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Thomas: The Final Summary

December 14, 2011

As I waited for my flight back to America recently, I did some reflecting on my experiences living in Buenos Aires for over three months. Many people who have participated in study abroad programs claim that they change more, as a person, in three months than they do in years. I would have to agree with this notion. Opening your eyes to an entirely new world changes you drastically. I’ve noticed that my perceptions of South America and the United States have changed and adapted. I’m also better able to look at everyday things from another perspective, a different angle than before. There is no doubt that I have grown significantly as a person.

I wrote earlier about not being able to grow without being out of your comfort zone. I think this is sentiment is true for all people. When I arrived, there is no question that I was out of my comfort zone. As I write today, my comfort zone has widened dramatically. I now feel totally comfortable with much of Argentina and a good chunk of South America, its people and its land. Imagine if your comfort zone widened to cover almost an entire continent of people and things. It’s quite an incredible feeling, the feeling of growth.

Have I mastered the Spanish language? No, not even close, but I’m comfortable with knowing what I know. I’ve taken three Spanish courses since May of this year, so I wasn’t expecting to be fluent. It takes years of dedication to become fluent in a language.

I do feel very fortunate to have had this fantastic experience. I’ve enjoyed it very much and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Having had this experience I know I have become a better person and a better citizen of the world. I also now realize how big our planet is and how much of it still needs to be explored on an individual basis.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. I am sad to leave Argentina, my host family, and the things I’ve grown accustomed to in the last three and a half months. The food, the architecture, the constant activity and action. I am, however, thrilled to go back to the place I love and have spent my entire life. I look forward to seeing my family and friends. I’m excited to see the things I know so well with a new set of eyes and experiences. Experts say that reverse culture shock is harder to adjust to than the opposite. They say it’s harder to adjust going back to where you come from after a study abroad experience than it is to adjust to a new country in the first place. This may be true for me, as I go from living in a city of 13 million to a town of 1,300.

I plan on writing a couple more posts during my first month home. I can bet that there will be a number of changes and a few things I will miss once I leave Buenos Aires.

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