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Was Argentina Everything I’d Been Searching For?

Obelisco de Buenos Aires Pixabay.com CC0

The rewards of pushing through uncertainty.

Argentina: A place I called home for four months.

Before I started my next volunteering abroad adventure, I failed to realize just how lucky I was to be going to such a beautiful country. I felt as though I knew what there was to know about Argentina: the newly crowned football champions of the world, home to the G.O.A.T they call Messi (a professional footballer) and a country famous for its wine.

Yet it’s a country that left me with so much more.

My journey to Buenos Aires

In March 2023, I boarded a plane at Heathrow airport, outbound to Buenos Aires. I knew from the moment I stepped on board that this time something was different in comparison to six months ago when I left for Costa Rica. I felt more prepared and excited to explore a country I knew would have so much to give and that gut feeling was more than right.

Sixteen hours later, as we made our descent into Buenos Aires, I peered out the window from my aisle seat, stretching to see the views of a city so vast it spread as far as the eye could see. A smile crept onto my face as I arrived into a country that even from the sky looked bustling and full of life.

I had made the decision to arrive in Argentina before my volunteer placement started, so I could make the most of my first few days and explore the city. On my first night in Argentina, I found a café where I sat facing the famous Obelisco (an iconic monument) and tucking into the most delicious steak baguette I had ever taste.

The adventure begins

My placement in Argentina was slightly different to the work I had been doing in Costa Rica. This time I had the opportunity to work in different parts of the country, something that initially seemed so exciting.

But after a few bumps in the road during my first placement, homesickness and doubts started to creep in as to whether I would be able to do this all over again. The positivity I set out with soon disintegrated.

Luckily with the nature of this volunteer placement, I knew that I wouldn’t be in the same place for a long time so I stuck it out hoping that the next place would be better.

The turning point

Just a couple of days before my first placement came to an end, I received a message from my supervisor informing me of my next location: La Rioja. A small town I had never heard of before, bordering Chile and in the middle of basically nowhere, hence why it took a lengthy 17-hour bus journey to arrive.

It was 17 hours of apprehension and doubt. This would be my fourth host family of the year, a completely new place to settle into and, I was left with a lack of motivation to do it all over again.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It would turn out to be the most pivotal part of my year abroad and proof that no matter how hard it gets and whatever doubts we may have, we should always continue on the road ahead and never give up.

I arrived in a town full of some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life, I was looked after by the most beautiful host family, and I worked in an institute that taught some of the sweetest students. I was only supposed to stay here for a month and then I was being sent back to the suburbs of Buenos Aires, something that in reality filled me with dread as I’d finally found the place where I was happiest. I was now living my life in a town so far from home but somewhere I was looked after as if I was one of their own; somewhere with a sense of security and a place I now call a second home.

So I begged my supervisor to let me continue here for the remainder of my trip and I was lucky enough to eventually be given a yes.

Before embarking on my year abroad I always thought what I was looking for was in Spain and maybe it still is, but little did I know a small town called La Rioja in the mountains of Argentina would give me everything I needed to be happy abroad. If I learnt one thing from my time in La Rioja, it’s that it really is the people you meet throughout the journey who make it so special and who change your perspective on everything.   

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Alisha Jayne

Alisha Jayne is a British university student who has volunteered in Costa Rica and Argentina. She has combined her love for Spanish and teaching on this journey through Latin America. Through the highs and lows, Alisha was inspired to start travel writing to motivate others and give a true perspective.

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