Finding Small Spaces in a Big City

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Roxane Bolon
November 25, 2022
Finding Small Spaces in a Big City

If you’re from a small town like me, where you’re usually surrounded by short buildings or trees, living in a city can be really overwhelming. The sun dips behind the buildings at 4 p.m., there’s not a ton of backyards or sleepy streets, and there’s always people everywhere no matter where you go. I went from my little town in North Carolina to Buenos Aires, which was a huge geographical and spatial change. After living here for four months, I have had to find places and ways to take a breath or I think I would lose it. The beautiful thing about cities is that there are so many hidden nooks and secret spots that can make you feel so comforted—they’re just a bit daunting to figure out.

People grow up in so many different types of places and it’s funny how that can leave us utterly unprepared for where we end up. If you grow up in Manhattan and then move to rural Kansas, you might have trouble adjusting, and vice versa—it’s just whatever you’re used to. When I feel crowded and trapped in big cities, it’s usually because I’m much more used to the 10-car parking lot one stop light kind of place. 

Studying abroad brings about a lot of challenges, both mentally and physically. Since I’ve been here, I’ve really tried hard to find places that make the world feel quiet again. There’s so much going on here and from the streets, it doesn’t look like there’s quiet space anywhere, but now that it’s been a few months I feel like I have my own spots. If you aren’t sure where to start, I just looked up cafes and outdoor spaces in the city on Google Maps and bopped around. It was also so nice to talk to local people, because they really know the good places. I was in the mood for somewhere I could just sit down and let myself take everything in—added bonus if I could have a snack or a coffee along with that. 

Looking back on the past few months, those are the places that I remember as making me feel so calm, no matter what was going on in the city life. My favorite coffee shops, obviously, but the less obvious spaces, like the random garden Caroline and I found inside an old church, or under a tree at the ecological reserve. I always felt better when I took time to open my journal or sip a coffee while sitting on a plush couch.

Slowing down can be really hard. Intentionally being present anywhere, especially with so much access to social media and what other people are doing, takes real focus. This experience has absolutely flown by and I feel like I am going to remember most of the moments where I stopped for a second and tried to commit all the details to memory. The shape of the chairs, the song “Pump up the Jams” playing, for some reason, the way it’s a bit warm out but not too warm, everything. I try to keep my eyes open as I’m walking around too—I love catching tiny interactions between people. They feel so sweet and temporary. 

Remember to look around, and remember to find places where you can take a breath. The days might pass slowly, but the months pass quickly—before I knew it, I had a week left in Buenos Aires. But I think I will always remember my little garden, my favorite chair at the coffee shop near my house, and the way it feels to have pockets of home in an unfamiliar place. 

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Roxane Bolon

Hi! I'm Roxane! I'm a rising senior in college and I'm so excited about studying abroad in Argentina. I love travel (duh) and I can't wait to live in a new city. I love most outdoor activities, but my favorites are rock climbing and trail running. My best fun fact is that I hiked a 14,000 foot pass in Peru when I was 14. Or that I can solve a rubik's cube. Those seem pretty equal to me. I'm the youngest of four kids and my three older brothers would probably describe me as energetic and excited! Matcha tea with boba is my favorite drink, so you can definitely find me doodling in a cafe when I'm in Buenos Aires.

Home university:
Lafayette College
Hometown:
Chapel Hill, NC
Major:
International Affairs
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