Ever since freshman year when I noticed/saw/stalked the foreign exchange students in the hallway during my first few months at Marist, I was dead set on hosting one of them one day. Thankfully, after 3 years of constant pestering and extensive emails, my parents finally agreed to let me host an Argentinian student come my senior year. This experience truly surpassed my expectations and quickly became the highlight of my senior year. I then dropped another bomb on my parents: I wanted to travel to Argentina over spring break to reconnect with my South American friends. Again, my persuasive skills prevailed, mostly because they consisted of me paying for this trip myself. Although I once thought hosting an Argentinian student from el Colegio Champagnat in Buenos Aires was the highlight of my senior year, my opinion soon changed. Traveling to and being hosted in the foreign country is now the absolute biggest highlight not only of my senior year, but also my life.
Prior to this trip, I had never been out of the country. Argentina was to be my first time away from my family for such an extended period of time (approx. 2 weeks) in such far destination (c. 5000 miles). Although I was nervous, I also could not contain my excitement. I was about to see all my friends again for the first time in 5 months (not to mention all of the handsome Argentinian boys I was to be in contact with for the next couple of weeks). Shortly after the commencement of the 10 hour plane ride, I remember sitting in my seat next to two of my good friends, eating a Chipotle burrito bowl, watching the Hunger Games, on my way to Argentina thinking that life simply could not get better.
Words cannot describe my unforgettable experience in this beautiful country: a country where I was given the chance to step out of my comfort zone, try new things (although I could have done without the blood sausage), visit sights I had only ever seen as a picture in my Spanish textbook, and meet both new and old people accustomed to a way of life much unlike my own that I was fortunate enough to be a part of during this time.
Why did I go on this trip? At first, I went solely in order to reconnect with the 20 students I have formed strong relationships with 5 months prior, but this trip became so much more than that. Reconnect I did, but I also became someone I never knew I could become. I became someone eager to experience different ways of life with people much unlike myself, whether they be from a different or the same country. I learned to roll with the punches and adapt to my environment the best that I can, even it is not ideal according to my previous standards or ways of living. I learned to not only accept but respect differences in culture and behavior and understand that, although they may be different, it does not mean they are inherently wrong simply because they contradict with my own familiar ways of living or acting.
Every culture is vastly different from the next in even the smallest of ways, and I would recommend to all people to go beyond their comfort zone and expose themselves to these different lifestyles as to gain a better understanding of the massive world around them. It may seem scary at first (trust me, I know), but convincing yourself to step out of your bubble with which you deem safe and get to know people and things much bigger than anything you have ever known is something I can guarantee you won’t regret. The only thing you will regret is not being able to stay there longer.