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Time December 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been home for a few days now, and it’s weird. Not so much culturally or anything, it’s just really cold. That’s actually a nice change for me, as the increasing temperatures of Buenos Aires were starting to get to me. My ideal outfit consists of a flannel shirt and jeans, so I came back at the right time.  I guess the strangest thing about being back in the U.S. is that it feels very normal. I can’t tell if it’s because I’ve moved around a lot in my life and am used to it, or if I just haven’t had enough time to really reflect on the experiences I’ve had. Either way, I am excited to be back.

Although so far I’ve just been lazy and tired, I’ve been trying to reflect on my study abroad experience in its totality a little bit. The one concrete difference I have noticed in myself so far is a general increased confidence. If I can deal with all the everyday problems of life, take classes, and get to know people in a different language that I am still not entirely fluent in, all of those same things in a culture and language I am comfortable with seem like a breeze. I also am excited to go back to Northwestern and do all the things that I have wanted to do but have been too lazy or unmotivated to accomplish. I am excited to try and maintain the relationships I made in Argentina, both with Argentines and the other students on my program, and hopefully they will last for a long time.

I am extremely appreciative of the experience I had in Argentina, and I really think the benefits of it are going to last my entire life. I feel more confident in general, I can now speak Spanish better which has helped me understand my Colombian roots more, and I was able to visit places that I never dreamed I would be able to. To anyone who has been reading this, thank you for following along and I hope it encourages you to take the steps towards taking studying abroad. It was one of the best experiences of my life so far.

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The Last Week

Time December 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by, but it is my last week in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, I still have 2 essays to finish before I won’t have to worry about school and my motivation is at an all-time low. I still am carving out enough time to say goodbye to the city I have come to know well and the people who have made the past 5 months of my life so enjoyable and important. I already said goodbye to most of my friends, and hopefully we will all see each other in the future. Saying goodbye to my host family is next on the agenda, and it will be sad. My host mom was the perfect balance of friendly and welcoming but also letting me have my independence and letting me live my own life, and my host brother is a good guy and has been fun to get to know. He’s helped me learn a lot of Argentine slang words that I probably won’t repeat in most company, and I’ve tried to help him improve his English too (although he already speaks it very well).

Saying goodbye to Buenos Aires itself is also going to be very difficult for me. It really has become home to me, and I feel like I have gotten to know it well. I am going to miss the abundance of cafes on every street block, the prevalence of empanadas, the extremely friendly people, and the laid back lifestyle. I have gotten to know a lot of the local shop-owners in my neighborhood and I am going to miss seeing them often. Each neighborhood I’ve been to in Buenos Aires has its own distinct identity, and I am sad I don’t have more time to get to know them even better.

I am feeling very bittersweet about going home. I’m excited to go back to Northwestern and hit the ground running on finishing my time in college and to see all my friends. However, it has been great being here in Argentina. My Spanish has improved, I have met amazing people, eaten at great restaurants, and learned a lot about Argentine culture. Although I’m sad to leave, I do feel content that I took advantage of my time here and I am going to be leaving with many good memories.

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Uruguay Round 2

Time December 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

With only a week left before returning the U.S., IFSA took us to the program director’s estate in Colonia, Uruguay for Thanksgiving. It was the first time I have spent Thanksgiving away from family, but it really is hard to complain when the alternative is going to a lemon orchard to have a meal prepared by a professional chef in sunny, beautiful Uruguay. After taking the ferry from Buenos Aires early in the morning, we got to Colonia and were shown around the estate. It was absurdly beautiful and tranquil, and the meal was worth the wait. The turkey was great, but it wasn’t even close to the highlight of the meal. The pumpkin pie was probably the best pumpkin pie I have ever consumed in my life, and it didn’t hurt that it was handed to us on a platter on the poolside. I have never felt more like an important person in my life. We spent the rest of the day lounging next to the pool and walking around Colonia. It was a perfect Thanksgiving.

The rest of the trip was spent in Punta del Este, a beautiful beach town. While going to the beach and relaxing was great, my favorite aspect of the trip was saying goodbye to everyone I’ve met in my four months in Argentina. I am going to miss Buenos Aires a lot, but the hardest part about going home for me is easily leaving behind all the friends I have made. There was no better way to enjoy some time together without the distractions of finals than sitting on the beach. Being one of the palest people on earth, the sunburn later was not ideal. However, overall it reminded me how absolutely blessed I am to have had this opportunity to come to South America, meet a lot of interesting people, see some of the most beautiful places on earth, and improve my Spanish.

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Fería Masticar

Time November 11th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I love music, culture, and meeting people, but one of the everyday things that I enjoy most is food. Eating empanadas has been one of the best aspects of living here, and the epitome of food-loving for me was the Fería Masticar (literally Chew Festival). Fería Masticar is a festival that brings together many of the most well-known restaurants in Buenos Aires in one place and allows people to try small dishes from each. It was one of the best days of my life. I started the day off with a choripan from one of the best parillas in Buenos Aires, which seemed like it would be setting the bar too high for the rest of the day, but Masticar delivered. I moved on to a beef empanada, which was a very solid choice and has never failed me. My next stop was a chorichong, a dumpling filled with chorizo, which was an awesome mix of Asian and Latin cuisine. I accompanied the chorichong with Patagonia, a fancy Argentine beer, and it was a great combination. The most exciting part of the meal was ice-cream made with liquid nitrogen, which was very creamy and delicious. I have always been interested in gastronomy despite having zero culinary abilities, and it was an awesome experience. To end the day, I went to a free wine-tasting and enjoyed learning about the rich wine culture Argentina has. I of course knew about the famous Argentine Malbec, but I was not aware before that Argentina also is known for its signature white wine: Torrontés. Overall, Fería Masticar was an awesome day for me to enjoy one of the things I love most in life: food.

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Colonia

Time November 11th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In the past 2 weeks, my sister visited me here in Buenos Aires. She got to know the city well by going on photography and graffiti tours while I was in class, and we also took the opportunity to leave the city for a bit and visit Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It’s a historically interesting town, as it was originally a Spanish colony that switched hands between Spain and Portugal multiple times before Uruguay gained its independence. The historical district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and some of the ruins are fascinating. Unfortunately, my sister and I found out that it is a very small town and fairly expensive compared to Buenos Aires. We walked around town all day, but were able to see everything of interest in a couple hours. The rest of our day was then spent trying to find something to do while we waited for our ferry to come. This may be an unfair representation of the town as it really was pretty and peaceful, but I don’t know if I would recommend it to someone looking for excitement. Although we were disappointed in general with our trip to Colonia, it was a nice day-trip to somewhere more peaceful than Buenos Aires, and watching the sunset on the river was definitely fun.

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Rosario

Time November 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Rosario is a town 4 hours away from Buenos Aires, and while it’s not the biggest tourist attraction in Argentina, it is a very nice and relaxing town. I visited Rosario this past weekend with some of my friends, and it was a nice getaway from Buenos Aires for the weekend. I was very happy to get out of town for a bit and it’s cheap and quick to get to Rosario. While the town isn’t the most exotic location in the world, I had a blast going to Rosario and meeting people who weren’t from Buenos Aires. After going to the beach for the day, my friends and I returned to our hostel to join in on an asado (BBQ) that the owner was throwing. It was a great opportunity to meet the other people who were staying at the hostel, and they were friendly! It was a good mix of people who spoke English (some Irish and English people) and Spanish (Argentines travelling as well as Colombians who were visiting for a wedding). It was great to take an opportunity to meet other people who were travelling and get a fresh perspective on studying abroad. They all had had very different experiences in South America and comparing stories all night was a highlight of the trip. The second day, my friends and I did some sightseeing and visited the monument to the Argentine flag, which was an awe-inspiring monument. While Rosario does not have a lot of excitement, it was a great relaxed weekend and I will never pass up the opportunity to meet people from a variety of backgrounds and make new friends.

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Casamiento

Time October 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to the wedding of my host mom’s son. I have only been to one wedding in my adult life, so I was excited to see the differences between an American and Argentine wedding. The differences were not as drastic as I expected, but it was one of the most fun things I have done so far in Argentina! After a brief Jewish ceremony (the bride was from Colombia, and they had already had a longer Catholic wedding in Bogota), the festivities began. There was an absurd amount of food, and it was all amazing.

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Halfway Point

Time October 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As the halfway point of my time here in Argentina approaches, I’ve been reflecting on how amazing this experience has been for me so far. It has been slightly challenging to adapt to life in Spanish, but otherwise I have had no problems adjusting to life here in Buenos Aires. At this point, I’m more worried about going back!

I have been extremely lucky here that my host mother is a saint. She has made living in a stranger’s home in a foreign country feel like I’m living at my home in the States. She is a great cook, and we have a balanced relationship where she lets me live my life independently but is also readily available to help me out or talk when I need it. She is also far more popular than I could ever dream of being; she is constantly on the phone with a friend or going out to meet someone! I also have a host roommate who is from Northern Argentina and is staying with my host mother because there are no dorms for his university. At first the language barrier made it slightly difficult for us to communicate, but we have become friends over the past two months and I love the extra Spanish practice that comes from talking with someone my own age.

In addition to my host family, I have met a lot of great people in my program. There are a few students from Northwestern, and we have all gotten to know each other really well and I envision us being close friends when we get back! I also have met a lot of people who go to universities that are close to me in the States that I am looking forward to visiting during breaks and maintaining a relationship with!

As far as experiences go, I have had so many amazing ones in Argentina. Seeing Iguazu was easily the highlight for me so far, but immersing myself in the culture of Buenos Aires has been an adventure in itself. In my program classes, I have had the opportunity to watch Argentine movies, read Argentine novels and contemporary short stories, listen to Argentine music (I had no idea how influential rock music is here!), and had some amazing food. I love the more relaxed lifestyle here. People focus on what is more important in their lives, such as relationships and family, but also work when they need to. There is a balance between their personal lives and professional lives that seems to be difficult for a lot of people to find in the U.S. that Argentines and Latin Americans in general seem to understand better. I wouldn’t say that either way of life is better because obviously every country and society has its flaws, but I think I have learned a lot here and being here has given me an opportunity for reflection.

The fact that I only have a year and a half left of college has hit me hard here. Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but it has also made me appreciate my family, friends, and school at home even more. I wouldn’t say I am homesick because I love every second of my time here, but I am definitely looking forward to going home as well and enjoying my remaining time at Northwestern. As corny as this is, my finite time here has made me reflect more about the finite time we have on earth, and I have been reflecting more about who I am as a person and what I want to do with the rest of my time here. I think this is a reflection that would have happened whether I studied abroad or not, but being in a foreign country far removed from my normal life has made it easier to put things in perspective.

In the next two months I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity I can here. I want to keep improving my Spanish, meet more people, and experience as much culture here as I can in that time. I’m looking forward to what my remaining time has to offer!

 

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Iguazu

Time September 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Igauzu Falls with a group of international students from the Universidad Católica de Argentina. I have never been on a trip with so many students before, and it was an amazing experience. Previously to coming to Argentina, I had not heard of Iguazu Falls or the 7 Wonders of Nature, but now I can cross seeing one of them off of my bucket list!

The bus ride was eighteen hours from Buenos Aires, and it was a long eighteen hours. At one point it was turned into a party bus, which I’m sure is fun for an hour or two, but not so much for eighteen. After a couple of breaks, we arrived at the ruins of a Jesuit mission that was established in 1632. Although none of the preserved buildings were especially awe-inspiring, it was amazing standing there and thinking about the history. Most of the preserved ruins were of residential buildings, and imagining what life must have been like at one of these missions was very interesting to a history nerd like me.

After a day at the hostel and seeing where the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil all intersect (I couldn’t go to the Brazil side of Iguazu because I didn’t have a visa), we finally went to the falls. I am the kind of person who likes to make funny comments at every opportunity, but for once I was speechless. When you first see the falls, you come from a jungle path and are overwhelmed by the vastness of the falls. The sight of it just made me think of how beautiful the world truly is, and how amazing it is that something like these falls exists. We went on a boat and saw the falls up close, and they are even more breathtaking (and freezing cold) up close. One of the small things that stood out to me was seeing a capybara on the riverbanks. At that moment the fact that I was on a river in a jungle in South America seeing a native species near one of the most amazing natural occurrences on earth all hit me at once and put life in perspective for me. Seeing the falls was easily the highlight of my time here in Argentina so far, and I am extremely thankful I had the opportunity to see them!

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Las Ferías de Buenos Aires

Time September 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In the past couple of weeks since my last entry, I have gotten to know Buenos Aires much better. The subway and bus system are becoming a second nature, and I am starting to get a good idea of the city’s geography. One aspect of Buenos Aires that I have come to love the most is the ferías. The first one I went to was the Fería de San Telmo, a large street fair in the San Telmo neighborhood. It was packed and overwhelming, but it was a fun experience. The fair itself is mostly people selling trinkets and a few couples dancing the tango for tourists. These parts were fun, but the real charm of the fair to me was not actually in the fair itself. After walking to the end of one of the blocks, my friend and I heard music nearby. A one-block walk revealed a small courtyard where a band was performing folk music while a small crowd that seemed to be composed of only Argentines watched. Some audience members danced, and it felt much more authentic than watching the tango performers on the busy street corner of the fair. These were just people who were enjoying their Sunday afternoon. The most exciting aspect of this hidden courtyard was the grill that sold chorizo, pork, and beef sandwiches. I got a pork sandwich and a cold Quilmes (the major Argentine beer) and enjoyed watching the music and dancing for about an hour.

While my experience at the San Telmo fair was great, I was blown away by the Fería de Mataderos, which lies slightly outside of Buenos Aires. The fair is massive, and there is a huge variety of things to do. While the market itself is fun to walk around, what I had the most fun doing was buying food and having a picnic with my friends. I bought a choripan from a grill that also sold the typical grill fare, and my friends bought cheese, meat, and bread to make sandwiches. There is a grass lawn in the fería which was filled with people enjoying their days as well as musicians trying to make a buck. While the fería was very crowded, it still felt nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires for a day and to enjoy some amazing food in the process!

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The First Week (Written 7/27/14)

Time August 4th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After a week full of doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, trips to target, packing, and a long flight, I finally made it Buenos Aires! Within half an hour, we were through customs, picked up our bags, and were on our way to the city. I have never been to South America before, so I had no idea what to expect to see in Buenos Aires. The first thing I noticed is how enormous the city is. The drive from the airport the city took me past many different suburbs and neighborhoods, and you immediately get a sense of the diversity there is in this city. It is a melting pot for many different groups of people, and the variety of restaurants and shops, as well as architectural styles, serves as evidence of this mix. The other thing that struck me was how alive the city feels. If the economy is struggling as much they say it is, it’s hard to tell when walking down the streets. Every café, bakery, bar, and shop is packed with people at all hours of the day.

So far, the food has been amazing. My host-mom is a great cook, and I have had everything from milanesa to pumpkin soup. Café con leche and croissants has been my breakfast staple, and for lunch empanadas have been my favorite meal. I could honestly eat empanadas for every meal; they’re so good that I don’t get sick of them no matter how often I eat them.

Although I expected the city to be exciting, I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of things there are to do in Buenos Aires. It’s almost paralyzing, but luckily IFSA helped me get oriented with a dinner Wednesday night at a restaurant called Big Mamma. I got to have my first taste of Argentine steak there, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. Thursday night, we went to Fuerza Bruta, which was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It was a complete sensory overload. I have never really enjoyed theater that much, but I actually really liked Fuerza Bruta. I’m sure Spiderman: The Musical would have gotten better reviews if it had gone for a similarly disorienting route, but like I said, I also know nothing about theater.

Today I got to wonder around Belgrano, the neighborhood I live in, a bit. It’s a very pretty neighborhood and mostly residential, so it feels like an authentic Argentine living experience. Buenos Aires’ Chinatown is located here, and it looks like there are a lot of restaurants to check out!

It has been a long first week, but so far I’ve been blown away by Buenos Aires. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious, and there is so much to do here. I can’t wait to spend the next 4 months here and explore the city even more!

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