I’m back again, study abroad round three! A new continent, a familiar language, and an unbelievable city to call my home for the next 5 months. I’m a week in, well-established living with my host family, feeling comfortable and confident getting around town, and loving every minute of it (well except for the slightly less exciting hours and hours of orientations that took up a lot of the first few days).
But let me back up. All the way to the face-hurting cold in Michigan, where, after holding back what would surely have been a flash flood of tears, I hugged my mom and Tony one last time and headed to my gate.
My time alone was limited to about 30 seconds, because I was quickly joined by 5 fellow Michiganders on the program that were on the same flight as me. Detroit to Toronto. Toronto to Santiago, Chile. Santiago to Buenos Aires, Argentina. A cab ride, some quick views of the city, AND I’m home, or at least to my home until July.
I’ve now lived with a host family in Italy for a week, Spain for 6 weeks, France for 6 weeks, and Senegal for 4 weeks, so you’d think I would be an old pro and it wouldn’t be intimidating or nerve-wracking to blindly move in with foreign strangers that you’ve never talked to or know really anything about. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong, because it most certainly still was. That being said, my nerves were eased the second Copete and Eugenia welcomed me into their adorable 5th floor apartment in Recoleta (one of the wealthier neighborhoods of the city).
Copete is pretty viejo at 78 years, but man is he great. He’s hilarious and helpful and is the Argentine grandpa you never knew you wanted or needed. He also speaks French and Spanish (like me), but obviously we keep it in Spanish 99% of the time. He has four kids from his previous marriage as does Eugenia, his “girlfriend” of 15 years. Eugenia is slightly menor with only 62 years and comes with her own 4 kids as well from a previous marriage. And those 8 kids? They all have kids. So if you know anything about math, Copete and Eugenia plus 8 kids plus the grandkids equals a lot of people (more or less).
None of them permanently live with us, but they’re in and out all the time, sometimes just the grandkids, other times whole families. I have my own room and bathroom that are both small and quaint. The bathroom’s small size could actually be really useful because I could hypothetically shower and brush my teeth both which sitting on the toilet! (yet to be attempted. Stay tuned for updates.)
We eat really good food too; chicken, fish, pasta, quiche and some other stuff so far, but it’s our dinner conversations that are even better. They’ve both traveled extensively, and quite coincidentally, to a lot of the places I’ve been. We talked about how beautiful La Universidad de Salamanca is (where I studied two summer’s ago), our favorite cities in Italy (they’re Italian), and which parts of the US are their favorite. They are so easy and great to talk to, it’s easy to forget we’re even speaking Spanish.
One of the craziest things to adjust to here is their VERY late schedule. I saw this in Spain too, but it’s even later here. Dinner for us is usually around 9:45, and that’s when my 78 and 62 year-old host parents eat! We finish close to 11 if I don’t have anywhere to be. Clubs don’t get going until 2 am (some don’t even open until then) and it’s not at all unusual to stay out until sun rise (may or may not have already experienced that…). Another drastic change has been the weather. Within about 48 hours, I went from stupidly unbearable subzero colds to highs in the upper 80s, almost constant sunshine, and my first time experiencing summer in February.
As you can imagine, this has been one of the easier transitions for me.
I’ve gone running almost every day, and walking around the city without risking frost bite sure is a welcome change from home.
he group of about 60 of us from the states is made up of students from all over, with the largest cohort being U of Michigan students (cause Go Blue). I already love them and it’s going to be a great group of people to have this experience with. We’ve gone out quite a bit so far to some really cool bars, and it’s been great to get to know different people each time. The staff that works for IES Abroad is all incredibly sweet and helpful and do an awesome job of helping us figure out what the heck we’re doing in this city of 13 million people.
Monday through Wednesday were full of information about the program and all sorts of tours. We found out about classes and played ice breakers and walked around the city. I am taking most of my classes at the IES center, meaning they will be with the American students and taught by Argentine profs. The U of M students also have to take one class at a partner university, which, for me, is called la UCA (pronounced ookah, not U C A.)
Thursday and Friday, those of us that placed into the advanced Spanish classes went to UCA’s international student orientation, where we got even más information and sat through more INCREDIBLY INTERESTING presentations on academics… (no sarcasm there…. none at all… really… Jk it was so boring and the group not with us was havingTango lessons so I was just slightly jealous). Registration ended up being really stressful because we had to make class selections based on U of M’s rules, IES’s rules, and UCA’s rules, and combined with trying to make it fit with my other 4 classes at IES, this was no easy task. I ended up finding a few that interested me, however, and I’m going to go to each of them at least once and then decide which one to stick with.
IES has also done a great job of planning fun stuff for us this first week, I guess as a way of saying sorry for the beyond-excessive barrage of information sessions. We had a cooking class on Friday where we got to make some delicious desserts, steak, some fancy potatoes, this corn dip, and empanadas. It was a ton of fun even if I’d actually have no idea how to remake any of it. Plus we got to take a ton of it home to eat later too (may have heated up an empanada or two after getting back from the club last night).
Saturday, we went to una Estancia which is like a farm, except that it was all you can eat delicious food and there was a pool, soccer field, and volleyball net, so it was really more like a resort than a farm. We ate SO much carne (Argentina’s specialty) which was perfect for then changing into our bathing suits to play bloated-stomach sand volleyball and swimming. The day was so incredibly relaxing and beautiful, and it was our first time spent out of the wonderful chaos of the city, so it was really nice to be around more nature. We headed back to BsAs (Buenos Aires) around 7:30.
Buenos Aires has already proved to be an amazing place, and I am so excited to see what the next few months look like. Classes start tomorrow at IES, so the fun will have to be cut back a little, but I’m so ready to get back to learning after the oddly long winter break I’ve had.