Friends, family, acquaintances, internet avatars,
My apologies for the lack of activity lately. I ensure you, however, that I am not dead to the word, but have been caught up in the craziness of day-to-day life; more specifically, life as an argentine student.
The past few weeks have been some of the busiest and most stress-ridden weeks of my life. Before coming to Argentina, I tried my hardest not to form too many preconceptions, but never once did I imagine that the course-selection process would be as overwhelming, confusing, nor strict.
Way early on during the application process, I figured I’d take all my classes at the Universidad del Salvador. I didn’t want an extremely large university, nor did I want an incredibly small one, plus USAL seemed to have a bunch of interesting classes. However, Caroline Hughes, my study abroad adviser at the time, informed me that spending a lot of time on that course form is futile since it’s incredibly feasible that those courses either won’t exist anymore, wont be offered to estudiantes de intercambio (exchange students), or I’ll change my mind. Either way, I assumed that with proper advising that I would be guided in the right direction and have a happy, simple, educational semester.
One of the perks of my program, IFSA-Butler, is that they provide students with the opportunity to spread their studies among six universities: la Universidad de Buenos Aires, la University del Salvador, la Universidad de Católica, la Universidad diTella, la Fundación Universidad del Cine, and la Universidad del Congreso (through the IFSA-Butler offices). IFSA also offers the opportunity to choose a concentration (including Literature, Film, various fields of Human Rights, etc), in which students take certain classes together and take on an internship related to their concentration. During one of our first 10-hour info sessions I was convinced that I was going to do the Human Rights concentration, but then I realized one of the required courses met late on a Friday afternoon… No thanks, some of us are trying to travel! Later that day they also handed out a large, bounded book that listed all the universities their courses available for us to take this semester (with a bonus CD in the back of all the course descriptions!). All good things before me; however, this was the point in time at which the stress level began to rise.
I spent hours marking, highlighting, and researching courses that both interested me and would fulfill requirements for my majors back home (International Relations and Hispanic Studies). I was actually surprised by UBA. I had expected their courses to be extremely general, but instead their courses were the ones that intrigued me the most! I also loved how most of the UCA PEL, IFSA, and USAL intercambio courses sounded, but IFSA had clearly stated that we could only enroll in one class with intercambio students. One of the program’s central goals is for its students to become more or less immersed in the porteño culture, so I suppose it’s for the best. Nevertheless, after hours of research, I made a huge list in my little red journal and brought it with me to consult with my IFSA academic advisor. Maria del Carmen nodded her head, saying that everything looked good and sent me on my way to research schedules and narrow down my choices.
Oy, schedules; a wild goose hunt that kept me up until 3am one Monday evening and several more nights after that. My thoughts were all over the place, swimming in a pool of information, details and requirements. I eventually made two word documents: courses by university, and courses by day. After trying out a few classes here and there, I eventually came to believe that I had the perfect schedule. However, obstacles and problems arose, the worst of which gave way to a month-long exchange of emails and telephone calls with Jimena at USAL. Oh, there were several instances where I thought I was going to slap a b*tch (sorry, Mom). My first problem/mistake was that the USAL schedules were slightly confusing to understand and I ended up yearning to take an Argentine History class that didn’t exist on Wednesday evenings. On the bright side, I did create a lovely doodle during that Microeconomics class. My second concern was that, due to the confusing schedules, I ended up filling out my USAL course registration incorrectly. Realizing my error early on, I figured that I could easily fix it by speaking with Jimena. Unfortunately no. Perhaps it’s because she’s dealing with a lot of international students, perhaps she kept forgetting. Either way, I continued to check the USAL course registration page every few days and each time there appeared to be no change. When it came time to fill out my official “you-may-not-change-this-ever-after-you-submit-it-or-we-kill-you” course registration for IFSA, I called Jimena once more on the phone to confirm that my USAL registration was correct. With her assurance I completed the IFSA form and went on my merry way to class, during which the professor told me that I still was not marked on his list of registered students… Are you KIDDING ME?! Although IFSA stated clearly from the beginning of this process that they are not affiliated with the course selection at USAL, I determined it was time to get the big guns involved. Pulling on their strings of empathy and remorse, I sent frantic emails to both Jimena and Maria del Carmen (IFSA adviser) describing the urgency of my concerns and voila! What I had been trying to achieve for a month finally came to fruition. A-men.
Despite those hair-pulling logistical problems, my classes have been really wonderful. What stood out immediately was the academic passion of the students here, especially at la UBA. The students are so genuine about their desire to expand their knowledge and spread awareness, it’s almost intoxicating (in a good way). On my first day, the professor let other students interrupt the class about 4 times to announce a political charla (discussion), hand out pamphlets for events, or a newspaper of sorts, all of which were student-organized. Even the walls reflect their academic fervor; there are posters, banners, and provocative, political graffiti covering the classroom walls, hallways, and stairwells making it a rainbow-infused world of thought-provoking splendor. There was a hand-painted image near the door of one room that said “en caso de incendio use la imaginación” (in case of fire, use your imagination)… HAH yeah, ok. Another interesting observation is that there are many students in class with mate and hot water thermoses, just casually sippin’ and sharin’ during discussion.
I’m taking five classes (18 credits total) at three universities:
Internet, Cultura Digital y las Nuevas Prácticas Políticas para la Resistencia Social (6 credits, Universidad de Buenos Aires – Facultad de Ciencias Sociales)
Historia Argentina (3 credits, Universidad del Salvador – Ciencias Sociales)
Literatura Iberoamericana II (3 credits, Universidad del Salvador – Filosofía y Letras)
Arte y Política en la Argentina Contemporánea (3 credits, Universidad del Congreso through IFSA-Butler)
Castellano Avanzado y Cultura Argentina: Focalizado en el Cine de Ficción Argentino (3 credits, Universidad de Buenos Aires – Filosofía y Letras through IFSA-Butler)
Lots of reading and lots of work; however, I only have class Monday-Wednesday (#win). Also, I’m fairly positive that most of my classes will finish up by the end of November, so I shall have plenty of time to enjoy the summer down here and travel a bit before it’s time to bundle up for the US winter. Oy, but I’d rather not think about that.
In any event, now you know, dear parents and friends, why I have had to postpone skype dates and why I have been neglecting this blog. But alas, here I am back in action, so expect more frequent updates from now on! (hopefully)
All my best xx