We were happy to chat with Peyton Tatonetti, our August 2017 Ambassador of the Month. She opens up about meeting Argentines, appreciating local routines and mindsets, and how to handle not wanting to leave!
Peyton is a senior, double majoring in Business Management-International Business and Spanish at Case Western Reserve University. She’s a Cleveland native who loves speaking Spanish, and a member of a Bollywood Fusion dance team to boot. She studied on the IES Abroad Buenos Aires – Latin American Societies & Cultures Program in Fall 2016.
IES Abroad: How did you meet locals abroad?
Peyton Tatonetti (PT): So many ways!
- I spent as much time as I could with my host mom's family, whether it was at with her grandkids at her apartment or dinner at her kids’ homes. If she ever had friends over, I would hang out in the living room and pass around mate (tea) with them.
- I struck up a conversation with a bartender who wasn't too busy and exchanged contact information by the end of the night.
- I may have fallen in love with the platform shoes that Argentine women wear and, therefore, went back to the same store and was always asking for opinions.
- I had a genuine conversation with just about every single one of my taxi drivers. I signed up for the language partner program and made sure to meet with my partner once per week.
- One of my friends from Spain I met through one of the many international student organizations in Buenos Aires (which you also have to look into because I made the best of friends from all over the world on a trip I took through the organization!) connected me with a friend who played soccer, and the friend invited me to play a game with her team. I ended up hitting it off with the girls, so I continued to play in their tournament with them throughout the summer and joined them for a few practices as well!
- I took a trip to northern, more indigenous parts of Argentina with IES Abroad, and they connected us with the sweetest and most beautiful people I have ever met.
- I did service learning through IES Abroad where I taught English to college students as a volunteer, and therefore spent a lot of time there with locals my age!
A final important note is that you'd be surprised at how many locals are looking to improve their English skills, so you can look into conversation meet-ups or use it as an excuse to get together with someone.
IES Abroad: What tips would you give a student to help them make their host country home?
PT: Spend as much time as possible with your host family! This, of course, depends on the level of closeness you desire to have with them. I wanted to become a part of their family, so I embraced them and they embraced me, and I felt comfortable in no time. If I knew the grandkids were coming over, I would try to be home to play with them. I would go with my host mom to her kids’ houses for dinner or for someone's birthday party. I even went to her oldest granddaughter's communion at their church! I may have been luckily placed amongst some of the best Argentines out there, but they cared for me and treated me like their own!
Another piece of advice is to open your mind and pay attention to the city's customs and values. Start doing things that locals do, even if it's just something small, related to your daily routine. It'll become so natural that you'll forget it was a change. From getting to know locals well and even just from observing the public, specific values that the natives hold will begin to stick out and you'll see common patterns. Dive into their thought process and compare it to yours or to that of people from your hometown. Realize how similar we all really are and how we have to deal with so many of the same things in life. But also pick out the differences. See what you may like more about how natives handle situations there versus how they are handled at home, and vice versa. Maybe you will change some of your habits or beliefs.
A final suggestion is to make it a goal for someone to ask you for directions! I'm serious, it might be one of the coolest feelings ever when someone thinks you are a local. So go out and explore the neighborhood, do things independently, check out of your phone and look into your surroundings, get lost, make mistakes...make the city yours.
IES Abroad: What one piece of advice would you share to those who are returning home from study abroad?
PT: I actually didn't have much of a culture shock coming in to Buenos Aires. I embraced the craziness with open arms and said throw it all at me! However, something I didn't expect to happen was this odd feeling when I had about two weeks left. The odd feeling was a combination of anxiety, sadness, and confusion, and was something I had never felt before. Of course, I missed my friends and family, but I also now had a second family down there and a strange fear came over me that I may not see some of these people ever again.
I also was nervous about not having enough time to do all of the activities I wanted to do, but hadn't yet completed. If you have a similar feeling about not wanting to go home, you have to know that is totally normal! You have become a part of this lifestyle, and there's something that feels so right about it.
But my best advice is to dig in to the reasons why you might be having this feeling. It's because of the beautiful experience you just had and the only way to look back at all of it is positively. My mom reminded me that I can always go back, both to visit people and to see more of the country! So take a lot of deep breaths, talk to people down there with you, or people who are abroad somewhere else that might be having similar feelings, know that this trip will never leave you (seriously you'll be talking about it nonstop to all of your curious friends, family members, and even strangers who are looking to go study abroad!), and look out the airplane window with a bittersweet smile.
Now, it is a bit of a funny feeling arriving back home; it's an exciting one, but it's a little odd! When you first see people you haven't seen in four months (maybe even more) it's almost psychedelic, like, “Whoa you're real, this is real, I'm back from this other world (because it really doesn't feel like just another country!)”.
Let me tell you though, they will be so, so, so happy to see you and will embrace you with open arms and huge smiles, and it's one of the warmest most comforting feelings ever. And in that moment you will realize your heart still lies at home, but there's no question you left a piece of it in that foreign (not so foreign anymore!) city.
We can’t wait to see how study abroad will redefine your world. Contact an Ambassador to learn about the student experience straight from the source, and find the best place to study abroad for you based on your interests, hobbies, and more.