I had been speaking hypothetically about this journey for over a year before I actually departed. I knew I had wanted to come to Argentina for a long time but I never really put too much thought into what I would experience while I was there. I had caught a case of the travel bug after my first volunteer trip to Mexico just a year after I had graduated from high school. I stayed and worked there for two months trying to preserve the environment there. Never once did I get homesick even though my living conditions consisted of just a cement block with carved out windows. When I returned from my first adventure, I knew I needed to get out again. I had learned so much from being in another culture and traveling alone for the first time. My mind had been opened and a travel bug ventured in. I traveled once more to Guatemala for six weeks the summer before my present journey, here, in Buenos Aires. This is by far the longest I have ever been gone. Weeks before this semester-long trip, I moved out of my apartment and threw out the majority of my belongings and put the rest in storage. I was living with my sister with nothing more than the two backpacks I was going to take with me to Argentina. It began to sink in that I was leaving the United States for a while this time.
I didn’t put much thought into how my life would work in another country. I knew I was going to be taking classes in Spanish and living in a hostel, but I never imagined how it would actually feel. After having been here for three weeks now all I can say is that my adjustment was very smooth or maybe I have just gotten used to the daily cringe-worthy awkward language moments and hostel lifestyle.
When I first arrived in Buenos Aires I was immediately met by a leader of the program I was traveling abroad through and guided to a meeting point with upwards of ten other traveling students. Fortunately, I immediately felt secure. However, once we left the airport and went to our respective living accommodations is when I began to realize just how far I had come. I knocked on the door to my hostel and I was shown around my new rustic and eco-friendly home. Showers were archaic and dirty with everyone’s belongings mixed together. The kitchen as well was a mixture of all of the resident’s food. My room contained four beds, all of which were full after my arrival. I put my stuff in my room and had to attend a meeting at the school just thirty minutes after my arrival. I didn’t have time to process what I thought about my new home. However, it began to sink in during moments of boredom in my orientation meeting. I was thinking ‘oh my god, my stuff is just sitting there open for the taking’ I hadn’t met any of my roommates to deem them trustworthy or not. I thought of the showers and when would be an appropriate time for me to wash off the 24 hours of travel musk I was wearing. I didn’t know the rules around cooking or storing food in the hostel… I felt very alone.
When I returned, my belongings were still there. My roommates turned out to be some of the coolest people I have ever met. And turns out we have a cook here at the hostel that prepares dinners for us regularly. Additionally, the hostel is incredibly eco-friendly and sustainable which perfectly aligns with my studies of Environmental Science at University. I felt amazing and all of the fear I had before melted away. The next adventure was navigating the language barrier.
My biggest obstacle by far has been communication. Every single day I feel like I am just hurdling over one awkward moment to the next. Honestly, I have cried many times over this. I want to learn this language so bad but I cannot understand or communicate how I’d like. I am not able to explain my thoughts in Spanish. I have been studying and communicating as much as I can each day and sleep heavy from mental exhaustion each night. I am nowhere near where I would like to be at this point, but I am improving immensely each day.
The most monumental thing I have noticed so far in my life here is that I am learning so much every day. If I wrote down all of the little things I have learned I would have written a novel already. My roommates are from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, France, Germany, Venezuela, and many more countries as well. I am learning about so many different cultures. I am discussing heavy topics including feminism, LGBTQ rights, corruption, racism, etcetera within many different countries all the while speaking a foreign language. Everyone has been incredibly patient with me and really try to hear what I have to say even if it takes me 10x longer to explain. I have already made lifelong friends here. Not once have I felt homesick just like on trips before. I never learn this much in a day in the United States. I truly believe traveling teaches me sooo much more than school ever could. I am already intending to continue my travels after I finish my degree.
Ashley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an Environmental Science degree along with a Spanish minor. She is studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Latin American Studies program during the spring of 2019. She hopes to become fluent in Spanish and attend graduate school to study marine biology.
Disclaimer: 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.