Learning to Tango in Tucson

ice rink

[Photo Courtesy of Google Images]

Leading with your chest, you decide where to take your partner. Imagine you’re standing on an ice rink but without skates. You lead your partner across the ice by taking steps followed sliding your feet while keeping your chests at the same distance as you move. Your partner follows your every move and you glide to the beat as one.

Last night, I learned how to tango. The basics, to be specific and it was my first time every.

From what I’ve learned in my classes, Tango originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina before the 19th century. Depressed men wrote tango songs about their misery, melancholy, loss of dreams, loneliness, love for their mothers and other related topics. The dance itself is a ton of fun and today, exists all around the world.

I had witnessed tango live in Argentina many times and in one of my classes at my university but this was the first I was actually learning it.

I went with a few friends from U of A to a place called Maker House, which is, “a new collaborative artisan, maker, education, tech, and gathering space that opened in the Downtown Tucson Arts District Tech Corridor in the fall of 2013.” It’s super cool! The advisor for the Honors College Ambassadors invited us because he was guest leading the tango lesson and it was free! I brought mate and it was almost like we were back in Buenos Aires. 

I wanted to share this experience because I enjoyed learning to tango and thought you would too! It’s a prominent aspect of Argentine culture and anyone can learn it! Here’s a video teaching the basics, the same basics we learned last night!

Have you ever tangoed before? If not, are there any dances you have learned and would recommend? 🙂

Thoughts on language skills after two months in Buenos Aires


So this week marks two months right on the dot(60 days or so) and I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to what has helped my Spanish language skills and what I need to work on.

What has helped

Meeting people before coming here and meeting more people through the internet

Before I came here, I knew more or less 10 people. Those are the people who I’ve been able to practice my Spanish with and who I’ve learned the most from. It’s seems easier to meet people on the internet or at an event than at the university(opposite of what I expected).

Watching movies, TV shows, and listening to the radio in Spanish

Even after practicing with an Argentinian for eight months before arriving here, I still have had trouble in these first two months with listening and understanding everyone that speaks to me. However, I’ve watched a few Argentine movies and a few episodes of a TV show called Solamente Vos, which have both helped A LOT. I also try and listen to the radio every day and either listen to music or talk shows. Both also have helped a lot.

Dedicating one day a week to English

I think before I came here I was expecting everything to immediately translate/change into Spanish. Obviously, that’s not the case! My parents and friends still speak to me in English, my Facebook feed is still mostly English, etc. etc. But, I’ve empirically learned that if I dedicate one day to English-phone calls to friends and family, writing on my blog, reading in English-it’s easier for me to focus on and think in Spanish.

Living with a host family as oppose to by myself

I hadn’t thought much about this before hand but I’m really glad I found a family to rent a room from off Craigslist. I am forced to speak Spanish whenever I’m at home which has had positive effects on my speaking skills.

Trying to only speak in Spanish with my American friends

This has been a challenge since I’ve been here. It’s hard because when I’m with a group of Americans, the majority of the time I’m speaking English. What has helped though is speaking to any Americans I meet in Spanish and giving off the vibe that, “Hey, I only want to speak in Spanish.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t but at least trying to do it has helped me improve my language skills.

What I need to work on

A system for learning new words and phrases

I’m still trying to find a system that will serve me best to learn new words and phrases. Everyday, there is a word that I don’t know in Spanish but need during a conversation. The one idea I came up with just recently is to write down the words that I want to know in Spanish in my journal before  I go to bed and then look them up the next night and study them before I write my next journal entry. I don’t know if it will work but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Speaking more with locals

Like I mentioned above, it’s easiest to meet Argentinians on the internet for me. I’ve been searching for more events such as concerts or festivals and meetups to meet more people but I have yet to actually go. I need more practice with natives because it’s the best way to improve my speaking skills.

Reading and pronunciation

I should be reading a little bit everyday because it’s a great exercise for learning new vocabulary and phrases and recognizing grammar structures. I also need to work on my pronunciation because I still have difficulty with some sounds in particular.

Of course there are other aspects I need to work on regarding my Spanish but these are the ones I believe I should focus on to achieve fluency the fastest. If you have any tips or thoughts, feel free to share them! 🙂


P.S.- For fun and to see my progress with the language, I’ve recorded videos of me speaking in Spanish and plan to record more throughout the remainder of my study abroad.

20 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/9WXYFaCdgHc

8 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/uGHpFKGajVk

5 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/CVHvfydx5CA

24 days, 313 emails, 6 trips to Safeway and 1 sailing trip in San Francisco

san francisco, california, verbling

Today, was my last day of my internship at Verbling and tomorrow, I leave San Francisco. I have learned SO much from being here and I want to share my reflection and insights with you in this post. I’ve split it up into two categories to specify what I learned directly from my internship and what I learned from outside my internship:

What I learned from my internship:

 Customer Support is more important than you think technically I learned this from Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh but the idea is that customers will always be the most important aspect to your company(in my opinion). It’s important to help them out as much as you can and make sure they’re happy. If you happen to be placed in the customer support sector, learn to enjoy it! It may sound hard but assisting other people find solutions to their problems can make you happy 🙂

Everyone’s opinions are valid- I really loved this part about my team. Even though I wasn’t an engineer or a co-founder, my opinion still mattered and my team members listened to what I had to say. If I had an idea and explained it, people listened. I felt extremely lucky to have the ability to share my thoughts as an intern.

You can work outside of your “field”– I mostly did customer support and social media management but one day, I asked if I could try coding a little bit and I actually got to! It was beginner stuff but at least they gave me the chance to try it out and I enjoyed it! I also had to do research statistics for my boss for a meeting with an investor and that was something I felt inexperienced in. However, I did it to the best of my ability and succeeded with the help other team members!

You won’t always be told what to do- I think this is especially true with startups who are still at an early stage but I imagine this applies to other jobs as well. A lot of the times, I had to find my own projects because everyone else was busy doing their own thing. One project I completed was a press release. I wrote up a press release for the first time and my journalist friend edited it, and I sent it out to a few blogs. I haven’t received any replies yet but it’s now I have an idea of how to write one!

40 hours is A LOT per week-  I felt so relieved when they told me I didn’t have to commit 40 hours a week if I didn’t want to. Working six hours everyday drained me- I can’t even imagine putting in 70 or 80! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work but rather some days were long and repetitive and others were exciting and dynamic.

What I learned from living in San Francisco:

Co-living spaces are definitely better than a hotel or regular hostel– living at The Embassy Network was, by far, the best decision I could have made as far as accommodations. It’s hostel/co-living space. I created strong friendships with the permanent residents and met a wide variety of unique people who stayed in the hostel. The community in this house is so welcoming. Every Sunday night around 7pm there is communal dinner where up to 50 people come  to eat and we prepare the food. I can’t wait til I come back to San Francisco and stay here again. Oh, and on the floor below the main floor is a bowling lane 😉

Learn from people- From each person that has lived at or visited The Embassy Network, I have learned something new. Whether it’s about bitcoin, cognitive science, hacking, or decision making, I’ve gained new knowledge that I wouldn’t have if I had been elsewhere. It’s fun and exciting to learn about new subjects or subjects I haven’t studied before. Sharing knowledge is one of the greatest abilities ever 🙂

Strangers may help you- I wasn’t directly helped by a stranger but one guy I met came here from Spain and didn’t know anyone and found a job from talking to a random stranger. He was on his bike, waiting at a red light when he asked the guy next to him how his day was going. After that, they talked and my friend explained his situation and the guy said he knew someone who could help him out. Next thing he knew, a company employed him as a designer. Now designers from amazing companies such as Google and Twitter mentor him and he loves the culture. You never know what can happen- you could put a smile on someone’s face or find a job!

From my parents, to high schools teachers, to professors, to mentors- they all have reminded me of how important it is to reflect on activities and events in our life. I try to practice this exercise with anything that involves learning because it helps me remember what I’ve learned and apply those things to other areas in my life. I hope my reflection and insights have encouraged you to at least visit San Francisco for a week! You can definitely learn a lot! I plan to come back after Argentina and continue learning as much as I can.

Lastly, I want to thank the University of Arizona Honors College for the extremely generous scholarship. This experience would not have happened without that scholarship because San Francisco is WAY too expensive to live here regularly. And, thank you to The Embassy Network for letting me stay for four weeks 🙂

What methods do you use to reflect on different life experiences?