Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
It might be a weird thing to say, but as a writing student, I didn’t look at many books during the Feria de Libros. La Feria is a giant festival for books, with stands for booksellers, publishers, anyone who wants to sell something tangentially related to books or reading. There are signings and talks from authors. Though most fairs of this kind are only open to business insiders, the second week of the Buenos Aires fair is open to the public and the porteño people flock to it, even if they’re not generally readers. You could spend all day at the Feria, maybe even two or three. I had only one hour.
Now that I’ve had more time to explore Buenos Aires and my neighborhood of Palermo, I’ve found quite a few fun spots. Some of them are parks, others are music spots, and a lot of them are bookstores. Here is a run down of a few of my favorite locals.
One of the things I miss most about home is nature. There are plenty of wonderful parks here in Buenos Aires. They’re open with lots of places to lay down and relax or trails to bike and walk on. It’s easy to get to them and they are enjoyable, but they are city parks. The nature in them was designed and landscaped to create a perfect urban resting place. While they work great for chatting with friends or doing homework, they don’t fulfill my need to be outside enjoying nature.
The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.
Going to a new place always requires an adjustment, but I was surprised by what felt completely normal and what I’m still getting used to here in Argentina. When I first arrived, Buenos Aires was in the middle of a heat wave. From my first step out of the airport until the miraculous day a week later when a storm hit and the heat broke, I could’ve sworn the climate would kill me. (Side Note: I should’ve packed more dresses. All the pants I have caused me to overheat.) After a week of normal temperatures, while my home in Minnesota goes from a tornado, to snow, to sun, I know I will enjoy Argentinian weather. Read More »
Some thoughts now that I’m back home. Thanks for watching
As the new year approaches, I’ve been enjoying home for the past two weeks; catching up with friends, wolfing down pizza and bagels, and indulging in the English music I’ve blocked out the past five months. It was an adjustment going from the sunny 80 degree weather of Buenos Aires to the cold 35 degrees of New Jersey, but it’ll a good transition for when I return to the tundra known as Maine where Bates is located. The biggest shock has definitely been being able to understand random conversations from people I pass on the street. It’s also been a change reading signs- the words simply glazing past with no effort while in BA there was usually some degree of delay from reading the words to processing their meaning.
Post-study abroad slump hasn’t hit me…yet. I’m hoping that staying busy will keep me occupied so I don’t look at abroad pictures for too long. If I get nostalgic, I’ll have the music of Soda Stereo, Gilda, Tototomas, Jorge Drexler and Julieta Venegas to name a few. I brought home my mate gourd and managed to squeeze three bags of yerba in my suitcase, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my addiction somehow! And of course, I have my memories of a time I’m sure will become even more positive as time passes.
At this point looking back, I’m not sure if my experience has necessarily changed me. Rather, I believe it confirmed a few things.
My own privileges. Buenos Aires, and Argentina as a whole may be liberal, but just as it wasn’t the gay capitol of South America I envisioned, there’s always something underneath the surface. My black and Asian friends in my program had to deal with all kinds of offensive behavior and harassment, sometimes beyond simple curiosity or misunderstanding. It wasn’t enough to ruin their experiences, yet it was something they had to deal with nonetheless. And while as a white gay man I would be considered a minority, I didn’t have to take as much percussion when going on dates with men from dating apps than my female peers, or even walking the streets.
Taking risks are usually worth it. I made great friends in my program, but I found that I got other unique parts out of Buenos Aires by either hanging out with Argentine friends, or going to places by myself. Perhaps as a natural introvert it seemed more logical for me to break off, though there were certainly times in the beginning I didn’t want to seem anti-social. Yet in the end, it’s your experience, and it might be your only time in this place. After all, me taking the initiative was the reason I ended up going to La marcha del Orgullo, one of the highlights of my experience. So I would say to go out of your way- it’ll make your trip so much more worth it.
Un monton de gracias for those who have kept up with me throughout my journey! For those who are going to BA in the future or want to know more, feel reach to reach out in whatever capacity.
Un gran abrazo
Despite the heavy rain, the march went on..and it was one of the most incredible moments of my time here.
Part 2 coming soon!
Whispy by Hyleo (w/ Ollygon)
My Heart by Subtact
I realized I haven’t really included much about how being gay has affected my time here (especially since I’m being paid specifically to talk about this). However, this aspect of my life really didn’t impact me during the first half of my experience. As I mentioned before, there is not the same kind visibility in BA as there is in other “gay-friendly” areas of the world. I have only witnessed glimpses when I least expected it- a man on the collectivo with a rainbow pin, or picking up signals from people on the streets with dyed hair. I have seen a grand total of THREE gay couples- in all these instances I wanted to marvel at how amazing this was but I didn’t want them to see I was staring and ruin the moment. At boliches I would sometimes dance with guys. Otherwise, zilch.
This changed two months ago while I was doing work at Bosques de Palermo, and I saw something in the distance I couldn’t believe- a rainbow flag. I almost ran towards the flag, until I saw what it was for- a tent for La Fundación Nacional Argentina LGBT. I talked with one of the organizers, who told me about weekly volunteer meetings the Fundación had every week and gave me the address, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More »
The typical study abroad blog consists of flashy photos and videos as well as lots of sightseeing *all eyes look towards me, yes I know, I know* But in reality, this is only half the experience.
Believe it or not, there’s actual schoolwork! I have finals coming up- one next week and three the week after (pray for me)! If there isn’t a language barrier, there are cultural barriers that you constantly have to navigate. There are the little things often overlooked- homesickness, insecurity about belonging, seeming like you’re having a good time etc. Then there are the positive things- having meaningful interactions with locals, being able to give directions to tourists, appreciating a new part of the city and discovering your new regular restaurant.
However, there are some feelings or ideas that are really difficult to put into words. That’s partially why I make vlogs for particular places in order to better convey how I’ve felt, with the aid of some background music. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing places like Iguazú or Mendoza any justice by simply calling them “incredible” or “interesting”- I’d rather have my audience see for themselves.
Hence I have another video here about my daily routine and some of the sights and sounds I regularly encounter. Like my other videos, hopefully you can get a better idea about how I’ve spent the majority of my time here in BA for what they are.
This week I’m writing a blog from Buenos Aires, Argentina! I’m visiting my friend who’s studying through IFSA-Butler’s BA program. I’m excited to observe the changes in these two major Latin American cities up against their personal histories of immigration, politics and social climate. For starters, Buenos Aires is much larger than Santiago. The layout of the city seems to be a little different as well- I don’t see any major Costanera centers and there seems to be generally less chain stores (where is my Jumbo and Unimarc, am I right?) The vibe seems to be a lot more old European and my Air BnB has a bidet. More to come as I explore the city tonight and learn what it means to be a chileno-porteno in my own context!
Had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a cooking class with IFSA and Íntegros. We prepared a vegetarian-friendly meal that included a fresh salad, eggplant milanesa, and almond flan. It was delicious
Music: In The Moment (instrumental) by Silo
La comida argentina, in all its forms, has been one aspect I’ve consistently enjoyed while here, so good I’m dedicating this whole entry to bragging over how good it is. Hope you’re reading this with a full stomach!
Desayuno: The “most important meal of the day” is super light here in Argentina, typically consisting of just toast, jam and fruit. Then there’s coffee. Café or commonly café con leche is served in a smaller quantity than in the states and is actually not as strong, only meant for a morning boost. Nevertheless as a coffee addict, I enjoy it anyway, either at home or at one of the millions of cafés scattered around the city. It is commonly served with two or three sweet medialunas, or croissants, and a small glass or orange juice or seltzer.
Almuerzo: The first real meal of the day is much more filling. Many days I’ll stick with good old pizza– here it can be compared to Chicago style pizza- thicker with loads more cheese. One thing difficult to get used to: eating it with a fork and knife. It felt almost degrading the first time. Something else different- drinks in glass bottles. It’s a nostalgia factor, plus you can taste actual sugar in Coke and 7 Up, though you always pour it into a separate cup to drink from. Some days I’ll eat two or three empanadas, either filled with meat, chicken or my personal favorite cheese and onion. You can find these nearly everywhere and are reasonably priced. Choripán– chorizo meat between two buns. Condiments sometimes put on top but the meat is so flavorful it’s really not necessary.
Cena: the biggest meal of the night, although in the typical Argentine household, it’s typically not eaten until 10 or 11 at night! Thankfully because Marta is older we eat at 8:30 or 9. Still, especially in the beginning, there were times I needed to eat an apple before so I wouldn’t lose my mind. Starting with the most sterotypical- carne! I freaking love it here. There’s not a week that goes by without eating bife de chorizo or lomo at least once. Some of it could actually be comparable to what is served in the states, but it’s so much cheaper here, usually $10-15. Often times at steak houses or parillas, they don’t even ask how you want your meat- the huge slabs of meat will satisfy anyone. Pasta here has much less sauce, but the noodles themselves are often homemade and you can really taste the difference- definitely some of the best I’ve had.
Postre: There is one desert that towers over the rest: dulce de leche. This caramel-like sauce is often so sweet I can’t eat too much of it, although in small quantities is quite satisfying- often inside churros here with a little sugar sprinkled on top…the absolute best! Helado– a national obsession. I didn’t know ice cream was so popular in BA until I came a herredia on every other street. Again, the Italian influence is strong. It’s more comparable to gelato, with a higher quality and more flavorful. Even with a cone, people eat it with these small colorful spoons, another little thing that was strange to me. Nonetheless it is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
Alfajores- small cake-like chocolates available in every café and every kiosk with dozens of different kinds and companies. You can expect me to come to class with three of them stuffed in my pocket to give me quick energy during the day.
Maté– omfg my absolute favorite food I have discovered here. I love it so much and it seems like everyone here loves it too. You can see people drinking this tea in parks, at work, on trains and in class. Maté is drunk from a small cup which is filled about 2/3 with the herb, or yerba, filled consitantly with hot water, sometimes cold water during warmer months. Consumed with a straw called a bombilla, you know it’s good when bubbles appear when you pour the water, a sign of nutrients being released. It has amazing health benefits and apparently more caffinne than coffee, which I can certainly attest to. It’s definitely an acquired taste, especially if you’re drinking it for the first time. Sugar and even an orange slice helps mitigate the inital bitterness. I love it, and I love the whole ceremony around it where people pass the maté cup to each person in a group. I am determined to bring some back to the states with me.
Music: Soft Boiled by Lazy Weekends
It’s been really fascinating for me is how similar Argentina was to the U.S. at one time, especially in regards to its history of immigration. Visiting el Museo National de Inmigrantes was basically like when I visited Ellis Island in New York years ago. There were black and white photos of European immigrants, the postcards they sent, the dictionaries they studied, and their stories of escaping poverty and repression for a fresh start in The New World…but these people were going to Argentina! As an American who has consistently heard about being part of a melting pot, it was funny hearing that very same narrative here. Read More »
Part 2 coming soon!
Music: Time by Moss, Helios by Gobbly Read More »
Homesickness has surprisingly been a nonissue. I think this is mainly because Argentine society isn’t drastically different from any Western society, so I haven’t really experienced a strong culture shock. Aside from being in a city, my daily life has become more structured, similar to if I was back at Bates, with less time to think about home. Plus with social media, I’m easily able to keep up with friends, and with my parents every Sunday through Skype. Occasionally though, there are cracks in my contentment; like once when I was entering my Subte station, I was startled to hear a familiar sound from the Sony store nearby:
“But you don’t wanna be high like me, never really knowing why like me, you don’t ever wanna step off that rollercoaster, all alone…”
For me, music has always been a kind of diary, with certain songs able to bring back memories from a particular time. So hearing that Mike Posner song immediately triggered flashbacks to the months before I left for Argentina; back to dorm room parties, the radio show my friend and I had last semester, and other people back at Bates, making me feel a tinge of sadness. Read More »
The lack of expansive green spaces in BA is what initially attracted me to the La Reserva Ecológia. But this isn’t just a typical park. As an ecological reserve, you feel as if you’re literally in the middle of the countryside, in the midst of a variety of trees and vast plains. Away from the bustling city, the contrast is enormous, with only wind whistling through the trees and the intermittent calls of exotic birds to be heard. On one side is the famous Rio de la Plata, extending out into the horizon. On the other side are the modern high rises ubiquitous to the chic Puerto Madero barrio. You are so near the city, yet also far removed. The occasional airplanes flying ahead remind you how close you are to civilization, though in a sort of bubble, adding to the eerie yet intriguing feel of the Reserve. It quickly became one of my favorite spots. Read More »
Took a short excursion to Tigre during our first long weekend
Music: Back in Summer by Nicolai Heidlas
Aaand I’m back. After a hectic, time-consuming shopping period, I finally got the time to write this entry! Basically the past few weeks were spent traveling to 10 different classes and listening to their respective professors give introductions, and then judging by those whether or not I wanted to pursue the class. I also considered factors such as class size and how well I liked the professors. IFSA warned us how the Argentine university registration processes was notoriously disorganized, and that was certainly the case.
Besides castellano, my classes include a seminar about political and social processes in Latin America, a class about contemporary solidarity movements in Argentina, and a human rights class. I’m also taking a film and literature class with a contemporary focus on the 21st century. That class, as well as castellano, is taught at the IFSA headquarters in center of town on Avenida Corrientes. The seminar is taught at La Universidad del Salvador, off Avenida Córdoba a little farther out in Recoleta but nearby a Subte estación. The rest of my classes are at La Universidad Católica Argentina in The San Telmo/Puerto Madero area. Out of all three places, UCA is by far the most modern, though it is an absolute pain to access- if you’re traveling from the center of town, you have to give yourself at least half an hour to cross the Plaza de Mayo (especially when there’s a protest) and then three wide avenidas. I should note that, yes, both universities are very much Catholic, with crosses and pictures of Pope Francis everywhere. According to Lara, the administrations of both are fairly conservatives, although the ideology doesn’t always extend to the professors. Plus the classes I’m taking deal with topics of social injustice, so I assume my sexuality shouldn’t be an issue, maybe, hopefully? Read More »
I made it to Argentina! My flight finally arrived in Buenos Aires at 3am after being delayed another 7 hours (supposed to take off at 8am, but didn’t end up leaving until around 4pm). There were three other girls from my program on the flight with me, so we were all able to take taxis (organized by IFSA Butler, even at 3am!) to the hotel, sleep for a few hours, and then get ready to start two days of touring through Buenos Aires!
One of my favorite stops in Buenos Aires was the Plaza de Mayo. This central area of the city features La Casa Rosada (similar to The White House, except that the president does not live there). Our guide also explained that this plaza is important for the political culture of Buenos Aires because it is so near to gubernatorial offices. For years, Argentines have come to the Plaza de Mayo to protest. Two symbols of these protests still exist today — a camp run by unrecognized veterans of the Malvinas War and painted outlines of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, women who walked (and continue to walk every Thursday) around the plaza lamenting their disappeared children (desaparecidos) who were murdered by the Argentine military.
A more light-hearted feature of the plaza is the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, where Pope Francis held mass before he became the Pope.
Another favorite was a neighborhood called La Boca filled with colorful buildings (They were painted with leftover paint from construction sites around the city) and kind-of-creepy/really neat models of historical figures from Argentina, such as Eva Perón (Evita) and Pope Francis.
My third favorite stop in Buenos Aires was La Recoleta, an eerily beautiful cemetery filled with mausoleums (both ornate and modern). Eva Perón, a beloved figure among many Argentine people, is buried there.
After our trip to La Recoleta, it was time to head to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires to catch our flight to Mendoza. Like true Argentines, our bus arrived just as the flight was scheduled to board, so the plane ended up waiting for all twenty-something of us to check our luggage, pay for our overweight bags (you can only check about 33 pounds of luggage flying within the country), and clear security (which only involved putting our bags through a scanner and stepping through a basic metal detector…very different than in the US).
Overall, the two days in Buenos Aires were exciting and jam-packed with sightseeing, listening and speaking Spanish, learning about Argentine customs and culture, and meeting new people on my program. My days were so full that I didn’t have too much time to be homesick (which for me is a very good thing).
Now, on to Mendoza!