The hostel I stayed in during my stay at Puerto Iguazu had the following Paulo Coelho quote painted on the wall near the entrance -- a quote that has struck with me since:
“When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends upon them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. At the same time, since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, and you feel happy to be alive.”
My time in Buenos Aires has been marked by a tremendous growth in terms of how I see myself. The first month, before Buenos Aires became a place I see as a type of home, it was a period of time where I was absolutely lost. Over the first two years of university, I have fostered a sense of comfort in how I defined myself, who my friends were, and what I wanted to be. But, the three weeks from when I arrived in Buenos Aires acted as a blank slate. Beforehand, I saw myself as shy, as a person who cannot hold a conversation and also as a person who is dependent on company. I love company, but study abroad is one of the first times where I did activities on my own accord and independently without associating any type of negativity with acting alone. Study abroad allowed me to find comfort in me. Living by myself and without a housemate made me figure out this big city largely on my own. Granted that coming in without knowing Spanish made the process all the more difficult, but four months in, I speak confidently and walking the city streets is not as daunting as it once was.
The most important notion study abroad has helped me come to terms with was how to adapt to my environment without losing a sense of self. I think it can become easy to mold yourself around surrounding circumstances, but I sometimes completely omit my own self, my own likes and dislikes from this process. Like Paulo Coelho said, traveling and living abroad has been this type of rebirth. I did not necessarily lose the person I was before, but I simply built on it greatly to become a better version of myself. I have learned how to reach peace with where I am location wise while also developing on the person I already was. It can be a hard balance to come to, but by being abroad, it was a balance I had to work toward daily.
I am two weeks from the end of my program, and I look back smiling because I am all too grateful for what I have learned in these past few months.