Choosing to study abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made thus far in my life. Besides an array of benefits that include having the chance to improve upon a second or third language, having the opportunity to see how another part of the world lives, and opening your eyes to the beauty that this world has to offer, there is another major benefit: making friends from around the world as well as various parts of the United States.
I have made great friends with fellow Americans in the same CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) study abroad program as well as Argentine friends. Since I am staying in Buenos Aires for a whole year, in a few days, I will have to painfully say goodbye to all of the friends I have made who will be returning to the United States.
It will be especially difficult saying goodbye to someone with whom I have become inseparable with here and who has made my experience here so much more enjoyable since we did everything together (our host families live four blocks from each other). Ashley Nindl is from Rutland, Massachusetts and is a junior at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania where she is double majoring in International Studies and Spanish.
I wanted to do something special for her since she’s leaving so I decided to devote this article to interviewing her about her study abroad experiences.
Rodewald: What surprised you most about Argentina when you first arrived?
Nindl: I did not come in with so many expectations but I expected myself to have a hard adjustment period. However, as soon as I got here I loved it immediately. I love talking with the people here; they help me with my Spanish and are patient with me when I don’t know what to say or how to say something in Spanish. The people are so welcoming especially when you tell them you are from the United States. I expected to get negative reactions in regard to this but it was very much the opposite.
Rodewald: What will you miss about Argentina?
Nindl: I will definitely miss living in a major city and having so much at my disposal. I can make plans minutes before doing them and there is always so much to do. I will also miss empanadas, I will miss going to Starbucks, going to your house and being your neighbor, eating salami with you. The night life here, people stay out so late. I will miss all of the free time I have here because I feel like when I am at school I have so much to do with extracurricular activities and academics. We have much more free time to do what we want and to learn more about ourselves. I have learned just as much or more being here without being super involved with my university. Being able to order an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant or bar (when I go back to the U.S. I will be under 21 still; the drinking age here is 18). I will miss having Burger King and McDonald’s right outside my Argentine apartment.
R: What will you not miss so much?
N: I will not miss having to avoid walking into dog poop on the sidewalks here or the dirtiness of the city, nor having to ride the crowded city buses or subway everywhere. Also having to live with a host family and having to live under their rules, tell them where I am going, cultural differences which have led to misunderstanding at times. The sweet talkers of Argentine men, nor the piropos (Argentine cat calls) from men on the street will not be missed. I will not miss having to speak in Spanish all of the time and translate things in my mind, the extremely small elevators here, small apartments with zero space, the inefficiency of how things get done here, and how the Argentine way is the arrive late to everything.
R: What will you take away from study abroad?
N: First off, I will take a way a best friend from Minnesota named Elizabeth. I had no idea where it was in the U.S. before I met you. I thought it was by Idaho or something. I also became closer with people from my university, so it will be nice to reminisce with them when we get back to school since we all have had similar experiences in this country. I also will take away how important it is to be flexible and go with the flow since plans change so often in life as well as take advantage of everything offered to you. Try to say yes more than no and try new things, especially food you are unfamiliar with (for example, morcilla which is Argentine blood sausage) because you might end up really liking it!
R: What have you learned about yourself from this experience?
A: I learned that it is so hard to categorize people as a whole because from my experience here, Argentines are so different from each other and don’t fit into the stereotypes. Getting to know people individually rather than putting them in the same group is important. For example, you can’t say all Argentines are like this… or all Argentines do this… or all Argentines look like this… because there is so much diversity here. I have gained more independence and confidence in doing things alone and feeling like an adult, especially with mastering public transportation and getting to places on my own. I learned that although I am a very social person and love being around people, I enjoyed having my own space (my Argentine bedroom) for self-reflection, to think about life in general and have the freedom to do whatever I want since I didn’t have a roommate. I loved traveling and getting to see how other people in the world live, and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Traveling is more about immersing yourself into the community of others and learning more about the people that live there. When I go home I really want to join the International Club at my school and get to know more about the international students and make them feel welcome. Lastly, I learned that not everything has to go perfectly. The country wasn’t perfect, my experience was not perfect but I had an amazing time and learned so much from the experience and for that I am very grateful. Let’s just say I don’t want to come back in the immediate future but ten years from now I would to return to reminisce but definitely not to live here!
We had each other to face the chaotic streets of Buenos Aires with and now that she is leaving, the adventures will end together but our friendship will not. As she goes back to the East Coast, I’m so thankful that I met someone as funny, kind and joyful as her.
We may not know the next time we will see each other, but I know this is not a goodbye, it is only a see you later!