CAPA Alumni Claire Shrader shares 3 areas in which she's noticed a lasting benefit from studying abroad in Buenos Aires.
Everyone has a different purpose in spending a semester abroad. For me, there were many, but one of the biggest reasons was to greatly improve my Spanish ability in a way I knew I could only do by being immersed in it 24/7. Man, did Buenos Aires totally surpass all of my hopes in that regard. It was amazing to me to watch my language ability develop from the first day, where I shyly rode the whole way back from the airport without saying a word, to two days later, where I was laughing and chatting with my host family, to two weeks after that, where I was so comfortable speaking, and could understand them most of the time, too, to two months later, when I understood almost 100% of what was said to me, and was able to articulate my thoughts and ideas in a way that made sense, and was actually, dare I say it, almost eloquent.
Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires.
The language gains in-country were phenomenal, and really a part of what made my experience, if you ask me: I had a huge opportunity to make local friends, partially because I wasn’t afraid to get plugged in, and partially because the language barrier just wasn’t such a barrier for me. But, that being said, one of my best friends in Argentina is Brazilian, and so speaks even less Spanish than I do, and yet we make it work. It is possible to make it work, no matter where you are from, or what your language level is. But, I am thankful for the doors my language level opened to me, and the doors that have continued to open. A few perks of study abroad I’ve seen since coming home:
1. Instant Credibility
It’s one thing to say, “I’ve taken Spanish for x number of years.” People will probably nod their heads and say, “Wow, so are you fluent?” It’s a totally different thing to say, “I’ve taken Spanish for x number of years, and I just got back a semester in Argentina.” All of a sudden, you have a lot more credibility. This semester, my first semester back stateside post-Argentina, I have gotten the opportunity to translate for Spanish-speaking families at a local non-profit where I volunteer. I also now have a job tutoring a Guatemalan in English. My roommate in Buenos Aires just recently got hired on at a company doing work in Latin America. Other friends of mine who studied abroad are now teaching English in Spain. Study abroad is like the wax seal on a letter: it takes what you already have one step further, and makes it that much more impressive.
Coke Cans with the Argentinian Flag for the World Cup.
Credibility isn’t all you need for those opportunities, though. You also need to be confident in your own language abilities, and able to present them as a skill. Study abroad took me from hesitantly saying, “I mean, I am a Spanish major…” whenever someone needed translating, to being able to say, “Oh, yeah, I can totally handle that, I just spent my entire semester doing it.” The way you present your own ability really changes how people respond to your ability. Don’t just shrink back from opportunities because you’re “just” a student—remind yourself of the confidence it took to get on that plane and spend four months abroad, and use it in an interview!
Puente De La Mujer at Night
Didn’t mean to make this a “Three-C” list, but here we are! The connections you build while abroad, especially if you have an internship, are worth investing in. When I left my internship in June, the founders invited me to come back, and I really believe they meant that. But even if life doesn’t land me back to that exact nonprofit, the world really is small, and you never know how that connection could help. It could be something as small as a recommendation letter, or something as big as a job offer. But the bottom line is, you built connections over your semester abroad that you didn’t have four months prior. Keep them open; check in every once in a while; don’t just assume that with the end of your internship comes the end of that relationship.
My team at my internship did not want me to leave.
There are so many perks than just the ones listed. But one thing all of these have in common is the fact that they all require you to share your experiences. What value does an experience have if you never share it with anyone? Be confident in your own credibility and the connections you’ve made (see what I did there?), and advocate for yourself and your own abilities, experiences, and skills. Studying abroad has made you a better, more dynamic person, and you should show that to the world.
Claire Shrader was an official CAPA blogger for spring 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Pre-Occupational Therapy major at Mississippi College, she is studied abroad in Buenos Aires, and has continued to share her post-study abroad reflections on the CAPA Blog.
Read more from Claire's journey.