With less than a week left of my study abroad experience (I have to leave my apartment around 3am on Saturday morning to catch my flight!), I have been in a really reflective mood. I am really ready to go home; in fact, the last two weeks I was kind of grumpy because the end was so close but felt so far away and I was just ready to leave immediately. But once I hit the one week mark, I am having much more mixed emotions. I am still ready to go home, and that’s where my mind is now (which is, I think, why I have been grumpy, because instead of living in the moment here, I was impatiently anticipating the future), but this experience has been so incredible and unique that I can’t exactly imagine what it will be like to set foot in my home country again.
I think that a lot of people who study abroad look forward to it as this awesome adventure. For me, the idea of spending so much time in another country was exciting, but also made me really anxious. I actually spent a lot of time in the months leading up to my departure not thinking about what it would be like because it would just make my mind spin into a black hole of worries and doubts. I am so glad that I followed through with the semester, though, (and am so lucky that Dan was there to support me when I got too nervous) because even though it was scary, this is the exact kind of scary that helps you grow and change in an awesome way.
One personality trait that I have that is not so great is that I can be really inflexible. I like for things to happen in a certain way and I’m the type of person who plans my entire week on Sunday morning. Leaving the safety of an environment where I am able to be so rigid was particularly scary for me; I would be living with strangers in a country with different customs, so obviously I was going to have to learn to settle down and go with the flow. My brother, who studied abroad in Vienna, Austria in college 15 years ago (and then proceeded to NEVER COME HOME) gave me maybe the best advice anyone gave me about studying abroad: don’t judge anything at first and live life like an Argentinian. This was such awesome advice because life is so much easier if you go with the flow instead of fighting against it, and especially because I’m living with a family I needed to be able to adapt to the different customs and thought processes that the people have here. I have made a point to view things that seem annoying or rude at first (oh god why is everyone standing so close to me?) as cultural differences, which makes them interesting instead of offensive.
I am really happy to be able to say that I have loosened up a lot since I’ve been here. More than just navigating the local customs, my lifestyle here is completely different than my lifestyle at home, and over time I have become accustomed to flying by the seat of my pants, doing things spontaneously, and trying things that I assume I won’t enjoy. This is such a huge personal growth for me, and I am so excited with this progress.
Another thing about me is that I don’t like doing things that are really unfamiliar or that I don’t completely understand how to do because I don’t want to look dumb. That whole part of me had to go out the window right away because I was faced with an unfamiliar task every day and was forced to do said task in a language that I am not fluent in. Guess what, sometimes I do look dumb! Sometimes I use the wrong gendered article and call the pope a potato, sometimes I don’t know the word for something so I have to mime it out and I look ridiculous, and you can’t imagine how much time I have spent just having NO IDEA what’s going on. I even fell on my face in a crowded park and made quite a scene. But it never matters! Like, seriously, nothing bad ever happens (okay, it was pretty bad when I fell on my face) and then I learn something and I know more than I did before!
These changes are definitely for the better, and I don’t think that they would have come had I not studied abroad. Being alone in a totally foreign place forces you to face your fears head on and deal with them. When I think about going home now, one of the biggest things that I think about is how easy it will be to do everything there because I’ll be doing it in English. This time in Argentina has made me understand just how powerful being able to communicate exactly what you think, feel or need is, and how much simpler life will be when I can effortlessly do that again! Which is not to say that I’m going to spend the rest of my life in English speaking countries. Not at all! Now that I have not only survived so many months here but come out of it stronger and better, I would love to travel more and continue to experience challenges like this in order to grow.
The past two weeks have consisted of so much sightseeing that I’m really tired of seeing things and taking pictures, as silly as that sounds. I am going to forge on this week though and cross the last few things off my list that I haven’t seen yet here!