Hey, I’ve been there. Thoughts on a distant tragedy.

By Ellen Weathers, API Buenos Aires Peer Mentor

When discussing the benefits of study abroad, the phrase ‘cultural awareness’ comes up frequently. We learn to adapt our wardrobes, our diets and our actions to respect new people and practices. But upon returning home, you may find that cultural awareness develops into something more.

Wednesday morning’s coffee went cold as I glued myself to Argentina news sites and nervously scanned the initial list of injuries following a train crash in Buenos Aires that killed 51 and injured more than 700. The beat of Buenos Aires is maintained by the traffic lights, bus stops and trains rattling underground and overhead. The fact that riding the train is such a routine act in the city, in any city, is partly what makes the accident so sad.

I didn’t live in Barrio Once where the crash occurred, but in terms of the metropolitan area, it was just around the corner. An afternoon walk through Barrio Once introduced me to its hectic streets lined with shoes stores and dusty warehouses stacked with fabrics of all colors and patterns. Its location between central subway lines and blend of synagogues and mom-and-pop shops attracts porteños of all types. It’s the ‘hey-I’ve-been-there’ feeling that makes this tragedy 5,000 miles away seem so close.

Because Argentina became my second home, a part of me will always care about the events and emotions, both happy and sad, that affect its people and culture. These lessons in compassion are another way that my experience abroad continues to positively impact me nearly two years later.

Ellen is a senior at Auburn University, and studied in the Argentine and Latin American Studies Program at la Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ellen was also a reporter for the Tico Times, a Costa Rican online periodical. You can follow her via the following links:

Argentina Blog

Costa Rica Blog



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  1. Meghan MacDonald says

    This is spot-on how I felt on Wednesday when I heard the news about the train crash. I immediately thought of the first trip I took to Once, a falafel-filled day that hasn’t crossed my mind in quite a while, and it brought tears to my eyes. Buenos Aires is the ex I’ll never get over…

    But I’m okay with that 🙂 Great post!

  2. Brittany B says

    Thanks for your sharing your honest reaction, Ellen. I really appreciated hearing your thoughts as you reflected on the tragic accident in light of having lived in Buenos Aires. It is so cool how study abroad helps stir our compassion for other nations, and gives us a greater sense of responsibility as global citizens.

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