Many people have asked me, “What did you learn your first semester abroad?” While I think the real answer to that question is quite complex as being abroad has definitely marked me and the person I am becoming, here is my sort of poetic attempt to convey the depth of some of what I experienced.
I have learned that friendship is the same is any language, and that college students will be college students no matter where they grew up.
I have learned how to navigate public transportation: subways, taxis, buses that don’t stop unless you flag them down, and even bicycles.
I have gotten lost more times than I can count trying to conquer the aforementioned public transportation system. But I have also grown in confidence in my ability to transverse large cities (skills put to the test on a recent trip to London). After the chaos of the buses of Buenos Aires…nothing seems very difficult.
I have had my heart broken by a boy halfway across the world, learned what it means to be lonely, and found a new strength from within that I didn’t know I possessed.
I have achieved a high level of Spanish conversation skills, and the ease with which I communicate continues to grow with each passing day.
I have hiked on the glaciers of Patagonia, swam in the beaches of Uruguay, frolicked across the salt deserts of Bolivia, and climbed the twisting city streets of Valparaíso.
I have made life-long friends from all around the world and all over the USA and swapped cultural stories, traditions, and cuisine.
I have tried new activities, started tennis lessons, stayed out all night, enjoyed the fine arts in another language, and soaked up as many cultural sites in Argentina as possible.
I have eaten more steak and indulged in more red wine than I care to admit.
I have worked in a local public health organization where I had the opportunity to interview one of the most amazing people I have ever met for my research paper on HIV/AIDS and Sex Work.
I have taken classes with Argentine students and learned from some of the best…and some of the worst…professors I have ever had.
I have experienced culture shock and moments of homesickness, but I have also reveled in the freedom of being able to reinvent myself in a new place.
I have gained independence, confidence, and social skills.
I have discovered more about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I want out of life.
In short, I have studied abroad…and you know what? I am glad that the adventure isn’t over yet. Yes, during some moments this semester, pain, grief, and frustration were my teachers. Life abroad isn’t always easy or glamorous, despite what peoples’ Facebook photos and statuses seem to suggest. But I truly believe that study abroad has made me a stronger person, and this list barely begins to cover the ways in which study abroad has shaped me. I have had a TON of fun this semester, and I have high hopes for the semester to come.
Semester two…bring it!