More Delicious Food and Small Trips

Before I start talking about the small trips I made so far in Colombia, I want to mention all the delicious food I’ve tried so far. I have tried a marranito, lulado, champu, arrequipe, empanada colombiana, papa rellena, dedo de queso, and chicken flavored chips. A marranito is is a plantain snack stuffed with chicharron, pork rinds. A lulado is is a drink that mixes lulo, a fruit, with water, ice and sugar. A champú is a drink made out of a mix of corn and fruits. The only thing I did not really like was the champú . There was too many different flavors in that one drink for my liking.

We went to so many place in the span of two weeks. I’m impressed and glad that we got the opportunity! We went to Las tres cruces, El museo la terutlia, El gato del río y sus gatas and el zoologico de cali.

My housemates and I have traveled and explored Colombia a lot. we hiked to Las Tres Cruces. It was a long hiking route that lasted two hours. I was completely exhausted and pushed to hike under the sun. I had hiked before, but this was a lot more stamina based. It was necessary to stay hydrated at all times. I did find it interesting that whoever we encountered on the hike would say hello to us. Once again, the people are very friendly and respectful in Cali, Colombia. 

Las Tres Cruces

We went to el Museo La Tertulia, a well-known museum in Cali. In the museum, we saw a lot of Colombian art and one of the curators gave us more information about the art pieces. My favorite artist was Hernando Tejada because he created very controversial art pieces that went against the beliefs of the church. You can see one of his paintings below.  

Inside Museo La Tertulia

We also went to see el gato del río y sus gatas. It was really cool to see so many cats. I found it cool that there was one cat at first (el gato del río) and then there was Cali competition where they chose the other cats (las gatas). The big brown cat is el gato del río. The yellow cat is one of my favorite cats. All the cats have a biography describing their personalities. Specifically, this cat represents the culture and folklore of the Colombian people with pre-Columbian designs.  

El Gato del Río
Gata Ceremonial

I was also able to visit the zoo this week. I saw a lot of animals that I had not seen before. Honestly, I cannot rename them because they had weird names. I also saw flamingos pictured below. I noticed the zoo had its own cat too. I found it awesome that the zoo was not only about seeing the animals. The zoo has a lot of displays that explained global warming and the destruction of animal habitats in a fun and informative manner. I also went into a place where they had all the butterflies and they were all so beautiful and colorful. It was an amazing experience. 

Flamingos in the Cali Zoo
La Gata of the Zoo

Beginner’s Luck and Great Food

I don’t think I realized that I was going to be in Colombia for two months until I arrived in the Cartagena airport: Rafael Nunez International Airport! This was my first Colombian airport out of the three that I would stop at on June 02, 2019.

Cartagena, Colombia

As I was looking down from the airplane window, I noticed that this was not NYC anymore. From the sky, I could see the beauty of Cartagena. There were several umbrellas laid on the sand but not so many umbrellas where the beach seemed crowded. When I looked further from the coast, you could see urban business-like buildings but in some areas you saw towns with colorful and small houses. When I saw that I knew I was landing in a whole new place and I was thrilled!

I stepped out of the airplane and legitimately gasped. At that moment, it finally hit me that I was in Colombia and would be here for two months. I was so excited to start this new journey and explore this new country! I could not believe that I actually got the opportunity to travel, explore, and research in a new country. Then, I took an airplane to Bogota and finally an airplane to Cali. I didn’t get to see Bogota much but the Colombian culture was extremely present, even in the airport. While I was waiting for my flight to Cali. A crowd of passengers surrounded this one television that was showing a soccer game between Colombia and another team. The crowd made me feel the excitement and I felt like I was at the stadium and not at an airport. Even those who weren’t watching the game asked me or others around them if Colombia had made a goal or what happened in the game when the crowd made any type of noise. It was a feeling that can only be explained when you see Colombians watching a soccer.

I arrived in Cali at night, so I was not able to admire the city. However, I got lucky because the next day was a holiday and I was able to explore the city! June 3rd is a national holiday in Colombia called Ascension Day. That’s when I noticed that Colombian culture, government are really tied with Catholicism.

A week before arrived, I was assigned a parcera, a Colombian student who is supposed to help you with your transition into the country, the city, and Universidad del Valle. On this holiday, I got to meet her! She took my housemates and I to Unicentro, a popular mall within walking distance from where we live. We got food ans we started talking, She told us more about Colombia over some delicious Colombian food.

At Unicentro, I tried a Colombian arepa called la montañera. A montañera arepa is corn dough stuffed with chicharron (pork rind), lettuce, tomato, beans and rice. I had not tasted an arepa like this. The arepas I was used to only contained one ingredient. My parecera explained that since neither Colombia or Venezuela knew where the arepa had originated they added more ingredients to compete for which country had the best one. With the montañera arepa I had aguapanela, a traditional Colombian drink. It is made from hard sugar cane juice. It was just as a delicious as the arepa!

Montañera Arepa

SIDE NOTE: We ate the arepa and aguapanela for lunch. It was a really big meal for me but I noticed that was common. In Colombia they take lunch very seriously and they ate well and in big portion. I finally came to the right country to a good amount of delicious food 🙂

After we ate, we decided to walk to el Parque del Ingeniero, which was also at walking distance. As my parcera describes it, it was their Central Park. I defineitly agree. There were tons of people there. There were games for children like mini trampolines, ball pits, and the hamster balls. Children and adults also played soccer. Others were sitting eating food and drinking juice or beer. I got to try one of the foods they were eating a cholado. A cholado is a shaved ice blueberry juice topped with different fruits, condensed milk, and sometimes sweetened coconut shavings. You will not believe how ddelicious it is! You also will not believe how fresh and delicious fruits in Colombia are! I was delightfully surprised.


Overall, I noticed that Cali, Colombia was very similar to the two homes I have had and loved: New York City and the Dominican Republic. It was a mini version of New York city because of the public transportation, crazy taxi drivers, apartment complexes, malls, many stores, and large amount of people. Cali reminded me of the Dominican Republic because the people are so friendly, speak Spanish, the city is lively, and everyone loves dancing and eating plantains and cheese. I’m excited what this lovely city will bring me!

Pre-Departure Anxiety

It’s two weeks before I head out to New Zealand an I can feel the little girl in me bursting with excitement.

I always described my anxiety as a little girl stuck in my chest doing jumping jacks. At first, I thought she was a afraid. I realized that she is just excited for what’s to come.

After shifting my perspective from believing that I was anxious to excited, it has become much easier to get through my days. I’m not going to lie though, sometimes I randomly cry.. but I’m fine, I promise!

I guess it’s just the thought that I am about to be across the world… in a new country… by myself…..

Like….. who told me this was a good idea? Who said I was capable of living on my own for four months in a new environment?

I guess it’s the little girl in me.

Heading Out of the Country to Colombia

Hi! My name is Yohely Espiritusanto. I am currently conducting research at an international research in Cali, Colombia. The international research is Universidad del Valle Sede San Fernando. I am researching the correlation between viral diseases (Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya) and Guillain-Barr syndrome. Small side note: I am a Gilman Scholar and obtained a SUNY New Paltz scholarship to be able to do this study abroad program. On this blog, I will be recounting my adventures. I want to start this blog by explaining the process of preparing to get to Cali, Colombia.

I was worried, nervous, and confused! When I was packing for Colombia, I was not sure what to bring to Colombia. I had not studied abroad before, so I did not know what would be provided and what I had to supply. Also, thinking about all the things that I used in a day really worried me because I did not know how I was going to fit my life into two luggages. (In hindsight, I was one of the luckier people because two 50 pound luggages can fit a lot.)

I realized that I could not pack by myself and decided to ask advice from a friend that I knew that studied abroad for a year. My friend took me to several different stores and made sure that I had clothes for every possible weather that still reflected me. She also told me not to bring things such as sheets, hangers, towels, dishes, and etc. She mentioned that those would be provided. However, because I was stressed I brought sheets, hangers, and a towel. I regretted it! When I got to the apartment that I am staying with for two moths, I saw all of those things. Honestly, I ended up wasting luggage space by adding those extra items.

So genuinely, my advice would be to ask your friends who have studied abroad to give you advice on what to bring and listen to them. If your friend does not know, then shoot the people you are staying with an email. Lastly, another resource is to ask the international office to allow you to meet someone who has studied abroad and/or someone who has studied abroad in the country you are going to. The study abroad office at New Paltz is super helpful and I would not doubt that they could help ease your worries with things such as packing and other preparations before you go. Make sure to ask for help while preparing and ask as many people you know that are from the country about it. Do your research and ask questions to those who know!

PS. Do not forget to visit your friends before you go abroad. I assure you will miss them. But also remember they are one Whatsapp text, call, or video away.

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Final Chapter

It’s been about three months since I came back home from Ireland and a day hasn’t passed that I thank the lord I had the opportunity to go. I’m so happy with everything that I have learned. I have grown so much and learned to not let the small bad things affect me. It is ALWAYS better to look on the bright side of things.

I think we should walk the Earth every day as if we just arrived to it’s soil. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in NYC your whole life; act like your a tourist and I’m sure you’ll find something new you never knew existed. 

I say this because the truth is that we take for granted a lot of the great things that we have going on in our lives. [Take me as an example] I went to South Korea and fell in love with all of it’s wonders (I never ever was depressed or sad in the sparkling land). However, that left me feeling upset I did not live there. I began to hate the NYC subway and complained endlessly about how MY country was a trash can. I began to annoy all my friends because I was always BASHING the place they’d known to be amazing their entire lives. To be honest with you, I’d become a bitch who disliked everything that made her who she was, everything that even gave her the opportunity to go to South Korea in the first place.

Then I went to Ireland, and suddenly…. everything back in NYC was where all the hype was. I found myself missing the dirty old smelly subway. In the vein of honesty, the only that changed when I got the Ireland was the location. I was still just a bratty kid complaining and spreading negativity everywhere I went. And at some point…. all that negativity will come back and deck you square in the face.

And let me tell you from first-hand experience….that shit feeling you get when the negativity you’ve spread finally makes it’s way back to you is extremely painful and all-consuming.

So here’s a little trick I learned after I began my meditations in Ireland:

Whenever you start complaining or feel the urge to complain, splash some ice cold water in your face and come back to reality. There are people that are in worse situations than you are! Be grateful that you are still on the Earth alive and breathing. Go out for a walk and become one with all around you. Do what you gotta do.. just don’t be a dumbass like me and complain about things that you shouldn’t be complaining about. Take a shower, ya dumbass.


So to recap for everyone…..

My experience in Ireland was a life-changing one that needed to happen. Now, to answer some questions I know you may have:

Do I miss the easy academic courses? Yes

Do I miss the fun musical courses I took? Yes

Do I miss Ivon Roberts and his amazing soul? YES

Was Ireland an overall good experience? Yes

Would I go back there?

In the words of my wise and beautiful aunt… It is a good thing to have been there and learned that I could never live there. It is a good thing to know when my future man & I are ever thinking of re-locating to a different country. If he ever suggests Ireland, I’ll give him a strong NO. I think that countries with large amounts of sunlight are locations that I could move to and happily survive. Being in such a cold place has its perks but it just ain’t for me y’all. If you are dead-set on exploring Ireland though… I’d say to go in July and stay for a week. There isn’t much to do (in Limerick at least) so a week is enough to get everything you want to do done and have a fun experience. A 4 MONTH SEMESTER IS TOO LONG FOR THIS NYC GAL.

Long Story Short:





This has been “The Land of Ice Chronicles”.

I hope you enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you for listening.

This is Sammi signing off. I love each and every one of you

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Heading Home

(A quick sorry for the late updates; I’ve been busy here at home spending all my time with family & friends)

It is almost time to head home now and if I am being honest, I couldn’t be happier. This whole vacation has been a learning experience. It has been a pleasure to learn (even if it was THE HARD WAY) that negativity can bring your whole world crumbling down the same way that positivity can illuminate all of the darkness before you. It has been wonderful exploring the small town of Limerick these past few weeks. I’ve found beautiful flower beds, creatures, and greenery in places I walked by everyday and never noticed. Positivity really does open doors. It was a wonderful month of exploration BUT:

You can bet your ass I'm ready to go back home.

Like I said… it has been a great past month here. However, nothing beats the happiness one can obtain in the comfort of their own home. I’m excited to be home with my very best friend (my mom). I’m excited for my Abuela’s tasty food. I’m excited to hang out with my friends again. I’m excited for everything in NYC to be honest.

Now… Flash forward to my plane ride home

The plane is about to leave Shannon Airport and I am finding myself thinking about the boy with the pink and green aura. Just the thought of him dancing at the Stables Bar/Club bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. It just makes me so happy that Ivon came into my life. It is as if all the bath experiences I had in Ireland never happened; whenever I think of the lovely country… I think of his beautiful soul.

Listen to that voice. LISTEN! HE IS A LEGEND! (And, he just won a kpop talent competition. SUPPORT IVON! STAN IVON!

As the plane left Shannon Airport, I thought of how a piece of my heart would always be with Ivon. Thank you for everything that you do and everything that you are.

Fast Forward to arriving at JFK Airport

That flight felt like it lasted forever. I was slightly groggy but excited to see my mom. The minute I saw her, I dropped everything I was holding and threw myself on top of her. God, I missed her so much. I missed my mom so much. I felt so safe in her arms; I hadn’t felt this safe since the last time I saw her and I really missed the feeling. We headed to my Abuela’s house and has some delicious food. My entire family was also there to hug me and hear of my entire journey. It was one of those nights that I’ll never be able to forget. I love my crazy silly loud Spanish family and I’m really happy to be back with them.

Home Sweet Home

(Written July 26th, 1 month since Australia)

At last, I’ve made it through this long journey to make my way back home. Months of agonising have led to this point: return to the states, return to home, return to family and friends and the great wonders I once took for granted here. As the one chapter of my life has drawn to an end, it has shifted and made way for the beginning of another. Of course, I was extremely anxious about it all at first, when I only had several weeks in Australia left. But as I mentioned before, a certain calm came over me in my final days that everything would be fine, a heavenly reassurance that I could do this. Months of change had made me a new person, but how would that person adjust to a sudden return to “normal”?

All in all, I adjusted a lot quicker than I thought I would. Some things just didn’t seem right at first: cars driving on the right side, adding tip at the diner, and the surprising lack of accents I now deeply miss, all hitting me within about an hour of landing in New York. But overtime, I settled back into normality, and only made the mistake of driving on the left side of the road once or twice. The big things that define life here came back pretty quickly, but there’s definitely small parts of me that are still tuned to living in Melbourne. A month ago I could find myself taking a random trip into the city (Melbourne) within half an hour. Now, if I want to go the city (New York), it takes three hours (I could just drive a half hour to Albany, but Albany isn’t much compared to either Melbourne or NYC). I still find myself using slang and lingo that my family and friends don’t quite understand (“Macca’s” should be self-explanatory, but it just isn’t I guess). Living at home, oddly enough, has been the hardest thing to deal with. Having spent so much time on my own, instinct tells me to make food when I’m hungry, or that I need to clean up after my dirty roommate. But now, I don’t have to make, plan, or buy my meals, and I don’t have to worry about running the place all by myself. I wouldn’t say I miss buying groceries, cleaning toilets, and doing the dishes, but it just doesn’t feel quite right to not be doing it anymore.

My family was the one thing that I didn’t need much getting used to again. I’d been in pretty close contact with my parents and sister, and occasionally reach out to my grandparents or cousins, so for the most part I didn’t have to go telling everyone every little detail of my adventures. Of course, everyone wanted to see all the pictures I took, and there’s still the occasional story to tell, but overall it didn’t take much time to ‘catch up’. That’s the wonderful thing about family, I think: five months apart and you come back and you pick up the same conversation you had five months ago. That’s not to say things haven’t changed; they certainly have, and in more ways than I expected. My grandparents’ kitchen has new floor tiles, my one cousin’s voice has gotten deeper with hitting puberty, and my youngest cousin now looks more like an actual person than like a baby squish (to quote my sister). My sister’s graduated high school and is kind of an adult and I’m still not sure what to think of that. But all the same, we’re family and best friends, and that feeling of reuniting with her and my parents was so insanely heartwarming I can’t stop smiling when I think about it.

I’ve done quite a bit since being back: I’ve gone to car races on the Fourth of July weekend, gone camping, watched a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, and went to Massachusetts, among other things. Slowly but surely, I’ve been adjusting and returning to normality. Like I’ve said though, there really is no true return to ‘normal’. There can’t be. There’s a lot I miss about Australia. I miss friends, and random outings either with them or just by myself. I miss seeing the library and walking along the river. I miss the birds and the food and the locals. Getting off at Flinders Street, a milk run at Coles, grabbing some chips of ‘Lord of the Fries’. The independence, and no worries attitude. The ability to explore something new and unseen. But I guess, every day is a new day, with something unseen on the horizon. It’s all a matter of perspective. Maybe I’ll make it back to Australia. Maybe there’s more planned for me here. But whatever is on that horizon will be a beauty. And I can’t wait to see where it’ll take me.

Goodbye Australia

(Written 26th June, 1 hour before flight)

Well, I suppose this is it. I sit here now, with only an hour to go until I board flight AC038 to Vancouver. It’s a 15-hour flight, followed by a 5-and-a-half-hour flight to Toronto, and finally 54 minutes to La Guardia. I found the gate. I made it past security. I made it to the airport, and out of UniLodge. I have overcome every obstacle, every barrier preventing me from coming here and shaping me into a new and better person. I have climbed mountains to get to where I am today, and now, after many months of living a new life, I return to my life of old.

Australia has changed me in more ways than I can even imagine. I expected something big, finding the key to a grand treasure chest or the filling of a slot I’ve yearned to be truly full again. But instead, I think I’ve changed in many, little ways; ways that may not seem all that significant on their own but together have made me a new person. Amongst the great and many adventures and life changing events, there’s one calm moment that I believe shaped me the most. May 8th, around 9:30 at night, I stepped out of the rental car we took to the Outback. We’d come to see the Outback at night, watching the stars in a world without man’s interference. I knew the sight would be incredible, but I never expected it to be so full of light. God, you could see the entire galaxy out there. One star still pointed out to me, one brighter than all the others.

It wasn’t just the Outback, though it was easily most visible there. Walking through Salamanca Place in Hobart, or Circular Quay in Sydney, if you looked hard enough. The first night in Cairns, right after the rain had cleared. Philip Island, as penguins swam ashore, and on the beach along the Great Ocean Road after a semi-successful surfing lesson. On the walk back to UniLodge from the city, or laying in the grass on the Maribyrnong River. That one guiding light, always with me. I have to believe wholeheartedly that the same light that guided me through Australia will also guide me once I come home. It always has. Why wouldn’t it now?

The experiences I’ve had here may have been short, but their impact on me will last forever. I like to think that my time in Australia has made me a better person, that who I am leaving is a stronger, more confident person than the one who arrived. That the same light that guided me here will follow me home, and that I’ll continue to do everything possible to keep shining the light. I may not know the future, but I know my potential to make it the best it can possibly be. In truth, I’ve been fearful of return to normal ever since I first landed. But I guess, when you think about it, there is no return to my old life. Life doesn’t move you backwards; it moves you forward. Maybe I don’t know what’s beyond this airport. Maybe I do. But whatever happens next will help build an even newer life, a new chapter even greater than this where finally, I find out who I really am and what I’m meant to be.

Australia Study Abroad Video!

I have never been one to really express my self through words however I think this video does a nice job of summing up my time in Australia. Beautiful, spectacular, and life changing.