Wednesday, August 30, 2017

7 Things I Learned in my First 30 Days

Visa not MasterCard

I got a credit card recommended by my home university. It is a MasterCard that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. That sounded great to me. I got here and quickly realized many places only take Visa. There's not a lot of information like this about Uruguay on the internet, so I feel it is very important to put this out there for anybody else interested in coming here.

Calling home doesn't help being homesick.

I was super homesick the first week. My best advice for homesickness is:
  • Find something to do. Idleness only makes it worse.
  • Don't call home. This really just makes it harder.
  • Go explore your surroundings. This is your new home. The more you explore the more comfortable you feel.

Eat first. Ask later.

If I had been told that the pie was full of spinach I probably wouldn't have eaten it, but I ate it not knowing exactly what I was eating and I lived to tell the tale. I'm a very picky eater back home. Here, I typically have no idea what I'm eating and that's ok. I've enjoyed most all of the food so far. Food is a great way to dive into the culture as well. 

Don't judge the world with American vision.

My family keeps asking me if my neighborhood is nice and if my route to school is safe. I have a hard time explaining that while they are safe, that I wouldn't feel the same way if I were in the US. There is a different standard here. My neighborhood is safe, but there's graffiti and trash in my concrete jungle. There are bars on the windows and I don't walk alone at night. I cannot judge Uruguay as I would America. They each have different ways of living and therefore cannot be judged using the same standards.

Just speak

I'm not by any means fluent in Spanish. I stumble over conjugations, mess up pronunciations, and don't know the words I need half the time. It takes me longer to process input and output. I need a minute to comprehend the question and patience when I'm trying to form my answer.  I've found that even though at times I struggle people appreciate my attempt and are more than willing to help me. My host family has been amazing about helping me. They correct me and teach me new words on a daily basis. Pointing and gestures can also get you pretty far. I've been here a month and I still embarrass myself when I try to communicate, whether it's answering a question and being completely off base or not using vocabulary words in my essay because I didn't know we were supposed to. All of my efforts to communicate have paid off though. The guy selling mate cups at the feria was very excited to talk to somebody from the States in Spanish.  I ordered ice cream and actually got what I wanted. My host dad has latched on to a funny story that I told and repeats it to everybody who comes to the house. Just speak. It's worth it.

Dive into the culture

Embrace it whole heartedly. Eat the their food, not what you are used to at home. Try out their accent.  Use their slang and gestures. Copy the people around you. You are there to learn about life there.  I've come to realize that for the rest of my life I will have a little bit of Uruguay in me. Whether that be drinking maté, pronouncing the /y/ sounds like /j/ sounds, or brushing my chin to mean I don't know. It took me a bit, but I'm finally embracing the culture here. I sip maté every morning and my double L's and Y's sometimes come out sounding less like the textbooks told me they did. I'm now trying to absorb all that I can because I understand how important it is and how it will impact the rest of my life. I'm not yet sold on the tall shoes, but other things I've embraced whole-heartedly.

You're going to learn a lot about your culture 

I've met lots of people here. People from all over the world. Being in contact with so many cultures is very interesting. Through learning about other cultures, I've learned a few things about America and myself.
  • I have a southern accent. I apparently talk with some twang. 
  • Cornbread is very American.
  • Americans get married very young. In Uruguay you are considered an adolescent until your in your 30's. In Germany, if  a girl is getting married at 22 she's probably pregnant. 
  • Americans do not travel internationally as much and do not learn as many languages most other countries. 
  • Traditional values are being lost by young people. I know that many of my values are very traditional, but now I'm realizing that I'm one of a few that have held on to them. 

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