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By anuhyabobba

As soon as my program finished, I traveled for another month. For the first three weeks, I visited Patagonia -- the southern parts of Chile and Argentina. It had been the first time I traveled alone, and after my time in Buenos Aires had come to an end, it was exactly what I needed to recollect my thoughts and center myself. Starting from Santiago, my journey ended in the southernmost city of the world of Ushuaia. It brought me to the beautiful town of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, where I biked 25 kilometers through some of the most breathtaking views of sapphire and emerald toned lakes and snow capped mountains backdrop. I swam in a glacier lake, which was fun but horribly freezing as one could gather. I also trekked on a glacier -- the Perito Moreno glacier to be exact. I made camp in the windiest town I have ever visited -- El Chaltén. If you have seen the logo for the Patagonia outdoors brand, that rugged mountain silhouette found inspiration from Mt. Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks in El Chaltén. Mt. Fitz Roy, the highest of the peaks, would be hidden by clouds and when it did come out, it was stunning. I went next to Torres del Paine National Park, which is the place I most connected with during this journey. The Torres range and Lake Pehoé set the background for the campsite, and weather had been on our side the five days I was there. The last day up to the iconic Torres peaks was the most memorable. It first brought me through a forest that had this perfect symbiosis, and then to the most grueling part -- a 1000 foot ascension in the matter of a kilometer. This meant just direct uphill, and my knee had given out a day ago. The reason I wanted to visit Patagonia though was for the Torres peaks and so despite being in pain, I made it. I immediately collapsed on the ground, leaning against a rock that directly faced the peaks -- this moment brought incomparable peace to me.

I headed then to Ushuaia, where I only had a few hours. I remember the sun shining in those hours, even though the city usually sees only rain. I got my passport stamped to say that I had been in Ushuaia and went to the airport to catch my flight to Buenos Aires -- where I had seven hours from midnight to seven in the morning to gather my luggage from my host mom's and say my final bye to the city (for now). I flew into AEP, the inner city airport, and the runway and where the flight landed was a few miles to the right of Plaza Intendente Alvear, which was a block away from where I lived and which held an overwhelming feeling of comfort for me. The taxi ride to my host mom's went through all the places that held the sweetest memories of the adventures my friends and I had embarked on, and I started to tear up because it was a perfect way of saying this final bye to Buenos Aires.

My next week was in Peru, where my best friend joined me to go to Machu Picchu. We traveled to Lima and Cusco, where we largely explored on our own. When we went to Machu Picchu, it was early morning, or a time where there are a lot of tourists. We went down for an early lunch, and we revisited the site toward the late afternoon where there was barely a soul. In the absence of so many people, the site had this eerie but breathtaking vibe to it. I loved being there, and that too being able to share the moment with a person I hold so close to me. It had been the best ending to my time in South America.

I sadly returned home with a sprained ankle, but the healing period has allowed me time to reflect on studying abroad. Because I had the talk of adjusting back to being in DC in Buenos Aires, I am prepared but I also understand as Robert Frost said, "The best way out is always through."  I will experience this readjustment day by day, and through doing that, I will be gentle to myself and reach out to my support system when I do need the help.

Thank you to everyone who has read my posts for following this five month journey of mine! Hope you all have a beautiful new year ahead.

By bevvy2212

This week's topic is on music.

Before coming to France, I was somewhat aware of how big electro/ house music is in Europe. I myself am not a big fan of the dubstep and mindless head-nodding to the beats, so I was quite dubious about European club music when I first came to France. To me, the beats all sound monotonous and I often get tired of it very soon and end up sulking in a corner. So I asked my French friends why they like the dubstep so much and their answer was quite, unconventional. I'm not sure if this is all-inclusive for the general feelings toward dubstep  but they told me that since school is generally very stressful these days, the monotonous dubstep beats somewhat numb the mind after a while and it's kind of relaxing, to just let loose and nod along. I found this explanation so fascinating because I always thought of dubstep as noises, not music. But this actually brought me new perspective on viewing dubstep, which segways into the next topic that I'm going to discuss.

One of the most popular musicians in France is Stromae. (He is actually from Belgium, but most people automatically assume he's French.) His song "Alors on danse" (which translates to "so one dances")became a huge hit in the US and from first glance, I, like many other americans, thought this was just a normal dance song and since it's in French and I didn't pay much attention to the lyrics. But one time I actually paid attention to the lyrics and it's actually quite dark and pessimistic. I read more into Stromae and his songs are in general quite representative of the current generation of European youth. "When we say money we say spending. When we say forever, it means divorce. When we say family, we say grief, because misfortune never comes alone. So we go out and forget our problems. So we dance." Referring back to what my French friends were saying about numbing themselves with dubstep, the current European generation is facing a slumping economy so they are under a lot of stress. The youth unemployment rate in France is roughly 24% and in countries such as Spain where the economies were really hard hit by the crisis in 2012, youth unemployment rate reached to almost 50%, which is a ghastly prospect. Stomae's songs, albeit catchy, all have deeper meanings underneath, which I found fascinating because most songs these days have mindless lyrics talking about unrequitted love and insignificant things but having songs that have meaningful lyrics and catchy at the same time.

It's interesting to see how music across the world varies. When I was in Peru this past summer, they played a lot of latin/bachata/cha cha music (which I absolutely loved but couldn't really dance to). I loved how everyone there can dance, not just girls. The guys actually got really good moves and every time when I ask the boys at the school that I taught at if they like to dance, they always responded with "oh yeah I love dancing" and then start busting out moves on the play ground. Whereas guys dancing in the US is kind of perceived as feminine, it's very normal and popular there in Latin America, which I really liked.