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2 posts from December 2013

12/18/2013

FALL 2013, LIBERAL ARTS + URGD, ISSUE III

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Closing this chapter from BA!

Dear colleagues,

Almost six months have gone by, and we are finally closing this invaluable experience. It has been a wonderful semester, and we would like to share a few final words with you. We hope you enjoy these updates!

 Farewell party

 

Likewise past semester, this year’s students had their own night of dinner and dancing, along with faculty and resident staff. The first part of the night was spent mingling amidst laughter and reminisces about the past semester and all the experiences that were had, while waiters  and students and staff alike wasted no time dancing to a mix of American and Argentine music. While enjoying the desserts, the students were recognized for their accomplishments and participations at many of the organized program activities.

Ending the evening,Juan Mallea, made a toast to congratulate all students for their various accomplishments as well as thank the staff for their hard work.

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“Language, Culture and Integration” Research Conference

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On Nov. 7 and 8, our headquarters hosted the research conference, “Language, Culture and Integration,” organized by FLACSO’s Latin American Studies department and CIEE Buenos Aires. The conferences were very well attended, something that is an indication of the interest that has awoken in the academic community. The opening and closing panels had specialists from different disciplines, belonging to diverse fields within FLACSO and other institutions. The talks showcased the advances that they are producing in the different fields of investigation, which also constitutes a valuable contribution towards continuing working with the main themes proposed for this conference: the teaching and learning of foreign languages and the cultural and intercultural issues in immersion experiences. We want to thank all the participants for making this productive exchange of reflections and ideas that will help to expand the panorama of research that is being carried out possible.

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Internships Closure

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Five students from the Liberal Arts Program, who demonstrated strong academic skills, have finished their internships in public and private organizations. Through this, they were able to achieve a deeper understanding of the their academic interests and also gained professional experience. As we wrote in the last newsletter, this semester we offered: three positions as Research Assistants at the National Senate, and two positions as a Writing Collaborators in a cinema and literature reviews. Please see above some terrific feedback from the participants.

Student feedbacks

Collaborator at Cinema and Literature Journals - Carly Wakshlag, Grinnell College

My internship experience was both enjoyable and challenging. While I was given some basic structure as to what I was supposed to write about, there was a lot of flexibility for me to be able to synthesize my own ideas and analysis in my critiques and responses. Thus far, I have written two essays in response to `Los Prisioneros,` by Rubem Fonseca and to the film Wakolda.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and the movie, which pertained to my family history personally regarding the Holocaust, so I am appreciative that this experience provided me the opportunity to be exposed to these two works of art.

This internship, whose content mirrored my academic responsibilities, also emulated a work experience and helped better prepare me for what to expect professionaly with regards to deadlines and guidelines for what to write for different magazines and blogs; I was responsible not only for myself but also for my mentor, Hernan Sassi, who helped me through this process and with getting my essays out to the public.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this experience and was also able to improve my Spanish writing skills. I am glad that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity while studying abroad in Buenos Aires.

Research assistant at the National Senate - Abigail Arndt, Colby College

This semester in Buenos Aires I interned with the Argentine National Senate. Myself and two other students in the program researched the laws surrounding marijuana in the United States, Canada, and The Netherlands. I studied the case of the United States. This experience was particularly interesting to me because the topic is relevant and heavily debated in the case of Argentina and the United States. Coming from Colorado, a state that has recently legalized marijuana use, I had a distinct bias and information base to begin with, and as I researched I learned more about the broader implications of and varying opinions on the legalization or decriminalization of the drug.

I had never before completed a research assignment like this in Spanish, so it was extremely helpful in advancing my language skills. Writing in such a formal and professional register was new to me, and it allowed me to explore language structures and vocabulary that I had previously not experimented with.

Research assistant at the National Senate - Victoria Moroney, Georgetown University

During my research internship with Senator Daniel Filmus this semester, I had the opportunity to research the public policy of narcotics, with a particular focus on the liberalization of marijuana policy. I really enjoyed researching this subject, since it is a topic that is both incredibly controversial as well as incredibly relevant to current day political discussions around the world. My country of research was Canada, which is an interesting case since the Canadian federal government is currently in the process of privatizing their medical marijuana market. Canada also stands out in its narcotics policies for having North America’s only supervised injection site, located in British Colombia. The site, which remains controversial in Canada, aligns with goals to make drug policy about harm reduction, prevention, and education instead of criminalization.

When I started the internship, I didn’t know much about the pros and cons of liberalizing marijuana policies, however I held vague notions that the decriminalization of the drug would be a good first step for countries looking to liberalize their policies. However, after finishing my research I’ve come to similar conclusions as many marijuana policy experts, who contend that decriminalization of the drug is not a beneficial interim step toward legalization, since it continues to penalize users and would have little impact on the illegal drug market.  Because of this, countries interested in liberalizing their drug policies could instead use the creation of a medical marijuana market as an interim step toward legalization. This way, states can begin to set up the institutions and laws necessary for the effective regulation of the market, but on a smaller and more manageable scale.

Whatever you believe about the liberalization of drug policy, it’s clear that public opinion in many countries is shifting towards more liberal policies after decades of what many deem an unsuccessful “War on Drugs.” Studying the impacts of the legalization of pot in Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay, as well as the privatization of the medical marijuana market in Canada should be a key focus in the coming year for all countries looking to reform their drug laws.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to involve myself in this important debate during my time in Argentina, and want to thank CIEE, Senator Filmus, and our coordinator Diego Filmus for having this program available!

Research assistant at the National Senate - Peter Cohen, Georgetown University

This semester I interned for Senator Daniel Filmus preparing research papers on the theme of dispenalization of controlled substances in Argentina. Myself and two other interns worked from home while occationally meeting in person, each analyzing a different country (mine was the Netherlandes), noting it's policies on controlled substances, and comparing it to Argentina to see what similarities or differences existed.

This has been a very rewarding experience for me. First off, because of it's flexible schedule, I was able to take on an internship without worrying about it affecting my study abroad experience by preventing me from taking advantage of other experiences. Had this internship been full-time or even 20 hours a week, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it. Through this internship, I gained an appreciation of not only the Argentine perspective on drugs and drug use, but also the dutch perspective. These two international views on drug use and public health have helped me shape my oppinion on an important issue that is becomming increasingly more relevant in the United States and around the world. The internship also gave me to opportunity to participate in a number of special events in the Senate. These included a tribute to the cultural influence of a popular singer/songwriter, a recognition of musicians and actors who were blacklisted during the military dictatorship, and a private tour of the Senate.

All in all, my eperiences interning for Senator Filmus were very positive and I would do it again if I had the choice.

"CIEE on the Radio" by RJ Taylor, Georgetown University

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One of the coolest experiences I have had while studying abroad in Argentina was appearing on a radio program called Jóvenes en Acción, or Youth in Action. This semester I have an internship with the U.S. Department of State through the American embassy in Buenos Aires, and several weeks ago one of their Argentinian employees called me and asked me if I wanted to go on the program to discuss intercultural exchange and my experience studying abroad in Argentina with a couple of Argentinians who had studied abroad in the United States. Without thinking, I jumped at the chance and said yes - who could pass up an opportunity like this? As the date of my radio debut approached, though, I have to admit that I started to have some second thoughts. What if I accidentally started speaking in English or forgot how to say something in Spanish? When I finally walked into the studio and sat down in front of the microphone, however, I realized how silly it was to be afraid; the point of show was to share our experiences as young people adapting to life in a foreign country, not to critique the grammar of non-native Spanish-speakers. Soon enough, I found the words coming naturally to me as I described the culture shock I experienced during my first day of class at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. The Argentinians in the studio laughed as I recounted how I showed up to the classroom early and was confused to find it empty; at the time, I did not know that most classes at UBA do not begin until 10-15 minutes after their official starting time or that professors often arrive even later than that. I had my own laugh when one of the Argentinian students described the reactions of startled Americans who he kept trying to greet by kissing on the cheek during his first few weeks in the United States. While the program may have only lasted an hour, the experience of being on the radio in a foreign country is definitely a memory that will last a lifetime. 

Seminar on Living and Learning in Buenos Aires: Day Excursion to San Antonio de Areco

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The different fieldtrips during the semester are out-of-the-classroom activities whose main challenge is to develop perception skills by observing urban and sub-urban surroundings and their cultural practices. These activities are taken to the next level through a group excursion to San Antonio de Areco (getting to know a local town outside the city of Buenos Aires) which aims to increase student’s ability to understand and interpret local cultural features. This group excursion took place in a rural area to understand the local cultural practices and challenge students to find and interpret the differences and commonalities between the countryside and the city. San Antonio de Areco is a small town located 70 mi away from the city,of Buenos Aires and it offers a non touristy atmosphere. The central park and dynamics of the town offers a different view to students used to the city rythm. The excursion included participating of a traditional celebration with carnival atmosphere on the outer rim, gaucho competition with horses (jineteada), regional cuisine, and a festive feel as well as plenty of “productos artesanales” (hand crafted, local artist made) to look at and purchase. 

By Carolina Alba Merlo, professor

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Student feedbacks

Josh Taylor, University of Evansville

Being in San Antonio de Areco was a completely different experience than being in Bueno Aires. There was such a contrast between a big city and a little town that it surprised me, especially since the two are only about 60 miles apart.   While Buenos Aires is all hustle-and-bustle, San Antonio has a very relaxed nature.  People were sitting in the park drinking mate and talking with friends and neighbors.  My group was able to talk with some people that lived in the town and almost every mentioned that it is more peaceful than the city and that they would rather choose to live in San Antonio than Buenos Aires.

While we were there, my group was able to watch how gauchos would break a horse to become tame.  It was quite interesting!  The men who were participating were wearing shirts, pants, and boots that resembled what gauchos would have worn a hundred years ago.  The event of breaking horses seemed to be a social event.  There were people all around the fence, talking with one another, and some even had picnics with them.  This was definitely a social event that many showed up to.

All in all, seeing the contrast between Buenos Aires and San Antonio de Areco was fascinating!

Ashley Walsh, Vanderbilt University

Areco was the perfect break from Buenos Aires.  Porteños are usually very nice, but the people of Areco are the most welcoming Argentines I have met.  The town does not move at the bustling pace of Buenos Aires, and this seems to be reflected in their attitudes.  The town was green and airy and we even saw a small fair in the park.  At the fair, Quinn and I spoke with some locals about their town.  Everyone agreed that they loved the safety, values, friendliness, and tranquility of life there. We were also lucky enough to be there to experience a very special cultural day.  Just outside of town there was a large exhibition of horses and gaucho traditions.  Everyone was dressed in traditional clothing.  It was such an authentic cultural experience that I feel like many tourists and foreigners never get to experience.  It was my favorite part of the day, and a highlight of the semester.

Being in Areco reminded me of being home.  My town is very different, but it is more similar to Areco than Buenos Aires.  I loved being back in a place where everyone knows and cares about each other.  Buenos Aires has so much to offer, but my day in San Antonio de Areco reminded me that suburbs have advantages to offer too.

Ashley Thomas, Indiana University

It’s incredible how quickly the scenery can change as you make your way out of the city. Incomparison with the city, San Antonio de Areco is calm, quiet, slow, and traditional. The air felt clean and trees lined the streets! The houses, church, restaurants, etc, had spanish-infuenced features and were far from the tall apartment buidlings I am used to seeing in B.A. Very few people roamed the streets and many of them were not even residents, but people visiting from the city to slow down and breath some fresh air. In an interview with two young men, I was told that life in San Antonio was much calmer and slower than that in the city. However, I also learned that many people must leave San Antonio to go into the city for job or educational resources/opportunities. I really enjoyed the area, and it’s comforting to know that fresh air and a slower pace are not too far from the city when I need them!

Cultural correspondent : "Proyecto Elefante" by Isabella Ross, Wesleyan University

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I have always been interested in theater, and when I came to Buenos Aires I was surprised by the huge variety of independent theater (or "teatro off", as they call it here) that takes place in this vibrant city. I soon met people from the theater world, and recommendations came quickly. One of the most recommended spots was "El Astrolabio Teatro", a space that functions as both a school and as a performance space. The theater sits on a quiet residential street in Caballito, and a small sign outside the building is the only thing that distinguishes it from the other houses on the block. Last week I went to the Astrolabio to see the last function of "Proyecto Elefante." While waiting in the charming, crowded lobby, guests were treated to small glasses of a sweet liquor to celebrate the closing night.

"Proyecto Elefante" is a play with 16 actors on stage. The set is exciting, constantly changing, and full of vivid colors. The work is about our perception of reality, of culture, and about the conventionalism that makes us forget the origin of things. The actors interpret the play in a masterful way; it seemed that all of their movements were written as a score to be executed with great precision. This skill, which I was told is characteristic of the director of the Cazabat school, allows the actors to create moments of total stability and of total instability in the scene. The talented actors are also preform music on stage, including live piano playing and singing. In an unforgettable scene, one of the actresses interprets an aria of the famous Mozart opera "The Magic Flute."

In short, the show was excellent. My friend and I even had the luck of being able to chat with some of the actors after the show, making it an exciting evening from start to finish.

If you are left wanting more, please click in these links:

Jack Suiter, Vanderbilt University > "A reflection about my argentine host family"

Victoria Moroney, Georgetown University > "Growing up five thousands miles away from home"

Josh Taylor, University of Evansville > "Argentina vs. Perú Soccer game"

Visit to the Universidad Nacional Arturo Jauretche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/02/2013

Visit to the Universidad Nacional Arturo Jauretche

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On Thursday, Oct. 17, nine program students and two professors visited one of the universities created in recent years in the Buenos Aires suburbs, an institution that has the goal of occupying a vacant place: including academic life in a sector with a forgotten population.

We traveled first by the subway and then by bus for more than an hour (a trip that many students from this university make because they work in the capital) and we arrived at one of the headquarters located in the Néstor Kirchner hospital. There we met with Gabriela Ximena Gómez, one of those responsible for the initial cycle. She explaining the particularities of this educational project and showed us the classrooms, the laboratories and the library.

Then we went to the central headquarters, six blocks from the hospital. There we had three interviews. One was with Nelson Leone, professor of the Reading and Writing workshop, who commented on his job there. We also spoke with Juan Martín Casco at this site, who is in charge of the Student Center. We had a chance to have a snack with him while he told us about the Center’s functions, an organism that manages materials, scholarships, cultural activities and all types of benefits for the students. Lastly, we talked with María Peressoa, one of those in charge of the Cultural Relations Unit of the Political and Territory Center. She told us how the university connects itself with the territory in productive and cultural matters.

 We ended the visit at another site located in the zone’s high school. There we spoke with students from the Reading and Writing Workshop commission. While we were sharing some refreshments, we talked, firstly, about the differences between North American and Argentine culture: meal schedules, nightlife, greetings, rituals prior to going out dancing, sports, etc. Secondly, we talked about the differences and similarities between North American and Argentine academic life: how and when one chooses their career path, class methods, evaluation methods, types of courses, schedules, number of years needed for certain careers, the distinction between public and private education, etc.

 The visit was preceded by previous research and talks about the university – an institution distinct from those the program students are used to visiting – and now it will be expanded upon in the coming weeks through written essays that the students will complete about this productive experience, which we were all very enthusiastic about and from which we all left enriched.

Hernán Sassi

Prof. Dr. en Letras (UBA)

Magister en Cultura y Comunicación (UBA)

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In Students' words....

  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to visit the students at UNAJ.  For me, it was a unique experience—I only have a direct enrollment class at the Catholic University here, which is a private school.  In Argentina, the distinction between public and private schools is simply whether or not the students pay to attend.  Although it is my first experience at a private school in my life, UCA is very similar to schools I have attended in the United States.  As students pay to attend, there is a different socioeconomic class represented.  When I go to class at UCA, I sit in a nice classroom, use the wifi, and see the other students on their laptops or tablets.

        The profile of the students is strikingly different from what I would encounter at my university in the United States.  In the discussion, we talked about cultural differences, why the students are attending college, and different systems of universities.  However, there was definitely an undertone of class difference, as these students work full time and attend a free university.  Of the American students on the trip, we have a scholarship system to support our studies, and if we work, it is a part-time job.  Some people have loans, which is not an ideal system in any way, but it allows students to focus full-time on their students and pay later.  I remember one of the students telling us he goes to work for eight hours in the morning, comes home, goes to class, sleeps and repeats: he does not have a life outside of work and school.  I was also surprised (although I should not be) how much these students knew about American culture and television programs—it was easy to talk about popular movies with ease.  Overall, I enjoyed the visit to UNAJ, and I think it was a good compliment to our experiences in the universities in Buenos Aires.  

 Molly Zweig, Indiana University

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When we went to chat with the students of the National University of Arturo Jauretche, I felt that it was very productive to hear the life stories of the students and share things about my own life and the lives of my classmates in FLACSO. I liked that there were discussiones about a myriad of topics: about sports that we all like or don’t like, about favorite hobbies, and even about pre-gaming rituals in parties in the two countries. I believe that it was best that there were not specific questions or a fixed agenda because it allowed the conversation to be more fluid and fostered a friendly and open space. In the beginning of the conversation, we talked about more impersonal things, but due to the friendly environment, at a certain point we changed the topic and talked about more personal things that have to do with academic life. For me, it was very important (and I kept thinking about this for some time after) to hear about the difficulties of going to school for the students that are a bit outside of the culture and system of the University of Buenos Aires – due to distance, money, or an overly-challenging academic level – that almost always ended with students completely hopeless, leaving their major. One student spoke about his work and that when he was going to school, he could only sleep maybe two or three hours every night. It was imposible to continue because he had no life. A couple of American students spoke about the huge pressure that exists in American universities and that the desire to study is lost because the “goal” of higher education has more to do with a good job or higher social standing instead of the pride of having studied and graduated with a degree. These moments of the chat were the best because both groups shared some difficulties (and also good things) in their lives, especially regarding higher education.

 Nancy Roane, Oberlin College

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Upon arriving to the Universidad Nacional Arturo Jauretche, it was unclear exactly what we would be doing there other than chatting with some students from our professor’s introductory class. The only information we had been provided was that we would have a few interviews with various members of the university – staff, students, etc. – and the visit would culminate in us talking with some local students, but we had no idea what to expect. Although at first the lack of information we were given was frustrating, however in hindsight, I believe it made the visit all the more effective. With no preconceived notions about what the university would be like, we had nothing to hinder our expectations.

After traveling a few kilometers away from the main center of the university to a public school where Hernan’s class took place (because there isn’t enough space for all the classes to take place at the university), we entered the less-than-pristine classroom to a room full of about 20 students, all of various ages. For some reason, the thought that the students would not all be the same age never occurred to me, even though I had done some research about the university and the nature of how the students come to enroll there amidst their otherwise busy lives of working, often to support a whole family. As we began the chat, I slowly started to take note of the initially-subtle but gradually more glaring differences between this university and the universities back in the United States. We talked about the differences between the two grading systems – the “A, B, C, D, etc.” method versus the “1-10” scale – and the difference in college community, seeing as how in the U.S., it is customary for students to live on campus and away from home whereas students here (in Argentina) continue to live at home while going to college.

As we talked more and more, we as Americans became more comfortable with the situation as a whole and started to open up a little bit more. The conversation veered from an academic standpoint to talking about drinking culture and parties – a topic that we all seemed to agree on and had similar mindsets. The whole environment became more relaxed as jokes were shared in Spanish and English and the laughter seemed less forced. These students, regardless of their ages (seeing as how some of them were almost double our ages), were just like us. They’re students, here to learn. Regardless of what they were studying, how late they were starting their university education, and the fact that most of them worked full day at a job and then went to class, the fact that we were all embarking on the educational journey to achieve a common goal was, without a doubt, the most powerful unifier.

 Hannah Teskey, Occidental College

DSC02314When reflecting on all of the parts of our visit to UNAJ, I thought that the chat with your students at the end was the most productive. Having the opportunity to compare our very distinct educational experiences with your students revealed a lot about both cultural and personal differences in the way education is viewed in Argentina and the US.

Firstly, I was impressed by the way your students viewed their educational experience as a gift and rare opportunity, rather than a chore or dreaded necessity like many students in the US. I was awed by the eagerness to learn and effort put forth to attend your night classes after a long day of work and a grueling commute to and from the city. The one outgoing student who called you Dr. House sitting to our left seemed very excited to be in class despite the fact that he had to wake up at five in the morning, commute to the city, and all with minimal time to do homework.

In many ways, this chat made me realize how little is expected of US college students, including myself. Granted, the work is very hard and there exists a huge amount of pressure to get top grades and in my case, get a very sought after job in the financial sector. However, I am not in a position where I need to work to support my family, commute two hour or more a day, and attend a night class, on top of homework and trying to maintain a social life.

Seeing the sheer drive in your students to further their education and improve their standard of living made me reevaluate the way I look at my education. Just like many of my peers, I often get far too caught up on performance, studying for the short term, and then forgetting the information later. But in your students, I see a legitimate appreciation for the learning process and making a concerted effort to focus on personal improvement and holistic learning.

Jay Moody, Vaderbilt University 

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