It didn’t seem like all that long ago that I was shoving layers of clothing and other belongings in my two suitcases, overcome with excitement and nervousness. This time, though, my thoughts meandered through memories of the past four months, and my eagerness to see my family and friends at home was tinged with the dismal reality that my long-anticipated adventure was over. The memories swam together in a dreamlike rush, and it was hard to believe that it all really happened.
It was Thanksgiving Day, only not in Argentina. I had taken my last final, partaken in a make-shift holiday feast with a few friends, and was preparing to go to my program’s farewell dinner. With finals and a rushed attempt to fit in everything I hadn’t yet experienced, the past few weeks in Buenos Aires had passed by in fast forward. I wanted a few more days to stop and take it all in one last time.
I hurried out the door, and my walk took me back to that first week. Streets now so familiar had seemed strange and confusing. Now, they were home. “Twenty-five hour” convenience stores and unprovoked catcalls formed part of a backdrop of normalcy that no longer stood out.
The dinner, more like a high school function replete with appetizers, was housed in a beautiful ballroom, seemingly much too fancy for the occasion. Somehow, everyone showed up in formal attire, and I was glad I had opted for a dress. As a nostalgia-inducing slideshow played, students shared fond memories and reluctant goodbyes.
I looked around and realized how few of these people I actually knew, wondering if this almost universal group affinity was genuine or had materialized just for farewells. I had made some incredible friends, but I knew that what I’d miss most was the city and the experiences I’d had. And when I thought about it, a satisfaction settled in. I had come to Buenos Aires to get to know the “Paris of South America,” and I would leave having accomplished that.
I left the event with a few friends, and when I stepped outside I could still hear the cheesy music booming within. I walked away with an odd mixture of nostalgia and freedom. It was really over. Study abroad was behind me.
We went out to celebrate our last night in the city, starting at a friend’s apartment and ending at a club we’d never been to. There was something thrilling about venturing somewhere new rather revisiting a frequented favorite, as it felt like my adventure was continuing rather than tarrying in reminiscence.
Okay, I guess it wasn’t really my last night, as my parents arrived the next morning for three days in the city followed by a Patagonian vacation. But it felt like the end of my solo experience and the start of a shared one with my parents. It was an ending, and it was one to be remembered.
Seeing my parents for the first time in so long made me realize that I’d missed them so much more than when I was at school at Northwestern. I shared my life in Buenos Aires with them, showing them all my favorite places and doing some of the touristy things I never got around to.
Patagonia was incredible. In Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the world, we boated around the Beagle Channel and hiked in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Though the weather was miserable (snowing in December for the first time in years), we enjoyed the natural beauty of the area. It didn’t compare, however, with what we saw in El Calafate. A boat tour took us to three different glaciers which rose out of Lake Argentino like ice castles glittering with a majestic blue brilliance.
It wasn’t a stagnant sight, as we witnessed chunks snapping off and plunging into the icy water with the shattering crack of thunder. The next day, we did a mini-trekking excursion in which we were outfitted with crampons and guided onto a glacier. We snaked our way along the uneven surface, the metal spikes of our crampons slicing into the ice with a satisfying crunch. Glowing blue crevasses cut through towers of chunky ice, and I felt like I was navigating through some cotton candy forest in Candy Land. Our guide led us to a wooden table stationed in the middle of this frozen frontier and offered us whiskey and alfajores (traditional Argentine cookies) to toast a successful trek.
Somehow, my final vacation passed by too quickly as well, and I’m now facing the reality of my return to the U.S. I’m not sure what to expect, as I know this experience has changed me and that, in my absence, home has probably changed too. But I am looking forward to returning to my old life with a new perspective and reconnecting with everyone I’ve missed.