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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!

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Final Thoughts: Post Studying Abroad

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

Happy New Year!

It’s easy to go into the New Year with the frameset of “new year, new me”, and as I greet 2017, I’m optimistic about diving headfirst into my professional and personal goals for the year.

2016 was a hard year. I know personally that I’ve been struggling to attempt to clarify exactly who I am, and what I want to do with my life and how to move forward to reach a point where I’m happy.

But indubitably, I can point to studying abroad as being the highlight of my year and an experience I’ll treasure for years to come, for a variety of reasons.

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Reflection in Retrospect

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England | No Comments by

Hey there! Well, I’ve been back home from my study abroad trip for a few months now, and I was looking back over my blog, and I was thinking I’d like to reflect back on my experiences, now that some time has past.

First of all, I want to say that my whole experience was absolutely AMAZING. I mean, just wonderful in every way – everything I dreamed it would be and more. I feel like that doesn’t often happen in life. When we hope and dream about something for a long time, it’s easy to end up disappointed. I’m not going to say that my experience didn’t have its ups and downs, but… all in all, it was just so, so wonderful.

So what exactly made it so great?

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Back Home

Time June 30th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After 5 months abroad, I have finally returned home. School ended about two and a half weeks ago and I have been in the U.S. for a week. The last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of activity and emotions.

Saying good bye to the friends I made over my semester was terribly difficult, but with technology we hope to stay in contact. One even lives only a couple of hours away!

I was able to stop on my way home in Brussels, Belgium for a long weekend to meet with a friend. It felt like a world away, but was a much needed holiday after school. The weather there was sometimes as much as 50 degrees cooler than Dubai was at the same time. I was really cold most of the time I was there, and was very bummed when my luggage was lost and I didn’t have any cold weather clothes. Having the opportunity to meet with someone else who had just completed their study abroad experience in the city they called home for the last few months was really cool. We got to share and compare experiences and talk about how we had changed as people and our outlooks on life.

But, I have to say it is relaxing to be home again. Home is comfortable and welcoming, but now I definitely know that the rest of the world is only a plane ticket or a car trip away, and I can’t wait to see more.

I don’t want to make my experience sound like the perfect vacation. I did have homesickness and depression at times, and they definitely effected my experience at time. It was very tough to watch things happen at home and know that there was little you could to help friends or enjoy the experience with them. The last couple weeks were particularly tough, as I was very much looking forward to being back home, but school was in the way.

Study abroad helped me grow as a person in ways that I may not be able to notice yet, but the experiences I have will be with me forever. This experience will be something I am happy that I took part of for a long time, but I know there will be times that I second guess my decision.

Study Abroad is a great opportunity to test yourself, and see your boundaries and surpass them. You will be put in many uncomfortable situations and will learn more about yourself and the people who are close to you while you share the experience. It may help you realize how enjoyable your life is and how much you enjoy your life at home. Or it could open your eyes to how much more the world has to offer. Hopefully, it will provide both.

As my last message I would like to share something a friend told me about his experience and a thought I share, “I loved my experience, but at the end if someone offered me a free week instead of going home, I would turn them down.”

 

Thanks,

 

Tom

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Reflections at the halfway mark

Time September 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

September 11, 2013

67 days.

67 days I’ve been in my new home of Costa Rica.

67 days until I go back home the U-S-of-A.

I have a  lot of mixed feelings about that revelation, some of them clichés but all genuine.

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