Claire Shrader is 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 studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
In this week's post, Claire talks about the ways she keeps in touch with her family and friends back home and how she toggles between speaking in Spanish and English.
Within our first week here, we had a guest lecturer on culture shock. I kind of rolled my eyes through most of the conversation. I had arrived to Argentina early, and this was my third time here. I loved it, and thought surely I, the one who has been drinking mate and making empanadas at home for six years now, won’t experience culture shock or homesickness or any of the normal things. After all, I love Argentina.
Video chatting between Argentina and the U.S. What a joy to be connected!
I do love Argentina. And though I knew Argentina when I got here in February, I knew it like you know someone after a couple of dates. I was still enamored with every part of it and my knowledge was more dreamy idealizations than reality. After two-and-a-half months, I’m not so naïve as to say I know Argentina like I’m married to it, but I know it like a best friend. I still adore it and am enamored with it and so thankful to call it my home for the time being, but sometimes I get frustrated with it or, dare I say it, homesick.
Sometimes that means I have to take a break from Spanish, and I give myself 30 minutes to watch Netflix (One Day at a Time has been my favorite this semester…just enough Spanish to make me smile but enough English that at least I’m not thinking too hard, ha!), or listen to music in English while I work, or make a FaceTime call home.
At first I was frustrated with myself for needing these breaks. Honestly, sometimes I still am. But as I told a friend the other day: it isn’t that I’m frustrated with Spanish itself, really, but rather I’m frustrated with always feeling like what I truly feel is a little bit impossible to convey. It can be frustrating.
So, I’ll keep giving myself a little grace and a little time off. In the meantime, I’m thankful for all forms of communication that keep me connected with dear ones near and far.
WhatsApp has quickly become my favorite way of keeping up with people, because I love the voice message feature that allows you to send messages on the move. It’s been really cool to watch my community here grow through my WhatsApp contacts list. It had only three people when I arrived, and now it’s FULL, with friends from Argentina and Brazil, people I met randomly on the bus, friends from church, and from my internship...friends from the States who are now doing cool things in other parts of the world, other students from the U.S. who are here, the list goes on.
Screenshots are hard to take, but puppies and sisters are cute!
iMessage is weird because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s my standard for keeping up with my dear ones in the States. My family group chat on there is going strong, and has been a wonderful way to stay in touch, to send funny pictures back and forth, and to update one another on the big life moments. I also have a couple of group chats with friends in the U.S. who don’t use WhatsApp, and of course the wonderful reminders from Movistar, my Argentine phone company, just keep coming (for the last time, I don’t want to multiply my pack and get MORE WhatsApp minutes!).
But of all the means of communication available to me, though WhatsApp has quite literally saved my life by keeping me connected with Argentine friends who can rescue me if I’m lost, FaceTime has been my second lifesaver.
Also, fun fact: I can’t spell second anymore…I always try to write segundo and can’t figure out what it is in English. Casual.
FaceTime audio has been the best, because not only is it a way for me to contact my family that’s free, but it allows them to carry on with their day, errands, etc...without having to pause completely to video chat with me. It’s been my go-to. I love FaceTime, too, though, and typically have two to three video chats a week. I talk to my family and friends in the States everyday, but not always through a video chat or phone call. Often it will be through a Pinterest DM or a screenshot of something funny I saw on Facebook or a quick message to the family group chat with some random, mundane fact from my day. These constant, normal conversations have helped so that I’m not just completely drowning in homesickness when I hang up the phone with them.
This bridge lets me know it's time for me to get off the bus soon!
Even so, I’ve found that post-phone calls and time-waiting-for-a-phone-call are my most homesick moments. It’s hard to coordinate overseas communication, and so often calls don’t work out or get cut short, and it makes the distance so much harder. I admit I haven’t handled that super well, sometimes preferring not to connect at all instead of making it worse by trying to connect, but I think there are pros and cons to both. A pro in not being CONSTANTLY on video chat with your home country is that you have time to invest and get involved in where you are. A con is that I know it will make it even harder to acclimate when I’m back in the States, because I so completely let myself become immersed in Argentina.
Before I left for Argentina, a wise professor and mentor quoted another wise person, Jim Elliott, and told me: “Wherever you are, be all there.” That quote has shaped my time here. When I’m on the phone with my loved ones in the States, I’m all there. And sometimes it makes me miss them so much I just want to come home. But when I’m in Buenos Aires, living my life, I’m all here, and it makes me love it so much I can only believe that I will be back, because it already feels so normal and right.
All that to say, if you’re considering studying abroad, I really encourage you to be all there. Wherever you are: in the semester before, in the semester abroad, when you video chat with your friends back home, or when you’re home and missing your study abroad destination...cherish each moment wherever you are, because it is a gift.
Claire's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.