I’ve been back almost a week now and it is crazy to believe that it’s over. Although I am back home and it feels as if I never left, I am missing the city I came to enjoy so much, the city of Buenos Aires. I am constantly reminded of things from the city and it seems like every minute I am excitedly reaching over to let the nearest person know, “oh, back in Buenos Aires they did this”…or “oh back when I was away I’d always do that”. I made sure to bring home parts of Buenos Aires to share with my family and friends like the classic dulce de leche, alfajores y chimichurri sauce, and of course lots of pictures and stories.
As I reflect on my experience I remember the excitement and anxiousness I had before leaving. How was I going to handle being off in a country who spoke a language I was just barely beginning to grasp? How would I navigate the city I thought seemed so big and scary? Would my host family be warm and welcoming? Would I make friends?
Sure enough, although I may have struggled with finding which colectivo to take, or how to order my books for class, I eventually found my way. I made friends, was comfortable and at home at my host stay and learned to live like a porteño. I was able to travel outside the city and visit Iguazu and Puerto Madryn. I saw a few tango shows and other theater performances. I went to a reggae concert and a percussion concert. I visited many museums and historical sites and famous restaurants. All that I could have hoped to do during my time abroad.
But as great as it is to tell my family and friends of all the fun and unique things about my experience, it is hard, and would be a lie, to explain my trip with a simple “it was great”. Because sometimes it wasn’t great. I dealt with a great deal of street harassment due to my gender and skin color. As a black woman I did not go one single day with out having at least 2 or more men cat call me, or someone stare at me. I was warned before embarking on this trip that I might face these things as a woman of color because “there are no blacks in Argentina”. However, through investigation I found out that this was false. Although many in the city do not believe and may not have ever seen blacks or indigenous peoples, they do exist. I saw them, met them, and engaged with them. And I even wrote my research paper on the history of blacks or afro-argentines in the country and the explicit and implicit tactics in which the Argentine society attempted to silence and erase their presence. And even after writing and presenting this paper, I was still questioned about the validity of my findings, even by professors. It was only until I showed photos of this silenced and hidden community that I was believed, and with great shock.
My identity as black woman greatly shapes my experience abroad, and I cannot separate the things I face abroad from my identity. The majority of students that travel abroad do not happen to be students of color for a variety of factors, which often makes it challenging for those who do go. Traveling abroad is a most amazing experience that grows you, shapes you and challenges you. I have always planned to travel all over and even live abroad. But with this I know that I will face many challenges, wherever I go because of the history, around the world, of oppression and discrimination to marginalized groups, although different in each place. However this will not stop me, it actually motivates me to go abroad to study and learn and research to gain a better and deeper understanding of history, culture and my place in the world. I encourage all to study abroad, but I especially encourage students of color to travel abroad and even more women of color to study abroad. It may come with challenges, and discrimination (which are hard to face, especially if alone), but in my opinion I believe that makes you all the more stronger and wiser.
So when people ask me “how was your trip abroad”, I say it was interesting, it was challenging, it was hard at times, but it was worth it.