I’ve been back home for about a week now. While I feel slightly bombarded with a mixture of excitement, sadness, relief and confusion, there is one consistent question in my mind: “did I really live in Mendoza for five months?” I’ve been looking at my pictures constantly, unable to believe that I ever called such a beautiful city my home for an entire semester, and that I traveled to Bariloche, Iguazu, Chile, and Peru. But pictures don’t lie! 😀
The whole process of getting from Iguazu-Buenos Aires-hostel-airport-Miami-Boston was a huge blur because I was so worried about meeting bus times & travel schedules, making sure I had all my luggage, etc. On the flight I immediately passed out from exhaustion and even when we landed in Miami, it didn’t really register that I arrived in the US. Hearing Spanish everywhere still made it seem like I hadn’t left. It wasn’t until the plane touched down in Boston that I finally saw the city skyline and my parents for the first time in five months, that reality gradually started to sink in. But even now, it hasn’t completely sunken in yet. I haven’t left Mendoza mentally and it’s hard to describe the state I am in right now. As much as I love being surrounded by my family, friends, and familiarity, I’m definitely not ready to accept that I actually left Argentina! After getting into the work and internship schedule this past week, I miss the excitement of traveling and exploring a new city.
A few things currently freaking me out right now: peanut butter, (REAL) spicy food, understanding EVERYTHING (signs, conversations, music, etc), talking & responding in English, getting excited when I understand snippets of Spanish I hear from people when passing by them, the lack of acequias & siestas & packs of dogs, free refills, how stores are open pretty much 9-5, eating dinner at 7pm, how organized Boston drivers are (haha…). It feels nice to be at home, but I’m ready to hop on a plane and start my next adventure, as cliche as that sounds. I’m already feeling restless!
It’s without a doubt that I learned so much from this semester. I am immensely grateful that I had a supportive host family, and the fact that I got to have an amazing opportunity to delve directly into the culture and improve my language skills. I’ve made friendships with the most incredible people, where Spanish is required to keep in touch (a good way to practice, no?). I definitely feel more independent and better at stepping outside of my comfort zone. This experience has made me more appreciative of the comforts, services, and support I have in my personal environment (online academic information and printers, for example).
And……I am extremely, extremely glad I came to Mendoza (sorry Buenos Aires!). As much as I love Buenos Aires, the big ol’ city doesn’t have what Mendoza does. I can go on and on about how much I love Mendoza. For one thing, the small city is absolutely beautiful. The Andes mountains, palm trees, and friendly rays of the sun (not the scorching rays like we’re getting here in Boston right now) will be wherever you are. You’ll learn to set your schedule around the siesta and figure out whether shopping for your needs works better before or after the siesta. (fyi, siestas are amazing and necessary). When you’re walking, you’ll learn to quickly step around acequias, smile at the packs of dogs that can be found in any street, and develop a system so that you can efficiently cross the street without waiting a lifetime. Importantly, you’ll learn to love free time and to enjoy & truly live life. You’ll also fall in love with wine and go on numerous wine tastings and tours. Since Mendoza is the perfect location (by bus: 6-7 hours to Chile, 14-15 hours to Buenos Aires, 17 hours to Bariloche, relatively close to Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay) you’ll probably venture out to San Rafael, Puente del Inca, the hot springs, Potrerillos, and Las Lenas to ski……just to name a few places. On days where you feel lazy, you’ll stretch out on one of the many parks to take in some sun, and read. Part of Mendoza’s charm is its versatility. Mendoza is stunning, peaceful, and has a small-town vibe. But at the same time, restaurants, bars, and boliches stay open all night and you’ll fall in love with the nightlife. Go to calle Aristedes. Check out the boliches in Godoy Cruz. And anywhere you are, talk in Spanish, regardless of whether it even makes sense. When in Mendoza, you should definitely take advantage of everything it has to offer!!
Lastly…..part of the reason why my Spanish improved so much is because many people I met in Mendoza could not speak English, which forced me to constantly converse in Spanish. And not to mention, everyone is friendly! Anyone you ask for help will not let you go until they know you’re good to go on your own. So there is no need to be intimidated 😀 I am not always the best in expressing my thoughts in writing, but I hope my blog was a little helpful in preparing for your semester! I hope to return to Mendoza/South America soon. Don’t be scared to talk to your host family before leaving and get pumped for the most incredible time of your life! ¡Hasta proximo viaje!
P.S. If you have any questions, I’d love to help! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org