I am three weeks into my Argentinian exchange. It’s funny, because it’s just this week that my walls have finally let down a little. I know this post is coming a bit late into the exchange, but honestly, I think that’s better because now I have more news.
The first weekend was the hardest. I found myself crying the first time I talked to my family, and by the second week I was longing to pet one of my dogs. My exchange, Estefi, and her parents live in an apartment in the city, a five-minute walk from her school. The family has been more welcoming than I could ask for. They cleared out an office so I could have my own room and immediately asked if there were any foods I was accustomed to having that I wanted them to buy. I had to ask four times to convince Estefi and her dad to talk to me in Spanish (they’re both fluent in English), because they wanted to make sure I understood what they were saying.
The people here are very welcoming–one of Estefi’s friends made me a cake for my first day– though it’s been hard for me to be in a new environment with people who have known each other for years. After the first week, the questions died down, so if I wanted to talk to someone I had to start the conversation. I’m normally a pretty outgoing person, but I was surprisingly timid my first couple of weeks here. Part of it was definitely the Spanish. I can speak the language well enough to be understood, but I had no idea how to translate any of the jokes I wanted to make. In addition, the kids here speak so fast I sometimes can hardly distinguish the words.
But, like practically everything else, time has made it better. The more I’ve stayed here, the more comfortable I’ve become and the more I turn back into my loud extroverted self. Especially this week, I feel that I’ve begun to make friends with both the other exchanges and students here. Estefi and I get along really well. Knowing that I only have one more week here makes me much sadder than I thought it would.
The one thing I wish I had known from the beginning was how much easier it is to get to know people if you speak English. Now, it’s a weird mix of Spanglish. Sometimes if I ask a question in Spanish, the other person will answer in English, or vice versa. I’m honestly begun to be a little worried that once I get home, I’ll talk to people in Spanish.
The other last note I would like to make is how much of a difference it has made when I’ve had the courage to go up and start a conversation with someone I don’t know..