For as long as I can remember my twin sister and I were inseparable, we went everywhere and did everything together. So why was I on a plane, traveling thousands of miles by myself to Argentina with no Spanish background? I was offered a full scholarship to travel abroad. Initially, I wanted to go to Asian country where I would feel comfortable, but the mentor from my scholarship program insisted that I expand my options. The thought of traveling alone to a place where no one spoke my language was nerve wrecking. As I rode the plane with American Field Service (AFS), there were butterflies in my stomach. I wanted the plane to turn around and take me home; though, I knew that if I turned back now I would miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
Most of my peers had experience in the Spanish language and I was the only one without it. When I arrived at Villa Dolores, Cordoba, my nervousness changed to excitement when my host family greeted me with a kiss on the check. However, everything was a culture shock for me: the greetings, food, meal times, language, and rustic aroma of Argentina were all foreign to me.
The language barrier was my biggest obstacle. It inhibited me from talking to other people. My frustration was building because I could not understand my host family’s conversations. Finally in came to a point where I could not bare the feeling excluded that I broke down in front of my host sister. Somehow we managed to communicate and I told her how I felt. She understood my situation and provided me with support, advice, and comfort. She also helped me reach out for support by introducing her friends to me and encouraged me to approach people instead of waiting for them to approach me. In attempt to better my experience in Argentina, I practiced Spanish with my host family so I can communicate with Argentinians. Not only did this better my relationship with my host family, but it also helped my confidence grow and I became more comfortable with the culture. My new Argentinean friends made me realize that I was not alone and they tried to understand what it was like to be in my shoes. Also, they tried communicating with me in English even though they knew their English wasn’t the best, but they put effort into connecting and interacting with me.
Now I am more flexible to new experiences. After this experience, I am not afraid to be placed in a different environment. As for college, I am prepared for to challenge myself intellectually and socially. I want to take risks and reach out to resources in my college community. This life changing experience made me understand that I do not need my sister by my side, and I realized I can push beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone.
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