After having slept well, I get out of the bed to charge my phone that is completely dead. The adapter for my charger must be in my backpack. No, it isn’t. What about my luggage? No, the adapter to charge my phone is not here. Did I bring the adapter?
NO, I didn’t.
Marie gives me her phone so I add a couple of contacts and send a message to ‘Carla’s Dad’ and ‘Carla’s boy’. ‘I arrived, everything’s fine! I’ll let you know as soon as I buy a charger for my cellphone!’
I bought the adapter the following day, but I also bought a new cellphone 15 days later, so if you are interested in having an adapter for Argentinian electronic devices, you just have to tell me! (It also works for Australia!)
My house is big and we are 24 people living here. We are five Teaching Assistants (Amanda from Brazil, Irene from Spain, Marie from France, Riccardo from Italy and me) and people who are studying a romance language. The ‘internationals’ are experiencing something else than just sharing the house. Every time somebody feels sad, homesick, tired or disappointed, there is always other foreigner ready to listen to the other. The same happens with happy or rewarding moments we love sharing. We don’t have our friends and family from our places so the ‘international family’ is crucial to enjoy this Dickinson experience to the most. We are more than 5 in this Dickinson family. There are other TAs from Russia, Germany and Egypt. They live in other houses, but we share lunch, dinner and weekends.
I am in three really interesting classes and one of my professors is from Argentina, too. He is super nice, and I feel kind of protected whenever I talk to him about the class, our lives in Argentina, our families and our projects. I am learning a lot in my 3 classes. There are a bunch of new words and expressions that I have never heard before, new concepts, new perspectives, new ways of teaching and learning.
I am also working as a Spanish Teaching Assistant at Bosler Hall, where six languages are taught. It is a cozy atmosphere, many of my ‘international friends’ work there and I feel pretty comfortable. The professors from the Spanish and Portuguese Department are really hard working! I teach in 3 classes and they are very different from each other. I like checking the theory they learn with different games, songs or videos. I think that having this kind of activities is what students enjoy the most. I also enjoy being a tutor at the Multilingual Writing Center, where students can go and revise their Spanish papers with me. I will never forget when a student told me at the end of the class ‘I can understand almost everything, but…what is ‘vos’?
I use ‘vos’ a lot whenever I am explaining and exemplifying something since it is ‘you’ in English, but it is also ‘tú’ in the Spanish spoken in Central America and Spain . They are not used to ‘Argentinian Spanish’ and I should bear that in mind!
Every week is tiring, demanding and different from the previous one. However, I like it and as time goes by, I feel more and more comfortable here.
It was not that easy to arrive to that conclusion of feeling so happy and comfortable here.
Not at all.
Dickinson provides me an excellent tuition and I am sharing this scholarship with really amazing people. Being part of such a nice group of ‘internationals’ makes everything very manageable.
But there is also a tsunami of feelings that have been coming, going, evolving and overwhelming me.
The first week was an interesting mess since I understood just half of the messages people were trying to give me. The same happens with MY messages.
My accent, my words learned from a book, not from real conversations and my anxiety to finish a sentence were not the best combination. I felt my broken English was getting ‘broker and broker’ (It is a short adjective so I should add –er, right? I mean, I learned it that way, but many people say ‘more big’ and not ‘bigger’! Whatever, somebody will understand me!)
My English was suffering a transition from the grammar book to reality and I was suffering headaches at the end of the day, tired of speaking English ALL DAY LONG. The majority of Skype sessions with my parents or my friends started with my ‘I just need to listen and answer in Spanish a little bit’ phrase.
I miss my family. Sometimes I remember my nephew’s last hug and I feel like crying.
I won’t cry.
I can’t cry.
Why ‘I can’t cry’?
If I need to cry, I should do it.
I need to cry.
I will cry!
After all, it is not that bad or tragic to cry, take a deep breath and go to bed, knowing that in January I just won’t stop hugging my nephew and my niece. Everything is gonna be alright, Carli. Just allow yourself to be weak.
I also enjoy my mother’s summaries of the week (well, they are not summaries since she loves speaking), my grandparents’ words, my friends’ updates, my nephew’s laughs, my niece’s first steps and my boyfriend’s exclusive attention to me whenever we are talking:
“Vito, are you listening to me?”
I do not blame him, sometimes we speak for more than two hours and I am sure he can do more than one thing at the same time!
My beloved ones are there, in Argentina, waiting for me. They feel happy whenever I share a picture of a squirrel or something new I learned in a class. It is nice to miss them, they are part of me, they are the ones who give me the strength I need to be here!
I feel thankful and ready to keep growing at Dickinson, the college that is giving more than I expected it.
And yes, it is actually all about learning.