We’ve created a new blog for students studying abroad through the McIntire School of Commerce: http://mcintireblogs.org/global/. This new blog more closely resembles the official McIntire website, and it’s better suited for mobile phones and tablets. We migrated all of the content, categories and comments from this blog – so please join us on mcintireblogs.org and update your bookmarks accordingly!
Part of the study abroad program I participated in was staying with a Chilean family to help adapt to the cultural changes and improve language skills. When my program ended at the beginning of July though, the homestay ended with it, and I was out on my own. Not quite on the streets, a couple other girls and I had found an apartment to stay in for our remaining time here, but living independently. I very much liked my host mom, she was very nice, always encouraged me to go out, even giving me suggestions for Chilean vacation or long weekend destinations. After living at school without any parents though, it was quite the change essentially living with a “parent” for over 4 months. Needless to say, I was fairly ready to move out and start my month of solo living in Santiago with friends.
Saying goodbye to everyone in the program was very hard. Not everybody, but the majority of people left when the program ended, leaving only a handful of others from my program. I was very sad to see them go. We had experienced so much together over these past few months that, upon returning home and explaining, many people wouldn’t understand. At the same time though I was very excited to move on to this new chapter of my study abroad semester.
The new apartment is great! Living with 3 other girls comes with its challenges as always, but being able to go and come without making someone aware of your whereabouts, cooking for ourselves, and not having classes have all been wonderful changes that come with apartment life. I have been able to more fully explore Santiago, attend more little artisan fairs, and spend more time with Chileans and continue practicing my spanish. It has also made me realize how much I consider Santiago another home to me, how comfortable I feel here, and how sad I am going to be to finally leave this great city.
In the movie Inception, Leonardo Di Caprio’s trigger comes to a stop as a sign that he is is in the real world. In his alternate reality, his trigger keeps on spinning.
My own personal trigger was eternally spinning in my fantasy world in Milan, where weekends were spent jet setting around Europe, where even a casual night with friends took place with the backdrop of Roman ruins, where little errands could become grand adventures as language barriers posed ever-new challenges, where home was 4,200 miles away, but also around the corner.
The next day, the trigger stopped.
I stepped off the plane in Atlanta, and it felt as if I had pressed pause on my life. My tennis game had remained stagnant, my car smelled the same, my room covered in memories of my childhood, my friends and family still sticking to the same routines. My mom had joined me for ten days in the South of France for my last “hurrah.” In a poetic ending, we visited where she spent her semester studying abroad in 1985 during my semester abroad. We stepped off the plane together feeling as if we were returning from a trip. Not me, however! 6 months, and yet it felt like a few days.
Looking back on my time in Europe (because, to be fair, I was traveling for just as much time as I was in Milan), I know that I will never be the person I was when I was there. At that moment, I was free from obligations, free from meetings, free from everything and anything but myself. I was a bit more carefree than normal, a bit more spontaneous, a bit more adventuresome (I hitchhiked!). I want to remember the girl I was abroad, and I want her to be integrated into my life back in the States. A piece of my heart will always be in Europe– in Milan — where I met friends that I love fiercely, where I saw places that brought tears to my eyes and ate food that exceeded my highest expectations every time.
Now I’ve got Georgia on my mind. I’m ecstatic to be productive again, to return to beautiful Charlottesville, to be back at McIntire with the newfound appreciation for its rigor and excellence, to spend the rest of my summer evenings in the company of my family.
A friend once said, “If we all agree that traveling makes you a better person, then why wouldn’t you want to travel as much as you can, as soon as possible?”
I am a better person because of this experience. I cannot thank everyone who was a part of that opportunity enough for a chance of a lifetime.
Now, when’s my next trip?
I arrived home two days ago but I haven’t had the mental capacity to sit down and write out a response to my return. Coming back to the U.S. was more than bittersweet, for me it was heartbreaking. I left behind a life full of challenges and excitement everyday, for a comfortable and boring existence. I left behind friends, love interests, and favorite places behind in Buenos Aires and I have no idea when I will be returning. At the very least I will come back in a year when I have completed my time at UVA. But will I want to return after completely re-adjusting to life in the United States? Only time can tell. The United States is literally the easiest, most luxurious, most convenient, and without a doubt the most excessive country I have ever been to. Living in Argentina made me realize that excess isn’t necessary. We have been brought up to EXPECT an iPhone, a car, new clothes/shoes, a large home and much more from our parents. In other countries this isn’t the case. In other countries these items are luxuries that you might have after saving up for years, or may never have access to. It is very easy to live a comfortable life without an excess of material possessions.
Living in a different country helps you realize how Americans are viewed in other cultures. And I can assure you it is almost never a positive viewpoint. I can’t express how many times I got “Wow, you aren’t a typical American are you?” merely because I was culturally aware and respectful. It is a shame that people from the United States are such horribly obnoxious tourists and that our government has made many shameful mistakes in the realm of international relations. These two aspects give all Americans a negative stigma almost worldwide. I feel very comfortable in the Argentine culture: there is a strong focus on family, a close-knit group of friends, enjoying every moment of life, and being warm people. These values exist in the United States but aren’t as apparent and ubiquitous. I can definitely see myself returning to Buenos Aires, but I’m not sure if I can live there for an extended period of time and for example, raise a family there. This makes me upset because if it weren’t for political, economic and safety concerns I would easily most there post-graduation for an indefinite period of time.
Living in Buenos Aires also made me realize how vapid and superficial university life is. I have spent the majority of the last 3 years being terrified of the “real world” and graduating from this fantasy life that we call our college years. Studying in Buenos Aires was like real life: commuting to class, having to independently deal with any/all problems, and being 100% financially on my own. For the very first time I am excited to graduate and continue with the rest of my life. I can’t wait to start using my degree and live without relying on anyone but myself. All in all I’m glad to be home, but I do miss a lot of things about Buenos Aires and I am glad I made a connection with a city that is truly magical. Fortunately during my time abroad I learned a great deal about myself and what I want out of life. I had an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am eternally grateful to my parents, my university and myself for making this semester in Buenos Aires a reality.
The future is completely unwritten. And while this can inspire a lot of anxiety, within this uncertainty lies excitement. My sister told me the other day, “Free yourself from the burden of the past for those are only memories as well as the anticipation of the future because it is undetermined.” What has already happened in my life is but a memory and I can’t hold too tight on to those experiences, nor should I attempt to foresee what future experiences I will have. The best thing to do is to live in the present and enjoy every moment. Up to this point my life has been perfectly planned out for me: I would complete high school and attend college. After graduation, the world is my oyster. I can do with my life whatever I see fit. Yes this is intimidating, but also so exhilarating and makes me eager for the next chapter in my life. Maybe I will end up in Buenos Aires, maybe I will end up in NYC, or maybe I will be somewhere else entirely. I will have to wait and see what opportunities arise!
To Buenos Aires, all the other cities I visited, and every amazing person I met over the course of 5 months: GRACIAS POR TODO. <3
Besitos y abrazos,
Originally written on June 15th
As my plane is driving to the runway, I see the four Madrid towers in the distance – the city’s four highest skyscrapers. I passed them everyday on my way to college during my study-abroad semester. Now this semester is officially over.
Safely on the other side of the Atlantic from Milan, I can say I’ve officially “studied abroad.” While part of me hasn’t really processed that I’m no longer there and not going back in the immediate future, the other part is still overwhelmed by gratitude for the experience that I was lucky enough to have. I think that’s why I’ve waited exactly two weeks to sit down and write this- I’ve been stuck between getting back into work here and scrapbooking my travels, babysitting my brothers and making video montages from everything that happened. After talking to everyone else that’s studied abroad, both from UVA and my friends at home, the easiest way to describe it is dream-like. You have a “Did I really just do all of that?” moment. Just today, I walked out of work with another coach and he told me he needed a vacation. Wiped from jetlag and two weeks of work, I agreed. He turned and said, didn’t you just have five months of it?
I took pause and thought about it- I got a five month experience to live in another country. In many ways, it was a sort of vacation- from normal life, from the typical emails and babysitting and work commitments, from understanding every word being spoken around you. But, and this is something I have to keep reminding myself and others, is that I had the chance to really live in another country. I had routines, and classes (however lenient the attendance policy), friends, applications, coordination with UVA extracurriculars, family to catch up with, and bosses to report to about my return. I lived a life that was far less stressful, that taught me to take a step back and appreciate the little things in life and the beauty in making plans and deviating from them. I took weekend vacations definitely while I was there, but the thing I’ve proud of to come home saying is that I definitely lived in Milan.
We had our pizza place, our gelato place, the go to supermarket, the run down indoor market for vegetables, the bagels we had when we missed home, the places we showed our friends when they came to visit, the piazzas and castles and places we spent our days and nights experiencing new places, new cultures, new people. Looking back at the goals I listed back at the beginning, I’m pretty happy with how far I came. I wasn’t fluent in Italian when I left, but I was definitely proficient and could hold conversations (and more importantly, order kebabs for delivery to my apartment) by the end of my experience. I’ll thank my 12 days backpacking through southern Italy for that one. While I didn’t converse with the Italian students at Bocconi as much as I had expected or wanted, I think I gained more from talking to the cab drivers, shop owners, and police men who were kind enough to help us with directions. My second goal was to travel, and that I know I succeeded in. While there are definitely a few places left on my Europe bucket list, I went through nearly 40 different cities in Italy, Spain, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, England and Slovakia for a quick layover. I slept in airports, made best friends to last a lifetime, lived out of a duffel bag for nearly three weeks, met backpackers and ESL teachers and natives and parents and hostel owners, ate food “of the region” as much as possible and never turned down an opportunity to make a memory. In my private blog post, I said I wanted to live my stories. Considering how many times I’ve had to curb myself on starting a sentence with “when I was abroad”, that mission was definitely accomplished. Finally, I wanted to make friends from different cultures. I had an Italian roommate, friends from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Australia and more, and met countless others while travelling. I loved conversations where we all sat around tables or in a class comparing how we do things, whether it was hearing about the falling of the Berlin wall from the perspective of my german friend’s parents or my Italian roommate’s views on the retirement of Pope Benedict.
Finally, I wanted to learn more about global commerce. I think my International Business and Management course was the most valuable aspect of this, because it really gave me a good framework for country opportunity analysis and understanding the challenges of operating in new environments. That class also let us start a fashion company in Japan for part of a simulation, and in turn realize the different ways to market in different countries. But I also got to experience global commerce first hand- to see the role that the mid-day siestas in Italy and Spain have definitely not helped their economies. I realized just how important the tourism industry is in many European countries, understood that places like Budapest were recently destroyed and are only now reemerging as European cultural capitals. I’ve seen people pride themselves on local food and products, and the difference that the processes and energy behind producing a product can change the end result. I’ve seen the strikes and protests first hand and realized that people may be unhappy, and if they feel strongly enough they will go out and make noise about it.
I can’t sum up the experience enough in these short few paragraphs (I could barely fit the semester highlights into 500 pictures), but all I can say to others who have finished their study abroad is that I get it now. I understand why you say your life is different, how your perspective and opinions can drastically shift and you miss people you didn’t even know existed six months ago. To anyone that may have stumbled across this post trying to decide whether or not to study abroad and take a step into the unknown, just go. To Angie and the McIntire faculty that helped us along the way, I can’t thank you enough. I’ll forever be grateful for my second semester, third year, abroad in Milan.
But for now, its back to swim coaching, resume tweaking, and family time for the summer. Til the next adventure.
Bolivia might well be considered the France of South America. As you may know, when you google “French military victories” at click I’m Feeling Lucky (or, me siento suerte, as my google currently says), it asks you if you instead wanted to say “French military defeats” (no offense intended to any French people reading this). Bolivia has experienced similar luck, or lack thereof, in military situations; when you search I’m Feeling Lucky for Bolivia military victories, what comes up is an article written by PETA entitled “Bolivia Bans Military Abuse of Animals (Historic Victory!),” and that’s about as big as Bolivian military victories come.
You’re probably wondering why I opened this by discussing Bolivia, since Santiago is in Chile. As my classes wind down, and I start taking exams and such, one of my many finals is to write a paper describing the development of a specific economic model in Bolivia, for my class on economic transformations in South America. Through my research, I have been learning interesting tidbits: Bolivia lost its path to the sea and much of its oil-rich land through losing wars, by 1980 its foreign debt had climbed to $27 billion, and its political history has been so unstable that no government has been able to make significant changes. These are, and have resulted in serious issues, both tangible and intangible, for Bolivians as a people and Bolivia as a country. It is problems like these which makes me realize how great a country Chile is, and how great a city Santiago is.
Chile’s problems are serious ones. It has one of the highest income gaps among the other countries of OECD, its education system is too expensive and doesn’t rank particularly high worldwide, it is fairly/overly reliant on copper to sustain its economy, and most importantly they need some cheaper central heating (or I guess that’s just my problem with Chile). But compared to Bolivia’s problems, these are nothing #firstworldproblems . Chile is a fully functioning country. There are supermarkets, electricians, ski centers, and a full marketplace full of goods and services. Santiago has parks, museums, activities, and public transportation (is it still called “public” transportation if the bus system is private?). Chileans might think their country leaves a lot to be desired, but compared to their compadres elsewhere in Latin America, it is the diamond in the rough.
Something that has caught my attention from the very first moment I came to Buenos Aires is the prevalence of model-esque skinny girls. Argentina has historically had a very large problem with eating disorders. According to the Association against Bulimia and Anorexia (ALUBA), one in ten Argentines suffers from an eating disorder. This translates into four million people nationwide!!! After Japan, Argentina has more citizens with the disorder than any other country. This statistic is a clear indication of how Argentine women are affected by expectations to look a certain way due to media and social pressures. Several factors such as the popularity of dieting and smoking also contribute to this Argentine “thin ideal”. Additionally, the obsession with staying young and beautiful is demonstrated with the prevalence of plastic surgery in Argentina. According to The Guardian, one in 30 Argentines has gone under the knife. The pressure to be homogenous is a cultural sickness and is an extremely unrealistic goal. In Argentina there is one beauty ideal: thin, young, light hair, light skin, and if possible light eyes. Most women in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires, strive their whole lives to look like something that they are not. Low self-esteem and poor body image are among the contributing factors to anorexia and bulimia. Combine this with the perfectionist ideal to be thin, blonde, and young that permeates Argentine culture and you have a perfect mixture for eating disorders. Argentine clothing stores also enforce this ideal: In 2005 stores in the Buenos Aires province were forced to stock larger sizes or else face a fine. Despite this law, many stores still carry impossibly tiny sizes.
Argentine men are notorious for their “machismo” ways and are often characterized as shameless cheaters. For this reason, most Argentine women have a jaded outlook on the opposite sex. They have a hard shell because they assume all men are liars, cheaters, and “chamuyeros” (sweet-talkers). Along this vein, in order to attract the right type of man, many girls believe that they need to be as good looking as possible, which includes being model-esque thin and having straight, blonde hair, in order to compete with the other beautiful Argentine women. Additionally, with the prevalence of plastic surgery these women are fiercely competing with others that have the ability to easily change their appearance. The “machismo” culture also enforces the idea of traditional gender roles: women as mothers and men as bread winners; men being able to cheat on their wives and women needing to be faithful; women as completely dependent on men and men as their wives’ controllers. You see women throughout Buenos Aires spending hours a day with their children at nice cafes because they don’t work and are fulfilling their traditional roles as mothers. This is the example set for female youth: women shouldn’t work or exert any physical activity, but instead should merely serve as caretakers.
This aesthetic obsession means that foreigners like myself get a great deal of attention. Because I have light hair and light skin, people love to gawk. Yes there are many women in Buenos Aires that have light skin and light hair as well, but I think I might stand out a bit more because it is obvious I am not Argentine. Many tell me it isn’t the way I dress or carry myself, but that I have an “American face”. What that means exactly I’m not sure. If you look at the advertisements in Argentina, there is only ONE type of model: thin, blonde, blue-eyed, and with long straight hair. While in the U.S., advertisements are also full of unattainable beauty; at the very least there is some type of racial diversity. The single beauty ideal in Argentina gives these girls an unrealistic look to homogenize toward. Instead of teaching female youth that you can be beautiful in your own way no matter what natural characteristics you were born with, growing up in Argentina teaches you to change every possible thing about yourself to fit a single mold. For this reason, girls dye their hair, get plastic surgery, wear colored contacts, and control the one thing that’s easiest to change: their weight.
What upsets me is that I have noticed that being surrounded by legs that don’t touch and stomachs that cave in affects my personal body image. I have never felt fat, but going to clothing stores here would make any average woman feel overweight. It has pushed me to watch what I eat in order to avoid standing out as a typical pudgy American. Additionally, I have noticed that I put a lot more effort into my appearance that I do in the United States. At UVA I often go to school in exercise clothing without makeup, but in Bs As I wouldn’t be caught dead commuting without a full face of makeup and a fashion-forward outfit. Maybe this is merely a result of living in a big city because you see others that are dressed well and feel the need to fit in. Or maybe it is because the university community is very unusual in the US. Where else in the world is it appropriate to wear Nike shorts and a baggy t-shirt as a legitimate outfit worn outside the house?
Seeing as this is my last post within Argentina, I hope it has left ya’ll with something to think about. In the next few weeks I will be taking my finals, visiting Iguazu Falls, and traveling to Rio de Janiero, Brazil!! Hopefully I make it out alive…
Besitos a todos!!
I know this may strike some as a little early since I am not leaving for another month, but lately I have been thinking more and more about my trip back “home” to the United States. Reintegration into university life. Reintegration into vanilla suburban Indianapolis life. In all honesty, I have no desire to go home. I have created an amazing life here and I have done everything in my power to extend my stay but at a certain point, July 18, I know I have to head back to what is currently “my reality”. I can’t help but think that my life in the US is a shallow version of what my life is supposed to be like. It is also hard to compartmentalize my life here and fit it into not only my life in Charlottesville but also my life in Indianapolis. As I do this I constantly ask myself, “Would my friends in Argentina like my friends in Charlottesville or Indianapolis and vice versa?” “How much am I being molded by my surroundings at any particular moment?” “Am I going to return the same person as I left?” The answers to every one of these questions and many more are almost always big, fat question marks. As the Argentines say, “Qué sé yo???” (Translation: What do I know??) If I did know, I would have the gift of perfect introspection as well as omniscience in my own life. Unfortunately I don’t and these questions will surely go unanswered. What I do know is that I will wholeheartedly welcome any changes I have undergone since being in Buenos Aires because I feel as though I have changed for the better.
After spending almost 4 months in Buenos Aires, I have learned more about myself than I have learned in 3 years at the University of Virginia. While my classes here in Bs As might not be as intellectually challenging, I am pushed every day to speak the language and keep in rhythm with an incredibly large city. In Charlottesville, my life is easy, my friendships are rarely tried, and my only source of stress is my rigorous course load. While yes, my brain works like a highly functioning machine at UVA, my life outside of the classroom is a bit vapid and effortless to say the least. Life in Bs As is not easy, but it has made me come to realize that I can live with a less than perfect situation. Having a limited money supply and needing to commute at least 30min on public transportation to get anywhere has given me a reality check. It made me realize that humans can get used to practically anything. It also gave me insight into what I want my future to look like. I need to live in a big city and possibly one outside of the US in order to be truly happy. I love the independence it gives me as well as the wealth of opportunities that lie within in a large city. There is no chance for boredom nor is there ever an inability to find your niche. It is the complete opposite of what many universities are criticized for: conformism and homogeneity.
The travel bug has bitten me and the venom is coursing through my veins. As much as I love every aspect of my life in the United States, traveling and actually LIVING in another country is what truly energizes me. I refuse to let this trip be the last of my travels and I absolutely want to come back to Buenos Aires sometime in my life. I have been asked a few times whether I prefer Madrid or Buenos Aires and the answer is always a difficult one. Honestly, I can’t choose. Both cities are so invigorating and incredible in their own ways that if I am able to live in either again for an extended period of time I would be grateful and blessed. I have absolutely loved every single moment in Buenos Aires no matter how frustrating I might have been at the time because now I can look back at every infuriating minute as a learning experience. I will continue to challenge and teach myself through living in different parts of the world, and I can assure you that in 10 years you won’t find me living in a suburban neighborhood in a Midwestern town.
In this edition of Sarah’s extremely sporadic blog I plan to squash some of the Argentine stereotypes that I have heard from Americans. The reason why I decided to embark on writing about Argentine stereotypes is actually because of the Argentine relationship with stereotypes. As a country, I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as one that is politically correct. Honestly, categorizing and generalizing are part of daily life in Buenos Aires. And among these generalizations are often racist remarks. This often surprises me because Argentina is a country comprised of immigrants, similar to the U.S., and everyone looks different yet they hold on to their ethnically insensitive categorizations. Porteños (those who live in Bs As) will NEVER admit that they are prejudiced, but continually refer to each other as “negro”, “gorda”, and “flaco” insisting they are endearing terms.
When it comes to race, they have about every reference covered
Spaniards = “Gallegos”
Italians = “Tanos”
Middle Easterners = “Turcos”
US citizens = “Yanquis”
Bolivians = “Bolitas” (literally means little balls to describe their physical appearance)
Paraguayans = “Paraguas” (literally means umbrella)
Although some of these examples seem harmless and don’t necessarily have a negative connotation, any word used with a scathing tone can become racist and certainly insulting.
Despite the questionable political correctness of Porteño language, I plan on eradicating a few stereotypes about the country. A few statements I have heard come straight from the mouths of Americans are as follows:
“It is always hot in Argentina, it’s below the equator!!!!”
“All Argentines must look indigenous with very dark hair and skin.”
“Argentine food must be spicy just like Mexico!!!”
“Since Buenos Aires is a port city, there is a beach right?!”
“Argentines are Latin so they must be hot blooded and crazy.”
1. Argentina has all 4 seasons like most other countries. Yes, it is below the equator but that implies that the seasons are the opposite of the ones you find in Europe or the United States. For example, the dead of winter here is perfect pool or beach weather in the US. Being below the equator doesn’t necessarily mean a country has a tropical climate, but the Caribbean countries such as Venezuela and Cuba are quite tropical year-round. Something notable about Argentina is that although it does have four seasons and gets cold in the winters, this cold is nothing compared to what I see in Virginia or Indiana. For example, in 2007 Buenos Aires experienced its first snowfall in 89 years. Conclusion: Argentina isn’t hot all the time but it does have quite temperate winters and hot summers.
2. Although Argentina has a small indigenous population, the country is very similar to the United States in that it is made up of mostly immigrants. These immigrants fled from war, famine, and dictator-plagued Europe. The majority of immigrants came from Italy and Spain, although there were German, French and Eastern European immigrants as well. Because of the strong European influence, most people in Argentina, and specifically Buenos Aires, often have lighter skin as well as light hair and eyes. Essentially they look like many of the people you would find in Europe and North America, not like those you find in neighboring countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Conclusion: There is a small indigenous population in Argentina. But because of the wave of European immigrants, the majority of the population looks very much like the mixed population you find in the United States or Western Europe.
3. Argentine food in fact is not spicy. In Mexico it is common practice to make foods spicy for the purpose of “filling you up”. Famine has never been a threat in Argentina, thus the foods have always been season-less and reliant on local production. Argentine food also has great Spanish and Italian influence, demonstrated in the prevalence of pasta, pizza, ham, morcilla, and tapas (among many others). Additionally, the lack of “picante” in the foods is something apparent in Italian and Spanish dishes as well. Conclusion: The food in Argentina is very European (read Italian and Spanish), thus doesn’t rely upon spiciness for its flavor.
4. Buenos Aires is a port city, but it does not have a beach. We all must have been taught this in elementary school geography, right? Just because there is water doesn’t imply beaches. Head to Brazil if that is what you are looking for! Conclusion: No, water doesn’t imply beaches.
5. Argentines are actually quite melancholic for being Latin American. The Latin American stereotype fits better for those in Rio de Janiero, Brazil: full of energy, movement, and happiness. Argentines are melancholic because of two main reasons. The immigration population brought with them sadness because they often abandoned hometowns and families indefinitely in war-torn regions. Additionally, the most recent fall of Argentina has brought disillusionment as well: Buenos Aires used to surpass its European counterparts, but now is below them in economic importance and development. Conclusion: While Argentines are Latin American, they do not exactly fit in the “hot blooded” stereotype many Americans have.
I hope this helped shed some light on both stereotypes within and outside of Argentina for all you readers out there. I hope you are all soaking up the sun in the US for me!!