I just got back from my third photography class here in Buenos Aires. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. Unlike the university classes I’m taking for credit, I’m the only native English-speaker and the class is not designed around my needs. In addition to a lot of fast Spanish, the discussions often involve technical photography terms which sound nothing like their English counterparts that I am so familiar with. But, I’m not complaining.  The class is fantastic practice for my Spanish (although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to roll those damn R’s) and everyone in the class, professor included, is incredibly patient and helpful with me. I even had a brief conversation about my 24-mm lens today with another student!

This past week, our assignment was to take photos to illustrate the different rules of composition. A pretty typical assignment but it was a fun way to challenge myself. It forced me to look for out of the ordinary situations. These are a few of my favorites – apparently I was particularly drawn to unique lighting this week. Enjoy!

Silhouette of tree branches in a park in Buenos Aires.

Palacio Hirsch in Belgrano "R", Buenos Aires.

A candle glows in the "Rotunda" Cathedral in Belgrano, Buenos Aires.

A drawing of John Lennon in Barrancas Park, Belgrano, Buenos Aires.

A view of the obelisk down a street in El Centro of Buenos Aires.

This post first appeared on July 22 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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The title of this post is a Czech Proverb that my friend quoted the other day during lunch.  I have been thinking about these nine words since then.

In coming to Buenos Aires, one of my main goals was to become functionally fluent in Spanish. Technically, I have been studying the language for eight years (high school and college) but upon arriving here, I did not feel comfortable speaking to native speakers at all.  Today was the last day of my intensive month-long Spanish class and I am amazed at how far I’ve come in just four weeks.

The whole ASA gang out for drinks five weeks ago.

Today on the way home from class, I stopped by a fruit stand to buy a few apples.  I had the following conversation with the vendor:

Me: I’ll take two red apples and two green apples.

Vendor: Ok. Are you North American?

Me: laughs, Yes, I’m from the United States.  Is it obvious?

Vendor: Oh yes, very obvious. Want me to wash these for you?

Me: Oh yes, thanks a bunch!

While not an intellectual conversation about the state of Argentine politics, I was thrilled that this exchange didn’t consist mainly of finger pointing, “Sí,” and “¿Qué?. In this moment, I realized that I truly understand more than I did a month ago and I can express myself a bit more clearly.  In other words, I’m getting there.

In addition, my host mom, Carmen, told me that she’s surprised how much better my Spanish has become.  So, I’m not making this up!

I realized last week that the moment I started to feel more comfortable with this new language was the moment that I stopped trying to translate everything directly. I realized that I have to think in Spanish to be able to speak in it.  This is a fact that others have told me but I never truly understood it until I experienced it.  This brings me back to the Czech proverb.  Learning a new language is not just about learning rojo means red and lo siento means I’m sorry.  It’s teaching yourself a whole new way of thinking. I have to think how would a Spanish speaker express this thought – not how do I translate what I want to say. A new way of thinking – a new “soul”.

I still wouldn’t call myself fluent but I am excited to see how much I improve over the next four months. But for now, I’m off to catch a bus for a 21-hour drive to Salta, a northern province of Argentina, for the next week. I’ll let you know how that goes in my next post. Chau!

This post first appeared on July 3 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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One of my main reasons for coming to Argentina for five months was to immerse myself in the Spanish language.  I’ve been studying it for years but always in a classroom.  I knew that I needed to speak it everyday before I would truly know the language.  And, for the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that my brain goes into “survival mode” when I have no options other than to speak Spanish.  Yesterday, I had such an experience.

I mentioned in a previous post that my host mom has a student from the States renting out a room in her house for the first month that I’m here.  The student’s name is Tejinder and she’s actually from India but she’s working on her PhD at Ohio University. Today she had a terrible toothache and Carmen suggested that she go to the hospital at the University of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately for Teji, our host brother Nico was unable to go with her to help translate (he speaks pretty good English) and my roommate Stephanie, who speaks much better Spanish than I, was in bed all day with an awful cold/flu. So, she asked me if I would go to the UBA Hospital to help translate for her since she only knows basic Spanish.

La Facultad de Medicina at the University of Buenos Aires

We made our way down the Subte to la Facultad de Medicina.  After wandering through a couple buildings, asking multiple people “¿Donde está la guarda de odontologia?” we managed to find the Dental Urgent Care Center.

Luckily the receptionist spoke a little English. Between my broken Spanish, her broken English and Teji and I’s limited ability to communicate with the doctor directly, we were able to get all the information we needed. In total, we spent about 4 hours on this adventure and I literally kissed the receptionist and doctor when we left, so thankful to have gotten through it (this is much more socially acceptable here than in the U.S…). And, amazingly, it left me feeling slightly more confident in my ability to survive on this foreign continent.