Hello again from Argentina! I am here to say once again, that time really does fly, because the fact that I am already one third of a way through my exchange is absolutely - loco - !
My month began with my counsellor, which is so fitting as he has become such a nice and comforting person in my exchange. 1 de Mayo is ‘workers day’ and a public holiday for Argentina. The argentinian’s eat ‘locro’ on this day, which is a traditional dish in Argentina that is almost a combination of a stew, a curry and a soup and is one of my all time favourites! I went to my counsellor’s house and spent time with his family and I felt so welcomed, and it was nice to be treated like a ‘granddaughter’. 

This month I changed into my second host family which for me marks such an important part of an exchange. I am really happy with this change and being in my new family. I have three siblings, and two parents. My host mum, Paola, has been so lovely! She has bought all of my favourite food and helped me to find both a gym and a dance studio close to my area. She doesn’t speak any english, which makes practicing Spanish much easier! Even though I’ve only been in my host family for a few weeks I am enjoying it very much. 
My language at month four is going really well and I am feeling quite on top of things. I can talk on the phone (a very stressful thought for the first 3 months) and can understand almost everything! There are still some people that are more difficult than others and I’m not quite sure why that is and talking in a group is still definitely difficult, but I can always get the message across of what I am trying to say. I am now having free flowing conversations in school which I am very excited about! I feel like after 4 months, the language has finally clicked and even when people are speaking at a normal speed I am able to understand.
School is just great, as it has been in my other reports, and is now even better since my Spanish has improved so much. I really feel like part of the class, and my friends told me it felt like something was ‘missing’ when I went away for my trip. I enjoy being the exciting ‘foreigner’ but at the same time love that I just feel part of the class and welcomed by really everybody! I sit in a different place some days too, so I talk to people other than just my close 6 group of girlfriends. Another thing about Argentina is that if a teacher doesn’t come or if there is a meeting we are able to leave early from school and quite honestly I can’t remember the last time I had a ‘full’ day of school! Sometimes I leave school at 12 or even 10.30. I’ve also made friends with my dean, Dani, and it’s nice to have another adult checking in on me.

I went on my North Trip on the 19th of May for 15 days with the other exchange students of my district, along with some from other districts and even one boy from the US that is on exchange in Paraguay. We went to the Iguazu Falls, Salta (with a lot of cacti and the mountain of seven colours), Jujuy (here I bought 3 sweaters made of llama wool + a poncho), Mendoza (we went to the beginning of the Andes), and lastly to Buenos Aires. It was really such an amazing adventure! We slept for many nights on the bus and played endless games of “Truco” which sometimes lasted for 3 or 4 hours at a time. I became the closest with the group from Germany, and really loved Nils, Jan and Franzi. I also became very close with Parker, William (from Paraguay) and Lindsey who lives in the South of Argentina. Something I did find on the trip though was how clicky/groupy it was! There was around 20 of the group that only spoke french and nothing else, and would make zero effort with anyone else! It was almost like they were living a completely different trip to me.
Even with the late night talks with all of them, the laughs, deep conversations, different perspectives, games and adventures, I didn’t realise how incredible the friendships I was building were. On the last day, we all wrote in books or flags for each other and really, really cried, because what if we never see these people again? For me, and I know it is the same for many exchange students, I made some of the closest friends I have made in my entire life in just two weeks and it’s absolutely heartbreaking that we live in different continents. To think that for a small moment I considered not going on the trip scares me, because the connection I was able to make with some people, especially Nils (Germany) and Lindsey (USA) blows me away, but also makes the world a smaller place. I never imagined I’d cry so much to leave these people but we just couldn’t stop as we left the bus.
I’ve also been thinking about some advice for future exchange students and thought I’d write it down so I don’t forget!
  • Bring as much food as you can from NZ because you will not regret it!
  • Write a diary. I write in my diary every day/every second day and it is such an amazing tool both for reflection and to really understand the emotional rollercoaster that you’ll go on.
  • Since you aren’t speaking your first language, body language is such an important thing! Hug your friends and smile a lot. Also, asking classmates questions about the language really helps because they find it so interesting! It helped me get to know a lot of people, and sometimes I’d write short texts about New Zealand and get people to check them for grammar.
  • The advice ‘say yes to everything’ is very good and something every student should take on board, but I also think ‘create your own opportunities’ should be a key phrase that’s shared too. You don’t always have to wait for people to ask you to do something or to be invited somewhere. Invite them! Or if it’s your counsellor or another family ask if you can invite yourself to help build that connection.
  • Every family is really very different and sometimes you have to read the situation. It took me a while to not feel guilty about the fact that my family spends time in their rooms when they are at home or that my host sister is extremely hot and cold. You have to do what’s best for the situation and you cannot force families to be how they are in NZ.
  • Talk as much as possible even when it’s wrong!
I’m sure I’ll have more advice next month but these are the important ones I’ve noted. Once again, the biggest thank you to Papakura Rotary because without them, none of this would be possible. I’m having an absolutely amazing time here. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been living here for 10 seconds and other times for 10 years and I guess that’s the beauty of exchange. Time flies!