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One Month

“I am in a foreign world
they speak a language of their own
nobody knows where I have come from, daddy
I can’t help but feel alone

I am in a foreign world
I am different, I am strange
I know that I should try to fit in somehow 
but I don’t I think that I can change

and I know you won’t believe it
but I just want to be like other girls
wear pretty shoes like other girls
write a literary masterpiece
for scholars to peruse like other girls”


I have now officially been in Argentina for more than one month.  As usual, it both feels like I’ve been here for longer and shorter than that.  Shorter because I feel like I haven’t done nearly a month’s worth of things since I’ve been here.  Longer because the time when I was sitting in my room preparing for this trip feels like a lifetime ago.  I both feel like I’ve accomplished so much, yet that I’ve hardly done anything with my time here.  Perhaps because my greatest accomplishments have been little things like going to the grocery store or striking up a conversation with an Argentine, nothing that would normally be on a traveler’s checklist.  I’ve also had a lot of downtime, as besides IFSA’s Spanish language class I haven’t had anything I have to do.  Also the city shuts down for siesta from 12-5 which is the time I’d normally be up for exploring. This month has been about learning how to live in a new country with a new language and trying to establish a new normal for myself. That has been somewhat complicated by the fact that my class schedule isn’t pinned down yet.  So I still don’t know what a typical week here will look like.  


The registration process itself has been very busy and confusing.  On my first day of class none of my professors showed up because they were on strike, and then on Wednesday I showed up to a class that had actually been on Tuesday.  Despite these quirks, I thought I knew what classes I was taking as I need two Spanish literature classes for my major and the university only offers two literature classes this semester, but I just found out about a film class for which I can also receive credit, so I have to visit that class on Monday and then decide.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my ability to follow what is being said in class though following the content has been a little bit harder as I’m unfamiliar with the authors being discussed and I haven’t received syllabuses yet so I can do the reading beforehand.  Also, at this point I don’t want to put too much work into a class I might not take so I’m waiting to decide on my schedule before seriously pursuing this information.  All the uncertainty reminds me on my first semester at Brandeis when I spent a week and a half deciding on my final class.  At the time it was the most stressful experience I’d had at college so far and I was seriously worried about finding a good class before too much time had passed.  Though the same emotions of discomfort at uncertainty exist, I’m not super stressed out by my current situation.  I know it will all work out and I’m not worried about making up the work.  Amazing what a couple years of life experience will do.  In fact, I’ve had many experiences here that are very reminiscent of struggles I’ve faced in the past, but I find myself dealing with them all in a calmer manner than I have in the past. Knowing that I’ve gone through similar experiences before and they worked out in the end gives me the self-assuredness to get through these familiar challenges with less stress.  Sometimes it feels every experience of my life up to this point is coming together to help me navigate the situations I face.  In any case, it’s a nice way to be reminded that I’ve grown and changed since I was in high school or since I first started college, and by the end of this experience I will have grown and changed in many more ways.


A common theme since I’ve been here is experiencing an initial terror upon having to do something new, but after I do it once it becomes as natural as if I’d done it my whole life.  One such example are the micros, the buses, which I have been promising to explain to you.  


The first challenge is figuring out which bus you need to take.  Buses are divided two ways, first by their grupo, a big number above the front window of the bus, and then a smaller number indicating the route, (which is then further specified by the landmarks it stops by, which can change the route significantly) 

The 4 is the grupo number the white square in the glass has the bus number and the route, have fun trying to read it, though!

 

Once you find your bus there you might still need to find a different bus back as the buses go in circles and will not go back to the spot you picked it up at, instead it will go to the bus depot.  There are some websites to help you figure it out, but also personal experience is the best teacher.  When you find your bus you find the stop closest to you and wait there.  Lots of buses will go past you that don’t stop at your stop, you have to keep an eye out for the bus you need and then when you see it you need to flag it down, sometimes by stepping into the street.  Usually you won’t be able to see the small number in time to flag down the bus, so if you see a bus from the grupo you need, flag it down and then ask the driver where it goes.  When in doubt just ask the bus driver, even the locals get confused and ask about the bus route all the time.  If you do miss your bus just wait for  the next one, they usually come every 10 or 20 minutes so it won’t be long.  Once you’re on the bus you swipe your card and if you’re lucky sit down, or if there are no more seats you stand and hold on to one of the railings.  This is my least favorite part because I can barely reach the railing and with all the starting and stopping and turning it’s hard to feel sure that you won’t topple over!  Also, you’re trying to keep an eye on you belongings at the same time this is going on.  When you see your stop you have to make sure that you’re at the back of the bus and can press the buzzer to let the bus driver know you want to get off, otherwise he’ll probably just keep driving!  If you do miss your stop or take the wrong bus altogether, get off if you know where you are, if not take the bus to the depot and wait for another one heading back into town.  It may sound crazy but after a month this has almost become second nature to me (almost).


I’ve also become an expert at walking the city.  I’ve walked at least a mile and a half every day I’ve been here.  Mendoza is an interesting city to walk around because there are always so many people out and about from all different walks of life.  Also as I don’t know many people yet I’ve found it to be one of the best ways to get a sense of life here.  Certain streets have become so familiar walking them is now routine.  The Bruno Mars music blasting from the record store and the smell of kettle corn on la Avenida San Martín have become regular parts of my commute to and from downtown Mendoza.  

 

 

 

 

 



I’m a little behind on my exploration of the night life here.  I got sick last weekend which kept me from going out and the busyness of course registration has made me hesitant to go out on a week night, knowing I might not get back until 6 in the morning!  But I’m hopeful that I’ll become a little more adventurous soon!  Other upcoming adventures include going to Bariloche in Patagonia for Semana Santa this Wednesday night, where I will be for five days before returning to get back to starting my classes.  I’m also looking forward to celebrating Passover here, it will be my first time that I won’t be home for my family seder, but I’m excited about experiencing Passover in a different country!


As I write this it’s a Friday afternoon and I’m sitting on my host family’s patio.  I definitely woke up with a case of the Friday blues, which I’ve found I tend to get every Friday no matter where I am or how busy I’ve been.  But being in Argentina, the melancholy that comes with the exhaustion of a long week hits especially hard.  Though I am enjoying my Argentine adventure so far, I also long for the familiar, to go out to Boston with my Brandeis friends for one afternoon or to go on errands in Palo Alto with my mom.  Though I am making new friends and have met some truly wonderful people here, I sometimes wish to be surrounded by the people who know me best, with whom I don’t have to try to be anything at all.  It isn’t English or America that I’m homesick for, I’m homesick for the familiar, and people who make me feel the safest.  I don’t want to go home, I just want to make this new place feel familiar and safe.  I don’t know if that will happen in four months, but I’ll try.  


As I continue to try to fit in to this strange new world, I am reminded that, though I can adjust to my new surroundings I cannot change the person who I intrinsically am.  Putting myself out there is not going to become easy and staying out until 6 in the morning is not going to become my idea of a great time.  I want to do as the Argentines do and as the other people in my program do, but I also want to do this Argentina thing my way so I can get the most out of this experience for me.  I think conflict between making myself comfortable and stretching my comfort zone and trying new things is going to be a constant one this semester, as well as the conflict between wanting to be cautious and careful but desiring to meet new people and try new things.  “Like Other Girls” from the musical Daddy Long Legs encapsulates my feelings perfectly.  I want to be like everyone else but I want to be myself, and I want to live a simple life but I want to do the extraordinary.  If anyone knows how to do that let me know, if not, I’ll keep trying to figure it out for myself :)


Until next time!


“I am in a foreign world
I am different, I am strange
I know that I should try to fit in somehow 
but I don’t I think that I can change

and I know you won’t believe it
I just want to be like other girls
get all dressed up like other girls
Be a scientist, a motorist, a suffragette, a methodist
a fabian, a freudian, the class valedictorian
or what else heaven knows
like other girls
like other girls
like other girls”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYPXd7P6Yus

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2 Responses to “One Month”

  1. Sarah Sarah Says:

    Hi Rebecca!
    I am planning to study at UNCuyo next semester through IFSA-Butler, and I have loved reading your blog and following your journey! It makes it a little easier for me to know what to expect when I am there! I am curious though, how many people are in your program? Were you selected to write this blog, or were you simply the only one from Mendoza that wanted to?

    It sounds like you have had some amazing experiences so far; I hope you continue to have a wonderful time abroad!

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  2. Rebecca Rebecca Says:

    Hi, Sarah!

    Thanks for the comment! It’s great to know that people are reading my blog and enjoying it! I’m so excited that you are coming to Mendoza next semester! There are about 35 people on the program this semester, but the numbers vary greatly depending on the semester. Last fall I think there were nearly 50 people, their largest group yet! Other semesters it’s been much smaller, around 15 or 20. Though there are opportunities to connect online before you go, they won’t give you a roster for privacy reasons so you’ll just have to find out how many you are when you get to Argentina! I applied to be the official IFSA blogger for Mendoza, I think a few other people might have expressed interest, but I was the only one who was selected. Many people have personal blogs though. If you’re interested, I can send you a list of other people on the program who are blogging. This time last semester I was doing the same thing you are now, reading through blogs and trying to get a sense of what Mendoza would be like. I encourage you to get as many perspectives as possible. Though we’ve had a lot of common experiences everyone’s impression of their time here is different and we all get different things out of studying abroad.
    It was great to hear from you, best of luck in your preparations, and if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask! You can contact me at RebeccaDeHo@aol.com

    Rebecca

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