Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Student Life in Mendoza

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. My classes this semester

II. A side note on making Argentine friends

III. General structure and organization of Argentine classes

IV. Vocabulario

V. Previous posts

VI. Coming soon


I. My classes this semester


First, let me tell you PLEASE DON’T STRESS ABOUT TAKING COLLEGE CLASSES IN SPANISH. You’ll be fine. Most of my classes were easier than my U.S. classes to be honest.


That said, classes here were definitely a source of stress at various points during the program. I had a professor I could not stand, I had miscommunications and misunderstandings, I was confused about exam dates or even whether I had exams… But it all worked out, and I escaped with a solid GPA. And as long as you go to class, communicate with your professors and the IFSA staff, and keep your chin up, you will too.


Two recommendations:

  1. When you try out classes, pay special attention to the professor. If your prof is uncooperative with foreign students, it’ll make your experience much less pleasant. Is your professor easy to understand? Are they boring as mud? Do you feel comfortable asking them questions? Etc.
  2. Unless your home university requires specific types of classes, don’t limit yourself to courses that fall under your major at home. This is a chance to try out a new subject and experiment—especially because the courses that do pertain to your major might not be what you’re looking for or expecting.


IFSA students can take classes at two universities in Mendoza:

-Congreso is private. Smaller classes.

-Cuyo is public. Bigger classes, more expansive campus.


I took painting at Cuyo and Sustainable Development (philosophy of environmentalism) at Congreso, plus the Spanish class and Regional Development (mostly economic history) with IFSA.


Painting was easily my most demanding class…which was really a shame because it was the one class I knew I wouldn’t get credit for at Soka. Not only was there a lot of work (5 large paintings in class plus 12 individual paintings of any size outside of class) but the professor was a bit difficult to understand. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t understand his words or his accent, but that he would say one thing and change his mind later. Oh and did I say professor? I meant professors, plural, because there were 3, and they would each give a different opinion. Oy.


At the end of it all, I got a 10/10 (probably mostly because I’m foreign. Doh) so all’s well that ends well. And I got some cool paintings out of it.


Still life painting from class

Still life painting from class

lisa in progress

Black and white landscape

Black and white landscape

still life zoom

still life zoom

dream deer


Sustainable development was neat because all of the class time was used for discussion, so I had the chance to hear about what people in my age bracket think about environmental issues in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Brazil. …Frustrating because, surprise, surprise, the poor organization of both countries’ governments makes it difficult for them to make change in the way that the U.S. has. (Although most environmental movements out there are modeled after the U.S.’s movements.)


What I didn’t like about it was that there was only one grade: an oral exam. No way to gauge beforehand how the professor was going to grade, no way to make it up if you messed up. I did okay, but not as well as I wanted. Moreover, I was disappointed by how abstract the material was. There was no way to apply any of it. What little concrete information there was I already knew from previous classes in the U.S. So, I’m not sure how much I really got out of it other than a few interesting conversations.


I was bored silly by Regional Development, to be honest, but I think that was probably the class I learned the most in. I probably would have been better off taking some kind of Argentine history class though. The real problem here was that, although there was a “shopping” period to test out the main section of this class, the “concentrations” within the course didn’t start til later in the semester and so there was no way to preview them. Let’s just say that if I’d had the chance to preview my concentration, I would not have sat through a semester with that particular professor.


I really wanted more grammar, writing, and vocabulary from the Spanish class, but there was lots of verbal and listening practice. We also read a whole bunch, which also provided a cultural context.


Basically, I’ll tell you that if your goal is to become fluent by the end of your semester abroad…you’ve got to do a LOT of work beyond your classes. The best thing you can do is to avoid the other Yankees in the program and seek out Argentine friends.


II. A side note on making Argentine friends


And now I bet you’re thinking, “Well, duh, Yona. That was my intention.” Ojo, buddy, because it’s a whole lot easier said than done. First of all, you’re going to be naturally inclined to befriend IFSA kida because a) you’ll see them all the time. Program events, classes. You might even live near them. b) You share a cultural context with them, so you naturally have more in common and more things to talk about. c) Spanish is harder and potentially scarier, and English-speaking friends are a safe zone. If you’re not taking a language pledge of some kind, you might find yourself speaking English without even meaning to just because it’s so much easier and because, gosh darn it, you KNOW full well that these guys speak English better than Spanish.


So, be aware that there’s a lot you’re working against in that department and there are a lot of other things to distract you on study abroad, especially if you choose to travel a lot. It’s not all about language and making Argentine friends.


That said, it can be done. Here are a few tips to help you out in this department:


  1. Be tenacious! It’s not going to be easy, so you’ve got to really want it!
  2. Attend as many cultural events as possible. Get involved in the community. These are the kinds of events where you’ll be likely to meet people you have things in common with and an excuse to talk about them. (Plus be able to actually hear each other, unlike in clubs.) One of my good friends was a music junkie, and she made a couple of good friends at folklore or dance events.
  3. Try to talk to one new person every day or every week, especially towards the beginning of the program. The more you talk to people and put yourself out there, the easier it will be. Just go for it.
  4. Smile! Even if you’re nervous or uncertain of your Spanish ability, as long as you’re friendly and sincere…who wouldn’t want to be friends with you and learn more about you?
  5. Join a study group for class!


Now for my confession: aside from my host sister, I didn’t become very close with any Argentines. Sure, I talked to them. I was friendly, I went to cultural events… But I didn’t click with anyone. I didn’t have time to make connections because I had so much else going on! Part of the problem was also that it was very easy to get attention from men… but they didn’t really want to be FRIENDS, if you catch my drift. The women tend to be more standoffish.


However, if given the chance to trade my 4 chicas yanquis for some Mendocine amigos… there’s no way I’d do it. I think everything worked out the way it needed to this time around.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


III. General structure and organization of Argentine classes


See what I did there? It’s funny because there’s not much of ANYTHING in Argentina that was structured or organized!


Some of my classes were cancelled so many times that I almost forgot I had them. Either the professor didn’t show up or there was a paro (strike) or there was a Monday feriado (holiday.)


And, of course, there’s almost never a syllabus. The professor might talk about assignments and never give them. Or vice versa—announce an assignment with very little notice. Essays are much less common than in the U.S. Most of the learning is about memorization of thought, not so much critical thinking.


Sorry Argentina, but I’m definitely ready to go back to the college education I’ve become accustomed to, where syllabi are organized and followed to the letter, where final exam dates are clearly announced ahead of time, where grades are posted and calculated online, where the professor always shows up on time, where I have to use my entire brain….It’s been an interesting experience, but I think I’ve had enough of that for now!


IV. Vocabulario




Paro – strike. Might be the professors themselves or might be the buses and public transport. Both can result in a class being cancelled.

Trabajo practico – Assignments, more or less. Homework. May or may not be an essay.

Promocional – Classes in which students who attend all class sessions and complete all trabajo practico don’t need to take the exam.

Parcial – midterm


V. Previous posts

1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)

2.  Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation

3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”  

4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires

5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  

6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 

7. Trip to Las Termas

8. Daily life in Mendoza

9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 

10. Night of the Soccer Game 

11. Road Trip! 

12. My Mate for Life 

13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 

14. Pros and Cons 


16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen

17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest

18. Some tips about Hostels 


VI. Coming soon

Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael

Chile Part II
The return to BA

Mar del Plata

Goals – accomplishments and compromises

Reverse culture shock


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