Jordan looking lovely with some incredible BsAs street art
This week, middbeat’s “Voices From Abroad“ will feature Jordan Seman ’16, who is studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina this semester, living just blocks away from the National Congress. Jordan is a junior comparative literature major from Denver, CO. As part of the Middlebury School Abroad in Buenos Aires, Jordan is studying at Universidad Católica Argentina, taking classes in the psychology department for a change of pace. Jordan’s writing is extracted from her personal blog, and skillfully captures the complexities of life abroad, while offering some invaluable insights on how to deal with the transition. Having spent a semester in Buenos Aires myself, I’m particularly stoked to share this post. Read up:
Today, I met my dear friend Bryn’s father, Jim, for a cup of coffee during his brief stay in Buenos Aires. I can only describe seeing him as extremely comforting, if a little strange. The sensation was almost dream-like; one second I was on the bustling streets of the city, sweating from running the last four blocks from the bus stop, late (as usual), and impatient for the traffic to subside so I could finally cross the street…the next, I was in a luxurious lounge sipping a latte, sitting across from an old friend straight from my life in Denver. I immediately felt relief as we began to converse (in ALL English) about my experience the past two months. As I answered his questions (How are your classes? What’s the social scene like? Do you feel safe here? Do you like the food?), I realized that it was the first time that I had really decompressed the whirlwind of experiences in the past two months.
Talking to Jim helped me uncover some of the feelings that I’ve internalized while going through the daily motions of public transportation, confusion in class, endless misunderstandings in Spanish, and other cultural differences. Talking to him also left me with a choice: I could either sugarcoat everything, tell him how amazing Buenos Aires is and how happy I am every day to be here and be having this experience (which is all true, to an extent), or I could give him the true-to-life story, the one where I say how some days are really great, while others leave me with a pounding headache and a deep, aching desire for the simplicity of rural Vermont.
I chose the latter. Here are some of the impressions I gave him, with the 2-month perspective:
1) Taking classes in Spanish is not easy. Not only was I completely disillusioned about my ability to converse near-fluently with Argentines, but I also assumed that 8 weeks in the classroom would be enough to get the hang of my professors and the subject material. Not exactly true. The classes I am in (Sociology, Special Education, and Public Health) require a decent amount of theoretical background knowledge, which is difficult to understand in English, let alone Castellano. As such, I’m still learning. Some days I leave class feeling confident that I understood about 95% of the lecture; other days, I leave with a page full of vocabulary words to look up on my own, feeling disheartened and silly. All part of the process, I’m told.
2) My Spanish has most definitely improved. It’s no longer so much of an effort to listen and understand. I am not translating everything in my head anymore. The verb tenses come a little more fluidly, my vocabulary is a little more advanced, I can mostly understand what I’m ordering every time I go to restaurant. Small milestones that prove the cultural immersion really does work.