Today I had my pre-departure orientation here at the University of South Carolina. I was so excited because it meant that my trip was actually happening, and I was really interested to see where other people were going.
We got to Russell House, and had to sign in. They divided us into a few different rooms: Europe (English speaking), Europe (non-English speaking), Latin America and Asia, and .. well, I'm not actually sure if they had a Middle East and Africa room, but I would hope that some people were choosing to go there because I feel like those trips would be very eye-opening.
Anyway, it was really interesting to be in the room I was in. 10 kids are doing a first time USC program in Hong Kong, and so they were all together and already knew each other through their major; another kid was doing a study abroad program in Shanghai for 14 months - outrageous!; a few were going to Russia (which I always think of as Europe, but it's Asia too, I guess); and one other kid was going to Buenos Aires! Yay!
We learned a lot of things, and by "learned" I mean that they told me things that I already knew because I have over-prepared myself for this trip. I still have a lot of work to do, especially financially, to get everything in order for me to just hop on over to our southern sister-continent, but I felt really prepared and like I knew a lot. Especially because I talked to a few other students, one going to the Dominican Republic and the other Buenos Aires student (he's not going with CEA), who didn't really have a much information on their programs/had recently decided and hadn't done all their paperwork or spent the time preparing like I had. So, it kind of makes me feel nerdy for reading around so much, and it kind of makes me feel really good because I feel like the more I prepare, the more I'll enjoy it and settle in once I get to my program.
Another really exciting thing is that our calendar for our trip was recently put online! I'm so excited to have definite days for things now. We also have 3 excursions planned for our semester. One is a day trip to the Tigre Delta, which my grandfather talked about. He, for those of you who don't know, essentially sailed the world for work when he was younger, so he told me about the time that he was stuck in Argentina for three months. He also gave me the name of a man who he used to be in touch with, about 60 years ago, and asked me to look him up in the Buenos Aires phonebook. Anyway the Tigre Delta, from my understanding, is north of the city and it like a semi-Venice, Italy-esque town because a lot of it is canal-ways and you can take boat trips through the canals. Our second trip is to Iguazu Falls which is this huge chain of waterfalls that is on the boarder of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. It looks like it will be a spectacular time, and this trip is 3 days and 2 nights, so it should be fun to get out of the city for a little while (this trip is also the reason that I will need to be getting a Yellow Fever vaccine). Our last trip is to Mendoza, which is in the western part of the country. It's a region that apparently was one of the driest on the continent, until an advanced irrigation system; now it is one of the biggest vineyard areas! Of course, there is a very nice ski resort there, but we will be going just after the end of the ski season (the end of October), so I'm a bit depressed. But it's very exciting knowing that these exciting trips are planned for me, and I've also been researching and reading about good day trips (like Colonia, Uruguay, which is a water-taxi from Buenos Aires) and good longer trips, like to Bariloche and the Glacier National Park (a glacier hike?! I think yes! I've always wanted to try crampons!)
Finally, I'm going to chat with you a minute about how RIDICULOUS AT&T is about international calling plans: I have an iPhone. Let's be frank, I'm addicted to it. It barely leaves my eyesight. I use it ALL the time. A friend and I can be discussing something, and I question comes up - I just google the answer. And I love to text. And use my facebook and twitter accounts via my apps. Anyway, CEA offers us a perfectly acceptable cellphone, for free, with a calling rate of $1.09/minute to the United States. So, I just wanted to investigate and see if it was any cheaper if I got an international sim card into my iPhone. First, AT&T doesn't do that. But they do have international roaming... That means I can call the United States for $2.39/minute. WHAT?! So then they let me know that if I pay $5.99/month, the international roaming cost goes down, and my international calls to the United States are only $1.99/minute... Yeah, that's just outrageous. I love you iPhone, but you're going to be laid to rest for about 5.5 months. And as I was digesting this, they asked me if I would also be using the internet, and I was like, "oh, can I?" and they said, "sure it's (insert crazy price here for certain amount of mega-bites)." "For a one-time fee?" I ask. "Oh, no, it's every month." - Mind you, the crazy price was like $25 to almost $100. So it really does look like my iPhone will just have to deal with not being used for a while. Except as an iPod. Haha.
Lastly (this time, I promise!), 10 weeks exactly until I leave for Argentina. That's 70 days, baby.