Things to do in Iowa: Raccoon River Beach

It’s not the ocean. But pretty close. Main differences: water color, water movement or lack thereof, the sand, the people, beach treats, the animal sitch… So a lot of differences.

Despite the brown, still water, which you only get into if you a) desperately need to cool off or b)don’t mind swimming in mucky river water (who r u), the beach is kind of nice. Don’t get your hopes up when I say beach, because the sand is like playground sand. Sorry Iowa doesn’t have white sand beaches, idk what you were expecting. The people are also different- no surfers mainly. As for beach treats- I can’t imagine the ocean offering anything better than tro sno, the most amazing snow cone on the planet. The last downfall are the bugs. Do oceans have bugs? I wanna say no. There are plenty of nasty insects to ruin your day at the coon river. And there are no seagulls so that’s lame.

Take those pros and cons as you will- I LOVE the Raccoon River Beach. Free sun, that’s all I really want. You literally can’t get that with the shade at my house (from all of the tall skyscrapers in Des Moines that tower over the south side). And it’s chill for a cute date (we witnessed one and were very jealous). However please be aware that the water carries every word you speak out to the sandy sunbathers. Just keep that in mind. Also you really don’t need to bring your children though, unless they’re adorable and/or quiet. Do bring your dogs (not on the beach though I think that’s illegal).

Other beaches in DSM: Gray’s lake. That’s it. There’s more on the outskirts but not worth the drive.

image

Things to do in Iowa: Summerfest

So Summerfest is held in Ankeny (like 25 minutes north of Des Moines… 15 if you’re a good driver) and is basically the only thing that happens there all summer (besides a 3 v 3 soccer tourney that’s kinda fun too). As a result, every living being in Ankeny attends Summerfest at least one time in the 3 day time period.

It’s a carnival. So if these Ankenites try to gush to you about how great it is, they’re exaggerating. It’s exactly the same as every other carnival you’ve been to. It’s the iowa state fair on a smaller scale, just missing the livestock, but equally equipped with enough life-threatening rides and food items to satisfy the whole family.

That being said obvi it’s fun. I went up Saturday night because they have a praise & worship concert that my dad plays in. He plays the keyboard. And he sings. I tried to get him to wave to me but I guess that’s bad stage etiquette and also he was playing the keyboard which requires two hands. Then last night I headed back up to watch the fireworks with a few friends. One of my friends had just returned from her study abroad in Australia and was in need of a good ole’ American fireworks show. Ankeny didn’t disappoint there, it was great. Iowans are the best at being American #TheHeartland

Next year if you have nothing else to do Summerfest weekend you should check it out! There are corn dogs so…

xoxo

photo (47)

^^ finale, which I missed mostly, because I was trying to get this picture

Drake’s Approach to Globalization.

International Business at Drake doesn’t get enough recognition. I’ve learned more our rapidly globalizing world being in this program than I would have anywhere else, I’m almost positive. (I have also learned from my studies to keep a more open mind when it comes to the opinions of others. So if you have the wrong opinion that maybe, I don’t know, Creighton has a better International Business program, I now have the capacity to hear you out and quietly chuckle at what must have been a slip of the tongue.)

Here’s why the International Business Program at Drake is, let’s try to be PC, ‘better than most’ (the best)(PC isn’t my strong suit).

I’ve learned so much about being a responsible global citizen, which happens to be right on Drake’s mission statement. Because this is a part of our mission statement, Drake is extra focused on making sure we are exposed to as many global opportunities as possible. Through different events I’ve attended (such as the the panel on the expansion of the Islamic financial sector) and groups I’ve gotten to be a part of (like the DU Young Scholars International Business Research Program… a program whose faculty advisors are too busy researching to come up with a shorter name…), I’ve gotten to see the world from so many different angles. In a world that is becoming increasingly globalized, I have learned how to approach international issues not as a United States citizen, but as a global citizen determined to understand as many other cultures as possible.

Aside from the events and opportunities provided by Drake and the The Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship, this program also has the classes and professors that are needed to sculpt young globalizing minds such as my own. This can be said not only of the I Biz program but of the business school in general. All of my classes have been challenging and stimulating, with small class sizes and professors that leave their doors open in order to help you where you’re struggling. They take their teachings seriously, which is perfect in a university where the students take their learning pretty seriously as well.

Along with these things, Drake makes it so easy to study abroad. This isn’t specifically about the International Business program, as anyone in any major at Drake can study abroad. It is made especially easy if you choose to do the certificate program in your language of choice (the certificate replaces a language major or minor at Drake, and its course outline can be found here: http://artsci.drake.edu/wlc/certificate), as they do a pre-study abroad course to further prepare you for your big trip. My study abroad was the most internationalizing experience of my time at Drake, and was only made possible through the help of the business school staff, (specifically Karen Pomeroy who made sure my classes would transfer) my advisor (@MattCMitch), Jen Hogan in the International Center, and many other professors and administrators who gave me advice along the way. To have a group of mentors so set on having you succeed is a truly incredibly thing, and something I am so grateful for.

My hope is that if you’re reading this and you currently attend Drake, but are in decision mode about which major you’d like to pursue, you’d really look into this as an option. If other cultures and business practices outside the U.S. interest you, this could be the right path to take. If you do not attend Drake (yet, because I’m sure you’ll eventually come to the conclusion that, although this isn’t the Duke University page you originally thought you had clicked on, it’s a pretty sweet school afterall), I’d also encourage you to look further into this program. Feel free to comment with any questions, or if you’d like to talk to a real live professor, Matthew.Mitchell@drake.edu and Jeffrey.Kappen@drake.edu could probably give you some further insight into the DU IBiz program.

The Other Side of the Street

My grandmother is in a nursing home. She is a very sweet and very practical woman. At my sister’s high school graduation party in 2008, she told me (14 at the time) that while she would love to attend my graduation party someday, she may not make it that far and she wouldn’t want me to get my hopes up.

She did, in fact, make it to my graduation party in 2012. Much more quiet than she had been at my sister’s, but her vibrant spirit still shone.

This week, I got to visit my grandma for the first time in a few months. Her memory isn’t doing well, but she did remember a walk she went on recently. At her nursing home, you aren’t allowed to take a walk by yourself. But she did. Which she brought up at least 5 times in our half an hour together. “Apparently I took a walk this week!” “It was only a few blocks.” “I took a walk yesterday, such a beautiful day.” It was almost as if she were a little proud that she broke the rules and escaped for a bit. (We aren’t exactly sure for how long, or where she went, as the report was lacking a lot of information) She had wanted to go out and enjoy the sunny day, so she did. I can only hope I’m half as defiant and determined when I get to be her age.

Among her multiple recounts of the walk, she said something that, although said offhand, had a really cool meaning for me. “You never see what’s on the other side of the street until you look.” My grandma has been holed up in this nursing home for a while now, and has missed exploring, missed stepping out of her bubble to see what else the world has to offer. I’ve been back for just a week and already am feeling the same way. There’s more out there to explore, I just have to get out there and find a new adventure (and maybe break a few rules, since I’m taking a page from Grandma Florence’s book).

While her life is drawing to an end, my grandma still has plenty of wisdom to offer. Her mind may be going a little (when I brought up what used to be one of her favorite topics, the squirrels outside her window, she told me she hadn’t noticed any squirrels at Sunnyview, which completely broke my heart), but she is much more like me than I gave her credit for. She asked if I had caught the travel bug while I was away. Which yes, yes I have. She turned to my uncle Bill and told him she regretted that they hadn’t had these same opportunities when they were young.

I wish my grandmother had gotten to see more of the world. But it’s just another lesson that we shouldn’t take for granted the opportunities we have in today’s world. Many people don’t have the option to visit foreign countries (although Drake makes it way easier with their study abroad opportunities), but we all have the option to cross the street. To explore, to discover something, to learn something new every day. That is what my grandma was after, and that’s what I want to do as well. I will not be taking for granted the opportunities I have anytime soon, and I don’t plan on ending my traveling or exploring anytime soon. Thanks gma Flo for your words, I’ll be back again soon <3

xoxo

Post Parting Depression

Thank you to all of the know-it-alls that read this title and thought you were the smartest person in the world for knowing I spelled Postpartum wrong. I’m very aware that the real disease is not spelled this way, but I did not just give birth to a child. So, what I’m experiencing is really actually post parting depression. I’m right, trust me on this.

I’ve been back in the good ole U S of A for a week now. It’s eerie that, while I can remember every little thing that happened to me in Chile, it still feels like I never even left. I’ve heard this happens to most people that study abroad, and I am disappointed in myself for fitting into the statistic. As I look for a job and work on my International Business Research Paper, Chile begins to seem more and more like a distant dream.

The first moments: crying in the Des Moines airport because I have never lived anywhere else/ never been out of the country and I may have been a little in over my head; grabbing some Chinese food at the Dallas airport and manning up because I am not a crier and I’m strong enough to handle this; seeing the others in my program and not having a clue what kind of relationships would be made with them.

The average moments: watching tv in my room, searching desperately for English with Spanish subtitle, settling for It Takes Two, completely dubbed in Spanish, because let’s be real I know most of the dialogue in the English version pretty well; grabbing coffee with my host mom, bonding over our shared addiction; sitting on the beach with the people I’d grown closest to, just watching the waves and being perfectly content; playing cards with this cute blonde guy from Massachusetts and our new Chilean friend Omar, happy to find people as competitive as myself. 

The exciting moments: walking out into the desert with some of my closest friends to get a better look at the Atacama night sky, and seeing the Milky Way at its finest; getting mail from my sorority sisters and family back home (mostly candy because they know me really well); the first day on the beach when I realized I had never lived in a beach town before and I was going to enjoy this change of pace, like a lot.

The sad moments: messing up my reservation for Lollapalooza and begging my stepmom for help (stubborn independence out the window); losing my phone on the streets of Viña del Mar and crying to a comforting street dog (swear I’m not a crier); saying goodbye to my other half, saying goodbye to my host family, saying goodbye to one of my favorite couples, & the saddest moment: saying goodbye to the most special guy I have ever met, crying again because the most amazing experience of my life was finally drawing to a close.

Recounting all of those things is a little therapeutic. Chile holds most of my favorite memories. But there’s still a part of me that feels like I’m telling someone else’s story, that there’s no way I could come back here and feel this… Normal. Unchanged. The same. Like I probably just finished my sophomore semester at Drake, I just don’t remember it for some reason. I’m hoping the dreamlike state wears off soon. I’m happy to be home but at the same time, wishing I could go back to all the incredible friends and family I made in my little seashore town.

(On a separate but related note: Hearing about my study abroad and asking “Wow so cool how was it!” is actually the worst. Because 1) Your interest doesn’t go as far as to actually care about the details of my trip and 2) How on Earth do you think I can sum up my entire experience in a ten second response to your question? (which is how long I’m assuming your attention span will last) I have so much appreciation for people that ask specific questions, or show a real interest in my favorite memories or what I learned about myself. If you’re not interested to hear those things, because clearly I have plenty to say, that is one hundred percent fine by me, just don’t ask me how it was at all and we’ll be gucci, thanks!)

xoxo

 

“Three things are likely to happen when you study abroad…”

“Three things are likely to happen when you study abroad- you gain weight, you get sick, or you fall in love.”

This was the warning our “Latin America on Film” professor gave to us our first week of class. It was followed by this statement:

“Personally, out of the three of them, I’d prefer to gain weight.”

I will now tell you how I managed to do all three of these things in my past 4 months of being abroad.

 

1 Gain Weight

If you could see the food in this country you would understand. Not only do I eat an absurd number of completos on a weekly basis (completos are tomato, avocado, and (some might say) too much mayonnaise, all piled on top of a hot dog), but I also feel the need to try everything new and foreign that I lay my eyes on. Churros con manjar, chorillanas, empanadas de camarones… The food here is incredible. On top of that, carbs are served with every meal. Breakfast = toast and butter and yogurt. Lunch = pasta or potatoes. Dinner = toast with avocado and cheese. The bread is abundant, and I am not protesting one bit. I have a whole new appreciation for the bottom level of the food pyramid after this experience.

To be honest, I’m not actually positive that I’ve gained weight. I haven’t looked at a scale in my time here, and am perfectly happy with both that decision and the way I look. The weekly soccer matches with my fellow exchange students and sporadic attempts at learning yoga from youtube videos has kept me in line. I’d like to say that I spend a lot of time in the on-campus gym here at my university. I really would.

 

2 Get Sick

Getting sick in a foreign country is such a bummer. The medications that you’re used to, like Dayquil and Benadryl, are nowhere to be found and instead you have to translate active ingredients to figure out what you need. On top of that, you’re sick. Laying in bed all day because you feel like death is such a waste of a day, especially when you live 4 blocks from one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Besides a nasty cold I had a few weeks ago, I’ve had some sort of allergy for my entire time here. After two (unsuccessful) trips to the dermatologist, with my translator/advisor/soccer coach(?) in tow, I’ve given up on trying to fix it abroad. I’m so itchy and uncomfortable all the time, but if I’m being honest it hasn’t gotten that much in the way here. I’ve still managed to do all the things I had planned on and go all the places I wanted to see. This will be the only black cloud over my abroad experience, but it is out of my control for the time being.

That has been one lesson I’ve learned while I’ve been abroad- there is no use worrying over things that are out of your control. The bus is late? You can’t do anything about that. It’s raining right now? Well you probably shouldn’t have wasted time straightening your hair, but still, you can’t do anything about that. You have an itchy allergy to who-knows-what? When you go back to the states, the allergen will probably stay in Chile. If not, you will have an easier time explaining what’s wrong to a dermatologist in your native language. Either way, right now, it’s not within your control, so try not think about it. It is almost impossible to get stressed out in this amazingly beautiful and super laid-back country.

 

3 Fall in Love

This one is my favorite. My somewhat cynical professor didn’t like this one as much, but I adore it. I like it so much that I’m going to split it into three parts, to be as thorough as possible.

snow in the Atacama Desert

<snow in the Atacama Desert>

a. Chile. I have fallen in love with a country. The U.S. will always be my first love, of course, but now I’ve gotten the taste of another country, the taste of travel, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to stop exploring. Chile has everything- mountains, valleys, big cities, the beach, the desert… It’s an explorer’s dream. In my time here, I’m both sad and happy to say that I wasn’t able to explore everything. Sad because I missed out on the beautiful Patagonia and didn’t get to climb the mountain in Pucon. Happy because that is an excellent excuse to return to this country that I’ve fallen so hard for.

b. Chilean Culture. Besides the food, which I already raved about above (although I realized I left out sushi which has also been a very important part of my time here), I love so many things about this culture.

I love the language. Spanish is really hard for me, one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted to learn. However, it’s been a blast to watch my progress in the language. I officially know most of the colors and am great at ordering the food mentioned above (una tabla para dos por favor). I also love hearing it spoken. It’s a beautiful language that, before my time here, was almost completely foreign to me. Now when I eavesdrop on the couple next to me, I can actually catch some of what they’re saying. The only downfall is that all of the Chilenismos that I’m learning here will only do me any good in this one country, cachai? Sad that I won’t be able to bring these slang words back to my Mexican and Salvadorian weones in DSM.

my beautiful host sisters

<my beautiful host sisters>

I love the people. My host family is full of saints. They are the greatest people that I’ve met here and I love spending time with them and having (broken) conversations in Spanish with them. I’ve also met some pretty amazing people outside of my home, both exchange students (bear down) and locals. Everyone in Viña del Mar is on a whole other level of chill. Things move slower, nights last longer, and time is not a stressor but rather a gift.

I love the food. I know I already mentioned this but I just feel like I need to really cement this in. Before I came here I was the pickiest person. The list of things I “didn’t like” (because I had never tried) included my now favorites of mayonnaise, salsa, guacamole, avocado, sushi, and tomatoes. This experience forced me to try everything. And I’m glad it did because I have a whole new appreciation for so many foods now.

c. A Boy. Falling in love with a person is one of the most incredible feelings in the world. Never in a million years did I plan on finding love like this abroad, but it happened (as much as I tried to make it not happen)(and I like really fought it). I found a boy that loves the street dogs here almost as much as I do, loves the beach a little bit more than I do, and most importantly, and miraculously,

aifs knows how to pick 'em

<the boy>

 loves me, exactly the way I am. I had decided abroad was going to be “me-time,” that I was going to focus on myself and growing as a person intellectually, emotionally, and culturally. But how unfair would it have been to my growth if I had kept myself from love? That’s my excuse for falling, anyways. Even with this unplanned development, I have learned so much about myself here. In addition, I’ve also been able to learn about this really amazing guy, who I’ve fallen for head over heels.

Besides these things, I also experienced many firsts, I experienced homesickness, I experienced true relaxation, I experienced being overwhelmed, both by the beauty here and by fear when I first arrived, and I experienced inner peace. Peace at knowing that everything happens for a reason, and peace at knowing that after my time abroad, I am going to go home completely changed and yet somehow exactly the same. I am so happy that I went on this journey, so blessed by all the friends I made, and so excited to see where I will journey in the future. Chao for now Chile, te amo mucho.

aifs in Santiago

<aifs in Santiago>

World Cup – South American Edition

The world cup is so much better down here. Opening day was whatever, but on Friday when first, the Netherlands tore the last Mundial champions apart and second, Chile beat loser Australia, Viña blew up. Not literally but the atmosphere was so sweet. Everyone was excited for a Chile win and a good start for this month of futbol craziness. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQiI6hfpJcg

I’m literally loving being down here for all of this. Every time you walk into a restaurant with a tv, there’s either a game or coverage of the cup live streaming. You just don’t get that in the states. (mostly because I think half the population of the U.S. doesn’t know what soccer is) 

I remember the cup four years ago and how maybe 5 of my friends were as excited for it as me. I am super pumped for the USA game on Monday. The intercambios of Viña/Valpo are all getting together to watch, and to celebrate what’s sure to be a U.S. win against Ghana. Hopefully.

I’m not sure that Chile will be as crazy when that win happens. But the exchange students will rage enough for everyone. Viva Chile, y Vamos USA!

Stars & Stripes (& Tattoos)

So I love stars. And my experiences here in Chile can almost always (by that I mean a few key instances) relate back to them. So I decided to get a tat (sorry dad that I’m telling you just now). Some of my favorite abroad memories that relate back to this star…

1 The Lone Star of Chile – I read a poem towards the beginning of my time here that related a certain woman to the star of Chile- alone, independent, determined. I love this meaning. The only problem is that I have not once felt alone during my time here. I have made some of the most amazing friends. The independence is something I’ve been striving after since day one. “Mollie do you want me to carry your bag?” “NO I’m independent thank you very much.” It’s failed me from time to time, like if someone offers to buy me something or walk me home, I’m suddenly very not independent. But I love the symbol of the Chilean flag in that way- a strong, unmoving, independent person as a part of an even stronger country. Image

2 The Little Prince – I read this book while I was here, because it’s a classic and a quick read. I loved it. One of my favorite themes of the story was that the little prince and his flower, although they lived on different planets for a time, never stopped thinking of each other, and never stopped loving each other. I’m going home to Des Moines without these amazing people, but it’s encouraging to think if I look at the stars, they’ll be looking at the same ones missing me just the same (or at least they better be). Cheesy yeah but I don’t care, it’s my tattoo and I love every meaning it holds for me.

Image

3 Camille’s statement of “I wish our flag had a star on it.” (more of her wise words here: http://unrelatedsomethings.wordpress.com/)

4 Coldplay’s hit “A Sky Full of Stars,” which was posted on my wall before a group trip to what was supposed to be a starry trip to La Serena (north of Viña). It was cloudy both nights. But on the very last night, as we sat on the rooftop of our hostel with our Viña friends, talking about hockey teams I’ve never heard of, I looked up and saw the clouds finally split, opening up to one of the clearest night skies I had ever seen. Some memories are worth the wait. 

5 Starry sky number 2: San Pedro de Atacama. Brought the aforementioned Camille to tears as a group gazed up at the sky from the desert road. This view blew La Serena out of the water. You could actually see the Milky Way (“It’s the MILKY WAY.”) Below is pictured the aftermath of the tears, and our attempt to cheer her up with our own fake sad faces. ImageIt really was an amazing sight though, and one of my absolute favorite memories of the trip.

6 Mapuche culture. I’m in love with indigenous cultures. Mostly those that reside in South Dakota, the people of which will always have my heart. But the culture here is just as amazing. The only indigenous people in Chile who survived the conquistadors and lived to tell about it, and the people who have helped to shape Chilean culture for centuries. Their history fascinates me. Which is why I decided not to get just a star, but the Mapuche symbol for star. Which in my mind is more Chilean than even the star on their national flag. If any symbol represents the strength of Chilean culture, it’s the Mapuche people and their resistance. 

So without further ado, my tat:

Image

Besitos y abrazos,

 

 

Santiago Take 3

(I wrote this on Tuesday but wordpress is being a little snot so it’s just now allowing me to post. Sorry for the delay!)

We spent this past weekend in Santiago. Again. It was my favorite trip there so far, as almost nothing went wrong (besides missing out on the Chile/Egypt friendly on Friday night) and I got to relax the entire time. After my first trip to Santiago, I never wanted to go back. Lollapalooza was fun, but Santiago itself was too overwhelming for me to handle. The second trip included a bigger group and the presence of our advisor, so it ran more smoothly but broke the bank. I’m not sure how I spent so much money on just food and drinks and souvenirs. Which is the most common quote from my study abroad experience.

This last time was great though. We had decided to go because our class was taking a field trip to some museum on Friday and our professor thought it would be beneficial for us to see what it had to offer. It was not a disappointment. The theme of the exhibit was “landscapes,” and showed everything from beach scenes to social housing issues in Chile. It emphasized perception and reality, as well as taking note of how much our landscapes have changed over time due to human interaction. I learned more about art (while you probably thought I was already an art aficionado, because of how cultured I have become these past 3 months, I actually prefer to be anywhere but an art museum) and more about Chile’s history.

The rest of the weekend was shopping, eating, and relaxing. Three of my favorite things. Santiago gained a few points with me after this weekend. If you’re wondering what the scoreboard is for my point system, it’s something like this:

Des Moines – 121; Viña del Mar – 98; Chicago – 76; West Des Moines – 65; Santiago – 45

(Local coffee shops give certain #s of points depending on the quality and service, beaches give an automatic 40 points, the potential for adventure can give anywhere from 10 to 35 points, and general vibe makes up the rest of the points. The vibe can really make or break a city honestly. Points are taken away for: people bumping into you and not saying sorry, lack of Chinese restaurants, and the average number of cloudy days per year.)

After two great weekends of out-of-town travels, I’m excited to be in Viña again for this upcoming weekend. As many of my friends are leaving right after classes end, which is in just 18 days if anyone was curious, now is the time to do all the things we’ve been putting off. Like hiking La Campana and going horseback riding and getting tattoos. Wish me luck- I’ve made a pretty intense list of things I would like to do and I’m intent on crossing every one of them off my list.

Besitos,

Uni

My Australian friends call our university “Uni,” which I think is very cute so I’ll refer to my school as that for the extent of this blog post.

Much to everyone’s surprise, among my weekend vacay trips cross country and almost-daily trips to get celebratory completos (we’re celebrating Chile obviously), I still have to go to Uni. Which I don’t mind because this view is really breathtaking. You can see all of Viña del Mar down below us and half of our neighboring city of Valpo. On top of that, there’s the ocean, which is always peppered with freighters (I think they’re the same ones as when we first arrived but I can’t be sure) and rays of sunshine. It gets especially beautiful at sunset, which I’m here for more days then I’m not. The first night the exchange students all got together to play futbol, and I got to see the gorgeous reds and oranges of the sunset above the sea, I knew I had picked the right place to go.

Unfortunately, the fact that I still have to come to Uni means I still have to do homework as well. And presentations. And tests. But my professors waited until this week to pile all of those on. So if you were wondering, yes it’s the same no matter what country you’re in. It has led to my most “stressful” week here. That’s in parentheses because I’m pretty sure stress here cannot be compared to my stress at home. At home, there’s a job, and 4 organizations, and classes to worry about, and I have to prioritize which gets done first. Here, there’s classes and relaxing. So when classes cause me stress I know that relaxation is just around the corner so I can’t really be that upset. 

I’m honestly learning a lot though. I’m taking a few history classes, which I haven’t taken at Drake, so it’s been interesting to connect these classes to the minimal amount of knowledge that I retained from my high school history classes. On top of that, I’m learning history and marketing and economics on a completely different continent, so it’s interesting to see the other point of view, the one that isn’t taught at schools in the states. I’m excited to bring this new point of view to my classes at Drake, and to my future job as well, wherever that may be!

Besos,