Chile Travels 1

 Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

On a personal level, my favorite thing about being able to study abroad in Chile is the opportunity to leave the city behind and get to know what really makes this country unique. Posted below are some pictures with highlights from a couple different places I’ve been.

This coastal city built along high hills that flow down into the Pacific Ocean has played an important role throughout Chile’s history. It hosts the Chilean Navy and preserves one of the homes of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet and nobel laureate. Between the awesomely cheap seafood and beautiful architecture and views I think it is one of my favorite places in Chile thus far.

San Jose de Maipó

Small town deep in the mountains southeast of Santiago. It allows access to a volcano and a number of different ranges high in the Andes, most of which are above the tree line. I arrived during a feria or market day and managed to get some shots of a couple small stalls. I was here just before independence day, so the Chilean flag was flying strong all around.

painting a picture of my life in Paris

]Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

Hello everyone!

This post was actually written on October 6th, 2012 but unable to be uploaded due to technical difficulties… I apologize.

It’s a little bit long but there’s too much stuff I wanted to talk about!!

So I’ve been in Paris for a bit over two months. I absolutely love everything about Paris, about Sciences Po, and about my experience so far. To give you a general idea of what I’ve been up to these past six weeks, I’ll break down this blog into sub-parts:

My Apartment:

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…is beautiful. I am really lucky to have found an apartment before getting to Paris; the apartment search is  literally a nightmare! I know people who had to live in hostels for two weeks before they found apartments. I live in the 8th arrondissement, which is a pretty central part of paris and I am close to everything; its a 40 minute walk to Sciences Po, about 20 minutes on the metro. It is very very small.. 14 squared meters.. It`s probably about the size of a dorm roo, in Elder or Allison at NU, maybe a liiiiittle bit bigger, and also has a counter with a sink and microwave and a small bathroom. And two little french style windows.

Welcome Program:

I got here about four days before the Welcome Program, so I had a few days to settle into my new apartment, set up my French bank account, French cell phone, and familiarize myself with the city that would be my home for the next 9 or 10 months.. The Welcome Program took place the last week of August, and it is somewhat similar to Wildcat Welcome at Northwestern. We had “methodology classes” during the day (mine were in French, but this depends on what language level you’re in) and then in the evenings they have what’s called “A Bar a Day”, which is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s just a great way to meet people and chill.

This is my idea of getting to know parisian cafes:

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It’s really easy to get around in Paris. The most common mode of transportation, I would say, is the metro. There are 14 metro lines and they all connect and they literally take you anywhere you need to go. And it’s super fast. Not even close to the El. However, the metro closes at 12:30am on weekdays and 1:30am on weekends, which can sometimes be a bit annoying to get home. So if you’re staying out past those times, you have a couple of options: 1) walk 2) take a cab (which can be impossible to find) 3) take a “Noctillien” night bus (but they run every 40 minutes and don’t go as many places as the day buses) or 4) Take the Velib!!! The Velib is awesome. It’s a bike-rental system all over the city. There’s a lot (I don’t know how many) of bike stations throughout Paris, and you can get a bike, ride it, and return it at the next bike station. It only costs 29 Euros for the whole year and it’s totally worth it, and it’s the cheapest way to get home at night. And it’s also an awesome way to get to know the city, riding around Paris. I also ride Velib to school some times when it’s nice —it’s faster than the metro. For example, it takes me about 20-25 minutes to get from my house to Sciences Po in metro, and about 15 minutes on the bike.

Sciences Po:

I could not be happier with Sciences Po, I love all of my courses and the people and everything it has to offer. I’ll sub-divide this section to talk about different aspects of Sciences Po

This is the entrance of ScPo, the day before welcome program started. I have not seen this street this empty since that day.. it’s always packed with students socializing and smoking

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So I am taking six courses (which is normal for Sciences Po). Each class meets once a week for 2 hours. One of those classes is a lecture course (cours magistral, which means that we also have a discussion section that meets for an additional 2 hours).

I am taking two classes in French and four in English—I figured I would start slow with the amount of French courses, since I am staying the whole year, and take more French courses next semester when I am more acclimated to Sciences Po and the style.

So the classes I am taking are:

Right or Wrong, Politics and Ethics (this is the big lecture course)

The Ethics of War (this is a ‘seminar course’ so it’s like 60 people, lecture-style)

Sciences de la paix, Sciences de la violence—sortir de la violence politique (another seminar, in French)

Sociology of Urban Relegation (small 20 person class)

Boundaries in Europe-Citizenship, Identity, and Immigration

Sociologie des enterprises criminelles


All of the professors are French, even for the courses that are taught in English. Most of the classes have a nice mix of French and international students, except for the big lecture course, which is all international students for some reason..

Unfortunately, Sciences Po does not have anything like CTECs, so when I chose my classes in July I just chose it based on the titles and the description. However, I am very impressed with the level of the professors—they are all so knowledgeable and are experts in their fields.


Evaluation Method:

The evaluation method is different than Northwestern. For all of my courses (except for Ethics of War), the grade is divided into three parts: 1) class participation 2) an exposé and 3) a “dissertation” or long essay.

Exposés are basically oral presentations, and Sciences Po places a lot of emphasis on these.



There’s a lot of students at Sciences Po, undergraduates, international students, and masters students all mixed in the same campus, sharing the same cafeteria, going out to the same parties. The college system at Sciences Po is a bit different, for French students at ScPo, it’s divided like this: 3 years of undergraduate and 2 years of master’s, where they choose the specialization. During their 3rd year, the French students are all required to go abroad. And international students (like me) come to fill their spots. There’s a lot of international students—about 800 I think.  So the French students in my classes are other undergraduate students, so they’re, for the most part, second years. I’ve also met a lot of master’s students, who are only one or two years older than me, and have just returned from their experiences abroad. Most of the people I’ve met are very friendly, and it’s very easy to get to know people if you try, in my opinion.


Student Associations:

There’s also a lot of Student Clubs at Sciences Po. The main ones are the BDE (Bureau des Eleves) and the AS (Association Sportif). They plan parties, weekend trips, etc etc. and they’re open to all students. I actually signed up for two sports classes, which I get ‘credit’ for (but I doubt Northwestern will allow me to transfer this credit….) I am taking a “gym-stretching” class and also tennis lessons. I’ve found that sports classes are a great way to meet other French students.

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I also went to Reims on a weekend trip with a student Association called “Stop and Go”, we went and stayed with students from the Sciences Po campus in Reims. We stopped in a place called Champillon where they make champagne:


So, I think that covers most of Sciences Po.


So far I’m loving my study abroad experience! I can’t believe I’ve already been here for a month and a half! I’ve already done two exposés and the school work just keeps piling up. Paris is magnificent, there’s always something to do.

And next weekend I am going to Italy (Bologna and Florence) to meet up with some Northwestern friends there!

Until next time!


Autumn travels

Lauren Tindal, Bocconi Exchance, Fall 2012

It’s October now, and that means rainy, chilly days in Milan. This past weekend was one I spent entirely in Milan, just sleeping in and wandering around the city by myself, since most exchange students were on a school Tuscany trip. It took a peaceful weekend here for me to really get into a rhythm, to start to do the simple things like getting a haircut, mailing postcards, and grocery shopping less sporadically. I’m definitely welcoming such a rhythm- it’s really nice to feel more at home here.

Anyhow, some brief descriptions of my travels so far!

Lake Como: A short, Sunday trip (an hour by train) was a great way to start traveling. It was a sunny day to relax, take in the views on a boat tour, and eat a panino and gelato as one should in any trip around Italy.

Cinque Terre: Cinque Terre is 5 mountain towns on the coast of the Mediterranean, connected by trains and hiking trails. Most people have seen some sort of picture of Cinque Terre; each town features a cluster of colorful houses on the mountainside, staggering along the incredibly blue sea. A trip to Cinque Terre is some sort of a right of passage for Bocconi Exchange students. Everyone goes, since it’s only a 2-3 hour train ride away. We hiked between towns, ate seafood, swam in the very salty Mediterranean, and stayed at a classically suspicious hostel which forced us to climb excessive amounts of stairs to our room. The views? I think the pictures (below) really do speak for themselves.

Oktoberfest: I attended Oktoberfest with 150 other eager Bocconi exchange students with our ESN program, which runs the social events here. We bussed there and back in one day, leaving Friday night, and arriving early Saturday morning. Basically I can sum Oktoberfest up in a string of words: sausage, candied apple, beer, beer garden, crowds, people, dirndls, carnival rides, rain, more beer, Munich sight seeing, whrilwind, proust! It was hectic, tiring, and completely ridiculous, but I’m so glad it was something I got to experience while here.

London: I loved London. It’s probably been my favorite trip so far, and I hope that someday I’ll go back. I met up with one of my good friends from NU and spent two days touring the city, which wasn’t nearly long enough. We were able to squeeze in seeing the London Eye, Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Soho district, and a bit of shopping near Regents Street. What I perhaps loved most about London was the simultaneous existence of the old and the new: the tours of the Tower and the Westminister Abbey highlighted London’s long history (which was really exciting for a nerd like me), emphasizing its past. Yet, walking around, the city is so alive. The buildings are built in such a grand, traditional fashion, but at the same time, the swarms of people bustling around them insist that city never really stands still. As my friend wisely said, it’s not difficult to imagine how J.K. Rowling imagined a world of magic in London. I think I’m already getting slightly nostalgic; I feel so lucky to have seen and felt that energy, even if just for two days.

These next two weeks are Midterm weeks at school, and as I only have one test, I’m visiting Rome and Florence next week  with another one of my best friends from NU. I can’t believe it’s the end of October almost, time is really flying by. More to come!



Lauren Tindal, Bocconi Exchance, Fall 2012

We were at Lake Como, a day trip for all the exchange students, sitting around under the umbrellas of yet another panini restaurant. Talks of majors, business school (Bocconi is mostly economics/business), and future plans came up.

“You Americans, you really do believe in the American dream,” said a girl from Hungary. “Here we are too pessimistic about our futures. You guys do dare to dream.”

It kind of sounds like I made this conversation up, but it was all too real. One of the most pronounced differences in Italian/European culture and American culture is our outlook on life. Italians are all for the short term; they live robustly, with vitality, indulging in the moment with drinks and apiritivos, sipping espressos and pastries, unconcerned about time and efficiency. Americans are the opposite. We fill our calendars with more events and activities than we can manage, discuss our daily stressors like trophies, and constantly look ahead to what’s coming next. It’s not that we cannot relax, but rather that, to relax, we have to feel we’ve accomplished something first. That’s not really an issue for Italians.

Despite the positives and negatives of both outlooks, this conversation made me realize how central American culture is to who I am. While I am in full support of all-you-can eat buffets by a pretty canal, it is also integral to my identity to believe in the idea that I can do anything I put my mind to. In a general sense, almost all Americans believe that if we work hard enough and fall into the right circumstances, we can achieve whatever we want to. In Europe it seems that’s not the case. The graduate students I’ve met here seem to be almost floating; they don’t seem to have a real idea of what they want to do with their lives, and most of them are at least 4 years older than me. There’s definitely a reason we call it the “American” dream rather than the “World” dream, good or bad.

The pictures that I’m including in this post are not those of the Duomo, the city center, or the castle this time. While those are of course, central to Milan’s identity as a city, they are not the whole story. Milan is bustling and lively, but an Italian city that seems to be struggling to adapt to the efficiency of modern times. Graffiti covers almost every park bench, wall, and subway train, almost visually illustrating the dissonance between the economic crisis here and a longtime culture of smelling the roses.

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Next post: All about travels! Pictures of Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Oktoberfest & London (this weekend!) to come.

Jump in

Lauren Tindal, Bocconi Exchance, Fall 2012

Study abroad, for me, was kind of like jumping into a pool. You wait and wait and wait, toes on the edge of the concrete. Then you go, and there’s that one moment of release, when you jump, eyes closed and nose plugged, hovering midair for the faintest second before plunging into the water.

Well. As I’ve dived into my pool of abroad, I can say that the discomfort of waiting and the dissonance of uncertainty are most definitely worth it.

The only way to describe my past two weeks is this: a whirlwind of sensory overload. Everyday I have bounced along, meeting new people, riding on trams whose destinations I didn’t understand, absorbing the graffiti amongst the Italian architecture. Things just kept coming: Fashion Night Out, pizza dinners, welcome cocktails, a 40 hour crash course in Italian, a trip to Lake Como. Here is a very short surface overview of Milan that’ll give some context for now:

Milan is an urban city, and my dorm is around 20 minutes away from Bocconi University, where I am attending school, and around 30/40 minutes away from the center of the city. The city is centered around the Duomo, the beautiful, tall, and iconic church in all the postcards. Surrounding it are strands and strands of shops, panini restaurants, and gelato oases. The cobble stone streets are clogged with people, sitting outside under umbrellas at cafes, or toting shopping bags from designer stores.

Though the Duomo is the hub of all congestion, the vitality of the city reverberates for miles. At night, most gather for apiritivo, a sort of Happy Hour that provides a drink and an all you can eat buffet for under 10 euro (!!!). Apiritivos can be found at almost every restaurant, dotted along the Navigli district (the canal area you’ll see if you google Milan) or around the Colonne, where people congregate in clumps for cheap drinks and gelato afterward.

The past two weeks have been an intense, fun, vacation-like experience, but now, as classes start on more than the syllabus and the days fall into a rhythm, I have to start organizing my life here. I’ve felt lightweight here so far, just kind of floating with the events, taking things as they come. It’s been lovely and I couldn’t ask for better, but I am ready to start living here and taking on a more active role in my daily life. If the past two weeks are any indication, I have much more to look forward to.

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School Life at PUC

 Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

Classes are split into modules, with 8 modules of 80 minutes each used as placeholders for classes. There is a universal hourlong break for lunch, although students can eat before or after the established. Microwaves are located all around the campus, as the majority of students commute from home with packed lunches (if they don’t simply return home for lunch).Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.18.17 PMLone microwave. Normally there are 3 or 4 in a single area.

There’s a daily mass held at the small chapel in the centre of campus. This, along with the status of various Christian religious figures dotting the grounds, reflect the Catholic roots of this university. Most free days (días feriados) at school are related to some religious occasion such as a saint’s day.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.18.26 PMI have class 4-5 times a week (depending on events scheduled, missing my first discussion on Friday is not too big a deal; my second discussion is repeated on Tuesday afternoon the same week). I take four courses (ramos), while the norm is 6.

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Heat transfer professor demonstrating a concept

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Thermodynamics – notice the cross at the top of the wall. There’s one in every classroom.

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My “slacker” schedule at PUC

My homestay is in Las Condes, which is a 40 to 75 min commute, depending on the day of the week. The reason for the discrepancy is due to the bus and metro being packed by people going to work (between 7 and 8:30AM) during the morning “rush hour”. Without a doubt, commuting to school has been the low point of the experience so far because of how time consuming it is.

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My best friend/worst enemy, depending on the time of day.

Based on what I’ve seen on campus, you can’t help but joke that modern Chilean culture loves to protest everything. From posters asking students to cease writing on tables to the near-weekly student protests demanding educational reform to the complaints about presumed corruption in the government, young Chileans have no problem venting their frustration. This is especially interesting considering how most middle aged and later adults are usually reserved about their concerns – some attribute this back to the time of the dictatorship. Nevertheless, the fact that so many people remain informed of the conditions in their country is admirable considering that the same does not necessarily occur in the US, much less Mexico.

On another note, the engineering students are some of the best organized on campus. They hold an engineer’s week each year with plenty of non-engineering activities like paintball, soccer, and this:

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The engineering section is also very nice.

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Oscillation & Things Like Leaving

Lauren Tindal, Bocconi Exchance, Fall 2012

The piles of sweaters and socks on my floor are stuffed into two large, looming suitcases, and my flight confirmation email calmly states (1 day until departure), in between confirmation codes and takeoff times. Even so, my trip abroad to Milan, Italy, isn’t entirely real to me yet. I’ve never been outside of the United States, and I just really don’t know what to expect. At the moment, my visions of Italy are limited to colored Vespas, the Lizzie McGuire Movie, and the always handy and totally informative Google image search.

In all honesty, I’ve been in a state of flux. I oscillate between being thrillingly nervous, exhilarated simply by the anticipation, and terrifyingly nervous, panicked about the existential unknown. Sometimes I excitedly picture myself walking around some European landscape á la Midnight in Paris, but other times I anxiously imagine the horror of navigating the Milanese airport in the company of my aforementioned bags, knowing zero Italian words. Most of the time, though, I can’t even really conceptualize what it will be like to be there. Will I be dazzled and delighted? How long will it take for me to settle in? Will I be lonely? Most importantly, why the heck are my only visualizations of the next four months from a Disney Channel show gone movie?

But in the end, this slew of essential questions doesn’t really matter. I’ve spent a decent amount of time packing my bags, but the really important moment is when I get to unpack them, somewhere completely new. Despite my existential (and realistic) fears, I’m pretty sure some pizza, awkwardness, confusion, laughter, trains, and new people await me across the Atlantic, not necessarily in that order. Italy, and all of my life surrounding it aren’t really a real thing to me yet, but they will be soon. Because Friday, when I crash on my bed in pure exhaustion, I won’t have to wonder anymore; the answers will be outside my door, when I wake up.

“Por la razón o la fuerza” – An Introduction to my Exchange at PUC

 Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

I’ve been in Chile for nearly four weeks and already I’ve learned more than I ever expected to. Let’s start with the basics. I’m currently in a homestay in Las Condes, a middle to upper middle class neighborhood to the east of the city centre.

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Map of the general area around my homestay. The other colored markers represent the homestays of friends.

I live with Grace  (another American exchange student from Notre Dame), la señora María Eugenia (my homestay mom), and her brother Carlos. I have a small room in the back of the house – it’s good I’m not claustrophobic.

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My room is sized such that I don’t waste too much space… but I do get my own bathroom!

I entered Chile on a Mexican tourist visa rather than an American student visa partly due to cost ($23 vs. $160) and partly due to a delayed FBI background report required to obtain a Chilean student visa.

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It really pays to have multiple passports.

This combined with my Mexican accent has led to an identity crisis when meeting Chileans. Saying I’m “México-Americano” usually results in a slightly mystified look. It also means that I am known as “Mike”, “Michael”, “Miguel”, “Paisa”, or “Gringo-Mexicano” to different people.

The Chilenismos haven’t been too bad yet, probably because they recognize my accent and fix up their Spanish accordingly… cachai? It’s not a perfect system, but it helps.

I’m here with three other exchange students – Matt Jones, Vanessa Bishop, and Sam Houskeeper, though we’re far from being the only foreigners here. PUC actually has a large number of exchange students from all over the world in attendance, making it easy to internationalize the exchange experience.

I’m taking 3 engineering courses and one bioethics course taught by an Austrian professor who travelled from Spain just to teach this class. Although heated rooms are something of a luxury at the university, it does have a lot of resources and is well taken care of considering the tuition for the student body (~$8000 per year). It should be noted that the average income of a Chilean family is significantly less than that of an American one, so the cost is most likely relative to what most families can afford.

I’ve begun to explore some of the sights in and around the city and can say with certainty that this place is awesome. The pictures below certainly back up that claim.

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“Love of power or the power of love?” Food for thought on the bus.

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La Moneda Presidential Palace

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Side street in La Ligua, 160 km northwest of Santiago


Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

I can’t believe this summer is almost over!  It’s already the third week of august and I still have not accomplished most of my goals for the summer—get a tan, exercise daily, …and practice French…

In just two weeks I will be attending classes at Sciences Po; I am taking 4 in English and 2 in French, which is why I had planned to review French grammar and practice conversation before I go. Although I did actually read a French newspaper a few times a week this summer, I do not feel prepared to enough to go to classes taught by French professors and write papers and take quizzes in French.

However, I am sure it’ll all work out and, after some time in Paris, I will become accustomed to the fast French and hopefully be able to carry on a conversation with classmates and other Parisians I come into contact with. Plus, I will be there for a year, which is a good amount of time to get to know the city, improve my language skills, and familiarize myself with the French lifestyle.

I was planning write down a set of goals I would like to accomplish by the end of my first semester abroad. But I decided to scratch that and enjoy every moment of my time abroad not being constricted by specific goal and strict objectives— I figured I’ll just go with the flow, set my own pace, and let the experience itself lead me to goals I couldn’t even have thought of myself. The only rules I am making for myself are to not be shy and not be lazy. That’s it. And we’ll go from there. If it doesn’t work out, I can always make goals for second semester!