Study Abroad in
Isaac Walker, Grinnell College
In Julio Cortázar’s “Axolotl”, the narrator has a chance encounter with the axolotls that inhabit the Jardín des Plantes in Paris. He is immediately fascinated by them, and this fascination develops progressively from the first encounter up until his eventual transformation into an axolotl. In this essay, I propose that the relationship that the narrator has with the axolotls symbolizes that of the narrator with his own individuality. I argue that the story presents the tumultuous process of self-examination that reflects an internal disjunction of internal subjectivity.
At the end of the story, the narrator transforms into an axolotl, but there exist both similarities and a clear connection between them from the beginning. The narrator doesn’t believe that the axolotl are animals, but neither does he believe that they are exactly human; he notes that they “weren’t human beings, but in no animal had I found such a profound relationship with myself.” He feels more of a connection with the axolotls than with monkeys, whose anthropomorphized features seem to him a facade that, rather than suggesting their similarities to humans, reveals the distance that separates them from us. In contrast with the monkeys, the axolotls are definitely linked to humanity, as the narrator perceives that they could consume him in a “cannibalism of gold.” As a result, we can take the symbol of the axolotl to analyze the process of investigation of the self undergone by the narrator. This process is seen in a relationship between the narrator and the axolotls consisting of three principal characteristics: fascination, horror, and separation.
The axolotls fascinate the narrator who, after seeing them for the first time, is able to do nothing but think about them. He is fascinated by the entirety of the axolotls, as much by their physical appearance as their internal mental state. The narrator describes in detail the bodies of the creatures in an attempt to understand them. He also longs to access their thoughts, and imagines that they communicate with him through their eyes, that they transmit “a message: ‘Save us, save us.’”
This fascination, however, is unidirectional and tinged with the presence of the narrator’s own ego. He is fascinated by the axolotls, not the axolotls with him; and after his transformation into an axolotl he loses all interest in the man outside of the aquarium. Furthermore, the narrator’s fascination with the axolotls causes him to lose all interest in other things, particularly the lions, the panthers, and even other humans. The guard in the Jardín, for instance, attempts to starts conversations with the narrator, but the narrator never responds. Upon confronting himself, the narrator loses his capacity to connect with others.
The axolotls terrify the narrator: they devour him “with their eyes in a cannibalism of gold,” and he feels unsafe spending time with them without other people in the aquarium. We can think of this terror inspired by the axolotls as the result of the strong connection that the narrator feels with them; it is frightening to identify completely with a being that possesses an “absolute lack of similarity” to human beings. However, the axolotl are also more similar to the narrator than any other animal or person. Cortázar implies, therefore, an internal confusion of subjectivity; there is always distance and dissimilarity within the self.
The presence of this distance in the story is established even more strongly by the glass that separates the narrator from the axolotls. He attempts to overcome this barrier, but doesn’t manage to do so until the end of the story when he transforms into an axolotl. The eventual transformation is terrifying, and it separates the narrator from his previous self, who is now just a man on the other side of the glass. The process of transformation of the subject in “Axolotl” is represented as one characterized by disjunction and fear.
In the midst of our Spring Semester activities, arrived our new participants of the Summer Community Public Health (CPH) Program, bundled in their thick jackets and fully prepared to embrace the winter months in Buenos Aires.
They started off with a presentation of the program and a warm welcome dinner at Prosciutto Restaurant. The students’ first week was brimming with workshops, Yellow Fever vaccines in preparation for their trip to Misiones Province, language integration activities and tea with their host families. Soon after, they got to work and took their COPI exams, partook in personal interviews and started classes right away!
Although the CPH students are intensively learning about the Argentine system of health and preparing for their field work, they are also immersing themselves in cultural activities.
On May 29th, the students went to the Cultural Center of Recoleta to experience a famous, upbeat show containing acrobats, aerialists, swimming and music. After a 2-year tour around Brazil, New York, London, Moscow, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Israel, Spain, Taiwan and Manila, Fuerzabruta came back to where their incredible trip started: right here in Buenos Aires. The show was a success with the Spring Semester students, so we decided to take another round, resulting in high popularity among the CPH students as well.
On June 4th, just a few days before the start of the World Cup, the students had a chance to see the national Argentine soccer team compete against Trinidad and Tobago in Buenos Aires’ well-known River Plate Stadium. Everyone went dressed as hinchas, or fans of Argentina, harmoniously incorporated with their light blue and white surroundings.
The stadium quaked and rumbled as the students joined the rest of the crowd to cheer on Lionel Messi! It was a very exciting game and, as expected, Argentina ended up winning 3-0!
Not long after, on June 6th, the students took a trip to the city of Puerto Iguazú to see Iguazú Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and to visit other attractions. Iguazu Falls is located in Misiones Province in a corner of Argentina that borders both Brazil and Paraguay.
On their first day, the students went to Hospital SAMIC in Puerto Iguazú and had the chance to speak to the Chief of Medicine, who gave them a perspective on health care in the province.
They also visited Hito Tres Fronteras, or Triple Border, located in the west of the town, where the Iguazú and Paraná rivers merge to connect Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. From this viewpoint, one can see Brazil’s green and yellow flag across one side of the river, and further away, Paraguay’s red, white and blue.
Located about 40 kilometers from Puerto Iguazú, one encounters the town of Wanda, famous for its Minas de Wanda, mines of semiprecious stones including agate, amethyst, topaz, jasper and quartz. A number of mining establishments in Wanda not only remove the stones, but also cut, polish and produce jewelry.
The students took a guided tour through the mines on the second day of their trip, where they were able to appreciate the different areas of the beautiful deposits.
They also had lunch in the National Park of Iguazú and finally got to see the waterfalls! Compared to Niagra Falls, Iguazú is a powerhouse. On the way to Iguazú, there was a huge storm and the rain continued throughout the whole trip. On any other trip, one would assume that rain is far from ideal, but when the students reached their destination, the falls were much larger than usual. The weather in Iguazú dips about five or six times a year, resulting in falls that are absolutely miraculous.
On the last day of the trip, the students visited Ruinas de San Ignacio. San Ignacio was founded in 1632 by the Jesuits in what was then called the Province of Paraguay and is now divided among Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The ruins, some of the most visited, are also some of the best preserved in the area.
Although they were originally built with local red sandstone, the width of the walls is around 2 meters, which has allowed for them to remain intact for centuries. In 1984, the ruins were designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
After a weekend of rain and adventures, the students ended the trip with a peaceful walk along the promenade of Posadas, the capital of Misiones Province, where they boarded the plane that brought them back to the sounds of the city.
Last weekend, the students took off to their field work sites, which include Olavarría in the Province of Buenos Aires; Concepción de Uruguay in Entre Ríos; and, Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.
When you think of Buenos Aires, most likely images of tango dancers, famous historical monuments, and world renowned museums come to mind. Buenos Aires is truly a cultural hub. However, we had an amazing cultural experience simple by taking a very off-the-beaten-path walk around the streets of this city. Through word-of-mouth, we had heard about a street art walking tour called graffitimundo, and we decided to check it out.
graffitmundo is a nonprofit organization that was started by two British travelers who were struck by the strong presence of graffiti street art in the city. They started working with local artists in 2009 with the hope of expanding the public consciousness of this dynamic and usually unappreciated art form. The organization runs tours almost every day during the week to bring people in direct contact with art and the local artists. Also, graffimundo serves as a liaison between the artists and potential clients looking to purchase framed pieces or commission works to beautify the exteriors of their homes and businesses.
Street art in Argentina is definitely unique. We learned from our extremely knowledgeable and well-traveled tour guide that this art form exploded in the past few decades as a response to various political and economic struggles that the country has experienced. While graffiti is still illegal in Argentina, as it is in the U.S., there is a much higher tolerance and appreciation for it here, as this art form is a fairly accepted method of artistic and political expression. While graffiti was originally a tool of the masses, the government has also adopted this strategy and will often higher artists to paint the streets with propaganda supporting their particular political party or candidate.
Our super cool tour guide in front of a piece called “Nestornauta,” which depicts the face of the late president Nestor Kirchner in the body of El Eternauta, a famous political cartoon that represents that resistance against the dictatorships that controlled Argentina in the late 20th century.
We were both struck by the collaborative nature of a lot of the works we saw. Rather than compete, the graffiti artists combine their unique styles to create monumental muralistic pieces, such as the two below:
Not only do both of these works combine different aesthetics, but the various artists also use distinctive techniques and mediums to establish their own styles. Before this tour, both of us assumed that most street art was created by uncomissioned “taggers” who use traditional cans of spray paint. Most graffiti art that we had seen in the U.S. consisted of one-dimensional block letters painted in one or two colors. This technique of “tagging” exists in Argentina as well, but many people commission street artists to create larger and more elaborate pieces to prevent and cover-up such tags. The works that we saw in Buenos Aires were varied in terms of mediums; some of the artists used a combination of spray and acrylic paint, while one artist in particular, whose piece is in the photo below, chose to mix his paints with dirt so that they appear more like watercolors and incorporate the local surroundings.
This piece was painted by an artist known as Jaz during a graffiti art festival in the city. The two bulls represent two local boys who died in a tragic conflict with the police.
One aspect that our tour guide constantly highlighted is the dynamic nature of the graffiti art in Buenos Aires. Depending on the size, location, and level of recognition, a piece might stick around for a few short weeks to many months or even years. Our tour guide took us to see one of her favorite pieces and was saddened to find that within the past few days, other artists had started to overtake the wall with their own pieces. “It had a good run,” as she said; this type of change is typical of the street art world.
We learned so much from this experience, and now we find ourselves pointing out to others the amazing pieces of art that we pass on the daily, recognizing the artists and discovering that art exists in our neighborhoods in places that we had never realized. The more well-known tourist attractions usually take precedence in anyone’s stay in Buenos Aires; however, for us, this non-traditional walking tour is really a must. Whatever country you are reading this from, you can get a taste of the graffiti art culture by checking out this link to the trailer for graffimundo’s documentary called “White Walls Say Nothing.” Look for its release later this year.
Ciao, from your favorite street art aficionadas!
Jinyoung Lee, Georgetown University
I arrived in Plaza de Mayo on the morning of May 25, looking forward to a day of celebration for the national holiday commemorating the May Revolution of 1810. This date marks the anniversary of the removal of the Spanish viceroy from the Rio de la Plata colony (present-day Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia) and the establishment of a self-governing administration in Buenos Aires—the beginning of a revolution that ultimately led to the country’s independence from Spain.
Each year, thousands of people gather in Plaza de Mayo to show their patriotic spirit, proudly waving the national flag and chanting in harmony “iViva la Patria, Viva la Patria!” Government officials, including President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, give speeches from the presidential mansion Casa Rosada while street vendors arrive from all over the city to sell homemade empanadas and churros to the hungry and excited crowd. The celebrations, filled with live music and drumming, continue until late evening when fireworks are finally put on to conclude the festivities of the day.
Little did I know, that is only half the story.
The reality is that gathering in Plaza de Mayo on May 25 has a deeper political significance in today’s Argentina. Instead of spending a Fourth-of-July-like day of friendly family picnics and fireworks, I was met with a crowd of fervent Kirchneristas and Peronistas rallying and waving flags of not Argentina, but rather of their political parties. Buildings around Avenida de Mayo were decorated with banners of red, green, and purple that displayed images of Che Guevara, the hammer and sickle, Evita, and the Kirchners. It was an absolute quilombo, meaning “chaos.”
To make things even more political, May 25 also marks the beginning of Néstor Kirchner’s presidency in 2003, a Peronist leadership that has been continued by his wife, Cristina. Therefore, supporters of the Justicialist Party (the political party founded by Juan Domingo Perón and Eva Perón in 1947) have more the reason to celebrate this day. President Cristina de Kirchner, while unpopular among the middle and upper class Argentines living in Buenos Aires, derives her main political support from provinces like Mendoza and San Luis, where her popularity continues to stay strong among the poor working class. As I could see from the enthusiasm demonstrated by her followers this past Sunday, a significant part of Argentina still idolizes and compares Cristina to the late national heroine, Evita.
In order to fully understand today’s highly polarized political atmosphere of Argentina, you must review the nation’s history of Peronism, military dictatorship, and the presidencies of Menem, Alfonsín, and the Kirchners. This ideological rift between Peronistas and Anti-Peronistas has been at the core of Argentine politics since the 1940s, greatly destabilizing the country at various points of history. It will be fascinating to see how the country will come to resolve its deep political cleavage during the upcoming presidential election in 2015. During my three months in Buenos Aires so far, I have met many university students who hope for a reconciliatory change and an end to the fight for and against Peronism. As my host mother personally wishes, Argentina will hopefully be more united in future May Revolution celebrations, as a country celebrating its national independence should rightly be.
Since 2012, Students in the Liberal Arts and URGD Programs that show a strong interest, meet the required Spanish level and demonstrate the required academic skills, have the opportunity to apply for internship positions (unpaid, non credit) that give them exposure to professional practice in public and private organizations.
This semester, CIEE Buenos Aires has offered a number of prestigious and interesting internships to students, including Assistant in Literary Magazines, Research Assistant at the Argentina Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Assistant at the Foundation for Studies and Research on the Woman (FEIM), Assistant in Film Magazines, Research Assistant at the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI), and Assistant at Lluvía: Management of an Art Exposition.
Read on for highlights from students about their experiences!
Isaac Walker, Grinnell College: Spanish Major
“It doesn’t matter which stories we tell, the novel argues, only that we never stop telling stories.”
This is the last line of the review that I wrote of Toque de queda (The Curfew) for my internship. Every week I work on a new draft of a book review, and these reviews will eventually be published in Argentine literary magazines. It’s not as easy as it might sound, but the challenge is worth it. It has taught me new ways to use and appreciate the Spanish language, and refined my writing skills in any language. Like the author of Toque de queda, I believe that society needs stories, and my internship is giving me the opportunity to learn about and participate in the stories that Argentina tells.
This semester Zack, Lochard and I are interning as Research Assistants in the Cancillería (equivalent to the U.S. Department of State). The internship entails meetings with Diego Filmus and Secretary Daniel Filmus, weekly research and bi-weekly reports regarding the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) along with keeping up to date with news from the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, and studying cases of former and current British colonies and their unique processes of decolonization and relationship to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. We have learned a ton so far, become more fluent in the debate surrounding this very present and controversial topic in the Argentine national consciousness, and recently had the luck to meet with Secretary Filmus in the Cancillería, which was a very impressive experience. We look forward to all the future challenging and rewarding experiences that this internship may present, including the 10 kilometer race in July to raise awareness for the Malvinas. Wish us luck!
Without any doubt, one of my best experiences thus far in Argentina is working for the Cancillería. Although I was born and raised in the Caribbean, it was not until I started this internship with the Cancillería that I realized there were countries in the Caribbean that I did not know exist. Thus, the internship gives me the opportunity to learn about the socioeconomic and political history of two of those countries, Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis. Moreover, I have been acquiring new knowledge on how the UN Special Committee on Decolonization works. Most of all, the internship gives me the opportunity to contribute to a diplomatic fight whose aim is to achieve something that is right and fair. That is, pursue Britain to return the Malvinas Islands to the Argentinian people.
My internship position is researching current and former British colonies for the Foreign Ministry's Committee on the Issue of the Malvinas. We do the majority of our work from our own computers, so it's up to us to figure out for ourselves what information to write about in our reports. Fortunately, after submitting a report, we'll get them back with suggestions for revisions, which definitely helps me understand what to focus on. The issue of the Malvinas is one of the core aspects of Argentine culture: no matter how they feel about it, everyone has a strong opinion. These reports allow me to see the issue from an Argentine perspective, which is important if you want to understand why the Malvinas are such a big deal in Argentina.
A month ago I began my internship with FEIM (Foundation for the Study and Research of the Woman), where I am working closely with a handful of inspiring women on a project to engage the youth of Buenos Aires in dialogue and action surrounding sexual and reproductive rights, services, and education in Argentina. Investigating these social issues in Argentina within the current global context of population and development is fascinating and provides a great opportunity to practice and improve my Spanish, especially within the specific vocabulary of a human rights non-profit. But the most rewarding thing so far has been connecting with the local community and individuals in a meaningful, tangible way around an issue that is important, relevant, and interesting.
When the opportunity arose to write reviews of Argentine cinema through the CIEE internship, I viewed it as a new adventure in my path to become a writer. My previous writing experience had almost only been through journalism, so changing my focus to the lens of a critic presented a unique challenge. Working for the past two months has opened my eyes to the beauty and details of independent films. I had to do in-depth research of the director and his aesthetic vision, while also drawing comparisons to a novel to which the film was based. It was challenging at first to develop the voice of a critic but with the guidance of Hernán Sassi, I can admit that I am proud with my work and enjoyed the new experience.
When I applied to be an intern at INADI (National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism) I was very nervous because I’ve never worked with such a large institute but luckily INADI has been there every step of the way to help me with everything. I’ve been an intern there for only month but within that month I’ve learned so much already, not only about the institute itself but also about Argentina and their gypsy population which is the group I’m focusing on for this project. My task is to draft a thematic dossier regarding the gypsy population in Argentina. The gypsy population is important to analyze because it’s the society that suffers the most from discrimination, even more than Jews or Muslims. So for the past few weeks I have been gathering a lot of historic and present information about gypsies. In the next few weeks I will have the opportunity to interview a few gypsies and have a discussion with them about their experiences in regards to this topic. Overall, this has been a great experience thus far and I will only be learning a lot more in the weeks to come.
My internship with INADI is invaluable because it has nuanced my understanding of Argentina. Previously, I assumed that Buenos Aires truly was the “Paris of South America”. In reality, Argentina has a more complex sociocultural identity. Through collaborating with INADI, I have learned more about the marginalization of populations that do not comply with this Eurocentric vision of Argentina.
For my internship, I complete weekly assigned readings that focus on racism, discrimination and xenophobia in Argentina in addition to my own investigation about gypsy populations. We meet at the headquarters of INADI every week to discuss and evaluate our progress with the readings. Our final research project consists of producing an academic text about gypsies in Argentina that INADI can use as a reference material.
Now, I know a different Argentina that does not match my previous misconceptions, and my study abroad experience has been richer because of this learning process.
A highlight of each week is working with the coordinator of the Lluvia office in curating and managing work with contemporary artists. As an intern, I’ve been helping on a project with artist Fernando Goin. So far, I’ve researched information for a more cohesive website and for paying opportunities to house his work. One challenge, of course, is the language, but equal to that is being in a city where I am not already connected to resources. However, this grants me the opportunity to build such resources and connect with an art community I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. Apart from working, I’ve attended art gallery openings, art management workshops, and have learned much about Argentine culture through Goin’s work.
We cannot believe how quickly time has passed with our spring 2014 students! Upon arriving, they felt a combination of excitement, anxiousness, curiosity and complete openness to the vast possibilities that Buenos Aires provides. Over the past couple of months, we have watched them explore, question and leave their comfort zones to settle into their active porteño lifestyles.
After visiting university campuses in Buenos Aires and experiencing a busy shopping period with many options for classes, the students have finally settled into their homes and schedules. They are taking diverse classes at FLACSO, UBA, UCA and IUNA and many are even taking this chance to intern and volunteer with prestigious organizations all over the city.
During orientation period, the students participated in a plethora of cultural activities, ranging from workshops and scavenger hunts to learning the tango and visiting a traditional folkloric restaurant. Read on for more details!
We understand how difficult it may be for students to enter a new culture in a new country. Our workshops made the transition a bit easier as they allowed the students to openly ask questions and manage their expectations about various issues. We held workshops on housing and cultural situations; public transportation and safety; the particular style of Spanish spoken in this area; reflections on gender relations in the local culture; and, held a chat with former students that have come back to live in Argentina.
The students were able to choose from three recreational activities to share with the staff. Some students chose to get their game on in soccer, undoubtedly the most popular sport in Argentina and some chose to reflect at the Buenos Aires Holocaust Museum.
And, finally, others chose to observe the city’s history through a walking tour in downtown Buenos Aires and San Telmo neighborhood. Each experience was unique in its own way.
As in any great city, one must learn to master public transportation to be able to get around independently. And in our program, a bit of independence is strongly encouraged! During orientation, we walked the students through how to use the Guia T, a local pocket-sized transportation guide, and we put their knowledge to the test in a scavenger hunt race.
Groups of students rambled around the city, stopping and taking pictures at main attraction points. At the final stop, they met with the staff at some of the yummiest pizza places in the city for lunch!
Buenos Aires is famed for its passionate dance of tango. Dancing arm-in-arm on the streets of San Telmo or in dim milongas is ideal with good company, which is exactly what the students had waiting for them when they met up with staff members at La Viruta for a tango lesson.
They learned different pasos, or steps, and were told to switch partners every few minutes. Tango is wonderful because it brings people together and this was a great chance for students to bond and meet locals.
After a 2-year tour around Brazil, New York, London, Moscow, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Israel, Spain, Taiwan and Manila, Fuerzabruta came back to where their incredible trip started: right here in Buenos Aires.
We took the students to the Cultural Center of Recoleta to experience an incredible spectacle made up of acrobats, aerialists, swimming and music.
In mid-March, the students and staff took a day trip to peaceful Tigre, a beautiful port town in Buenos Aires province, which is adjacent to a delta made up of small islands. We took a train to the port and from there hopped onto a low boat that rode us through the river, surrounded by homes and buildings.
Our destination was an island, where the students spent the day swimming, playing soccer and enjoying the nature.
A few hours into our trip, the rain decided to make its way and we headed inside for delicious asado and some valuable hours of bonding, playing truco and learning about the traditions behind mate.
Our way back to the city was a unique adventure in the rain!
From March 23-28, we had various college representatives visit us from a number of U.S. universities: Jonathan Larson from Grinnell College; Arik Ohnstad from Vanderbilt University; Erin Pendle from Georgetown University; Katherin Aldag from University of Illinois at Chicago; and, Pamela Boeck from Oklahoma City University. Representing CIEE were Rachel Daroca and Betsy Parker.
They had a wonderful time learning about both the Study Center and the city of Buenos Aires. They toured the Study Center, learned about academic offerings, visited the local universities and met several host families.
One evening, the students, staff and group site visit members shared dinner at a lively peña.
A peña is a bustling Latin American style restaurant in which a group of musicians plays live traditional folklore music while visitors are served dinner.
On March 26, the students, staff and group site visit members enjoyed a comforting dinner and live playful music at La Peña Los Cardones. It was a chance for everyone to bond, laugh together and take a peek into the culture of northern Argentina, which many students would be visiting in the following weeks.
Overall, everyone had a wonderful time experiencing a traditional yet ever-present part of Argentine culture.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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"
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.
Prof. Dr. en Letras (UBA)
Magister en Cultura y Comunicación (UBA)
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
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
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
When 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