Who’s Abroad!

News & Events from Keystone College, La Plume, PA

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Bryan McIntyre and Kristy Keller in Madrid

June 29th, 2015 · No Comments

This summer, Keystone students Bryan McIntyre and Kristy Keller will be interning at Sodexo headquarters in Madrid, Spain.  This program is unique and only offered to Keystone students each year.  Follow their blogs as and hear about their adventures working in an office in another country and learning about the culture, language, and history of Spain.  http://bmacinaction.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default   https://niftyiskristy.wordpress.com/


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El Yunque National Forest by Joshua Casey

June 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

Today we visited El Yunque National Forest.  El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system and has been a federal forest reserve for over 100 years.  Our first stop in El Yunque was to visit La Coca Falls.  Due to the dry weather the region has been having, the falls were not running as they normally would, but it was still a beautiful sight.  Next we stopped at Yokahu tower which is an observation point in the forest that offers an amazing view of the forest.  After leaving the tower, we were given the opportunity to take the 2.4 mile hike to El Yunque peak. The hike normally takes 1.5-2 hours to reach the top and the same to get back down. With our pace, we managed to reach the top in a hour and back down in just 45 minutes.  It was a fun, but a tiring hike that was worth every minute of it.  After returning to the bottom of the trail, we went to cool off in the river at a swimming hole in the reserve.  There was a rope tied off a tree on the one side that people were using to swing and jump in. It was interesting to see that even young children, that appeared to be 5-6 years old, were allowed to climb up and do this.  Of course a day in the rain forest isn’t complete until you get caught in the rain and that’s exactly what happened on the walk back to the van.  It seemed to come out of nowhere, but was refreshing on a hot day. I did learn a lot of interesting things during the trip to the forest such as at different elevations there is drastically different amounts of rain. The higher elevations of the forest can see over 250 inches of rain in a year while the lower elevations typically get 50-60 inches of rain.  It was also intriguing to find out that unlike most rain forests there are no large animals in El Yunque.  This is because Puerto Rico was formed from volcanic activity during the Triassic period and there has never been a land bridge to any continent so all the animals in Puerto Rico arrived by flying, swimming or floating.  The largest mammals in El Yunque are mongooses, rats and bats.  But, there are reptiles such as the Puerto Rican Boa which can grow up to six feet.  Also, it was very surprising to learn that there are no poisonous animals or insects within the forest.



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Puerto Rican Culture and Conversation by Tyler Valinski

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

On day 7, I had a great time and learned some interesting things about the Puerto Rican way of life. We woke up early and went to Luquillo beach where I had an amazing time. When we arrived, I noticed that most of the residents of Puerto Rico were in the shade. Joyce soon told us that they are at the beach all year round, so they like to stay in the shade rather then go into a sunny spot.

After a great time at the beach, we went to have lunch at Joyce’s Goddaughter’s , Sandra’s house. Her family was absolutely amazing and I had a great time conversing with them about Puerto Rico. They own just over an acre and have many different fruits and vegetables growing on they’re property. The government even approached them about giving them money to grow more crops to supply some of the towns nearby.

After we had an amazing lunch, we headed back to the condos to get ready for the jazz festival at the Plaza in Luguillo. This was interesting to see how packed the plaza was and how friendly all the people there were. I had a couple conversations with some residents about where they have been on the mainland and I was surprised that so many knew about where I was from, Long Island. After talking to them about where they have visited, I realized three main states were New York, New Jersey, and Chicago. I started thinking and even asked Joyce because I was confused about why they have been to Chicago, but then I realized that Chicago is another big city just like New York. I had one of the best times on this trip this day. I learned so much about the people of Puerto Rico had great conversations with them even if some of them barely spoke English. I hope one day soon I get to come back to this beautiful place because being a New Yorker, I have never been to a place where the people were this friendly ever!

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San Felipe Del Morro Castle by Kelly Moran

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

Today we got to see the San Felipe Del Morro Castle, ate lunch at La Palmas, and got the chance to explore historical San Juan. To start off the day with the castle was amazing. It was huge with 6 levels with what seemed to mountainous sized steps. The spiral staircases were steep and narrow which aided San Juan’s military in their defense. It was built in the 1500s and the amount of character the building still holds is tremendous. Every crevice and every view from the waterside was surprising. We were told that making a trip to Disney World for a person living in the States is equally important to making a trip to this castle and flying a kite for Puerto Ricans. The strong winds outside the castle once blew ships over from Europe and Puerto Ricans share this experience with other families on the enormous field surrounding the castle. 

Next at lunch, we talked a lot about the culture in Puerto Rico because the transition of historic to modern day San Juan décor sparked conversation. We talked a lot about how being a homosexual here is still very hushed. It is extremely important to Puerto Ricans for them to have children because it reflects the family values centered around family. We learned that if a person’s significant other passes away, all of the inheritance does not go to them or anyone they allot it to. It gets separated into parts first.

We also talked about how it is unusual for people to sit down and eat with each other at a table in the informal way like we did. Puerto Ricans only sit with each other if they really like/love each other whereas half of us didn’t even know each other until this trip. Also almost every dish was served with either, rice and beans or some form of plantains.

Finally, when we went exploring the city on stone brick roads. It was over 500 years old and still standing and fully functioning which is unusual for cities in the States. We got to go into the shops and see the kinds of things being sold. Many of the foods were a lot different including foods mixing peppers and fruit, dehydrated fruit candies, and many things with coconut. The trinkets were small replicas of the Coqui, Three Kings- which stand for health, knowledge and prosperity- and jewelry made from local plants and earth materials. We had an awesome day filled with culture and excitement. Hope to come back on my on vacation to learn more soon!

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Visit to the Sister Isolina Center by Melissa Valle

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

Hola de Puerto Rico!

Today was our service learning day where we had the opportunity to go and visit Sister Isolina’s Center. Arriving at the Center, we were introduced to the new director, Sister Mildred who to our surprise and hers can speak English very well.  She kept apologizing to us, but we reassured her that she was doing great. Before we were given the tour we where able to meet the historian of the Center who has also been around since the founder, Sister Isolina started the program. She spoke highly of all the programs and work that Isolina put into the Center and while taking the tour, you can really see how much they care about this place.  The people in Ponce really use and rely on the center for help and learning. During the tour, they showed us the high school which was for kids up to that age of 21 that had dropped out of school to come and finish their schooling and get a degree. While in the school they showed different class rooms such as the English room.  I was amazed at what their work load is!  I don’t even think I could do some of the things that these kids had to do.  Sister Mildred then showed us some of the art that they work on and it’s amazing.       

          For lunch we went to Cesar’s BBQ chicken thanks to one of the sister recommending it to Joyce. The food in Puerto Rico is heaven. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to go back to eating American food. At the end of lunch we even got a group picture with the chef and his son. After getting back to the hotel, we went to a couple shops that were in la plaza. In every town they have there own plaza which has a church and fire station in the middle of the town. La plaza is different in each town some are very small and you almost can’t recognize it and others are huge and beautiful. 

Estar en Puerto Rico ha abierto verdaderamente mis ojos a las diferentes culturas y estoy agradecido por el ágape para estar en este viaje. Ponce es ponce y el resto es parqueo.


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Hola desde Puerto Rico, Luquillo! Day 4 by Melissa Torres

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

Today we woke up at 6 a.m.  to leave the condo by 7:30 a.m. Let me tell you, it’s difficult waking up so early since I haven’t had an 8 a.m. since first semester, freshmen year. But it’s exciting because it makes our days here feel longer and obviously we don’t want to leave this beautiful island. We’re on our way to the court. All the criminal justice majors including myself were excited about seeing how  different the court system deals with things compared to the States. We were able to visit the marshals office, criminal court, domestic violence court, the jury room and the investigation area, which is cases that are an emergency and need to be dealt with right then and there. We got the chance to sit in on three different cases. It was honestly the highlight of our day! I cannot explain to you how interesting these different cases were. They were all in Spanish and it got a little difficult trying to translate it to the group, but they were still able to understand what was going on. We then had lunch in the cafeteria at the court, which was delicious!

After the court, we went to the Zar Zar prison. We were a little scared and intimidated because we didn’t know what to expect. We had to take off all our jewelry before we went in. It got more scarier when the guys had to get patted down and the girls got searched by a female guard. At the prison we were able to see where they make wood sculptures, paintings, candles, etc. to sell. Actually some of the group bought a lot of their knick-naks. It was surprising to see how free these prisoners were. The warden told us that they need about 60 more guards to work there. They then showed us the cafeteria, where the food is prepared and kept. The hospital area, where they get medication, root canals, and glasses if they need it. They have a beautiful green house and sell the crops growing such as lettuce and cilantro that is used in almost all Hispanic dishes. They also had beautiful orange trees growing. It’s been a great day, a lot of interesting facts that I would’ve never thought of. We’ve all been having a wonderful time on this beautiful island.

Saludos de Puerto Rico.



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Visit to the Mayor’s Office by Jessica Bowman

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

This morning we went to the mayors office and although he could not be there, his secretary answered all of our questions. She told us about one of his projects to rehabilitate the plaza by planting trees to make shade and his other project is to expand on the medical center in Luquillo and make it open 24/7. She also explained how the taxes work and about the tax rate bill in Congress that will increase the tax rate to 11.5%. We visited a Catholic Church and it was beautiful inside. We then went to the medical center and took a short tour and saw what kind of equipment uses there. Later tonight we are going salsa dancing to experience that part of Puerto Rican tradition.


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Hola de Puerto Rico by Nicole Sokoloski

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

Hola de Puerto Rico !  

This morning everyone was up at 6:30 am and getting ready for the day! We ate scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, thanks to our great Puerto Rico familia! At 8 am, we had traveled to Luquillo town hall (alcaldia). Unfortunately, the mayor couldn’t make it today but we got to speak to Wilris, Jerry (The mayor of Luquillo’s executive assistant. We all had great questions and she had explained a lot about the  taxes, the hospitals, all the stray animals and what they are doing about the situation. The mayor was generous enough to give us all a tote to take home with us! After we left the town hall we traveled to the medical center. Here at the hospital we were given a tour by Miss Cruz. We saw where they treat the patients, also the x-ray room and the laboratory where they take the blood.

Tonight we are going to dinner in San Juan , and we are going to be taking salsa dancing lessons as well!

Tenga in buen dia !


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First Day in Ponce by Jacob Murphy

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

It’s here! 4 a.m. came quick this morning. I was staying in Jersey for the weekend with my friend, another student on the trip so we traveled together to the airport picking up another student along the way. I’ve never flown out of Newark, but I thought it was quite small. After checking in through security we proceeded to our gate and began boarding.

Many of the passengers were of Spanish decent and spoke Spanish. Thankfully, we have a few translators with us. I began a conversation with the woman sitting behind me on the plane who happened to be from my town on the South Shore of Boston. When we landed it looked like Orlando. Everyone was hungry after we got the bus and we were treated to an authentic Puerto Rican barbecue at Bebbos BBQ in San Juan. After lunch it was time to travel to the other side of the island to the town of Ponce. We made a stop for class and a history lesson at the “Monumento Al Jibaro Puertorriqueño” which translates to Hillbilly in English. It is not in any way derogatory just simply pure bred Puerto Rican. 

From the monument it was another hour long drive to Ponce through the mountains. We experienced their drought and everything that was suppose to be green and in bloom was all dead plants. Then there was a torrential downpour for 5 minutes, I mean hard rain. We checked into Hotel Melia right in the center of Ponce and took time to cool off from the 90 degree heat at the pool. Then it was time to do a little exploring, we walked the town and experienced their fire station, “Parque de Bombas”, and different people walking throughout the streets. About 100 years ago there were around 20 fire fighters killed in a  deadly blaze that deserted the city. The town payed for homes for each of their families to live in, but they are never allowed to leave the family. Currently the deceased great grandchildren and so on occupy the homes. There were a lot of stray animals, cats and dogs everywhere. It’s a huge issue, we learned that dogs are not common indoor pets rather they live outside of the home. The homes are mostly recently new construction being cement instead of wood to help protect from hurricanes and earthquakes. It was so nice to hit a bed after being awake for 20 hours at that point. And then their was the second day…


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Blog by Morgan Bell

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

On day one of my Puerto Rico trip I learned many things. A couple of them stood out in my mind, despite the endless traveling. I learned that rich people usually have bars all over their house. we visited a “hillbilly statue” representing living off the land. I also thought it was extremely interesting that all the houses were made of cement. They’re built like that so the Hurricanes don’t ruin them. A couple words I learned were: audious, buenez diaz, domas, and fumar. I had a great day in Puerto Rico! 

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