So, the day has come… you’ve stepped off the plane and into your home airport, and your study abroad experience now encapsulates incredible memories and photos that you will cherish for your life time. Of course, not all of your memories will be great ones—cue that time I got so lost trying to take the collective (porteño slang for the city bus) to downtown Buenos Aires that I ended up an hour away from my destination on the wrong side of the city—but you will still remember and cherish them all the same.
I like to think I maximized my time in Argentina, but there are certainly a few things I didn’t appreciate while I was abroad. Most notably, the difference in education! I am a Spanish major, so I like to think I’ve learned a few things about Latin America along the way. However, learning about a country while you are in it is so different from learning about it elsewhere. I didn't appreciate enough how enriching it is to gain a local perspective on the world around you. As I listened to my professors speaking about the history of women’s rights in Argentina with their accent I have come to love (and now use myself), I did not realize how much I would miss learning from this local point of view.
What else do I miss? The chaos of the city. There is nothing like walking around a local ferria and seeing everything from mimes coated in silver spray paint to llamas dressed up in every color of the rainbow. My hometown farmer's market in San Diego pales in comparison. Many days, the sheer amount of people and chaos everywhere I looked in Buenos Aires overwhelmed me (how about those stuffy subway rides, where you get way cozier with the other passengers than you anticipated?), but now I find myself yearning for the hustle and bustle.
To me, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable was the most important skill I developed while I was abroad. From fumbling over my words while trying to order coffee (what in the world is a lágrima, anyway?) to sleeping on the floor of a bus station in the rural Jujuy province of northwest Argentina, I became at ease with being completely uncomfortable. Now back in the United States, I crave this feeling.
Moral of the story: studying abroad is an experience you will remember and relive in your mind for the rest of your life (I know I do), and even the parts that in the moment you wish you could forget—like that one time I got 25 mosquito bites while visiting Iguazú Falls—will turn out to be things you wish you had appreciated when you reflect on your experience of a lifetime.
Theresa Thomas is the Fall 2018 Alumni Ambassador in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is currently studying at University of San Diego.