I graduated from college this past June and fled the country, is what I tell people I meet here in Buenos Aires.
The real story is slightly more nuanced, but when it comes down it, the statement is not untrue. The months between Northwestern’s late June graduation and my flight out of the country to Buenos Aires on September 15 were filled with hours upon hours of babysitting, supplemented with hours upon hours on LinkedIn and emailing in an attempt to secure any sort of paid writing prospects while down in Argentina. There was also the time I spent freaking out — in a good way — about my impending move and subsequent adventures, as well as in a bad way, silencing the proverbial nagging voice that arose occasionally to question what, really, did I think I was doing? Why wasn’t I just following The Plan and finding a salaried job in the U.S. with benefits? The Plan had been my plan for years, anyway.
When I think about it now (and perhaps it’s because I have spent so much time telling myself this over and over), I really did have sound reasons to hop down to the Southern Hemisphere and start a life, even a temporary life. If, as I decided at some point between junior and senior years, I really wanted to give this whole freelance/travel journalist thing a solid go it would make sense to live in a different country, and one where the cost of living is affordable at that. Additionally — and this was a big one — I had the blessing of my parents, whom I had somehow convinced this move and what I would make of it was all a good idea.
Today’s most popular scapegoat, the economy, also served as an excuse, as I watched intelligent, ambitious, done-all-the-right-things classmates struggle to find jobs for which I also would have been competing. Strength in numbers didn’t hurt either; I’m currently living in an apartment with two other Northwestern 2010 graduates who both independently came to the decision to move here. And then there’s the little network of other recent college grad expats we have developed, because once you start talking with people about where you are and what you are doing, it seems almost everyone knows of someone also living in this great city.
Perhaps we make ideal case study subjects for psychologist Jeffrey Arnett’s “emerging adulthood;” maybe we should have been interviewed for Robin Marantz Henig’s “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” in the New York Times Magazine for eschewing the traditional route and, as some might argue, putting off “real life.” (That article, like Google Voice, debuted at a highly opportune time, a couple weeks before I moved down here.) The thing is, people have been making decisions and trips like this for years. The mid-30-year-old manager at an Apple store in Miami we stopped into the day before our flight out, for example, told me his romanticized tale of being dropped off at the Obelisco in Buenos Aires with chump change and two suitcases, the start of a prosperous stint here, personally and monetarily speaking. None of these paths are objectively better or worse, I’ve come to decide, because it is all an individual decision. They’re just different.
We realize we are lucky to have — and have made — the opportunity to be living in Buenos Aires. That said, in no way are we cavorting around dropping pesos without a care. Even though I sometimes guilt myself for skipping out on a structured job my first year after graduating, I’ve realized in my first two weeks here that I still have a lot of “real life” and growing up to handle. We are all working, attempting to make our way in the world (or at least this city), in addition to adjusting to a new lifestyle, culture and language. It is all a challenge we are living for and relishing.
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