Self-Discovery at 20 is one thing – Self-Discovery in another country is something else
“We are all dancing the fine line between being ourselves in a foreign country,
and trying our absolute hardest to fit in at the same time.”
So far, it has been about 3 weeks that I have been in Buenos Aires, and I am absolutely falling in love with my new home more and more everyday. The food is great – very healthy, no processed food, and I’m finally used to how late Argentines eat! The company is incredible – my host mother, Cintia, is an absolute sweetheart and we have been bonding over deep conversations about life (mind you, in Spanish) and watching la tele every weeknight.
For the first time, I visited Barrio Chino (aka BA’s China Town) and strangely felt closer to a feeling I call home. I wanted to buy everything in there, not only because they were cool, but I found myself feeling comfort in any decor that was considered oriental. I think this sense of wonder, confusion, and feeling adrift is how many of us feel in a new environment. Feeling hyperaware about my accent in Spanish, how my clothes may or may not give me off as estadounidense, or deciding whether I should just talk English in the streets with my friends has been an internal struggle that I believe many of us have dealt with. In the U.S., the media targets the woman market with very certain ideals about how a woman should look like, including clothing, makeup, attitude, and so much more that meets the eye. But I have felt easy with the culture around women in Buenos Aires, where makeup is used much less often, where there is not a mainstream style (besides monstrous platform boots), and here exists a community that is more interested in the well-being of each individual (i.e. health, safety, respect, happiness) than how they chose to present themselves that day. I waited almost 3 weeks before buying my first pair of local boots and a jacket because I wanted to make sure that I found a style that I liked that would allow me to blend in more comfortably.
Although I’m sure many of us are starting to find a good balance between fitting in and being ourselves, I have one friend who has chosen the “I stick out like a sore thumb” life – and it’s been incredible to see how that life is serving her well! Erika is one of my closest friends here, and luckily lives 5 blocks away. One day, she decided that, as a senior, this is probably her last chance to do almost whatever she wanted…so she dyed her hair highlighter green! And I honestly think it has been one of the bravest, fun decisions anyone in this program has made. In her blog, Erika in South America (which includes pictures of her hair!), she notes “I’m honestly not sure if this will help me blend into Argentine society more or less.” And with this awareness, that she has opted for the path less taken, has:
- made it easier for me to spot her in the street when we meet up
- given her major street credibility (people in bars or in las calles find her easy to talk to)
- helped older ladies re-live their younger selves vicariously through her
So for those who are thinking about studying abroad and who are currently studying abroad, I hope that you may eventually find a good balance between being yourself while living at ease in a new country.