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Final Post – Reflections from the US

Time December 15th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, everyone, it’s been a week and a half now since my plane touched down in icy Chicago for the winter holidays.  Going from 85 degree weather and walking into biting winds and snow told me quickly that I had indeed arrived home.

My last two weeks in Argentina kept me quite busy.  For four days, two friends and I headed far down South to El Calafate to see the glaciers (and even trek over them!), and later that same week, Mario, our IFSA director in Buenos Aires, took us to his house in Colonia, Uruguay for an astounding, fantastic Thanksgiving dinner that we did not expect! Despite the hot Uruguayan sun, it was I guess as close to Thanksgiving as we could have come.  My last week in Buenos Aires consisted of writing long research papers and seeing the remaining sites that I had not visited.

But, by the time my last 2 weeks were over, I think I was truly ready to come home.  It was a semester in which I got to know a truly unique culture, meet some amazing people, see some beautiful places, and have some of the best times of my life, without a doubt.  I love the winter holiday season so that, combined with my family, was calling my name as I eagerly hopped on to the plane embarking from Ezeiza International Airport.

I have now (quite easily) transitioned back into the daily routine of life in the United States.  There are definitely times every day when I think about Buenos Aires and how much I miss it, but I am very thankful to be back with close family and friends and thankful for the experience I had down South.

Such a great experience would not have been possible without IFSA-Butler.  Their staff was so kind, proactive and helpful, and were there with us every step of the way.  They always alerted us to cool activities and events going on, and even took us on some great trips.  They provided us with insurance and even doctors in case of emergencies.  Enough can’t be said about their role in my experience.

It’s hard to describe what I learned in terms of scholastic achievements while down here in Buenos Aires.  Sure, school was definitely a part of everything, but they always say that study abroad is not about what you learn in books, but what you gain in life experience.  This could not be more true.  I had never really experienced any other cultures in full before arriving in Buenos Aires, and I am so thankful that I have been able to broaden my horizons.  In doing so, I have been able to find things that I love about Argentine culture, and at the same time find things that make me appreciate the USA more.  I made a great list of things I learned on my personal blog, http://jfrake.wordpress.com/

All in all, it was a fantastic semester, and it’s kind of sad to be done for IFSA, but that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed reading, and make the decision to STUDY ABROAD!

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SUPERCLASICO

Time November 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by



The Superclasico.  There is nothing in the world like it.

The UK newspaper “The Observer” has named it the #1 sporting event to attend before you die.  And with good reason.

Boca Juniors and River Plate are the two most successful and popular teams in the history of Argentine soccer.  As I have noted before, as far as sports go, soccer is life down here.  So when it comes to a rivalry like the one between these two, the teams are out for blood.

Both teams have their roots in the working-class Buenos Aires neighborhood of La Boca, situated at the Southeastern corner and port area of the city.  However, River soon moved North to the upper-class neighborhood of Nuñez.  This led to the moniker “Millonarios”, meaning “Millionaires”, from the Boca fans.  Many times the Boca fans are referred to as “Los Chanchitos” (Little Pigs) because of the supposedly bad smell of their stadium in La Boca.

Whatever the stereotypes are, the fans of Boca and River are absolutely crazy.  My friends and I decided upon arriving 4 months ago that this was one match that was absolutely necessary to attend.  The rivalry is legendary; it seems that almost everyone in the city roots for one of the two teams.  To get tickets is quite difficult; we had to go through a middle man and it cost us about 75$ US.  But it was well worth it.

We arrived at Monumental Stadium, home of River Plate, with about an hour and half to go before the game started.  Even at that point, the fans were rowdy and the stands were filled as the reserve squads played an exhibition.  We struggled for some time to find a spot until just before the big game began.

All of the sudden, we noticed a wide open space of about 4 rows right behind the goal box.  These seats were too good to be true, and we grabbed them immediately.  Soon, we found out why fans had not occupied this area.  With about 10 minutes to go before the game, all the (insane) River fans in our section reached into their jackets and pulled out long red sticks: smoke flares.

The River fans were completely unaffected.  They simply stood there, shirts off, chanting, absorbing all, turning around and taunting the Boca fans above us, and spewing streams of various insults.  We joined in, and were immediately converted to River fans.  Of course, to do otherwise would be give yourself a death sentence.

The game was incredible.  The entire hour and half was one huge riot.  In the 53rd minute, River scored a goal. The result was complete mayhem.  Everyone screamed, debris was thrown.

At the end of the night, it was a River victory, and the fans were wild.  We were forced to wait 45 minutes after the game to leave, to avoid riots and violence that would have been caused by interaction with the Boca fans.  All in all, the event was the most unforgettable sports experience of my life, and we all walked away in awe of the fútbol culture.

In the United States, we do not have one sport that everyone follows.  We have our pastimes, but nothing comes close to passion that soccer fans in Argentina have.  It was amazing to be a part of that experience.

Well, I have only 8 DAYS left in Argentina! I can not believe how quickly the time has disappeared.  I have met amazing people and seen amazing places.  Though I will miss Argentina greatly, I also can not wait to be home and see my family and friends!

Expect probably one more blog post before I leave Argentina, and one more coming back to the US, and then that will probably be it! Thanks everyone!

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Just Over 3 Weeks Left! And a Trip to Mendoza, Argentina

Time November 15th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, so I apologize for the delay.  Things have gotten pretty busy here around Buenos Aires.  Though I’ve been studying the entire semester since I arrived, these last few weeks are when pretty much all the work piles on.

The wide-open bodegas of Mendoza with the Andes in the background.

The liberal arts studies in Argentina are just like Americans when it comes to work: all of it located at the middle and end points of the semester, rather than being evenly spread out. In fact, I’ve got a ten page essay due tomorrow.

I haven’t been terribly active in terms of tourism or cultural events lately because of the workload, but I do have two recent events to relate to you all.  The first was my weekend trip to Mendoza, Argentina.  This was the first trip I’ve taken this semester that was relatively unplanned; my friends Malia, Dan and I bought our tickets the day before and then hopped on the bus.  But, some of the best weekends and experiences are those which are spontaneous.

Mendoza is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in Argentina, with a population of about 800,000 total, located in the far west of Argentina, with the Andes Mountains in sight.  It is known for its abundance of open space, great parks, access to hiking, mountain climbing

Wine tasting at the Di Tomasso Bodega .

and more, and above all else, its wine.  We arrived on a Saturday morning in Mendoza, and the first thing we did after checking into the hostel was figure out the wine and bike tours.  Mendoza is known for having an abundance of wineries (bodegas) and tourism offers .  So, we flagged down a taxi and took a ride 20 minutes south to the town of Maipu, where the majority of bodegas are.  There we rented out bikes and received maps and promotion deals, and headed off into the Argentine sun.

The afternoon was amazing.  We went to two bodegas, a beer garden, and chocolate and liqueurs factory.  For as little as 5$, we were able to tour an amazing bodega and try 2 of its Malbecs, 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, and one dessert wine.  For me, this was a great opportunity because I knew pretty much nothing about wine or how it is made and

Me in front of the main fountain at Mendoza’s Plaza Independencia

preserved, so it was quite enlightening.  Furthermore, we went to an amazing place called Historia y Sabores that made its own liqueurs and jams, and also chocolate and absinthe.  We were able to try whatever we liked, and it was all fantastic.

All in all, we rode over 20 miles in the afternoon, largely as a result of getting way lost on our way back to the bike rental shop.  By the end of the day, we were too tired to do anything but collapse onto our beds and sleep for a good 12 hours.  The next day was devoted to exploration of the city, visiting artisan fairs, hanging out with some people in the parks, and taking in the sun.  Though the trip was only a day and a half long, we definitely got our money’s worth.

My second experience is the work that I have been doing with an NGO down here in Buenos Aires.  The organization is called CEPNA, and it was founded by a woman named Rosalia, an indigenous woman of Argentina who moved from the poor Northwestern

Inside Historia y Sabores, the chocolate/liqueur/absinthe factory.

province of Jujuy down to Buenos Aires.  Here she helps those who have also made the difficult move South and helps them as they adjust to the huge city life and differences as they make make an effort to hang on to their indigenous roots and culture in a largely indifferent and white-dominated society.

Working at CEPNA I have gotten the chance to teach English, learn more about Indigenous and Argentine history, and show the people a little bit more about American culture.  It has been an amazing experience from which I have learned a lot, and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to work in areas like this in the future.

So, that is a bit of a recap of what’s been going in my life abroad over the past couple of weeks…it’s unbelievable to think that there are only 3 weeks left down here!  Next Tuesday I head to the Boca-River Superclasico, about which I will definitely blog.  Then a trip down south to see the glaciers for four days, Colonia again for Thanksgiving, one more week in Buenos Aires and I’m home!  Time to make that final list of things to do before leaving and check them off one by one!

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6 Weeks Left! And Rosario, Argentina

Time October 27th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Incredible. It’s been 100 days now here in Buenos Aires, and I only have six and a half weeks left.  Time is passing by so quickly, and I still have so much to see and do.  When they prepare students for studying abroad, they tell them that all students fall into this rushed period of needing to get everything done in a short period of time.  Most students think they can avoid this, but everyone gets in the same trap: the trap of routine.

We become so set on becoming part of the city life and culture that we live its daily life as if we didn’t have a number counting down the length of our stay, until we realize that we do.  From then, its a crazed struggle to schedule bus trips, flights, concerts and the like.

Luckily, I am realizing this now, so that I can work to schedule events soon.  Still left on my list: trips to Mendoza, Argentina, Calafate to see the glaciers, Colonia again for Thanksgiving, take part in Tango lessons, and see a local soccer game (not the Argentine national team).

One of my previous goals got knocked off the list this past weekend.  Our study abroad organization took us on a two day trip to Rosario.  Unlike Colonia, Rosario is an Argentine city, but in the same vein it has little in common with Buenos Aires.  Rosario is a city of 1.25 million people, making it tied for second place (with Cordoba) on the list of Argentina’s most populous cities.  Like Buenos Aires, it is a city built on a river; in this case, the Rio Parana, one of South America’s longest and widest rivers.  However, its coastline couldn’t be any more different.

Buenos Aires’ coast, lamentably, is only made up of shipping docks and dirty water; no beaches can be seen, and there is relatively little green space along the shore.  Rosario, on

the other hand, has a coast lined with parks for Argentines to enjoy during great weather, which we had the fortune to experience, along with great restaurants as well specializing in seafood.

We arrived in Rosario on Saturday about midday after a four-and-a-half hour drive.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn of Rosario.  For those of you don’t know, I don’t have a television in my host family’s house and my bed is about the size of my body, so the ability to stretch out and flip through cable TV offerings was truly rewarding, as odd as it sounds.  Anyways, we were then taken to a fantastic seafood restaurant along the coast, and my friend and I polished off an entire fish.   For the first time, I ate a fish eye, and I have to say it was quite delicious.

The rest of the weekend was filled with many walks and tours along the parks of the coastline, which were throughly enjoyable, and another dinner on Saturday night at a very classy joint.  However for me, the highlight of the weekend was visiting the National Flag

Monument.  The Monument is an absolutely enormous concrete structure in the center of Rosario paying homage to the heritage of Argentina and its (in my opinion, great) flag.  At the center of the tower is the crypt of Manuel Belgrano, Argentine statesman and creator of the flag.  At the Southernmost end of the Monument is the flag itself, and at the Northern end is the gallery of honor featuring the flags of the all the Americas.

The monument itself was overwhelming and fascinating.  It is regarded as one of the only examples of fascist architecture in Argentina, built in the 1950s and characterized by its imposing, concrete structure and language engraved on the statues speaking of defense of the “homeland”.  The front of the tower was made to look like a boat, representing the discovery of Argentina, and statues on the sides depict various figures, such as the Atlantic Ocean, the Rio Parana, the Andes, and the Mother Protector of the Nation.

I couldn’t get enough of this massive monument and took lots of pictures of it, and you can see them in my latest photo album on Facebook.  Aside from the aforementioned activities, we also took a 3 hour boat ride up and down the Rio Parana, from which we could see the

entire Rosario coast and the nature on the other side of the river.  It was a perfect afternoon, and a great weekend to get away from the daily grind of Buenos Aires.

Well, there’s still so much to do! Next up, hopefully, are a club soccer game and Calafate.  I’ll keep you posted.

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COLONIA, URUGUAY!!!

Time October 12th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Wow, time really flies by when you’re studying abroad.  I’ve been here for almost 100 days now and have much less than time left than has passed thus far.

While I’ve made great progress assimilating in to the porteño culture, and have gotten to know the city so well, there’s one thing that I’ve yet to make a lot of progress on: traveling around the rest of the country!  I went to Iguazu Falls one of my first weekends here, but since then I haven’t ventured outside of the metro area.  There are so many other areasPart of Mario's estate in Argentina to explore, such as Patagonia, the glaciers, Mendoza, Bariloche and more.  Though those places are still on my list, the IFSA-Butler staff gave us an unbelievable trip at the end of September.

Our program director, Mario, owns his own sprawling estate in Colonia Uruguay, and he invited our group of 15 students to stay at his bed and breakfast for the weekend.  IFSA bought us all ferry tickets for the boat trip to Uruguay (it’s only 3 hours across the Rio del Plata).  We left on Saturday morning and it was a beautiful day.  Once we arrived, we took taxis from the center of Colonia to Mario’s and there, his staff served us an unbelievable traditional asado lunch.  Asado is basically when all types of meat are grilled together and served on enormous platters, and it tastes absolutely unbelievable.

Later, we took a walk on the beach a half mile from Mario’s house and returned and relaxed.  He had a full pool, lemon orchard, and ponds in his backyard.  It was incredible to relax in the Uruguayan sun, without any of the noise of traffic that pervades Buenos Aires.  At night, we went to a great restaurant in the center of Colonia.  The next day, we walked around and took pictures of the area and eventually returned on the ferry.

After taking this trip,  can definitely say that although it is definitely important to spend time in the city where you are studying and get to know it, it’s just as important to travel around.  This is an opportunity that you only get once, andKayaking in Tigre there are so many places to go and see!

Well, that’s my post for now.  For more detailed experiences and good reflections, check out my personal blog at http://jfrake.wordpress.com/

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The Other Side of Life in Argentina

Time September 27th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey everyone, Joe here.  It’s officially day 75 down in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  2 and a half months already! And I now have less days left than have passed thus far.  It’s amazing how quickly the time goes.

The past few weeks have been great, for many reasons.  I love my group of friends from the IFSA Buenos Aires Intermediate Program, and my host family is great.  I have met a couple of Argentines who are good people and are great references when I need advice.

However, these last few weeks have been great for another reason.  While the daily student life, visitation of famous sites, picture-taking, andThe ever faithful Argentina soccer fansnocturnal nightlife of Buenos Aires are very entertaining, I have really gotten a chance to see life outside of the downtown area.

While I have become very comfortable with the area in which I live, there are so many other parts of such an amazing city.  I started my exploration by venturing up to Nunez, which is still in the federal capital but feels like a different place altogether.  Instead of the dizzying, jumbled stacks of high-rises and apartments, Nunez features single-family houses, more green space and an easier way to appreciate nature.  Plus, it’s cleaner than the bus-packed downtown avenues.

What was up in Nunez that attracted me? The friendly soccer match between Spain, defenders of the World Cup, and Argentina.  It was an amazing night.  I really got to see the Argentines in their environment, and learned a few songs and friendly curse words along the way, like everyone needs to.  If you saw it in the news, you’ll know that Argentina kicked Spain’s butts! Go Albicelestes!

Along with the soccer match, IFSA took us on a day trip Tigre, a suburb North of the city, to go kayaking.  I had never gone kayaking before and it was definitely more of a workout than I expected, but it was wonderful.  The scenery was great and it beautiful day out.  Given that it was an Argentine river, the water wasn’t very clean, but that was a minor speed in an otherwise great day.

Finally, IFSA took us again (they really do give the Intermediate kids a lot of events!) to San Isidro, another Northern suburb.  There, we saw a live rugby match.  Many people don’t know it (especially if you only spend timeArgentines relaxing in their native environment downtown), but rugby is a huge sport here.  It is all amateur, but that doesn’t motivate the players any less.  It’s an interesting sport to watch, and after a little while I was finally able to understand what was going on.  I have to say, that is one tough sport that makes American football look like a walk in the park.

On the classes front, I had my first midterm exam today.  I think it went well, but it was another reminder that while studying abroad is all about the culture, not all of the classes are especially easy.  I still had to do quite a bit of studying for this test, but it paid off.

The adventures continue tomorrow with a trip to Colonia, Uruguay that IFSA is taking us on.  It should be exciting!

-Joe

Here is the web addresses to my personal blog, which has many more useful details and anecdotes about Buenos Aires.

http://jfrake.wordpress.com/

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A City Full of Culture and History

Time September 7th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, it’s been almost two months now (54 days to be exact) down here in Buenos Aires, and the time is flying by!  In the two and a half weeks or so since my last post, I have had many great culture-filled experiences, while juggling classes at my university, which are all in Spanish!

I’ve never been much of a photographer, but my family and friends made me promise to take loads of pictures that they could see online, so I’ve accepted the task and, along the way, found that photography is a great form of exploration when in a city as enormous as Buenos Aires.  Because the city has so many different barrios, the architecture varies greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood.  I’ve seen the French architecture of my neighborhood (Recoleta), the upscale apartments of Palermo, the business districts of Microcentro and Retiro, and the brightly colored houses of La Boca.  Also, the government buildings each have their own character, such the salmon-colored Casa Rosada (home to the Presidential duties) and the Spanish colonial-style cabildo, the city’s first town hall.  The National Congress

However, one place in my neighborhood that is among the most oft-visited tourist spots of the city is, ironically, perhaps its least lively: The Recoleta Cemetery.

On the north side of Recoleta, the cemetery is located right smack dab in the middle of a residential area.  But this is no ordinary cemetery.  It is not a common middle class gravesite with simple markers and various headstones; instead, La Recoleta Cemetery provides a real-life example of a true City of the Dead. And it is a walled city.  15-foot high brick walls surround the graves.  The front entrance is an imposing set of neo-classical pillars.  But once you get inside, you find the really amazing things.

The cemetery is home to, essentially, every affluent and influential family that lived in Argentina, and more accurately Buenos Aires, over the past 250-or-so years.  These figures include Jose de San Martin (Argentina’s George Washington), Eva Peron, Julio Argentino Roca (another famous President), and numerous others.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, not one of these graves is a simple tomb.  They are mausoleums.  Some are grand and elaborate, some are more simple.  Some look quite new, and some have been weathered down considerably.  Some even contain monstrous statues of the figures to whom the tombs belong.  The area is all laid out in city blockLa Recoleta Cemeteryformation.  When walking down the streets of the cemetery, you almost feel like you are in a neighborhood.

As odd as it sounds, it’s an amazing place to walk around, especially for anyone who appreciates architecture and history.

In other events, I have had some great cultural experiences as a result of one of my classes at UCA.  My Friday class involves social solidarity movements in Argentina, and we take trips out to the less affluent barrios of the city.  One Friday, we traveled to a women and children’s shelter that was run by the government and took care of mothers and their kids at night, as long as they had jobs during the day.  Another week, we went to home for children from families with abuse problems.  We got to meet the director of the program and a couple of the kids in the program, and it was a truly rewarding experience.  It was very humbling to see a side of life so different from the affluent neighborhood in which my host family lives.

Also, IFSA-Butler has offered us the opportunity to volunteer work in communities of Buenos Aires.  I had my interview, and I may have the chance to work with groups of indigenous people who have moved to the city, and help them with their Spanish grammar skills and teach them a little bit of English at the same time!

It’s become a goal of mine recently to get into a daily routine of sorts that can make me feel like a real porteno, and while doing so, find some great, NOT-touristy places to hang out.  And I’ve been pretty successful so far.  There’s a great bookstore a block and a half from my apartment called El Ateneo, which is a former theater converted into a library.  Where the stage used to be is a fantastic cafe, and it’s a great place to relax away from the noisiness of the city and read a book.  Also, there’s a fantastic burger-hot dog stand two blocks from my school that is dirt cheap and offers greatThe crowded streets of San Telmogrub! Finally, I’ve actually managed to join a gym and get into good shape.  There’s one chain of gyms that is very expensive, but I got a membership at a good gym for only 20 dollars a month and I’m loving it!

I’ve grown very fond of this city so far.  There are definitely things I miss about home, don’t get me wrong.  I had never left the United States before this trip.  But I’ve come to the realization very quickly that 5 months is not a lot of time to do all the things that Buenos Aires offers! It really calls for us to take advantage of every moment we can.  Which means that for the next 3 months, I’m sure to have some culture-filled weekends!

In upcoming events, I bought tickets to see the ARGENTINA-SPAIN SOCCER MATCH ON SEPTEMBER 7th! As a big soccer fan, I’m super pumped.  Also at the end of September, the program is taking us to Colonia, Uruguay for the weekend!  It should be a great month!

That’s all for me for now! See you in two weeks. -Joe

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One Month Already?

Time August 13th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey everyone! It’s officially been one month since I arrived to study in Buenos Aires.

So far, the experience has been amazing.  I have loved nearly everything about it.  I’ve met some great people so far, between the students from IFSA-Butler, its staff, other students, my host family, and native Argentines.  The food is unbelievable, and the history and culture of the city is really something else.The Casa Rosada

Of course, there are still many adjustments to be made.  For one, the traffic in the city is unlike anything  have ever seen.  And I come from Chicago! Forget about preconceived notions of rush hour: here, it takes place all day, every day.  I actually had my foot run over the other day by a car pulling out of a parking lot (though, I admit, this was probably my fault. No worries, I was fine the next day). Also, despite the fantastic food that this city has to offer, the eating schedule that portenos follow is one that screams unhealthy.  Minimal breakfast, maximal coffee or other types of caffeine, lunch around noon, and no dinner until 9 or 10 o’clock!

However, these are all small speed bumps in an otherwise journey so far.  I can legitimately already say that I have fallen in love with the city.  In such a large downtown and metropolitan area, one can explore and find totally new areas and people every day, from the rough football-and-tango-loving barrio of La Boca to upscale Recoleta and Palermo.  After about a month, I have grownPart of the Recoleta Cemetery with the City in the Backgroundmore in my Spanish and the ability to converse with my host family (which knows no English) and professors (all classes are in Spanish as well!), and various people throughout the city.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games anymore, now that classes have formally begun at UCA (Universidad Catolica Argentina).  Because I am an intermediate student, we are placed in the Latin American Studies Program with interesting classes in which the Spanish and professors are not too overwhelming, though all the material is in Spanish.

In order to commemorate a month of living in the city, some of the students from my program and I took our first trip to the country, and there was no better place to go than to Iguazu Falls, a series of waterfalls that lies on the border between Argentina and Brazil, and is regarded as one of the natural wonders of the world. The trip was incredible, and it was like a whole different world from Buenos Aires.  There was no lingering sense of any city-like qualities in the Misiones province, and many of the people themselves were much more of indigenous heritage than European as often seen in the city.  It was a different way of life up there, and it gave us a new perspective on the city that we are currently living in.

All in all, the experience has been unbelievable studying in Buenos Aires!

I’ve decided to include a link to my personal blog, which has a little bit more detail included about specific experiences and themes of living in Buenos Aires so far:  http://jfrake.wordpress.com/

Enjoy!Iguazu Falls

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Two Weeks In

Time July 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

At about this time, most of the other IFSA-Butler are just arriving in their countries to study abroad.  However, because I’m in the Buenos Aires Intermediate program, we arrived two weeks earlier to hone our Spanish skills in preparation for the semester.  In that time, I’ve really been able to get to know the city well.  And I love it!

Yes, there are definitely many, many things that are different about Argentine society.  IFSA’s motto is “More Culture, Less Shock” and that is definitely what I’ve experienced so far.  The first day we arrived, we were able to settle down in our hotel, take a city tour and go out to dinner with the program directors.  The second day, we had all-day orientation in which the IFSA-Butler staff taught us all about the school at which we would be studying and Buenos Aires way of life.  At the end of that day, we met our host families and moved into their homes.

Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it was.  But it wasn’t overwhelming at all; the transition has actually been smoother than I thought.  The people here in the city are very nice when you need help (providing that you try to ask them for directions in their native language, which is the courteous thing to do).

All of the students in my group have unique host families.  Many of them consist of older couples, but mine is actually a family of six.  They are very accommodating, and it’s great to get to know the way of life from the perspective of kids my age.

Not to mention the sights! Buenos Aires, as the country’s capital and most populous city, contains so many attractions that I don’t think I’ll ever get to see them all in five months.  La Plaza de Mayo is the center of the city, and it contains almost all the government buildings and is just west of the coastline.  I get to walk through it every day on the way to class.

On Sunday, we went to a live performance of Fuerza Bruta, probably the most amazing espectaculo I have ever been to.  The IFSA-Butler staff brought us, and it was a great time.

Well, that’s about it for now.   So far it’s been a great experience, and hopefully it will get even better!

-Joe

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Leaving tomorrow!!

Time July 12th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

First of all, I’d like to introduce myself to everyone and give you all some background information.  I’m Joe, I’m 19, and going into my Junior year at Drake University.  I’m studying International Relations and Spanish, and I’m set to study in the Argentina Buenos Aires Intermediate program for the next five months.  I’ve never left the country before.

And I’m leaving tomorrow!

For me, Buenos Aires was always the right choice.  Why? As a Spanish and IR student, I wanted to focus on a specific geographical region, and South America was obviously the best fitting place for both of these.  Buenos Aires is a enormous, modern city that, at least according to what I hear, never runs out of things to offer, and it’s known for great steak and pasta, which happen to be my two favorite things to eat.  So why not go to Buenos Aires?

The question I have asked myself so many times thus far is, “How, having never left the United States before, are you going to be able to survive on your own in a totally different world for five months?”  Truth is, I feel a lot less nervous the day before leaving than I thought I would.  IFSA-Butler has provided us with so many pre-departure materials and things to read, and I’ve done a fair bit of researching myself.

Plus, I just found out two days ago who my host family is!  It’s a family of six people, one boy and three girls, and two kids are college age.  This will be a perfect way to get a quick grasp of the young culture and slang.  Oh, and they have a dog, which can only be a plus.

I think that one of the most difficult things about going abroad will be getting used to the difference in pace and timing of daily life in Buenos Aires.  Dinner at 10:00?  Not knowing anything in my schedule for the next 3 weeks until Monday? On the weekends, no one going out until 2:00 AM?  I’m going to have some adjusting to do.

But, that’s all part of the experience, as they say.  To all the prospective students that are wondering they could do it, let me say that if I am going to be able to handle the experience, you can.  I, as many of my friends would say, am a bit set in my ways.  But this is one time when you can let go of all that, embrace a totally different lifestyle, and there’s something so liberating about that!

Of course, there is still studying to do.  Let’s not forget about that.  But for the next few days, time to enjoy the new atmosphere!

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