Revelations in Mendoza
My trip last week to the 4th largest city in Argentina was an important one. Way back during the application process for study abroad, I was torn between big city life of BA, and here in peaceful outdoorsy Mendoza. Ultimately I chose BA , yet I told myself I would eventually visit my would-have-been home. I was worried coming here that I would fall in love with Mendoza and regret choosing the dirty calles of BA.
Indeed, Mendoza is an absolutely beautiful city- extremely walkable, with not too much traffic. Every street is lined with trees, currently in springtime bloom, as well as aquaducts with gently flowing water. There are multiple parks like Plaza Independencia and Parque San Martín, filled with open fields, plenty of trees and stunning views of the Andes, only a few miles away. There are plenty of cute cafés and shops. Probably most dramatic is the quiet! Sure there are a few parks in BA but you can always hear the city around you. Here, you actually feel connected with nature. There aren’t too many tall buildings, so you can actually see the sky! Even the air seemed purer. Life definitely moves slower in Mendoza, although you have hiking, skiing & rafting nearby for a change of pace.
I definitely would have been happy here, yet I don’t regret about my choice. At this point, I have a solid footing in BA, I feel good about my classes, and I have great friends, both American and Argentine. I had never lived in a city before, plus Bates was already relatively isolated, so I’m glad I got this different setting. I’m also glad I’m at the center of Argentine politics with protests and debate everywhere. The fact that I’m still discovering new parts about the city from its barrios to its people also means that everyday is different.
I was accompanied by one of my closest friends from the program while walking around Mendoza. She also comes from a small LAC, with close proximity to nature. We both agreed that we would have been happy in Mendoza, although we’re content with our current lives in BA. We also discussed some of the not so nice things we’ve noticed about our experiences:
Despite getting 15 pesos for every dollar, costs still add up, but it’s obvious that this is more of an issue for some people than others. For some, side trips every few weeks to new places like Mendoza just isn’t feasible. Obviously it’s an enormous privilege just to be in BA on a program like this. Yet especially in the beginning, being social and making friends requires these trips, going out to expensive restaurants and spending lots of money in general. I know for myself I’ve felt pressured to spend more money than I was planning just so I could be social and not feel left out. In the future it would be nice if IFSA held a general discussion around the topic of money so people wouldn’t feel ashamed by having less than their peers.
Similarly we talked about the need to really take advantage of our time here. Throughout the trip, fellow IFSA people have been our go-to people for dinners or to hang out. Some of us have made friends through the program, some I haven’t seen since orientation. Regardless, it can be frustrating trying to immerse yourself in your surroundings when you’re with a large group of IFSA people, speaking English and generally looking very American. Sometimes I actually wish there was a language pledge- perhaps we wouldn’t get to know each other as well, but we’d improve our castellano so much. That’s why I think I’m going to have my own self-imposed language pledge for now on. We’re also more and more comfortable with the idea of exploring alone. Obviously I’ve made wonderful friends here and I’ll continue to go out with them, but if plans don’t work out, I won’t be upset, I’ll survive. We’re only here for a limited time (only two more months gahhh), and we’ll be interacting with Americans anyway once we return. That’s why I intend to take full advantage of my remaining time here and learn as much about the culture, the people and castellano as possible. As Mendoza emphasized, independence is the key.