I’m nearing the end of my stay here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is a bittersweet feeling. I clearly remember how the nerves finally registered as the pilot announced we would be landing in Ezeiza International Airport in 15 minutes. I was tired and disoriented as the pilot made another announcement saying that we would have to stay in the air for up to an hour because of the unexpected fog surrounding the airport. The pilot then announced that if we couldn’t land, we would have to fly across the country and land in Mendoza, 600 miles away from Buenos Aires. Surprisingly, I didn’t panic. Somehow I knew, without ever meeting my host family, that they would be extremely supportive and helpful if the worse case scenario was to happen. Thankfully, the plane landed safely in Buenos Aires an hour later. I rushed through customs and the baggage claim and suddenly it was time to leave the comfort of the airport terminals and into the reality of being in a foreign country. I walked out of the automatic doors and I was welcomed by my host mom and by a much needed hug from Mili, my host sister. With this hug, I knew that we would create a lifelong friendship.
When I arrived at their home I was welcomed with more kisses on my right cheek from her two sisters, twin brother, and her dad, stares from her two cats Asia and Menta, medialunas, and dulce de leche. The next day in school I was once again welcomed with cheek kisses and greetings by some of the kindest people I have ever met. The first week blurred together in a mix of Argentinian candy and treats, friendly greetings, cold mornings and pretty sunrises, and learning a whole new way of pronouncing Spanish. I have been all around downtown Buenos Aires, with both my host family and my new friends. I saw Recoleta and the cemetery, Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada, MALBA, la Boca, and walked through the streets of Buenos Aires.
There have been so many amazing experiences on this trip, and my favorite parts are not just sightseeing in the city. At Athenian, I haven’t really experienced free time after school because of a really busy schedule with homework and sports. Here, even though school ends at 4:30, I have so much time after school to just relax which is such a nice feeling. Mili and I have spent our afternoons with “tomar el té”, watching our favorite show together, going on runs, and realizing how much we have in common. One of the things that surprised me the most about Argentina is the late dinner times. I expected later dinners at like 8… but on the first night I was eating dinner at 10:30. This took so long to get used to. When in California the first thing I do after school is rush to dinner. But with a snack and tea after school, which is called “tomar el té,” I could make it until the late dinner. “Tomar el té” became my favorite meal of the day. We drink tea and eat Argentinian pastries like the sugary croissants called medialunas.
In Argentina, I’ve gotten a sense of a calm and balanced culture compared to the US’s “busy” culture. Things here aren’t rushed or stressed and there is time to enjoy myself instead of being hurried through the week. There is time to talk to your friends. There is so much time to relax in any way that works for you. At Godspell College the pressure for perfect grades doesn’t really exist. Here, the students’ skills in a certain class are graded on your performance throughout the entire quarter or semester, rather than a single test you might have done badly on. Also their grades are based on a whole different scale. I have personally always put so much pressure on getting good grades, so experiencing school in such a different way from what I’m used to is really refreshing and was much needed for me.
Even though I have had the time of my life here, it hasn’t been easy. I kinda assumed that I wouldn’t feel homesick at all, and of course that wasn’t true. About halfway through my stay I started to really miss my family. Going back home felt so far away and I wasn’t completely new to Argentina. It lasted for about a day or two until I told myself to take my time here day by day and that I shouldn’t worry about going home just yet. And it worked, because now I’m here and I’m leaving way too soon. Being away from your usual routine and your family and friends is difficult, so my biggest advice to anyone going on exchange is to find your own routine and build some structure in a new and unpredictable place. Finding time to be alone was especially important to me. Once I knew my way around the neighborhood, I’ve been going on runs on my own to get some peace of mind and time to reflect on my experience. Also, every day I wrote in my exchange journal about anything and everything and that helped me so much. The language barrier was difficult especially in friend settings because it’s hard to participate in a conversation and it’s hard to participate like usual. So my journal really helped me get random feelings and thoughts out.
I’m getting sad writing this because I know I won’t ever experience something like this again, and that I won’t get to spend so much time with Mili and her family again in the same way. I’ve built such a great relationship with her family and it is one of the things that makes me saddest about leaving. I feel so appreciated by her family, and I’m sure that my experience would not have been as good without them. I will miss them so much and I can’t wait to see them again when my family and I come to visit. I will never forget this trip or the friends I’ve made here both with people and my host family’s cats. When Mili comes to visit my family and Athenian, I can’t wait to give her an equally amazing experience. Te amo Argentina.