CAPA Alumni Claire Shrader reflects on some of the most important things she learned about herself while studying abroad in Buenos Aires, and the different outlook on life she gained from her time abroad.
I think those of our friends who have not studied abroad could definitely tell those of us who have that the line, “I miss _________ about studying abroad!” has become a staple in our conversations. Living in another country for 3-4 months is no small endeavor, and processing it once you’re home often hits at strange moments. For me, the smell of exhaust as I wait at the stop light to get to my dorm can take me right back to my 12-minute walk to the subway station in Buenos Aires, where I took subway D to my internship in Belgrano. It’s a small thing—just a stop light and a smell—but that experience is so fresh to me, that’s all it takes to instantly transport me back to that moment. There are a million things I miss about being in Argentina, and most of them revolve around food, ha.
But along with all of the things I miss, every time the word “Buenos Aires” comes to mind, I can’t help but think of the things I learned while there, too.
1. You’re more capable than you’ll think you are.
I cried so hard going through security that the TSA guys didn’t even bother with the fact that I had not zipped up all my liquids. It hit me there, as I told my family goodbye, that I was not at all ready for four months alone, abroad, in Spanish.
And yet. I got to Buenos Aires the next day, made it through customs, settled in, and started reacquainting myself with the city I so loved. I was braver even just a few minutes after I arrived. And by the end of my semester, I was navigating the public transportation system alone, leading programming at my internship entirely in Spanish, meeting up with friends without having to stare at my GPS map religiously—I was living a normal life in the city, and I was doing well. I was able to handle it, and all of the things that made me afraid in the security line (how would I meet people in my second language? Would I be homesick? How would I figure out the transportation system? How would I work an internship in Spanish?) didn’t even matter, because I COULD do it all, and I DID do it all. You can do it, too.
2. Living in the moment is really the only way to live.
When you’re abroad, it’s so easy to cherish every moment and to live more authentically, because every day brings you closer to your last day there. Each moment seems to have so much purpose. For me, it meant that I fostered an Argentine attitude and spent my nights going out late for ice cream with my roommates, or crossing the city at 2:00 in the morning after a meal that turned into an all-night affair full of laughter and friends. I bought cellular data on a pay as you go plan, and because of that, was very conscientious as to how much data I used.
That meant that instead of looking at Facebook on the bus, I read, or talked to the person sitting beside me. It meant that sometimes I didn’t have data when I was embarking on a new adventure, and had to ask for directions about twelve times. It meant that I spent a lot less time staring down at my lap and a lot more time taking in the beautiful city I was living in—and I think that’s something we should do all the time, wherever we are.
3. Everything is going to be different. Embrace it, love it, celebrate it.
It’s easy to get frustrated at a million little things that are different when you’re abroad. For me, I was constantly craving Mexican food. For my roommate, it was the fact that her commute was constantly getting delayed due to strikes or protests. The thing that makes you most miss home, or the thing that seems to be the most different from home, is different for all of us. But I really encourage you to embrace what’s different. In just a few short weeks, you’ll be home, where you can eat all the Mexican food your heart desires, so make the most of every minute while you’re there. Everything will be new, and it’s okay if sometimes you need to facetime home or watch your favorite Netflix show (warning, though: all the theme songs will be in Spanish! SO COOL!) just to have a bit of familiarity.
But after your show ends, or your mom has to go, get yourself up off that bed, call up some friends, and go out for some empanadas. (Let me tell you, you will miss those everyday!)
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.