“Is Argentina the right choice?”
The summer before I left to study abroad, that was the one question that was always lingering at the back of my mind.
All those that inquired about studying abroad usually offered up Italy or Spain as places their daughter, son or they themselves had been to and loved. After explaining that I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country and that was why I had chosen Argentina, many insisted that Spain should be at the top of my list. People tend to know a decent amount about Spain, but Argentina couldn’t conjure up images other than soccer.
That wasn’t a problem for me, though. I wanted a place that was not a frequent choice for those studying abroad. In one of my first Spanish classes freshman year, we had to present on a Spanish-speaking country, and I chose Argentina. Only knowing the incredible Messi hailed from the country, I was excited to learn more. Argentina’s geography is diverse, ranging from mountains to beaches. The country has an interesting history of immigration and democracy. Yerba mate isn’t just an energy drink you can pick up from a convenience store, it is embedded in their tradition. Buenos Aires, its capital city, is where Tango was born. I was convinced I should explore further.
When I officially enrolled in my program and booked my flight, I didn’t have any friends who would be going with me. I didn’t even know if anyone from Cal Poly would be attending. Thinking of being thousands of miles away without those life lines made me anxious, even made me second-guess my decision. I thought that although Spain wasn’t the place I really wanted to be, maybe it would have been safer and more enjoyable because I would be on a well traveled path. As I boarded the plane, I put on a brave face even though I felt that I was in over my head. But I realized then that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would be miserable and alone for an entire semester. Luckily, that didn’t happen in the slightest.
When I got to Argentina, I knew that I made the right choice for myself. There were moments when cultural differences made me miss the U.S. or at least miss having a friend by my side, but that did not outweigh all the amazing moments. I was able to visit beautiful places within the country as well as outside. I met great people in my program as well as Argentines. I speak better Spanish and have more confidence when doing so. All of that was an enjoyable part of the experience, but the most important things that happened while abroad were more subtle.
You can be left wondering what else you could have done if you had been bold enough to trust your own judgement.
Asking for advice is something I do often, not only as a safeguard against unpleasant situations, but also in an effort to avoid failure. However, I’ve learned that consulting with parents and friends before making big decisions may elicit biased answers despite the best intentions. Staying on the well traveled path is easy and comfortable for everyone, but it can also lead to constant second-guessing. You can be left wondering what else you could have done if you had been bold enough to trust your own judgement. Being a young woman in today’s world is a complex existence. In some places I can feel independent and valued, and in others my autonomy is nonexistent. Choosing to study abroad allowed for self-discovery and independence in a way that I had never experienced before.
My time in Argentina changed me in the best ways. I have more confidence in the fact that I can make the right choice. I know that sometimes I won’t have a friend to go with me on every journey that I need to take. And maybe most important of all is few mistakes are so severe that I can’t amend them. I’ve realized that many of us don’t take chances because we are so worried about the unknown. I hope that if there is something that calls to me in the future, I can think of my experience abroad and take a chance.
After all, the one I took on Argentina turned out pretty well.