After a semester abroad filled with change, a new language, and a desire to know a new part of the world, Shivani comes back with three life lessons under her belt. She reveals what it's like to go from being an outsider in a new city to a student immersing in local Buenos Aires culture. Throughout all the ups and downs, Shivani gained some newfound confidence and relishes the times she's had to adjust to challenges and rise above them.
Walking around the rose gardens in Palermo and taking the beauty of Buenos Aires in one last time.
Studying abroad is not a mere vacation, but an experience filled with ups and downs. This experience allowed me to immerse myself into a different language and culture, which increased my acceptance for change in general. In order for me to grow as an independent, more open-minded, and flexible person, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and familiarize myself with different parts of the world.
I love traveling with my family, but the visits we take are all vacations. Studying abroad allows me to not live in Buenos Aires as an outsider just visiting, but instead it gives me a chance to become a part of the amazing culture and traditions of a new place. I wanted to not only see the city of Buenos Aires, but also to find out finer details, such as the best coffee shops or beautiful street art it has.
One of my favorite murals in the city.
Although I knew being in another country for about five months would be something I couldn’t completely plan for, there were a few things I realized during my stay that I wish I knew from the beginning. My study abroad experience was overall wonderful, but there were still some things I, or others in my program, wished we could have given more effort to or recognized earlier.
Life Lesson #1: Being Deliberate
Something I realized was necessary was to be deliberate with whatever I did. During my time here, I deliberately tried to figure out directions by myself, speak to locals in Spanish without getting frustrated if I do not know how to say something, and try to solve problems at work by myself or ask my boss if I cannot.
Deliberately writing down words I learned or researching parts of the city I did not know about has expanded my knowledge tremendously. I have been able to improve my Spanish vocabulary, navigate better throughout certain neighborhoods, and feel more comfortable with talking to my host family. All of these smaller tasks and accomplishments has had a greater impact on my main goal of improving confidence. None of these things would have happened if I did not take the initiative and recognize that I was not going to magically become better at Spanish or know exactly where I was at all times.
Mariana, my host mother, helped a lot with lowering my nervousness when it came to talking to locals. We had great conversations at dinner about random topics that not only expanded my vocabulary, but made me think about a variety of things in Spanish.
Life Lesson #2: Learning a New Language is Not Always Easy
I realized that speaking with natives was A LOT different than saying a few words in class. The accents, slang, and style of speaking is different in every country you go. A lot of times I would be talking to a cashier or employee or even someone at work and I would not understand a single word out of their mouth. In these situations, all I could do was ask then to repeat what they said or talk a bit slower, but either way, it did frustrate me a lot.
The fruit stands were one of the places that was difficult for me to get my word across because of the different names of all the foods and the local accents of the people there.
I didn’t have this amazing expectation that I would be fluent by the end obviously, but I didn’t realize how difficult it was to communicate with people sometimes. I had to slowly train myself to recognize the accent and learn the different words they only used in Argentina, and use context clues to figure out a lot of the conversation.
Life Lesson #3: There are Going To Be Surprise Culture Shocks
For me, it was the food. Everyone told me that Argentina has such great food and their steak, grilled vegetables, and Italian food is amazing. But in reality, at first I did not find almost any food I liked other than pizza and empanadas. Being a person who is used to having some type of spice, sauce, or herbs in all my meals, I thought Argentine food was extremely bland. I knew the food was going to be different, but was shocked to see that there was not even black pepper at the table at almost all restaurants. My biggest culture shock ended up being how plain-tasting the food was to me. Eventually I got used to it and I liked certain dishes more and more, but it took quite a lot of adjusting.
Even though the actual meals were hard to get used to, the sweets and desserts there were some of the best I’ve ever had!
Overall, I am so glad I was able to spend a semester in Buenos Aires; I learned so much about the city, the country, the people, and even myself. All these realizations made me do more, try harder, and push myself further and has made me a better person now. Thank you to everyone who made my experience everything and more. Hope to see Buenos Aires again, soon. ❤️
Shivani Pandya is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Bioinformatics major at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Shivani's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.