Contrary to popular belief, my whole life here is not eating, going on adventures, and hanging out with my friends. I do also actually go to classes. Real classes, with real Argentine professors, and real Argentine students, in a real Argentina University. One of my darling cousins has requested I also post about them. Sorry, this is going to be a wordy post as I have no real pictures to go with this.
For starters all of my classes are in Spanish. I have three classes at the Universidad de Congreso and two classes with IFSA-Butler (the program through which I am studying abroad). My IFSA classes are only with other American students, but are still taught by Argentine professors, completely in Spanish. At first the whole classes only in Spanish thing was kind of overwhelming. Yes I’ve been taking Spanish classes since 7th grade, but in the US, I know that at any moment, if I really needed them to, those professors could start speaking in English. These professors cannot. They might know a few words here and there in english, but that’s it. That being said, if we don’t understand something and the professor has tried to explain it a few different ways and none of us are getting it, still, occasionally there will be an Argentine student who know the right word in english and can explain it to us. Or they will look it up on their phones for us. In general the students here are a super kind and they love to help us. I think they think of us as their little, lost American puppies or kittens (or the small furry mammal of your choice) that need their help. I personally appreciate this most of the time. Sometimes they just assume we don’t understand when we actually do or they will ALL try to explain it to us a once and we end up more confused than we started out, but the rest of the time they rock.
An interesting thing I have learned in my history class, besides about the history of Argentina, is that the American education system is doing something right! So in that class we have both had to write a 5 page essay (in Spanish, clearly) and do a 10 minute group presentation is Spanish. Now that fact that these things are in spanish complicate matters ever so slightly, but I have both written longer papers and presented for a longer time in Spanish while studying at both Gettysburg College and while in high school (shout out to the International Baccalaureate Program at North Hagerstown High School), so I wasn’t very worried about it. However the Argentine students were worried about it. They are in their third year of University and their professor gave them a guide on how to write an essay. Literally how to write a 5 paragraph essay. Now I don’t know about you all, but I was taught that form in elementary school, I’m pretty sure. This class is composed of primarily Argentine students, with two Brazilians, one Belgian, and five Americans (just don’t let anyone in Latin America catch you calling people from the US, Americans. We are either “United States-eins” or “North Americans”). The professor made a big deal of saying how her American students never have any issues writing essays and often write better essays (with some minor grammatical issues aside) than her native students. I later found out that that the Brazilians and Europeans also aren’t used to writing and thus aren’t very good at it. It’s a similar thing for presentations (this came directly from the mouth of the Belgian girl). When I return to the states I plan to tell everyone who will listen about this. Yes, our school system has issues, but we are teaching at least two very important skills, writing and public speaking, very well.
After about 6 weeks of class, I am now more or less used to the professors and I can understand most of what they are saying. Sometimes I miss things because I don’t know a word or something, but I don’t feel like I’m just treading water anymore. I’m more like swimming doggy paddle. Sometimes I get up to freestyle and sometimes the current sort of drags me under for a bit, but overall I’m doing well. That analogy could also be applied to all of study abroad and probably all of living in a foreign country in general.
If anyone else has a specific request for a blog or a question they’ve been dying to ask, feel free to comment.