As a college student, I’ve had to pack up my entire life into boxes many times: in and out of dorm rooms, apartments, houses, from semesters to short summers. However, right now packing up my life into one large suitcase feels a bit more daunting because I will be travelling 5,580 miles to live in a new country for five months, taking classes in a language I’m still learning and navigating an unfamiliar city. While most of my friends at Georgetown are entering never-ending midterm season, I’m about to leave for the beginning of my semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires. When I first began looking at programs, deciding where I wanted to spend a semester exploring and studying, my dean—in typical Econ fashion—emphasized that a semester abroad is all about trade-offs. What study abroad program would best suit your academic interests and be worth investing your time in rather than spending a semester at Georgetown? This winter break has given me a strangely long time to think about what could have been, making me more intentional about what I want to get out of my time in Buenos Aires.
Over Christmas, my family and I visited Spain, the country I had previously considered as a study abroad destination. Spain was beautiful with wonderful people, and I learned when forced to use Spanish, my language skills actually weren’t too bad. Cathedrals and palaces looked surreal in person but also felt eerily familiar. After scrolling through countless Facebook albums and Instagram posts of these locations shared by my peers who’ve spent a semester gallivanting across Europe, I felt like I had already seen many of the famous sites in Spain. With modern technology the world feels so accessible, it can take some of the wonder out of visiting new places, meeting new cultures. This affirmed why I chose to apply to the program in Argentina—novelty.
My academic interests lie in Latin America, but I considered Spain because it felt like the “safer” option. I know many college students that have studied there and had great experiences, but I wasn’t considering Spain for the right reasons. I ultimately chose Buenos Aires, although much more unfamiliar, knowing I would be more interested in learning in a Latin American country. Because of the later start date of semesters in the Southern hemisphere, while waiting for my program to begin my friends back at Georgetown have already reached the halfway mark of their semester. It’s a strange feeling to watch life continue on the Hilltop without you, to see what memories you are missing, but I know a semester of growth and adventure is worth the trade-off.
I can picture a grainy film of how a semester in Spain or back at Georgetown would have gone. For Argentina, the film reel is blank because I am taking the leap without expectations to live up to. There isn’t pressure to have a Georgetown version of an ideal semester with extracurriculars and good grades or a perfect European study abroad experience full of traveling because Argentina comes with less preconceived notions of how my experience should go. Although a bare canvas can make planning more difficult, I’m sure the mystery will make exploring even more satisfying. So, for now, I’m trying to fit all of my necessities in a suitcase as I make another move, perhaps the most exciting one so far.