I cannot believe that it has been four months since I got here. Four months of new friends, hard work, and so many unforgettable experiences.
These past few weeks have been super busy. I’ve been finishing up my independent study project about the population of Magellanic penguins on Isla Martillo, which turned out to be a twenty-nine page paper. We ended up analyzing the philopatry and survival rates between 2020-2022, and I’m very proud of it. The ten hour work days and the thousands of flea bites (because it turns out these penguins have fleas???) were all worth it. It was nerve-wracking, but extremely gratifying to be able to present that project yesterday to my classmates.
Today we are being treated to a night away in a hotel just outside of Ushuaia, with just the kids from the program. Tomorrow, we are going to have a little going-away party with all of our host families. And then that’s it – we’re done! I am going to miss this place dearly. I am going to miss all of my friends, my adventure buddies, who have made this experience so amazing: it is so rare to have a group of fourteen people and have no drama, just great vibes. I am going to miss the freedom that comes from living on your own, the independence that comes with being in charge of your own situation and schedule. I’m going to miss the mate culture and the openness of the people. And I will miss the nature and the hiking – don’t get me wrong, I love my home, but having a forest in your backyard is something else.
All that being said, I am so excited to see my family (especially my dog!) again. I am dying for some vegetables and culinary diversity beyond meat and bread. I have been shopping for weeks to celebrate the holidays, which are nowhere near as big here as they are in the US (we aren’t religious at all but Christmas gift giving is my superpower and I LIVE for it). And, obviously, I can’t wait to see all my home friends again.
I am a bit nervous about traveling on Sunday, given that Argentina is in the finals of the World Cup, and I am landing in Buenos Aires for a layover (in which I have to switch airports) in the middle of the first half. So that should be interesting – I am absolutely rooting for Messi and Argentina, but if they win, our itineraries might have to change a bit.
But four months. Wow. I can’t believe how much has happened. I don’t really think I’ve changed that much as a person really – I already spoke Spanish and I like to think that I am relatively adaptable. But I don’t think that I will really know if I have changed or not until I get back to the States. That will be the real test – how have I changed in the eyes of the people who know me the best.
This program has really been the best experience of my life. Aside from the Antarctica trip, which I don’t think I will ever top, I feel like I got the best of all the worlds here. Ushuaia is a decent sized city, with a bustling tourist and year-round population. There are a lot of unique ecosystems and enough international and national political and sociological dilemmas to make the classes interesting. The local activities and foods are cheap enough that, combined with the stipend that we received from the program, I will have only spent a total of $100 USD in-country. Most of my classes transfer credit and I get real world research experience. It’s a pretty laid back environment that has facilitated a great learning experience. It’s been the best I could ever possibly ask for.
Of course, I have to give one last shoutout to my host family. They have been absolutely wonderful. It was difficult at first, but now I really feel like part of the family, and I am definitely going to miss them a lot.
So I think that’s it for this semester. Next semester I am going to be doing another SIT program that focuses on international food systems, which I am really looking forward to. So hopefully I can use this winter break to rest and recuperate before heading off to the next adventure!
Until next time 🙂