Thoughts after Bariloche
The other day, I got back from my last major trip of my study abroad program, San Carlos de Bariloche. It came at an interesting moment in my time here. Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little down, unable to put my finger on why. I haven’t felt homesick and everything was going fine. I guess I was just having a lull where everyday was feeling more or less the same, I had a little more work than I wanted and while I wasn’t homesick, things were happening at home and at my home university that I was missing out on. Other study abroad and university friends were preparing for summer break and to go home to family and I still had over two months a head of me. Another IFSA student reminded me of the “S” or “W” curve (depending on who you talk to) that describes the highs and lows during a semester abroad (and by extension, life in general!). I was halfway through my program and felt like I could predict everything that was left, unsure how much highs were even left for me. I shook off my lull to prepare for probably my final adventure outside of Mendoza, Bariloche.
I was already a little disappointed that I came to Argentina and couldn’t see Patagonia (since it’s been getting colder, more and more of the trails and excursions are closed so I didn’t think it would make sense paying to fly down there). *Important point: If you are coming in US Fall semester, the months get warmer so it makes sense to wait for nicer weather or even after your program to travel down there…if you come in US Spring Semester, try your best to go earlier in the semester when it’s still warm and you’re not running out of breaks!* Still wanting to see more of Argentina’s beautiful Patagonia landscape, a friend with IFSA in Buenos Aires and I decided to meet in Bariloche, a beautiful city just North of Patagonia with an abundance of lakes, mountains, forests, excursions, tours and ways to get to know a very different part of Argentina than our host cities. My disappointment on missing Patagonia definitely ended once I arrived (but of course I would like to see it someday!).
Having little experience booking and planning trips on our own, we figured out transportation, lodging and excursion plans individually ahead of time, collecting advice from host families, IFSA staff and other students. We traveled from our respective cities alone (this was new to me so I was a little nervous, but it turned out fine and I managed to solve the little issues I encountered along the way!). From there, we were on our own and since it’s low season, we were often traveling completely alone in forests, up mountains and across landscapes we were all but familiar with and with few signs to tell you you’re going the right way. We would even go hours without seeing a single other human, with unreliable cellphone service and a map that was quite lacking in detail. Many people we met were surprised these two “chicitas” of only 20 and 21 years of age were traveling in Argentina on our own, not even fluent in the language! That’s when I realized the breadth of what I was doing. Before college, I never traveled anywhere alone. Just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine traveling internationally alone. At the start of the program, I was nervous about walking around my host city alone. Somehow, now I was traveling across the country alone exploring new natural landscapes with only my friend at my side. And we were doing fine! I felt and I feel such a strong sense of joy that I’ve been able to grow in this way so quickly. It has been such a smooth transition in getting more comfortable and pushing my limits that had I not taken the time to reflect, I would not have noticed.. at least for a while.
On my 18 hour bus ride back to Mendoza (yes! 18!), I thought about my visit and the feelings I had just before leaving. Bariloche was definitely another high for me and I made so many great memories with my friend. We didn’t have a ton of time, but we packed so much into the few days we had. I saw so many beautiful landscapes, decorated with the vivid red, orange and yellows of autumn and touches of snowing hinting at winter’s impending arrival. It was very cold, but in a refreshing, revitalizing way that woke me up to all that I still haven’t experienced in Argentina and the incredible variety of its landscapes, people and lifestyles. I was just in the desert a month ago and now I was seeing royal blue lakes at the feet of snow-capped mountains!
All of this left me feeling incredibly grateful, even more so than before. We all know we are lucky to be on study abroad and not everyone gets the chance. In fact, only 2-3% of American college students ever get to study abroad, and even more broadly, only 1% of the world’s population gets to attend higher education. We really are an extremely privileged rarity! I thought about all my family and friends who have not gotten this chance, but are sincerely happy I get to do this and are listening for updates back home. I especially thought about my parents who may never get to visit and experience the things I have over just the past couple months. Yet, they are the reason I am even here. Each one of us is so fortunate to have this opportunity and am I so lucky that I am financially able to not only study abroad, but travel to places like Chile and Bariloche during breaks to widen my horizons even more. I’m having a one of a kind experience where I am placed into new culture, supported in learning a foreign language and encouraged to pick up valuable life skills such as my improvement in independence that I mentioned earlier. How much luckier do you get??? I just want to say to all of you reading this, you are incredibly lucky to even have the chance to study abroad and if you decide to, make the most of it because there is so much to learn, experience and look for ways to improve yourself!
Since my climb up the “S” or “W” curve in Bariloche, I have realized I have only about 5 weeks left of study abroad. It’s hard to believe I will be leaving Mendoza so soon and I know I need to take full advantage of the time I have left to do everything I haven’t had time for. I’ve gotten so comfy here, it’s hard to imagine leaving and probably never getting another chance to just study and live with a host family in a new city. My lull is over and I’m hoping to make the most of each of my last days in this beautiful city.
Some photos of my time in Bariloche!!!