1. Why did you choose this particular location to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad in Argentina because I first fell in love with the people. (Then later I fell in love with the food.) Studying Spanish and knowing that it’s impossible to really learn a language without living it in the context of its culture, I always planned on spending part of my life in a Spanish-speaking country. So my freshman year, when two of the best people in the whole world came from Argentina on Fulbright scholarships to teach Spanish in the Modern Language Department at SU, I realized just how much I didn’t know about Latin America. Through them, my eyes were opened to how varied the language and culture is throughout the region. And without having yet set foot on the continent, I had felt so wholly and affectionately embraced by a part of the world that I had yet to meet. So, naturally, I decided then and there that I had to choose the experience that my entire high school Spanish education had least prepared me for -- I had to go to South America.
And it absolutely had to be Argentina.
2. What was the most meaningful interaction you have had with a local?
Because I am wildly social and can never pass up an opportunity to practice speaking Spanish with a native speaker, there have been well over a million little moments that I’ve had with locals and each one has meant so much to me -- all of them examples of the way in which the people here unhesitatingly embrace you despite having just met you.
However, I think that the most meaningful moment for me so far was the moment when the doorman of my building -- who might just be my favorite person in all of Buenos Aires -- told me that my Spanish has gotten better. Having always been kind to me from the moment I first arrived, my doorman has never let me pass by without smiling and asking me how I am. Although our interactions are usually short, they have definitely been improving in quality as I have gradually appeared less confused and he has gradually felt less compelled to pause to ask if I understand him. Realizing that he’s been watching me grow through all of our brief moments in passing, I could have cried the day that he chose to take the elevator with me up to my floor just to talk to me for a minute longer and tell me that he noticed my Spanish was improving.
3.Have you had the opportunity to explore your city? Where have you ventured, and why did you select those places?
There’s not a day that I haven’t spent exploring the city, so after more than 3 months of living here I have gotten to see A LOT of it. To me, one of the most beautiful things about Buenos Aires is the way that it makes you feel like you’re living in a dozen other cities all in one: the beautiful combination of classic and modern architecture reminiscent of Europe, the bright lights of the nightlife on Avenida Corrientes identical to that of Times Square, the charming and colorful old-world feel of the cobblestone streets of San Telmo that make you forget that you’re living in a metropolis -- totally different worlds all just a couple of minutes apart.
My favorite way to venture is by accident, whether that be in the form of getting lost or just deciding to keep walking until I get tired. And if I’m venturing somewhere with a purpose instead of wandering aimlessly, the reason 99.99% of the time is food. And my passion food has led me to not only some of the most beautiful but also the most delicious places in Buenos Aires, for sure. So it’s a win-win.
4. How does your major tie into your study abroad plans?
As a Spanish major, it’s pretty obvious how my major ties into my study abroad plans.
But beyond the obvious, I feel as though my passion for foreign language and culture has really shaped my study abroad experience in terms of the type of relationship I have with the community in which I live. Being able to communicate and connect to people in the language they best understand has allowed me to make major leaps in terms cultural understanding and also has helped to expand my linguistic understanding of the ways in which a language changes but also stays the same in different sociocultural contexts.
5. Have you noticed any differences with the usage of the Spanish language in another country than in the United States?
Claroooo. In Buenos Aires, they don’t speak Spanish, they speak castellano (Okay so actually castellanoand Spanish are synonymous, but sometimes you’d think it wasn’t). To speak Buenos Aires slang/lunfardolike a true porteño is an absolute art because of how distinct it is from literally every other type of Spanish. And I’m not just talking about a couple words and phrases. I’m talking about restructuring entire conjugations. Why? Because somos porteños, that’s why. Y por eso, I think I might have some explaining in the classroom when I come back. ¿O pensás vos que me van a entender igual?