Living la vida mendocina

Blog Nº 4

Mendoza, a city where you can see sidewalks being swept by gigantic palm tree leaves. One of the rare places where most all businesses are closed from 1-4/5 p.m. everyday. Where people drink less water and more yerba mate. After spending four and a half months in this Italian blooded city with more bodegas in the surrounding area than people in my hometown, I can now say that I have a second home, a second community. I had my own daily routine, knew the best short cuts and where to find my favorite pastries and cheapest bottle of wine. I felt confident while using the not-so-reliable public transport (okay, well 90% of the time), and now I can list off dozens of Argentine Spanish words and phrases that they definitely do not teach you in class—mind you, there are not all curse words, the majority are colloquial, mom.

I could go on to write what a “typical day” in Mendoza would be like, but I think I am going to just let myself ramble on about some of my favorite things that happened in Mendoza or what I noticed from time to time. Also, it’s been about two months, maybe more (definitely more), since I had last published anything—SORRY. And just when you thought that my blog had already gone to the graveyard where all the other neglected study abroad blogs go to die… HAHA! Well, NOT YET.  And yes, I am home in the States again, but that doesn’t mean I can’t reflect and keep writing!

Not really sure where to start… There was something that really reminded me of home: seeing people you know while walking down the street. After the first week was the beginning of the encounters. I thought it was just a coincidence the first two times, but after seeing a third person I knew walking down a random street I knew that there was no escaping the small town feel, but I was okay with that. It made me feel more comfortable, more a part of something.

One thing that we do not have a lot of in the US, or at least in the Midwest, or maybe just in Minnesota, because I’m not sure about Chicago… but anyway, we don’t have kioskos. Kioskos are basically just a tiny tiny store filled with sugary foods, pop and cigarettes but also where you can buy credit for your cellphone or bus card, maybe photocopy an entire textbook. Maybe it was the wide assortment of prepackaged alfajores that I loved so much about these kioskos. Honestly there were at least 15 different brands in one stand. Usually there is one per every block or two, but I had my favorite spots.


Apparently this alfajor has a cult following

I would just like to say that this semester was quite the test of my patience. I am referencing to the good ol’ Red Bus system that Mendoza has. Your prediction of the arrival of your micro (bus) or trolley was about as good as that of a weatherman—is it ever accurate? At times I would wait up to 45 minutes for my bus to arrive, even though they are meant to arrive every 15 minutes or so. And this plays a role in why it is okay to show up late to things to things in Argentina. Transportation is usually the reason why people show up late to class or events, not because they are lazy. But, I’m not going to lie, I’ve used the excuse that my micro was late when it was actually because I was taking my sweet time.

Something that I had noticed shortly before leaving is how cariñoso or loving everyone is in Argentina and how much I liked the idea of it. This was part of my daily life–the greetings with a kiss on the cheek, how there is no personal space bubble, and everyone and I mean EVERYONE has their own little nickname. And if someone doesn’t know your cute, little nickname, then they will call you with some other endearing word like pumpkin, sweetheart, or darling. Generally, every woman I have met here is like a mother figure, so loving and adorable—just like in a small Midwestern town.


Despedida dinner with some of the most loving women

Little things like the dinner table customs, every napkin I’ve seen is always folded into a triangle, a place mat for each person, all dishes are passed around family-style, everything and everyone in their place. But the best part, besides the delicious food, was sobremesa which is after the main meal & culturally very important. In English I guess it would translate to “table talk.” During sobremesa, everyone has a coffee or tea while dessert is served. Sobremesa happens mostly after lunches, we could talk the whole siesta time if we wished.  It was nice to just sit and relax, to be with family and friends while eating little sweet something.


A casual sobremesa with program kiddos 

I suppose, now that I’m home, looking back that my time in Mendoza was and probably will be the most relaxing time of my life—and I say this because people in retirement always look so busy, I don’t get it. I had to chance to take in the culture and sometimes I literally had to convince myself that sitting there and doing nothing was OKAY. I don’t think that I fully adjusted, but I definitely appreciated the laid back atmosphere, even though it stressed me out when I wanted to be proactive about things like school.


How the Argentine school systems made the US students feel–confused

I know I didn’t say all that I wanted to say. I honestly could write a novel, horribly written but nonetheless a novel about my time in Mendoza. It almost seems like I never went and that it was just a strange dream because here and there are such different places. What I do know for sure is that July 4th, 2016 will not be the last time that I’ll see my dear Mendoza.

I will be writing a few more stories in the coming weeks about my trips around the country and any other themes that pop up in my head. Cheers to my abbreviated summer vacation!

Give the pics a click…!

Wine, water & then some more wine

These last few weeks have been a little more rainy than usual, here in Mendoza, but that does not mean that the fun ceases for this squad of exchange students. IFSA is wonderful enough to arranged weekend excursions for our wonderful group of twelve students. Earlier in April, we got the chance to have a desgustación del vino at Bodega Zuccardi, a fairly popular, family-owned winery in Maipu, Mendoza that receives wine connoisseurs from all around the world. Later, you will read about our not-so-sunny two day trip to Cacheuta. Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves, as I accidently wrote a novel this time…

At 12 o’clock, midday, we started our sampling of three vino tintos (including a quite pricey bottle of Malbec) and one Chardonnay. Being college students we were quite amused with the fact that we would be “happy” before 5 p.m. We also had to opportunity to learn how to do an olive oil tasting after finishing with the wine—and let me tell you, it’s not exactly enjoyable to drink olive oil (p.s. Mendoza is also famous for its olive oil production, not just wine).

The meal we had after our desgustación was comparable to a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. There was Food. For. Days. It started out with picadas, which are slices of different types of ham, cheese, olives, tomatoes and lots of fresh bread and roll. Next, ham sandwiches and something like a fancy chicken nugget, the exact term escapes my mind… After that, lomitos—aka the best dang steak sandwich you will ever eat, with fresh tomatoes, homemade sauce, onions, etc. BUT, that wasn’t the end. After our lomitos were fresh peaches with whipping cream and trays of other fresh fruits. Finally, the lunch finishes with a cafecito (little coffees, it’s just cute to say) and tiny cookies. My stomach hurts just from typing all of this.

My group was a bunch of warriors though, we somehow resisted the food coma and rolled our way to the grape vineyards to check out where all the magic starts. We picked off Malbec grapes from the hanging trestles and soon learned that those grapes are really only good for making wine, much skin, little grape. It was then, too, when I found out how much of a photogenic group of students we are (I’ll attach a few pictures below). Overall, I’d say the Zuccardi excursion was a success.

April 9th was another adventure day for the IFSA students, but this time it would be an overnight in the mountains! Cacheuta is a small town, nestled in the Andes, just 40 minutes out of the city of Mendoza. This tiny village was once a booming railroad town, the last stop in Argentina before the route wound through the Andean pass to Chile. The railroad was discontinued in the early 70s, much similar to the railroad history of the United States. Cacheuta is also well known for their natural hot springs and Huarpes heritage.

Upon arrival, we dropped our bags off at our cabins and went straight to a restaurant called the La Estación for cafecitos and sweets to warm us up before we went on our hike. It was a bit of a bummer that we are living in a desert area, but when we want to be active and see things it has to be cold and rainy… Despite the conditions, we set off for our hike to the top of Feliz Cumpleaños peak. Our guide, Victor, told us about the history of Cacheuta during our hike and pointed out nearly every plant growing along the trail. These plants were very aromatic and many can be used for cooking, especially for spicing meats!

Damp and a little tired, we finally made it to the peak. And the view… nothing. It was a complete white out because of the low-lying clouds and rain. We didn’t mind, we still had fun. While making our way back down, “DJ Rico” was created. Maddi, a very goofy and creative friend of mine, started to make her own Spanish raps while I beatboxed. It easily was a highlight of the day and I made sure to get a video or two.

Here begins the absurd amounts of food. Oh, Argentina, your cuisine never seems to let me down!

We had beef stroganoff, lentils, and pastas for options at lunch and at dinner that evening, more meat, empanadas, and pasta. We had some really fancy appetizers: fresh bread with different types of spreads, including a rabbit and chickpea sauce. During the dinner we also had a wine tasting with every course. I felt like such an adult, or more like a poser adult because who am I kidding? To top it off, the lovely staff at the restaurant made sure we had dessert with every meal. One step closer to hypertension or diabetes..?

In between the two feasts there was a chance for us to go white water rafting on the Rio Mendoza. Our guides were hilarious and it was a really fun time. It was cloudy and quite cold, but in contrast the river water felt warmer. The water was also super clean, clean enough to drink! Here, we learned all the rafting commands, protocol, and got to wear some really flattering suits. I have never been rafting before, but I for sure want to do it again. We got to “pop a wheelie” and later jump out of our raft to float downriver. Needless to say, we all slept well that night after the full day we had.

The next day we were bussed to a little shop owned by a Swiss man who makes homemade mustards, jams, and liquors. Again, we sampled alcohol at noon. Argentina, I don’t understand you sometimes. All of the sweets and liquors were really delicious and I ended up purchasing a Dulce de Leche with hazelnuts—game changer. The group headed back for one last meal at La Estación. A delicious lunch consisting of pollo disco, a typical chicken stew with vegetables and simmered in wine and beer. The flavor was absolutely perfect. Once food coma was set in, it was time for our last event of our trip, the termas!

Nothing is nicer than relaxing in a hot tub… Unless that hot tub is a natural hot spring! It was amazing. We had the chance to sit outside in one of the many different spas, each having a certain temperature, and look out into the mountains. It was picture perfect, but unfortunately I don’t have the habit of bringing my camera into pools of water. I will just pull a picture off the Internet for you, because the views were spectacular.

So, there you have it, a look into what there is to do in my own backyard. Mendoza is a beautiful province, filled with so many recreational adventures and culinary experiences. I am truly blessed to have this opportunity and surround myself with the Mendozan culture. Call me biased but South American study abroad, to me, seems so different than a European abroad experience (well obviously, but let me explain). Here, the countries are not as many and not as close. We cannot jet set to another new place every weekend. I like it. I feel as if I am truly becoming a part of a community and have my home away from home. I love my host family, local friends, and study abroad crew. Here’s to four more months in South America! Chau Xx



“Go to class!”—dad

This past week and a half has been loco. Not to mention that I was home for just 36 hours only to set off on another cross country trip. First, I took a bus to Santiago, Chile to go to Lollapalooza and four days later I boarded a bus to Buenos Aires for Easter weekend. I am exhausted.

But first, a few things that I have learned & experienced during my first month here:

  • The people here are so kind
  • Mayonnaise is used on everything
  • I walk everywhere, sometimes because it’s quicker than the public transport…
  • Chilean Spanish is weird
  • Black coffee, what’s that?
  • Mendoza’s province motto: “La tierra del sol y del buen vino” “The land of sun and good wine”
  • Taking buses for travel is a great way to see the country
  • Ice cream is life
  • There are more than 1,200 bodegas in the province of Mendoza alone
  • Using subway systems is super easy (yes, even a small town girl can figure it out)
  • Alfajores and dulce de leche are also life
  • Lucky enough not to have my phone stolen yet *knocks on wood*
  • You either love reggaeton or you hate it

Back to the regular agenda… Before my semester abroad started I had contacted a previous IFSA-Butler student and fellow Tommie, Emily, asking for advice about studying in Mendoza and fun places to go and events to attend, etc. She had mentioned Lollapalooza for a weekend getaway. I looked at prices online a few months ago and was surprised to see that tickets for the entire festival weekend were less than half of what it would cost me in the U.S. After seeing that and the stellar lineup I knew it—I had to go. Once I found out that another Tommie and my own fraternity brother, Andrea, I decided to finally buy the ticket.

Everything worked out so well! I purchased a roundtrip bus ticket to Santiago from Mendoza, lucky enough to book the top, front seat of the coach (all coach buses here have two floors). I heard lots of great things about the bus ride to Chile since arriving here. If you are not so familiar with South American geography, to get to Santiago, Chile from Mendoza, you must cross the Andes since the mountain range divides the two countries. The pass was absolutely astounding. The vibrant colors of the red rocks in contrast with the baby blue sky and occasional snowcapped peaks was breathtaking.

Another great thing about the bus was the people. I was sitting across the aisle from two Mendocino brothers just a little older than me who were also going to Lollapalooza and next to me was a young Mendocina mother who was going to visit her parents in Santi. Talking with all of them made the seven hour bus ride much more bearable. But, my favorite part about the trip was when we had to go through customs at the border, one of the boys discovered I had packed a bottle of Malbec in my backpack and joked about opening it on the bus. I had explained that I was bringing it to Chile to share with my friend, but after customs it would be another four hours on the bus… (sorry mom!) Long story short, we opened the bottle of wine on the bus and the four of us shared a very cheap, surprisingly tasty bottle of wine. As a result, I now have three new Mendocino friends who all invited me over for an asado at their houses in the near future!

Andrea was kind enough to meet me at the busy bus terminal and bring me back to her home. She has been studying in Santiago since late July and lives in house full of international and Chilean students. It was so nice to see a familiar face and have a piece of Minnesota in South America (plus, she had dinner ready by the time we got to the house).

Lollapalooza itself was incredible. The lineup I was able to watch checked off at least eight or nine bands that I have wanted to see live in my lifetime. Click here for lineup!! Sorry Miehlisch’s, Snoop Dogg canceled.  Nonetheless I took tons of videos, especially of Eminem and Mumford & Sons, not to mention that I was two people away from TOUCHING THEIR LEADER SINGER. Close enough. To run around in the sun, surrounded by the mountains and your favorite bands made for a great weekend in Chile. Many thanks to Andrea and her lovely friends for making me feel at home, even though they may have made fun of my Argentine slang. ¡Che, boludo!

After navigating the subway alone at six in the morning, I surprisingly made it to my bus stop to Mendoza. I arrived at my house in Mendoza, napped, packed for Buenos Aires, and met up with a few IFSA students to catch up on weekend happenings. Tuesday I went to class for less than an hour, since I was the only student who showed up, and later that day I bought a last minute ticket to the big city on the same bus as Jessie, a fellow IFSA-er. (Don’t worry, class was canceled for the rest of the week). It was a fun whim and we were lucky enough to be able to sit next to each other and talk the whole night away.

The city was crazy upon arrival. Obama happened to be in Bs As the same day as us, meaning many roadways were shut down. In result, it took us an hour longer down tiny streets to get to our station. I couldn’t believe I was back in the city! I helped Jessie surprise her boyfriend at work and later that night I went to meet up with a hostel friend, Noemi, from my first week in Argentina. We ended up going to an open house featuring silent films projected on the apartment building next door, old fashioned ballads about Buenos Aires sang by the cutest old man, and watched tango dancers, too.

I had the chance to plan a mini-reunion with part of the Gringo Squad: Mel and Vil! We rented out an Airbnb in Palermo and made all of our meals there. We went out in our favorite spots, saw Fuerza Bruta (fully sick), and found the best ice cream places in town. Nicolo! It was so nice to be back with my girlies again. I wish them all the best in their travels to come. After my extended weekend in Bs As it was time to take a red-eye bus back to Mendoza for Easter Sunday. Now, I am bracing myself for a full week of class. What is school anyway?

For anyone who was wondering: yes, I have written postcards. No, I have not purchased the stamps yet (it’s been a month… ha). They will show up eventually. Also, it’s officially autumn here! Not missing the cold, muddy spring days in Minnesota.

I will be living a more “normal” life the next few weeks, I think. I will have time to write about Mendoza and life here in the city full of asequias. A blessed Easter and besitos from the South!

Xx, K

A.K.A. Kiki, a new nickname I’ve earned since no one can pronounce my name correctly here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HOLA. Sorry this took a month

So, here I am. I’ve been in Argentina one day shy of a month and it has taken me this long to purchase an adapter for my computer charger (I brought the wrong outlet adapter that was also labeled South America, but like Europe, one type does not suffice for the entire continent). ANYWAY, I am here in Mendoza and today is the third day of classes for me at la Universidad de Congreso. I have been taking a Spanish class with my program, IFSA-Butler for the last two weeks, but the Argentinian universities start this week and the next since it now the beginning of fall here.

This is the time where I embark on a great adventure, queue “I’m on top of the world” by Imagine Dragons. I have been dreaming of doing a semester abroad ever since my early years of high school, inspired by my globetrotting older sister, Meredith, with her adventures to Egypt and China. I chose to study in Mendoza, Argentina around this time last year. I wanted a place that was smaller, so I could focus on immersion and a have a more traditional city, less metropolitan.

I started my travels early on Wednesday the 17th of February with a bit of a snafu of the original plans. I made the decision to take the Rochester shuttle to MSP and start my independent travel a few hours early. After some phone calls to various family and friends I boarded a completely full flight to Atlanta. I had my last legit chips and salsa in the U.S. (as I have heard they are still trying to figure out how to make them edible here in Argentina) and before I knew it I was shoved into a very uncomfortable 747 bound to South America.

I had the luck to be seated next a middle-aged woman named Nicole, and I swear she was the closest thing to a saint for many reasons to follow. A little bit about Nicole: she lived abroad for almost her whole life, as her dad worked in the oil business. She was traveling to Argentina, Bariloche in particular, to visit her parents for five weeks. She has had different jobs here and there and doesn’t like to be tied down. She gave me a load of advice as we talked for nearly two hours at the beginning of our flight. I acquired important knowledge about the Do’s, Don’ts, and Must-sees in Argentina. Upon our arrival at Ezeiza International Airport she helped me catch a bus into the city and gave her final bit of advice. I don’t know if I will ever see her again, but I honestly was so lucky to have met this selfless woman.

When I booked my flight back in November I decided that I wanted to give myself a week to see Buenos Aires before my program started. I stayed at Hostel Suites Palermo, a nicer part of the city with lots of places to eat, nightlife and plenty of young people. I ended up making friends with a handful of international travelers! We eventually called ourselves the Gringo Squad. One girl in our group was a very sweet, very kind Argentine, Paula, from the northern part of the country. My first night that I stayed in the hostel Paula taught us all about yerba mate and the ritual behind it. Mate is like a loose leaf tea that is usually shared in a circle with you friends, or anyone really, and it facilitates conversation with the whole group—no phones or music allowed! This is how I got to know my fellow travelers, too. I’ll make sure to write a blog post about mate sometime.

The Gringo Squad had quite of bit of the world covered: Peru, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Finland and me (USA). Throughout my week in BA I visited the Recoleta Cemetery, mechanical flower, Parque Italia, San Telmo, the list could go on. One day in particular was wonderful. We went to drop off our friend, Vero, off at the airport in Puerto Madero and decided to have asado afterwards. The steak and roasted vegetables were wonderful; even the cheapest bottle of Malbec wine tasted fantastic. After lunch we were full of meat and felt as if we could pass out any minute from our food coma. We waddled to a park right across the street where there happened to be a free music festival. We decided to sit down, relax, and wait out our food babies.

Towards the end of my stay in Buenos Aires I grew more confident with the public transportation. Things like which taxis to take, asking for a flat rate, and using the Subte (Subway). The subway was a big accomplishment for me. I know that whenever I decide to go back to BA, I will be able to navigate quite well, even by foot since we did so much walking while there. BUT, I will never forget my first night in the city. (This is a great Segway…) I was with a Kiwi, Cam, and another traveler from Germany, Julia. Julia had local friends from earlier trips and we were invited to a Jazz bar to swing dance and have some drinks. We asked the hostel staff what bus was best to take to get to Avenida de Rivadavia since it was rather far. Turns out he gave us the incorrect bus number and we ended up in a very sketchy, poorly lit, absolutely no-one-on-the-street area of town. We asked the bus driver multiple times if the bus would take us to where we were hoping, he said yes—one thing that I learned here is that when bus drives say yes to something like that, it could take an hour+ to actually ARRIVE at to your destination if it is not the direct route initially. Uff da. We got off the bus to try and find the nearest stop to go back where we came from. And then it started to downpour. Three gringos running in the pouring rain. This is when I thought to myself: This is where it all ends. I am going to get mugged on my first night traveling alone in a foreign country. We are never going to make it back to the hostel. All hope is lost. Bleak, I know, but this moment only lasted for about a minute. We would be okay…? Long story short, a taxi driver took us to a stop for free because he knew we were NOT from here and told us which bus to take back. We got to Señor Duncan’s bar half past midnight.

The night was exponentially better once Cam and I put in an order for Neapolitan pizza and ordered a bottle of red wine. Later I showed Cam how to swing dance while Julia was dancing with her friends. Not long after I got asked to dance buy a local, and it was so fun! My first night I got back to the hostel around 4 a.m. which is considered turning in “early” if you are going out in Argentina. I did a lot in just my first day: airport, mate, jazz club.

Sorry for the tangent. I don’t always like to write chronologically. You should see my notes from class. A rather organized college student would have a heart attack if they saw them, I am sure. Also, please forgive me if I seem to be rambling in my writing. I haven’t written for a public audience since my high school journalism class. I do have many more stories about my first month in Argentina and just Buenos Aires alone. I am positive that I will bring them up at some point within the next five months. I do keep a personal journal with me at all times and am constantly writing.

I just want to take a moment to thank my ever-so supportive family for giving me the opportunity to “run away” for six months. I miss them so much already. My amazing friends and family made it hard to leave MN, but they will all be there when I return. Thanks for reading my first of many posts. I hope to update before Easter weekend!

Much Love, K


Shout out to my Gringo Squad: Mel, Vilma, Mark, Vero, Paula, Dan, Cam, Alonso. Miss you all!


Avenida de Julio


My international squad


One night we got an 80 pc. sushi dinner


Mechanical Flower designed by a BsAs Engineering student


Recoleta Cemetary where BsAs’s aristocrats are buried, including Evita Peron


Music festival




Mate time


My first meal in Argentina: Empanadas and Quilmes