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Coming Home: the start of something new

I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport, waiting for my connecting flight home. As I’m waiting, my mind is wandering, and I’m thinking about all the amazing things I have done while studying abroad. To name a few: I saw the beautiful waterfalls in Iguazu, lived with indigenous people in the Andes mountains, and spent many nights out in the spectacular city of Buenos Aires. As all these wonderful memories replay in my mind, I am realizing just how long I have been gone. Six weeks did not seem long at all a few hours ago, but suddenly I feel like I have been gone for an eternity. I may have put a pause on my life, but that certainly doesn’t mean everyone else did. Life kept moving while I was away, and I feel estranged to my previous way of life.

Reintegration into my own life seems like such an odd – and maybe even scary – concept. There is certainly some anxiety about the pile of work that faces me when I get home, but it’s more than that. I feel almost like a stranger, like I’m headed toward something completely new. It’s such a unique feeling, a mix of excitement, longing, and a little bit of dread. Despite its uniqueness, I can’t help but feel like I have felt this before. Where do I know this feeling from? Almost as soon as I ask myself the question, I know the answer. It feels like I am about to study abroad… only it’s different. This time it’s not the place that’s new, it’s me. I’m coming back a new person. I have a whole new world of experiences under my belt, and those experiences are coming back with me.

I may have left Argentina behind when I hopped on a plane just ten short hours ago, but I certainly didn’t just dump my experiences and all that I have learned out the window. I don’t want to! Yes, this feeling of estrangement may be causing me some dread; it’s going to take some work to integrate my experience and knowledge back into my previous life, but this is also the opportunity I have worked so hard for. I have been longing to reconnect with the world in new and fantastic ways, and now I finally have my chance. Leaving Argentina wasn’t the end of an adventure; it was only the beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited.


Sam Nelson is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Sam will study abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Summer of 2018 with hopes of improving his Spanish language skills. He is a member of Pride Alliance and several other student organizations. After Sam completes his degree at UMKC, he plans to attend graduate school and earn his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Creating Your Own Study Abroad Experience

Maybe you’ve seen that beautiful study abroad brochure chalk full of stunning images and you’re ready to leave tomorrow; maybe you’re on the fence, not sure if study abroad is right for you; or maybe you are just reading this post because you are curious and know nothing about it. Wherever you are on this spectrum, this post is for you.

We all have our own ideas about what study abroad is. After all, a two hundred-word pamphlet certainly leaves a lot to your imagination. So in light of this, I would like to share some of my personal study abroad experiences in an effort to give you a little more information and advice about studying abroad in general.

Let me start by saying, the “study” in “study abroad” definitely shouldn’t be ignored. I was in school a lot more than I thought I would be. Monday through Friday, I went to school at the University of Belgrano from 9:30am to 2:30pm, and three days a week I had class with a UMKC faculty member for about two hours each day. That’s a lot of time! However, it was justified and time well spent. I received nine credit hours of upper level Spanish in just six short weeks, so it makes sense I was in class for so long. I also learned a ton of Spanish, which is what I set out to do in the first place.

Takeaway: Weigh the amount of credit hours you are receiving with what your goals are for studying abroad. If you’re looking for a fun time getting to know another culture, maybe a three or six credit hour program is for you. If you’re looking for a big increase in your language learning abilities, maybe a more intense, nine or twelve credit hour program is for you.

Another important aspect of a study abroad experience is the location. I’m studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina – one of Latin America’s largest and most densely populated cities. One of the fun parts of being in a big city is that there is so much to do. People who have lived here their entire life have yet to do half the things the city has to offer. One of the down sides of living in a large city is that cultural differences from one large city to another are pretty small. On the surface, it would be pretty hard to tell New York City and Buenos Aires apart.

Takeaway: There is a lot more to a location than the beautiful views it has to offer. Think about the city’s size, geographic location, and position in the global society before making a choice about where you’ll go.

What about duration? My program took place in the summer and lasted a total of six weeks. Four weeks I spent immersed in Spanish classes and the other two were spent traveling and doing my own thing. As my trip comes to an end, I am so happy I had those two extra weeks outside of class; it’s where I really got out and experienced Argentina! Personally, I felt like six weeks was a perfect amount of time away, and the traveling in the summer allowed me to take less of a serious pause on my life.

Takeaway: Think about how long you are willing to be away from home; going on this trip I realized just how important my family, friends and life in general were to me. Additionally, I would highly recommend a program that gives you some free time.

All in all, studying abroad is definitely a worthwhile experience no matter what program you choose, where you go, or how long you are away. I guarantee you will have the experience of a lifetime!


Sam Nelson is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Sam will study abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Summer of 2018 with hopes of improving his Spanish language skills. He is a member of Pride Alliance and several other student organizations. After Sam completes his degree at UMKC, he plans to attend graduate school and earn his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A New Place and New Ideas

I have been living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a good two weeks now, and – wow – so much is different here. At first it took a lot of getting used to. Here, I take public transportation everywhere, and it is not uncommon to have to walk over a mile to get to my destination. I don’t really eat breakfast – the United States is seen as eating a gloriously huge breakfast in many parts of the world, if you wanted to know. I don’t eat dinner until 10pm, but every dinner is the size of a Thanksgiving meal. And, perhaps most shockingly, if I want to go out on the weekends, that means I am getting to the club at 2am and not leaving until 5.

One thing different here that I particularly enjoy is the insane amount of political involvement everyone has. I bet the average porteño (that’s what the people of Buenos Aires call themselves) knows more about United States politics than you do! Within the first weeks of me being here, there was a nationwide strike demanding the government do something about the nation’s poor economic conditions; the whole city shut down, shops closed, public transportation was unavailable, and the streets were eerily empty. That’s something you just don’t see in the United States – although I will say the average American’s political involvement seems to be increasing exponentially over the past few years. Mine certainly has!

A protest I happened upon while touring the city center

Along with politics, everyone here seems to be extremely passionate about everything, and they are more than willing to share their opinions. In the spirit of heated discourse, I decided to ask my host parents a loaded question at the dinner table one night: your city has such a beautiful culture, what do you think about these McDonald’s and Starbuck’s popping up around your neighborhood? Do you feel like aspects of American culture are invading yours? I braced myself, ready for an explosively passionate answer… and I got nothing.

“What do you mean, invading a culture?” I was surprised. This is a very heated topic in the US right now, and it seemed for once my host dad was indifferent. He went on to explain how Buenos Aires is full of all types of people; people have been immigrating here from all over the world for years. These stores, to him, were merely another additional place to get coffee or a quick bite to eat.

Most importantly in his response was the idea of “additional”. None of the things finding their way to Buenos Aires were viewed as taking away from what was already here. Although he is only one person and can’t represent every person from Buenos Aires, he did make me think: where did we, in the US, get the idea that things coming into the states are invasive? Why are they seen as a subtraction from what we already have and not as something additional?

 


Sam Nelson is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Sam will study abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Summer of 2018 with hopes of improving his Spanish language skills. He is a member of Pride Alliance and several other student organizations. After Sam completes his degree at UMKC, he plans to attend graduate school and earn his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Packed: You Sure You Didn’t Leave Anything Behind?

My room is a mess. My clothes are sprawled out across every surface, luggage laying open and half full on the floor, and I’m pretty sure my toothbrush is laying on my nightstand… wait, did I pack my toothbrush already? Yeah, I should probably get that back out; I’m not leaving for four more days, and brushing my teeth this week is definitely in my best interest.

Am I going crazy? Maybe. I can tell you one thing for certain: I don’t want to leave anything behind. I’ve made checklists on top of checklists to make sure I don’t forget anything, but I can still guarantee you I am going to leave a few things behind; not necessarily because I forget them but because I’m leaving. In a few days, I am leaving my home, and I’m not coming back… for six weeks. Wow. That just hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’m going to be gone for 42 days, and I’m leaving a lot behind: my family, my friends, and life as I know it. I wish I could shove them all into my suitcase and take them with me, but I just can’t. It’s going to be really hard leaving all the comforts of home behind, but that’s what adventure is all about right? Getting out of your comfort zone?

I didn’t sign up to go to Argentina because I wanted to experience the same things I do back home. I’m traveling halfway across the world! I want to be a part of something completely new. I want to see the vibrant landscapes, smell the crisp ocean breeze, taste the exquisite food, hear the hustle and bustle of the city, and feel beneath my feet ground I have not yet tread on.

Studying abroad is all about getting out there and being a part of something new. It’s not about what you’re bringing with you, or even what you left behind (No, forgetting that extra pair of socks is not going to make or break your study abroad experience). Studying abroad is a time to embrace uncertainty and seek out the unknown.

So, go on and forget, I tell myself! Whatever it is, you don’t need it where you’re going. Ditch that checklist and zip up your suitcase because it’s time to go. Tell your family you love them and your friends goodbye; It’s time to see the world.

(Below: pictures of me saying goodbye to my family)


Sam Nelson is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Sam will study abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Summer of 2018 with hopes of improving his Spanish language skills. He is a member of Pride Alliance and several other student organizations. After Sam completes his degree at UMKC, he plans to attend graduate school and earn his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.