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What’s in My Suitcase Part 2: a Reflection on My Time in Buenos Aires

Jun 19, 2017 5:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPAStudyAbroad_BuenosAires_Spring2017_Elizabeth Withers - Copy (2).jpgElizabeth Withers is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A double major in English literature and history & philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.

In this week's post, Elizabeth talks about how packing her bags to head home is a bit different than packing for her arrival in Buenos Aires.

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This was my last week in Buenos Aires, and although I’m excited to go home, I’m starting to miss just about everything about this city already.  Walking through the verdant plazas and winding, narrow, art-filled calles, I’ve had some time to reflect on what I’ve learned from my four months here in this enormous, dynamic, lively city.  Some of this is a little hard to put into words; it’s not always easy to realize the gradual changes that come with learning about new places, cultures, people, ideas, attitudes, and ways of living.  That said, I’m going to try, with this post, to take you once again through my packing process.  This time, though, I’ll be taking a lot more with me than clothes and toiletries and books, and leaving behind some things, too.

CAPAStudyAbroad_BuenosAires_Summer2017_From Elizabeth Withers Floralis Generica.jpg
Photo: one of my favorite landmarks in Buenos Aires, Floralis Generica by the artist Eduardo Catalano.  This giant steel flower blooms everyday with the rising and setting sun.

I’m leaving with much heavier suitcases than I arrived with.  Cans of dulce de leche (the best I’ve found was at a market stall in San Telmo), packs of alfajores, and a giant bag of mate are stuffed in the bottom of my suitcase, hopefully not threatening to leak or ooze or explode!  One thing I’ve noticed here, at least among the people I’ve lived with and met during my travels, is a difference in the attitude towards food.  People here in Buenos Aires (at least in my very subjective experience) seem to care more about the quality of ingredients.  The food I was served at home, for example, was almost always fresh and cooked that day.  I saw less frozen or canned vegetables, and I usually was served smaller portions of richer, better quality desserts than I would have in the US.  It’s a bit of a generalization, I know, but I’ve definitely learned to appreciate good food while I’ve been here.  Hopefully among all the memories of steak, empanadas, chorizo, pizza, and pastries, there’s a lesson learned about moderation and choosing quality over quantity.

CAPAStudyAbroad_BuenosAires_Summer2017_From Elizabeth Withers Street Art.jpg
Photo: this mural in La Boca is a beautiful, moving example of public, political art.  It commemorates the women who protested the dictatorship. 

I’ve given away quite a few clothes to make room for souvenirs and things, but I haven’t been able to part with many of my notebooks or school materials!  I’ve been lucky enough to be able to have so many hands-on learning experiences for everyone of my classes.  In my Art & Politics class, I got to learn in-depth about some of the Latin America’s most influential and prolific artists.  The best part, though, was being able to actually go and see the pieces themselves in so many of Buenos Aires’ public museums.  Studying and learning here, I’ve definitely gained a new appreciation for art, and for its potential to provoke social change.  In my Social Research Methods class, I was able to conduct a real research project.  The class visited milongas to dance tango and interview dancers and milonga-goers.  Getting to talk to people--hear their thoughts and feelings about tango and how much in meant to them-- was really special. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_BuenosAires_Summer2017_From Elizabeth Withers Street Art 2.jpg
Photo: this is another of my favorite landmarks, a mural by Carlos Paez Vilaro. 

So I’m headed home, with suitcases full of delicious snacks and books and a whole lot of  appreciation for all that Buenos Aires has taught me.

Thanks for reading!

Thanks Elizabeth!

Elizabeth's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned!

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Topics: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cultural Insights