Arriving in Buenos Aires, one of the things that I was most worried about was whether I'd be able to make any friends. I didn't know a single soul in the city I had decided to spend a year of my life and was now 6,000 miles away from everybody I cared about. I'm a pretty quiet person at first, especially in social situations where I don't know anybody, and adding language barriers on top of that made me wonder if I had overestimated myself in coming here. Those nerves soon faded away as I began to get to know some of the most incredible people I have ever met.
In the next four months, the people I would grow close to, the stories I would hear, and the experiences we would share would come to create a cultural exchange that without a doubt changed me. So many different people offered me pieces of their own histories and caused me to think of things in a new light, from people I only spoke to once or twice or friends I'll have for the rest of my life. Sitting in this cafe corner now, with our program over and almost all of the people I grew close to here now gone, all the little memories are playing through my head: sizing each other up at the program's first asado, moonlit walks home spent becoming less of strangers, perusing through museums full of world-class art we don't understand, catching unknown illnesses on the bus to Mendoza, sharing secrets and laughs and tears and cultures. I'm beyond thankful to have met the people I have this semester, some of whom I'm heartbroken to say goodbye to and others I can't wait to see again.
Luckily, I managed to get pictures of some of the people I've grown close to this semester. I've put a few of them below to introduce you to these gems:
This was during a tour from the first week of the semester. These IES Abroad ladies formed one of the most fun and accepting groups I've been a part of. I suppose I'll forgive them all for looking at someone else's camera.
From left to right: Jackie, Sarah, Elsa, Nina, Cat, Angie, Kristle, Dana, Elyse, Sophie, Claire, Hana
My roommate for the first half of the semester, Pawan and I made it through months of sharing a bathroom and living with our hands-on host mom without hating each other. He once woke me from a peaceful slumber at 4 am on a weekday for some advice that could not wait, and after that point I basically considered us to be brothers. The most mundane conversation with him will in the blink of an eye morph into a philosophical discussion of religion and consciousness, and he is among the chillest and sweetest guys out there. I hope Chile is treating you well dude!
My personal favorite wingman, Kristle is probably top-five at shimmying in the world and one of the only people I would agree to practice a choreographed dance with. She's always willing to listen and talk through problems you have, and helped me work through issues I was having toward the beginning of the semester. She is legitimately always good vibes, genuine, and caring. Thanks for giving me all your unused shampoo and paper towels, they're saving me right now!
Above is potentially the most K.C. picture ever. The only other Minnesotan born kid on the trip and my ally in the pop vs. soda debate, K.C. was from the beginning intent on getting everybody acquainted and having a good time. He's also the most efficient knife salesman I've ever met. Enjoy that MN winter bud.
You can always count on Nana to show up to the function at least one hour late and out-dressing everybody. Nana lives by the motto "phone eats first" and is always on the lookout for the best lighting. She uplifts those around her all the time, refuses to let me tell my typical self-deprecating jokes, and is among the most positive people I know. Thanks for helping me get through our marathon morning class at Di Tella and reminding me to be a bit more confident.
Emma, on the left (Nina is on the right but is featured further down), saved me with her top-notch study guides and reminders on homework assignments in Spanish class. She is incredibly smart and sweet, and I have never seen her in a bad mood. No matter what she's going through, she stays positive and upbeat.
Although millions have been spent by research groups and investigative teams, experts have yet to discover a bad picture of Kayla. During the whole "sugar, spice, and everything nice" equation, somebody added some extra spice to her mix. Kayla has a contagious personality, and it is almost impossible to make eye contact with her without cracking a smile. She's one of the only people who truly matched my level of sass and sarcasm. I look forward to being one of her 5 future husbands she insists she'll have.
Chicago raised but a Minnesota boy at heart, I'm not sure I've met somebody who could be so tender and so shady at the same time. Carlitos is one of the more caring guys I've met, and takes care of the people he loves like no other. No matter how inconvenient it may be for him, Carlitos will do anything to take care of a friend. Despite the struggles he faced in this sometimes problematic city, he passionately embraced the challenges that came his way and helped me see this city in a way I never would have been able to alone.
Freda, Alba, and the ladies at rincón ecuatoriano
For our documentary and audiovisual production class at UCA, Carlitos decided to explore Afro-argentine experience, something often ignored by mainstream Argentine culture. I took this journey with him, filming interviews and scenes, but more importantly meeting people in the community he had made connections with. This picture is from El rincón ecuatoriano, an Ecuadorian restaurant owned and operated by the woman on the right, Freda. She was not only an amazing cook and host, but also incredibly insightful and open about her experiences through 25 years in Argentina. After interviewing with Carlitos, she and her musical group did a live performance just for us, and it was one of the more special experiences of my semester. Thank you to the women at rincón for everything. I'll be back soon for arroz con pollo.
Another community leader we interviewed for the documentary, Miguel is a passionate, honest, and generous man who was eager to speak with us and share his experience in Argentina. An incredible storyteller, Miguel helped me understand the everyday pressures of societal ideas of who is an "Argentine" and who is not, and rewarded our curiosity with an authenticity that changed the way I look at this city.
My guru for all things Argentine, Manu has helped me assimilate to this city like no other. Be it parks, cafes, or bars, Manu knows the coolest places I would never have found without her. She's shown me around museums, given me the latest scoop on shows and festivals, and put me on some good Argentine music, be it classics or unknown bangers. She even helped me start a phrasebook with slang so underground my other friends from Buenos Aires don't know what the terms mean. I give her all the credit for being nominated "biggest porteño" by my classmates. Manu is not only a quality city guide, but she's a good friend, and is a guaranteed laugh, interesting conversation, and a good time every time we hang out.
Along with being the only Packer's fan I've been able to spend more than 10 minutes talking to, Lizzie is a lot of things I have traditionally considered warning signs of someone I won't get along with: sorority girl — check, Texan — check, religious — check, melker (says "melk" as opposed to the correct form of the word, "milk"... if you know, you know) — check. I got to know Lizzie and discovered a sweet, hilarious, adventurous and open-minded person who became one of my better friends I've made in Buenos Aires. Her constant good mood and clever humor almost make me forgive the fact that she thinks McDonald's serves the best ice cream in Argentina. Lizzie made me challenge a lot of the pretentious preconceptions I hold about people I consider different than me, and reminded me to hold off on putting up my walls until I get to know somebody.
If you couldn't already tell from her cheek-to-cheek smile she has in literally every single picture I've taken of her, Sarah is one of the purest human beings on this planet. She radiates positivity and elevates the entire group's mood, guaranteed to be in good spirits even while bedridden our entire vacation in Mendoza or after getting her wallet stolen. Sarah is one of the most selfless and considerate people I've ever met; she refused to enter the club on her own birthday because two of us weren't allowed inside. If she notices someone isn't doing well, she will dedicate her full attention and empathy to you and talk through a problem with an incredible level of compassion and understanding, whether it's the pettiest of issues or a life-altering tragedy. Through the duration of the program, Sarah became one of my best friends, and was the organized, reasonable, and thoughtful counterpart that Tommy, Nina and I's often chaotic selves needed. She's intelligent, curious, passionate, loving, caring, and positive in ways I aspire to be, and is one of the most special people I've met not just on this trip, but in my life. I am beyond grateful that the universe plopped us in the same spot for four months.
I don't know that I ever have or will ever meet someone quite like Nina. She lives with an inimitable energy that is exhilerating at times and infuriating at others, unpredictable and unique like no other friend I've had. Nina is thoughtful and impulsive, self-aware and brash, yin and yang, and it combines in one of the most complex and wonderful people I've come to know. She will tell you exactly why her left tonsil hurts or what's making her feel a certain emotion but won't notice that she's the only one in the cafe not using their indoors voice; she will think through a problem of yours and offer the most honest and insightful advice but will hold a grudge from that one time you didn't pay her back for an empanada for months without telling you. Although sometimes difficult, Nina is one of the most passionate and supportive people I know, and treats her friends with an unwavering level of respect and love. At your best or your worst, whether you're ecstatic, enraged, grieving, or confused, Nina is there 100% to let you know that you're not alone and you've got a friend. She's one of the most fun and venturous people I've gotten close to, and is eager to try new things and excited to bring you along for the ride. Getting on her level for even a moment ensures an exciting and refreshing time, and with her in the room you're forced to smile and invited to stay completely in the moment. Getting to know Nina has been one of the most rewarding friendships I've had, and my semester in Buenos Aires would not have been the same without her.
Some time near the beginning of the program when we all nearly broke a bench.
From left to right: Gianna, Nana, Elyse, Ara, Sophie V, Roxanne (above), Sophie H (below), Maria (standing), K.C., Angie (right under K.C), Kristle, Nina, Carlitos, Me, Omar.
I could write 100 pages for everybody in the pictures above, and for all of those who I didn't manage to get a picture of. Thank you so much to everybody who made this semester one of the most incredible times of my life.