Rachael Clemmons-Study Abroad - Carnegie Mellon University

Rachael Clemmons

"There's no reason to be scared of studying abroad!  You will have to adjust and learn new things but ultimately it will be one of the best experiences of your life!"

Meet Rachael Clemmons...

Rachael grew up in Prince Georges County, Maryland.  Her major is Professional Writing with a concentration on Document Design.  In the fall of 2008, Rachael had on a life-changing experience when she studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Before She Went

In thinking about the expectations she had for herself prior to going abroad, Rachael thought about how she valued learning more than one language.  With that in mind, one of the expectations she had was to work on her Spanish in Argentina.  A second expectation was that she would learn more about herself as well as another culture.  Rachael was very excited to meet new people in Argentina!

Arrival to Argentina

Rachael's first impression of Argentina was that it was a bit cold and rainy when she got there on August 1st.  Coming from the other side of the equator, where it was still summer, she wasn't exactly prepared for the cold.  Adapting to the weather seemed to be a bit of a challenge for Rachael and she wishes that she had been better prepared for the weather. 

However, Rachel says that Buenos Aires was such a great place because everything was so close and conveniently walkable.  She really enjoyed eating empanadas everyday, going to cafes, and hanging out with friends!  She says that it wasn't at all difficult for her to make friends, even though she thought it would be.  This made it easy for Rachael to adapt and transition into her life in Buenos Aires.

When thinking about some challenges that she faced during her time abroad, Rachael mentions getting accustomed to the language and the food.  As a black woman, Rachael also experienced some challenges in terms of how others viewed her skin color.  On one occasion, someone stared at her for a long period of time until she finally approached him to ask if he had ever seen a black person.  Rachael quickly learned that most Argentines only encounter Brazilians who are black.  Rachael had "the feeling of being black" the whole time that she was in Argentina, which was a feeling that she hadn't experienced prior to studying abroad.  This feeling allowed her to gain an even stronger sense of cultural awareness and understanding. 

Living in Argentina

Many American students experience culture shock in some form or another.  When speaking about culture shock, Rachael thoughtfully responded, "When people don't want to get out and experience the culture, that's when they experience the culture shock."  She reported that it was difficult at first to really grasp that she was in Argentina.  When it hit her, she said that she was already adapted and accustomed to the different life-style she was living.

For Rachael, the most rewarding aspect of her experience in Argentina was that she became so comfortable speaking Spanish.  She recognizes how quickly she began thinking in Spanish as well- the first sign that she was becoming fluent.

While abroad, Rachael attended the Buenos Aires Fashion week, a tango festival, the cemetery where Evita is buried, and botanical gardens.  She also visited the zoo, where she saw new types of animals that were unfamiliar to her.

Living in Argentina during the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, Rachael had the opportunity to speak with many people from all over the world about her political views and opinions of the election.  During the night of the election, Rachael reports that there were many gatherings and tremendous excitement.  She noticed that the people in Argentina really focused on America.  When people saw her walking down the street, she would sometimes hear someone enthusiastically shout, "Obama!",  which was a great feeling for Rachel!

Looking Back on Her Experience...

When Rachael returned to the U.S., she realized that she wasn't yet prepared for adjusting back to her old life. She felt she didn't experience culture shock in Argentina, but rather she experienced reverse culture shock when she returned home.  Though this has been difficult, Rachael believes that through study abroad, her world view changed.  She "sees things differently" now.  By immersing herself in another culture, she feels that she has developed a broader sense of the world.  She realizes that "little things just aren't that important anymore.  There are so many things that are going on and there is much more out there!"

Studying abroad has contributed to the way Rachael makes sense of her life. Studying abroad "made [her] reconsider what [she's] going to do after graduation." Returning home she has a new outlook on life and she wants to volunteer and help people abroad. 

When looking back on her experience and the expectations she had before she left for Argentina, Rachael can say that her Spanish is certainly much better.  Studying abroad "exceeded [her] expectations!  [She] learned a lot about culture, including her own culture."  The only thing that Rachael regrets is that she wishes she would have gotten more comfortable speaking Spanish even earlier during her time in Argentina.  By the end of her time abroad, she loved acting as a translator for her friends because she felt so comfortable with speaking Spanish! 

Rachael Clemmons

Rachael Clemmons
Professional Writing

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fall 2008