Sweet home, ChicagoBuenos Aires, Spring 2011
After a 24-hour delay (thanks again to the volcanic ash cloud) I finally made it back home. O’Hare Airport was fairly empty and I walked through it in a daze, vaguely following signs pointing me toward baggage claim. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small group of people with balloons, flowers, and an obnoxiously large, pink sign. It took a second for me to register that that was my obnoxious family, but when my brother started running towards me my senses kicked in and I dropped my carry-on bags with a loud thud (I may have brought too much stuff home, the bags were pretty heavy). Emotions rushed through me and one or two tears may have escaped, but I was so relieved and ecstatic to finally be home and with my family.
Because of the flight delay, I lost my recovery day and was immediately thrown into a large family reunion, consisting mostly of my mom’s cousins whom I hadn’t seen since before I could form real memories. It was a beautiful day, and it was good to see everyone, but it was a bit overwhelming. Especially since all I really wanted to do was go to sleep. But somehow I made it though the smiling, taking pictures, and answering questions without passing out, and even managed to stay semi-conscious the next few days to meet with friends I haven’t seen in 4 months. I’ve barely talked to the friends I met in Argentina, but I assume they are all busy trying to catch up with their lives as desperately as I have been the past few weeks.
A few weeks – is that really all it has been? It seems like a lifetime ago I said goodbye to Buenos Aires and boarded that plane. It has been forever since I’ve had mate, been forced to speak Spanish, or sat down to one of my host mom’s wonderful meals. And what have I been doing since? Running around Itasca, trying to get my life back in order, preparing myself for next year. Any break I get I have been reading books, trying to escape from the work of being here and the pain of remembering all I have left behind. But now that I think about it, I really haven’t left behind that much. Sure, it will be much harder to get my hands on some mate in the States, but I bought that Argentine cookbook so I can try to make my own empanadas. All the friends I have made are either here in the States or a quick facebook message away. And that girl, the one I became while I was in Argentina – the one who learned to survive on her own in a foreign country, who took on a relaxed and rational attitude when things got too crazy, the one who finally felt completely comfortable with herself – she did come back with me, right? It’s hard to say, when things here seem to barely have changed. But, it has been almost 3 weeks and I haven’t gotten in any fights with my brother or sister, so I’ll take that as a good sign. Maybe I have grown up a bit over the past 4 months.
However, no matter how much I may change, and no matter where the rest of my life takes me, I will always treasure the time I had in Argentina. I will never forget the beautiful mountains, the waterfalls, the countryside – even the city took on a comfortable charm the longer I was there. The people of Buenos Aires will always hold a place in my heart, for their attitude, their kindness, and their passion. A whole semester breeds a lot of memories, plenty of stories, and a million moments I will keep close to my heart. It is impossible to choose one specific favorite memory. It is impossible to describe my experience in 10 words. It is impossible to accurately describe my experience to the multitude of family and friends that seem to ask the same questions. But if I had to try…
So thank you to IES and all of the wonderful people of Argentina who have made this experience so remarkable. Thank you to my family, friends, and professors at Elmhurst who helped me through this, each step of the way. And thanks to all of you, for putting up with my obsessions about mountains and empanadas. I hope you take the chance to study abroad. I hope you push yourself outside of your boundaries and open yourself to the invaluable experiences that studying abroad gives you. Most of all, I hope you learn and discover things about this world and about yourself that reach beyond your imagination. So I guess all that is left to say is Ciau! Hasta Luego! Suerte! Buen viaje! Go travel. Go learn. Go live.
Oh, and for any of you wondering about that final exam I missed for my UCES class, IES took care of that. They will give me a grade based on the two tests and project I had already completed. Phew!
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