I spent five months living in Buenos Aires with a host family and taking classes at the University of Belgrano. All of my classes were in Spanish and contributed towards my Spanish major at OSU. I was able to travel throughout Buenos Aires, Argentina and some other countries nearby.
Spending a semester abroad helped me develop confidence, problem solving and general independence. Getting outside of my comfort zone taught me that no matter how much you plan, sometimes things don’t go the way you thought–sometimes problems arise and you have to use the resources available to you to figure out how to get yourself out of that situation. Weird situations will always come up while you travel in a foreign country and put yourself in new environments. While it helped significantly that I spoke the language, I still learned a lot about myself every time I had to get myself out of a new problem, whether it was in Buenos Aires or in a new country. In a way, getting lost or into some other problem also helped me connect with locals, because I found that I often needed their help to get myself back on track. I’m a huge planner, and I also learned that sometimes you can’t plan every detail and that it’s okay to figure something out as your go.
Studying in Buenos Aires also reaffirmed my interest in learning about the world. While I was there many important events took place: a historic vote on abortion, the G20 summit, some large city-wide protests and their economy continued to fluctuate. Not only was I more aware of what was going on in Argentina, I also got to hear the thoughts and opinions of people living through these situations. I learned a lot about Latin America, Argentina, economics, etc., and I think what I learned will stick with me better because I witnessed many of the events and had conversations with locals. I was also able to learn a lot about Argentina’s history, specifically related to the dictatorship of the late 1970s and 80s. What I learned was much more impactful because I was in country.
A large part of this new experience was simply living in a large city with a new family. I had to learn to use public transportation, get used to a city that I am not used to and learn how to get myself around without using my phone constantly. Sometimes it would have been easier to just stay home instead of figuring out how to get wherever I was going and possibly getting lost; however, it was always worth forcing myself to get out, and the more I did it the easier it became–I got lost less often and when I wasn’t sure where I was it was easier because I was more confident in myself to figure it out. I took a lot of weekend trips with my friends throughout Argentina and sometimes to other countries. I always tried to plan out every detail, but as I mentioned sometimes that isn’t possible. Sometimes not all the information was available or you had to book the tour in person. That kind of experience has helped me relax a little and be more okay with spontaneity and figuring things out as I go.
I learned more about Argentina and its history than I probably ever will in such a short time just by living there. Because human rights is one of my interests, that’s naturally what I tended to look into more. I was aware before going into the program that you learn the most about a country when you are physically there, but I don’t think I previously realized to what extent that was true. It also helped that I had a couple of literature and film classes that focused on either Latin America or Argentina specifically. Some of my classes were only with other international studies, so my professors were often aware of making recommendations and teaching us about Buenos Aires. I also had a class with Argentine students; it was nice to have both as a contrast and be able to talk to college students from Argentina.
Traveling outside of Buenos Aires, both with the program and individually, helped me gain confidence in myself. I enjoyed that some excursions were planned out for us and for others it was completely up to me to me to figure out. I think it was a nice balance and helped me learn as I went. I definitely have more confident when it comes to traveling outside the country, especially by myself; however, I think I am also a lot more willing to do something new here at home, especially by myself. After I graduate I will be working and at some point returning to go to graduate school. In all of these new experience I think I will be slightly more confident because of my experience in a new environment.
As I continue to study international studies and human rights, I think it will essential that I get outside of the United States and travel to other parts of the world. I think traveling is something that takes practice, and you get better at it the more you do it. The next step for me would be to travel in a country where I don’t speak the language. I hope to travel during graduate school and throughout my adulthood, and I can take many of the things I learned from this trip. I would definitely like to return to South America–there is still so much to visit, but I realized I would also like to return to Argentina. It is a huge country and it would have been impossible to see everything I wanted to see in just five months.