Studying abroad in Argentina gave me many fears after reading through the safety precautions one should take when leaving their home and going to a new country. The first impression I had of my new home was to guard my belongings with my life. There were many rules of the city that I had to remember.
I have been in school for over a month now in the lovely city of Buenos Aires, but it was not an easy transition.
First off, Buenos Aires is a city of over 13 million people; talk about culture shock. Since I was born and raised in Fargo and prefer the country life, I was ready for an adventure way outside of my comfort zone. Not to mention my study abroad program managers scared my fellow companions and me when explaining safety precautions while exploring the city.
Never put anything in your back pockets or behind you
Petty theft is the number one crime abroad, so make sure you can see your purse or wallet. It is best to just strap them in front of you.
Do not talk loudly
Argentines are private people. They speak quietly when on the streets because they do not want anyone else to know their business.
Only speak in Spanish
If you can refrain, do not speak in English. It is a universal language that most Argentines know, but everyone speaks in Spanish. Also, you learn the language faster if you have to speak it more.
Do not help anyone
If someone is asking for help on the street, do not help them. It is probably a scheme to distract you so that someone else can rob you. Any small distraction is an opportunity for a thief to steel your backpack, purse or phone.
Wear neutral colors
Argentines are boring in their color schemes. Earthy, neutral colors are normal around the city.
Do anything you can to just blend in
Blend in as best you can. If it is “cold” (Argentine standards), wear a winter coat, even if you do not think it is cold. Just do not try to look like an American. There will be a lesser chance of you getting mugged, and a better chance of you seeing the true culture of Argentina.
If locals see you as a tourist, they may take advantage of your lack of knowledge.
It is not always easy being told to fit in. Also, the program managers made the streets sound more dangerous than they actually are when you travel abroad. Though it is still important to be aware of your surroundings while out and about, the city is very much safe.
After the first introductions to the city and orientation at my university, everything else has become free rein.
The first two weeks were very stressful and overwhelming. I was claustrophobic being surrounded by the tall buildings. There is no building in sight that you can see above. I did not know where anything was. I did not know anybody, and of course a language barrier can make anyone vulnerable. I have been learning Spanish for six years now, but outside of classes, I never had a chance to speak it. Catching on to the language, not to mention the unique dialect Argentines speak, is still a work in progress.
Now, a month and a half later, Buenos Aires has become my home, “mi casa segunda.”
My host mother is very relaxed. There are no rules as long as she knows where and what I am doing. My Spanish is slowly improving every single day, and I really enjoy walking everywhere or using public transportation.
I have not and probably will not see the entire city within the time I spend in Buenos Aires, but that is the adventure. I haven’t been bored yet because there is always something new to do. I just must get out of the house. Maybe meet up with some friends from class at a café to study? Then having Fridays free, with no classwork, gives us all a chance to explore Palermo and the Botanical Gardens or go to any of the hundreds of museums that are here.
There are so many activities I have placed on my list to do while I am here this semester. I cannot wait for what is to come. This opportunity abroad is changing me into a city girl and giving me the chance to explore a new world. Instead of being frightened of the streets be cautious, but not terrified like the list may make the abroad experience seem.