This post was written by one of our Buenos Aires fellows, Claudia Willen.
“Con permiso, dónde está este andén?” I pointed to my ticket and asked for the third frantic time hoping to receive an answer other than, “entre seis y catorce". Because honestly, how can anyone guarantee catching the bus when the ticket tells you it might arrive at any of the nine different platforms? Maybe it’s an Argentinian thing.
As it goes, I found no such luck.
Dumbfounded and concerned about missing my ten hour bus ride to Córdoba to meet the rest of my coworkers for the weekend, I reached my peak gringa and managed to get on three wrong buses, hold up about two lines, and feel upwards of ten eyes watching the crazy blonde American chick single-handedly tear apart the Retiro bus station.
Give or take a sharp spike in my blood pressure and twenty-five anxious Whatsapp messages to my friends, I reclined back in my seat, closed my eyes, and asked myself how I, a twenty year old college student from Cleveland, Ohio, ended up alone on a bus in Argentina on her way to a meeting about a new business product.
I could tell you that this scenario wasn’t the norm during my Sage experience, that I was always comfortable and never alone, that I knew what I was doing most of the time, and that I always had a firm sense of guidance. But that’s not what Sage Corps is about, and that’s what made it the most transformative, life-changing two months I could have never foreseen.
If Sage Corps taught me one thing, it was to embrace the unknown and the unexpected. From day one, our fourteen person Buenos Aires cohort was thrown into inexplicable and, at times, absurd situations. Whether it be learning to share a bathroom with my three male roommates, discovering the hard way that the clubs are actually dead until 2:00 or 3:00 am, figuring out how to pay for fourteen dinners on one bill, or getting in rap battles with hysterical Argentinian teenagers, our Sage Corps family quickly found that this foreign city began to feel like our home.
I hesitate to make our time in Buenos Aires sound like a vacation, because it truly wasn’t. We worked, and we worked hard. Many of us took on professional roles that we didn’t have a background in and set goals we didn’t know if we could achieve in just two months. The late nights in the office, the mistakes we made while we learned, and the road bumps the startups faced while we worked there remain unseen on our Instagram profiles and Facebook albums but taught each and every one of us invaluable real world lessons. I can confidently say I was pushed harder and learned more about myself and my surroundings in these two months than in the entirety of my first two years of college.
The Sage Corps brochure guarantees that you will make an impact at your startup. It’s undoubtedly true. I can assure you that your work will be valued. However, the thing that Sage Corps doesn’t tell you is that working abroad, specifically, opens doors and knocks boundaries down not only for professional networking, but for forming lifelong relationships. If I hadn’t worked abroad at Winclap, I wouldn’t have met Mateo, my best friend and coworker that instantly clicked with. From having daily dance parties in the office to making a capricious decision to get matching piercings one day after work, I can’t imagine Argentina without him by my side.
So sure, at times I was the clueless gringa sprinting across nine different bus platforms making a fool of myself, but I don’t regret a second and would give anything to do it all again.
Besides, I always made the bus.