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The Daily Tar Heel

Livin' la vida absurda, abroad

When I awoke this morning to the screeching banshee howl of a cat named Betty, I knew that I was not at home.

I drowsily got up, ate breakfast and went up to the roof of my apartment building to try to get my wits about me. As I stood on the terrace, 50 feet (15 meters) above rather tranquil city streets, I pulled out a book and an iPod and tried to relax.

Somehow — while reading an English language book about Bombay, while listening to a Argentine band heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, while standing on the rooftop of my Argentine host parents’ apartment, while it is snowing in August two days before I am going to run my first marathon — I was struck by how blessed I am and began to smile.

You see the internal narrative of the last three months of my life, my summer, which has previously existed mainly as a mental whirl of airplanes, buses, cars, rickshaws, taxis and journeys on foot interspersed with World Heritage Sites, home sweet home, third-world city streets, church in three different languages and a comically large number of cultural faux pas — is finally coming into focus.

I remember finishing my exams in beautiful Chapel Hill in early May only to step onto a plane 10 days later and land halfway around the world in 113-degree New Delhi, India. From there I traveled around fascinating northern India to several cities whose names neither you nor I can probably pronounce correctly while trying to learn about Indian culture and the Hindi language in a painfully short six weeks.

I remember the oh-so-bittersweet flight home, still smelling of dust and spice and landing in Washington, D.C. to greet my parents for what we all knew would be a quick reunion. Days and nights spent by the pool, Busch Gardens and baseball stadiums come into focus along with precious images of a quick jaunt to (lovely!) Chapel Hill.

And then, three weeks after stepping off a plane in D.C., I again braved the Beltway to board a plane to, as you may have surmised, Argentina — specifically Mendoza, Argentina, the land of sun and vine.

Allow me introduce myself properly: My name is Kyle, and I will be your study abroad columnist this semester. I live in an apartment near the center of Mendoza, a sprawling city of 1 million, with a middle-aged couple and a cat named Betty. Out of my window, I have the rather mundane view of an ancient exercise bike, clotheslines, a brick wall and a ficus. But from the roof of the building, I can clearly see the majestically mist-shrouded and snow-capped Andes Mountains, which I am dying to get at. It’s not exactly Kenan Stadium or the Dean Dome, but it will have to do, I guess.

So welcome back, Carolina. Some of you feel like you are coming back home. Some of you feel a bit homesick — but you are new, so I will give you a pass. Part of me wishes I was with you. My heart aches to savor the vibrancy and comfort of the place I started calling home less than two weeks after I unpacked for the first time. But I am on a different adventure now, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.

Kyle Olson is the Study Abroad Columnist for The Daily Tar Heel. He is a sophomore International Studies major from Stafford, VA. Email him at

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