Evan studied in Argentina on the IES: Buenos Aires, Latin American Societies and Cultures program during Fall 2015.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
To immerse yourself in a culture unlike the one you grew up in. It’s amazing what you can learn just by living an ordinary life of an individual in a foreign city.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
I would pack less and initially put myself into more challenging situations (like normal conversations with strangers).
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking city/country, but did not want to go the typical route and travel to Europe. However beneficial and wonderful a European experience would have been, I wanted to experience a place that is typically overlooked, Argentina.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
The guidance of IES helped me find my fit in the city of Buenos Aires. I quickly learned the ins and outs of the city so I could effectively assimilate into the culture. I still had a lot of my own exploring to do, but without their help I’m not sure I would have been as successful.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
My communication skills have increased tenfold. I know how to speak more effectively (in Spanish and English) with my peers, professors, and professionals in the search for a job. My writing skills have also improved. By absorbing the writing structure of a different language I was exposed to new perspectives on constructing my words. I have become a much better student because of my abroad experiences.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
I was very fortunate to be able to travel while I studied abroad. Not only could I witness the beauty of Buenos Aires, but I was able to travel to Iguazu Falls, Mendoza, and Patagonia in Argentina, as well as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Throughout my travels I learned about the indigenous cultures of the areas. Learning through experiences and exposure is far different and extremely more effective than learning through a textbook. I got to participate in traditional practices so that I could be fully immersed in the culture and understand the history of the people.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
Be open-minded and try new things. Try to move outside of your comfort zone because those are the experiences that will affect your life the most. My most memorable experiences abroad are the ones when I was trying something new, whether if it was trying cow tongue in Mendoza or hopping on a random bus to a new neighborhood I had never explored in Buenos Aires.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
On my taxi ride from the airport to my homestay, I was completely culture shocked. Not only was I riding blindly through the pitch black depths of the outer city limits of Buenos Aires, but I was forced to converse with the driver who spoke absolutely zero words of English. I didn’t think I would have to immediately speak Spanish to anyone but there I was depending on my so-so Spanish to get me 30 minutes to my destination. I stumbled over my words at every opportunity and turned bright red from the embarrassment. The driver was so understanding (not of what I was saying, but of my struggle) and we worked together to eventually communicate effectively. In our short conversation I had already tackled a huge challenge, one that I had been worrying about for the many months leading up to my abroad experience. I communicated with a local! I learned that through some critical, on-your-feet thinking I could overcome an anxiety-inducing obstacle. No matter how small this car ride was in the grand scheme of my experiences abroad, it stuck with me more than any grand adventure I had. These little moments abroad contributed to the confident and problem-solving person I am today.