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Lessons I Learned While Studying Abroad in Buenos Aires

Jun 20, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_BuenosAires_Spring2016_Tommy_Sullivan.jpgTommy Sullivan is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A broadcasting and Spanish major Western Kentucky University, he is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.

In this week's post, Tommy takes a look back at his first post as a CAPA blogger and reflects on how he's changed and the lessons he's learned over the last few months in Argentina.

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For my second-to-last post coming out of Buenos Aires, I return to my very first one. It was about why I decided to study in Buenos Aires and my expectations. While I can easily name the reasons I came here, I didn’t exactly remember what I wrote when I was sitting in Kentucky, when Buenos Aires was more of an abstract concept than my daily reality.

I wrote about how I would miss my mom. I was definitely right about that one, more so than I probably considered at the time. Allow me a single cliché for this blog post: “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” I had never been away from my immediate family for more than about three consecutive weeks, so these three months have made me more independent yet more appreciate of their loving support. Being away from family and friends has been both difficult and rewarding.

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I wrote about my dreams of working for the United States State Department and how this experience would bring me closer to that goal. Interestingly enough, I’m now questioning whether I want to pursue such a career. I was blessed to be able to meet with a US foreign service officer one afternoon. We talked for an hour about working for the US government abroad, and I learned so much more about the lifestyle. I even met an Australian diplomat at a networking event who shared her experiences in diplomacy. Those conversations—ones I never would have had at home—plus my experiences at The Bubble with journalism and my conversations with Argentine journalists have inspired me to follow journalism. My focus for my next three years of university is a bit clearer.

I wrote about how I wanted to improve my Spanish and prepare myself to continue in my Spanish major. That was a huge success for me. I’m much more confident with the language and have more fluid conversational skills plus stronger reading skills. However, I’ve learned that drinking Buenos Aires tap water and eating empanadas has no effect on my Spanish skills. It’s not enough to just live in a Spanish-speaking country. To further my abilities, I understand I must read and write and speak and listen to the language every day to achieve higher levels, though all of that is much easier when I’m always surrounded by Argentines.

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I had the expectation of culture shock. Right when I thought culture shock was never going to come, it hit me hard. A combination of missing home and worrying about making the most of my time, among other things, made Buenos Aires a tough place to be at some points. Overcoming those difficulties and learning from them proved to be the greatest point of personal growth for me.

One more cliché: “It’s always the faces, never the places.” A close friend here gave me that nugget of advice earlier in my trip, and I’ve been reflecting on it since. It’s quite the lesson. She’s lived in a dozen different countries and says she always remembers her friends from each place more than the place itself. I can relate. I’ve met friends from CAPA, from Austral University, from The Bubble. I know my host family and the doorman. All of these people have left a mark on me and on my experience in Buenos Aires. I will definitely miss them.

Check in next week for my last blog post. I’m going to write it on the plane headed home and consider more of the things I’ll miss most from Buenos Aires.

Thanks Tommy!

Tommy's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.

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Topics: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Official Bloggers and Vloggers