It is hard to believe that it is already November, it feels like just yesterday that we were arriving in Buenos Aires fresh-faced and doe-eyed scared out of our minds with no idea what was ahead of us. I figure this post should be more of a list of suggestions, interesting tid bits and warnings for anyone who plans on going to Argentina for study abroad.
First of all the country is beautiful, especially Mendoza, with the integration of urban city life and beautiful parks and plazas and the mountains, rivers and lakes it is literally a mix of every type of terrain you would ever want to see.
The people are not only strikingly beautiful but incredibly kind, most of them want to get to know you and learn the language even if you are a complete stranger.
For ladies: the men here are incredibly forward and most often don´t hesitate to approach you even if simply to say that you are beautiful. If you do come be prepared for the biropos which are the excessive cat calls that you will receive whilst walking down the street. Occasionally men will even slow down in their cars to whistle or call you princess.
The sidewalks are not handicap or shoe friendly, I have completely destroyed the majority of the soles of the shoes that I came here with because I assumed that the sidewalks would all be evenly paved and shoe-friendly.
Weather, during the summer time it is hot during the day, and freezing at night, the winter is cold during the day and even colder at night, it´s a desert so it only makes sense to have absurd weather. It hardly ever rains and it is beautiful and sunny almost 6 out of every 7 days of the week. Apart from the occassional Zonda (warm wind storm) it is almost always pleasant to be outside.
Any food that you think you are going to miss, you will peanut butter is like gold for any American student studying here, some locals will tell you they have peanut butter...they are lying the only thing they have is a disgusting paste that may have been peanut butter a few centuries ago.
Do not overpack, and this I am talking from experience, the first thing my host family said is that of the 9 host students they have had I brought more junk with me than they had ever seen. Granted I am grateful I did, but it is just a pain to have all of it.
Most of the things that many guide books will tell you not to bring i.e. shorts, sandals, sleeveless dresses, don´t listen to them, the style of clothing here is very similar to that of the U.S. they have their hipsters, scene kids, thugs, prepsters, casual dressers, hippies pretty much everything, your style will probably match that of any number of argentine trends.
You will lose a lot of things, whether it is from going out or just forgetting things, you will lose things, so try not to bring too many valuables or keepsakes.
Bring more money than the program tells you to, even though the exchange rate is great here, it is deceiving, you will end up rationalizing a lot of purchases especially at the plaza where the hand crafted things by the artisans are an alluring choice for any self-gifts.
You will most likely spend more money on transportation and cell phone minutes than you will on anything else during your stay in this country, it is a pain but if you don´t live close to everything you will end up using the buses a lot and taxis at night.
Be prepared to eat a lot of meat, they do have vegetarian options sometimes but often times they will assume you still eat chicken (its apparently not considered real meat here). Also a lot of fried foods, and overly salted foods. Don´t get me wrong it is incredibly delicious, just don´t expect to lose weight by coming here, the empanadas and panchos will surely prevent that from happening.
Take advantage of every opportunity to travel, my personal favorite is Cordoba where at some point in my life I may end up living, it is a great city and has some beautiful things to do in the smaller villas right outside of the center.
Be open to meeting new people, some of the best people, and greatest friends I have made here are most of the artisans in Plaza Independencia, you just have to be open to talking to new people and having conversations, it is the best way to practice your spanish and you get to meet some pretty great people along the way.
If you can try to speak spanish within the program, our group is terrible at it and I include myself as well, it is refreshing to talk in English but you will improve so much faster if you talk in spanish.
-For mailing things, they are going to tell you that you can´t receive food or clothing, that is a lie, I am almost positive everyone who was sent either receieved them on time and in one piece it is just super expensive
Don´t rely on the possibility that every family is going to have internet, or wi-fi most of them do not and if they do it is not always dependable, if you want to buy a portable USB modem you should they are good to have anyways, the ones that they will sell to you in the program don´t always work
Things to bring with you:
-gum, the gum here is terrible
-warm clothes but layers!!
-pictures of your family
-movies (you will want to watch them since it takes hours to download any online)
-good walking shoes
-camping equipment if you have it, you don´t need it you can rent it from here for cheap
-good going out clothes (for evenings everyone pretty much dresses up in club wear)
-any food you think you are going to miss a lot
-money belt or something that can hide your money under your clothes for going out purposes and traveling
-bring copies of all importan documentation and any information or numbers you might need i.e. credit cards, bank accounts, health insurance
-don´t worry about bringing a phone with you, most families will give you one or you can buy one for relatively cheap, most phones from the u.s. won´t work here unless you want to spend 5 US dollars a minute
-Bring any medications you think you might need for the semester, they are sometimes hard to find here
I think that is all I can think of for now, just a few things I wish I had known before coming to this incredible country that I am going to hate to leave in less than two months.....