Every time I leave a place, it doesn’t seem to hit me and leaving Mendoza is no different. I walk through the tree-lined streets to my universities, meet in one of the plazas with friends, laugh over the stories of my host brother and pop into the IFSA office as if this will go on forever – not like it could be one of the last or the last time I do so. I’ve gotten so comfortable, life has become so normalized and routine and real, that I do not feel it can end. Fewer new experiences surprise me and there are less times that I am faced with a situation that leaves me lost. I guess I should take this as evidence that I have adapted pretty well.
I still pause when I speak and need to ask what words mean or for synonyms all the time, but I’m not struggling and re-conjugating every verb like I was at the beginning. More and more my professors and the other students have been mentioning how far I’ve come, as easily one of the poorest Spanish speakers (maybe the poorest of our little group of 10) when I arrived. This honestly has surprised me a lot. At the beginning, which was somehow just 4 months ago, I remember being so intimidated and self-conscious. I convinced myself, at my level, it was impossible to improve vastly in less than 5 months. I improved pretty quickly in the first month, but felt I hit a plateau in improvement. At that time in order to not disappoint myself, I accepted that maybe my Spanish wouldn’t improve greatly from that point, but I could work on expanding my vocabulary at least. Something happened in the final month. Out of nowhere (it appeared to me) I could speak with so much less effort. Even effortlessly at times, something I never expected to feel. I felt it most when chatting with my host family or fellow volunteers about topics I used to feel I did not have the adequate words to describe and then just resolved to listen. I also felt it during unexpected class presentations when we were supposed to just talk on our own, naturally and freely about different topics we studied. It’s like the words I got tongue-tied over were finally flowing out! I have to say it felt good, reassuring and gave me a new confidence to contribute more to conversation and share more of my ideas and opinions in different settings. Looking back at my personal notes where I wrote to just accept where I was at, despite the low level, and just do my best to improve, make me smile now. Although there were times where I had serious doubts about how effective my studying was and how well I’d be able to manage the language throughout the program, it seems at least some doubts were definitely unfounded. I am not done yet, but I feel I will be able to leave Mendoza with a sense of accomplishment and pride in my efforts and of course, great appreciation for the teachers, students, my host family and countless other Argentines that shaped my learning experience so profoundly. Read More »