonly known to the rest of the world, others not so much!

One of my favorite things about Australia is the laid back surfer lifestyle. “Shirts and shoes required” is not a thing for most businesses here. Back home, I never questioned it because I’m always so cold… why wouldn’t you wear at least 3 layers of clothing with wool socks and a jacket? Now I understand – not everyone lives in the tundra we lovingly call Michigan.

Sitting in a coffee shop by the beach, people walk in with wet suits, swimmers, rarely wearing shoes, and carrying the occasional surfboard. It still surprises me a bit when someone walks in with wet suit half on, smelling like the ocean, and talking to the barista about the surf!

Though not the most difficult, the hardest thing for me since getting here are that there are a few Aussie-style words that completely confuse me. It leads to me giving people that “what are you talking about – oh no… my American is showing isn’t it” look.

Here are some of my favorite Aussie words and phrases that are a little different than how we say them in the US! See if you can figure them out 🙂

how you going?








Other words that just bring me joy but make total sense are: doggo (and anything else that is shortened and ends with -o), bloody, recon, washing, and of course, the classic: g’day mate.

Even “environment” is shortened!

When’s dinner?

They warned me. People have told me over and over that the eating schedule in Spain is very different from that of the United States. What did I do? I brushed off the comments and thought to myself, “Meh, I’ll be able to handle it. Nothing to sweat.” To some extent I was right, I can handle sometimes the late lunches and the extremely late dinners. But sometimes, my body refuses to obey. All I can think about is the mouth-watering gastronomy of this precious land and the inexplicable joy that I get at every meal.

This should not be a surprise because I am a man that likes to eat. When my stomach tugs at my mind for food, I have trouble concentrating on my schoolwork. Lunch and dinner being later than what I am used to really challenges me in this area. In the United States, I may eat lunch at 11:00 am, noon, or maybe even 1:00 pm. In Madrid, my classes run right through what I use to call “lunch time” and have me eating at 2:30 or 3:00 pm. When I am finally out of class, I speed-walk to the dining hall where they serve delicious, typical Spanish dishes or to Donner Kebab, a high-quality Turkish restaurant that is popular among the students.

“When’s dinner?” my stomach mumbles an hour after I eat my large lunch. Normally in the U.S.A, I may have dinner at 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, or maybe 7:00 pm at the latest. Here, my host mom calls me from my room to eat dinner at 9:30 pm, 10:00 pm, or 10:30 pm. All the waiting makes the meal much more enjoyable. Marilé, my host mom, prepares a variety of Spanish dishes that I savor every time. Lentejas, morcia de Burgos, huevos fritos, sopa de calabaza do not name even half of the foods she serves.

Even though the lunches and dinner may be later than what I am used to, through this change, I have learned to savor every bite and leave each meal happy. Waiting tends to make each God-given plate special and more delicious than it already is.

Click on a photo to view in slide show format and each description!

For When You’re in Chicago…

Since each of my previous blog posts  have enticed you so, I am sure you are curious on some must-see sights and things to do here in Chicago! Below, you will find pictures—taken by yours truly—accompanied by my experience at each location. These have to be a few of my most favorite places here in Chicago.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park, arguably the prettiest park of Chicago, has a lot to offer. On any given day you will see runners, bikers, and especially vendors out here! It is a great way to get into nature while still being in the city. Along the walking paths there is a restaurant called The Patio and plenty of art pieces to admire! My favorite part about Lincoln Park? Several paths lead you to the beach!

Broken English Taco Pub, Old Town. If you are looking for a super modern and fun place eat tacos, Broken English is the place for you. Just a hop and a skip from the Gold Coast, this restaurant has a super speedy service, lively Hispanic music, and great authentic Mexican-food. If you are looking for a good deal, until 7 pm, most nights you can grab $2 tacos!

Mural, Old Town. There are beautiful murals and graffiti all throughout Chicago. But I have to say, Old Town has some of the prettiest on the sides of their buildings. If you are ever free on a Sunday afternoon, visit Old Town for a quiet and beautiful walk through a small town in a big city.

Oops, did I make you hungry for some exploring?


Because Chicago has a lot to offer.


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!

Accommodation in Dublin


So, guys, I have been on the move the past 5 weeks. I have adjusted myself to classes, friends, cooking, bar-hopping, and most important of all: my accommodation. I have 4 roommates (Peter, Ethan, Evan, and Pierce) in this flat. Each person gets their own room, and there is a kitchen that is separate from the rooms, and a hallway in the middle of the flat.

We are living in Binary Hub, an apartment complex in the Liberties, a neighborhood of Dublin city.  This is the place I come home to every night. The place is nice, with a bed, bath, closet, drawers. It is simple, yet practical for such a busy man. I will admit it is kind of on the small side, but that does not take away from its modern look and feel.

The bed does not feel half bad at night, especially after a long night out. I occasionally summon it for right-before-I-go-to-sleep study sessions, but the results usually end with me falling asleep. Actually, today, I snoozed my alarm like 10 times to get up for a 9:30 class. Because the bed felt so good, I almost did not get up. Bit I did make it on time to class! The bed can be a blessing and a curse. But getting my rest is extremely important, especially being abroad, because my body has only been used to Dublin for 5 weeks. Rest, rest, rest! Sadly I have a little cold right now but I am slowly working my way over it with rest and hydration.

So, this is a brief look into my accommodation for the next 7 weeks (it is crazy that I only have 2 months left). More to come next week!