A CAPA Study Abroad Student Interview: Liz Hendry
Meet Liz, an economics major from Simmons College in Boston who is studying abroad with CAPA in Buenos Aires. This experience has had such an impact on Liz that she's made the decision to stay on in Argentina for another semester. Below, she talks about why she's decided to extend her time abroad, how the last few months in South America have changed her both professionally and and personally and how the Spanish language has played a role in the way she's been able to navigate the city and communicate with locals, like her host family.
Photo: Drinking mate with famous Argentine cartoon characters
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
LIZ HENDRY: I am studying abroad with CAPA in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at Austral University. I am originally from Simmons College located in Boston, Massachusetts in the US. I am a second semester Junior majoring in Economics and minoring in Business Management. My main hobbies are cooking, going on outdoor adventures, and having interesting conversations.
Photo: La Boca
CW: Why did you decide to study abroad and why Buenos Aires specifically?
LH: I have wanted to study abroad since my freshman year, though I only believed it could be possible after many discussions with encouraging professors and my financial aid advisor. Buenos Aires specifically interested me because it had an interesting culture and history. Also, as I am an economics major, I feel it is important to explore economies and governments like that of Argentina.
Photo: Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada
CW: What were your biggest worries or concerns while you were preparing to leave the US?
LH: I guess my biggest worries when I was preparing to leave the US were: 1) I was going to be disappointed with Argentina and 2) I was not going to be able to communicate well enough. I was not disappointed at all, as from the first minute that I exited the airport I started to love Argentina! Communication was hard at first, but you find ways to make it work in situations you don’t completely understand. The locals are very helpful and will almost always try to explain things very slowly and simply, and never judge you for the way you speak.
Photo: Public tango and music show
CW: What has surprised you about Buenos Aires? What did you discover that went beyond your expectations or stereotypes that exist of the city?
LH: One of the main things that surprised me about Buenos Aires is how friendly and helpful the people are here. Since I am from Boston, Massachusetts, I am more accustomed to receiving a cold shoulder than a hello. Everyone from workers in stores that I regularly visit to friends of my host family will greet me with a hello and ask me about my day! If I ever have a problem, I can always talk to someone in my school or my host family and they will actually listen and try to help me find a solution. I guess this broke a stereotype more of humanity in general than of Buenos Aires specifically, though it has been very important for me.
Photo: A woman from an Estancia winning a horse race
CW: You've actually decided to stay in Argentina for a second semester - very exciting! Tell us about this decision and why it was important to continue your education abroad.
LH: I have learned so much while in Argentina. My personal growth has never been so drastic. By being exposed to new ways of thinking and doing things here in Argentina, I was able to see how my ways of thinking and doing things could be improved. I have also grown intellectually, as classes in Buenos Aires more heavily rely on reading and large papers, this without the benefit of grade inflation which is sometimes present in the US. Through this, I have had to work very hard, although when I get a good grade in the end I feel all the more accomplished while having learned more than I probably would have in the US. Along with this personal and academic growth, my Spanish abilities have also grown immensely as talking every day in Spanish has enabled me to improve my speaking and comprehension skills.
Photo: Near the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur
I want to continue my education abroad because this growth is hugely beneficial and applicable for my future. With my increased independence and hard work here in Buenos Aires, I feel confident about going into the workforce after college. This confidence in my future is something that I have never felt previously, and I would like to continue to foster it and increase it by staying in Buenos Aires and participating in an internship here. By spending more time in Buenos Aires, I will also improve my Spanish even more, possibly to a level at which I could live and work in a bilingual position in the future. There are so many reasons for me to stay in Buenos Aires, as being here has done nothing but benefit me.
Photo: When I made homemade empanadas with my host family
CW: Which classes are you taking in Buenos Aires? How are they different from classes on your home campus?
LH: I am taking five classes here: Spanish III; Literature and Music in Hispanic America; Economic Development of Latin America; South American Societies, Identities and Cultures; and Cultural Identity and Multiculturalism in Contemporary Film. They are all very different from classes on my home campus, mainly because they allot me more responsibility and accountability. This is because we have fewer assignments but they are more independent and carry a larger workload and weight on your grade. This approach has been great though, since it is closer to what I will be going in future jobs. Because of this, I feel like the work I do here will really prepare me for my future in a very practical way.
Photo: Garden in one of the many parks in Buenos Aires
CW: Tell us a bit about some of the changes you've seen in yourself since you've been in Buenos Aires. Are they positive or negative?
LH: I have seen only positive changes in myself after coming to Buenos Aires, mainly in my personal growth. By being in a different culture, I have opened my mind more, which has allowed me to open my mind to different ways of thinking in the US as well. There have also been many changes in the way I do things, which has allowed me to become more flexible and easy going, especially when it comes to difficult situations. I have also become more independent. By going on my own to a different country and living and learning here, I have definitely gained a lot of life experience that I believe will be invaluable in my future career.
Photo: Public street performers
CW: Has your experience abroad in any way shaped your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
LH: My time abroad has certainly made my career goals seem more achievable. After experiencing independence and autonomy while learning in a different country, it certainly seems more possible to be a working adult. I have also become a more confident and clear communicator, which is invaluable in the workplace.
Photo: San Telmo weekend street market
CW: What were your Spanish skills like before you arrived in Buenos Aires? And now? How has language generally impacted your experience?
LH: My Spanish skills before I arrived in Buenos Aires were intermediate regarding my reading and writing, but were basic to non-existent regarding my speaking and listening. Now I have drastically improved, as I can understand most of conversations, and can almost always find a way to communicate verbally in Spanish as well.
Photo: View from the beautiful balcony at my host family's house
In the beginning of my time here, I was very nervous as I could barely communicate with the cab driver. I felt as though I was going to have a very difficult time communicating, making life very difficult generally. The thing is though, that if you know some Spanish, even if your main skills are reading and writing, you become accustomed to the language over time. My homestay family was especially helpful with this, as they have helped me to learn new words and phrases, and correct me if I keep making the same mistakes. I feel that for this reason, a homestay family is invaluable for improving language skills while studying abroad.
Photo: Puente de la Mujer
CW: Where are some of the places you've carved out as "Your Buenos Aires" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
LH: Personally, I have one of my favorite streets near my house where there are many familiar stores and people. In this street, I have my favorite bakery where I get sandwiches for lunch all the time. The workers there always say hi to me and know that I will be getting my sandwiches. There is also a woman who sells vegetables on that street and my host mother has been buying vegetables from her for years. Whenever I pass by her cart, I always stop and we chat a bit. There is also an ice cream store really close to this street where I walk after dinner sometimes to bring home some late-night ice cream to share with my host family. Though this street is nothing special in particular, the memories and the nice people on this street make it very special to me.
CW: Beyond the changes you've seen in yourself, what has your study abroad experience taught you about the world beyond the US? Has it illuminated any particular global issues for you?
LH: Though I have learned many things about the world beyond the US while in Buenos Aires, one main thing that I have learned is that every country has its upsides and downsides. One downside is inequality which affects not only Argentina but is also a global issue. I have learned in many of my classes about how profound inequality can be in many Latin American countries, and how the post-colonial nature of Latin America created an environment of inequality for many of the indigenous people and many minorities. Though inequality can certainly be found in Latin America, it is certainly a global issue that for various reasons affects almost all countries in the world to different degrees.
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