Mia Spingola (@mambo773)

From: Chicago, Illinois

Currently living in: Lima, Peru

Has also lived in: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santa Marta, Colombia; Florence, Italy

Best neighborhood to explore in Lima: Barranco

Go-to cafe in Lima: Buenavista Cafe (purely for the view. My go-to cafe, hands down, is Bisetti. Good coffee/ambiance)

Best museum: Larco Museum

Best morning activity: Surfing, paragliding, or bike ride along the coast

Don’t miss: Pachacamac, Huaca Pucllana

Recommended day-trips from Lima: Marcahuasi; Palomino Islands; Lunahuaná

After graduating from college, Mia Spingola decided to move abroad.

She chose Buenos Aires because of its Italian influence (her family is Italian) and fell in love — with the Spanish language, the landscapes, and the lifestyle in South America.

She started teaching English abroad, which was both more frustrating and more rewarding than she’d imagined it would be. She’d always gotten a sense of fulfillment from helping others, but found herself exhausted each night and sometimes felt insignificant.

So, several months into living abroad, she changed her expectations.

She made it her goal to have a positive impact on a few of her students. She learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. She found herself constantly aware of how she was interacting with places and people. She became more aware of her privilege and focused on being a responsible member of the expat community.

That change made all the difference.

It’s what has kept her abroad for over three years. She moves to a different country in South America each year — exploring, immersing herself in the community, and discovering the differences between cultures with each new place.

In Buenos Aires, Santá Marta, and now, Lima, she’ll start with immersing herself.

She’ll do her research, find work, and set up her apartment. She’ll explore her neighborhood, find a good yoga studio, and join activist groups and classes. She’ll smile and initiate conversations with her neighbors, choose a favorite cafe or bar and get to know the employees, and find comfort in the unknown.

Now, she embraces the differences and frustrations. If she’s going to allow herself to grow and understand the cultural exchange happening because she lives abroad, she has to. After all, she knows she’ll be better for it in the long run.