For my STEP Signature Project I traveled to Argentina to study abroad, learning a semester’s worth of information on history and culture in just under 3 weeks. We also ventured to Colonia, Uruguay, and Salta, Argentina, but spent the majority of the time learning and exploring within the city of Buenos Aires, a city characterized by a long and complex history of economic/political volatility.
A conclusion that I found myself coming to during many steps of the journey is that while everyone around the world has a different culture, background, and everyday way of life, we really are all the same. This sounds incredibly cliché, but there were so many moments where I forgot that I wasn’t in Columbus; and I think that I can attribute that sentiment to my realization that people are just people no matter where you go. And that doesn’t necessarily have to stop me from feeling the wonder, excitement and newness of encountering a new terrain/landscape.
Since this was my first time ever leaving the United States, my first time flying alone, my first time being fully immersed in the Spanish language, my first time being so far from home, my first time being financially able to take a plane trip anywhere. As my departure date for the trip approached, I knew that I would be experiencing these things for the first time, which sparked so much excitement, but even more nervousness.
When we first landed in the city of Buenos Aires, after a red-eye flight the night before, my first steps on Argentine soil were wet ones. The rainy and overcast weather made for a rather anticlimactic arrival. And our group walking tour of the neighborhood near our hotel felt like a regular day in the tourist-laden areas of NYC, or any major city in the US. In simpler words, after travelling all this way, I was underwhelmed. I put so much pressure on this trip to be this life-changing, grand, once in a lifetime experience. When that feeling didn’t strike me after immediately stepping off of the plane, or even the next day after that, I got a little discouraged.
However, just 2 days later, my newfound friends and I took an hour long express ferry ride to a whole other country. We traveled to Colonia, Uruguay for just one day, and it made me feel like a whole new person. There were little gems that made the visit so unique, like the neighborhood dogs who were super friendly and were everyone’s family, the colorful pastel storefronts that brought a smile to my face, the most beautiful sunset that perfectly settled over the river’s peaceful shore, the lack of traffic lights (due to there being no traffic whatsoever), and most of all the pace of life in this quiet and quaint little city was almost opposite that of the city life in Buenos Aires. I spoke for about half an hour total with at least 3 different vendors about my hair, which isn’t very unique to me because I’m used to it. As a black woman in a country with not nearly as many black people, I could see what sparked the curiosity. Through these conversations I got my first chance to talk with strangers instead of just passing them by on their hurried commute to work. And aside from the aesthetic and social joy I got from our visit to Colonia, it was cool to be able to learn the history of the country, and to see markers of how the nation’s past has shaped what the region is like today.
The discovery that not every corner of the world seems to be a mechanistic, money-driven metropolis gave me hope, broadened my outlook, opened my mind, and put me at ease. This realization that not every place is the same seemed to give me more room to appreciate the little differences in not only places and landscapes, but people as well.
Argentina was my first time sharing a passion for exploration and learning with so many people in the same space at once, my first time meeting so many new friends so quickly, my first time being able to visualize living a life outside of Ohio. But perhaps the most impactful “first” was that this trip was my first time realizing that being a world traveler and learning about a culture and its roots through immersion, could be something accessible to me.
All of these firsts overwhelmingly exceeded my initial expectations for how the trip would change my mindset. I saw myself as an open-minded person prior to this experience, but I think that that open-mindedness blossomed even further as I was given the chance to see more, do more, and feel a sense of liberation on a new level. I found that this type of experience only has to be “once-in-a-lifetime” if I let it.
The link to my blog post written while in Buenos Aires, Argentina can be found below: