“A ti te gusta boludear!” My tia, Tia Yeye, yells as I open the door, a chuckle emerging from her lips as I smile back at her. It was Tuesday, 9:10 A.M. in the morning, and I had class at 10:00 A.M. I tell her that I love her and I close the door, hopping down the stairs as I walk hastily to the subtle stop, Line A, 3 minutes from my home. I stop by the local bakery in which I ordered empanadas regularly, one of spinach and one of chicken, along with apple juice on the go. Listening to 90s Latin rock with my headphones, I walk down to the station and swipe my card, catching the subway by lucky chance. I live with my host family in the barrio of Caballito, a beautiful, vibrant part of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Attending a design school in the city of Buenos Aires has been a dream, one which has allowed me to grow and expand my knowledge and passion as an artist. Taking classes at a local university’s (Universidad del Salvadore a.k.a USAL) school of architecture and design has pushed me as a creative person and made me build connections with local artists and get in touch with the art scene. My professors have been inspirational and passionate about their jobs, which makes learning more interesting and enjoyable. Learning about something I love in Spanish has been pleasant, as I am using my native language and strengthening my understanding of art in two different languages. In my favorite class of USAL, Plastica y Vision (Plastic and Vision), we were assigned to create 3 artworks inspired by different art styles, create merchandise for each piece, and work on a final animation piece, all while sustaining weeks of back-to-back class critique –all in Spanish. This class has challenged me, as I was forced to experiment with different art styles that I would have not considered. In these classes, I have built strong friendships with multiple people, all being excited to form a friendship with me as much as I was with them. Victoria, Martina, Camila, Mar, and Clara are my closest friends at USAL, whose friendships have enriched my life here, as hanging out with them has been fun and full of love, spending time to do homework or get ice cream at the local McDonalds or Freddos. I am thankful for the opportunity to have taken classes at the local universities, as I feel that I have lived a very fruitful experience with more authenticity and closeness to the city.
My host family was extremely dear and special to me, both two women who have impacted my life for the better with their kindness and warmth. Mama Eli and Tia Yeye are caring, kind, funny, and special women who impact their circles, as they are people who have so much love to give. I ate lunch and dinner with them, and they both would make incredible Argentine dishes every day. At home, I was happy and cared for, as both Eli and Yeye made me feel so welcomed and loved.
Eli is a wonderful grandmother who has such a tender and sweet soul, she makes me laugh and takes care of me when I am feeling down. She fills your life with joyous and authentic love for her family and for you, as she makes sure you are family when you are at home. An avid lover of pilates, platters of sushi, making beautiful food dishes, and having game nights with her friends, sitting at the round table Friday and Saturday nights, laughing over their numbers and sharing slices of pizza. She loves to laugh and make quick witty jokes that had everyone at the table laughing. Eli is a bright spirit and the person who introduced me to a lot of topics surrounding
Argentine culture. We would sit at the table talking and sharing memories of our families which we held fondly in our hearts. Yeye has been the most inspiring person I have met on this trip, conversations with her truly changed my life. I am so appreciative of the time I have spent with her, as she has imparted so much wisdom, from her journeys in Argentina to personal anecdotes of love, family, and growth. In one of the first conversations I had with her, we sat down for hours as I listened to her reminisce about how she sold everything she owned, shaved all her hair off, and bought camping supplies she did not know how to use, finally buying a one-way ticket to the edge of Argentina and making her way around the country for 8 years. She is fearless and courageous, always unafraid to take the road not taken, haven run away from jaguars in the jungle, to trekking mountains and plains. I have never met quite a person like her, someone so real and authentic. She talks to you with a spark behind her eyes, a little mischievous flicker as she goes, “Y qué planes tienes hoy? Porque nunca estás en casa!”
Last but not least, my time with my IFSA group has been incredible, an experience which I did not expect, as they are people that are so different yet so similar to me. All of the people that I have befriended on this trip are now people I cherish and adore, people with the same passion for travel and for culture as I do. Each and every one of my friends is a passionate student, students with a respectful view toward cultural understanding and intersectionality, and people that are open to trying new things and come in with a learning mindset. With my friends, I have gone to Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital, and explored the Andes; Iguazu, Argentina’s beautiful connection point to Brazil and to the Amazon jungle, an immersive journey to cataracts that produce rainbows and a host to a wide variety of wildlife, and Tigre, a beautiful river city in which represents a beautiful intersection of nature and city life; and of course, Buenos Aires, a city in which held a certain type of magic and livelihood. From being 13,000 feet up in the mountains to being rained on by waterfalls, to sidewalks of pavement with bustling city life, Argentina has proved to be a city full of wonderful and intricate details that create a beautiful varied landscape.
I type this with a bittersweet feeling, as it has been beautiful building a life in such a wonderful country, loving as many people as I possibly can on this trip. I am a girl whose parents came from Ecuador, was born in Miami, who studies in New York (the first of my family to study out of state for college), and now, am the first to do a study abroad course. My mom was worried, being from Latin America and her telling me about the political state of most countries, which is a valid concern, but it is important to take a leap of faith and allow yourself to take lessons as they come. My time in Buenos Aires was full of love, loving new people, building new connections, allowing myself to venture creatively, and maturing in my independence. I created many different families there, learned so many valuable lessons and information in my academic ventures, and people with which I share lots of fond memories and places that have left an impact on me for a lifetime. If I could do this experience all over again with IFSA, I would do it with no hesitation.
Emily Fienco is a student at Hamilton College and studied abroad with IFSA in Buenos Aires in the Spring 2022 semester.