When you study abroad on the IFSA Buenos Aires ticket, you go to Mario’s lemon farm in Uruguay. While it’s just a hop across the Río de la Plata, there are some notable differences in Uruguay. For one, all the stray dogs are vaccinated (supposedly), there indeed happens to be a Trump Tower in Punta del Este, and cats sit nobly atop tiny tables.
Our first stop was a beautiful and historic neighborhood in Colonia, along the river. I’m telling you this is a place you want to visit, and one I want to experience again. There’s even a cute little lighthouse! I looked up wondering what the view was like from the top. Probably something I couldn’t imagine.
In addition, there are friendly people and restaurants that spill out onto the street. Which is exactly the scene my friends and I found ourselves in, one night for dinner. I dove into conversation with someone who attends a school where studying abroad is required! What a concept. At her school back in the United States, she is already abroad, an international student from Japan. One of our long talking points was of the international student experience. She wished people understood how difficult it is for an international student, the missed cultural references and moments where speech does not come naturally. She hopes that all her classmates discover how hard it truly is, and return to school with a new attitude toward inclusivity with international students.
Her words add to a collective experience I have witnessed unfolding throughout the years. It’s not rocket science, people socialize with others who are similar. Whether it be for personality, background, culture, familial tendencies, it’s simply easier. But I wonder what we collectively lose when international students, and in reality anyone else, fall by the wayside. We could stand to have more people like Marta.
I wasn’t even hungry when I walked into that little cafe by the apartment. I was just looking to see what was around my dwelling. She came right up to me with a grandmotherly demeanor and told the backstory behind everything in the fridge I was looking at. We quickly got along and I heard all about her son in Houston. When I finally made my choice to go with the lone apple, she prepared it in a bowl for me, so lovely. I reached into my wallet and immediately she rejected any such payment. I was confused, but she offered reassurance with, “I’m sure I’ll see you around again.”
It was only proper I pass this act of kindness along. Around the corner, a homeless person could soon tell I was walking toward them. Reaching out and offering them the apple, they gave a reassuring toothy grin, one as bright as a cute little lighthouse.