Meghann in Argentina: Costumbres de Buenos Aires

August 25, 2017

It is crazy to realize that I have now been here for almost eight weeks. Time has flown by, but it still feels like I have done so much. At this point I think that I have really adapted to Buenos Aires—I still remember an early conversation I had with my host mom about how different some parts of life in Argentina were to me when I first arrived. We were talking about how time functions here in comparison to the U.S. I told her that for me, eating dinner at 10 or 10:30pm is really late, as a common time for American families is around 6 or 7pm. To this she simply replied, “vas a acostumbrar,” or “you will adjust.” She was right—I definitely have adjusted to life in Buenos Aires, but after almost two months here, I have found that there are a few things I don’t think I will get used to:

 

  1. Time. The initial surprise I expressed to my host mom about how late everything is here has not changed. Eating dinner at 10:30pm, los boliches (clubs) getting crowded at 3am, and arriving home at 7 or 8am is not strange or uncommon. This schedule often makes me miss meeting friends at dhall to have dinner at 6pm…

 

  1. Jamón (ham). Argentines put ham in/on everything. I went from rarely eating it at all in the U.S. to having it nearly every day here. This may seem like a small detail, but when you find ham in your salad on several occasions, you notice.

 

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Argentina is well known for plenty of other kinds of meat. In addition to ham, I have also been able to try really great steak, such as these steak sandwiches we bought at the national asado competition that was held in Buenos Aires this past weekend.

 

  1. Accents. I was warned that Argentines speak with a fairly strong, particular accent. They pronounce “ll” as “sh” instead of “y,” which is what is taught in school/how basically everyone from other Spanish-speaking countries would pronounce this sound. So where I would say “yo quiero que llueva” (I want it to rain), Argentines would use a different pronunciation and say “sho quiero que shhhueva.” Although not everyone has such a noticeable accent, it is oftentimes hard for me to understand those who do.

 

  1. Plataformas. These are a type of platform shoe that every woman here seems to wear—while some could pass as normal footwear in the U.S., other pairs are ridiculously tall and I often find myself doing a double take as I watch some women wobble across the cobblestone streets or to their seats on moving busses.

 

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These don’t look too fun to walk around the city in.

 

Although I may not “get used” to these (and many other) parts of life in Buenos Aires, I appreciate them all the same. Differences in routine, custom and culture is a huge part of what makes being abroad so special (and as cliché as that sounds, it is completely true).

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Meghann in Argentina: A Mix of Cultures

August 14, 2017

Orientation is over and classes have finally begun, which has given me the chance to start meeting other exchange students from all over the world—on only the first day of class, I spoke with people from countries like Japan, Colombia, France, and Norway, to name a few. It is awesome to not only be able to immerse myself in Argentine culture, but to also experience and learn about parts of other cultures from friends and students in class. A couple of German friends from my pre-semester Spanish course have been teaching me a German word a day—leaving Spanish class just to be taught bits of German is a perfect example of how much I have already learned about cultures, languages, and life in other countries I previously knew very little about.

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When cultures mix: some of my first random German words at the bottom of my Spanish homework.

I really enjoy the idea of being able to learn about and adapt to living in Argentina with other foreigners because it provides the opportunity to both find out about life in other exchange students’ home countries and share about my own experiences in the United States. For example, a long wait for the bus outside of campus led me to talk to an English girl about how different commuting to university in England is in comparison to living on campus in the U.S. I am also excited to take the PEL (Programa de Estudios Latinoamericanos) classes that UCA offers for exchange students, as many of the subjects will likely be even more interesting given that the classes are comprised of student perspectives from all over the globe. I am the only American in my Arte y Arquitectura en America Latina class, and I think it will be a great experience to learn about such an interesting topic that is taught in Spanish and coupled with the views of students from several different continents and many distinctive backgrounds.

 

I definitely did not expect my experience in Buenos Aires to be so wrapped up in other cultures (besides that of Argentina, of course), but I am very pleasantly surprised that my experience has turned out this way; there is so much to be learned when you are surrounded by great diversity.

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A group photo of all of the UCA International students that are here this semester.


Meghann in Argentina: Trip to Córdoba

July 31, 2017

Due to the fact that we have almost two weeks of down time between the end of my three-week Spanish pre-semester course and the first day of orientation, some friends and I decided to use this time to our advantage and take our first trip outside of Buenos Aires. We opted for Córdoba, a city located about 10 hours northwest of Buenos Aires by bus (this distance is considered short by Argentine standards—until I looked at the length of bus trips, I didn’t fully realize just how massive this country is!). Córdoba is home to beautiful Spanish architecture and amazing Jesuit churches, and is the second biggest city in Argentina. Don’t let that size fool you, though—Buenos Aires still has about 12 million more people, so in comparison Córdoba seemed tiny.

 

It was refreshing to get a short break from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. We spent the majority of our four days exploring the city, walking through the cobblestone streets and taking in the colonial architecture. We even stumbled upon a baptism in La Catedral (the oldest church in continuous service in the country) and a mass in a beautiful Jesuit church—although I couldn’t quite keep up with religious services in Spanish, it was still a cool experience to witness them.

 

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The Jesuit church where we sat through part of a mass on Sunday afternoon.

 

By far the best part of the whole trip, however, was a daylong biking tour through the Sierra mountain range. Our awesome guide Juan (who we discovered on TripAdvisor and were drawn to due to glowing reviews) drove us about an hour outside of the city to a small pueblo where we began the tour. Although parts of the trip were fairly grueling for most of us (Juan was the only one who had no trouble zipping up the steep hills), the views of the mountains and the historical sites we stopped at were well worth the workout. My favorite stop was a small Jesuit church in the hills of Candonga, an area where travelers coming by mule from Buenos Aires to the north of the country would stop after weeks of travel and switch out their mules—Juan told us that in some older and more colloquial form of Spanish, Candonga translates to “tired mule.”

 

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Juan very much enjoyed taking GoPro pictures of us throughout the trip.

 

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The one-roomed Jesuit church perched quietly in the Sierras.

 

Our day ended back in the small pueblo that we began in. Juan invited us onto the porch of an old couple that he got to know because he biked by their home so often; he told us that their friendly “holas” quickly turned to friendship, and now every one of his biking tours ends with the couple welcoming strangers into their home for mate (a classic Argentine tea that is shared by passing the gourd it is served in around in a circle) and pastries. If this isn’t an example of how friendly and gracious Argentine people are, I don’t know what is. Elsa, the cute old woman, served us delicious cookies and prepared mate for us as she chattered on about how much her pueblo has grown and changed since her childhood.

 

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Talking with Elsa on her porch.

 

Overall, our trip to Córdoba was very refreshing; the small-city feel and our interactions with such kind people like Juan and Elsa made me excited to see what other cities in Argentina have to offer. That being said, I am excited to be back in Buenos Aires and for university to finally start!


Meghann in Argentina: Porteño Politics

July 21, 2017

One thing that I learned very quickly here is that los porteños (what people in Buenos Aires call themselves) love their politics. Most extensive conversations that I have here eventually turn to politics in one way or another—especially with my host parents! After informing them that I am a Political Science major, they always love to hear my opinion on certain topics and express theirs in turn. My host dad told me that here in Buenos Aires it is “common to hear two best friends in a restaurant turn to enemies while discussing politics, and then turn right back into friends when the wine comes out.”

 

The importance of political activism is not only apparent in conversation, but also in daily public life. There are always small, peaceful manifestaciónes (protests or rallies) going on at street corners, but even more interesting to witness are the big rallies that occur every week in front of la Casa Rosada, a famous government building that contains the President’s office.

 

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My classmates and I went and saw the famous Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, a group (composed historically of women) that march in a circle every Thursday in front of la Casa Rosada in memory of los desaparecidos (Argentines that were “disappeared” by the military dictatorship in the late 70’s).

 

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Social activism is also commonly witnessed in the streets. Here, a group supports the right to education.

 

I am excited to start taking real classes in Political Science in a couple of weeks when the real school year begins. Hopefully learning about Argentine history and politics will allow me to better participate in the never-ending political discussion that seems to take place here in Buenos Aires!


Meghann in Argentina: One More Week

June 26, 2017

Hi everyone! My name is Meghann and I am a junior from Maryland double majoring in Political Science and Spanish and minoring in Healthcare Studies at University of Richmond. On campus, I work as a Writing Consultant, I tutor UR staff members in English through the Bonner Center, and I also intern at the Sacred Heart Center, a Latino community center in downtown Richmond. This fall semester (although honestly it is a pretty extended semester, as I will be gone from July 1st until a few days before Christmas!) I will be studying at la Universidad Católica Argentina, or UCA, and living with a host family in Buenos Aires. Going to school at UCA will definitely be a change from UR—around 18,000 students attend the university, which is located in the bustling, modern neighborhood of Puerto Madero. I have heard only amazing things about Buenos Aires, known as the “Paris of South America” due to its European influences and wealth of culture.

 

Besides exploring the city that I can’t wait to call home, I also hope to travel around Argentina and see some of the diversity the country has to offer. My Argentine bucket list includes Patagonia in the South (home to incredible glaciers, mountains, wildlife, and hiking), Mendoza in the North (wine country), and the Iguazu Falls (the largest waterfall system in the world), to name a few. I’ve already spent way too much time looking at these places on Google Images…

 

Although exploring the country is definitely a top priority for me, my biggest goal is to become fluent in Spanish. I always knew I wanted to study abroad in Latin America in order to improve my Spanish, as my mom’s side of the family is Colombian and I am the only one who does not fully speak it! I’m guessing six months of immersion and a course load that is entirely in Spanish should help, and I can’t wait to be able to speak to my family without stumbling over my words.

 

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A view of Medellín, Colombia from the last time I was there almost four years ago. I hope to return one day in the near future to stay with family, this time with a new knowledge of the language due to my studies and experiences in Argentina.

 

With just a little over a week before I hop on (three!) planes and make my way down to Buenos Aires, everyone I mention it to keeps asking how I am feeling about my trip. My answer is the same each time—excited. I am excited to meet new people, to immerse myself in a new language and culture, to be independent, and to experience everything I possibly can. Six months looks like a long time on paper, but I am sure it will fly by. My only real concern is that I will be headed down in a walking boot, having recently broken my leg pretty badly. I should probably learn to say that I now have metal plates and screws in my leg in Spanish before I go setting the metal detectors off in airport security…My list of things to do before I leave is slowly but surely dwindling down, leaving me with little to do for the last week besides look forward to everything that lies ahead (and figure out how to pack six months worth of my life into two suitcases).

 

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Some of the essentials for my long journey down to Buenos Aires: my passport, some Argentine pesos, and my walking boot!


Dan in Argentina: Signing Off

January 10, 2016

above BsAs

 

Six months ago, when I got off the plane in Argentina, I had no idea what to expect, not to mention no idea where to go. My first observation of this country was that they don’t have signs… anywhere! I follow the other passengers on my plane to the long migrations line. It isn’t until ten minutes in that I realize the smallest sign in the distance which reads (in both Spanish and English) “International Visitors.” Cool, I’m in the wrong line.

I “perdón” my way out of the line for Argentine citizens and over to the much longer correct line. The whole time, I worry about speaking with the migrations officer and hoping all my luggage got through the two flight, 15-hour travel day. “Passaporte?” Ahh ok, I’ve got this. I hand the guy my passport. “¿Dónde vas a quedarte?” “Ummm…” ¿¡Dónde vas a quedarte, vos!?” Ahhh…vos?…what? “Where you stay in Buenos Aires?” From this moment, I knew my time here would challenge me. Truly, every day in South America posed a struggle of varying size. Whether waiting 45 minutes for the bus, being ripped off by a cab driver or getting a mild bout of heatstroke, every day was an adventure, an adventure that I loved in its entirety. Argentina and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot but I can’t help but remember this experience as anything less than amazing.

 

The friends I made during this trip will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life.

The friends I made during this trip will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life.

 

I will always flock to whatever part of the U.S. my host family visits and I can’t wait to visit them back in Argentina someday!

I will always flock to whatever part of the U.S. my host family visits and I can’t wait to visit them back in Argentina someday!

 

The places I traveled to in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are bucket list items for many people.

The places I traveled to in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are bucket list items for many people.

 

goodnight

 

Coming home is the ultimate bittersweet feeling. I have learned to love Buenos Aires. I am finally comfortable traveling around the city, speaking the language, and being far from home. The summertime weather is in full force and I love it. All that being said, I am excited to go home. I missed the beauty of falling leaves and am excited to catch up on some cold nights with coffee by the fire. I can’t wait to see my family and all of my friends. For almost six months, Buenos Aires has been my home, my host family has been my family and my friends have been (please excuse this eye-roll-worthy moment) my everything. Now that I’m going home, I hate to think that all will change.

But in reality, I will return to Buenos Aires one day and feel at home as if nothing changed. I will stay in touch with my host family and see them again someday. And of course, I will see my friends back in Richmond come January. Coming home changes things a little but the way I look at it, I will always have these memories to hold on to this experience.

I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I truly got to know my city, traveled around a little, made amazing friends and learned a lot about the culture, language and daily life in Argentina. I will always cherish this semester.

To the city that had me tapping out many days but excitedly back in the ring the next, I bid you “adios.” To my beloved Buenos Aires, goodnight. Te amo.


Dan in Argentina: …and Uruguay

December 18, 2015

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What do you know about Uruguay? For me, I knew absolutely nothing about this small coastal country. Its borders Argentina in the west, Brazil in the north and the Atlantic in the east and contains a little over 3 million citizens. With views like these, it is easy to believe that Uruguay ranks as one of the Latin American countries with the best quality of life.

What do you know about Uruguay? For me, I knew absolutely nothing about this small coastal country. Its borders Argentina in the west, Brazil in the north and the Atlantic in the east and contains a little over 3 million citizens. With views like these, it is easy to believe that Uruguay ranks as one of the Latin American countries with the best quality of life.

 

 

In Argentina we have Milagnesa sandwiches (thin, breaded steak and chicken) and in Uruguay they have Chivito sandwiches. This thin steak sandwich comes complete with ham, egg, olives and mayonnaise. It was so good I had it three times during our four day trip.

In Argentina we have Milagnesa sandwiches (thin, breaded steak and chicken) and in Uruguay they have Chivito sandwiches. This thin steak sandwich comes complete with ham, egg, olives and mayonnaise. It was so good I had it three times during our four day trip.

 

My traveling companions this trip were Lauren and Sam, my University Torcuatu di Tella crew. Here we're standing on Brava Beach in the Hand of Punta del Este. The fingers emerging from the sand are supposed to represent a drowning man. The artist wanted to use his sculpture as a warning to beach goers of the danger of the area's large waves. Since 1982, this sculpture has been a huge tourist attraction and a staple Instagram picture for tourists.

My traveling companions this trip were Lauren and Sam, my University Torcuatu di Tella crew. Here we’re standing on Brava Beach in the Hand of Punta del Este. The fingers emerging from the sand are supposed to represent a drowning man. The artist wanted to use his sculpture as a warning to beach goers of the danger of the area’s large waves. Since 1982, this sculpture has been a huge tourist attraction and a staple Instagram picture for tourists.

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