The Final Sprint to the Finish Line
Before I studied abroad, I had countless people tell me that studying abroad was like a roller coaster ride, with many up’s and down’s. Although I understand, more or less, what they meant by that, I wouldn’t compare my study abroad experience to a roller coaster, but rather to running a marathon. Before my traveling began, I spent MONTHS preparing for my time in Argentina; much like a marathon runner spends months training before the race. When race day came around (the day I boarded the plane for South America), nerves, excitement, and adrenaline counts were at an all-time high. As I arrived in Buenos Aires and attended orientation, I began to second-guess my adventure when I realized just how long I would be living in a foreign world. I am not a marathon runner, but from running cross country in high school, I can suppose that a first-time marathon runner would perhaps wonder at the beginning of the race if she/he could really complete all 26.2 miles. After the first few miles (or weeks, in my case), everything becomes very easy, and any self-doubts are erased from the mind. Once the 22nd or 23rd mile comes around, everyone is ready to stop running and finish the race already. This study abroad “mile” was perhaps the shortest, but most difficult mile of my race, and it certainly still came for a couple of days, around the end of October.
The end of the race though, I am realizing, is what makes studying abroad and running a marathon different. In a marathon, once the end is near, the runner sprints to the finish. Now that the end is near for my time in Argentina, I am looking for every way possible to turn around and sprint the other direction! The scenery keeps moving forward at an accelerated pace, even as I resist it. I took my first final exam today, and I only have four left before my academic responsibilities are completed in Mendoza. I also had to say goodbye tonight to my students in the English class that I help teach in Ugarteche, which was especially hard because it has been, by far, the most rewarding experience of the semester (and probably of my life). This is a difficult position in the study abroad race, because it is hard to balance studying for finals with planning trips at the end of the program, and with spending that one extra day with my host family. Goodbyes are certainly the worst part about this experience, and they will be lengthy and difficult when December 4th rolls around. Although it is hard to focus on anything but the fact that my time in Mendoza is basically gone, I am trying to focus on how great of an experience I have had, how much my Spanish has improved, and how lucky I am to have had an opportunity such as this to live and learn in another world. I also try to comfort myself knowing that if the time hadn’t passed quickly, then it would have probably meant that I did not have as great of a time. As everyone knows, time flies when you are having fun, and these last four months have flown by faster than the speed of light. As the holiday season approaches, my excitement to be at home with my family and friends, sleeping in my own bed and drinking hot cocoa by the fire sometimes gets the best of me, and I think I am ready to leave. As soon as I step out of my door in Mendoza though and I see the beautiful palm trees next to the sparkling lake with the snow-covered mountains in the distance and the 80 degree weather, I realize just how much this place means to me, and just how difficult it is going to be to say goodbye, especially without having plans of returning in the near future.
On the bright side, this past week has certainly been one of my favorite weeks that I have had in Mendoza, and I know exactly the reason why: Because when I realized last week how close I was to the end, I took every moment and every opportunity to go enjoy the beautiful weather, to get together with my friends, and to have conversations with the Argentines without a care in the world about my lack of fluency in Spanish. In a way, the way I have lived this last week has reminded me a lot of Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying”. I am (hopefully) not dying, but this chapter of my life is most definitely almost over, and there is a good chance that I won’t ever get to see these people and these places again. And because of this, I don’t care if I mess up a word, or make a bad impression, because I only have two weeks left, and I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have here while it lasts. It’s an exhilarating feeling to truly live without regrets, and to maximize every moment I have here, and I really hope that I can remember this feeling when I return to the States, and continue to live my life as if I only have a couple of days remaining. While I am still not liking the “sprint to the finish”, I am beginning to accept the fact that not leaving is not an option for me (although returning is always one!), and rather than dwelling on the end, I am going to make these last two weeks the two that I remember and cherish the most.