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.