Courtney Luster is a student at the University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. Courtney is currently studying with ISA in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I’ll admit when I arrived here in Buenos Aires I knew little to nothing about it. My gringa aura surely must have been comical the first month or so, and although after over three months it still shows occasionally, I like to think I can give a little advice on some intriguing and pleasant surprises I have uncovered living as a Porteña this semester.
1. It’s just a hop and a skip from Uruguay. Lots of people study abroad in Buenos Aires because it is a great hub for travel and this is true; many destinations are easily and cheaply accessible. Just a few examples are the wine country of Mendoza, any of dozens of places in Patagonia like the ski town of Bariloche or the southernmost town in the world, Ushuaia, Cordoba with its rich German influences which hosts the second largest Oktoberfest in the world each year, or Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.
Easily the most convenient travel destination from Buenos Aires, though, is Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay, with ferries taking just over an hour across the river. You can catch the ferry to Colonia, which if you’re looking for a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of the city is a perfect destination with its historical buildings and slow pace of life. Two of the other most popular travel options are Montevideo, a smaller city, or Punta del Este, where the wealthy of Buenos Aires have summer homes but hostels are cheap, the seafood is to die for, and the beach is all yours to soak up.
2. Food is a mixture of basically every ethnic background imaginable. When people come to Buenos Aires, every expectation is slightly different. Some people foresee some version of Mexican food or other more typical Latin American cuisine. Others who are a little more familiar with the vibes of the city know to expect a lot of European influence like pizza (ALL the pizza). However, some of my favorite meals in Buenos Aires have been neither of the above. This city, because of its sheer size and accessibility to so many different cultures, has embraced cuisine from Mediterranean to Chinese to Irish pubs to the All- American hot dog, which has been altered a little by adding little fried potatoes and lovingly dubbed the “Super Pancho”.
3. When I first arrived I was convinced there would be no opportunities to exercise in such a huge city. With the honking cars coming at me from all directions, I thought that the only way to get my workout in would be to join a $100 per month gym. Don’t be fooled upon first glance, my friends. There are many ways to get exercise in this city without spending all the pesos. There are countless parks within walking (or running) distance of almost anywhere, especially in Belgrano, Palermo, and Recoleta. Bike paths line many streets and Buenos Aires has a convenient bike renting system called EcoBici with around a dozen different locations around the city to utilize. Besides the runners, walkers, and bikers, Buenos Aires has unique workout equipment areas in parks that, upon first glance, appear to be more along the lines of playground equipment and arguably feel that way during your workout. Conveniently situated along walking/ biking paths, you can easily take a short break during your run to do some arm and leg exercises.
4. For those of us coming to Buenos Aires who were not aware of the unique Rioplatense dialect, we, along with our Spanish skills, were in for a bit of a shock. The Spanish here is not the Spanish you learned in school, kids. First of all, “ll” and “y” are pronounced as soft “j”’s. Playa is plaja and llama is jama. “Adios” is almost never used, instead Porteños, in classic Italian- influenced style, bid each other farewell with “Ciao.” Probably most distinct difference is the use of “vos” instead of “tu” to mean “you.” For anyone who took Spanish in high school or college, this is an entirely different conjugation from “tu” and takes a lot of getting used to. After over three months of living here though, I have come to find the Porteño-isms quite endearing.
Oh and on a side note: anything sounds more eloquent when translated into Spanish.
Want to see more from our awesome students in Buenos Aires? Check out “First Impressions – Buenos Aires”
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Saturday travel day!
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I remember Buenos Aires from my teenage years, a city full of fear during the Junta’s reign. And yet I do have warm feelings about this city, it has a special vibe to it. I’ve spent about 4 months in BA and I loved it. It charmed me, mostly because of the people living, lots of green area’s and beautiful avenue’s. Good to read the city is recovering well from those horror years and still has a way of enchanting people.
We learned a lot about the horrors of Buenos Aires’ political history while I was there and I was amazed to find a lot of it out, the city has gone through so much and even with the current political and economic unrest, you can feel the sense of accomplishment and strength from the Porteños at having gone through these tragedies. The city and its people are incredible,rough around the edges and beautiful. I’m glad despite its history you still enjoyed the city, it’s a special one.