Welcome to my brand new blog from IFSA: Argentina Psychology in English/Universidad del Salvador a.k.a the longest study abroad program name ever.
To get started, simply fasten your seatbelts, read what I have to say for the next four months, chuckle at my not very funny jokes, and learn from my experiences. This will be an avenue for me to reflect on my voyage through South America and hopefully inform future students who choose similar steps when they study abroad.
The first day I arrived, to my surprise everything was in Spanish. This seems silly to think that it was a surprise but English was the only language I had been around and really the only language I needed to know. It did not completely register to me that my life would be in full Spanish for the next four months until I stepped off the plane and into Argentina. So, a note to future travelers who do not know Spanish, you will not understand anything, and that is okay. At the airport, the only person who seemed to speak English was the nice lady in security who stamped my visa and unfortunately, she was in my presence for about 3 minutes. It was a slap in the face for sure, I was certainly not in an English speaking country anymore. I was scared at first and I wanted to call my mom and go home or just be in a place where I could ask a question, be understood and, then understand the answer I was getting. It was uncomfortable and I felt extremely lost. However, I knew that none of those things was an option, so, I gathered my confidence and trudged through that airport. I picked up my baggage and on my suitcase and of course, the wheel was broken off so it was very difficult to maneuver. I could not find where to get a taxi and was sweating like a pig but like every good story, I found my way and to my homestay I went. Exhausted from 34 hours of traveling my host mother’s granddaughter was waiting for me at her apartment door with a beautiful smile, a warm Argentine kiss on the cheek and the ability to speak the same language as I did.
Hours after my arrival my host mother guided me through public transportation and to IFSA where I found the most friendly and welcoming group leaders and people. A short orientation about safety was given while myself and the three other girls on my program listened. “Don’t go here after dark, wear your backpack on your front side so no one can take it, and do not walk around with your cell phone out.” I felt nervous again, like an outsider and worried about my safety. This change was hard to listen to, I never thought about these things in small-town Walla Walla. I never worried about getting from point A to point B but now things are different and from just reading this it may sound like a bad different but it is a good different, everything thus far has been challenging but it also has been exciting. I may not understand any of the conversations being said around me in the city but the space IFSA has provided and the cozy nook my host mom has let me stay in makes everything feel like it is going to alright. I am excited to see what lies ahead.
Reflecting back on my frustration and fear I realize that comes from a place of privilege. Like I have said, I have only needed to speak English my entire life. I did not have to learn multiple languages to communicate with the people around me because I only surrounded myself with people who also spoke English. I think that is a major downfall on myself and the way my academics have been taught. But, I am here in this Spanish speaking country to learn and achieve that goal to communicate with these Argentine people in their own language. It will obviously take time but that is why I am here, to check my privilege, to put myself in uncomfortable situations, to force myself to learn. The learning here has already been so different. I would not get this experience in a classroom and I am very thankful for this opportunity to grow my person in a non-academic setting.
One more thing that has been an interesting aspect of my experience thus far has been the outbreak of coronavirus, all over the world. Since I have arrived in Argentina there has been a lingering fear of being sent home. However, we are taking things day by day here in the big city of Buenos Aries and crossing my fingers no serious actions are taken for my program.
Please don’t coroNOvirus me Argentina!
(This is scattered but these are first impressions, things will start to have a schedule soon!)