The importance of perspective and context
“Humans see what they want to see.” ― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
I haven’t written much about my academic experience here, so I’d like to take this moment to explore what happened in my first class.
Before I delve into the experience, I’d like to explain briefly the advantage that international students have when studying in Argentina with IFSA Butler. During the first three weeks here, we have a “shopping” period, where we get to try out different classes in different universities without commitment. So within 5 universities, one can only imagine how overwhelming it was to choose potential classes and find the time to attend them all. My first list of interesting classes started with over 30 classes, which was narrowed down to 10 when I put it in my calendar, with me ending up only testing 5 classes. One of these classes was Educación y Diversidad en la UCA (Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina), a private university located in the beautiful region of Puerto Madero.
The class consisted of about 30 girls my age, 1 girl from Canada, and 3 students from the US. The teacher was very welcoming to the international students, and spoke clearly and slowly enough for us to digest her spanish. Coming into this class, I was very excited to learn about how Argentina viewed racial issues and how these issues were presented in Education. But after reading the syllabus that was handed out mid-class, I began to realize that “diversidad” was defined by handicapped people (a definition that is very broad). At first, I was disappointed because I was very eager to learn about diversity in terms of racial and ethnic issues. It was only after walking home from the class that I realized that my experiences in the US as a minority shaped my expectations for this class. I clearly had a definition for diversity that I associated in ethnic terms, and had to realize that the same racial issues that are present in the US are not present in Argentina. Trying out this class helped me take a step back from my lens and realize that I have a new lens to add on top of my Vietnamese and American lens – Argentine lens. Lens that are still developing with my perspective, and will only become clearer as my perspective and understanding develops.
Besides this cultural shock, I am thankful for the shopping period which allowed me to take other classes that I found more interest in. I am currently enrolled in 2 classes en la UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires), both of which I love for their level of difficulty and the enrolled students, whose passion for learning surpasses what I saw in UCA and USAL. Although the 3 weeks of shopping was a headache, in the end, it was vale la pena.