I'm not exactly somebody who ventures outside of their comfort zone often, and it's something that I am looking to change about myself. These past three weeks in Buenos Aires have been so amazing that I refuse to fathom the fact that I only have four more weeks in Buenos Aires before my journeys take me off to Peru and Santiago, Chile.
I've been taken outside of my comfort zone very often and I can say it's a thrilling yet scary experience. The only advice I have for stepping out of your comfort zone while studying abroad is to say yes to (almost) anything.
I made the decision to spend a semester in Latin America with only two paltry semesters of college Spanish under my belt. After a long summer away from Spanish and a consistent tendency to "forget" to complete my daily Duolingo lesson, I realized the uphill battle I was in for during my first week in Buenos Aires. While I regret wasting my summer playing Candy Crush during my internship commute rather than continuing my Duolingo streak, it has allowed me to tackle the language barrier head on and immerse myself.
I'm arguably (maybe not so arguably) the least experienced Spanish speaker in my cohort of seventeen, but I've been steadily improving by taking myself out of my comfort zone and just trying. I signed up for a language partner offered through IES Abroad - Buenos Aires and got myself partnered with a local student who wants to work on their English. After meeting him, I found out his competency in English is way better than mine in Spanish but... slow and steady wins the race right?
My personal win this week was being able to change my ticket at BuqueBus with an agent communicating only in Spanish, without the need of my Google Translate app. While it was a limited interaction with lots of pointing, gesturing and confusion, it's still a win in my book! Other things that I do are trying to watch Netflix with Spanish audio and subtitles. It helps with the understanding because with English subtitles, your brain is trying to decipher both languages. It has been very effective!
Espero que puedo tener una conversación con mi companero solo en español antes de salir de Buenos Aires. (I'm going to hope that is gramatically correct Spanish.)
I never thought in a million years that I'd ever go to Uruguay. It just seems like such a random country when you first think about it. It's not the top of college student tourist destinations! Places like Amsterdam, Fiji, Rome, Thailand and China come to mind... and I think Uruguay is that hidden gem that more people need to travel to. Truly one of the most gorgeous countries I have ever experienced. Spending a day in Colonia and another day in Montevideo was really amazing! Again, this only happened because I just said yes to plans that were offered to me. I could've easily hung back in Buenos Aires and probably watched more Netflix from the safety of my homestay and stable WiFi connection... but where was the fun in that? While the unstable WiFi connections made for a lack of witty Snapchat stories, it allowed me to connect more with those I traveled with and truly get to know Uruguay.
The beaches in Uruguay were amazing and just observing the culture was great. So many people were out and about walking with friends and families and drinking mate on the beach. Here are a few pictures I've taken! Including the lighthouse that I struggled to climb up with a mild cold but the view was 100% worth the fact that I practically couldn't breathe.
I had never stayed in a hostel before and it was a bit unsettling to walk into the place to see four sets of bunk beds pushed against the walls. I had taken vacations abroad before but had stayed in private apartment AirBnBs with my own bathroom and own space. I was excited to experience life in a hostel but also nervous because of the horror stories I had heard.
It was actually one of the best nights of my life staying in the hostel with the rest of my buddies from IES Abroad and getting to meet people from around the world who were staying there. In one night I got to speak with people from Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, and Argentina and managed to communicate in a mix of English and Spanish... and also with the help of the more fluent students in my cohort. Sitting on the rooftop of the hostel watching the hustle and bustle of Montevideo was what made me realize it was moments like this that I would cherish forever. From stepping outside my comfort zone in order to experience something amazing.
My philosophy of only saying yes to things is probably going to continue. As a Vineyard Vines wearing New York City native who has never gone camping a day in his life, I am surrounded by people in my cohort who love camping, hiking and a bunch of rustic things that I would have never imagined doing. I know they're all going to lead me to do some things I never thought I'd do and I'm excited about it! Be sure to read my next blogs to see what crazy situations my cohort managed to convince me to do.
Meet my cohort! These are the sixteen amazing individuals that I have the pleasure to travel Latin America with. I've already learned so much about and from all of them and I'm excited for the months to come.
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<p>I'm a New York City born and Long Island raised lover of food, travel and culture who currently goes to college right outside of Boston, Massachusetts! One of my favorite hobbies has to be reading and I spend every summer dedicating myself to a very intensive reading list.</p>