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Christin Tang

Immerse Yourself

by Christin Tang Thursday, May 7, 2015

One of the most interesting, and consuming, parts of my study abroad experience has been the fact that I have been completely immersed in the culture, language and city since the day I landed.

Although it’s true that no matter where you go, you’ll be immersed to some extent, the program to Buenos Aires, Argentina is a notch above.

Here I live with a family—a mom and her 7-year-old triplet girls. We eat breakfast together some days and dinner together every day. I have my own bedroom, but I spend most of my time in the kitchen and family room practicing Spanish and speaking with those who I truly feel are my family.

family
A selfie that my host mom, Fatima, and my triplet sisters Simona (left), Matilda (top), Marina (right) and I took on my first night living with them!

You fill out a survey before you leave that indicates what you’d like in a family—do you want kids? People your age? Grandparents-aged host parents? And then the program sets you up with your “match.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better family and experience! My host mom spends a ridiculous amount of time with me and doesn’t mind when I just want to sit and practice Spanish. We go on really long walks and some shorter runs and talk the whole time, she takes me to get togethers with her friends and she always is willing to help, no matter what the circumstance might be.

This has also been extremely valuable on the safety side of the spectrum. I’ve always known exactly how safe an area is, at day or night, before going there. My host mom has given me lots of advice with transportation, where and where not to hang out, and introduced me to parts of the city I would otherwise have never known existed!

Living with children seemed like a good fit for me because I figured they’d be most likely to laugh at my Spanish and correct me, and it’s been true so far! The girls are so much fun to be around and will always laugh and tell me when I make a mistake. It has made the learning process much quicker!

            Also, I attend a real Argentine university, meaning that for one of my classes I am the only non-Argentine and still am learning high-caliber material. All of my classes are taught completely in Spanish (meaning, yes, the exams are too!) and the only time I really can speak English is when talking to American friends.

buenos-aires
A street I pass by on my way to school every day - Calle Uruguay.

Completely immersing myself has obviously been quite the experience. At first I was incredibly overwhelmed and stressed out. My Spanish is far from fluency and was even less impressive immediately when I arrived. Not being able to express myself and tell my host mom about what I was thinking was a pain, but only forced me to get better and practice more! Part of what I’ve learned is that perseverance is more than half the battle. By continuing to practice, make mistakes and practice again, I’ve gotten better at Spanish.

When deciding which program to choose, I knew that I wanted to be living with a Spanish-speaking family and be learning in Spanish. Without the constant encounters with the Spanish language, I know I would have struggled much more with picking up the language and improving. Although this may not be for everyone, I believe it’s really important to address what level of interaction you want with the city, culture and language you intend to be a part of and decide accordingly!