Carol May ’18, Abroad Columnist
September 22, 2016
Filed under Life and Style
Photo Courtesy of Carol May ’18/ The Dickinsonian
Before leaving for my abroad experience in South America, I asked everyone I knew for advice as to how to make the most out of being abroad. Above all else, I was told to always say “yes” when asked to try something new. Little did I know, this one piece of advice would help me make friends with people in class, explore the local sights, and eat some of the best meals I’ve ever had.
My first “yes” occurred in my Political Sociology class here at UNCuyo (our university in Mendoza). Being the only exchange student in the class and still fumbling my way through the Argentine Spanish filled with “vos” and “che” made for a very nerve-wracking experience. But as I was sitting in class, a girl next to me asked if I wanted some Mate, a bitter tea that Argentines consume constantly. I heard the advice of others running through my head, and said “yes”. From there, I got to know the girl and other people in my class simply by sharing Mate. This first “yes” has given me a network of people to help me with my classwork and with anything else I may need while in Argentina.
The second “yes” came when my host sister asked if I wanted to go to Portreillos with her and some friends. Having no clue what that even was, I just immediately said “yes” and I am so glad I did. Despite having to wake up relatively early to get there, I have no regrets about this “yes”. My host sister and I drove over an hour outside of Mendoza and arrived at the foothills of the Andes near a huge lake. Other than the incredible scenery, we shared asado, the sacred art of grilling meats in Argentina, and I met a whole group of her friends. Despite being overwhelmed by having fifteen people talking in crazy fast Spanish all at once, I felt like I was truly experiencing the culture here in Argentina.
Finally, saying “yes” to a dinner out with my host mom and her friend, led me to one of the best meals I’ve had in my life. Even though it was a Friday night and I planned on going out with my friends, I opted instead to eat with my host mom. We went to one of the best restaurants in the city where we shared steak, pasta, empanadas, and of course a wine tasting. While the food was incredible, I also was able to talk with the two women about everyday life in Argentina and share aspects of my culture with them.
As much as being abroad is enjoying your time in a specific place, it is equally about cultural exchange. I love being able to share my experiences from Dickinson and the United States with people here almost as much as I love learning about the culture here. By saying “yes”, I have stepped out of my comfort zone in so many ways and cannot wait to see where other “yes[’s]” take me. ¡Hasta luego!