(Inspired by Thought Catalog)
Receive your acceptance letter. Be super-excited for 5 days, and then push it to the back of your mind for awhile. Keep getting emails about immigration, and put them all off until the last minute. So it’s late, you think. It’ll work out. It does, but spend all day stressing and running around until you finally know that you made the deadline. Buy a flight. When the money disappears from your bank account, that’s when it feels real.
Start packing the night before you leave. Pack your suitcases full of all the things you use regularly and a bunch of things you don’t, and then take out all the useless stuff. Repack after convincing yourself that yes, you really need that drawing from kindergarten to remind you of home. Your parents roll their eyes and say you won’t use half of it. (They are right.) But you’re an adult, and you know what you’re doing. Thank god when your suitcases are under the weight limit at the airport.
Arrive in Argentina. Begin the awkward process of making new friends, and go out to bars and clubs that you will never go to again. Realize you can’t understand anything this country does. Go on the colectivos and the subte for the first time, and marvel at how cheap taxis are. Pretend to listen to orientation. Two weeks later, you will wish you had listened, but right now, who gives a fuck? You’re in Buenos Aires, and that’s all that really matters.
Start classes, and immediately bitch about the fact that you can’t party and sightsee every day. Try some mate. Live on empanadas and steak and choripan and Malbec and alfajores. Find the bar that you’ll end up going to every weekend. Drink too much Quilmes and Fernet. Discover Lost and Crobar. Be super-excited the first time you have a successful conversation with an Argentine. Be kind of annoyed when nobody will stop making jokes about you being American, but play along. Go to San Telmo, to MALBA, to Plaza Francia. Take way too many photos, and title them in Spanish.
At one point, hate being here. There might be a catalyst – you get mugged, or have a fight with your host mom. Or maybe it’s just homesickness. Miss vegetables, your family, Thanksgiving. Miss having everybody understand you. Miss not worrying about your safety all the time. Miss American dollars, your friends. Have an awful drunken night, after which you promise never to drink again. This resolution lasts maybe an hour. Be excited around Americans because only they can understand exactly how much you miss peanut butter. But even then, it’s not the same.
Suddenly, everything changes. Realize you only have a few months left here, and promise yourself that you’ll go to all the touristy sights, do all the things that got lost in the drunken, studious, absolutely foreign blur that is you in Buenos Aires. Do it for a few days, and then fall back into your routine. Go on a day trip – to Colonia, to Tigre. Carry around a mate gourd with you, and wonder how you ever lived without the drink. Have an awful experience with a micro or an airline, but laugh about it because what else can you expect? Get used to the slow service and the constant piropos and just being here. Go somewhere else for a weekend and be hit with the realization that you miss home, but you miss Buenos Aires too. Start calling Spanish castellano and saying che and boludo and considering yourself to be kind of Argentine. One day, somebody thinks you really are Argentine. It makes your day, your week, and maybe even your whole time here.
One day, realize you’re leaving next week. Panic. Go to all your favorite places. Say goodbye to your favorite people. Make promises to come back to Buenos Aires, and invite them home. Maybe they’ll visit you. Maybe they won’t. Fit in all the things you never got around to doing. Everything becomes special, because everything will change far too soon. Be excited, unbelievably excited, to go home to the places and the people and the country you love. Be sad, unbelievably sad, to leave the places and the people and the country you love.
Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? That strange emotion you feel for this country, this city. You fell in love. Because even the worst days make for some damn good stories, and the best are, well, the best.
On your last night here, walk into a bar or a club with the people who have made this country what it is here, and say Salud. Salud to youth, to friendship, to traveling, to foreignness, to what you didn’t know, to what you do now, to you. Salud to Argentina.
And when your plane leaves the ground, think this:
Adios, Argentina. Adios, Buenos Aires. Hasta luego.