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

Post-Argentine Reflections

Time July 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Well it’s happened! I’m home! Back home in Massachusetts with my family and friends after spending nearly a year away from them between college and study abroad. Of course I feel incredibly happy to not only be a rising senior and done with finals, but it was so great reuniting with my family! I may not have felt homesick, but it did and does feel great seeing and spending time with them again. I’ve spent the days since my return regaling my adventures and sharing the many photos I took. In my time alone and in short thoughts throughout the day, I reflect on what my experience in Argentina has been and what it means to me.

I came to study abroad optimistic, excited and a bit nervous. After hearing the other students, I felt unsure about my ability to catch up and after spending the first week speaking and listening to Spanish all the time, I was left absolutely exhausted at the close of everyday. Remembering my final week, I am truly amazed how powerful just a few months can be! I would not say I’m fluent, but I really can manage in an area where relatively no one speaks English.  That is huge for me! I also came experiencing not only my first time in Latin America, but my first time in a country with absolutely no one I had ever met before. I could usually depend on family or friends to help me navigate and make decisions, but in Argentina, I was truly on my own. Walking the streets of Mendoza was quite scary for me at the beginning, yet at the end I breezed through them without much of a thought and equipped with all the safety tips I’ve picked up and practiced over the preceding months. Though even last year I really wondered, how will I ever read academic articles in Spanish, or even worse, write entire essays, I now have done both quite a few times and have shown myself it is possible (though still a crazy thought to me honestly). Adjusting to the slow pace of life and disorganization (along with the whole city essentially shutting down several hours a day for siesta and the entire weekend) were linked to some of my biggest challenges, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned quite a bit with dealing with a slower, more uncertain world. Maybe it’s not what I prefer, but I am sure it will prove an important life lesson for me in the future. Maybe I do need to slow down a bit and smell the roses?

Aside from better learning to deal with new situations, uncertainty and navigating unfamiliar streets, I learned about planning trips on my own, how to knit thanks to my knitting group and how to cook (a great way to save money because meals in Mendoza are expensive!!!). Study abroad brings you tons of other experiences to learn and develop that you probably wouldn’t expect –  you just have to make yourself open to trying and making mistakes! This has to be one of my biggest pieces of advice! I can be a hesitant and cautious person at times, but had I not firmly decided to seize the opportunities given to me to see new places, try new things, spend a little extra on worthwhile experiences and face some fears, I would have left Argentina with so much less of an understanding of its people, natural wonders and history. I would not have improved in Spanish as much, would have missed out on a lot of irreplaceable memories and friendships and come back to the US more or less unchanged. You will meet a lot of challenges. You will face some fears that you’ve never felt pushed to confront. You will be given choices and opportunities that will dictate what you get out of your time abroad. While I am not trying to say you should go overboard, I will repeat the cliche advice to get out of your comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable and sometimes you may feel regret, but overall, I have felt happy when I did.

Though happy at home, there will be a lot I miss about study abroad. I will miss the other students as I mentioned in my last post, I will miss spending dinners with my host family, I will miss classes with one of my professors a lot and miss volunteering among everyday Mendocinos each week. I will miss living at the foot of the Andes, where I can see those beautiful mountains through my window and virtually anytime I’m walking through the city. I will miss being able to walk anywhere easily and taking cheap public transportation the few times I need to (maybe I won’t miss the buses though!). I will especially miss the gorgeous Autumn colors Mendoza was painted in when I left. As my host mom drove me to the airport, I couldn’t help but feel an additional ache for leaving such a cute, pretty little city (though I eventually realized it wasn’t as little as I originally expected!). I will miss long random conversations with artisans I’ve chatted with in passing over the past few months in the central plaza and the Argentine sense of humor and way of telling stories which differs so much from what I’m used to at home. I will miss the touching close-knit relationships I was fortunate enough to see between families and friends. The closeness, comforting and care. It made me think even further about the variety and complexity of human relationships across cultures and especially how both Latin American and European influences intermingle in the Argentine people.

Though I am happy to say my Spanish has improved, my study is not over. Sure it will not be more immersion or nearly as in depth as study abroad, but I already have plans to continue Spanish classes during my final year in college. I have enrolled in a literature and film class which will assuredly test my essay-writing skills, film analysis skills and general understanding of the language and my ability to express my thoughts that I have worked on over the past few months. Hopefully, I will be able to prove how far I’ve come thanks to the Mendoza program. The Spanish-speaking ladies at work have already told me they want to speak to me in Spanish so it looks like I’ll have some people to practice with until then! As I said in my last post, my time in Argentina feels unfinished and I definitely hope to return someday! There are too many people I need to see again! I also HAVE to see Patagonia when the majority of it isn’t shut down for the off season. Hopefully, next time I will be bringing along friends and family to introduce them to this incredible country and its amazing, kind-hearted people! If you get the chance to go, I wish you all the best and hope you can enjoy Argentina and Mendoza as I have!

Share

Wrapping up a dream

Time July 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

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 »

Share

Coming to terms with my last weeks of Study Abroad

Time June 20th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

It’s now past mid-June and many of my friends who studied abroad this semester have already returned home or are traveling following their programs throughout the world. In fact, my boyfriend is heading back to the US from Japan as I write this. It is hard to imagine I too will be returning in just a couple weeks. Seeing them go home, one by one, has been a potent reminder for me to take advantage of every last opportunity I have to spend time with my host family, the friends I have made here, see the places I’ve hoped to see and return to the places I enjoyed. I’ve made it a point to go out more with the other students, knowing we’ll disperse in all different directions once back in the US. I traveled to Potrerillos with one of them, went to the top floor of the municipality building to get a bird’s eye view of Mendoza, took a cooking class with IFSA Butler, finished up my list of presents for family and friends and we put together our own bridal shower for one of the students who will be getting married soon after her return to the US – checking off all the things we’ve been putting off all semester. It’s been lovely, but also bittersweet. I enjoy each memory, but with the sad reminder that this may be my last time visiting x restaurant, spending hours in x plaza or getting the whole group together for an afternoon. I’ve also been trying the last types of Argentine food I never got around to – lomo and choripan for example. Tomorrow, I will be heading to Ugarteche for the third and last time with my host mom, possibly our last outing together as well.

You may wonder: this is the last few weeks, so how do you have time for this? Honestly, it’s been difficult. I’ve been quite busy with exams, essays, presentations, classes and just typical homework. It may be a lot less work than I get in the US, but it can be tough to balance when you are trying to fit in as many last memories as you can while still in your host city (or last minute trips like some of the other students!). That compounded with it being winter here (which means less motivation and energy for me and less likeliness people want to go out), means taking advantage of your final opportunities is that much more difficult. It’s been a happy busy though. Mostly. I do have to admit that Argentina’s lack of organization, communication and planning ahead that bleeds into so much of its culture and daily life continues to challenge me. In most ways, I have come to accept it and handle it well, but it is sooooo difficult when it comes to academics. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Northeast so I’m pretty used to things being timely, set to strict schedules and more predictable (and don’t like when things are the opposite)… or maybe it’s my personality, but I do not like uncertainty when it comes to major assignments, final exams and final grades. I know it is part of the culture and overplanning and inflexibility is not good either. It has probably been a good challenge for me, but at this point, I am trying to make sense of my unpredictable schedule, working hard and hoping for the best. Hopefully, I will come out of this with good results to reflect my hard work and having learned how to better navigate uncertainty, unpredictability and mixed messages.

Some photos I took in Potrerillos with some beautiful and varied landscapes and cute little street dogs!

Share

Thoughts after Bariloche

Time May 26th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

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. Read More »

Share

Getting involved in your study abroad community!

Time May 25th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

I talked about cultural events in Mendoza in my last post but I am by far not the most cinematic or artsy person. I do really enjoy community service however. Coming from a background of spending my free time doing community service at my university, I was excited to find that I didn’t even need to ask what was offered here; IFSA already has relationships with certain organizations here in Mendoza and while you can look for community service on your own, you can also try out the opportunities they offer. From IFSA, we were invited to help out in an education facility for adults with special needs, reading books aloud in English to help extend the auditory book collection for students who are blind at one of the universities, a knitting club of sweet Mendocinas who create absolutely incredible blankets and clothes for children in nearby hospitals, teaching English class at a local institute and helping out in the warehouse and at other events of a food donation NGO here. It was a difficult decision, but I ultimately ended up choosing to work with the NGO, named El Banco de Alimentos and later joined the knitting group too. Despite translating to “The Food Bank,” El Banco de Alimentos is a highly sophisticated and intricately-designed organization. There are 16 of them across Argentina, all opening as a response to the 2001 economic crisis which worsened the already struggling food bank system. It was begun by a group of entrepreneurs using their business assets to help feed the hungry and poor. It has now expanded greatly, receiving donations from many sectors of society, working with grocery stores to lessen food waste, involving the community, feeding those most vulnerable to under- and malnutrition and educating other organization on food storage, handling and distribution. Read More »

Share

Lessons outside the classroom!

Time May 1st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

My last post discussed my experience studying in Argentine universities, but without a doubt, I am learning plenty outside of class!

For Semana Santa (Easter Weekend) last week, 5 of the other IFSA students and I took a rather uncommon trip. Rather than going somewhere more normal for study abroad long weekends like Chile, Iguazu Falls, Cordoba or Buenos Aires, we went to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) for a long weekend in the middle of the desert and far from civilization. When we planned the trip, we were excited for Ischigualasto Provincial Park with its unique sites and history. Little did we know going there meant driving far into the desert where tiny towns were few and far between. Our hospedaje ended up being in a town of only about 20 residents! What a huge contrast from our first days in Buenos Aires! This actually speaks to the incredible diversity you will see in Argentina; though I was in Mendoza that morning, a few hours on a bus brought me to towns with much less people, a much drier climate and a completely different way of life with different traditions, housing and beliefs. Driving the same distance or a little further in other directions could bring me to colder and wetter climates, more urbanized cities, more natural surroundings, a whole different array of plant and wildlife and pretty different versions of Argentine cultural staples. Read More »

Share

The Argentine Classroom

Time April 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

Despite classes starting relatively late in my time here, I have undoubtedly learned plenty both in and outside the classroom. Class registration was last Monday and I finally decided on my schedule; the mandatory IFSA Spanish class, Advanced Spanish and Argentine Culture, another IFSA class, Regional Development (which I love), History of International Relations and Introduction to Sociology (something I’ve always wanted to take in the US) with an environmental focus. Together, I feel like these classes are not only providing me an exciting interdisciplinary semester, but are introducing me to new ideas about Argentina, human rights, international relations, interpersonal relations, a less Westernized view of world history and basically a new perspective on a lot of things I have learned or read about before. Without a doubt, Argentines have a very different worldview (which is pretty varied in itself) than what I have confronted in the US as well as in my home university. With a focus on international studies in college, I find these differences fascinating and it’s really opened the door to perspectives from a country often considered between “developed” and “developing.” In fact one of my History of International Relations classes ended up focusing on the United States’ involvement in global affairs and it was NOTHING like I ever hear in the US. While I agreed with a lot of it, there was also a lot I didn’t agree with or that made me question what I had been thinking my entire life. This led to some fruitful conversation between my Argentine and American classmates (in both Spanish and a little English they were practicing) after class since the Argentine students sought out our opinion. It’s moments like that that really excite me about being able to learn in a culture so different from my own. It’s also perspectives that I am thankful to hear as I continue my studies in international relations where intercultural dialogue and understanding are imperative to efficacy.

Since a lot of you may be wondering what it’s like going to class in Argentine universities, I think I finally have enough experience to share some of my observations. If you choose the Mendoza program, you can choose classes between Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, a giant, beautiful , public renowned college campus located in El Parque General San Martin and Universidad de Congreso, a much smaller private college located in the center of the city. In Argentina, public universities are usually more acclaimed and tuition is free. Most of the IFSA students here take classes in both and there are definitely classes to fit everyone’s interests and needs here. There are even dancing and music classes offered by a smaller offshoot of Universidad de Congreso. I recommend looking at their websites to get a genera idea of what classes are offered. Read More »

Share

A week’s worth of “firsts”

Time March 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | Comments Off on A week’s worth of “firsts” by

As expected with study abroad, I knew I was going to be put into a lot of new situations and try a lot of new things. In fact, it began that way; flying here less than a month ago was my first time flying to another country without a single person I know with me. There’s been plenty of “firsts” since I arrived, but the last week and half was particularly packed with new experiences.

For our first weekend in Mendoza, IFSA took us on a weekend-long excursion to Cacheuta, a high altitude area known for its thermal springs. Prior to choosing Mendoza as my study abroad location, I was a bit nervous about this field trip in particular. When I was reading about the Mendoza program, I remember it said it was great for people who enjoy the outdoors more so than a big city. That is definitely true for me, but I like the outdoors for hiking, taking walks and taking photos; I had never tried or even considered anything as adventurous as rafting and horseback riding. Still, I went ahead and chose it.

Heading into the trip, I was still a bit nervous. First on the schedule was a hike through the mountains (something I love!) which ironically ended up being my least successful experience of the trip. While I normally hike much longer and can handle it pretty well, I was so out of shape and perhaps the high altitude was getting to me, that I had to stop and never got to the top. Still, I did get to sit in possibly one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever been – alone on a mountain with a lovely view, with only the chirps of birds to break the silence and the flitting of butterflies to distract me from an endless view of the mountains.  This lasted a lovely 40 or so minutes before some other students joined me on the way down.

After a delicious lunch, we headed to a rafting site. Since I can’t swim, I was a bit nervous but the life jackets and surprising shallowness of the river calmed any worries I had. Unfortunately, I did not want to risk getting my camera wet to take photos, but it was a great experience and was surprisingly easy to paddle and make our way down the river. Again, the views on both side of the river were lovely, further convincing me that I made the right choice by selecting a location where I could see much different landscapes than I can at home. I had a great time and would definitely do it again, given the chance.

The next day, it was time for horseback riding. This too was nothing like anything I had ever done. Lucky for me, they gave me the calmest, cutest and probably the slowest horse, named “Nino.” To my surprise, we were not riding the horses in a field or anything normal like that – we were riding them into the mountains of course!  While I did get a little scared the few times the horse started running, I enjoyed every minute! There is something majestic about riding a horse through mountains, streams and tiny waterfalls while never failing to see a beautiful view before, beside and behind you. Despite being so high up and putting my trust into another living being as it trotted, tripped a few times and distractedly walked off the path to eat once in a while, my first time riding a horse went really well and will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of my time in Argentina!

Aside from being a good program for those who love nature, Mendoza itself is world famous for its wine. Meanwhile, I actually had not even tried wine before coming here and just generally don’t drink. Nonetheless, this did not stop me for joining some of the other students in a tourist favorite around here – biking through the bodegas accompanied by wine tastings. For some reason, I thought the biking would only take place in the orchards…but actually it was bodega to bodega. Perhaps it’s somewhat normal, but biking through the streets, across streets and at one time along a highway was scary!!!! However, as with the other “firsts” I had just endured and enjoyed in the past week, I did not want to let fear of something new stop me. It was great being back on a bike after so long and I learned a lot not only about the wine industry and its history in Mendoza, but also olive and olive oil production. This was accompanied by tasting the best olive oil and olives I’ve ever had and some okay-wine (maybe it has to grow on me…). Overall, this had to be one of my favorite days in Argentina so far.

My most recent “first” was attending my first class at an Argentine university. As expected, it was pretty intimidating knowing all the other students could speak and understand Castellano fluently and without issue. Trying to focus is difficult enough in 4-hour classes in English, so it was pretty difficult in a 4-hour class in Argentina which started at 6pm at night (thanks to Siesta). I left feeling a little unsure how I would be able to manage Argentine classes, but some encouragement from a professor and some of my fellow students made me feel a little better. I am still in the process of choosing classes so hopefully by the next time I write, I will have a better idea of what exactly I am taking on this semester!

Overall, while these weeks have been fun and exciting, I have also proven to myself that it was worth not letting my doubts and worries get in the way. If I had worried too much about rafting, horseback riding, going to one of the wine capitals of the world, riding a bike through town or thought I could never handle an Argentine university class, I would have missed out on all these great experiences I’ve already had (and will hopefully have as I continue with classes). In fact, I may not have even chosen Mendoza at all over worries that now seem so small and unwarranted. I have no regrets and have already made some incredible memories in these few short weeks. I hope I will keep this in mind as I am undoubtedly faced with numerous more new situations over the next few months.

Share

A Long Overdue Reflection

Time March 13th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

I have now been in Argentina for 11 days and it’s been quite a ride! The other program students who I did not even know 2 weeks ago, already feel like good friends, the city of Mendoza’s roads are slowly taking shape in my brain and I feel quite comfortable with my host family and their daily routine.

So I arrived in Buenos Aires with many other IFSA students yet only one seemed to be going to Mendoza with me. Turns out, the others were so hard to find because we have only 9 students in the group this year, along with 1 full year student! For me, 10 students has been great since we’ve all gotten pretty close and we will likely get a lot more personal attention and support this semester than if we were a group of 50 or more students. For some reason, I left my college feeling I have a pretty strong command of the language since I have taken Spanish for 8 years, but turns out, I still have much more to learn than just eroding my American accent! At first, I was intimidated knowing the other students were much more fluent than me and had actually taken serious, complex Spanish classes back in the US. I was constantly pausing and tripping over words which was frustrating (it’s way easier to conjugate on paper than in your head in real time!) . Sure we’re all in the same Spanish class since we’re a small group, but being expected to know more and surrounded by students who can already speak well will undoubtedly force me to catch up and learn quickly.

We spent our first days in Buenos Aires largely doing tours, adjusting to the Argentine accent (it’s not as hard to understand as people led me to believe thankfully), and trying typical Argentine dishes (Argentina’s beef definitely lives up to its fame!). Those few days flew by and by the end, I had seen La Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest highway in the world), Recoleta Cemetary (a huge cemetery where some of the most influential Argentines have been buried the past 2 centuries), El Ataneo (a theater converted to a bookstore), La Casa Rosada (the White House for Argentina) and so much more that I had only heard or read about before! It was truly an incredible and exciting few days.

Still, I think we were all pretty eager (and a bit nervous) to meet our host families. After a short plane ride, we arrived in the lovely city of Mendoza where we will primarily be living the next few months. I was lucky enough to get a fantastic host mom and brother, in a well-located part of town and even get to enjoy the cuteness that comes with having a pet guinea in the house. Mendoza itself is a great city, full of fantastic views, cute cafes, friendly people, walkable streets, a great park and nice plazas for relaxing or spending time with friends. The Andes mountains are not only amazing to see, but provide plenty of opportunity for hiking which I really love! Though Mendoza may not be the capital or even the second largest city, it has quite a lot of unique features. It happens to be the home to the Aconcagua (the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas), be the site where the largest dinosaur remains in the world were found and be the birthplace of one of Argentina’s most beloved comic writers, Quino (who created the popular series “Mafalda”). The timing of our program couldn’t be better as we were able to watch the parades and Fiesta de la Vendimia which occurs after the grape harvest (a very important crop in this region of the country). Watching the parades helped form my understanding of not only Argentine culture and the parts they take pride in, but also specifically Mendocino culture which is rich and complex itself. At the Fiesta, I watched some of the most beautiful dancing I’ve ever seen and could not help but feel incredibly thankful for the experience. Honestly, I wish more people would enroll in this program to get to see and learn about all of this!

While I am really enjoying myself, I have realized that this program appears to be perfect for my needs. With little experience with following maps or public transportation, Mendoza has allowed me to slowly practice and get better while the city is safe enough and organized enough that I don’t have to be too worried when I do get lost. There is also such little English spoken and such few other students, we are all forced to continually use Spanish and thus I’d say we have all already seen a fair amount of improvement! Overall, those and many other aspects of Mendoza give me confidence that is may be the ideal place for me to challenge myself, try new things and continually strive to improve many aspects of my life.

Our time since our arrival in Mendoza has been dedicated to orientations, the first of our Spanish classes, getting to the know the city and acclimating to a very different way of life. Classes will begin next week and hopefully that will give me more of the routine I have been craving, though following schedules is not always easy in Argentine society. I know it’s early on, but right now, I am entirely content with my choice to come to Mendoza and am excited to see what the next few months have in store!

Share

Who I am and how I got here!

Time February 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

With less than three days remaining before study abroad, it seems time to introduce myself! My name is Amanda, I am 20 years old and I am currently in my third year at Soka University of America (SUA). While my university is situated in Southern California, my home is actually about 3,000 miles away in Massachusetts, and I have been bouncing back and forth across the country since the summer of 2014. Sure, being away from home and family the majority of the past few years may have prepared me for study abroad to an extent, but somehow, this semester away in particular feels like it could be very, very different. Read More »

Share

Final Thoughts

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

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.

Read More »

Share

Cacheuta!

Time November 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

This past weekend, I went on an IFSA-sponsored trip to Cacheuta, a small touristy town about 45 minutes away from Mendoza. Despite some bad weather, the trip ended up being really fun and a great way to wrap up almost four months in Argentina.

Read More »

Share

Post-election Thoughts and Short Update

Time November 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

So sorry this is about a week late!

I struggled to decide what to write about for this week’s post – should I just write a happy update and leave politics out of it? Or should I address how I’m feeling in Argentina after the results of the 2016 presidential election? I’ve decided to share a little bit about my feelings on the election, as well as an update of what I’ve been up to for the past three weeks.

Read More »

Share

A Day in My Life

Time October 25th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

On my blog, I have often highlighted exciting trips or fun moments from Mendoza. So I thought that this week I would switch it up a bit. Here’s how a typical Monday (October 24th) in Mendoza goes for me:

8:50am – Wake up. I tried to get up a little earlier this morning because I thought that I needed to put more minutes on my Argentine phone. I tried two stores with no success, but then realized that I didn’t actually need to call anyone (email did the trick).

Read More »

Share

VIDEO: Mendoza

Time October 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Bodegas, the Andes and QUIET: a great getaway from the chaos of BA.

 

 

 

Share

Spring Break in Chile!

Time October 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 2 Comments by

The last week of September was spring break for the students on my study abroad program! All of my classes (except one) were cancelled for the week, so my friend, Lucia, and I decided to go to Chile to visit another friend from Macalester. It ended up being an incredible, much-needed vacation!

Read More »

Share

Revelations in Mendoza

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | 1 Comment by

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.

Share

Halfway Point

Time September 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

“Cuanto más participa menos observa y cuanto más observa menos participa.”

Translation (roughly): “The more you participate, the less you observe and the more you observe, the less you participate.”

I found the above quote in one of the readings for my anthropology class. It stuck out to me because, much like an anthropologist, I am living and studying in a new environment for a specific amount of time. And although I am not taking field notes and conducting interviews, I am constantly observing the culture, habits, and traditions that I grew up with and comparing them to those of my new environment (never in a better/worse comparison, but more in an “Oh, this is different. I wonder why they do this here and I do something else in the United States?” kind of way).

But because I tend to “observe” more than I “participate”, I sometimes feel like I am not making the most out of my experience in Mendoza. Like the quote above suggests, I sacrifice participation time for observation time.

I see this discrepancy most acutely in my relationships. For example, I have not made any local, Argentine friends. Of course, I have acquaintances that I’ll greet before my classes and who will help me if I don’t understand something. And I know one, super-sweet girl through a mutual friend. But these people have never invited me out to a bar or a picnic in the park.

To be fair, going into this semester, I did not expect to make any Argentine friends I know myself well enough to understand that the mere act of living and studying in a new country (as well as making friends from other colleges in the US) would be difficult enough; the observer in me would already be stretched to participate in customs and activities that were out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it is difficult to watch other people on my program making friends (or even acquaintances) with Argentines because I always second-guess myself, “Are they making more out of their experience than I am?”

For the past two weeks, I have been mulling over this question and working to reframe it: “How can I make the most out of my experience in Mendoza?” After all, my idea of the best study abroad experience is not necessarily the same as a classmate’s idea. We all move at our own pace and need different things to thrive in our environments (something that I always need to remind myself).

So at this halfway point in my semester, I have made three goals for the rest of my time in Mendoza:

  1. Say yes to every opportunity.
  2. Always try something new.
  3. Speak as much Spanish as possible.

Keeping my fingers crossed that opening myself up to new opportunities and experiences results in an even more well-rounded and fulfilling experience. (Because don’t get me wrong, I already feel so happy and excited to be in Argentina for the semester!)

So far (as the pictures below suggest), saying yes has only resulted in good things :)

(Except for a small bout of food poisoning, but that’s a different story…)

Share

Wait I have to take classes here too?

Time September 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

Wow time has flown! I’ve already been in Mendoza for over a month!

A lot has happened since my last update. Most importantly, I’ve chosen my classes for the upcoming semester. I will be taking two classes at the local university (UNCuyo) – Historia de las corrientes literarias (History of Literary Movements) and Antropología Social y Cultural (Social and Cultural Anthropology), along with two IFSA-Butler classes – a mandatory Spanish class and Desarrollo Regional (Regional Development). I am a little disappointed that none of these classes focus on Latin America or Argentina specifically, but overall I think all of the courses will be interesting and useful in the context of my major at Macalester.

Read More »

Share

First Impressions of Mendoza

Time August 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 3 Comments by

I have been in Mendoza now for about two weeks, and so far I think that I have made a good choice about where to study abroad. As I expected, though, my transition from the US to Mendoza has definitely had its ups and downs. During orientation, the director of my program told us that our days (especially towards the beginning of the semester) would be rollercoasters because of the choque cultural (culture shock); for example, we could be happy in the morning, upset at lunch, homesick in the afternoon and happy again by evening. This rollercoaster aspect of culture shock is definitely true. In an effort to show both the amazing and the hard-to-get-used-to parts of this adventure, I’m going to split this post into two parts.

Read More »

Share

First Stop: Buenos Aires!

Time August 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by


I made it to Argentina! My flight finally arrived in Buenos Aires at 3am after being delayed another 7 hours (supposed to take off at 8am, but didn’t end up leaving until around 4pm). There were three other girls from my program on the flight with me, so we were all able to take taxis (organized by IFSA Butler, even at 3am!) to the hotel, sleep for a few hours, and then get ready to start two days of touring through Buenos Aires!

One of my favorite stops in Buenos Aires was the Plaza de Mayo. This central area of the city features La Casa Rosada (similar to The White House, except that the president does not live there). Our guide also explained that this plaza is important for the political culture of Buenos Aires because it is so near to gubernatorial offices. For years, Argentines have come to the Plaza de Mayo to protest. Two symbols of these protests still exist today — a camp run by unrecognized veterans of the Malvinas War and painted outlines of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, women who walked (and continue to walk every Thursday) around the plaza lamenting their disappeared children (desaparecidos) who were murdered by the Argentine military.

A more light-hearted feature of the plaza is the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, where Pope Francis held mass before he became the Pope.

Another favorite was a neighborhood called La Boca filled with colorful buildings (They were painted with leftover paint from construction sites around the city) and kind-of-creepy/really neat models of historical figures from Argentina, such as Eva Perón (Evita) and Pope Francis.

My third favorite stop in Buenos Aires was La Recoleta, an eerily beautiful cemetery filled with mausoleums (both ornate and modern). Eva Perón, a beloved figure among many Argentine people, is buried there.

After our trip to La Recoleta, it was time to head to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires to catch our flight to Mendoza. Like true Argentines, our bus arrived just as the flight was scheduled to board, so the plane ended up waiting for all twenty-something of us to check our luggage, pay for our overweight bags (you can only check about 33 pounds of luggage flying within the country), and clear security (which only involved putting our bags through a scanner and stepping through a basic metal detector…very different than in the US).

Overall, the two days in Buenos Aires were exciting and jam-packed with sightseeing, listening and speaking Spanish, learning about Argentine customs and culture, and meeting new people on my program. My days were so full that I didn’t have too much time to be homesick (which for me is a very good thing).

Now, on to Mendoza!

 

Share

A Bumpy Beginning

Time August 1st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

Since the day I found out that I would have the opportunity to study abroad in Mendoza, Argentina, I have been getting advice where to travel, how to dress, what classes to take, etc. Most of this advice has been sought out and welcomed (I am the queen of internet research). But apparently some of it didn’t stick…at least, the part about having everything packed and ready to go a day in advance.

Like I always do before a big trip, I procrastinated packing my bags until the night before. In fact, while I wrote the beginning of this entry (because obviously I procrastinated writing this, as well) my mom was in the next room reorganizing my suitcase so that everything fit. Read More »

Share

Hotsprings, Hiking, and Hangliding (and wine): One Heck of a Good Time in Mendoza

Time July 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Guys: traveling is so so cool.  I know this is not a new observation, and I’m sure that as humans we have been exploring and pushing the boundaries of our known worlds at least as long as recorded history.  But I’m finally discovering this feeling for myself, and it’s wonderful.  The bug is real (the travel bug that is), and after my most recent trip I’m already planning on how I’m going to scrounge up the funds for another adventure.  Maybe I’ll just become a wandering minstrel…

On this travel note, last weekend, I went to Mendoza with two of my best friends here: Ali and Morris.  They’re the best.  However, the timing wasn’t, considering the trip was planned for the weekend before all of my parciales (FINAL EXAMS), so my trip was going to eat into some pretty important study time.  But, since we were taking Omnibuses to get there, this meant had a 15 hour drive to hit the books.  

(Plus, now that I’ve finished all of my parciales, I would like to report that they went SWIMMINGLY.  This note is for you, parents)

Yet despite the small cloud of academic worry that hung over us, we entered the weekend with high hopes, and we were not disappointed.  Not in the slightest.  Mendoza was, though not as visually striking as Patagonia or Salta, the best place I have traveled to in Argentina.  I was in heaven.  

Mendoza is gorgeous, a mix between the Sierra Nevadas and Napa Valley with a hearty dose of the Andes Mountains thrown in.  The weather was absolutely perfect; mid-sixties without even a hint of anything less than sunshine.  Is it even winter here?  We hiked all around her foothills while breaking every rule that I’ve ever learned as a hiker (we didn’t bring enough water, we didn’t tell anyone where we were, we went slightly off-trail, and we had no real destination or plan on getting home).  We also paragliding off the summit of Cerro Arco, and spent an afternoon perusing the many parks, fountains, and a few of the art museums that the city had to offer.  

Mendoza is delicious; I had probably the one of the top 5 desserts in my life (a chocotorta, in a splendid restaurant called El Mercadito), as well as some delicious wines, salsas, and liquors.  One day, we did the popular bike-wine tour; we took a bus out to wine country, rented some bikes, and spent the day tasting some of Mendoza’s best offerings.  We went to big wineries (LaGarde), small wineries (Carmelo Patti), organic wineries (Pulmary), and places with everything in between (A La Antigua).  

Mendoza is tranqui.  For a large (9.5 million people live in the city and the surrounding area) place, Mendoza doesn’t appear overly bustling in massive.  People smile more than they do in Buenos Aires, and the city pretty much shuts down every afternoon for a siesta.  It was a winning combination of the exciting buzz of a metro area with the comforting feel of a smaller town.  We also took a day trip to the Cacheuta Hot Springs with some British friends who we met at our hostel, and it was a day of fantastic food, peaceful soaking, and striking views.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in Mendoza.  I couldn’t asked for a better trip to send off my time in Argentina.  

If you want more of Mendoza, you can check out some pics below.  They’ll tell you more than my words could.

Also, on a separate note, I couldn’t really have asked for a better hostel than Hostel Mora, the hostel that happily housed us in Mendoza.  (Cue shameless plug here).  Hostel Mora served us breakfast to-order every morning (fo’ freee), which included EGGS (something that they never serve for breakfast here, and I had been missing), dulce crepes, fresh fruit, and a variety of pastries.  But, in addition to that, I adored the folks we that we met and spent time with at the hostel.  There were Alex and Becca, an American couple who were traveling the world after Alex sold his startup company.  Nick and Charlotte were a British couple who had been traveling in southern South America and were freaks about soccer.  Remy was an Australian girl my age who had be traveling for the better part of the last 5 months on her own, and had just spent a few weeks in Brazil at the World Cup.  And, of course, best for last were Oli and Dan, a pair of best friends from London who were on a gap year in South American and became our best friends in Mendoza.  They were a hilarious one-two punch who are low-key social media celebs.  Between shenanigans in the hostel, a dinner adventure, and quality times with a waterproof camera at the hot springs, we certainly made some great memories together.  I hope that I can visit them in London one day. In my experience, hostel dwellers are by and large pretty cool, but these ones were the best that I’d met so far.  It made me want to travel more.  

Now, I’m back in Buenos Aires.  I survived my examenes finales, have fanatically supported the USMNT with random gaggles of Americans throughout the city, and am starting to get sad about leaving.  As of now, I have 5 days left in Buenos Aires.  What the hell.  Also, my summer job just fell through due to restructuring in the company I would’ve  been working for, so after this stint as a blogger ends I’ll be officially unemployed.  Looks like Craigslist is about to become my best friend. 

Keep it real, stay classy, and take care.  I’ll write again soon.

Dylan

Share

That Strange Country Called “Home”

Time February 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Of course, I bawled like a baby on the way to the airport…

 

(“Sorry I’m not very good company,” I blubbered to the taxi driver.

No, por favor. Llora tranquila,” he said. Please. Go ahead and cry. And then he handed me a pack of Kleenex, bless his heart.)

 

By the time I got settled on my plane, I was more or less done sobbing for Argentina and the people I left behind in it. But as soon as I saw the familiar lizard-printed carpet tiles in the El Paso airport, I started to have a mini-panic attack. Put me back on the plane, send me back!! It was amazing how unreal everything felt, though the places and faces were essentially the same as I had left them. And then I saw my mom and my little sister and started crying all over again because I had no idea what to do with myself.

 

In the car, it took me approximately 5 minutes to annoy my mother to death. I couldn’t stop pointing at everything out the window that I hadn’t seen in half a year: “Whoa, Chipotle Grill! We have one of those here! Oh man, and Carl’s Jr. too! Weird! Oh it’s so weird. I never noticed how big our highways were before! Oh, billboard in English—weeeeeeeeeeeeird.”

 

And I’ve stopped freaking out about it, but it’s still kinda strange. I don’t know if I like it or not.

 

Things I missed out on while I was away: Les Miserables, all the media flak about the school shooting, Hurricane Sandy, the release of that catchy Taylor Swift song, my little sister growing two inches.

 

Things I forgot existed and didn’t realize how much I’d missed until I could have them again: my mom’s red beans and rice, huevos rancheros for breakfast, bubble tea, Target, Reeses peanut butter cups, curry powder, free refills, unlimited texting, Pandora.com, Netflix, my kitchen, my bed, wall outlets that already fit my plugs and work perfectly without having to be jiggled around, Arizona iced tea, hot chocolate with marshmallows.

 

It’s safer here. I don’t have to watch my things quite as carefully. Oh, the things we Yankees take for granted!

 

And my dog gave me the best welcome home ever. He was just beside himself wiggling and jumping and running around the yard like crazy. I was so happy to see him it hurt.

 

And all of that’s nice, of course, but at the same time…

 

Where is all the neon, polyester clothing? The thick-soled sandals and beat up, Velcro closure sneakers? Why is there so much open space and no pedestrians?  Why is everything stucco, and where is my brick? Where are all the kioskos, the alfajores, the stars? Why aren’t there any boliches in SoCal suburbia? Why aren’t men shouting at me when I walk down the street? (Am I still a girl?) WHY IS EVERYTHING IN ENGLISH?

 

One of the strangest things for me has been speaking English to strangers. It surprised me just how weird it felt because I spoke a lot of English while I was in Argentina, especially in my last weeks… (oops.) But I realized that it was because English had become an intimate language for me, the secret language I shared with my tribe of loved ones, while Spanish was the public language. I never spoke English to shop owners, public officials, strangers on the street. Here, it’s the other way around.

 

Even the phrase “loved ones” seems to have shifted beneath my feet. It’s not that I don’t still love my old friends, but it’s been more of a process readjusting to them than you might think. Many of my friends studied abroad last semester, and like me they’ve also changed in many subtle ways that even they haven’t finished working out about themselves yet. Last night I had a conversation with one of my friends that went more or less like this:

 

“Why do you always have to do that?”

 

“It’s what I do! I’ve always been like that. It was never a problem for you before.”

 

“Well, now it is.”

 

We’re working on it.

 

As for the rest of my social circle… They’re eager to hear about my adventures, yes, but in a cursory kind of way. People keep asking me big, broad questions with too many answers like, “How was study abroad? Did you like Argentina? What did you do?” and they ask me in passing or in the elevator or in the lunch line. Okay, sure, let me just jam 5 months of life-altering experiences into a 5 second sound byte. No problem. I understand it’s not their fault necessarily—of course they don’t understand my experience if they’ve never been to Argentina, and how else are they going to understand if they don’t ask? But it’s still maddening.

 

A few of my old friends have been to Argentina, and every time I see them I can’t help but call out, “Che boludo, que onda? Como andas?” Giddy with the knowledge that they get it. They know what I’m talking about. I’m starved for Argentine slang and humor.

 

I found out that there’s actually an Argentine store within 20 minutes of my campus. I’m heading there with a friend tomorrow to stock up on mate and alfajores. I’m excited to share Argentine goodies with my friends and explain to them a bit about why these things are special to me. …But it’s not quite the same as breezing by a kiosko with my chicas and talking about our shared daily existence there.

 

…However, as much as I cried and stomped my feet and pitched a fit about leaving Argentina… I realized as soon as I hit the airport that it really was time to leave. I hate the fuss and stress of the airport, but I got a thrill from passing other travelers, overhearing snatches of their conversations, speculating what their stories might be. They could be from anywhere. For all they know, I could be from anywhere, going anywhere. And even better: I remembered that, hey, I’m young, I’m strong, I’m savvy. I CAN go anywhere.

 

I can do anything that I want.

 

The last thing I did in Argentina was to buy myself one last legal drink. (Mostly to get rid of the last of my Argentine pesos.) Turned out it was from Mendoza—nice surprise. :)

img_3896

I did a silent cheers to Argentina, to Buenos Aires, to the people I met, to airports, to travel, and most of all…to myself. For all the things I’ve learned and accomplished. For all the things I will learn and accomplish.

 

I had my adventures, I had my fling, and I think I did both of those al maximo. There’s still a big wide world out there, and it’s time for me to get back to it.

 

I’m thinking next stop is India. Japan. Israel. Maybe Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand.

 

Quien sabe?

 

Thanks for reading, everyone. Happy travels.

 

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
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
  23.  Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata
  24. The Return to BA
  25. Un Repasito
Share

Un Repasito

Time February 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When I set off for Argentina, I had a short list of goals. I’d like to take a moment to look back at how I did during my 5 month stay.

 

Visiting the family in Buenos Aires—check.

Visiting my friend in Neuquen—check.

Visiting my roommate in Chile—double check.

 

Hiking in the Andes definitely happened. I took it a step further and climbed up to a waterfall in the Andes.

 

I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done, but I did do some. Finished a few poems (and even translated an old one into Spanish) and did some work on a few short stories.

 

I found multiple Argentine friends to do music exchanges with me, and now I’ve got so much music in Spanish, my poor iTunes library doesn’t know what to do with itself. 1/3 of my music is in Spanish now!

 

Meeting interesting people? Duh. (I should’ve set more challenging goals for myself!)

 

As far as cooking goes, I learned how to make empanadas, flan, and torta de chocolinas; got a recipe for homemade noqui from my host mom; and ate a whole lot more.

 

I think the only thing on my list that I didn’t accomplish (and then some) was tango dancing…and I realized very quickly in the program that a) it didn’t actually interest me that much and b) it’s not a Mendoza thing anyway, it’s a Buenos Aires thing. However, I did learn how to dance a couple different types of folklore, under the light of the moon no less!

 

And I accomplished so many more things that weren’t even on my list:

 

I got drunk for the first time. I had my first kiss. I learned how to ride a bike. I learned how to ride the subte in Santiago and the buses in Mendoza. I watched the sun rise over Mendoza with three girls I love. I watched the sun rise over Rio Plata with someone I didn’t love but definitely liked a lot. I was mistaken for an Argentine. I was mistaken for a Parisian. I traveled alone. I hung around on the beach on both coasts of South America. I’ve rejected jerks in three different languages, and I know about a zillion new Spanish words to explain to them how big of a jerk they are. I danced in the rain, under the moon, in the middle of the street, in a bunch of different clubs, with my chicas, with a drunk friend, with strangers, with old men, with nice guys. I marched to the casa del gobierno in a protest of 10,000+ people. I watched Charly Garcia perform live in Plaza de Mayo. I learned how to sand board, how to find my way in an unfamiliar city, how to take tequila shots, how to speak Spanish in the voseo, how to file an insurance claim, and how to river raft.

 

…Plus a whole bunch of other things I don’t have words for and I don’t want to try to explain.

 

And I made some of the three best friends I’ve ever had. Friends for life.

 

I could spend months talking about all the things I didn’t do–there’s so much to do and see in this little world of ours. There really is. But, ultimately, I made the choices that mattered to me, and I don’t regret any of it. Even if I didn’t get to see every major attraction, I made it count for the ones I did see, and I made a connection to each place I was, each moment. If nothing else, I have a bunch of excuses to return, no?

 

I learned what kind of life I want to lead and what kind of person I want to be: the kind who sees more to the world than just my backyard and the things that directly affect me. I want to travel, I want to learn, I want to explore, I want to challenge myself. I want to be the kind of person who can go with the flow and lets life show me what I can get out of it in the moment rather than only relying on plans and lists, because
a) plans fall through. Then what?
b) Sometimes the things you think you want aren’t the things you really want or need when the moment arises.

 

And I’ve gotten a little closer to becoming that person.

 

Argentina has definitely made me a stronger, more secure, more relaxed, happier person. And I even learned some Spanish along the way. Bonus prize. 😉 Of course, I’ll be bringing home a whole bunch of physical baggage from Argentina (CAN’T HAVE ENOUGH MATE), but the most important things I take home with me are the ones you can’t see or touch. And no one can take those things from me.

 

It’s so interesting to look back on myself pre-study abroad and see how much I’ve changed and grown. And I think it’ll be even more interesting to look back on this point in my life after my next adventure. :)

 

I’ll end with a quote from my infinitely wise and occasionally, secretly sentimental friend Lorri:

 

“Study abroad is not about studying. It is and forever will be about LIFE. And life is what you do and how you handle things when you plans go to ever-loving crap. Focus on living in the moment, because nothing else really matters. The purpose of life is being as happy as possible with each little moment, whatever that moment may consist of. The bottom line is that happiness begins and ends with YOU!”

 

Write it down. Learn it. Embrace it. Live it.

 

Study abroad? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

 

El ultimo vocabulario

image-3

Dejate llevar – Let it take you. (Go with the flow.)

 

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
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  15. CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
  23.  Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata
  24. The Return to BA

 

Share