Name: Katie Smith
Major: Spanish and English
Minor: Linguistics, Latin American Studies, and TESOL
Abroad Program: Río de la Plata Study Tour (to Argentina & Uruguay)
Course: SPA 355
Highlight: The food, the shopping, the nightlife, the
Best Excursion: Las Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazú Falls)
Favorite Dish: Choripan (A sausage sándwich)
Least Favorite Dish: Blood sausage
Next Destination: Granada, Spain for Spring 2014
What was a typical day like for you while abroad?
One of my favorite details about the study was that there were no routines. Every morning, we would usually wake up and get breakfast in the hotel lobby. The spread would be different, depending upon which hotel we were in, but every single one would offer media lunas (half-moons), which were essentially sweeter croissants. I probably had one of those with café con leche every day. After breakfast, we’d begin our excursions for the day, which were never the same thing twice. I’d swear that we went to over thirty museums and visited even more historical sites, my favorite of which was the tomb of Jose Artigas, who was arguably one of the fathers of Uruguayan independence. Other times, we would go on longer excursions, such as a plane ride to Iguazú or a ferry ride to Colonia, which had the cutest shopping. Lunch and dinner would usually be done grandiosely, as it takes quite a lot of time and effort to seat and feed over fifteen people. But the food was always fantastic (except for blood sausage. Don’t try that ever); although, it took a while to get used to eating dinner at 9PM. At night, we could hang around our hotel or explore whatever city we were in, whether that meant more food (like Freddo ice cream) or tango lessons.
What was one fear you had before going? Would you have this same fear if you were going to study abroad again? Why or why not?
A year before this study tour, I participated in a service trip through the Summer Immersion Program, where I was able to meet the other students in my group in February and spend the rest of the semester getting comfortable with them before travelling. This time, I did not feel as comfortable with my classmates. While we had an entire semester’s worth of lectures and class activities to get to know one another, you can’t really know a lot about a person from their academic performance. Thus, in the week before flying to Buenos Aires, I was a nervous wreck. Not only was I about to go all the way to South America (and one of the southernmost points of the continent at that!), I hardly knew who I’d be spending the next two weeks with. I was terrified that we wouldn’t click, and that I would feel so alone while being thousands of miles away from my comfort zone.
Almost immediately, my worries were calmed, and our group came together. At any point during the trip, I felt comfortable sitting down next to any one of my classmates and talking. We became fast friends, and it was hard to adjust to living life without them every day back at home.
This level of comfort, knowing that I made friends so quickly once and could do it again, has led me to decide to study abroad for an entire semester—with some of the same people from my study tour. Going to a foreign country for any length of time can be scary, but I learned in Argentina and Uruguay that when a group of students are all thrown out of their comfort zones at once, it brings them together. There is solidarity in knowing you’re all in this together and that you’re not alone.
Submit a piece of your writing that you feel captures an important aspect of your study abroad experience (part of an essay, journal, blog, etc.) Please limit this to 250 words.
Here is an excerpt of a piece, “Stop Vacationing; Start Immersing,” that I wrote about this experience for Motivos Magazine:
Home to Iguazú Falls, one of the new seven wonders of nature, Puerto Iguazú was my favorite destination of the trip. The falls were massive, comprised of roughly 275 drops that feed from the Paraná River, where the borders of Argentina and Brazil meet. From the moment you enter the surrounding rainforest, a dull pounding resounds in your ears from the sheer weight of so much water being thrown from peaks as high as 269 feet. The largest of the three trails leading to the falls is known as the Devil’s Throat (La Garganta del Diablo), where the water seems to be sucked down into Hell through an enormous hole. I was in awe of such natural power as I stood there, noticing rainbows where the spray from the falls met sunlight. The strength of the water was undeniable, yet standing so close to the falls was somehow incredibly peaceful. Birds indigenous to the area flew around and sang, and a little blue one—with a tuft of feathers on his head that looked like a bright yellow mohawk—even perched on the back of my chair during lunch.