I have been in Argentina for two weeks already, attending Belgrano Day School, and time is just flying by me! My host, Martina, and her family have been incredibly kind and welcoming. I have had the opportunity to make some amazing new friends, as well as explore the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. Although I am forging a second home here for myself, there are some distinct differences between Buenos Aires and the bubble that is the Bay Area.
The school itself is pretty different from Athenian. Belgrano Day School has a very strict dress code and students are not allowed to wear anything other than the uniform they are given. Almost every single class is an hour-and-a-half long, making it like a long period at Athenian, and each school day has ten class periods. The difference is that a long period here is made up of two short periods, so in reality the ten-period long day is just five long classes. In between each class, there are 15-20 minute breaks. Students choose an orientation at the beginning of the school year, either humanities, sciences, or linguistics. If you take humanities for example, you never have to take a science class because that does not come in your orientation. The only classes every single student has to take outside of their orientation are math and Argentinian law.
For me, the culture shock was fairly mild, but it did present itself when I first arrived. First off, the driving. People do whatever they want out on the roads and no one ever stops for pedestrians on the street. I have to walk into the middle of the street in traffic in order to announce to drivers that I have to get across. It is dangerous, but I’ve managed to get used to it.
Second, the most challenging thing, is the language barrier. The first week was the hardest. I took an advanced level of Spanish before heading out on exchange and I thought this would sufficiently prepare me for Argentina. I was (sort of) wrong. They speak very fast here and pronounce a lot of letters differently than the Spanish that I was taught. Also, the teenagers use a lot of slang. At first, this barrier freaked me out and I did not step out of my comfort zone in fear that my Spanish would be inferior. Once I overcame my fear of not knowing the language, I realized that I understand more than I thought I did. I have made great friends here and have used a limited amount of the Spanish that I was taught. I am so thankful that my friends here are willing to speak English, while I try on occasion to speak in my horrible Spanish.
I have grown to love the two kisses on the cheek you are greeted with every time you see a friend or an acquaintance–or even someone you don’t know! It creates a welcoming environment. Everyone here wants to be your friend and asks about America and wants to get to know you. The food here is AMAZING and very centered on meat. Trying a new Argentinian meal every day is honestly so thrilling.
I have only been here two weeks, and yet I am already dreading the day I will have to leave my friends behind and head back home. The school I am attending has presented me with a very welcoming environment and I have made friends I am sure that I will keep in touch with long after I leave.
Argentina has made me step out of my comfort zone, and I have learned so many little things about myself since I got here. The friends I have made, the food I have tried, the places I’ve been, and the whole experience of living in Argentina has been an overwhelmingly amazing experience so far. I can’t wait to see what the next month will be like here!