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..
Coming Home from Argentina
I’m writing this is on US soil, so maybe it’s cheating, but I’ve only been in the United States 34 hours. I honestly expected coming back to the monotony of home to feel like a letdown after being surrounded by novelty and intrigue and challenge for a month, but I was surprised. It felt good to come home. Driving through LA–I flew from Buenos Aires to LA, had breakfast with family, and then flew on to Oakland–after landing felt like visiting my grandparent’s house as a kid. I don’t know how to describe it better than that.
Pulling into my driveway didn’t feel as jarring as I thought it would, just like I was back after a road trip for a week or two. Seeing my family felt good. My sister ran and hugged me in the driveway, refusing to let me go for several moments. My bed felt amazing. There’s something about your own sheets and comforter and pillows. Nothing else will ever really measure up.
In terms of the last week of exchange, I’d say what I felt more than anything was just wanting to stay for longer. I missed my family the most the first weekend and the last weekend. But, I was really sad to leave Buenos Aires as I was just beginning to make friends. I was also sick the last two days of school, so I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone from school. I did say goodbye to my host, and that was sad for both of us. We plan to keep in touch.
The adjustment to home so far has been good. It has started to feel normal pretty quickly. School starts tomorrow, though, so perhaps I shouldn’t give you my assessment until after that.