Making Your Host Country Feel Like Home (But Not Completely!)

Mae Murray
March 13, 2020

"Travel is still the most intense mode of learning"- Kevin Kelly

After being in Argentina for 2 weeks, I am starting to learn the importance of balancing feelings of comfort and discomfort in order to have the most fruitful experience while abroad. It is important to feel like yourself while you’re abroad and keep parts of your life from home stable while abroad. But I also think it is important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and get used to the new cultural norms of your host country to have the most successful and immersive experience possible. Here are some of my thoughts on balancing being comfortable and uncomfortable as I get used to life in Buenos Aires.

First of all, the food definitely takes a bit of getting used to. I remember before coming here how excited I was to try empanadas because I had never had them before, but now that I’m here and have them at least 3 times a week, I almost feel like I’m ready for a change. Also, no one here has nice big breakfasts; it’s much more on the go with fruit or toast so people can get their days started. Most nights we eat chicken or beef with rice or potatoes and I have really found a new appreciation for ravioli since it brings some variety to my meals. This isn’t the reality for many of my friends but it’s what my host mom gives me, so, as a person who chose to do a homestay, it’s just another thing to learn to love.

Getting on the schedule and adapting to my host mom’s way of life has been exciting for me but also one of those uncomfortable things I’m experiencing. Everything here is so much later and I feel like I have lost the whole concept of time management. People take life slowly so I have definitely found myself struggling with the concept of enjoying downtime. Rather than eating dinner at 6 as I do at home, I find that locals take the evening as a time to have tea or coffee as well as a small snack like pan tostado (toast) or a medialuna (croissant), to help hold them over for a later dinner and on the weekends a long night ahead of them. Like everyone else, Elita, my host mom, serves dinner at 9 pm every night. Being in my homestay I’m getting used to some parts of your Elita’s life. I even have gotten to spend time with her granddaughters which has made me so happy. I can see how my homestay experience will be beneficial to helping me adapt here as a whole.

As I mentioned before, the timing of things really threw me off at first but it’s part of feeling like you are participating correctly in Argentine society. Most restaurants don’t open until 8 pm, bars do not get busy until 12 am, and people don’t go dancing at boliches (clubs) until at least 2am! My sleep schedule is completely out of whack but doing nights out like the rest of the people my age here is fun for me and my friends. I accidentally slept until 4:30 pm after my first late night. I’ll definitely have to set an alarm and try to understand how anyone can function here because it seems like people do not sleep!

Something I have found myself paying a lot more attention to than at home is my safety. I never really have to worry about getting pickpocketed at home, even when I go for day trips to New York City. Throughout our orientation, IES Abroad really stressed our being aware of our surroundings, as did many of my family members (because I am known to be a bit oblivious… oops). I felt pretty secure my first few days, always looking around, keeping my purse in front of me, taking taxis home at night rather than walking. But one slip up and I found myself in a situation that could have turned out upsetting. Within our first week, we took a trip over to percussion show where we danced for hours to the improvised music being played by La Bomba de Tiempo, a percussion group that has concerts most Monday nights. When we were leaving I had my bag at my side and before I knew it, I felt my bag close and knew my phone wasn’t in it. I went on a minor chase to get it back and thank God I did, but I have definitely put into perspective the caution you need to remember to have not only upon entering a new country and understanding the culture they have here. Many people cannot afford the expensive phones we have in the US, so crime like this is just a part of life. It's definitely uncomfortable for me, but it’s just the reality of the situation.

All of these things, while uncomfortable, are making me feel like I am making a home here. It’s not like New York, but it’s a home of new experiences and ways of living that make every day an exciting one. Even the things I have been trying to do to make myself feel like I’m not just visiting have become experiences that are helping me to feel secure here. For example, I made friends with a woman named Michelle who has done my nails twice. I am participating in a language partners program and got a new Argentinian friend, Cam, out of it. When we met the first time, it ended in me getting my nose pierced here, because why not?! I am finding those few places by the IES Abroad building that I like to get lunch from, I’m attempting to get myself to go for runs, and even leaving time for me to decompress too. So, its slowly but surely becoming my home away from home. With all the news about the coronavirus happening, I am kind of excited to see what’s in store for me. It has made me and the friends I have made here really reconsider how we spend our time, trying to fit in as much as we can before the possibility of having to leave. It’s been uncomfortable but exciting to live here these past 2 weeks, and I am excited to share more as I explore the city and experience everything that I possibly can!

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Mae Murray

<p>Mae Murray is a current junior at Providence College in Providence, RI where she studies Global Studies, as well as minors in Spanish, Music, and Latin American Studies.&nbsp;Within her major of Global Studies, Mae is concentrating in "storytelling", with the goal of her academic life being one that reflects an awareness of and ability to communicate the realities of our interconnected world, including its vast amount of cultures, governments, and economies as well as the global issues which exist within them. Aside from her academic interests, Mae also enjoys participating in orchestra where she plays the flute, experimenting with photography and cooking for anyone she can. Her time in Buenos Aires will not only support her interests in the Spanish Language and Latin American cultures and societies but give her an impactful experience about a new society to relate back to those at home.</p>

Home University:
Providence College
Rockville Centre, NY
Global Studies
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