A Travellerspoint blog

Reflection

sunny 90 °F

I've been reflecting a lot lately and maybe what I am going to write will help another exchange student out there. The feelings that I have could be stemmed to my reverse culture shock, but it's worth a shot to see that I'm not the only one out here feeling like this.

When I left to go on exchange, I made a promise to leave my "old self" behind so that I could venture out on my journey. I also promised myself that I would maintain all the friendships that I had from back home that I could while I was away but slowly my friends started to drop like flies. That isn't to say that I was ever without friends. What I mean is that as I started really indulging into everything that is exchange, I realized that my friends and I had such different interests. A lot of my friends were still stuck on the very secular, "typical" teenage lifestyle and there I was at 17 doing something so out of my realm that my whole exchange just felt like a dream. The best way that I can put this is that my friends and I simply grew apart.

Were my friends mad at me for leaving them so soon to go and do something really fantastic (and crazy) with my life? Yes. Some were. I quickly learned that these friends weren't going to be around for long and that even if they were around after my exchange, I wouldn't be able to tell them about all the neat experiences that I had while I was away because they just were not going to understand.

Fortunately enough, though, all the friends that I had "lost" were quickly replaced with the exchange students I got to know before going on my journey and the ones that I got to meet during my time away.

Aside from our common dream, the exchange students that I befriended were wholesome people. They understood what it was like to go through culture shock, they understood how it felt when there was a culture "misunderstanding", they knew what it was like to feel genuine homesickness and I realized that for the rest of my life, these same people would be the only people that I could ever go to regarding an exchange feeling.

Sure, go on a trip for 2 weeks with your school and go be a tourist in a couple countries, but don't try and relate to me about going to another country, by yourself, for a year, living with multiple families, and trying to make a life in this new place. It's just not the same.

Coming home, I had mixed emotions for several reasons. My time away was going to be officially over and my life would go back to what it was before. However, one of the things that I worried about the most was how it would be going back having fewer friends than I did when I left.

I came home and saw a few people and none of the interactions I had with my "friends" were the same. I felt like a stranger and most of my reunions were uncomfortable. There was one friend I was excited to see in particular, but once we saw each other again, I felt that the friendship fell apart.

So that's where I'm at right now. Sometimes, I feel lonely because I miss the social life I had while on exchange. Some might advise that I apply my same extroverted-ness here in my home country, but the social realm is so much different here. In South America, I can go out whatever night of the week, with my friends, and there will always be something to do. If we stayed out until 1 AM at a café its okay because the cafés are still open and its just what people do. Here, not so much. Anyone under 18 has a curfew, if not from their parents, but the city in which they reside. There is no "going out" unless you're in college and most of the things that I find kids my age doing are not safe nor are they responsible.

Saying all of that ^^^^^ makes me feel like a stickler. I had tons of fun on my exchange, so it's not like I've lost my ability to enjoy myself, but I think that what I miss the most is the social culture that the United States lacks.

Moving forward now that I am home from exchange, I'll continue to apply what I've learned to my life here and succeed in everything that I can. I'm maintaining the friendships with the people I've met in Peru and I'm happy.

This was kind of an emotional post for me, because there's so much more that I want to say... I just don't know how to say it.

Sorry for the soap box,
Alexandra

Posted by alexandrang98 18:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

My creativity is limited at 9:15 AM on Saturday/Jungle Fever

sunny 80 °F

Good morning, all!

First, sorry I couldn't think of a better title.

Second- I am writing this newest addition on my blog poolside, with the wind blowing through my hair, with a cup of coffee that is about 100 degrees-too hot that I have been stirring absent-mindedly for the past 20 minutes. Also, I have a servant at my beck and call named Fabio.

Okay actually no. I'm actually sitting in my kitchen, looking at the window watching the family dogs lounge poolside with the wind blowing in their fur. However, there are no servants named Fabio. The coffee part is true though.

WARNING: I am about to repeat something I think I've mentioned in all my latest blog posts.

"I feel like I've let so much time pass since my last blog post. It's been foreverrrrrrrrr. I really should write more on here, blah blah blah."

LIFE UPDATE!!!!!!!!!

I'm officially a college student!

March 17 was my lucky day (get it?) as I started university (Note: 'university' said in proper, hauty-tauty English accent). During the days prior, I was able to pick my classes and this semester's are as follows:

Spanish 6
German 1
Portuguese 2
Psychology
Argumentation and Debate

You might have noticed that my classes are primarily language classes and while apart from Spanish, Portuguese and German don't even slightly relate to each other, they've been very easy to pick up. Portuguese, I've heard most say before, is very similar to Spanish and it is but it has its own grammar rules and things. I think someone that can speak Spanish can read Portuguese with no problem, but when spoken, Spanish and Portuguese couldn't sound any more different (in my opinion). Now, with German, I've always had an interest to learn the language, but before doing exchange, I really had no purpose to know the language. I would learn it and probably forget it. Columbus, Ohio doesn't have that big of a demographic for German speakers. Granted, Peru doesn't really either, but I now have more of an interest to go to Germany and stay there for a period of time. Plus, one of my closest friends is German and so I have my own tutor that is accesible whenever I need her. It's easy to study Portuguese and German at the same time BECAUSE of the contrast. They don't blend into each other which is nice. With Spanish and Portuguese that isn't the case. Countless times I have spluttered out 'Muito bom' instead of "Muy bien" (Very good) or "Eu me chamo Alexandra" instead of "Me llamo Alexandra". But, anyways. Tudo bem.

Psychology is going to be an interesting course and the teacher seems to know what she's talking about, so there's not anymore commentary I can say for that one.

And, as far as Argumentation and Debate goes, anyone can benefit from learning how to argue better... right? Plus, I can let off some steam in that class. Also-------- another plus---------- it's in my native language.

Out of the 20 some RYE students going to my university, I scored the highest on the Spanish entrance exam. My language skills have improved so so so much on exchange and if someone told me a year ago that it would only take about 6-ish months to become fluent in my 2nd language (with only 2 school years before), I don't know if I would've believed them. That sounds like a Rosetta Stone sales pitch, to be honest.

Exchange Horror Story:
I only have 95 days left on exchange!

The time has flown by so fast. It's weird because if I think of the TIME that I've been here it seems like so long, but then I think of how FAST that time went and then I'm like "wait."

This last leg of my exchange has started off really positive and I'm happy. In less than 2 weeks, my grandmother will be joining me here in Peru for a couple of days and I have been faced with the task of trying to create a synopsis of my 7 months on exchange through tours and gastronomy. I have a list of ideas of what I want to do but 4.75 days is going to flash by.

Okay, weird thing just happened. I JUST remembered that I was in the Amazon Rainforest earlier this month. My mind is everywhere but in Peru right now.

For about 3.5-4 days, I was in Iquitos, Peru and we stayed in a lodge on the Amazon River. The trip included night walks through the rainforest, vine swinging, swimming with Pink Dolphins, swimming in the river with alligators (or so the guides said), seeing giant lily pads, playing with monkeys, sloth holding, large maggot eating, and giving back to the local community. Believe it or not, a meme even came out of it. The highlight of the trip was finishing the Rotary water tower (that we built- shoutout to RYE exchange class of 2015/2016). By doing so, we provided 43 Amazonian families the gift of clean, drinking water and I believe I was personally humbled so much by this experience. Living in the United States, I take water and other things for granted and I forget how fortunate I am. I'm happy to have participated in helping this community. We are currently building a second tower in another part of the rainforest for a different community. Our goal was one tower, and because of the unison of Rotary clubs from all around the world and their generous donations, we raised about $5k extra to provide to more people.

Below are some pictures that some other exchange students took during the trip. My phone was broken at the time and I wasn't able to take any pictures and borrowed some from my friends' Facebook posts.

Enjoy!

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Posted by alexandrang98 14:44 Archived in Peru Tagged amazon Comments (1)

I've let the blog run dry/how to know you're on exchange....

sunny 90 °F

I promise that I had every intention to post frequently on this blog and while I've managed to post updates, sometimes I feel like there isn't much to write about so I avoid making a post. I usually like to wait until something major happens because a lot of the other time, I've been chilling at home, leaving and doing things with my friends, or sleeping, hahah.

I've made this point to my friends and family several times during my exchange: I feel like I've been on summer vacation since May 2015.
This doesn't mean my exchange hasn't been fun, this doesn't mean that I didn't go to school, or whatever you maybe thinking.

This means that I've over-embraced the relaxed life and I'm ready to return to my busy, go-go-go work/school lifestyle back home in Ohio. I don't really have any desire to GO home right now, but I'm ready to make my days busy and worthwhile. I want to be able to go back home and present on my exchange and have a never-ending list of activities and memories to share with everyone.

I'm going to do a really abrupt 180 right now.

Spinny Noise, does backflip*

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How to know you're an exchange student...

1. BEFORE WAITING TO SEE IF ANYONE UNDERSTOOD WHAT YOU SAID, YOU START ACTING IT OUT.
This point kind of speaks for itself, but let me elaborate for the readers who won't get this.
The best example I can give you is when you're trying to speak to someone who may or may not speak English (for example) and to make sure they understand, you start making all kind of body jerks and weird hand-movements. I feel this is something I did especially in the beginning of my exchange but I'm a hand-talker anyway so I probably still do it.
2. YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME SMILING AND NODDING AND PRETENDING YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON.
Until you unintentionally admit to doing something you haven't done even though you didn't understand the question.
3. YOU CLASSIFY DOING YOUR HOMEWORK AS TRANSLATING 1/2 OF IT.
Whenever I took a test in my host school, because I didn't know the answers, I would translate the questions and write all over the paper to look like I answered and would be graded on that.
4. YOU SOMETIMES USE THE EXCUSE "SORRY I DON'T UNDERSTAND" TO AVOID ANSWERING A QUESTION... EVEN IF YOU DO.
Sometimes you get tired of answering questions or get annoyed by the stereotypical questions that people ask about you and your country. Sometimes, we just need a break from talking, ya feel?
5. THEY OFFER COCKTAILS AT ALL THE SCHOOL FUNCTIONS.
This really threw me off because in the USA you have to be 21 years old to drink and I never ever saw alcohol supplied/offered at an Open House or Curriculum Night but here, it seemed like for the majority of the school functions, there was some kind of cocktail party for the adults.
6. YOU'RE BETTER THAN YOUR TEACHER IN YOUR FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASS.
My English teacher at my host school was amazing but several times, we would have discussions on English grammar or word pronunciation and a lot of the time it came down to the difference between British and American English.
7. YOU'VE "MISPRONOUNCED" SOMETHING IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE OTHERS WILL UNDERSTAND IF YOU SAY IT WITH AN ACCENT.
Example: McDonalds (America= Mick-donalds, Peru= Mack-dah-nal), Starbucks (America= Star-bucks, Peru= Es-tar-buh)
8. YOU TALK TO SOMEONE IN YOUR HOST LANGUAGE ONLY TO HAVE THEM RESPOND TO YOU IN ENGLISH.
This happens all the time and very annoying because "Cool, you want to practice your English, but I'm here to learn Spanish and it would be easier for the both of us to just stick with YOUR native language."
9. AFTER COMING BACK FROM EXCHANGE, EVERYONE TELLS YOU THAT YOU HAVE A WEIRD ACCENT.
I've adopted a few of the Peruvian mannerisms and I'm interested to see what happens when I get back to school in August.
10. YOU FORGET WORDS IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE.
Happens all the time. I forgot the word for hair the other day. Ended up calling it my head sweater.
11. YOU BEGIN TO ENJOY FOODS YOU DESPISED AT HOME AND VICE VERSA.
I used to really like potatoes in the US, but after eating 4752034857 types of them in Peru, I can't look at one without feeling like a literal human potato. However, I turned into a coffee drinker in Peru and I never used to TOUCH the coffee machine back home.
12. YOU ARE NEVER SURE IF SOMEONE'S BEING YOUR FRIEND OR FLIRTING WITH YOU.
This is just because of the difference in social cues and body language that come with the Peruvian culture. Peruvians are more "affectionate" as it is (for example, when greeting someone you either kiss into their ear [for girls] or shake their hand [for boy to boy]) so when someone is leaning into you, you never know if its because that's just who they are or they're trying to get your digits.
13. YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG AND PEOPLE LOOK AT YOU WEIRD AND YOUR EXCUSE IS "THATS HOW THEY DO IT IN MY COUNTRY" EVEN IF IT ISN'T.
This is happened a COUNTLESS amount of times to me that I can't even pinpoint one specific situation to write.

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I'll be traveling to the Amazon from March 3-6 and hope to be able to write a lot about the amazing experiences I will have had there.

I start school short after that!

After almost being here for 6 wonderful and crazy months!
Alexandra

Posted by alexandrang98 10:28 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

The best 2 weeks of my life (so far)

As promised, here is a post completely dedicated to the 2nd Rotary trip of my exchange.

Let me start off by saying that I originally planned not to go on this trip, but I am SO SO SO glad that I did. I liked this trip so much better from the 1st trip, but maybe it's because the 2nd trip came at the time that I needed it and it was so much more relaxed and it was entirely beaches (and who doesn't like beaches?).

On January 20th, I departed with 41of the 75 exchange students for our trip to the northern region of Peru/southern region of Ecuador. We road-tripped in buses for about.... ehhhhhh..... 21 LONG LONG LONG hours to Trujillo, Peru to a nice beachy hotel that had pretty decent food and a short walk to the beach. On the way there we stopped in Caral which is the most antique civilization in all of the Americas. It was a nice break as we had been sitting in the bus the whole day. We were there for about 2 days and saw some archaeological sites like Chan Chan (which was pretty interesting) and Huaca del sol y de la luna, and we walked around the plaza de armas of Trujillo for a little bit. We had lots of free-time and it was such a tranquil part of the trip.

On the 23rd, we went to the city of Lambayeque and saw the valley of the pyramids. It was a short stop on our way to Mancora. The majority of the day we were traveling and not a whole lot happened to be completely honest. We got to the hotel in Mancora at like 1 in the morning and we were all so dead tired (or so I thought), but there were some really energetic exchange students that were still up until 4 AM just chilling on the beach with a bonfire, but my roommates and I went to sleep because we were exhausted and also wanted to have sufficient energy for the following day.

On the 24th, I swam with giant sea turtles. I still can't believe I did that. It was such a rare but very eclectic experience. It took some adjusting to because there were so many turtles that were little swimming all around me, but then it wasn't so bad and I embraced them. We returned to the hotel and had the rest of the day free and then my roommate and I took a nap and repacked our things as we were leaving the same day to go to Zorritos.

I don't really remember the drive to Zorritos, but I remember getting to the hotel and being so excited about having AIR CONDITIONING. The first hotels didn't have any air conditioning, and so I put my room on 17 degrees (Celsius) and froze happily. We stayed in our hotel for about 2 days (I believe). It was beach front and so there was no street-crossing or anything, you literally just left your hotel room door and were on the sand. It was a beautiful beach and there weren't a whole lot of people, but we weren't allowed to swim in the ocean because that same day, someone had drowned and died and the last thing we needed was to lose any exchange students or have any near-death experiences.

From there, on the 26th (if not the 25th) we departed for Ecuador. We were all waiting for this part of the trip because A) we were leaving the country and seeing more of South America and B) new food. Unless you've been an exchange student, you will not understand how we idolize food. Going through immigration was a breeze which was surprising because there were about 44 people who needed to leave and we actually got done EARLY. Everyone was prepared (which also wasn't expected) and there were 0 problems. On our way to our destination, we were all fascinated with the vast amount of banana trees, the beautiful mountains, the people, THE FACT THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY FOLLOW THE DRIVING LAWS IN ECUADOR, the drive through Guayaquil and the change in temperature/humidity. It was such a beautiful drive into Ecuador and driving out when we left to Peru, too. We arrived at our resort at some point that night at around 9-10ish and I remember my jaw practically hit the floor because of how beautiful and expensive our resort was. It was a 5 star, all inclusive resort and when they told us all inclusive, the first thing everyone thought was that we would have an unlimited amount of food. I remember going to my room and being so in love with the soft beds and view from my window. We all went down to dinner and just couldn't believe the amount of food that was available to us and how GOOD it all was. It was so incredibly delicious that I am getting hungry just thinking about it. We all went to bed at some point much much later that night and we had the next day free.

The next day was such a relaxing but fun day and I got very very very burned (like 1st degree burns, burned), but I was toasted and happy so it didn't matter much. I spent the whole day going back and forth between swimming in the ocean and swimming in the pool and by the end of the day I was a literal raisin. But, I ate well during the day so I had sufficient energy. I spent a lot of time with the other exchange students and we all started integrating amongst ourselves and kind of leaving the "cliques" behind (at least for that day) and it was a special time for all of us.

The next day, we ate breakfast and lunch at the hotel and I remember everyone getting so excited about the pancakes and French Toast and waffles at breakfast and the ice-cream at lunch and I think that everyone was on cloud 9 the whole time we were at the resort. We then departed, after lunch, to go to Guayaquil.

We stayed in a hostal in Guayaquil and while it wasn't anyone's favorite place during the trip, we were only in Guayaquil for 1 night so it didn't really matter. During our 2nd day in Guayaquil we went and saw iguanas (that just roam around in this little park, almost like stray cats or dogs), we climbed 444 steps and then some more to get to the top of a lighthouse where we saw all of Guayaquil, and all in the pouring rain. We were all soaking wet by the time it was all over, but it was definitely a memorable experience, more than anything else. We went back to the hotel, dried up, then packed ourselves into the buses to go back to Peru. We got through immigration very easily (again) and we all got our new visas for the rest of our exchanges and we returned back to the same hotels we stayed in on our way up to Ecuador.

We had more free-time on the beaches back in Peru and the rest of the trip was spent relaxing above all else. There weren't any planned activities, really. At one point we went to an Crocodile "farm" but I can't remember what day that was, although it was kind of interesting.

I got back to Lima on the 2nd and now I'll spend the rest of February hanging out with my friends and enjoying summer before the school year starts again and I go to university.

We have a trip to the Amazon from March 3-6 and I'm mega mega mega excited.

Below are some of the best pictures from the trip!

Always looking forward to new experiences,
Alexandra

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Posted by alexandrang98 13:35 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Long time, no type

So it's official been over a month since I've last posted.

I didn't mean to let my blog go, but so much has been going on as of recent and I haven't found the time (nor have I searched for it) to sit down and update everyone on the status of my life/exchange/well-being right now.

I'll start with Christmas.

Christmas was such a peaceful and calm time spent with my first host family. I got some shoes that I picked out (because my host mom wanted to give me the perfect gift), some nice soap (that smells AMAZZINNNNNNGGGG),and some earrings. Oh, and a wallet. We had a nice dinner and while everyone was still partying at 3 in the morning on Christmas day, I went to bed because quite frankly, I was TIRED.

One tradition that I experienced is eating dinner at midnight (so right as Christmas day begins). In the US, I am used to eating dinner with the family in the late afternoon (around 6,7,8) and then opening presents and then going home before midnight. In Peru, I didn't open presents until after the midnight dinner was served. Fireworks were also going off for hours after the stroke of 12 and while "home" fireworks are strictly prohibited in Peru, no one could deny anyone the right to share the Christmas spirit.

New Years was also spent really nicely. I invited one of my German exchange friends over to my host house (as her host family had no plans to do anything that night) and we made Mac & Cheese and pancakes and added it to the array of food my host mom cooked for our New Years dinner. At the stroke of 12, we were supposed to eat 12 grapes by 12:01 and if you ate them all, it was considered good luck. I didn't know that so I just started eating my grapes way before that and idk if that counts as cheating? Hahaha. We watched more fireworks and went to bed a little early as Karolin and I were both really tired.

On the 5th of January, I changed host families. It was time for the "family change". I'm still with my 2nd family. Eventually, I will change families for a 3rd time.

On January 10th, I ended up in the emergency room because of a twisted ankle. Honestly, I am the biggest klutz you will ever meet, so it wasn't that much of a surprise that I somehow managed to get hurt. I went to the beach with my host family and got over taken by a wave RIGHT AS WE WERE LEAVING and twisted my ankle into some rocks. I was on crutches for about a week/week and a half, but I improved a lot faster than the doctors speculated. They told me I would have to be on bedrest for something like 3 weeks and I wasn't gonna have it so I took my pills and functioned as much as I possibly could to get better ASAP and before my 2nd Rotary trip that was happening the following week.

I will write about the 2nd Rotary trip in another post because it deserves it's own for pictures and an in depth description of the amount of fun I had for 2 weeks.

On New Years I celebrated my 4 months and on February 1st I celebrated my 5 month mark. Time is going by so fast! As of right now, my countdown app says I have 4 months, 25 days, and 7 hours before my plane leaves to go back home to the US.

Until my next post (which I will be writing after this one posts)!

Alexandra

Posted by alexandrang98 13:13 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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