Studying abroad has given me a new appreciation for people and how differently we all think. How do people in Argentina act differently from people in England or America? What do Australians really think of Americans, and what exactly is Vegemite made of?
Being able to talk with the different people I met from around the world gives a different perspective on life. Even just the little things, such as how people interact on the street, can provide us all with a daily dose of gratitude and perspective.
Meet Magdalena (Maggie) Garma. Born and raised in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, Maggie is a 21-year-old psychology student I met while we were both studying abroad at the University of Chester in England.
Garma’s fierce personality has fascinated me since the moment we met four months ago, and I have had the privilege of learning about her life in Argentina and why she eventually wants to move away.
Emily Wotzka (EW): What inspired you to study abroad?
Magdalena Garma (MG): I wanted to leave my home and to see what the world had to offer without my parents telling me what to think or how to behave. There was also the academic factor that made me go for it without hesitation.
EW: How is Argentina different from England?
MG: I think that Argentina is really different from England in a lot of ways. The most important one, or the one that I can see the most, is the way that we tend to communicate with other people.
For example, being super rude when walking down the street, to being late for a meeting or shouting or being loud without caring for other people.
Also, sometimes we tend to be disrespectful, but basically — from the outside, when you’ve been living (in England) for four months, and you start to live the English way — you come back here (Argentina) and you realize that people don’t give a s***.
And it’s chaotic, and it’s a mess. Especially when you live in the city, you know, you find yourself thinking, people are really going too quick, or they are pushing you, and they don’t care and they’re not going to apologize for it. That’s really what shocks you the most.
EW: You mentioned once that a lot of people from Argentina want to move to America? Why do you think that is?
MG: Okay, I think that Argentinian people, actually I’m going to take a risk and say Latin people, have always admired countries like the U.S, England (and) Europe. Those countries are countries that are not only filled with ancient, empowering history, but they somehow manage their crises and are stronger than ever.
And I feel that we are being educated since, probably, we are born to follow our dreams. And our dreams are the American dreams. The typical American dreams like going to New York and becoming a huge star. Well, we have those dreams too.
A lot of people from Argentina move to countries like Spain, the U.K. and of course, America because we are looking for new opportunities for stable economies, for a better place to raise our kids … because our security, maybe, it’s struggling.
Or maybe the country itself is struggling in every single way. Economically, socially, politically, whatever. And it’s just a huge thing (in Argentina). We are just looking for a place where we can feel safe.
We’ve been raised with the idea that there are countries outside that work. That’s why we learn as a kid how to speak Spanish at the same time that we learn to speak English. That is actually a lifesaver because if we go out and we don’t know the language, we will have to learn it eventually.
EW: What are your thoughts on culture shock?
MG: Don’t be afraid of the culture shock. You might have it; you might not. You might get homesick. You might cry at night.
I feel like people try to use culture shock as an excuse, almost like the enemy and maybe it’s not. You don’t have to be afraid of the unknown. They try to put the unknown as a frightening thing.
I feel like you should just embrace it. Just be open and flexible all the time.
EW: What’s one thing you learned?
MG: It’s hard for me to identify one thing that I learned. I feel like I’m still in limbo between here and there. I feel like even my body doesn’t even know where I am.
I can tell you that throughout this trip, I’ve learned sometimes it’s better not to have a plan.
I was diagnosed as a control freak two years ago, and I’ve been going to therapy. What I’ve learned on this trip is that all of those years of therapy paid off because I’ve learned that the best way of living is not having a plan.
EW: Anything else you’ve realized and want to share?
MG: Now that I’m thinking about it, the main one, the one that destiny got me there to just to learn, is all my life telling people how comfortable I am being on my own. But, on this trip I did that and I’ve realized that it’s something you have to train yourself to do. It’s not that easy.
The first trip that I did on my own to Manchester, I ended up coming home to the campus earlier, and saying, ‘Whatever, if I have to pay for another train ticket I will do it because this is awful.’
To going to Paris and being on my own for two days, and the first day, sitting on a bench, eating salmon and crying because I am a vegetarian and I was eating salmon that I thought was a tomato. But I kept eating it because I was too hungry to throw that salmon away.
To going for a four-day trip to Glasgow, and saying, ‘You know what? This is amazing. I am really on my own.’ It’s something you have to train yourself to do. You end up appreciating not being on your own sometimes, though.