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Home Again

Time August 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, it was a great run, but I’m finally back home in the United States (full disclaimer: I have actually been home for about two weeks, but I was so sad to be writing this final post/was adjusting to hearing English 24/7 that I just couldn’t write it.) But I can’t put it off anymore, so here it goes.

First and foremost: coming home is weird. Really weird. Our group flight landed in New York City at around 7:30 in the morning, and I was going to spend the next few days hanging out with some college friends in Manhattan before finally heading back to West Virginia. This was a cool plan, but it was also a big mistake because New York nearly crushed me with culture shock. Well, it did and it didn’t. I ended up using my Argentine hospitality to take a porteña to Times Square, and we spent the entirety of our subway ride chatting in Spanish. This made the whole transition process a little easier (not the mention the fact that I was already using some of the skills I had developed abroad!) but it made me sad when she left and I was surrounded by people who only spoke English. I don’t know, it feels really pompous and weird to write, but for my first few days back, I had a really hard time figuring out where I belonged. I mean, obviously I wasn’t Argentine, but I definitely didn’t feel like your run of the mill yanqui either. Read More »

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A little late, but last post abroad!

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, here it is: my final blog post abroad. I have finished finals, my classes are done, and I’m passing my last few days in Buenos Aires trying to do all the last-minute things I’ve accumulated on my to-do list this semester. Between these random activities and goodbye dinners and coffee breaks with my Argentine friends, who are still in the thicket of finals, I’ve actually been pretty busy.

Not too busy, though, that I haven’t had a chance to reflect. I’ve done a lot of thinking these past few weeks, and I came to a pretty interesting realization. My time abroad was not perfect, but I still had a pretty great time. It’s funny, but I actually realized this while I was watching the Copa America final between Argentina and Chile a week or two ago. I was home watching the game with my host grandma, who I admittedly have not had the best relationship with this semester, and her sister. Anyway, as I’m sure most people know, Argentina lost. Without getting into the logistics of the game (and in full honesty, I couldn’t even attempt to explain the game because I was watching it purely for Kun Agüero) I definitely changed a bit after watching Argentina lose. Specifically, I think I fell in love with the country again. Read More »

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Three More Weeks

Time June 21st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Apologies for the late post. I have actually been making my way through this semester without a personal computer (which IFSA explicitly advises against in all predeparture literature, but my computer is in the shop back in the States,) so I can only post on here when I make it to the IFSA office to use their computer. And this past weekend was a feriado (a holiday,) so I could not come in when I usually do.

Anyway, a little less than three weeks left! I alternate between being excited to go home and being sad about leaving Argentina, but I think both feelings are good ones to have. I am also currently still in the thicket of finals, which is super weird, especially when I Skype with my friends from the United States and they are going on summer vacations or are working at their internships. With all this last-minute work, though, (in the span of four weeks, I have had to turn in three 15-page research papers and a five-page paper) I have gotten incredibly efficient at writing in Spanish. Before coming to Argentina, those assignments would have taken me months to complete, and now I am able to just kind of sit down and crank them out. Reading comprehension has also exponentially improved for me. No longer do I worry about using articles written in Spanish as sources because it hardly takes me any extra time to read and comprehend them as it does for me to use a source in English.

I think for me, though, my ability to confidently speak has improved the most. I no longer shy away from speaking with the waiter because I am worried my Spanish will be horrendous, and I can confidently go to a café alone and place my order. It has even gotten to the point where some things are easier for me to say or to explain in Spanish than in English, which I think is absolutely wild.

Beyond all that, nothing too monumental to report. A few weeks ago I went on my second solo trip to the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile, right by the border with Bolivia. Only one other girl on my program went there this semester, but geographically, it is more diverse from Buenos Aires than Santiago, so I highly recommend this place as a must-see for kids studying in South America.

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Parciales

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past week marked my first experience as, what I would consider, a Real Student in Argentina. I had my first midterm! Called parciales down here, this exam was at the Universidad de Salvador, where I am taking a Prehistoria y Antropología General class. I am an anthropology major in the States, and this is an introductory class, so I have to say, I was not too worried about how things would turn out. But I was worried about how exactly the test would unfold, what type of information I would need to know, etc.

I am taking three clases with Argentine students (two clases at USAL and one at the University of Buenos Aires,) and this particular class is where I have the bulk of my friends. After sending out a few texts asking for all the help and advice they could offer me, I quickly had my study group formed. By studying with Argentine students, I was able to see some of the stark differences between the Argentine education system and that in place in the United States, but more importantly, I was able to see some huge differences in the way in which students in these countries view education in general. Three of my Argentine friends offered to share their notes with me and gave me their numbers to ask them whatever questions I might have. Two other students offered to study with me, and several others were quick to tell me the typical format for these types of exams. In short, I was so incredibly overwhelmed with their selflessness and their willingness to help me. I am usually pretty quick to form a study group in the States with other classmates in my college, but this was the first time I had so many students who seemed like they really wanted to help me succeed. It definitely made the blow of my first anthropology exam given in Spanish fall a Little softer.

For prospective students to the IFSA program, and, furthermore, for students considering studying at USAL, this university has the wonderful safety net of a make-up exam in case students do not do well on their first go. It is, to my understanding, a different version of the exam that students can take if they do not pass the first one. I really hope I do not have to take it, but I am happy it is there!

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Top 5 Restaurants

Time May 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Nearly three months into my study abroad experience, I have *finally* become comfortable walking into restaurants, sitting down without a host or hostess, and ordering whatever it is I want to eat. So, in honor of all the times I fumbled through Spanish with a waiter and awkwardly waited in the doorway of a fancy establishment waiting to be sat, here are my top five restaurants I have encountered in Buenos Aires. Read More »

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Sola Patagonia and Halfway Marks

Time May 9th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, last weekend I reached the halfway point in my study abroad experience. Two months down and two more to go! And how did I celebrate that milestone? I took a solo trip down to Patagonia! Read More »

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Top 5 Argentine Surprises

Time April 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, it´s been seven weeks since I first landed in Argentina and in those nearly two months, I have come to experience many fascets of Argentine culture (some of which I was expecting, and some I was not.) Whenever I Skype or text my friends from home, they ask me what some of the biggest culture shocks I have experienced so far in Buenos Aires, so I decided to make a list of my Top 5 Argentine Surprises (starting from the least shocking to the ones that throw me for a loop on the regular.)

 

**The anthropologist in me is weary about making sweeping statements about a general population, so let me just say I am aware my sample size of Argentine friends and acquaintances is no way an accurate representation of the population as a whole. This list is merely intended to highlight some of the more comical confusions I have experienced while abroad thanks to good ole ethnocentrism.

5. Kindness: In all honesty, a lot of the blogs and websites I read about expats´ experiences with porteños were fairly negative and seemed to be focused on Argentine arrogance. My experience? Nothing at all like that. Sure, there will be some waiters who impatiently switch to English when I do not understand their accent, but that´s to be expected anywhere. My friends and I have asked dozens of Argentines of all ages and backgrounds questions on the street, and I have never, never been brushed aside by any of them. I even had an elderly woman who could not understand me enlist the help of her granddaughter (who studies English in college) via cellphone in order to help me find the Subte.
4. Host Families (and returning to familial life in general): I honestly cannot tell you the last time I had to tell my dad in the US what time I would be coming home when I go out, but here, it´s an every day thing. I come from what I previously considered to be a close-knit Italian-American family, but, wow, do these Argentines have us beat. Everyone eats dinner at the same time every night, and familial obligations trump literally everything. Ask me how many times I have had Argentine friends tweak plans due to a niece or third-cousin´s birthday party that ran late. Go ahead, ask me.
3. La Cena: I knew it was going to happen. I knew that once I got one the plane, my days of eating at the grandmotherly 5:00 pm were long gone. But no amount of mental preparation could prepare me for my first cena at 11 pm. I would love to say this part has gotten easier with time, but haha. It has not. (Side note: My Argentine friends tell me that eating at 5 pm is considered a late lunch, which consistently makes me feel a little triste.)
2. Greetings: Specifically in the elevator and in the classroom. I´ll address the former first. In big buildings (such as the IFSA office downtown,) whenever someone enters the elevator, everyone already inside says “hola,” and when somebody gets off, they all say “buenos” or “buenos días.” It took longer than I care to admit to realize that these people don´t actually all know each other; they´re simply being polite. The same type of situation happens in the classroom, except, from what I have gathered, these people are actually friends. But the funny thing here for me is how these people will greet one another. without. fault. A kid walks in class late and the profe is mid-lecture? Let´s all say hola anyway! This was a huge change from my Kenyon´s practice of “enter the room silently and discreetly once class has begun” rule, and I gotta say, I find it refreshing.
1. Rain: Anyone who has chatted with me/heard about me/has a friend of a friend who might know me has probably heard how confused the lluvia makes me. But, oh, I can wrap my head around precipitation just fine, but what I cannot seem to understand is the way some Argentines seem to react to rain. Seriously, I have had friends skip class due to a drizzle, and sometimes the profesor will offer a sympathetic shrug and “yo también”  in response. And informal obligations such as meetups and dates? Forget it. My North American friends and I have had to realize that, just because our Argentine friends cancel plans twenty minutes before they are set to begin, it does not mean we are not truly amigos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ask for x and get y: a motto for my IFSA friends and me

Time April 5th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In the past two weeks since I last posted, so much has changed … and so little has changed, too. I feel as if I have finally developed a routine for myself here in Argentina, but I have to say, it is a bit unsettling. In the United States, I have come to associate routines with familiarity and confort, but here in Buenos Aires, it is still anything but. Yes, I can walk through Recoleta and Palermo with my friends and not have to pull out my Guia T at every street corner in order to find my way to a museum or a boliche, but there is still so much unfamiliar territory in this city.

I feel as if I am constantly confused, which is still amusing to me, despite having been here for a month. I swear, every day I have a seemingly normal conversation with my host family or with a waiter that somehow takes an unexpected turn, leaving me to wish I had my diccionario (or at least wifi) so I could look up the translations for words like “hot dog” or expressions like “I owe you.” Despite the stress of always being a little clueless, I have to say my first month as a porteña has been a humbling experience.

Here is a prime example from just this past week that I think sums up my Argentine experience thus far better than any lengthy blog post could:

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Special Topic: Machismo

Time March 21st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I would like to begin this post by saying I am still madly in love with Argentina and am more than prepared to sell my return flight ticket and pursue a future as a porteña. However, now that I am reaching my one month anniversary in Buenos Aires, I wanted to write a post about a topic with a bit more substance than my usual “this is what I did” type deal.

Machismo. When I told friends and family back home that I was going to be studying abroad in Argentina, nearly everyone mentioned, in some form or another, the machismo culture I would encounter. So I was prepared for catcalls and whistles and even unwanted advancements. But what I wasn’t prepared for was just how scary it all could be.
I spent last summer interning in Midtown Manhattan, so I’m familiar with big city practices. But unlike the inappropriate comments I received in New York, here in Buenos Aires, I have no idea what they’re saying. The leer is the same, the whistles are identical, but the words are muffled and consist of terminology I have never studies in the classroom. And that’s actually very intimidating. I’ve managed to bypass the majority of it by making sure I’m always walking with a male friend (which, conceptually, is problematic to me because the sexual harassment only goes away when a male is present. Seriously, I’ve been with four or five girls and we still receive comments, but once a male is around, nothing.)
This male strength actually brings me to my next point of this post, which is the famously Argentine tango. Now, let me preface what I am about to say by mentioning how much I love to dance. Any type of dance … or so I thought. IFSA arranged for the kids on my program to have tango lessons this past Friday, and I was intrigued. But honestly? Didn’t love it. The dance itself is fine — a little technical and rigid for my taste, but to each his own. For me, the problem came with the class’ atmosphere.
Like any girl who has ever been to a middle school dance, the lesson began with more girls than guys. Our female instructor, an Argentina, promptly informed us females that we have two options: wait for the men to pick us or go out there and chase one.
Okay.
Option one simply offended me because I had hoped to be beyond the point in my life where my physical appearance was all that mattered (which was essentially how these guys were judging because of the 30 or so males present, only 6 or so were from IFSA and knew me as an individual.) And option two irritated me. I have made it this far without fighting girls for a man’s attention, so I’m not about to start now. I danced a couple rounds with my North American friends, but beyond that, I spent the majority of my night chatting with the other girls who, for whatever reason, had opted out of a spin on the dance floor. All in all, not my best night here, but luckily I have many more to come.
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Dos Semanas

Time March 14th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

It has been two weeks, and I am finally getting the hang of things! (Translation: I get lost every day, but I now know the nearest helado shop or café to practically any point in the city, I swear.) Read More »

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Argentina Bound

Time February 29th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In 24 hours, I will be on an airplane headed for Argentina. It’s a crazy thought. In just two days, I’ll be in an entirely different environment surrounded by people and customs I have only been able to study in class.

 

I have traveled abroad before. (After graduating high school, I went to the British Isles on a complete whim with my sister, who lacked international savviness, like myself.) But this is my first journey A) to a country that does not predominantly speak English for B) longer than a month. Am I nervous? Absolutely. Am I excited? Uh, yes!

 

To make this first blog post a little easier to navigate and to make sure I get all those pre-departure bases covered, I have composed a list of the most popular questions my friends and family have asked me and my answers to these questions.

 

Q: But do you speak Spanish? I mean, really speak Spanish?

A: TBD. I have studied Spanish for about eight years, so I know some vocabulary, but I am not really a confident speaker. That’s the major reason I wanted to go abroad! The goal is to be asked this at the end of the program and answer with a confident “yes.”

 

Q: That Argentine accent though…

A: Yeah, I’ve heard it’s troublesome, but beautiful! I also speak Italian, which I have read is one of the major influencers of its singsong quality, so here’s to hoping that helps some!

 

Q: Do you know anyone on your program?

A; There are two other Kenyon girls that I know of who are going, and they both are very sweet! But besides them, I’m hoping to make some new amigos. Some students in our program made a Facebook page for us over the winter, so I’ve had some opportunities to interact with some other kids in my program, and they all seem great.

 

Q: I heard you’re doing a homestay. Thoughts?

A: Very excited about the homestay due to the prospect of full Spanish emersion. We received our housing assignments several weeks ago, and I will be living in Belgrano (a Buenos Aires barrio) with an artist and her seven-year-old son. Since I spend the majority of my year at school where I live with a bunch of college-aged kids, I am a little intimidated to stay with a child and a real adult. But I’m keeping an open mind and plan to be as open-minded as possible. I’m sure I’ll be discussing this more in the future, though!

 

Q: What are you most nervous about? What are you most excited about?

A: Hands down my most popular questions. I’d say I’m most nervous about looking like a goof. Nobody wants to be the kid who is trying to have a conversation about culture or family must circumlocute to the most extreme by saying “the brother of my grandmother” because you cannot remember “great uncle,” but I have accepted that I will be that kid. A lot. And that’s totally okay. And as for what I’m most excited about? Ha! I could have a whole post about that. Right now, I’m excited to get to some warmer weather (it’s in the 30s here in West Virginia with snow,) and I’m excited to walk around a beautiful city and and see all the sites and eat all the food. But I am also excited to jump into a different culture. I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to submerge myself in such a historic, important city, and I am ready to absorb.

 

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