Life After My Lattitude Placement

Posted on the 9th February 2021

By Evert Lindquist, Lattitude Argentina 2019 Alumnus

Some might think I took a big gamble when I moved to Ottawa last August to live in residence during my first year of studies at Carleton University. But courtesy of my time volunteering in Argentina, my experience staying and studying in Canada’s east has been everything I wanted it to be.

Before the real lockdown sank in around late October, I had already explored downtown Ottawa, admired Parliament Hill, ventured to the bars in Gatineau, Québec with my underage friends, and embarked on my first Canadian train ride to visit family in Montréal. Throughout my first semester, I was also able to play ultimate frisbee and attend table tennis lessons on a regular basis, visit my eldest sister in Toronto, and go out shopping and for coffee with friends. I participated in weekly recreational German and Spanish conversation groups online, began writing on a regular basis for Carleton’s student newspaper, the Charlatan, and have continued to go with my friends to the cafeteria twice a day.

While on the one hand, the pandemic has certainly not restricted my life in Ottawa as much as I anticipated, I must give credit to my volunteer placement with Lattitude in Argentina for preparing me for this coming-of-age experience away from home and prompting me to make the most of it.

In an academic context, my placement has come up and spawned interest in numerous conversations with peers and professors alike. Being able to relate my travel anecdotes, cultural discoveries, and understanding of another language can be invaluable in a program like mine, which is a bachelor of journalism and humanities. My journalism professor, for instance, mentioned the 2019/2020 Chilean protests when discussing news coverage of international events. Having been in Chile during the riots myself, I was able to put this event into greater context and even bring it up with my professor so as to offer additional insight on the event.

My time in Argentina spurred an affinity for other cultures. Having met a considerable number of Germans, Israelis, Brazilians, Frenchmen, and those of other nationalities during my travels, I have become much more conscious of and interested in people’s backgrounds. How well one can appreciate another’s culture and origins can greatly impact the level of intimacy between people. For example, having met three other students on campus last semester during a feedback seminar, I was able to converse with one of them in German (he was Swiss) and impress another by naming two major cities and the most widely spoken language in his country (he was Nigerian).

Living without my family in Argentina, not to mention with only one (often very busy) host parent, got me accustomed to looking after myself. Doing grocery runs, cooking and baking, cleaning, watering the garden, and, best of all, caring for the two cats were all common chores I took initiative to attend to. Getting into these routines during my four months of volunteering helped me prepare to fend for myself as I now live away from my family once again. Finding my flow with grading exams and helping conduct classes as an English teaching assistant definitely made my transition from full days of high school classes to my more varied post-secondary schedule easier. Budgeting my groceries and leisure here could also go hand-in-hand with how I attempted to budget my travels around Patagonia.

I have adapted to taking more chances when it comes to having fun, whether it be acquainting myself with a wide variety of people, skating on the Rideau Canal, or covering a local BLM protest for the Charlatan. If my time in Argentina taught me one thing, it was to expect the unexpected and flow with it regardless of my other plans. There were many instances where I encountered people who drastically shifted the course of my day or made split-second decisions that led to wonderful experiences and opportunities I would not have had sticking to my initial plans.

The incomparable hospitality of the Argentines brought me to become much friendlier and more outgoing myself. This has been invaluable, as I initially arrived in Ottawa knowing no one but my family but made quick work of developing an expansive friend network. More often than not now, I am the one to first introduce myself to a new person I come across and inquire about who they are. Above all, I have learnt to never take anyone for granted until I have properly gotten to know them.

Despite considerable limitations during COVID-19 and being far from the ocean, I have been able to take advantage of my time here in Ottawa for what it is worth and I can confidently say that my volunteering placement with Lattitude equipped me to do this. Thanks to my time in Argentina, I have become a much more curious, extroverted, independent, responsible, and thoughtful individual.

Read Evert’s previous blog post here: How to Learn a New Language Abroad

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