This blog began as a compilation of my tips for studying abroad, but after seeing buzzfeed posts detailing the “12 reasons to study in a foreign country,” “_____insert number here of the things Argentina can teach Americans” etc. (let your imagination run wild), I decided that studying abroad for me can certainly be a list (I haven’t changed that much—no worries), but that sometimes the darker “growth moments” may not be publicized. I’m taking that leap and I hope, at the very least, I can give you all some food for thought. As I always say, I would love to hear your ideas and reactions via a Facebook message, a comment or whatever floats your boat. To be fair, this is the first time I have published my personal musings on the Internet and the most rewarding result of this risk has been the feedback I’ve received from friends and family. You are valued.
That all being said and though it might be a controversial topic, I’d like to share some insight I think I’ve gained about the hook-up culture abroad. What do I mean by “hook-up culture” exactly? I’m referring to the sometimes overwhelming urge to find a “fling” or even a relationship in a foreign land. I will be the first person to say that going abroad certainly offers the opportunity to reinvent yourself. New people, new cultures, new routine, there are chances to truly push the boundaries of your comfort zone. However, I’m here to say that you—the you at your core—your past experiences, your values, your psychological, emotional and physical needs, don’t disappear when you change zip codes or even countries. While these things may shift (albeit dramatically) they still occupy a part of your soul. So, how does one balance the desire to explore, expand, experiment and also embrace what they have come to find is their identity? This is not a question I have the answer to, particularly because it is deeply personal and has the potential to vary person to person. Nevertheless, my attempt at answering it for myself is to simply say I don’t subscribe to the “hook-up culture,” I subscribe to the meditative, challenging process of determining how each situation serves me or on the contrary puts me in a position where I could lose a part of myself. It’s a fine line, a grey area, that until now I have been more or less unwilling to “sit with.” I’ve always been more of a black and white kind of person but the world is full of too many beautiful colors. Now, I would like to be clear that this section of my blog isn’t meant to tell anybody how to behave, nor to pass judgment on people who engage in casual hook-ups, I’m only using it as an example of a still relevant aspect of my trip that has challenged me. As a (still newly) single woman in my early 20’s in Argentina, I’ve had to engage with myself in many debates, some of which I would like to list below:
1) To drink or not to drink. In a culture where drinking is entirely regarded as a vehicle for socializing ( a welcome change from the motive to get drunk that sometimes can be observed at parties in the United States), saying no can take on a new level of complexity. I can say that the meaning behind my no has actually taken on more meanings since my arrival in Argentina. I’ll start with the traditional explanations:
“Why don’t you drink?”
-I don’t enjoy the flavor of alcohol.
-If I don’t enjoy it, why would I spend money on it or ask myself to drink it?
-I went to a therapeutic boarding school and I have had friends who have struggled with addiction.
And the newest additions:
–I’m afraid to completely let go, as a result of a substance. I’d like to be able to achieve the “euphoric” feeling by reaching a level of presence that allows it.
-While I’m curious what it might feel like to be drunk, I cherish my body and I don’t care to experience the aftermath.
2) Spending money. Yet another topic that can be influenced by the “travel bug.” “Oh I’m only here once in my life and it’s not thaaaaat expensive.” “Ugh, I can’t make a decision, there are too many options and I’m just not sure I should get it.” Okay. Pause. Take a step back from the painting, maté, dress, whatever and ask “Do you really want it? Do you have a gut feeling? Will there be other opportunities to purchase something like it? Have you been thinking about it for a while? How does this object serve you? What symbolism does it hold for you? You might be thinking, Morgan that’s all well and good, but how am I supposed to implement that in a bustling flea market where everything seems to be one of a kind. Great question! My friend that is the perfect place to give it a shot! There’s a phrase in Spanish which says “dar la vuelta,” which essentially translates into walk around and return later. Is this foolproof? No. Does it give you some breathing space in a potentially claustrophobic environment? In my experience (I cannot predict yours), yes. I have found that when I take the time to put this into practice, I have less regrets about my decisions and in the long run am more satisfied with the things I’ve bought.
3) FOMO. This somewhat silly abbreviation is meant to illustrate the concept of a “fear of missing out.” In other words, let’s consider a hypothetical situation. Some folks invite you out to eat a little something and you’re struck with a moment of intense indecisiveness. You have homework to do and you’re not particularly jazzed about getting home late because you have a bus ride ahead of you. Predictably, you take into account the time you have left and after all of this brain buzz—no decision— and the folks are still standing there awaiting an answer. Let’s consider a couple of things that didn’t immediately enter your cranium. Do you enjoy their company? Does the conversation stimulate you? Would you be present during the conversation or daydreaming of your obligations? Now picture this experience in the context of going to a club, venturing out of the city on a trip to another province etc. etc. etc. Simply put, I’ve made a lot of tough decisions, some of which I’ve contemplated making differently the next time but others I’ve been really grateful for.
So there you have it folks, an introduction to what seems to me will be a rather lengthy re-adjustment and reflection process when I return to the United States. To my Argentine friends, I will be working on a translation of this post to share later this weekend, this was on the tip of my tongue so I wanted to get it on the page, you are still very important to me!
In closing, I wish anyone who comes across this page a fantastic weekend, filled with adventures, contemplation (if you’re in a place to do so) and laughs. We’ll be in touch.