I remember looking out of the plane window last July as my last view of England sped away into the distance and being suddenly hit with the reality of what was really happening. When I was growing up, my idea of exotic had been catching a glimpse of the French coast when visiting my Gran in Kent, and now I was in a tube of metal being hurtled at hundreds of miles an hour towards the other side of the planet. I was travelling to Argentina – a country I had never been to before and honestly didn’t really know much about – and I knew that I would not be returning to England for six months. As London disappeared below me, I suddenly had a strong feeling that an ERASMUS placement in Spain may not have been such a bad idea after all….
However, now that I have completed my year abroad and am back in sleepy, tranquil Durham, I can safely say that studying in Buenos Aires for six months was one of the best decisions I have made and I would definitely recommend it. So I thought I’d write a quick article explaining the best bits of my time in Argentina to try and persuade any current second years to take the plunge and do the same next year!
To me, easily the best thing about going to Latin America and Argentina in particular is the fact that you can visit places that you would never be able to visit in Europe. Although I studied in Buenos Aires, I tried to travel as much as possible – definitely worth it in a country like Argentina! This is a country that has amazing waterfalls set in beautiful rainforest in Iguazú in the North-West, wild-west style deserts with stunning salt flats in Salta in the North-East, and amazing glaciers in Patagonia to the south – an incredible combination! Argentina has landscapes that are like nothing you have ever seen before and I feel really lucky to have been able to explore at least part of this beautiful country.
Secondly, Argentines have the work-life balance question completely sussed out. Although the disorganisation took a bit of getting used to, there are definite advantages to being just a little bit more relaxed – life seems to revolve around the best things in life – food and a good time. And the food is amazing too! Ranging from empanadas (little pastries filled with a range of different fillings) to medialunas (like croissants) and the famous asado (barbecued beef), Argentina’s cuisine was something that I didn’t know much about before arriving but was an unexpected surprise. Naturally, this can all be washed down with some of the best wine in the world before you sit with friends to drink the seemingly ever-present mate tea - the country’s national drink. In first and second year, we hadn’t really studied much about Argentina and therefore I had a completely new country to explore.
Which brings me on to my next point – the language. If you go to Argentina, you will very quickly be introduced to a completely new way of speaking Spanish in a country that is very proud of its linguistic heritage. And don’t worry – you’ll soon pick it up! When I left Buenos Aires airport in a taxi towards the city centre in the middle of winter in July, the taxi driver confused me just about as much as the weather did. However, I soon got the hang of the accent, the new words, and most importantly the voseo to such an extent that a Chilean even remarked on my ‘Argentine’ accent when I visited Santiago! Going to Latin America opens your eyes to the linguistic diversity of the Spanish speaking world and gives your Spanish a unique twist.
So what have you got to lose? Argentina is an amazing country – I was a bit anxious before I went but I would definitely recommend it. I met some great friends that I am still in contact with and would like to go back to visit as soon as possible!