Siobhan Billings Pearce is a student and ISA Global Ambassador at Emmanual College and ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
One of my first assignments in my Spanish Language class in Buenos Aires was to pretend it was my last week in the city and write a thank you letter to the ISA Resident Staff. Even then, I knew how much I would have to thank these wonderful people for. My life has been deeply shifted by my time abroad and this is in no small part thanks to the kindness and constant availability of the ISA staff.
1. The ISA staff weren’t just there to chaperone and keep us out of trouble; they were there to make our experiences better. Every few weeks they would look for fun activities in the city and share them with us. They pointed us towards the best shops to buy leather and the sweetest brands of mate, a fabulous lose-leafed tea in Argentina. On an excursion, a staff member took us around a town she knew well to the best gift shops with the best bargains and the best food. They were so full of answers and advice. They were all clearly people who loved their city and loved sharing it with us.
2. On occasion, they would try and couple us off and tease us about our friendships with each other. Objection to any matches would only lead to further insistence of your compatibility and date suggestions. They also taught us to check our cultural expectations at the door. I was once mercilessly teased for reminiscing about greasy U.S. breakfast, although I firmly stood by my love for bacon and eggs. Part of the reason my culture shock was so minimal was because on our first day in the city, we were prepared for almost every single different experience, the good and the bad.
3. They came through in tough situations too. In addition to the hours of visa assistance–a daunting task–they were always there to remedy housing conflicts and mediate disagreements. In my early days of planning trips, I made a huge mistake and booked my tickets home a day early which threw off the whole travel plan. My Spanish was too poor to correct the problem and as I sat dejected, the ISA team swooped in, made some phone calls and scans and got me refunded and on a new bus. I’m much better at Spanish now and I still don’t know if I could work the magic they did.
So here’s to ISA Buenos Aires, a cheerful, honest (very honest), kind and caring team of people without whom my journey would have been good, but not excellent. The ISA team is more than a group of chaperones; they’re like adoring older siblings. They love you, they want to safe, they encourage your passions, but most of all, they want you to have a good time. Los extraño mucho.
Want to read more about Buenos Aires? Check out “4 Things You Should Pack for Buenos Aires”