Erica Miller

Universidad del Salvador (USAL), Buenos Aires, Argentina

I studied abroad at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the 2012-2013 academic year. As a Spanish major, I went hoping to improve my fluency in Spanish, but in the end, I got so much more out of it. I found myself in an amazing, colorful, chaotic city that never ceased to fascinate me, even after being there for almost a year.  Buenos Aires is a blend of Europe and South America and the whole country is a place rich in history and culture. It is a place that is politically charged, caught between a recent turbulent past and their future. I was inspired by how passionate and involved all young people were in politics and government. Through my classes, talking with friends, witnessing strikes and protests over government, economics and class struggle, I learned to really educate myself on current events and politics, and formed my own political opinions, things that we don’t always encourage young people to do in the US.

 Even more than protesting, Argentines like mate (the national drink) and beef. My favorite memories are the Sunday afternoon asados (or Argentine Barbeques), where my Argentine friends would invite me to come and share a multi-course meal of carne (or meat) with their family and friends, or while traveling we’d all get together and host an asado in our hostel. We’d spend the evening talking, drinking mate (a tea like drink) and playing soccer. Outside of the city, life definitely went at a slower pace, and even in Buenos Aires I learned to slow down and enjoy the small things, like mate in the park with friends. I made friends that I still keep in contact with and who I cannot wait to visit again!

Some other great things about Buenos Aires and Argentina are the nightlife and street art. It’s a city that wakes up late and then goes all night with all of its restaurants and clubs. One of my favorite daytime activities was going around the city and taking in its amazing street art. From the moment you arrive you see all the buildings have been tagged, and there are many colorful stencils and murals; it is everywhere and most of the city seems to embrace it.  Stemming from a history of protest, while not legal, graffiti is generally accepted in the spirit self-expression. I love the stories it tells about the communities and how it gives the walls and even communities themselves such character and life.

I had an excellent experience with my host family! I got very close with my host mom so that we still talk via Skype. I know other students who lived in residence halls or shared apartments and also had great experiences. You could take the bus, subway, or walk on a nice day to class. Each department at la Universidad del Salvador (USAL) has its own building and they are mostly within a few blocks of each other. During both of my semesters at USAL, I had each of my classes once a week for about 3 hours at a time.  All of my classes were in Spanish, but the professors and students are always more than willing to help you out if you need it or didn’t understand something. I took a good mix of grammar and history classes with foreigners and other classes with normal Argentine students. There was a wide range of classes to pick from, and you could take what suited your major. Overall I had a good academic experience at USAL, and would highly recommend their academic program to others looking to study abroad.

Because it is so big with an array of beautiful landscapes, from mountains to deserts to jungles, Argentina is an incredible country to travel. Once out of the capital city, I experienced a much more traditional Argentina and was happily surprised by the people I met and the invitations I got to stay in homes, share meals and how they went above and beyond to help me when I needed it. I will always remember their kindness and try to live more openly and generously with the people I encounter in my life. My favorite trip was to the southern part of the country known as Patagonia, in the Andes. I hiked for 2 weeks with my family down there and was in awe at how big everything was and at how small I was. It was very humbling.

All in all, I had an incredible year and through the ups and downs I feel like a stronger and more independent person and would do it all over again. I am forever grateful for the people I met and the experiences I had.

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