We asked Annie Ryan to tell us a little bit about her experience studying abroad in Argentina during the spring semester. Here’s what she had to say:
I decided to study abroad late in the game but, as a then soon-to-be junior SOAN major, I realized my lack of planning was setting me up to waste a meaningful opportunity. I quickly reevaluated my junior year and, thanks to the pool advice I had collected from professors and friends, I applied for an SIT program in Argentina. Because of my last-minute planning and trust in other’s recommendations for me, I had almost no expectations when I entered the country; I was worried about my Spanish, but otherwise I was both ready and not ready to encounter anything that Argentina had in store. While the first few weeks for me in Buenos Aires were completely overwhelming (probably at least partly due to my lack of expectations), I was also grateful to have come without so many preconceived ideas of what my life should have been like there.
Ending up with a 30+ page paper in Spanish felt like an accomplishment in itself, but now that I’m able to mull the experience around a little more, I realize that being able to connect with a community so far away (in many ways) from my own experience is really the event worth celebrating. Doing ethnographic research abroad was inspiring in a way that other more local projects weren’t, as it taught me about the our ability to communicate with each other despite all of the borders and boundaries that seem to complicate our connections. While I certainly had my own fair share of miscommunications and Spanish blunders that felt humiliating at the time (especially in the yoga-like warm up exercises for El Brote where I realized my vocabulary for the human body virtually didn’t exist), I am amazed at how much I was able to communicate with and understand from El Brote. This success not only gave me confidence in my Spanish, but also in my English—if I can discuss political and social issues in another language, why should I ever be afraid of having these conversations in English? If I learned anything from being abroad, it’s that I’m ready (and we’re all ready) to start having these conversations everywhere—and that’s an epiphany I’m grateful to have had.
Thanks so much for the update, Annie. And welcome back!