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Letters from Abroad: Acclimating to Argentina

Alana Richards ’20, Abroad Columnist

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Walking off the plane a little over a month ago in the Argentinian airport at 3:30 a.m., I had very little idea of what to expect. I’d had friends give me sage wisdom based on their time here; I’d had my parents tell me to look at everything with an open mind; I’d had teachers tell me that I was about to embark on the craziest journey of my life, full of excitement, hesitation and wonder but still, I was completely in the dark.  

I now realize that being in a state of constant mild confusion is kind of what being abroad is all about, and it’s pretty magical.  Getting to escape the structured and familiar routine of Dickinson has already pushed me outside of my comfort zone more times than I can count and has forced me to question a lot of the paradigms that I had accepted as normal back in the States.  Speaking a language that is not my own, not just in the classroom but also with friends and at home has given me the opportunity to improve my Spanish by leaps and bounds.  

Staying with a host family, having to acclimate to living in a house and not a dorm with your friends and learning to live with people who are products of their environment just as we are products of ours has taught me a lot about judgement and putting myself in other people’s shoes.  

The biggest obstacle so far has been school, or the lack thereof. My group of 9 Dickinsonians has been taking one class a week which is taught by a professor paid by Dickinson, but the university we are registered at is on strike.  The professors are demanding a pay raise due to the rising inflation and the government is refusing. Thus, we have had no class—besides the one I just mentioned—for one month. It got to the point where we were recently enrolled in a private university and are going to begin taking one class there and one class at the public university we were originally enrolled at once the strike ends (although there is no concrete date about when that could happen). 

At first, I found this incredibly frustrating. I came here to study, to meet Argentinians and other international students, and here I am hanging out with other Americans basically on vacation.  It might seem nice but, trust me, you get over it quickly. Now, however, I’ve forced myself to look at it with a different attitude.  We are the first group from Dickinson that has the chance to experience both a public and private education here.  Not only that, but we get to watch, first hand, history unfold as passionate professors and students come together in the face of injustice, something that rarely happens in the United States. I now consider myself incredibly lucky to be here during such a pivotal point in this country’s history and am excited to finally start classes (next week!) and continue with this roller coaster of a journey that has been abroad.  

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Letters from Abroad: Acclimating to Argentina