Siobhan Billings Pearce is a student at Emmanual College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
After two and half months in Buenos Aires, I am having the time of my life. Every day is a new adventure. Usually I am prepared, but some mornings I wake up and run to my closet before remembering that that thing I want is on my desk, at home, twelve and a half hours and a continent away. Before jetting off on your Latin America adventure, here are four things you should not leave home without.
I recently tried to explain to a friend how when it rains here, it’s like water just falls out of the sky. He laughed at me. What I was trying to say is that it doesn’t rain often, but when it does, the water pours out of the sky like a faucet. My stylish little raincoat has hardly proven sufficient to keep me dry. Fortunately, the moment it starts to rain, street peddlers rush the subway stations shouting “Paraguas, paraguas!” Likewise given the adventurous state of the sidewalks here, huge puddles form very easily, so make sure you bring some shoes that will hold up well in the rain.
The Spanish word for umbrella is paragua and is one of my favorite words because it literally means exactly what it is, para (for) agua (water). It’s so self-explanatory. If someone handed you an umbrella without knowing what it is, you would say “What is this umbrella?” but if they hand you a paragua, you would say “Oh cool, I got this.” Paraguas. Don’t leave home without one.
2. Comfy Cute Shoes
I seriously underestimated how big Buenos Aires was. This city is huge, like, New York size huge. While it can be easily navigated by an incredible public transportation system, Buenos Aires life still requires a surprising amount of walking. This can be a shock to those of us used to puttering around in our cars all the time. My recommendation is boots and flats, something waterproof (see above) and versatile but also good for club wear and school. If you have some free time, give your mom’s closet a quick search. See if you can find her old disco suits because platform shoes are all the rage here. No joke ladies, the higher your plataformas tower, the cooler you’ll be.
I rue the day I left my service zone without downloading WhatsApp first. It’s the Holy Bible of communication here. All the locals have it, most organizations use it, some business have it and given that most international student live for wifi, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family at home too. Really, of all the things I wish I had done before this trip, this is number one. Go download it now.
4. Nature Clothes
And by this I mean things you can happily get dirty, wet, sweaty and grubby in because even if you are not an outdoorsy person, there is no way you won’t do something with nature here. There is just too much of it. Sneakers, leggings, a quick dry shirt, your granddaddy’s combat boots, a slouchy T and sweats, whatever you feel comfy exploring the world in. If you think you may get especially dirty, you may want to bring more worn out clothes with less sentimental value so you can just throw them away when you’re ready to return to the US. Less clothes in your suitcase means more room for souvenirs and smuggled alfahors (cookies).
Packing a suitcase below the fifty pound limit is a horrendous task, but with a little know how and prior research, you can do it!
Want to read more about Buenos Aires? Check out “5 Reasons You Should Study Abroad in Buenos Aires”