Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Holbox Island, Home of the Whale Shark

Time September 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These past four weeks in Merida have sure seemed to fly by! It is almost crazy to believe that I have already been here for a whole month! Many of my weekends are filled with planned excursions. This up coming weekend is extra long in celebration of Mexico’s independence day. I’ll elaborate more on the excursion next week when I come back.

However, last weekend we went to Holbox island off the coast of Mexico. My IFSA-Butler group and I went with other students of the Merida area on a five hour bus ride to the coast. We arrived at the coast at 7:00 A.M. to take a boat to the island. When we arrived, we went to the hotels and then split off into groups to experience the wonderful activities the island. Some students could swim with whale sharks that are native the island. Like Catalina Island, Holbox is a nature preserve. Other students went on a boat tour of three other neighboring island. Everyone else, including me, could choose to enjoy the beach and explore the many shops the little town had to offer.


While I did not care for the sand roads because they were very dirty for my shoes, I loved the white sandy beach. I’m still getting used to the warmth that the Golf of Mexico has to offer because I’ve only ever swam in the freezing Great Lakes, the Pacific ocean, and the Atlantic ocean. I’m not sure if I like the warmth or if I miss cooling off during a hot day. However, the island did offer a little reprieve from the intense humidity in Merida.

The beach and the sand was definitely my favorite part of Holbox. The shoreline is very shallow for a very long time, and at night when we had our bonfire, I was able to walk out on the shallow sandy bottom because of low tide. Usually, I absolutely hate having sand stick to me, but in Holbox it was a different case. Not that it could be avoided. It was in the shower, the floor, the bed, our skin, clothes, and bags. But, the softness and pureness seemed to make up for dirty feeling I usually associate with sand after a day at the beach.


Every excursion I’ve gone on has been a wonderful experience. I find myself anticipating the weekends because not only do I get to meet new people, but I also get to experience things I would never have in Ohio. Hopefully, next week I will have more to write about my experience here and more photos to share.


Diary of a Picky Eater

Time August 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

What a week it has been! I have safely arrived in Merida, Mexico and my journey abroad has officially begun! Every day is a new adventure in this beautiful city. However, the food is even more an adventure. Before I left, my mom was worried that I would not be able to eat anything in Merida. My family and I have been vegetarian since I was three years old. On top of that, I am the pickiest eater alive. Before coming here, I hated quesadillas, a lot of vegetables, and trying things was usually out of the question. I would jokingly say, “I’m a visual eater.”  My mom was scared that not only I would die of malnutrition here, but also embarrass her in front of my host mom. I can’t tell you how many times she said to me before I left.

However, the food here has been wonderful! In the mornings, before I go to class at the university, my host mom gives me cut up fruit with cereal or a waffle. Papaya has been one of my favorite fruits to have in the morning because of its usual taste. Lunch and dinner are a completely different story. In the states, I usually don’t wake up for breakfast, but here I have to. Lunch isn’t ready until about 2 pm! I’ve been trying my hardest to shift to this schedule, because most of the time I don’t return home from the university till 2 pm anyways.


Lunch in Merida


As a vegetarian, I do eat fish for protein. My host mom is a great cook, so I have literally been in love with every single thing she has made me to eat. I especially look forward to lunch because the fish is so great! Soup is also a regular at lunch despite the humidity. I’m still getting used to how hot it is here!  Dinner is also not served until around 7:30-8:00 pm. While lunch is my biggest meal of the day,  dinner looks a little bit more like breakfast. Usually, I ask for yogurt and apples which has been my absolute favorite meal here. In the states, I absolutely hated quesadillas. I refused to eat any, even though they are a popular late night meal for students at my university after late night studying. However, my taste buds have done a complete 180 here in Merida. I could not ask for a better cook as a host mom. It’s great that I can already notice some growth in my character and I’ve only been abroad for a week! I’m also hoping to lose a few pounds after the freshman fifteen wasn’t so kind to me, but that’s another story. 😛


Dinner in Merida



Megapost Part Two! (Featuring School, Super-Tango, and Mexican Parties)

Time April 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hola hola a todos, y gracias para leyendo.  Welcome to part two of this week’s Megapost (check HERE for part one), and I look forward to expounding more on this week’s adventures. When I last left you, we had just finished a lovely adventure through the streets of Buenos Aires for St. Patrick’s day.  I had been in Buenos Aires for about 3 weeks, and have absolutely fallen for the place.  I love speaking Spanish, and I can feel my confidence with the language growing.  I love the city, and how there is always something to do and good people to do it with.  I love the people, and the kindness they show to strangers.  And I have been blessed with some pretty excellent experiences in Argentina so far; I’ve been to oceans, rivers, and some of the most spectacular places that Buenos Aires has to offer.

But, like all things, the utter revelry that I’ve been experiencing for here has come to an end, and in the words of Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come.  School has officially started!  Last week, I had my first classes at the Fundacion Universidad del Cine (lovingly dubbed the FUC (pronounced “Fook”)), and I am welcome this next step into life in Buenos Aires.  The FUC is a small school; only about 1,000 students (including grad students) attend, and it only occupies 4 buildings on a street in San Telmo.  I almost walked past it the on my first day of class.  I dig the small school vibe, though.  It reminds me of Whitman in the sense that you have the opportunity to make really meaningful connections with your professors, and I’m definitely to take advantage of that here.  Out of the four classes that I’m taking (History of Argentine Cinema, Advanced Castellano, Filmmaking and Production, and Sound Design and Orchestration), three of them have only 3 students.  I’m in heaven.

Now, some of y’all who know me might be thinking, “But hold up Dylan.  You’re a physics major.  You like math and natural science and computer science.  Why on earth are you taking an about-face into the realm of Film Studies?  Do you even know what that major is?”  The short answer is: I have no real idea what I’m doing.  But that’s kinda the point.  I didn’t come to Argentina to keep doing what I’m used to, I came here seeking change, and that’s hopefully what I’m about to experience.  I’m fortunate enough to not have to fulfill any major requirements for Whitman while I’m in Buenos Aires, and so the only thing I need to knock out while I’m here are classes in the humanities realm.  Not only do Film Studies classes do that for me, but they’re fun!  My professors are awesome and knowledgable and super cool (my filmmaking Prof has already invited me to play tennis and go climbing with him), and I’m sure that I’m gonna learn a bunch.  Plus, now I get to hang out with artsy film kids who dress cooler than me and have educated opinions on the meaning of life.  And my school has really hip decor.  This is gonna be awesome. [Gallery not found]

And as if it wasn’t enough to have started school such an awesome program (the film studies concentration people here have already taken me out to 2 different meals as part of the “orientation”), IFSA upped the game by taking all the students in the film/literature concentrations (the “Artsy” kids) to an extraordinary concert by the Orquestra Típica Fernández Fierro (Heretofore referred as the “OTFF”, because I don’t wanna type that out every time). It was so so so fun.  The show was in this dive bar in this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that opened into a soundstage.  The program paid for the tickets AND our food and drinks, so I split an excellent bottle of wine with some of my new UW-Madison friends and thoroughly enjoyed the show.  Now, it’s really tough to describe a show by the OTFF, but I’ll do my best (check out the video I linked to really understand).  Essentially, this group plays traditional Argentine tango music, but all the musicians are young and cool and play with unbelievable passion and energy.  It’s like “Apocalyptica” meets tango.  I was in a wonderful musical trance the whole time, and while I watched I reflected on how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to experience so many cool things in such a short amount of time here.

BUT THE FUN DOESN’T STOP THERE OH NO.  I finished classes for the week on Thursday (woo I have a four-day weekend every week woo), so naturally some good, clean fun was in order.  The weekend before, I had met a few other international students from Mexico, and they had mentioned that they live in an apartment near Recoleta and that I should come over sometime.  Well, that “sometime” was this weekend, apparently, as my dear friend Stephanie (yes, this is your shoutout :)  Be stoked) invited myself and some other pals over to this new friend’s apartment for some good old-fashioned shenanigans.  As this is a public blog viewed by both my Grandmothers, I won’t entail precisely what went down, but what I did love about that night was how fun it was to be hanging out with other international students (Mexico, USA, Paraguay) all the while speaking Spanish and swapping stories.  And I was in Argentina!  And it was 5 AM on a Thursday night (Friday morning?)  How cultured can I guy get!? (Well, much more, I’m sure, but I felt pretty darn awesome.)

So now, here I am, the the cusp of another weekend in which I am headed to Uruguay with the whole program (and you can be sure that I’m gonna write about that in a future post), and I’m feeling happy and full of life.  This place is incredible, and while I’m starting to feel the vague hints of cultural separation from the US (mainly I’m just tired of people looking down my nose at me once they realize I’m from the states.  My Spanish is good, okay!), I’m too busy enjoying life here to mind.  Buenos Aires, stay magical.  And to everyone reading this, thanks for making it this far. We’ll stay in touch.  ALSO, be sure to check out part one of my Megapost here.




One Last Mexican Adventure

Time December 23rd, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


Day of the Dead in the Mexican Highlands

Time November 18th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


Diving the Depths of the Mayan Underworld

Time November 4th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Diving the Depths of the Mayan Underworld by


México, ya vengo!

Time September 22nd, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


Just a couple more days…

Time August 19th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

… and I will be flying to Cancun, then catching a bus to Merida, and finally seeing the place that I will call home for the next four months.

Over the last few weeks I’ve read about the family I’ve been staying with, seen a picture of my house, room, and host mother.  I’ve looked at the map of the city and located the house I’ll be living in, and the IFSA Butler office.  I’ve listened to countless stories about the Yucatan from excited family friends who’ve been there before.  I’ve even read what seems like (though I’m sure it’s not) every post on the web about living in Mexico as a vegetarian.

Of course, it’s also just hit me that I have two days to consolidate my life into one large camping backpack, put together all the paperwork that IFSA Butler’s sent me, try to revive some ability to speak Spanish, and keep my fingers crossed that I won’t arrive at the airport only to discover that my passport is still sitting in my desk at home.

There are plenty of things I could be nervous about right now:

  • The official plan for getting my visa, which seems to be asking the customs official nicely if they would please stamp my passport for 180 days, instead of 30.
  • My plan for getting from Cancun to Merida, which, so far, is to get off the plane, then hopefully find a bus… somewhere.
  • The tap water, which is not potable in most of Mexico, meaning that I’m going to be drinking and brushing my teeth with bottled/boiled water, peeling all my fruit, and avoiding salads for the next four months.
  • The fact that when my parents and sister ask me how to say something in Spanish, the answer is “I don’t know” uncomfortably often.

And in some ways I am nervous –  It’s especially hard to say goodbye to everyone, and, all cheesiness aside, it’s a little scary (but also really exciting) to think that I’m going to be essentially on my own for such a big chunk of time.

At the same time, I’m eager to be out in the world on my own for the first time (this will be my first time flying completely by myself!) I’m looking forward to being surrounded by new people and places, getting used to a new bus system, learning how to navigate a city where the streets aren’t numbered the way they are in New York, shopping in a supermarket for foods labeled in Spanish. I’m even excited to experience all the culture shock everyone’s warned me about.

More when I arrive, my unfinished packing is calling to me.


Into the Unknown

Time August 17th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Market Scene

Here I am- sitting in the Guatemala airport 11 days before I am supposed to pack up my life and ship off to Mérida, Mexico. Having just traveled throughout the breathtaking Guatemala countryside for the past ten days with one of my good friends from Northwestern University and with nothing more than a backpack holding a few clothes and $200, the thought of living in a foreign country no longer seems as daunting. I am anxious, yes, but no longer scared. In some odd way, even though it has prevented me from being able to fully acknowledge that I will be living the next nine months in the sweltering Yucatan with a family I know nothing about, my Guatemalan adventure has prepared me for this study abroad experience in more ways than I can imagine.
I anticipate my study abroad experience will start off rocky, as I learn the ins and outs of Mexican living through my mistakes, as did my recent trip. In fact, our first experience in Guatemala City, or Guate as the locals call it, was of a taxi driver ripping us off less than twenty minutes after leaving the airport. But we learned and adjusted fast, and six bus trips, two ferry rides, and three taxi trips later, we had yet to be categorized again as naïve American tourists. This ability to observe and adjust accordingly is comforting me and reminds me that it is one’s ability to learn from one’s inevitable mistakes that will make for a successful study abroad experience.
Although our first day in Guatemala was rough, as we grew accustomed to being in the unknown each day was better than the last, and I imagine Mexico will unfold in much the same manner. I know that the first weeks will be a whirlwind of excitement and confusion, but as the city grows in familiarity I am certain I will settle into a routine and thrive. I cannot wait to dive into all Mexico has to offer!


Border Crossing

Time August 17th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am nerdily sitting in the Cupertino library. For those of you who grew up in Cupertino, you know this is a pretty typical weekend activity. For those of you who didn’t, gaggles of teenagers pass time together studying for the SATs gathered around library tables or strew about couches rather than visiting the beach or seeing movies. Maybe it is because of its familiarity, but the library has always been a place of comfort and I often find myself there in times when I find my brain muddled or confused.
But now it’s not really confusion I feel, but almost a sense of guilt. Working in restaurants since high school, many of the cooks of I have befriended lack the legal immigration status necessary for them to be able to go home and revisit Mexico. And yet, with little difficulty, I can visit their native country. In fact, in order to obtain my year-long visa, all I needed to do was supply the consulate with a bank statement, passport, and photos. I didn’t even need to pay a fee to be processed (I will have to pay one in Mexico however.).
Every time I bring up my study abroad trip at work, a cook will tell me of their home and that if I get a chance I must visit. “My niece is still in Mexico City. If you go there call me and I’ll have her show you around,” or “Do you have a place to stay? You are more than welcome to stay with my family,” are comments they have repeated again and again. While their excitement and hospitality is overwhelming, I feel as though they are depending on me to bring back news from their hometowns. If they cannot visit firsthand, I am the next best way for them to see what has changed and what has remained the same. After all they have taught me over the years and have shared with me about their struggles, they have become my second family and I want to do them justice. I want to take advantage of how easily I can cross the borders that separate them from their loved ones and hopefully be able to bring them a little closer to the good of what they left behind in their search for a better life. Personally my most important goal while I am abroad—understanding the complicated aspects of Mexico and trying to better understand what makes so many people feel they need to leave behind their children to head al norte.