Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Looking good, Mendoza!

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Speaking Spanish
II. Technical Concerns
III. Getting to Know Mendoza
IV. Vocabulario
V. Música
VI. Links to Previous Posts


I. Speaking Spanish

I thought I spoke Spanish, and I was ready to speak Spanish…until I actually met my host mom.

I think I finally understood something about one of my friends from Japan. When I first met her my freshman year, I was all sorts of hyper and overexcited to be there at my dream school in California, and so I was talking about 80 million miles an hour. Poor Junko’s eyes were as big as dinner plates. “Sorry—can you slow down?” she said.

“Oh yeah, sure, of course!” I said. And I would slow down…until I got excited about something and forgot again.

That’s how my host mom and I interacted, only I was in Junko’s shoes this time. I guess it’s my linguistic karma.

The first thing my host momma said to me was, “I talk really, really fast, so just let me know if you don’t understand something!” Good luck getting a word in edgewise to let her know though.

However, she’s very sweet, very concerned about my happiness and well-being. She’s also sassy and funny. Plus, her paintings are all over the house, which is awesome. You can check out my host momma’s art here.

All the same, I thought I was gonna cry on day one, even thought host momma was so nice, because I was just so overwhelmed. Not to mention frustrated with my sudden clumsiness with Spanish. I had about 5 minutes to put down my things, and then we hopped back in the car and headed over to one of her many, many friends’ houses. She’s a little social butterfly. We stopped at a bakery first, and all the Spanish was making my head spin. So fast and so mumbly! She told me to pick out facturas, which I think was the single most terrifying thing she could have asked of me at that point. I just didn’t have the mental power to make decisions.

When we arrived at her friend’s house, I was delighted to see two other girls from my program. Our host moms are friends. Think back to Saturday morning cartoons, where the sailor who’s been lost at sea finally washes up on the beach and starts kissing the sand. Land! English! That’s how I felt.
Before I left, I was determined to have mostly Argentine friends and only talk to people from the program when I had to, because I was going to live in Spanish Mode, the end. …Hahaha, that’s cute, Yona. Here in the real world, I am so grateful for English-speakers. Honestly, I overindulge in it, considering I can speak English any time I want in the U.S. and I’m only here for a few months. But sometimes you just need a mental break.

In addition to my host momma, I’ve also got a dog, who knows how to open the front door and let himself out.


And I’ve got…I guess she’s my host sister, but she’s not related to my host mom. She’s very sweet, patient with my limited vocabulary. I learn a lot of my slang from her, plus advice about boys and alcohol. 😉 She also understands a surprising amount of English (mostly from watching TV, I think, because a lot of it is English shows with subtitles) which is super helpful when I’m looking for the Spanish equivalent of non-dictionary words.

I’ve been here a few weeks now, and I feel very comfortable at my host family’s house. I’m excited to go back to it after a long day of class—it feels like my house. I like my host mom, and I feel comfortable talking to her about pretty much anything. (She has strong opinions about men though, and I’m not sure I agree all the time.) This morning she asked me if I translate in my head when I speak Spanish to her or if I’m thinking in Spanish…and I realized, no, I’m not translating for the most part, I’m just speaking. My vocabulary has its limits, and I still can’t do Spanish too well when I’m tired, but I do speak Spanish here. And I’m fully capable. :)



II. Technical Concerns


I seriously recommend that you wait until you get here to buy a phone or a converter. First, I was lucky and my host mom already had a phone and a converter for me to use from the last time she hosted. I would’ve wasted my money if I’d bought them myself. Second, in the U.S. they tend to sell converters in packs, and you don’t necessarily know which one you need. Converters are cheap and easy to find at ferreterias here, and if you need a phone IFSA helps you get one.

Things you WILL want are shoes with arch support and nice-looking sweaters. You’re going to be wearing your jacket constantly for a while, so make sure you bring ones you really like.

WiFi may be spotty. Talk to your host family…and pray. The IFSA office has good WiFi though, if all else fails.

Make sure you know how to use your house key before you leave the house. The keys here are large and old fashioned, and the locks are finicky. I got locked out of my house on the first day, with the keys in my hand. :( With a little practice, I’ve finally learned the exact way to jiggle the lock until it pops open. I’m not sure what exactly I learned because I don’t think I’m doing anything drastically different, but there you go.


III. Getting to Know Mendoza


The prospect of trying to find my way around terrified me. This was my internal map of Mendoza on day three before I walked to Congreso by myself for the first time:


But finding my way was actually very straightforward. Medoza is a nice place, and I already love it. (I can’t wait to see it in the spring!) Most things are within walking distance of each other. Street signs are marked more clearly than in BA. If you like coffee, you’ll like it here, because if you trip walking in the centro, odds are good that you’ll land in a café.

Traffic is also a little less voluminous here, though equally as dangerous as in Buenos Aires. The “do not walk” sign really means something more like “cross fast and don’t look back!” Still, be careful and be smart about it.

In addition to learning the geography of the place, I’m obviously also learning some things about the culture of the area. Let’s talk about food:


I’m only exaggerating a little.

Oh, and mate obviously. Tortas and other egg-y things are also pretty big, and so is jam. Tea exists, but if you order just a tea in a café, people worry about you.

You might get Salad, but it might not look like the salad you’re expecting. I’ve had a tomato salad (chopped tomato with lemon and olive oil), a carrot salad (grated carrot with lemon and olive oil)…

My mom can definitely cook, but we also do a lot of reheating of stuff she bought around the corner or something. My momma loves the microwave. It’s still good, mind you. But it’s definitely a big change from the way I was cooking for myself all summer!

However, it really depends on who your family is. One of my friends has a real mixed green salad every night, very little meat. Some families cook really well…and others, well… I’ve heard some funny but tragic stories from other kids in the program.

Brace yourself, basically.




IV. Vocabulario


Once you hit Mendoza, unfamiliar words start flying thick and fast. You should definitely keep a notebook on hand to help you remember some of them. I’ve got pages and pages in my notebook about vocab, but I’ll give you guys just a few of the most frequently used/confusing ones.


Copada – cool

Re – very, super

Factura – pastry

Ubicar – located / to be located (estar)

Varon – boy

Alargador – extension cord

Enchufar – to plug into a wall outlet

Materias – courses

Parciales – midterms


Words you thought you knew in Spanish but don’t if you didn’t learn Spanish in Argentina:


Avocado = Palta, NOT  aguacate

Corn = Choclo, NOT maiz or elote

Fridge = Heladera, NOT refrigerador

Strawberry = Frutilla, NOT fresa



V. Música

First and foremost, expect to hear a lot of American music here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Call Me Maybe since arriving—there’s no escaping it. Argentine radio is also…full of surprises. One minute you’ve got Lady Gaga, the next it’s a dubstep remix of the Beatles, next it’s an actual song in Spanish, next it’s 70’s rock. All on the same station. So, expect the unexpected.

Here’s a song in Spanish for you to jam out to. My host sister likes this one a lot.


VI. Links to Previous Posts

1. Antes de que me voy (Before I Leave)

2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires


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One Response to “Looking good, Mendoza!”

  1. Brittany Says:

    This is a great post! I loved reading the vocab section. You should post this to, it’s a new social networking blog for students travel abroad.

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