I’m finally home!! After my program ended, I was fortunate enough to travel around Argentina with my parents for ten days before catching a flight back to the States (I’ll insert some pictures of our adventures below) and since then have been having a relaxing holiday week with family and friends.
To wrap up this blog series, I wanted to share three takeaways on my study abroad experience now that I have been home.
1. It doesn’t last forever.
This one goes both ways – the bad parts don’t last forever, but at the same time neither do the good parts. Although it may seem like an eternity, all of the tougher things about the study abroad experience — in my case, adjusting to the food, being away from Macalester and my friends and family, and having a few challenges with my host family — will end. And (hopefully) what will remain are all of the relationships, good memories, and lessons learned. So my advice would be to take every opportunity to try something new while you are abroad – new food, new travel destination, new activity. Because even if it doesn’t go well, you’ll at least have a story to tell!
But at the same time, don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you haven’t “made the most” of your study abroad experience. Everybody lives/works/thinks/makes decisions at their own pace. So your “making the most of it” might look very different from your friend’s “making the most of it”. As you have read so far on this blog, I went on trips to Chile and attended IFSA excursions – all of which offered incredible adventures and memories. But I also found that even a simple trip to a kiosco could offer learning experiences and growth.
2. My Spanish actually improved.
Although sometimes my ability to respond lags a bit, I left Argentina with the ability to understand almost everything that was said to me. I also became familiar with Argentine ways of saying things (because what we learn in the US is basically Mexican Spanish). Che (buddy), auto (car), vos (tú – the informal you), micro (bus), agua sin/con gas (mineral or sparkling water), etc became everyday phrases. Traveling with my parents after the program ended (as their daughter and translator) was a true test of my skills and solidified that I had indeed improved dramatically. All of a sudden, it became super important that I knew how to order a hamburger sin cebolla (without onion) for my dad and could communicate to the waiter that my mom es celiaca (can’t eat gluten). So overall, I left Argentina pretty proud of what I could do. I am now more confident in my language abilities and am excited to continue using the language in the future – now I just have to keep practicing!
3. I am so grateful for my experience.
This last one is pretty cheesy, but not everyone has the opportunity to study abroad. In fact, I am one of the select few that a) has the money, b) has enough credits to spare, and c) has the support of family, friends and my home college to pursue study in a foreign country. Despite a few (minor, in retrospect) challenges, I would not take back my time in Argentina for the world. It was such an incredible opportunity for which I will be forever grateful. Not only did I come out of it better at Spanish, I also emerged more confident and independent, more interested in Latin American issues, and more motivated than ever to return to Macalester to continue studying.
Alrighty folks, this is the last blog post. Thank you so much to everyone that has supported me on my journey, helped me along the way, and/or read my posts. I truly appreciate it! Now, on to the next adventure!