Son muy creídos, los argentinos, my friends told me when I was in Peru as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in high school. “The Argentinians are very full of themselves.” So why then, five years later, am I writing this blog about my undergraduate fall semester as a student in, where else, but Argentina?
I never had too particular an interest in going to Argentina, especially after hearing how they were supposedly so “creídos.” Yet after my high school senior-year Spanish teacher introduced us to more Argentinian culture, I couldn’t help but feel a certain respect, maybe even attraction, towards the country that contained both the “Paris of South America” and the “End of the World.” Mafalda, a 60’s Argentinian comic strip centered around an unquenchably curious young girl, was both funny and thought-provoking since much of what Mafalda questioned was politically or socially-centered. “Pedro Salvadores,” a short story by Jorge Luis Borges fascinated me. It was so short and simple on the surface, but just as the main character was hidden, beneath every word, every image, every allusion, were layers of hidden meanings and Argentinian history and social critique that revealed a much more complex version than I originally would have imagined. Who was this Borges guy? And could I read more of him?
Some time later, as the first semester of my sophomore year in college was nearing a close, and fellow students were buzzing around campus with plans of studying abroad the next fall, I had not considered going anywhere, especially to Argentina: I wasn’t going to study abroad in the fall at all because I was going to study abroad in the spring, in France. I am a double major in Spanish and French, and so I figured, since my Spanish was better than my French, it was imperative that I improve the latter. Yet, as I found myself increasingly immersed and engaged in my Spanish work, I couldn’t help but long for all my classes to be in Spanish. And then came my eureka moment. I was watching Medianeras, or Sidewalls, a clever Argentinian film, and it suddenly occurred to me that if most of Duke’s juniors were going to be abroad in the fall, and I wouldn’t see them for a year anyway, then why should I not be abroad in the fall as well? Spanish was my major after all, so what better way to enhance my skills and knowledge then to go to a Spanish-speaking country? And as I was watching Medianeras, captivated by the dialogue and characters, and enchanted by their unique accent, suddenly, and finally, Argentina emerged not just as an option, but the option and the destination and location of my junior fall semester.
As I am now sitting cozily on my couch, finishing up my first blog post, I feel a multitude of emotions: excitement, apprehension, reluctance of leaving my family and my home, but honestly, I am ecstatic, and I am ready to go. I have everything pretty much together, and I just have to finish squeezing and re-organizing everything into my suitcase for my flight tomorrow. I don’t think I have ever felt more ready for a trip before in my life. Maybe it is because I have had the opportunity of three other travel/study abroad experiences before, or maybe it is because I have done so much research on Argentina, or maybe it is because I understand myself and my values better than I have previously. Whatever the reason, I feel prepared and ready to embrace all the novelty and confusion and beauty that come with new experiences. At the same time though, I feel like whenever you think you know how it will all turn out, something completely different happens, which, luckily, is not always negative. That is why, despite being absolutely certain that this experience will be positive, I am keeping a completely open mind on how everything will be in Buenos Aires. There is no way to predict or control the everyday hilarities and perplexities, difficulties, and whatever other locuras/crazy occurrences that happen during my five months in Buenos Aires. I am going to keep my mind open and curious and engaged, taking inspiration and guidance from who else but the young cartoon character, Mafalda, in where else but Argentina. It will be the semester of a lifetime. ¿Me acompañas?