After all the research I did prior to arriving in Buenos Aires, there’s still so much to learn about the city. Firstly, it is in fact a city. I’m not quite sure what I pictured before arriving but it was not a massive and sprawling metropolis that I viewed out of the window of the airplane. I had read about how important and accessible public transportation was and the different barrios of the city but still had not made the connection of how truly large this city is. In time, I hope to know the city and its quirks better—especially the coletivos (buses) as I wish to explore farther than the 10-block radius around my home.
However, the 10-block radius around my home has proven to be quite lovely. I live in a beautiful apartment in the barrio of Recoleta with another IES Abroad student, Hanna, who also attends University of Michigan. She and I live alongside our host mother Betsi, a former diplomat of Bolivia who is so full of love and compassion, our host sister Sofia, a college student studying animation and Betsi’s granddaughter, and Marija, a wonderful housekeeper whose size is deceiving of her strength. Hanna and I have separate rooms on the other side of the apartment, allowing us to have our space when needed—a necessity when decompressing from a week full of excitement (and some stress) of adjusting to a new city, school, and culture.
This first week of orientation has been a whirlwind, so let me break it down into the good, the bad, and the ugly:
- My host family has been incredibly welcoming and helpful whenever Hanna or I have a question about the city or Argentina in general (which is often)
- I live close to the IES Abroad Center—about a 20-minute walk—which is great for cutting down transportation costs and not needing to deal with rush-hour traffic
- I have made some fast friends in the program that I can tell are going to be wonderful mates
- I have already had the opportunity to travel and see other parts of Argentina. Following our week of orientation, there was a long weekend and many students, including me, took the chance to get out of the city. A few friends and I headed to the beautiful town of Mendoza where we enjoyed cooler weather, biking through vineyards, rafting on the Mendoza River, and a quieter atmosphere.
- Money seems to be flying out of my wallet. Between paying for little necessities that I did not want pack and a weekend trip away, my wallet could use a break for a couple of weeks.
- I am still struggling with setting up my sim card abroad. The process of getting my US-based phone and Argentine sim card to work together has proven to be much more difficult than I thought it would be.
- I was subjected to some petty theft on the 16-hour bus ride to Mendoza in which my towel (which is more of an inconvenience rather than an inability to replace) was taken
- Connecting to the WiFi in my homestay has been a struggle. Although it is not a requirement of the hosts to have WiFi, Betsi has been adamant about getting the system up and working (which is a “Good”). I also realize that this issue is a complete non-issue and is just a matter of getting myself out of my comfort zone and learning a new way of life.
- My Spanish—two years without taking a Spanish class and I somehow have not magically retained everything I learned from 3 years of courses
- Our hostel in Mendoza gave me some nasty bed bug bites. I have never had to deal with anything like this—I’ve been blessed to never have bed bugs, lice, chicken pox, or anything of the sort. We’ve taken steps to make sure we didn’t bring them back with us to Buenos Aires but I feel like I will be living in a state of paranoia for the next week.
- I am sweating like crazy because our first week in Buenos Aires has reportedly been the hottest week of the entire summer. The evenings are nice and refreshing but walking down the street mid-day is like stepping out into a sauna.
Overall, this first week has been a lot to take in. Never having lived in a city before and being plopped into a country where the language barrier is often overwhelming, it can be frustrating navigating and understanding the city. However, it is also with realization that all things do pass and this period of adjustment is just that—an adjustment. I’m lucky to have friends willing to explore the city, say yes to an adventure, and get a little lost along the way with me.
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<p>Come one, come all on this adventure of a lifetime! I'm Elizabeth, known to many as Liz and Avocado by some. Originally from Northern California, I am currently studying Communication Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. I've decided to take my education beyond the bounds of the United States and head to Buenos Aires, Argentina!! Follow me along this journey as I navigate a new country and try to remember Spanish!</p>