Hello world! I want to apologize for my over two month hiatus, but it feels really good to be back and writing and reflecting. In late June I departed for my year long study abroad experience in South America. I started in Ecuador where I was for 5 weeks taking classes and travelling with the rest of my group from my university and about two weeks ago we arrived in Argentina which is where I’ll be for the next 11 months or so. It’s been an absolute whirlwind of so many emotions and experiences so I took some time off to adjust but while being abroad I’ve already encountered some challenges which have tested me and pushed me.
For one, both in Ecuador and here, I am living with a host family. I have spent two years at college where I was basically completely independent. I lived with other people but I made my own schedule and it didn’t matter who I shared it with or if I even followed it because I was the only one affected by it. The same went for food. Although I ate in a cafeteria most days, that still gave me pretty big freedom in choosing what I could eat and if I skipped a meal because I wasn’t feeling good or had too much homework (side note: food gives you energy to work, don’t do what I do and skip meals to study because it is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE) it didn’t matter. Here, I have no such freedom. My host family is required to provide me 3 meals a day and snacks. Being someone who considers herself still recovering from an ED- even though I feel I am over the biggest hump- the thought of 3 forced meals a day frightened me a little, mostly because I could not choose what I would be eating. People who have ED usually have them because they feel they lack control in their life and are looking to their own bodies as a source of control. The minute I began my abroad experience, I felt I essentially gave up all that control.
Another thing that threw me off was the food itself. Here in Argentina, they’re big in meat and don’t eat many veggies or fruits. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat (and the meat here is incredible delicious) but before I came, I had heard from friends who have done this program in the past that they felt they weren’t eating very healthy. After two weeks of being here, I’ve come to realize this isn't true. My host family does give me carrots and bananas whenever I ask and I probably eat more meat here than I do in the states but, hey, I guess that just means more protein so I can become super strong. I also realized that I don’t eat any more here than I did back home and that having 2 or 3 home cooked meals a day sure trumps the mediocre cafeteria food at my university in the states.
Food is not the only barrier I’ve had to overcome since being abroad. Big things from the language barrier to little things like the keys they use to open doors have been causes of frustration, annoyance and home-sickness. But, I have also already met people who have become huge inspirations to me and I already feel like I have a home here in Argentina with my friends, host parents, dogs and cats. In my only 7 weeks abroad I have already been pushed outside my comfort zone, tackled challenges I would’ve asked my parents to take care of back in the states and have learned so much about a culture which doesn’t get enough attention normally. I have a lot of time ahead of me and I know not all of it will be easy but I am so optimistic and grateful for this unique opportunity, I am ready (or, at least, I think I am) to handle whatever comes my way.