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By janellekranz

Dear Janelle,

I know this week has been somewhat of a rough week. After listening to Portuguese and speaking English for a week in Brasil, coming back to Argentina and speaking and understanding Spanish was pretty difficult. It’s hard to believe that just one week away can make so much of a difference.

I’ve never realized the truth to the phrase “Use it or lose it” until now. At least now I know that my Spanish must be constant; in order to have any hope of being good, I have to use the language every single day. Even when I return to the US, I need to find ways to keep speaking and listening each day – and that starts here, while I’m in Buenos Aires.

...continue reading "Dear Janelle,"

By janellekranz

Dear Buenos Aires,

I like to say that I’ve always been a pretty self-sufficient kid, researching decisions before I made them and working since I was 14 years old. But traveling and being abroad alone gives “self-sufficiency” a whole new meaning, and it is oftentimes uncomfortable.

When I first arrived here, I had to stay in a hostel the night before meeting up with my SIT group. I had booked everything in advance online, including a shuttle that would take me from the airport to my hostel – or so I thought. Everything was going relatively well after my marathon trip from NYC to BA, and the shuttle even came to the airport relatively on-time. However, when I got into the shuttle van, I realized I couldn’t talk to the driver.

...continue reading "Dear Buenos Aires"

By janellekranz

To the Cafés of Argentina:

I wouldn’t even think of buying coffee just a few years ago, no matter where I was in the world. About two years ago, slowly but surely, I became addicted to coffee – but I don’t mean physically addicted; I am addicted to the world of coffee. I like knowing where coffee beans come from, learning the nuances among different preparations, and looking for the variety of tastes and smells in each cup. My favorite part of the coffee experience, however, is taking time to enjoy it.

...continue reading "To the Cafés of Argentina:"

By janellekranz

Dear Traveler,

Prepare yourself. You are going to be asked, “Do you feel homesick?” about a million times while you’re gone. It can be a tricky question to answer, especially in your first week abroad. You’re meeting new people, trying new foods, living a different lifestyle – but by no means do you forget where you came from.

I try to avoid the “homesickness discussion” because it involves telling people – who many times don’t care – about my feelings. Sometimes I feel ashamed of being homesick because I realize that nurturing the homesickness means missing out on fun activities in a new country. Other times I use it as fuel to do something fun, and that reminds me of the endless possibilities that come with a new place to live.

...continue reading "Dear Traveler"

By janellekranz

Hello again my fellow American,

This week was incredibly weird. My study abroad crew traveled to Paraguay to tackle the third unit of our development class, and I was shocked at what being an American means in Paraguay.

This week I spoke with Paraguayan citizens, learned from Paraguayan professors, and visited memorial sites such as Los Archivos del Terror (The Archives of Terror) and El Museo de las Memorias (The Museum of Memories). I learned that from 1954 to 1989, Paraguay was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. For 35 years, General Alfredo Stroessner acted as “president” during which time his policies intentionally left the people of Paraguay destitute and disappeared countless others. He ruled the country in a “state of siege” so as to control the communist thought and other “dangers” in the country. In reality, the “communist thought” in Paraguay was not a threat serious enough to warrant his government’s grossly cruel actions.

...continue reading "Hello again fellow American"

By janellekranz

Dear fellow American,

You may be told to travel, in order to make the most of your life while you’re still young and have the ‘time’ to do so.

You may be told to study a language, so that you can improve your chances of landing a well-paying job in the future.

You may be part of a study abroad program, with the purpose of gaining a worldly perspective and improving the language you’re studying.

However, though you may travel, though you may speak the language well enough, you will never cease being American. Although your identity can prove to be helpful or hurtful in different situations, this fundamental part of yourself will surely prove to feel uncomfortable at times.

...continue reading "Dear fellow American,"

By anuhyabobba

Time went excruciatingly slow in the first month and a half of studying abroad, or what I want to say was my adjustment period to living in Argentina. Soon after having one of the most beautiful times in San Pedro de Atacama, the last two months flew past like none other. I always saw myself on the last few days to have this urge to do all that I did not do in these four months. But, my last week in the city was a bit more peaceful. I was content with what I had done, and I spent that week -- in my own way -- saying bye to Buenos Aires.
I found myself starting to miss the routine of it all. Waiting for the 10 or 59 colectivo, walking to Havanna and buying myself a coffee "para llevar" before class, heading to Pollo Trak for a Suprema de Pollo sandwich for lunch, and then walking home to have dinner with my host mom -- I will miss it all. I lived a block away from the haunting but beautiful Recoleta Cemetery as well as the gorgeous greenery that surrounds it. I walked there every weekend to soak in the sun or I headed over to Palermo to spend time with my friend who lives there. Regardless what I had done, these actions constituted my life here. Actions that I did not see as particularly significant in the moment are the ones I see myself already yearning for.I still have a month left on this continent, however. I will be traveling independently to Patagonia. Then, I am headed off to Peru. But, what I am most looking forward to returning to the US is seeing my family. Without a stable way of getting a hold of them or with connection cutting off when I am able to speak to them has made me miss them dearly. Having my mother's tomato and egg curry alongside her will bring me so much love (already asked her to have that prepared by the time I land), and relaxing in the apartment as it snows outside watching Netflix will be all the more comforting. Returning to DC and that first hug with a friend I have not seen in months is also what I am eagerly looking forward to as well.Buenos Aires has given me four months of happiness, internal growth, and a lot of meaningful friendships. Even if it is time to say bye, all I can say is that I hope to return one day.

Thank you so much, and I apologize for the inconvenience caused.

By anuhyabobba

When I first landed in Buenos Aires, we were asked to meet outside the arrivals gate to meet with program officials and other students. We were then assigned a partner to share a cab with, as we headed to meet our host families. I had two large suitcases and a carry on, and when we walked outside to the cab, the driver became furious at the amount of luggage I had. He started arguing that his car was too small (it was not) and wanted to be paid more, and I stared blankly. I spoke no Spanish, and all I could do was exactly that -- stare blankly ahead. Thankfully, my cab partner communicated for me and settled the issue. It was a small moment, but it was also when it finally hit me that I was in a country where my ability to communicate was nonexistent. I felt so deeply out of place, and for the rest of the cab ride, I remained silent. I entered my home stay to be greeted by my host mom who spoke minimal English. The first three weeks of living in Argentina was characterized by a lot of head nodding to sentences I could not understand and being heavily dependent on others to communicate for me.

After I started to align with the pace of my Spanish classes, I began to pick up on the language tremendously. I now not can speak Spanish well, I can understand it also for the most part. This improvement was one I did not see coming, and one I am all too thankful for. Because when I had my ability to communicate removed, I became highly self reliant to do daily actions and have become very grateful for the newfound independence. My program is set to end next week, so I have been thinking a lot about the areas I have grown in.

But, I also have to come to terms with leaving. I have made Buenos Aires my home, and to return to the United States will be a strange type of readjustment -- adjusting to a place that is already so familiar! Granted I have travels planned out after the program ends, this discussion of coming back is nonetheless a difficult but also a healthy one to have. I am so grateful to have met the people I did and for the experiences I went through to be at the place of comfort and peace I am at now, but I miss so much my family, my friends, and my life at GW. With no doubt, I will be returning to a different environment, one which I left for four months. I will be returning to people who have in these four months have changed like I have. Being here and witnessing change daily has helped in not fearing it and rather to embracing it fully.

All I can say is that I am happy to be here and I am happy to be coming home. Thank you also to Buenos Aires for being so sweet to me this semester.

By anuhyabobba

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.

By anuhyabobba

This weekend, I went to Iguazu Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and what is also considered one of the new seven wonders of the world. This was our last trip before the program is set to end in three weeks, which I am slowly preparing for. Iguazu Falls is by far one of the most breathtaking places I have been to. The falls are shared by Brazil and Argentina, with Argentina holding the majority of this natural wonder within its borders.

We took a 20 hour bus ride to arrive to Puerto Iguazu, which we thought would be much more excruciating than it ended up being. After we arrived, my friend and I left for the Brazilian side of the fall, since we only had a half days worth of time. Crossing into Brazil and arriving at the National Park was relatively easy. Brazil offers an amazing view of the Devil's Throat, what is considered the most magnificent of the waterfalls. We were able to take beautiful pictures, and at the end, we walked a foot bridge that was situated quite literally in midst of the Devil's Throat itself. Argentina's access to the Devil's Throat was cut off due to flodding a while back that led to its foot bridge being damaged.

On the second day, we explored the Argentine side of the falls. We hiked the upper and lower circuits that gave tremendous views of the falls. We also decided to go on a nautical adventure, or a boat tour of the waterfalls. It was not so much a tour as it was taking us super close to the waterfall itself, and by the end of it, everyone was soaking wet.

Soon after, it began to downpour on us so we rushed back to our hostel. Even in the rain, seeing Iguazu Falls was worth it, acting as a retreat from the busy Buenos Aires life for a few days. I stayed at an amazing hostel called Mango Chill, which provided us with lunch boxes before we set off on our hikes. All in all, the trip was absolutely beautiful.