Miscellaneous Differences

Since I first got to Chile, I’ve been taking notes on my phone on all of the little things that I’ve noticed are different. Things related to food, to words, to businesses, to overall culture – all jotted down in a little notepad on my phone. Listed and explained below are a few of those differences.

1) I NEVER KNOW IF I CAN FLUSH TOILET PAPER DOWN THE TOILET OR NOT. One of the things that I’m most excited about when I get back to the United States is being able to consistently flush toilet paper down the toilet. The uncertainty of where I can put my toilet paper in all of the random bathrooms that I’ve gone to around the continent really is doing things for my stress levels. I’m so conditioned to putting it in the toilet, but then there’s this little fear in the back of my head that says “Ooh but if you do that you could blow up the entire sewage system of this establishment”. So toilet paper in toilets is something that I’m looking forward to, if only to decrease my stress levels.

2)  Pharmacies. In their big supermarkets, there are places where you can get tooth brushes, deodorant, soap, razors, lotions – all that jazz. But you can’t get sunscreen at the supermarket. You have to go to the pharmacy and ask the lady behind the counter for it. She’ll bring out multiple types of sunscreen if you don’t know which one specifically that you want, and you pick from her selections. Or if you have allergies – you go to the pharmacy and describe what’s wrong with you, and then she’ll go back into the depths of the shelves and pick out a medicine for you. I am a very visual shopper – often times I don’t know what I want or need until I see the item on the shelf. These types of pharmacies throw me off in a major way.

3) Bread and produce are SO DANG CHEAP HERE. Like I can get a massive carton of blueberries (don’t ask me for the weight, I’m absolutely hopeless when it comes to that) for less than $1 USD. Or I can get a big bag of bread for $1 USD. Everything else is a little more expensive, but I’m so down for cheap bread and produce. I’ve had to learn to be careful and not walk on certain streets when I’m hungry or else I pass by a ton of bread and pastry shops and they smell SO GOOD, and then I want to go and buy ALL THE THINGS. And then I would eat ALL THE THINGS, and it would just be a mess.

Those are a few random differences, more to come!


Germany is so much.

I’ve been here for a little more than a week and I feel as though I could ramble on for ages. My first impression of Stuttgart was from above as my plane made its approach in the dark. I couldn’t see much, some lights of course, but not that and very few rose up from the ground. I could have almost mistaken it for a sprawling suburb. This impression carried over into the next day as I hurried after my host family in a sleep-deprived haze while they tried to introduce me to their hometown. Honestly, it wasn’t until several days later when I was given my transit pass and had to navigate the city on my own that I began to comprehend my surroundings. Stuttgart does not have the size and grandeur of New York or Paris or London or Berlin. Nor does it have the quaint medieval architecture that sprawls in various forms through Europe. Stuttgart was severely damaged during the war and as a result, its modern buildings lining the streets reflect the city’s place in Germany and in Europe as the seat of automotive manufacturing. If you look at the Porsche logo you will see in the center a black horse on a yellow background. And just above that, lightly etched: Stuttgart. Stuttgart was built in a valley and once used to raise horses, to prevent enemies from observing the proceedings. Now, Stuttgart fittingly produces horsepower, housing the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz flanked by plants for Audi, Bosch, and other car and car part manufacturers. The automotive industry was honestly the first thing I understood here. From the cars on the streets to the logos on jackets and the names on buildings, it was easy to understand the automotive companies provide life to southwest Germany. Rather unfortunate that the first thing I understood wasn’t the transit system or the way restaurants work, but to be fair there is so much to absorb that I scarcely knew where to begin. Which, if you’re wondering, is why I’m writing about cars and not castles. I’ll save the later for next time. ?

My Necessities Abroad

I have been in Spain now for a while and have successfully procrastinated on posting my blog posts. I mean I’m just trying to do life the Spanish way, you know?? But over the past couple of months, I have created a list of things that I wish I had brought or am extremely glad I took with me. With that being said, I am glad to join the countless posts about items you must bring for your semester or travel abroad with this blog.

Before leaving for Spain, I was constantly looking at people’s lists of “What to Bring to your Semester Abroad” and “27 Must-Need Gadgets for Abroad”. I found that most of those lists only had one or two items that were really relevant and I would actually use. Every location and person is different for what they will need abroad, but I have tried to select the more general items.


In no particular order:


  1. Wrinkle Releaser

I use this almost daily, and it’s probably the most used item I brought from back home. I have even gotten a travel spray bottle so I can take it on airplanes. Most of my travel friends here have asked if they can buy it in Spain (which I am sure you can, but I’ve never checked). It is perfect if you don’t have an iron or if you have to reuse clothes because most wrinkle releasers have odor cancelling fresh scents as well, which will allow you to be summer fresh and wrinkle free for your entire trip even if you’re wearing the same shirt for the third time.

  1. Luggage Scale

While I do not have to use this item very often, it has proven useful for obvious reasons. You will no longer have to open your suitcase in the middle of the airport to repack your luggage because it weighs too much. I am very glad I brought this and many people have asked to borrow it from me for when they travel.

  1. Portable Charger

This item is on most lists of things to bring abroad because it actually is very useful. Especially for plane rides and for traveling days in general because you don’t realize how much battery you use up when you are 1 – bored on a 5 hour bus ride or 2 – In a new city and have no idea how to speak the language or know where you are. It is always good to have a back up in those situations because those situations usually go together.

  1. Travel Bottles

These are the perfect size for airplane carryon and they are made to deal with different pressures, so you don’t really have to worry about them leaking! I have bought more for myself since I have been here. They have different styles and sizes to ensure you can bring what ever you need.

Going along with this, if you are want to bring perfume or cologne they have travel size containers out there that are refillable! They last quite a while too.

  1. Filter Water Bottle

This is something I didn’t take with me, but I wish I had. In Spain, the water from the faucet doesn’t taste that great so most people buy large plastic bottles for home drinking and small water bottles for daily use. This is a money saver and when you go to other countries, you have a free source of water.

  1. Checkable BackPack

This is something I bought right before I left and am extremely grateful. I use this on all side trips and am able to pack everything I need. It might be easier to find a roller carryon, but I think it’s worth it to find a backpack. Firstly, when you first arrive abroad it is not fun to maneuver 2 roller bags when you are already exhausted and tired. Also, on side trips, it is much slower to be dragging a roller behind. It also makes you more obvious that you are a tourist, so I would definitely recommend the backpack option.

7. TSA Locks

These are mainly for peace of mind. They are double sided, so if you’re in a pickle and are having to sleep in the airport or on a train, you can clip your luggage to you belt or purse strap making it more difficult for people to take it. That might be all you need to deter thieves.

8. Olloclips

These are simple to use and give you some variety to your pictures. At first, I was dead set on getting a new camera to take with me, but since I have never been heavy into cameras or photography, these lenses have given me the perfect balance. I get more variety and they are small and easy to use.

9. Selfie stick

Embrace the selfiestick. It is a great life filled with fun pics.

10. Peanut Butter

I miss peanut butter rn so it’s on the list. Most places here don’t have it or it is low quality peanut butter. Plz bring me some. There’s no appreciation for that wonderful nut here. SOS

Comparative Academic Culture

One aspect of culture that is under constant discussion amongst students on study abroad is comparative academics. With people coming from all over the world to study together, one thing you can guarantee they have in common is schoolwork—but it’s amazing how differently different countries (even countries next door to one another) handle the same […]

The Estonian Landscape

When my advisor recommended I consider studying in Estonia, she showed me some pictures of the university and said, “Other than that it’s pretty grim. Lots of old Soviet block buildings and I mean it’s desolate but you can travel!” My first impression of the country seemed to confirm what she had warned me about. […]

On Trump’s NATO diplomacy

Today I’m writing about another interaction our President has had with international leaders because it seems like drama is created every time.

Trump attended the meeting of NATO Leaders yesterday and critics are having a field day regarding his behavior and mannerisms. He was reported as being very cold and aggressive towards members – and there is a video of Trump shoving the PM of Montenegro. Overall many people are classifying these as extremely embarrassing for the US. I agree with them on that aspect. I understand he is trying to crack down on NATO members but there’s no reason not to still be diplomatic. We still want positive relationships with these countries and the U.S. is currently operating under the assumption that we are too powerful to be made an enemy. I don’t think this is the way to make any political friends though, which is extremely important in our current global climate.
I’m also extremely curious to see how the US’s relationship with Russia and Saudi Arabia plays out. I don’t want to see us giving out exceptions or turning a blind eye to human rights violations. Religious intolerance, oppression of women, girls, and the LGBTQ community, and decriminalizing domestic violence are just some offenses on a long list. I understand the importance of good relationships with such influential countries but I hope we don’t prioritize economics or the military over the rights and lives of people in these countries.
I think that many people do agree with Trump on pressuring other NATO countries to increase their financial contributions. Records show that the US has been disproportionately paying for all of the NATO operations and only 5 countries met the 2% (of gdp) promise. My ICDG group discussed last semester how the US could be using their disproportionate contribution as political leverage. I’m hoping that we will still be able to maintain positive, cooperative relationships with these countries and I’m curious to see where the world will go from here.


On Trump’s visit with the Pope

I was definitely watching when President Trump and his family went to meet Pope Francis yesterday. While there are many interpretations of how the meeting went, there is no doubt that Pope Francis called Trump our on at least one issue: climate change. He gave Trump a copy of ‘Laudato Si” which he wrote about the importance of science and politics in aiding the environment. I was so amused and thoroughly appreciated Pope Francis’s shade.
I know that Trump and the Pope also have extremely different ideas on immigration. Trump obviously wants to implement very strict immigration and border policies to help keep potentially dangerous people or illegal immigrants out of the US. However the Catholic view centers around love for our fellow humans and charity to people in need. There are so many people who are in need of a home, especially in the middle east. The issue is that so many people let fear guide their actions. Fear festers and turns into defense, which isn’t necessarily bad: terrorism is a real threat and being cautious is wise. However, this fear turns into a fear of larger communities, of Muslims, of people of middle eastern descent. People develop fear of immigrants (illegal or otherwise) taking their jobs. Pope Francis has, multiple times, encouraged countries to be understanding and accepting and to operate from a place of compassion and not fear. So obviously this meeting with Trump, who ran his campaign principally on fear, is extremely important. Pope Francis is a leader and an icon for Catholics across the world. Personally, I love the role he has played in rejuvenating the church and communicating to the world the true messages of our faith.
While the Pope did throw some shade, they said that they talked about working towards international peace and I honestly and truly hope so. Maybe at least, Trump will learn a little more about climate change.


Language and Religion

This month I attended a lunch with guest speaker Dr. Muhammad S. Eissa on Language and Religion. Surprisingly, I had never given much thought to the intersections of the two. Dr. Eissa talked about how the Arabic language is so frequently associated with Islam and how that affects non-Muslim Arabic speakers and Muslims who don’t speak Arabic. It was extremely fascinating to analyze. I did not know a lot of the history of the Arabic language or how it has changed and evolved geographically. Dr. Eissa emphasized how the Arabic language helped people connect to Islamic scripture, traditions, and cultures.

My roommate, who is Jewish, also related to that and she is currently studying Hebrew. These were the languages that the scriptures were written (or heard) in and so learning the language helps people connect.

I started thinking about Christianity and the lack of any identifying language. I’m Catholic so Latin is very important historically as masses used to be entirely in Latin. I think Latin is very beautiful, but it wasn’t the original language of Jesus or the disciples; it was adopted because of the influence of the Roman empire on the church. In fact, as time progressed, Latin almost became a barrier between the people and the church teachings. People couldn’t understand what was being said at masses because most people were uneducated. It was finally changes in the 20th century because the Pope wanted people to be able to develop personal relationships with God. I think this is pretty cool though I still love hearing Latin songs or chants at masses.


ICDG: Discussing the Controversial French Election

In my ICDG group, we discussed the French Election after discovering that Marine LePen has made it to the final round. This is so telling of the current political climate in the western world: we are seeing a resurgence of nationalism. Many people think that if she is elected, resulting in France leaving the European Union, that more and more countries would follow and the EU would become obsolete. For me, that prospect is very weird considering it’s all I’ve known or grown up with, but the organization itself is relatively young.

Brexit happened and then Trump and now there is another possibility for another global conservative to take power. One member said that one of the biggest reasons France wants to leave the EU is so that they do not have to follow their border regulations. This is a response to the increase in refugees that are trying to come into various European countries and to the increase in terrorism. France has notably experienced significant terrorist attacks in the last few years so it’s understandable that they have become increasingly protectionist. I’m very concern though because it seems like she is leading her campaign on fear and that can be very destructive for communities.


Note: Since writing this, Édouard Philippe beat out le Pen for office. I’m very interested in watching how the relationship between France and the US evolves because Philippe has openly criticized Trump.


Arabic Flagship Talent Show

This month I went to the Arabic Flagship Talent Show. I was very much looking forward to it and I had many friends who were studying Arabic that I knew were going to be there.

The dancing by the Belly Dancing Club was absolutely amazing and it was very interesting to see the contrasting styles of the two dances they performed. The first dance used finger cymbals in their dance and involved many girls and the second dance used sticks. They were two different traditional styles of dancing and the girls had amazing performances.

The poetry was also incredible. One of the girls wrote a poem that she read in English, Arabic, and Vietnamese. I was extremely impressed by her words but more by the power that the poem had when it was in other languages. I couldn’t understand any of the words but the rhythm and tone of her speaking really helped communicate the meaning of her poem.

Overall I enjoyed the talent show (and the food was delicious). However, I didn’t realize that the majority of the talent show would be class projects from different Arabic. I don’t speak Arabic and so many of the skits and videos I couldn’t understand. I got to see a lot of my friends in the videos though so I still enjoyed them and some of them were very funny! But since I’m not studying Arabic a lot of things were lost on me. I will probably go again next year though! I had a great time!