Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hola from Buenos Aires

January 26, 2014

While the rest of the team is bearing the cold weather in Hanover, Kayden and I are studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the winter on a Dartmouth LSA (Language Study Abroad) program. There are actually two LSA’s for the Spanish department—the other one is located in Barcelona, Spain, where Katie, Alli and Kaira are right now. To clarify, seasons are switched in Argentina, so it is summer here. Because Kayden and I are from Texas, we can handle the heat.

We are taking three Spanish classes: a history/culture class, a literature class, and the Dartmouth Spanish III equivalent. Upon arrival, we were immersed in the Spanish language right away. Not only are the classes taught in Spanish, but we also live with a host family. The first day I met my host mother and sisters was awkward and challenging, but now it is much easier, and I love being in an actual home rather than a dorm.  My family is extremely hospitable and social with me.

At first, it was hard being thrown into a big city with a different language, culture and customs. Speaking Spanish constantly and adapting to a different way of life are challenging. One of the hardest things for me to get used to is how late everything is here. Sitting down to eat dinner at 10:30 p.m. is completely normal. It is also the culture to sit at the table and talk for a least an hour after everyone is done eating. Here, they call that after-dinner conversation a “sobremesa.” I find it funny that stores on the street very rarely open before 11 a.m. and close by 5 p.m. How are people making any money? Also, service here is very slow. I think porteños (the Spanish name for people from Buenos Aires) like to take their time with everything. They live casually and without worry, much different than the speed of American life. 

We have free time to explore the city as well as planned events and trips. For starters, every Tuesday we take tango classes. I am completely hooked on the dance now. It is so much fun! I love watching the locals dance. They are so passionate and great at improvising. I plan to join the tango club at Dartmouth when I go back. I have traveled some already. On a free weekend, Kayden and I went to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay to relax at the beach. It was so strange tanning in January, but I wasn’t complaining! This weekend, the group went to the Iguazú National Park, which is in the most northern tip of Argentina. Words cannot describe how blown away I was by it. The waterfalls have been named one of the 7 wonders of the world and I couldn’t agree more. The main attraction was called “The Devil’s Throat,” which was like Niagara Falls times four.  I took a million photos, but I am sure they still didn’t capture the essence. I felt like I was in an Avatar movie or something. It was so surreal. I have never been so blown away by nature. It was hands down the most amazing natural phenomenon that I have ever seen in my life. On our ten-day break, Kayden and I and our moms are going to go to Machu Picchu in Peru. I am so excited! The Iguazú Falls will have some competition.

Obviously I cannot get the same volleyball training and reps that my teammates are in Hanover, so it is an adventure improvising workouts. Kayden and I got a membership to a gym by our house and work out with a personal trainer from Germany (not sure how he got to Argentina). The gyms here are nowhere near as nice as Hanover. In February, the volleyball team at my university in Buenos Aires starts up again. I am really excited to touch a volleyball again and play in a team setting.

Overall, I am elated that I had the opportunity to go on this trip. Being a varsity athlete and being able to study abroad is very rare. In that case, Dartmouth is particularly unique, and I love it for its flexibility with the D Plan. I feel like studying abroad is an unparalleled experience and what you learn cannot be taught in a classroom. I already feel so much more educated and cultured, and it’s only been 3½ weeks. I can’t wait for the weeks ahead.

-Paige Caridi ‘16

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