Indiana University Overseas Study

Los Toros

Debora Estrada Lobo

The corridas de toros has been cultural tradition in Spain for many ages. Although it was the romans who started this tradition during their Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the modern corrida de toros was established. Since then, this tradition has become one of many emblems of Spain and its culture. Although this tradition remains, there currently great debate about its continuity as many Spaniards and animal lovers consider this tradition a cruel abuse towards the toros.


Last weekend I attended my first corrida de toros with a group of friends. I was personally not very affected by what I saw, as I had a good understanding on what to expect. However, many of my friends were repulsed by the spectacle. I think there are two ways we can think about the tradition. We can see it as a cruel abuse towards the bulls or an art and
cultural tradition.151007d

This current dispute has caught my attention and so I have researched both sides. Yes, there is no doubt that the bulls are being hurt with the final goal of having them killed. Yes, people are watching a spectacle and will most likely watch a bull die at the hands of a torero. The antitaurinos claim the tradition to be destructive, cruel and torturous towards animals. If we were to see the corridas de toros in just this way, everyone would probably be against such a show. However, the people who want the tradition to continue also have good points.

According to my research, toros bravos are some of the only animals that are well treated, and roam freely, throughout their life outside of the arena. Like many other animal meats, the meat of the toros killed at the corridas are also eaten. Not only is the meat used but their skins are also used to produce leather goods. Aside from the goods that may come from the bull, the animal is one of few that can fight for its life and “die with dignity.” With this information we can also see the other side of the dispute.151007b

I personally think that the art that some claim the corridas to have comes from the toreros. On average, toreros start training from a very young age and have to not only be physically and mentally prepared but also have to perform with a certain aesthetic manner and technique. This is what I think make the fight interesting to watch. Throughout the last portion of the fight the matador and the bull are in close proximity of each other; at some points, the matador can even have an arm around the bull as it circles the matador.

If there was not the possibility of death to either party, I think anyone could see a certain beauty in the movement of both parties. As this is not the case, the corridas de toros are certainly not for the faint hearted as in the end, either the toro or torero will die.

Debora Estrada Lobo - exploring contemporary Spain

Debora Estrada Lobo

It’s been almost a month since I first arrived in Seville, yet I feel as if I have been here much longer while also feeling as if yesterday was my first day here. Seville is a beautiful city, its streets are always busy and there is a contagious and calm lifestyle. My fellow classmates and I like to describe it as a “pueblo” within a city. A city that is not only rich in culture but also with an interesting history.

Throughout these past weeks, every person in my group has experienced different hardships or experiences; however, my experiences have sometimes been very different from the rest of the group. I should start by saying that I am both bilingual and bicultural. And although being completely fluent in Spanish has its benefits, it also seems to have some restraining aspect.

Being fluent in Spanish does allow you to better communicate with Spaniards and fend for yourself; however, speaking Spanish so fluently seems to take the charm away from being a foreigner. This does not mean that I’m not interacting and making friends with locals, it simply means that locals seem more interesting in talking to those who do not resemble or talk like Spaniards. Maybe they just like having a hard time talking to someone! Oddly enough, I’m not the only one with this interesting setback—a fellow bilingual Hoosier is also experiencing this phenomenon. Having been on the other side on many occasions, I think the charm comes from the interest and the effort a person makes to get to know the culture and country that he or she is visiting. Nonetheless, the fluid interactions we have with the locals can be deeper, more interesting, two-sided and very rewarding. While I’m in Spain, I will take in as much Spanish interaction as possible, foreign charm or not.

The non-language barrier has also had an effect on my host family. Concha, my host mother, has commentated on the ease and difference it makes to have a fluent Spanish speaker in her home. Not only do we easily talk about our days and deeper subjects, but my biculturalism has also been appreciated. Since I arrived I have become involved in the kitchen and other small house activities that other students have not been engaged in due to a difference in culture or simply due to some communication issues.

However, whether you are bilingual, studying Spanish or just starting to learn the language, your experiences will be eye-opening and a great adventure! With only a month into my study abroad, I can already claim that some of my most wonderful memories are those that I have formed during this experience abroad.

Debora Estrada Lobo - exploring contemporary Spain

Vincent Halloran - Buenos Aires


The Argentine side of Iguazu Falls, a massive series of waterfalls along the Argentina-Brazil frontier amidst dense jungle.

On a Thursday evening after a busy week of our first Argentine midterms (a perilous experience even before considering the language barrier), I left the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires for the small jungle border town of Puerto Iguazu. Iguazu, accessible by a 2-hour plane ride aboard the state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas, or an 18-hour journey on one of Argentina’s long-haul buses—it’s safe to say my group elected to fly—is a small tourist town located at the convergence of the Parana and Iguazu Rivers. At this point, where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil meet, one of the world’s great natural wonders lies waiting at the end of jungle paths. Our 2-day stay near the National Park allowed us enough time not only to hit the usual tourist traps, but to find our own piece of this incredible natural feature. The international character of the crowd at our hostel, which included Germans, Britons, Australians, Brazilians, and Argentinians, assured us that this must be a place worth the trip from anywhere; we wouldn’t be disappointed.

Waterfall 2

A part of the falls known as Devil’s Throat, where water cascades down a 260-degree cliff, straight down the middle of the border with Brazil.

When we arrived at the park, a short bus ride from Puerto Iguazu, I found myself pleasantly surprised to enter a jungle sanctuary with lemurs and brightly colored birds at every turn. The park itself was a fascinating excursion, with a scenic train guiding us through the dense forest to the falls. As you step off the train, and begin following one of the myriad trails to the falls, you soon begin to hear their low and steady roar through the undergrowth. Finally, after managing the winding course of trails lined with raccoon-like coati’s (who have an insatiable interest in humans and particularly our habit of dropping food), you emerge at the edge of the mighty falls. The drop-off of at least 10-stories, higher than even Niagara, surprised me at its untamed and raw appearance in comparison to North America’s great cascade. As mist swirls upward and jungle birds soar along the updrafts created by the water’s sheer force, you begin to appreciate what draws so many to this place so far from the typical tourist stops of Rio or BA. While standing beside the falls, gasping in awe beside people from every corner of Argentina and the world, all are made equal in appreciation of the sheer majesty unfolding around us.

Waterfall 3

Waterfall 4

Salto Arrechea, our own waterfall for the day; definitely a highlight of the trip.

Though the main falls are breathtaking, my greatest memory of Iguazu will always be my second day at the park. Instead of returning to the well-traveled tourist trails by the larger falls, we elected to take a local’s advice and take a small jungle trail to one of the side falls where a natural pool supposedly waited at its base. After hiking for around an hour and descending the many steps down the steep ravine which lines the river, we finally broke through the vegetation to find our oasis in the jungle. At the base of a small waterfall, a clear and cool pool invited us in for refuge from the nearly 100-degree heat and humidity. Along with several other adventurous visitors, we swam and took turns bearing the brunt of the small cascade. After taking in the secluded pool, we returned to town for our flight back to our busy lives in the Federal Capital, all the more grateful for having chosen the path less taken.

Vincent Halloran - analyzing Argentine political and economic models

Marie Kalas - Valparaiso

Text Message

Evacuation text message sent to all Chilean phones

As I was trying to figure out what a good opening sentence to this blog would be, my mirror shook and the chandelier above my bed swayed for at least the 50th time after an 8.3 earthquake hit the country of Chile.

It was a few minutes before 8 PM when I was sitting in my room watching a video of how men’s swimsuit fashion has changed in the past 100 years when I felt my bed swing back and forth.

“La Meri! Sientes este temblor?” [Marie! Do you feel this tremor?]

“Sí! Siento!” [Yes! I feel it!]

This being my third tremor since my arrival two months ago, a quick shake of the building came to be such a casual, fun thing for me. I remember after the first time I experienced a tremor (a 5.5), I told my host mom that I really liked them. They were fun—like a dance. After I told her that, I got yelled at because “no queremos otro temblor más fuerte!” [We don’t want another stronger tremor!]

As my host family and I all stayed in our rooms as we waited for the typical 20 second tremor to pass, the tremor became a little stronger and the clock seemed to tick a little faster. I texted my dad: “HUGE EARTHQUAKE RIGHT NOW. Longest ever?” It was 7:58 PM.

About 30 seconds later my host mom yelled for her daughter and me to get to the living room and remain calm.

The ignorant, idiotic smile that was usually on my face during tremors was wiped clean as I walked 20 feet to the living room to see my host parents taking down all of the lamps from the tables. As soon as that was done, we stood in the middle of the room holding each other, riding out the tremor that turned into a full earthquake.

Lamps Earthquake

Lamps that still sit on the couches for the 6.4 and up aftershocks still occurring.

“Tranquilla, tranquilla, tranquilla,” she repeated over and over again as if to calm herself down instead of me.

After 60 seconds, I looked up from staring at my host mom’s terrified face to see the paintings on the wall pound back and forth against the wall. Slam, slam, slam. My host mom grabbed my hand harder as the four of us tried to keep our bodies and minds steady in our swinging building.

Ninety seconds had passed as I texted my dad for the second time. “It’s still happening. We’re all in the same room.” 8:00 PM.

Two full minutes went by as we all walked into the parents’ room to watch the news as the earthquake still shook the house. The TV said an 8.3 earthquake had struck a town 4 hours north of us.

Almost three minutes went by as the earth came to a slow stop. We looked at each other and sighed a communal relief. “Ay! Que fuerte, no?” [How strong, no?] we said to each other as we walked back to our rooms.


Knives that still hold our cabinets closed for the 6.4 and up aftershocks still occurring.

8:01 PM  Texted my dad again letting him know it was over and all was okay.

I spoke too soon because as soon as I entered the doorway of my bedroom, my host sister’s phone was buzzing and setting off a sound I had never heard, but from that point forward, that sound would be forever engrained in my brain.

I turned to look at her as her face dropped while reading her phone. She turned to our mom and said “tsunami.”

The next thing I remember is my host mom yelled at us as she is running into her room. “Botas! Chaqueta! Vamos!” [Boots! Jacket! Let’s go!]

I laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my jacket, and we left our second story apartment building right by the ocean to literally “run for the hills.”

Seconds before we left the house, I sent that last text to my dad. “Tsunami warning. Evacuating house. Talk soon.” 8:03 PM.

As we got outside, the streets were bursting with people. Families were running hand in hand, dads were carrying babies thrown in blankets, and we were briskly walking to the nearest hill as my 70 year-old host parents struggled to keep up behind us. We finally made it to the closest hill after enduring another slightly smaller earthquake with thousands of our neighbors.

We found a place to sit and made a few friends who would sit with us for the next three hours in that same spot waiting for an “all clear” to be given from the Chilean government. It was cold, raining, and late for all of us to be sitting on that cement staircase. We were offered tea and donuts from ladies who lived in the house next to our campsite. Young men would come running up to us every once in a while with blaring walkie-talkies making sure we were okay and updating us on situations in the towns to the north and south of us. My host sister was constantly on the other side of the street answering phone calls from her brothers and sisters as everyone asked “estás bien? Dónde están sus niños?” [Are you okay? Where are your kids?]

Aftermath earthquake

Super market aisles with broken wine bottles spilled

Three hours passed as my sister’s phone still buzzed with evacuation warnings when we decided it had been long enough. Every newcomer that passed our refugee said there had been no signs of tsunami waves in our town. We marched home in streets that would have been unrecognizable if I didn’t know where I was. They were black and empty—the opposite of three hours previous that had frantic, honking cars and hundreds of families rustling through.

We walked into our deserted apartment building where we went back to our rooms just as if nothing had happened. My host mom brought me a piece of cake as I texted my dad at 10:53 PM, “I’m home.”

Marie Kalas - immersing herself in Chilean language and community

Frankie Salzman - Jerusalem

As I write this blog post, I am sitting in a small village in the north of Israel at a friend’s mother’s home. This is the first weekend that I have spent away from Jerusalem since I arrived in this complex country. It has been a refreshing change of pace to be away from the city I currently call home for a couple days. While my experience so far has been enriching, there are definitely some customs and ways of living that I have picked up on and am slowly starting to adopt.

Starting with the first day of Hebrew class, which feels much longer than only a month ago, I’ve noticed interesting differences with the driving culture here. In America, if you want to cross the street you wait for all the cars to go by and then do so when there is an opening. Here in Israel, at least by our dorms, I have noticed that cars will slow down abruptly and stop for you if it looks like you are waiting to cross the street. Now this isn’t a major discovery that I have found, but it is these little things that I have begun picking up on.

A second cultural difference I have found is the use of phones here in Israel. Not unlike America, many people have them and many have smart phones; however, rather than texting someone when you have a question or for a quick conversation, everyone here talks on the phone. I see way more people having phone conversations walking down the street, riding the bus or train than I do back home. In fact, many employees of stores or business will talk on the phone while they work. Back home, this would certainly not be an acceptable but practice, but here it is simply the norm.

Another aspect of this country that constantly catches my attention is something I actually already knew about from the one previous trip I had taken here the winter of my freshman year, and that is the cats. Similar to the U.S., people here have cats as house-pets. In fact, my friend’s house where I am currently staying does. But, when you walk into his backyard you do not just see his family’s cat, but also four others that came from who knows where. And, if you walk out onto the street, you will see two more cats. Walk five minutes down the road and there are another three. Many people equate the cats here to squirrels back home. But I have never taken a different path to my dorm to avoid a squirrel. In the student village, an apartment complex where many international students including myself reside, there are at least ten cats that live there. Every single day I walk past them rummaging through the garbage, licking themselves clean, or simply giving me the evil eye (I personally believe all cats are just plotting a way to take over the world, but that is for another post). For the people who have lived here for a long time, and even for some of my classmates, the cats are simply an everyday nuisance they barely recognize. But for me, I still become startled at night when a cat comes running out of the bush chasing after another screaming.

Cats lining the alley

The final major difference that I will discuss in this post is my experience going to see a movie in theaters last night with my friend in the northern city of Haifa. This city, the third largest, has one main, gigantic movie theater located in the mall. Containing 23 screens, this theater had many features that are not present back in Indiana. First of all, every kind of movie has two ticket options: the normal (priced relatively the same as back home) and a VIP option (about double the price as the normal). Now I am not entirely sure what the VIP package includes, but I do know I saw a separate concessions stand and I think even separate theaters to view the films.

In addition to the typical “normal” viewing and “3D” viewing, they also had a “4D” option, which my friend informed me meant that the chairs moved in response to the movie. I did not have the opportunity to experience this at the time, but it is now high up on the list as something I wish to do. Another difference is that instead of simply having general admission seating, when you purchase your ticket you actually choose a row and are assigned seats to sit in in that row (something my friends from LA have told me happens there, but this was the first time I had ever seen it). The last major difference here is that instead of leaving out the same door that you walk in at the end of the movie, there is a separate exit that leads to a hallway a floor beneath the theaters. This is a smart measure that Israeli theaters have taken to ensure that patrons cannot simply slip into another movie (a practice I know to be quite common back home).

Inside the Haifa Movie Theater

Israel is an extremely unique country. It combines incredibly ancient landmarks and places with modern design. In many ways the culture is similar to that of America-almost everyone speaks at least some English, American music can be heard everywhere, and they are quite familiar with American pop culture. However, as I have discussed so far, there are some noticeable differences in the way the society functions. Overall, experiencing this is truly beginning to open up my mind to different ideas. This month for me can be summed up well in one word: change. As promised in my previous post, I will finish each blog with teaching a new Hebrew word. This week’s is שינוי, “change.

Frankie Salzman - further his language and culture studies at the source

Panic sets in

Debora Estrada Lobo

I only have two weeks before my departure date and I still have not started packing. Although this seems as procrastination, the truth is I haven’t been home for most of the summer. I’m starting to panic and it’s really just the fact that I’m not home and therefore can do nothing about it.

A week is more than plenty of time to pack for this extended trip; and even more so if you have some travel experience. Yet my anxiety continues to build as each day passes and I’m still not home. To calm myself down I keep telling myself “You are only going to focus on the essential once you get home and you most certainly won’t over pack”. At this point, I also decided to challenge myself to pack only one suitcase and my weekend travel backpack. To an over-packer like myself this really seems impossible.


It is now only a week before my departure and I’m finally home. First thing I do is start piling a list of the clothe items I need to take with me. The list looks something like this: 4 jeans, 6 short-sleeved shirts, 12 long-sleeved shirts, one “heavy” jacket… And so it begins. All clothing items are packed airtight using Ziploc packing bags; which are really useful to free up a lot of space. It is on to cosmetics and toiletries and a similar list is compiled. In all honesty, I know that I will over pack this section but I had enough space and decide to do it. A list for electronics, documentation and currency is created and throughout the week all packing is completed.


It’s now departure day and everything is ready! It seems unbelievable, but I did it! I managed to complete my challenge. Let’s just see how I manage with these three pieces of luggage will I take to taxis and a train from Madrid to Seville!

Debora Estrada Lobo - exploring contemporary Spain

Paro, Paro, Paro

Marie Kalas - Valparaiso

I, and most gringos (foreigners), are on our fourth week of classes. Ask my Chilean friends how many weeks of classes they’ve had so far, and they’ll let you know they’re starting a week from now—five weeks after we’ve started. Why you may ask? Thanks for asking; it leads me right to my thesis.

Chileans strike, strike, strike due to poor conditions many of them are forced to work under. Just in the four weeks I’ve been here, there have been three.

Paro Uno (Strike One)

Although it’s first semester for us Northern Hemisphere kids, it’s second semester for the Chileans right now because June-August is their winter. (Aka 50 degrees most days—beach weather for those of us who live in the Midwest.) So first semester, January-June, there was a paro at the University. This paro lasted 57 days until July 27th, the beginning of second semester, everyone decided they wanted to come back to school.

Okay. Okay. It’s not that easy. They didn’t paro because they just didn’t want to go to school. Some say the paro was because university is too expensive and others say the teachers weren’t making enough money and others say it’s because the teachers aren’t good enough to teach. It really just depends on who you ask. When I asked my host mom, she said it was because the professors aren’t qualified. When I asked friends attending La Catolica (short name for the university), some said the teachers initiated the strike while one said it was because school is too expensive. According to the very reliable resources of Wikipedia and frustrated Chileans who don’t love Argentinians, many universities in Latin America—especially in Argentina—have options to attend public universities where tuition is free.

So if I had to choose a reason why I thought La Catolica and other universities go on strike, I would assume it is because of the cost to attend school. Although it’s a fraction of what we have to pay in the US, it’s a lot compared to what local workers are paid.

Strike Signs

Strike Signs

Paro Dos (Strike Two)

Workers’ wages here are shockingly low. Not only does that affect families whose children are going to school, but it affects businesses’ hours of operation. That’s right folks. We’re headed into paro dos.

As international students, we need to have Chilean Identifications for reasons I’m still confused about. I figured I wouldn’t question it though because who wouldn’t want a foreign identification? I’m very excited. (I think it has to do something with reentering the country for those who were curious.)

Anyways, the office where we have to get these IDs is obviously government-run, and from what I’ve gathered in class and at the dinner table, government workers are not paid very well. Minimum wage here is 225,000 Chilean Pesos which roughly translates to 320 US Dollars a month. People working on minimum wage, which is a large percentage of the population (especially immigrants), are making $320 a month. Translating that to trying to send kids to college makes strikes at places like the ID office completely understandable. Even if these folks aren’t on minimum wage, I can imagine they still aren’t making enough to support a family.

Because of all of this, the ID office was on strike for a week. This strike was more enjoyable to watch though because there was a human blockade outside of the office for the first day with workers holding signs and chanting songs I couldn’t understand.

To the gringos, it isn’t that expensive here to get an empanada or a bus ticket, but if you’re making a fourth of what US minimum wage workers make, it could seem that everything is incredibly expensive.

Paro Tres (Strike Three)

Here we are at our third strike in four weeks; the only mode of transportation decided to go on strike.

A day without transportation. All micros (buses) went on strike for the same reasons as the ID office. “Well, Marie, just take the metro!” Great idea, reader! However, the metro has recently been demolished due to the semi-hurricane we had last weekend.

The Chilean laid-back mentality was, “Just don’t go to classes tomorrow. It’s not worth it.” Whereas many of us gringos are having panic attacks in our bedrooms the night before trying to figure out how to get to school four and a half miles away.

Options were plentiful—use one of the hundreds of stray dogs as a horse or by swim our way to the other side of the port.

Spoiler alert: I decided to walk. After nine miles and three hours worth of walking along the beach in “winter” (63 degrees that day) to get to class and back, I arrived home, crashed on my bed, and fell asleep without a second thought.

These paros are exceptionally frustrating, but if there weren’t any strikes, would I really be studying in Chile? Regardless of how many paros try to interfere with our studying abroad, how could anyone ever possibly be angry at a city when it looks like this?

Wide view of Valparaiso

View of the city

Marie Kalas - immersing herself in Chilean language and community


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