September 30th, 2018- 一か月後 (One Month Later)

Big Buddha

Konnichiwa! By the time I have finished writing this post, it would have been a month since arriving in Japan. A lot of things have happened so far, and it has been an interesting experience. This post will highlight our the start of our homestay, reunions, and trip shenanigans. じゃあ、はじめましょ!(Let’s get started)!

Monday 9/03- This was the first day of our classes. This semester, I am taking four classes as part of my Japanese minor. They are: Japanese pre-intermediate , Japanese Studies I: Culture and Society, and Japanese Studies II: Politics and Economics. (Japanese studies II is a combined class of politics and economics. The politics class only lasted three weeks, and we just took our final exam last week.) Unlike the classes at Linfield, some of these classes have two or three sessions in one day with a break in between. For example, my Japanese class on Mondays and Fridays are from 10:45-12:15, 1:15-2:45, and 3:00-4:30. I am still trying to get used to the multiple sessions because it makes the day seem longer, and sometimes I get sleepy in class. However, we all take the same classes at the same time. And the nice thing is that the class is small, giving that individualized interaction with our professors. Our Japanese Culture Studies professor especially is very enthusiastic about the subject she is teaching.

Saturday 9/08- We met our host families for the first time at the International Center. My host family is the Miwa Family which includes a mother, father, and a high school daughter. They also have three small poodles which I have yet to meet. They were a really nice family, and we got to talk a little about our interests. Their daughter especially loves American music artists such as Taylor Swift and Sia.

Tuesday 9/11- Our politics class took a field trip to the Yokohama Prison. I was not allowed to take pictures of the prison, but I will tell you the experience. The prison facility was located in the middle of a suburban area with other public facilities such as an elementary school. Compared to a typical American prison, it was huge and spacious. Plus it had a garden and sculptures inside. What this institution does is that they tried to help inmates reform by making them work many jobs such as cooking, woodworking, etc. There was even a gift shop next to the prison where you can buy items made by all the inmates in Japan. This has changed my whole perspective on the penal system as a whole. I thought that the prison was scary based on what I see in the media, but I felt a sense of peace and hope during the tour.

KGU Welcom Party group photo
KGU Welcome Party with all International and current KGU students.

Friday 9/14- There was a Welcome Party for all the International Students at KGU. I saw a lot of students from different countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. I also saw some KGU students who were former exchange students at Linfield last year, so it felt like a mini reunion. The best part had to be the food! There was pizza from Costco, and it was American style pizza. Since coming to Japan, I missed eating pizza and luckily this was my rare opportunity to have pizza. Overall, it was turned out to be a great party!

Ueno Zoo panda
Sleeping panda at Ueno Zoo
Vanessa Kelly and Alyssa photo
Vanessa (another Linfield student) and I in front of Mikuji, a fortune station #808represent!
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa at
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa at night

Saturday 9/15- It was my first time going to Tokyo! I went to Ueno Zoo and Asakusa with two former Linfield exchange students from AGU named Zeno and Emi. Located in downtown Japan, Ueno zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan. We got to see many animals including the popular Giant Panda exhibit. Since it is very popular and a baby panda was born recently, you can expect the lines to be pretty long. Unfortunately all the pandas were sleeping, and I don’t think I saw the new baby panda. However, the gift shop was full of panda merchandise! Since I really like pandas, I would have bought almost all the merchandise if I had the ability. After our trip to the zoo, we went to Asakusa where we got to see the Sensoji Temple. The temple is one of the most famous in Japan. It is know for the Kaminarimon entrance gate which has a large red lantern. Since we went at night, it looked really pretty to see the entire temple illuminated. We also went through the oldest shopping street called Nakamise Dori with cute little shops that have snacks, and omiyage (souvenirs). After that, we went to a Japanese bar known as an Izakaya where I had my first alcoholic drink in my entire life (whoops, sorry!). In Japan, the legal age for drinking is 20, and I am already 20. I was a bit hesitant at first since I have never drank before, but I had one of the weaker drinks and I was fine. I hope to get used to drinking in Japan, but won’t do as much because I have heard that over-drinking especially in a different country can cause you to do stupid things, and have severe consequences.

Saturday 9/22-Sunday 9/23- This was the weekend where are Japanese culture studies professor took us on a study tour to Kamakura and Hakone. On Saturday we went to Kamakura, a city just south of Tokyo known for its many temples and Shinto shrines. We went to three temples/shrine that day. The first temple was Zeniarai Benten Shrine. This shrine is popular for people to wash their money which means the money in the shrine’s spring will double. I washed a US dollar bill along with a 5 yen coin. The next temple was called Hase Temple. This temple was known for many things. There is a wooden Buddhist statue called the “Eleven-headed Kannon” and it is one of the largest in Japan. There are also many jizo statues located around the temple and a jizo-do hall with hundreds of these statues of the Jizo God. It was dedicated to children who have passed away, the unborn, and miscarriages. Lastly, there was a cave called the Benten Cave where the goddess Benten is worshipped. Sixteen followers of the goddess are also engraved as well. There were many other great things at the temple as well. The last temple was the Kotokuin, famous for the Great Buddha that stands on the grounds. The statue is also known for surviving a mass tsunami where it used to be inside a temple hall, but the hall got destroyed. After the visit to all the shrines, we went to Odawara and had dinner and stayed overnight at a guesthouse on the KGU Odawara campus. The next day, we left for Hakone known for its onsen. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go in onsen because our study tour was during the three-day weekend of the autumnal equinox. Therefore, it was very crowded. However, we did other great things. First, we went to the open-air museum where there were many art sculptures including those by Picasso. I actually got” lost in the art”, and because of that I missed the opportunity to go in the foot bath with the others. However, I got to admit that if there was a place to get lost, it would have to be here. After that, we had lunch at the Gyoza Center nearby. Lastly, we went to Mt. Owakudani to see the sulphur pits and Lake Ashinoko in Togendai. We actually rode the gondolas to get to the places. This was an interesting weekend despite me getting a sore leg from all that walking, but we got to bond with our professor over jovial conversations.

Saturday 9/29- Sunday 9/30- This past weekend my homestay officially started. The first thing we did was see my host sister’s gospel concert in the newly renovated Kannai Hall. My host sister is part of the Yokohama Community Singers aka, “1000 Peoples Gospel.” They were joined by another choir called “The Soulmatics.” They sang all kinds of gospel songs including English songs; overall the atmosphere of the concert was energetic. The next day, I went to my host sister’s school festival at Kamakura Jogakuin junior and senior high school. It was an all-girls high school and it is very different from my all-girls high school. I got to meet some of the students and participate in cultural events such as tea ceremony, and even went through a Beethoven haunted house! I wish I could have participated in more activities but the rest of the day was canceled due to typhoon. But, I had a lot of fun bonding with my host family during the first couple of days and I am looking forward to the rest of my homestay. I even got to meet their three dogs named Peach, Joy, and Leo. Peach and Joy are energetic especially and would want to play with you when you come into the house!

Student performing tea ceremony
Student performing tea ceremony
Meeting students at school festival
Meeting more students at school festival!
Me with my host sister and another student
Me with my host sister and another student
Tea Ceremony at host sister's school festival
Participating in tea ceremony at my host sister’s school festival.

So far, I have been in Japan for a month and time is really going by fast. I ask myself: Have you been making the most of your time? Yes. Do you think you can push yourself and try to do more? I hope so! To be honest, 90 days in a semester abroad does not seem like a lot of time, so I have to do as much as I can and take every opportunity!

Wearing kimono at school festival
Wearing kimono at school festival

じゃあね (Bye bye!)

-アリッサ クワもト



Sept. 7th, 2018- 日本へようこそ!(Welcome to Japan)

Yokohama Bay Bridge

This the welcome sign you see after you have landed in Narita Airportはじめまして!(How do you do? Glad to meet you!). Sorry for the late post, but I have been getting used to this roller coaster ride of studying abroad which is normal for anyone living in a new country.  Prior to leaving, I was worried my flight would get canceled/delayed due to a category 4 hurricane approaching my hometown of Hawaii. Luckily, the storm dissipated in time for my departure. The flight wasn’t too bad since the duration lasted only 7 hours. On August 28th, my journey started when I arrived in Narita Airport. As soon as I went through immigration customs and baggage claim, I arrived the main gate and met two other current Linfield students and some KGU students known as “buddies.” One of my buddies was actually an exchange student last year at Linfield named Naoki, aka Kiki. Soon after, we were transported to our dorms where we got a tour. The next few days were filled with orientation, meeting the KGU International Center assistants, and a few trips. Here are a few highlights of some of the days during our arrival week:

Thursday 8/30- I learned how to use the rail system for the first time going to downtown Yokohama. In Japan, almost everyone uses the rail system as a mode of transportation to work and school. Riding it will take some getting used to since I felt a little dizzy from standing while the train is moving. The trains can also get crowded at times especially during rush hour, and you must offer your seat to elderly or people with infants to be polite. In downtown Yokohama, some of us went to get International sim cards for the smartphones. After that we had lunch at a place called Ichiran Ramen. It is an unique restaurant because you order from a vending machine and then you eat at your own private booth. I enjoyed this “antisocial” experience where I can just focus on the taste of the delicious ramen all by myself. Then we did a little shopping at mall called JoinUS. We went to a café where one of the program assistants, Matsuoka Sensei, treated us all to drinks. This shows how sincere and kind people can be in Japan.

Tonkatsu Ramen
Tonkatsu ramen from Ichiran Ramen

Friday 8/31- The next day we took a placement test for our Japanese language classes. After that we had  a bento lunch with our Japanese lecturers. It was nice getting to know our lecturers before classes started, and were all fascinated by our interests and our background. It is similar at Linfield when we get the 1:1 student-teacher ratio, and they want to remember us.

Yokohama City
Yokohama City as seen from Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel

Saturday 9/01- We met with our KGU buddies and went to various places around Yokohama. First we walked around Yokohama Baseball Stadium, and through Chinatown. After that, we went into separate groups and did our own activities. For lunch, my buddies and I went to this Hawaiian restaurant called Sun Aloha Minato Mirai for a little taste of home. The one thing I like about Japan is that it has a great relationship with Hawaii, so I hope to find some bits of Hawaii here. Then, we went to the famous Cup of Noodle Museum where it was all about the famous ramen cup and its creator, Momofuku Ando. I learned that Momofuku Ando was a great innovator by using creative thinking and curiosity to create a successful product. The day ended by going to CosmoWorld amusement park where I rode the famous Cosmo Clock ferris wheel and a cool water ride.

Cup of Noodle Wall
Had Momofuku Ando not created Cup of Noodle, then broke college students would not have been able to survive.

Sunday 9/02- The next we spent time with our buddies again by going to Enoshima, a small island located off the Shonan coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. From there, we went to the Enoshima aquarium where we saw lots of fish and marine life. There was even penguins and otters! After we that we had a lunch break, and it was off to the Enoshima Shrine. It was really nice, but it turned out be a long hike for me. I should have worn more comfortable clothes especially since the weather in Japan is very humid during this time of the year.

Enoshima Shrine
Enoshima Shrine

So far I have been having an interesting experience in Japan. My only issue is the language barrier. Japanese can be a difficult language especially when people are talking really fast. Sometimes, I feel intimidated when I listen to them speak, and I don’t know what to say because I know so little. And not a lot of people speak English except for a few that speak broken English. I wished I had reviewed more during the summer. Hopefully, I will improve and become fluent before the end of this program. Until next time, じゃまた!(See you later)!

Group photo at Enoshima Aquarium
Our group at Enoshima Aquarium

ーAlyssa Kuwamoto (アリッサ クワモト)


Magnetic Island

As school just passed our half way point, I am in awe at the fact my time studying at JCU is half way over. Even though Uni gets harder and harder every week with more assessments, that doesn’t stop us Americans from exploring Australia.

This past weekend a small group of us  went to Magnetic Island, or as the Aussies call it, Maggie Island (Aussies pretty much shorten every word they can). Maggie Island is a small island off the coast of Townsville. It is a short 20 minute ferry ride away.

Views from the ferry terminal at Nelly Bay
Views from the ferry terminal at Nelly Bay

We spent the night in a hostel in Nelly Bay called Base Backpackers. Magnetic Island is a beautiful green and colorful island full of Koalas, horse back riding, hikes, scuba diving and snorkeling. This island is a hub for many different backpackers and travelers all over the world.

Base Backpackers Hostel
Base Backpackers Hostel

When we arrived at our hostel, we were taken back by what it had to offer. There were bean bags everywhere for sun bathing, in addition to, a pool, multiple beaches, a bar, a restaurant, and a volleyball court. To my surprise, there were so many travelers from different parts of the world. We met people from Germany, France and even the U.K. Initially, I figured Maggie would be a place for Aussies to take a Holiday or just a small weekend getaway, but no, it’s a massive tourist sight for everyone.

We rented paddle boards and snorkeling gear. We saw fish and even some string rays up to 5 ft in size. We also accidentally discovered a nude beach! We walked along the beach on low tide and discovered a more hidden beach and were strongly surprised when we saw naked people walking around. There’s a first time for everything! Sunday morning my friend and I woke up at 6am to watch the sunrise.

Sunday Sunrise
Sunday Sunrise

Views from the rocks looking out to the water at the nude beach

Views from the rocks looking out to the water at the nude beach


Maggie Island was an amazing experience and I would go back there within a heart beat!

Cheers Mate!



Episode 2: Dorfgastein ->Wien (Week One)

We made it to Wien!

Welcome back! To finish off episode 1 we spent the rest of the week in Dorfgastein doing “leisurely walks” aka hikes up mountains and waterfalls. On day 4 we hiked up the tallest waterfall in Europe, the Krimmler Wasserfälle (Krimml Waterfall) is 1,247 feet and is extremely beautiful.

The whole group with our hiking guide
The whole group with our hiking guide

On the 18th of August we made our way to Wien, making a pitstop in the beautiful city of Salzburg. Salzburg is the home of the infamous composer, Mozart. while on a tour we got to see both his birth place and his living quarters. 

The place where Mozart was born.
The place where Mozart was born.

 We also learned that Salzburg got its name from the large amount of barges that were traveling on the Salzach river, caring Salt.  Over Salzburg is a beautiful sight to see with the Salzach River running through the middle.

The Salzach River, Salzburg.
The Salzach River, Salzburg.

Later that day we took the train to Wien were we finally met our host families!! Yay! Meeting my host mom was something that made me quite nervous at first. Yes it can be very awkward also. However after settling down and learning all the ins and outs of living with your host family, everything seems to fall into place and all the nerves you had before seem small.

With great luck, Austria was experiencing the hottest summer yet and my host mom took me to her favorite swimming spot. What’s a better bonding experience than swimming?

After spending the weekend settling in we began our first week in Wien. On August 20 we had orientation and a walking tour of Wien. Then we started our first class at the Institute, with another walking tour. That week we had roughly 4 walking tours, which at first seemed overwhelming but each tour showed us a different part of the city. Wien is roughly 2 million people and consists of 23 districts and without those tours, we may not have seen those places on our own.

During the summer, swimming is very popular and therefore, we swam ALOT. We also rented a small paddle boat on the Donau river. Which in Wien, is spilt into three sections, the Donau, the New Donau and the Old Donau. We spent most of our time in the new Donau.

Overall the end of Dorfgastein, Salzburg and our first week in Wien was amazing. As we continue our journey, we learn new things everyday. We have found new places and areas everyday. And we have had fun everyday.

Stay tuned to hear about our trip to Budapest, Hungary. (:

Thanks for reading!

Melissa Rockow

Ponchos are the newest fashion statement in outdoor clothing. (:
Ponchos are the newest fashion statement in outdoor clothing. (:
Part 2 of the the 3 part waterfall.
Part 2 of the the 3 part waterfall.
Vanessa standing on a bridge crossing the river.
Vanessa standing on a bridge crossing the river.
Flat land! We finally made it to the bottom!
Flat land! We finally made it to the bottom!
The end of the waterfall.
The end of the waterfall.

Studying at Otago


Kia ora!

The past two months spent at Otago has been simply incredible. Other than going on adventures every weekend, I have also been thoroughly enjoying my papers (papers are what they call courses here). My courses include Māori society, Pacific Societies, Plants: How They Shape the World, and Understanding Environmental Issues.

My favorite paper so far has been Pacific Societies. The class focuses on how different societies in the Pacific Ocean arrived at each island, why they decided to migrate, and overall the history and culture of specific countries. Most papers have a lecture and a tutorial or lab you also have to attend. One of my favorite things about the classes here is that most of the lectures are recorded and posted on blackboard. In this way, if you miss a class or are gone for a trip, you are still able to watch the lecture. This has become especially useful for my science course since many of the lecturers go through the slides faster than I can take notes. The other interesting thing about papers here is that all of them have more than one lecturer. Lecturers will usually only teach one or two topics and then switch to another professor when the topic changes.

About two weeks before our mid-semester break, we had midterms. Overall, I had three tests and one essay to write. All of the information about your test and essay is included in the course outline you receive on the first day. Tutorials, which are usually required, go over everything that will be on the test. Even some of the practice questions that we answered in tutorials were on the tests. Most exams here are taken outside of class time and are organized by last name or tutorial time. Unlike Linfield, scantrons and all test material are provided by the class. The other interesting thing about school here is that there are minimal assignments throughout the school year. Other than my science course that has a lab due each week, the remaining classes only grade by participation in tutorials, and the required essays, and exams. Though the workload is a lot less substantial, it causes the big assignments to be worth more. Depending on how well you are at writing essays or taking tests, this factor could either work for or against you.

The huge class size here at Otago has made me appreciate the small classes at Linfield. So far, I have not even spoken to any of my professors since TA’s are the instructors for tutorials and labs. Even with this, I still feel that I am learning just as much as I would at Linfield.

Overall, it has been easy getting used to classes here at Otago and I’m thankful that I get to experience a different university. I’ve really enjoyed taking more cultural classes here and I’m looking forward to learning more in the last few months.



Netball, Field Trip and Billabong Sanctuary

Time is flying by! We just started Week 6 here at JCU. Linfield just started their fall term and I can’t believe I am almost half way finished with my semester abroad and my friends at home are just moving in. It is safe to say this week I have been getting serious FOMO (fear of missing out) with everyone moving back to school. In times like this when I am sad I am missing out on my friends and family at home, I remind myself, I’m in Australia!

These past few weeks have been full of fun events. Let’s start with Netball. Each dorm has sports teams and the first sport to play during the season is netball. Netball is a mix of basketball and handball. This sport is one of the biggest sports here in Australia. Safe to say when I told the Australians I have never heard of it before, they were shocked. We have a men’s and women’s team and we watched them play games against the other dorms. Even though we didn’t make it past the semi finals, it was extremely fun watching our friends play a sport we Americans have never seen or hear of before!

This past Sunday I went on a field trip with my Linking Indigenous class. We learned about the Aboriginals who are the indigenous people of Australia. It was very interesting learning about their customs and their beliefs, as well as, their way of living. We toured around indigenous land and looked at their art and different plants they eat and use in their daily lives. We also visited a burial site. We were taught how aboriginal people are buried, in addition to learning about their arranged marriages. I was in awe how the Aboriginal people live.

Lastly, I went to Billabong Sanctuary! Which is basically an Australian Zoo. It was so much fun! We fed kangaroos, watched crocodiles being fed, saw some emu and held a snake and a koala! I haven’t mention as to why I chose Australia as my study abroad choice. When I was in second grade, we had a habitat project. I was required to build a habitat for my favorite animal, which at the time was and still is, a koala. I researched information about koalas and Australia and I absolutely fell in love. Throughout this project, my mom pulled out a photo album of her when she visited Australia at age 25. She showed me a photo of her holding a koala and from that point on, at age eight, I have wanted to visit Australia, especially to hold a Koala. Now that I am finally here and experiencing some of the same things she did, I am living my dream!Holding a Koala.

Almost half way through my time here in Australia and I am loving every minute of it. Oh yeah, the school is great too!



The gateway to perspective

The last 10 days have had their fair share of challenging and beautiful moments.

One thing about me, and my friends and family can probably attest, is that I love talking. Probably too much. Having genuine and raw conversations with people is one of the few things in life that fulfill my soul.

The most difficult thing about studying abroad in a country and only having a rudimentary set of language skills, however, is that I feel like I can’t fully be myself. I feel sometimes like the language barrier is impairing my ability to have this type of conversation that I so desperately crave.

Fully submerging myself into a Spanish-speaking culture has been incredible and I’m already learning so much, don’t get me wrong. But peering into a circle of Chileans talking with Spaniards, Mexicans or other Chileans is beautiful to hear and tough to decipher. I can’t help but feel like I’m just one step behind everyone constantly.

On the other hand, since it’s still difficult for me to sustain a conversation for more than 15 minutes, for the first time in my life, I’ve been truly listening.

The principal observation I’ve made is that all of us kids are the same. Before I came here I had these preconceived notions about how much different Latin American and European young adults were going to be from me. But we’re all the same. We’re all here for the same reasons and we all want the same things out of this experience.

I mean I met a kid from Andorra this week. I met kids from central France and northern Mexico and eastern Spain this week. And we all talked and laughed for hours. I think that if people would stop focusing on all the different colors and accents and customs and religions and realize that we’re all just trying to do this life thing to the best of our abilities, the world would be a much more kind place.

Que les vaya bien,


Myself, Melvin and Augustin Le Roux Deligières, the French foreign exchange student.
Myself, Melvin and Augustin Le Roux Deligières, the French foreign exchange student.
The tutors and international students in Concepción, Chile.
The tutors and international students in Concepción, Chile.


Episode 1: Portland -> Dorfgastein

Hallo from Austria!

Boy oh boy has it been an amazing first two weeks. From Dorfgastein, Austria to Salzburg, Austria and now Vienna, Austria. However, let’s start from the beginning. Our group of 7 flew out of Portland, Oregon straight to San Fransisco. From there we had a 10 and a half hour flight to London Heathrow airport(LHW). This is where our trip truly began and our 2 days of travel turned into 4 days of travel…

We had landed in LHW with a couple hours of layover time and decided to relax. After a few hours Ana, another group member, and I checked our flight and found out that it was canceled! Yes canceled! After a few hours of waiting and speaking with the airline, they helped us find a new flight the next day to Madrid then Vienna at 10am. However, this flight happened to be flying out of a different airport 1 hour away! The airlines supplied us with transportation to get there and they told us we would be able to get a hotel there as well.

After arriving at the new airport, London Gatwick, we went to the airline desk and told them our situation. At this point is was roughly 9:30pm and we had been awake for roughly 13 hours. The desk at London Gatwick told us that they had no hotel rooms to give to us seeing as they’re flights were canceled as well. Therefore, we were left with no hotel room. We stayed in touch with Linfield and the director of our school in Vienna as we tried very hard to find a hotel.

Around midnight we decided, as a group, to stay put and not find a hotel. While the group found a comfy spot in the airport, Ana and I managed to negotiate with a small hotel within the airport for a room to shower in, the catch: we had to wait until 4am. After agreeing and thanking them dearly, we waited the 4 more hours siting comfortably in the airport. Once 4 am came around we all rotated through the room to shower. Around 8am we checked into our flight and headed to Madrid. After landing and being on planes for well over 24 hours, we were finally off to Vienna. Along with flight cancellations we ended up missing our 2pm train on the 10th of August seeing as we landed later that day. We ended up finally staying in a hotel the night of the 10th in Vienna and catching the 2pm train to Dorfgastein on the 11th.

While in Dorfgastein we stayed at the Pension Theresa. Monday was our first full day that was filled with lots of hiking and eating. (Dorfgastein is located in the Gastein Valley and is part of the Austrian state, Salzburg.) Our hiking began with a gondola ride up the side of the mountain above Dorfgastein. From the top you could see the long mountain ranges and small towns neighboring Dorfgastein. You could also see the Spiegel See which is used in the winter time to create more snow for Skiing and Snowboarding.

A view of Spiegel See in Dorfgastein

On the way down we ate at an Alm. Alms are mountain farms where many people bring their animals during the summer. The animals typically recieve better nutrients while staying at the Alms due to the nutrients within the valley region.

Heading to the Alm!
The Alm we ate at for lunch.


After lunch we hiked down to the Mittelstation (Middle Station) of  the gondola. From there we rode the gondola back down to the bottom of the mountain. Ending our first amazing day in Dorfgastein.

And after our wonderful travels and amazing first day in Dorgastein, our adventure continued…

Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading!(:

Melissa Rockow

Ana on top of the mountain.
Herrmann (AAIE Director), Ana, Vanessa and Michaela looking out over the Alps.
Another view of the Alps while in Dorfgastein.

The first seven

The last three months have been some of the most chaotic of my life.

I was supposed to study abroad in Ecuador this semester, leave in late August or early September and go with a group of about 10 other Linfield students. But instead, here I sit in my bed in central Chile eating yet another empanada that I probably don’t need.

Three of us got an email from Profesora Sandra Elena Terra in May asking if we wanted to embark on the first ever Linfield study abroad program to Chile, and Melvin “Mel” van Huck and myself accepted without hesitation. After a summer of scrambling to apply for my visa and then flying to San Francisco to pick it up in person, I said goodbye to my family and just left.

People kept asking me: “How do you feel? Are you ready? Aren’t you so excited?” And honestly, the day I left home was one of the most emotionally draining days of my life. I was worried about all my legal documents, insecure about my Spanish and dreading saying goodbye to my family. I almost felt guilty for not being completely excited.

But now I’m here in this beautiful house with a lovely family and I can say with complete confidence that I’m eager for the opportunity to learn Spanish in this gorgeous country.

So far, Mel and I have been getting accustomed to our host families, spending a little time with our tutors and trying to become experts in the public transportation systems here. And through all of that, through coming over 6,000 miles away from everything I know and constantly listening to a language that is not my native one, I feel at home. And it’s because of the people.

The first person I met here was Florencia, an English professor and mine and Mel’s advisor at the Universidad del Bío-Bío. She picked us up in Santiago the day we flew in and drove us four hours south to our host families’ houses here in Chillán. She has such a huge heart, and is always telling us that she’ll take us out for coffee if we ever get overwhelmed or homesick. The way she physically lights up when we discuss the classes we’ll be taking and the places we’ll be exploring makes me excited for this journey.

Claudia is my host mother, and she and I have had a great time together so far. She’s taken me to the mall, out to coffee and to the university a few times, and she’s taught me more about Chilean culture in the first week than she probably realizes. She’s caring and empathetic about my situation as a foreign student, and she makes homemade food for us every day– she’s all I could ask for in a host mom!  

These first seven days have been everything from hectic to relaxed all at the same time. But I’ve realized that as much as I was worried about this experience and doubtful that I would be able to communicate at all, let alone form relationships with people here, those concerns are slowly fading away. My host family is great, my advisor and my tutors are sweethearts, and my brain is already starting to understand more Spanish; the next part is now just actually speaking it.

I can’t wait to start classes and explore more of Chile and South America these next few months. ¡Nos vemos!

Camille Botello 

All of the international students with some of our tutors. There are seven from Spain, one from France and Mel and I from the United States.
All of the international students with some of our tutors. There are seven from Spain, one from France and Mel and I from the United States.
Graffiti on a brick wall saying Sonríe. Smile.
Sonríe. Smile.

Toga Party, Floor Games and Meeting New Mates!

I cannot believe I have almost been in Australia for a month, it feels like four.

The amount of relationships and people I have already met in the past three weeks is crazy. I look back on the first day of orientation when I knew one person and now, I know all of these amazing people, American and Australian! JCU does an great job of creating unity within the University, especially the dorms. Every semester, JCU holds a toga party. This toga party is one of the biggest parties all semester. JCU sells toga kits, containing a sheet, a flower crown and a rope. Everyone gets dressed up in their yoga attire and heads to Uni Bar across the street. This night was extremely fun because this is when I was able to meet a lot of the Aussies in my dorm. Another event that was held just this past Saturday was Floor Games. My dorm, Uni Hall, put together multiple games for everyone to play while competing against other floors. To go more into detail, we also had a theme on each floor. For example, my floor’s theme was super heroes, the floor above me dressed up like animals, another floor dressed up as things that don’t exists (unicorns, fairies, etc.) Anyways, we played fun games such as tug of war, dodgeball and water balloon toss. This was a fun way to meet new people on our floor.

As for adventuring off campus and exploring, our friend group these past two weeks haven’t gotten around as much as we’ve wanted to.

These past two weeks everyone has settled down to focus on our studies and adjusting to a different university. We do have a few places on our to do list that we will hopefully be able to cross off in the next week or so. We did go to lagoon pools which is a public pool right on the river. It is only a few miles away from campus, but unfortunately a long bus ride around town!

These next few weeks will hopefully be a bit more adventurous for my friend group. We also are planning our lecture recess (spring break) soon! Keep ya updated!!