FAQ Part II

During this time of transition from studying in Spain to moving back and starting my summer internship on The Hill, much like last year I’ve been getting a sínfin of questions, so I figured a Part II would be appreciated.

What was the biggest difference in Spain?

If we’re not counting the foreign language part, the biggest adjustment was actually their daily schedule. Eating lunch at 3 PM and dinner at 10 PM with my host family for the first two weeks was a struggle. One day I forgot to bring a snack for the morning and during the last half hour of class I could barely focus or speak because my stomach hurt so much. (So how millions of children manage to go to school without breakfast every day, I have no idea). Once I moved into my own apartment it wasn’t so bad but I still had class until 2 so there was no way around that. After 10 months though I still don’t feel like eating lunch until 1 PM at the earliest, and I’ll eat dinner closer to 8. Never at 10 PM. Never again. Oh, and pretty much everything was closed 2-4 every day and all day on Sundays and I kept forgetting until I would walk up to a closed shop.

What was your favorite part?

This could go in a million different directions. Favorite city: Santander (might be biased). Favorite place to visit: wherever I have family (Dublin, Northampton, Paris, etc.) ((again, might be biased)). Favorite trip: spending two weeks during Christmas with my aunt and uncle in England. Favorite trip not to see family: Rome (probably because it was during Holy Week…biased?). Favorite trip not during Holy Week: I was very happily surprised by Krákow. Favorite tourist site: La Sagrada Familia, which is what originally inspired me to become an architect (then turned civil engineer). Favorite thing I learned: Spanish (of course). Favorite Spanish food: croquetas. Favorite non-Spanish food: this one particular brand of hummus. Favorite store: Primark. Favorite part of living in Spain: First, that I was much much closer to my extended family, so I was able to visit more often. Second, life is truly less stressful. People thoroughly understand the need to balance work and relaxation.

What was the most difficult part?

Trying to get anything done logistically. E.g. voting from abroad, opening a bank account, getting a class approved, applying for internships from abroad, etc. I’ll be writing a whole other post on this, just you wait.

What did you miss the most from the U.S.?

Honestly, probably my dog. I was able to stay in touch with my friends and family (probably more so than when I’m at Cornell because I had much more free time and flexibility in Spain) but my dog isn’t smart enough to recognize that the noise coming from the phone or the face on the screen is any sort of living being. Granted, the same goes for when I’m at Cornell, but normally I’m home for a month at Christmas, so it was just a long stretch of time without seeing him at all.

What was the hardest part about leaving?

María. 100%. (If you’re unfamiliar with the name, I also call her my niña, my Spanish mini-me, and the coolest 12-year-old I’ve ever met. She shares my affinity for baking, sea otters and platypodes, foreign languages, the color purple, and chocolate).

Are you fluent now?

Officially, no; technically, close enough. According to the international standard for fluency (set by Cambridge for English, Instituto Cervantes for Spanish) I am currently at level C1 in Spanish, which is normally labeled “proficient,” whereas C2 would be considered “fluent.” I actually decided to take the C1 exam in NYC last week, so if I pass I’ll get my Spanish certificate, which is really just a more official way of saying “yo hablo español” and will hopefully help me out if I apply for jobs in other (possibly Spanish-speaking) countries. BUT if by “fluent” you mean “can you read the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish?” the answer is yes. Many people laughed or gave me weird looks when I mentioned that I’ve been re-reading HP in Spanish, but look who has a kick-butt vocabulary now!

Does that mean you’re bilingual?

Now instead of speaking two languages, or even one and a half, I feel like I don’t fully speak either anymore haha. One time I was writing an email and I wrote “I standed” and, truth be told, I would never have noticed anything wrong if that red underline hadn’t shown up. Even so, it took me a solid minute of wracking my brain to figure out why it was considered incorrect. Also, a lot of bilingual people will remember a word in one language but not the other. This has happened to me before, but sometimes I can’t think of the word in either language. However, there is also the increasingly frequent occasion in which I feel like the Spanish word actually expresses what I want to say better than the English, even if there’s technically a direct translation. So honestly, I don’t even know…

Have you dreamt in Spanish?

Yes, but my level of comprehension and speaking is exactly the same as it is in real life. I still have to think a little more when I want to say something and I still make some mistakes.

Are you now going to be one of those annoying people who randomly drops foreign words in casual conversation?

Yes. Hopefully not all the time, but yes. My sincerest apologies.

Are you excited for the upcoming year?

Except for the part about being really stressed out about classes, absolutely! Even though my year abroad in Bolivia and Spain is over, I am no less excited for what’s to come because even if it’s not in the extranjero, it will be no less of an adventure and a challenge.

What are you doing this summer?

I am the Architectural/Structural intern for Cornell Facilities Engineering! This means that I help perform and check calculations, check that designs are up to date with the most recent safety codes, inspect roofs, explore places that I wouldn’t be allowed to go otherwise, update measurements on official drawings, and write up Quick Responses (recommendations for smaller scale repairs). I LOVE my job and if I could forgo my last year of classes and just continue working there until I graduate I absolutely would.

What do you do at your job?

Within Cornell FE is the Architectural/Structural team made up of seven people (including me) and my job is to provide support for whatever projects are underway at any given moment. I draw up plans, update existing ones, help with surveying land, perform calculations (e.g. check how many bolts we need, what size, and how far apart), double check others’ calcs, write up Quick Responses (analysis summaries and repair instructions for smaller scale things), and this week I was entrusted with supervising a concrete pour in making checking the specifications of the mix, placing curing blankets correctly, observing any bumps in the road (figuratively, not literallly), and taking notes and photos of everything.

Do you like your job?

No, I LOVE it. There are always so many different projects happening at once that it’s never boring and I get to spend 30-50% of my time on site visits, inspections, etc. So it’s a 9-5 job (actually 8-4:30 but close enough) but I get to spend so much time out and about and interacting with other people, which I love. The vast majority of my coworkers are adult males, and until last week I was the only female on my team. I think throwing in a 21-year-old female college student really spices  up the mix, especially during our section meetings, because everyone tells me they love the “energy and enthusiasm” I bring. And the homemade baked goods of course 😉

How is being back at Cornell after so long?

It’s definitely a little weird, in part because I keep saying “last year” referring to sophomore year and I completely forget that there existed a year at Cornell between then and now. But it’s actually mostly due to the fact that it’s summer so there are very few people around, I’m not taking classes at odd hours of the day, I’m living in a new place (love that too), I’m not constantly stressed out, and it’s consistently warm. So it looks like Cornell, but doesn’t really feel like Cornell. Regardless, I’m really glad to be back and have the opportunity to enjoy all the great outdoorsy things Ithaca has to offer; something so often overlooked amidst the craziness of semesters and lost in the freeze of winter.

What do you plan to do once you graduate?

Normally when I try to think about this I end up with a headache.

Well, what are some options you’re considering?

Getting my masters (even though the thought of more stress school after graduation makes my stomach churn), volunteering with the Peace Corps, taking a gap year to volunteer in some other way, getting a regular job in the U.S. (not in NYC), working in Europe for a bit (I just applied for my Irish passport), or working in Chile for a bit (I have family there and am technically a citizen anyway). But I won’t be meeting with my advisor until August sooooo no one really knows right now.

Do you still want to be a missionary?

Yes. Whether I end up finding a way to do mission work (e.g. what we did in Bolivia except not necessarily a bridge and not necessarily in Bolivia) full time or if I work a normal job for most of the year and take time off to do mission work, at this point at least, it’s still what I see myself doing with my life.

I hope that’s an adequate update on my life’s shenanigans. If you’re in Ithaca let me know, I’ll be here ’til Christmas pretty much, and if you’re in Florida…welp I won’t be back until Christmas. Hasta luego!

 

Bridge Building, Baby Goats, and Bolivian UNO

“So. What did you guys…do…exactly?”

Excellent question! To give you an idea of each day’s shenanigans (the struggles, the triumphs, the siestas), here’s an overview of a typical work day:

7:00 AM My first alarm goes off.I’m already awake but still too tired and cold to get out of my cozy sleeping bag. No one else’s alarm has gone off yet but Nathalie, the earliest bird I’ve ever met, is already up and off doing something.

7:15 AM My second alarm goes off and so begins the most difficult 15 seconds of my entire day: unzipping my nice warm sleeping bag, wiggling out of my blankets, and attempting not to fall off my top bunk while getting down.

7:25 AM I walk in the dining room where Nathalie, Joe, and Anna are already waiting for breakfast. Most of us used this time to catch up on journaling, filling out daily forms, and going over anything necessary for the day. Everyone else trickles in by the time the cooks put breakfast on the table (except Mario. Mario is always exceptionally late).

8:00 AM In the beginning breakfast was supposed to be at 7:30, but the cooks would always wait until the whole team was sitting at the table before bringing it out, which was normally closer to 8, so that became the new breakfast time. We would have either oatmeal, rice soup, or apple quinoa soup; scrambled eggs, goat cheese, or hard boiled eggs; bananas or oranges, and bread with jam and margarine were a staple at every meal.

8:30 AM First mobilization of the day! As soon as everyone gathers any required tools from the tool room and congregates outside (trying to soak up the sunlight because it was so cold) we all walk over to the bridge site together.

8:35 AM Pre-work chat. Basically it’s so cold at this point that no one is particularly motivated to start working so we talk with the masons about the plan for the day and the community members assigned to work for the day check in with the masons.

9:00 AM Tasks are assigned, tools and materials are gathered, and we start work. Many common tasks (depending on what stage we’re on in the construction process) include picking/digging excavations, mixing concrete, wheelbarrowing materials, cutting and painting rebar, cutting wood, and torque wrenching allllll the lag screws.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10:30 AM Mid-morning siesta. In other words, the 20 minutes during which if you attempt to do anything productive you’ll be bombarded with “¡descansa, descansa!” (“rest, rest!”) from the community members nestled between giant piles of dirt in the shade.

12:30 PM Lunch time! A typical lunch, the largest meal of the day, consists of soup (normally vegetable, my favorite), rice, and some sort of meat or stew with vegetables and lots of potatoes. My favorite days, however, were pasta days, served with meat and sauce and sometime, on my favorite favorite days, shredded goat cheese.

1:10 PM Siesta time! Some people nap the whole time but I like to sit in the sun and read. The only problem was that it would get really hot in the sun but it was also too cold in the shade. It was a struggle.

2:00 PM Second mobilization of the day, courtesy of Nathalie. Back to the worksite!

6:00 PM* The end of the work day and post-work chat. As soon as the sun sets behind the mountains around 5:30 it gets really cold and really dark. Really fast. There were several days throughout the trip when we would work a little later, and even adding just 15-20 minutes more meant walking back to El Alfar almost needing a headlamp to get there.

*The exception to this is Fridays when we would end around 5:15, eat dinner at 6:00, and attend the weekly community meeting at 7:00.

7:00 PM Dinner time generally consists of rice with some sort of meat or stew, kind of like lunch. A group favorite was rice, a fried egg, and fried plantains. After dinner many nights we would sit around and chat, play card games, and occasionally all 8 of us would squeeze into two beds in the girl’s room (much warmer that way) and play games like contact and mafia. Eventually we would all drift off to our own beds, some of us journaled each night, and most of us would read before going to bed.

10:30 PM Ricardo’s (our in-country project manager) prescribed bed time. Although sometimes we went to sleep as early as 9 PM or as late as 1 AM (which will not sound late at all to college students, but after doing manual labor for 7-8 hours and having to get up at 7 AM each day, that’s pretty late, so hush).

For Funsies…

As you can imagine 8 weeks is a long time (nearly an entire summer in fact), so we definitely had to keep ourselves entertained. What did we do to avoid death by boredom you ask?

  • Bolivian UNO – As I’ve dubbed it, our collective favorite card game. So you start with regular UNO, but then make it Korean** UNO (rules 1-3), which Sam introduced to us, and then add Anna’s game “spin the pig, tell me the truth…” (rule 4). Essentially you play UNO as usual with just a few added rules:
    1. You can “bent knee” a card at any time, meaning if someone plays a card and you have the exact same card (i.e. same number and color) then you can play your card and say “bent knee,” and the round continues with whoever is after you (skipping whoever is between you and whoever played the original card). If it’s your turn anyway and you bent knee the current card, you may also play an additional card
    2. While the cards being played are red, you can’t speak or make any verbal noise. If you do, you draw one card for each time you make a sound. (If you have to say “uno” just hold up one finger so everyone knows)
    3. If any 8 is played, everyone puts their hand on the deck and the last person to do so draws one card.
    4. Any time a draw 4 wild card is played, whoever played the card spins a small pink plastic pig*** and whoever the pig points to is asked a question (any question) that he/she must answer fully and truthfully
  • Werewolf (essentially Mafia except with werewolves, masons, minions, etc. and only one “night”)
  • Contact – We even played in Spanish near the end of the trip!
  • President/Scum
  • Storytime with Sam! – Normally involving certain little ducklings and chocolate bunnies
  • Yoga – We attempted one day after work during the first week when everyone was sore, instructed by yours truly
  • Pre-dinner Abs – Most of the girls decided to build some muscle sometimes before dinner, because ya know it’s not like we were doing manual labor for 7-8 hours a day

13988182_1016388845127120_3918940805863769241_o

  • Soccer/Basketball – every Sunday around 5 PM we would walk to the cancha and play a pick-up game with whoever happened to be there
  • Walks/Hikes – Sometimes before dinner we would walk to the tiendita in town, we went hiking a few times, up mountains and once we attempted a mountain ridge that was pretty much all shale (imagine climbing up a very steep slope of rainbow sprinkles…traction = 0%)
  • Iron Chef, Bolivian edition – Since we didn’t typically have desserts or sweet things, we decided to have a competition where we all made a dessert or drink using only ingredients we could find in the local market. We ended up with everything from mimosas to cheesecake to spiced wine to tres leches cake.
  • Fiestas – We became facebook famous in the region when we were asked to perform the traditional dance in Calcha’s festival, and then Vitichi asked us to do the same for their festival. We were basically local celebrities.
  • Fooooood – On occasion, the incredibly generous community members would make food for us, including a goat BBQ for lunch on the worksite and Buñuelos with cinnamon milk before a weekly community meeting.
  • Hang outs with community members – were invited to tea at Gustavo’s and Delfina’s, and we often received spontaneous invitations to parties whenever we walked somewhere at night
  • Vitichi – There was a market every Sunday and we even saw a parade once! We also stayed in a hostal for a night, just to take a much needed break during our last weeks of construction.
  • Baby Goats!! –  David invited us to go with him to a family’s rural home to see all their goats (while he collected their poop to use for manure)
  • Other Miscellaneous Shenanigans of the sort

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

**It may or may not actually be Korean. Sam simply told us that his family hosted a Korean exchange student once and he/she introduced them to the modified version.
***We didn’t have a bottle so we used a small pink plastic pig that we got from a Bolivian (packing-peanut-ey) snack bag

 

The Dream Team

This past summer, along with 7 other students from Cornell’s Engineers Without Borders team, I traveled to Calcha, Bolivia for 8 weeks. We built a suspended (hanging) pedestrian bridge that gives the community easier and safer access to their farmland across the Vitichi River. This bridge is vital because during the rainy season (approximately Oct.-Apr.) the river swells to the point where it’s nearly uncrossable and the villagers are unable to reach their crops; their only viable source of food and income. In addition to constructing the bridge we performed further assessment tests and are in the process of designing and implementing a water filtration and storage system that will provide reliable long-term access to clean water during the dry season. EWB-Cornell and our professional mentors partner with Calcha to make these projects a reality to revitalize the community and save it from possible abandonment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been home for about 3 days now. I’ve taken more showers than I used to take in a week, my skin has reverted from dry reptilian back to its normal mammalian, my hair is back to happy and curly because it no longer has to be strangled in two braids anymore, my arms and face seem to be a different race than the rest of me, my fingernails are now white instead of black, I don’t wake up with ice cold feet anymore, and I think I’ve finally shed even the most embedded layers of dust and cable grease.Thank goodness.

But now I don’t get to doodle with the kids anymore when the weekly meetings get boring, I can’t walk to the soccer field to find someone to play with us, no one tells me it’s time to “mobilize” twice a day every day, I don’t get to smile and nod when a sweet old lady tries to talk to me thinking that I speak Quechua, I can’t walk down the street saying “buen día” to everyone because I know them all by name, I don’t get to play 7 rounds of UNO in one night, or discuss the drama happening among the local dog population, or listen to a bedtime story about 3 ducklings and a chocolate bunny, or spend 10 minutes trying to find some unknown tool/material because the mason asked me for “el chiquito” (which could mean literally anything), and on top of all that, I’m missing my team.

IMG_6830
Piled in the car for several hours from Sucre airport to Calcha (the first of many many group selfies)
DSCN2875
Literally piled

 

The most important thing I learned this summer is that engineering isn’t actually about engineering; it’s about the people you’re working with and for. Focusing on the “with,” I don’t think you could’ve found another set of 8 personalities that were more divergent than ours, but we were unbelievably lucky that our team meshed together so perfectly. By the end I felt like I had 7 siblings with whom I got to work, play, and travel with every day. That said, let me introduce (as one of our mentors Sam appropriately dubbed us) the “team of the millennium”:

Anna: The baby of the team (a rising sophomore) and one of our two beloved Colombians. I actually ended up spending 24 hours at her house with her parents in Miami when I got stuck there because I missed the flight to La Paz by 2 minutes (not my fault, that is another story entirely). She is funny, genuine, and a real sweetheart. She was also our health and safety officer (basically the band-aid police) so I hit her up quite often.

Bethany: A saving grace when it came to being impartial and patient, keeping calm in frustrating situations, and volunteering when clearly no one else wanted to. She’s very compassionate and always concerned about the well-being of others. Bethany was also Susan’s trusty water project assistant.

Joe: He hates spoons and saliva. That’s really all you need to know (kidding, haha sorry Joe ;)). He is the Go Pro master, Quality Control extrodinaire (aka cement bag counter), and most importantly, the margarine king. Oh and he also never wears sunscreen so his face and arms are actually a different race than the rest of him.

Jon: The only real adult on our team (Class of 2016, congrats!) because he has a real adult job* in Nicaragua in the fall. Jon is the quietest, calmest, zen-est, and least-likely-to-have-murderous-tendencies-towards-you-if-you-vomit-all-over-his-stuff-est. He’s a hard worker, slow and steady and persistent, and has a huge heart. (*Jon has to raise money to be able to work at his non-profit in Nicaragua so if you’re interested in financially supporting him in his endeavors to help others, please see his message at the bottom of this post)

Mario: The best of the best when it comes to immune systems (probably from living in Colombia for half his life), our de facto team translator and community representative, and my personal insanity prevention person when we waited two hours in the Church for the Catholic mass to start. Mario is known for going into town on official business and getting sucked into parties, so he’s now bros with all the community members. ALL of them. He also probably took more showers over the two months than the rest of us put together.

Nathalie: The bridge team leader who spent the most sleepless nights doing calculations, writing banal bureaucratic reports, and prepping for travel. She’s the most upbeat, sunshiney, morning person of the team, always ready to mobilize us right on time. She also has a superior immune system, being one of the only ones to remain vomit free (since ’93! haha) for the duration of the trip. Nathalie’s main task was to constantly make sure that the rest of us didn’t mess everything up. Hahahahahaha…but seriously. I wish I were joking.

Susan: The mastermind behind every logistic of the trip and our water sanitation and distribution project expert (the other project our team is also working on). She is the most dog friendly, strong willed, and bravest team member in the sense that she knew almost zero spanish before the trip. Despite the two of us being very different people, we bonded over a surprising number of commonalities, especially not understanding why it appears to be physically impossible for most young males to take off a sweatshirt without consequently pulling off their entire shirt. STAHP. PLEASE.

Sam: There were only 8 students, but really our team was 9 because we would’ve been so lost without our mentor Samuel along with his old and wizened 24 years of life experience, his gnomie socks, and snazzy get-well-soon pants. While we had three different mentors at different points in the trip, Sam was there for the most difficult part of construction, he was there for the longest period of time (one month), and he balanced being our friend and being our mentor so perfectly. He was all smiles and sunshine, all 5 feet and 6 inches of him, all the time.

20160724_225445
SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM! Mere hours from departing/abandoning us

I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing team, and I must say, *cue British accent* ’twas even better than summering in the Hamptons.

 

 

A message from Jon: “I’m raising money for my internship in Nicaragua this fall to cover transportation and living expenses. If you’re interested in financially contributing, you can go to http://emiworld.org/donate.php and click either Create Account or Make One-Time Donation. On the donation page under “Select Category” pick “Interns (Select name below)” and pick “Mabuni, Jonathan – 3215″ to ensure the donation gets credited to my account. E-check is recommended to avoid credit card fees. If you’ve got any questions or want to receive updates, you can shoot me a fb message or email (jonathan.mabuni@gmail.com) and I’ll try to respond as soon as I can.Thank you to all who have responded so far!”

FAQ

As you may already know, this next year is going to be my craziest yet. A crazy year meaning a “sometimes-I-question-why-I’m-doing-all-this-but-it’s-going-to-be-amazing” year. So naturally, this past semester when people started asking about my plans for the summer/next year I was subsequently bombarded with a multitude of questions, to some of which I didn’t even know the answers yet. Although it’s been a few months and after answering the same questions, I think I’ve finally got it all down pat. So if you haven’t already heard my whole spiel, brace yourself, the suspense is over!

Q: Meriel, what are you doing this summer?

(short) A: I will be spending 8 weeks in Calcha, Bolivia with my project team, Engineers Without Borders, constructing the suspended footbridge that we have been working on for the past two years.

(long) A: http://ewb.engineering.cornell.edu/

Q: Wow that’s super awesome! Will you be able to keep in touch with people while you’re there?

A: Probably not. I won’t be bringing my phone with me and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to use it in Calcha anyway. The plan is to drive to Potosí, one of the larger cities that has electricity/wifi, about once every two weeks so I may or may not be able to check my email. And even if I do have the opportunity…I may just not check :))))  I personally love spending time “off the grid” and away from the overwhelming connectivity.

Q: Fair enough. When do you leave?

A: I leave on June 10th and arrive back in the U.S. on August 8th.

Q: So you’ll be there for essentially the whole summer?

A: Yes.

Q: Ok, so I’ll see you when you get back, right?

(Melbourne) A: I’ll be in Melbourne from the 8th until somewhere around the 20th so if that’s where you’re at within that timeframe, then definitely!

(Cornell) A: Unfortunately no because around the 20th I’m hopping on a plane to study abroad in Santander (northern coast of Spain) at the University of Cantabria.

Q: So you’re not going back to Cornell before going to Spain?

A: No.

Q: Ah ok. So you’re studying abroad for a semester?

A: Welllllll it’s actually for a year.

Q: THAT’S SUCH A LONG TIME!!! [not really a question but every person has kept me well informed]

A: Yes. Yes it is.

Q: But you’re coming home for Thanksgiving/Christmas*/Easter/Slope Day, right?

A: No, unfortunately. They don’t have Thanksgiving over there, the Christmas break isn’t long enough and I’ll have to study for finals anyway (because they’re after the break, which is super annoying). I honestly don’t  know if we have any sort of break in the spring. Exams aren’t even until the first week of June so there’s no chance of stopping by Cornell on the way home, and I hope to get an internship there over the summer anyway. Regardless, it’s too expensive to fly home for such short amounts of time, and I’ll only be there once so I want to make the most of it.

*I’ll be spending Christmas with my Aunt and Uncle who live in England though, so don’t worry, I’ll still be with family!

Q: Wow, that’s a long time. But you’re going to have so much fun. [see previous comment]

A: [I’m never really sure what to say to this because it feels more like a command than a statement… Yes I hope it will be fun, but I can’t imagine every waking moment getting lost in a foreign country, struggling through a foreign language, away from my family and friends, not knowing anyone, and staying on top of difficult classes will be sunshine, daisies, and rainbows. Goodness, I wish!]

Q: How is the visa process going?

A: As of May 27th I have my visa!! (To the people who asked me between January and May I told them it was the bane of my entire existence. But that’s another story entirely).

Q: You can travel all over Europe! Where are you going to go?

A: Actually, I don’t know how much traveling I’ll do. My mom’s side of the family lives in Ireland, England, and Scotland so if anything I’m going to visit there because the last time I saw most of them was 6 years ago. The only thing I’m dying to see in person is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I wrote a 10 page paper on it in my Modern Structures class freshman year and it’s hands-down the COOLEST building to have ever been built.

Q: Will I be able to contact you while you’re over there?

A: Yup! I’ll have to get a Spanish cell phone so I can’t call or text anyone in the U.S. but there’s always facebook message and email!

Q: Where will you be living?

A: I will be living in a homestay (with a family) for the first month, before real classes start and while I’m taking the required intensive Spanish class. Then I will hopefully find some friendly international students to rent an apartment with.

Q: What will you be studying?

A: Civil Engineering (my major). If you’re into specifics, I will be taking Intermediate Sold Mechanics (I think it’s like dynamics…or more statics maybe?), Computational Engineering (stats), and various Geotechnical, Foundational, and Coastal Engineering design classes.

Q: Are the classes in Spanish?

A: No, they’re in English (thank goodness). I can barely understand my engineering classes in English so I can’t even imagine trying to learn it all in Spanish haha 🙂

Q: How are you going to survive for a whole year?

A: Great question. When I find out I’ll let you know 😀

And the questions no one has asked me yet, but I ask myself almost every day:

Q: Am I nervous/scared?

A: Yes.

Q: Am I still going to go?

A: Absolutely.

Of course, these are the easy questions and these aren’t even all of them. And sometimes by the end of the conversation I get a “Wow Meriel, you sure seem to have your life figured out.” Rest assured, I do not. In fact, most days at school I feel like this:

doing-science-photo-u1

And when I’m not at school, I’m at home baking my heart out like:

ff923ad5eb83cbf4adb36a3099316c1d

#accurate