How I can make the most out of a few months living in a foreign country? If you've spent time living abroad, what kinds of things were you most glad you did (and/or most regret not doing)? What helped you feel like you were really experiencing/appreciating a different culture?
(Definitely interested in general advice, but FYI I'm in Buenos Aires if you have specific thoughts.)
I'm a little more than halfway through four months abroad, and I really want to make the most out of my remaining time in Argentina! A big part of why I came here was to try to experience a different country and different culture in a substantive way by spending several months in one place. What are the best ways I can try to do that? What kinds of experiences have you had abroad that you feel were the most meaningful/interesting/illuminating? What questions could I be asking/what kinds of conversations could I be having?
Feel free to just jump ahead and answer from your own experiences, or here are some details about me and my situation:
I'm not a student, although I kind of view this trip like the study abroad I never had (I'm 31 now.) I'm here alone, and living in my own studio apartment. I'm volunteering roughly 5-15 hours a week on a fairly unpredictable schedule and taking a few hours a week of Spanish lessons, and I've also been trying to go to a couple language exchange nights a week. Other than a couple weeklong trips with visiting family, I've stayed and plan to continue to stay in Buenos Aires until I return to the US.
I'd like to deepen my experience and understanding broadly, but I'm especially interested in understanding more about politics and social movements here, how people think about and engage around social justice and social change, etc. Both currently and historically... for example, I'm interested in understanding more about people's experiences and thoughts about the crisis and popular response here in 2001-2002, and how and why things have changed between then and now. I also feel like there's a particularly big gaping hole in that I haven't really seen much of what poverty's like here at all, my exposure has basically been limited to working class, middle class, and upper class life (I'm thinking about trying to add some additional volunteering to get at this, but not sure the logistics will work.)
One change I've thought of so far is just trying to come up with better, more substantive and probing questions to ask Argentines I interact with, especially at the language exchange nights. Any suggestions for good questions to ask/good approaches to trying to get into deeper and more illuminating conversations? (I will undoubtedly feel super-nervous and awkward about starting conversations on this stuff, which is part of why I haven't done much of it so far, but hopefully between the alcohol and some good advice/ideas for how to semi-smoothly bring it up, I can make myself do it.)
(Some challenges which I've been giving into too much but really want to try to push through more: I'm introverted, low energy, and a homebody; somewhat shy and socially anxious, as well as more generally anxious/nervous about things like personal safety and crime; and my Spanish is only high-intermediate with a tendency to freeze up and do worse in any conversation that's at all important to me. (This is me
.) I don't have any friends here, although I do get to have friendly conversations with Argentines at language exchanges, but I'm nervous and awkward about how to extend those into something more and haven't been able to so far-- I'm awkward and terrible at making friends at home too, so if your advice is "make friends" I need more help than that to figure out how to actually do it!)
I'd really love to hear your experiences and suggestions. Thanks so much!