Lauren Steinberg, Argentina
Lauren Steinberg studied at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the Spring 2013 semester.
Photo: Lauren Steinberg in Mendoza, Argentina
Why did you choose to study abroad?
When I was growing up my family hosted international students in our home. I saw what a great experience this was for them, and because of this I always knew that I wanted to study abroad.
Why did you choose this location for your study abroad experience?
My main goal in going abroad was to learn Spanish, which had always been a dream of mine. For this reason, I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country and focus solely on Spanish classes. Luckily, I found the perfect program in Buenos Aires at the University of Belgrano, where I was able to take 384 hours of Spanish class giving me 25 credits to bring back to UMass - but better yet, it taught me to speak Spanish!
What was the most challenging part of being in another country?
The language. Though I always knew I wanted to speak Spanish, I had never been able to learn very much here in the US. At first it seemed almost impossible to do simple things like order a coffee or ask for directions on the street. I felt like I would never be able to talk to locals or make any local friends. However, as I started to settle in I started to pick up on basic lingo and eventually I gained the confidence to just try to speak Spanish, even if I felt like I was doing it wrong. Though it wasn't easy, I can gladly say that I left Buenos Aires with lifelong relationships with Argentinians (relationships that I constructed entirely in Spanish)!
What memorable experiences did you have while studying abroad?
Though I could list here the awesome and exciting experiences I had while abroad, I prefer to say that the simple moments that I experienced in my daily life in Buenos Aires were the best ones. Drinking mate (a traditional tea that Argentineans drink socially) in my friend's window on a sunny morning, taking the bus and watching the city life happening around me through the window, dancing to drummers in the park on a warm night, and the joy of asking a stranger a question and realizing "wow I just spoke Spanish, and they actually understood me!"
What were some important things you learned while studying abroad?
While studying abroad I learned of all the things I don't want in life, and replaced them with things I do want. In Argentina there was a real focus on family and friends and the importance of relationships. I learned that I don't want to run out of the house with a coffee in my hand, trying to gulp down my caffeine to get me through the day. I want to sit down with friends and enjoy a relaxing morning. I don't want to eat dinner in front of the TV without talking, I want to turn the TV off and enjoy time with family. I don't want to dread an 80-hour week in an office, I want to find something I love, and be with people I love, and enjoy my life to the fullest.
What do you think is the most important thing for students who choose to study abroad to prepare before they leave?
I think that the most important thing is to prepare to keep an open mind. Realize that life abroad will be different. Don't arrive in another country and start comparing "well in the United States we do this..." Have a willingness to learn and try new things, because these new experiences are the ones that will be the most rewarding. Try not to think negatively about the culture because it is different from your own and some things might seem rude, or weird, or inappropriate. Taking the easy route out by going only to American bars or hanging out with only American people and eating only American foods isn't going to allow you to get the real experience of living in another country.
If you want to check out my blog to hear more about my adventures abroad, you can find the link here!: http://blogs.umass.edu/lsteinbeReturn to the Study Abroad Experiences page.