Tommy 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 shares his pre-departure thoughts and why he chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires.
“Tommy, hug me again,” begged my mom as she peeked into the kitchen. In early February, she declared I must hug her three times per day before I left for Buenos Aires. I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss her until my final week in Kentucky. My mom has offered me unparalleled love, support and guidance for the past 18 years. While I can still reach her through online messages and video chats, I will still miss her a lot.
Photo: I did my best to research Buenos Aires and Argentina online and follow my pre-departure checklist.
My program in Buenos Aires will keep me away from her—and the rest of my family—for longer than I’ve ever been away before. While I’ve traveled north and south (Canada and Florida) and east and west (Massachusetts and Colorado), I’ve never been as far away from my family as I will be in Argentina.
Most students wait to study abroad until their sophomore, junior, or even senior year of college. I decided to go as a freshman. Why so early? Well, things sort of lined up. I entered college with almost half of my Spanish major completed, thanks to the credit I earned in high school. My Spanish level placed me at the perfect point to study abroad, right before upper-level courses. I started ahead with other general-education credits and realized how easily a study-abroad program would fit into my schedule. I also wanted international experience to qualify and prepare myself for internships.
Photo: Packing for a semester-long program was difficult. I had to be ready for lots of situations and seasonal temperature change.
I laugh every time I think that, this time last year, I was a high-school student. I was required to follow a dress code, ask to use the restroom, stay in the cafeteria for the entire lunch period and face an hour of detention for being a minute late to class. My biggest concerns were student council meetings and basketball games. Now, I have the freedom to explore the streets of one of the world’s largest cities and the responsibility to intern for a news website.
So, you may ask, why Buenos Aires? Well, I wanted to improve my Spanish, and I’ve always been more interested in Latin America than Spain. Plus, I dream of working for the US State Department, and Buenos Aires is one of Latin America’s most important cities. To top it all off, Buenos Aires is home to a lot of art (dance, theatre, etc.), and Argentina has diverse geography (mountains, farmland, coasts, etc.).
Photo: It's very important to have enough medication to last the entire trip. I was sure to order plenty.
Buenos Aires will be quite the culture shock for me. The city and its surrounding areas are home to over 10 million people. My hometown of Louisville boasts a little over 1 million. I attend Western Kentucky University (WKU), which is seated in a county of 120,000. In fact, the entire state of Kentucky has less than 5 million residents. Population aside—I was close enough to home at WKU for my mom to do my laundry every once in a while.
The city poses other challenges. I just started over last fall. At the end of the summer, I said goodbye to my high-school friends and jumped into a new social circle in college. I transitioned very well, but it was not easy. Now, I must do the same thing and find my niche at another university in another country. I’m confident I can make friends no matter where I am in the world; however, it is still a big task. Plus, I will be living with a family who does not speak my native language.
Photo: My mom was a huge help with packing!
Despite the doubt and pre-departure nerves, I am sure of my decision. Studying abroad gives me a huge professional advantage. In a few months, my LinkedIn page will display an international internship and Spanish proficiency. Employers will know I can survive—and excel—in a multitude of environments. I will also experience personal growth in my curiosity, confidence and capacity for adventure.
Tommy's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.