Studying abroad doesn’t just provide the opportunity to learn about the culture of the city you’re temporarily going to school in, but it also allows you to travel and explore other parts of the country or the continent while you do so. Planning these side trips in a foreign country can be a little intimidating because you can’t fully prepare for everything that could happen, but you should still push outside your comfort zone and visit as many different places as possible when you’re studying abroad. Even if you encounter obstacles along the way, it’s more likely that you’ll end up having fun and learning more than you ever imagined.
There were so many places I wanted to explore while I was studying abroad in Argentina—in Buenos Aires (BA) where the university is, as well Argentina’s many varied landscapes and some of the nearby countries. I could hardly decide where to go first! I learned quickly that places in Argentina are much more spread out than they are in Europe, so I had to be choosy about where I decided to travel on my weekends off from school. I mean, this country is HUGE!
One weekend, I attempted a bus trip to Santiago, Chile, with a group of international students (I was the only American). Unfortunately, we were hit with a freak late-spring snowstorm and couldn’t cross the mountains. So, I spent 72 hours on a bus with strangers, but surprisingly, that turned out to be a pretty cool and unique experience in itself. Everyone tried to make the best of the long ride, and after we got turned away from the mountain pass for the second day in a row, we stopped for an impromptu beach party on the way back to BA! It was a good reminder that sometimes the most memorable and interesting trips are because of the unexpected (good and bad) experiences we have while traveling. Plus, the fact that I was stuck on the bus with so many different students helped me practice and become more confident in my conversational Spanish.
I was able to take a school-sponsored trip to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, about an hour ferry ride away, which made it a great day trip. This was the first time I ventured out of Argentina while studying in BA. Colonia was originally a Portuguese city and has an interesting blend of Spanish and Portuguese infrastructure. There are a few small museums you can check out, a lighthouse you can climb to the top of the inside (although, my fear of heights kept me on the ground), and tons of Instagrammable views everywhere the eye can see.
I was also fortunate enough to take our weeklong fall break to travel to Machu Picchu, Peru, with my mom. There are not sufficient words to describe what it was like seeing Machu Picchu and the other Incan temples and farming areas in the Sacred Valley region of Peru, but it was one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever had. (The beauty of Peru almost made me forget the motion sickness I had zooming along those mountain roads in taxis and tour buses to get to our destinations.
I got to see Incan crop terraces, which somehow use an inclined step structure to maintain a stable climate for growing food. I got to see multiple llamas and alpacas (and take selfies with them.) But the most amazing part was Machu Picchu. The kind of construction they were able to do without modern-day power tools baffles me, and you can see evidence in their buildings of how the Incan people accounted for shifts in the tectonic plates of the Andes mountains and then built their houses and shops to withstand earthquakes.
Unexpected = Amazing
Getting to experience new places and learn more about different cultures is one of the best parts of studying abroad. I loved traveling in South America, even though it posed challenges communicating in a different language and navigating cultural differences. But, traveling and studying abroad is definitely worth working through any difficulties that might pop up along the way. As you can see from the experiences I shared, the unexpected events really made for some amazing memories. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to not give up on the prospect of traveling and exploring when things don’t go the way you expect. There’s not much I’d change if I could do my semester in Buenos Aires over again—except that I would have either flown there earlier (to give me time to explore before school started) or stayed longer, so I could explore South America some more!
Do you want to explore another country or continent while you’re going to school? Learn more about studying abroad with Champlain College and all the additional opportunities that it provides students.
Quinn Kanner is a Junior majoring in Professional Writing with a Journalism specialization and a Foreign Language minor. She is also a Student Ambassador and works as a Student Writer in Champlain’s Marketing Department.