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This blog is my advice to people who are/want to study abroad in this program. Now keep in mind, by no means have I become an expert. But I’d like to consider myself wiser and more knowledgeable now that I’m half way through the program. Below are my comments, thoughts and advice. Please take them with a grain of salt. For those of you who are eligible to study abroad on this program, please consider it. It honestly will be a very remarkable trip in your life.
Studying abroad in college is probably one of the most memorable experiences a person can have. You probably will never have the opportunity to study and travel in the college environment for the price you will pay for this program. However, before you venture down to
- Luggage: PACK LIGHT!! I cannot emphasize this enough! Although having many outfits will help put variety into your wardrobe, it really will not be worth it in the long run. Carrying lots of heavy luggage is absolutely miserable! It is not an easy task to drag around all that bulk by yourself. You might get lucky and run into kind people who will help you. However, you cannot count on that. Try to take one big suitcase and another small-medium size one. Spread the weight between these two suitcases. Carry a medium size bag/backpack onto the plane with you. Also, keep in mind that there is a weight limit to your luggage. Be sure to check online with your specific airline to find out the details. You do not want to be paying $20-50 in overweight luggage at the airport. It is not fun!
- Toiletries & Accessories: If you do not have a specific brand of product you ABSOLUTELY need, leave everything at home. You can buy these in
for a very affordable cost. This way you do not have that extra weight in your suitcase from all those toiletries. Buenos Aires Buenos Airesis a city that is comparable to . Thus, there is a shop for almost anything that you will need. Do not worry. New York City
- Books: Luckily, you will not have to buy that many books. However there will be LOTS of handouts. Therefore, try to share books and handouts with someone else so that you do not have to lug around so much. Do not underestimate the weight of books and handouts. They are very heavy.
- Class & Academics: GO TO CLASS! Unless you are sick or there is an extenuating circumstance. Unfortunately, I was plagued by illness early on the trip and have learned the hard way about this. Each class is imperative. You learn a lot and miss valuable discussion time. Remember to STAY AWAKE. Do not fall asleep. There are often guest lecturers in class or you will be traveling to places such as the embassy that require you to really be on your best behavior. Keep in mind that you are not only representing yourself, you are also a representative of your university and country. Appearances matter and you do not want Argentines or other important figures to think ill of you or the program.
- Money: Do not bring traveler’s checks. Your parents might tell you to do this, but it is pretty worthless. Nobody really takes them and they are outdated. Use your ATM/Debit Card. There are always ATM’s that you can get money in pesos. Your bank will probably charge you for using your ATM card out of country and for a bank that is not yours. Consequently, take large amounts of money at a time. However do not carry all the cash around with you. Leave most of the cash in a safe place in your room. You only need to carry around the cash that you need for the moment. Try not to exchange money at the airport. The exchange rate is not that good and you will find better rates in other exchange places. (Look for the signs that say ‘Cambio.’) Try to also get change from a bank or a store. The ATM will most likely give you pesos in $100 and many places do not take bills that large. Keep track of your money because it will go fast. Do not get caught up in how great the exchange rate is and blow all of your money. Remember,
is only half of your trip! Buenos Aires
- Information: Get a map! Kirk may have a map to give you, but you cannot count on that. You need to know how to get around in
. You cannot depend on others to guide you around. A majority of this program is self-reliant and you will need to know how to get to places by yourself. It is also a good idea to know where you are anyways. After all, you are in a foreign country. You might want to consider purchasing a travel guide. I highly recommend the “Lonely Planet” series. I bought the Buenos Aires as well as Argentine editions and they were EXTREMELY helpful. The Buenos Aires Buenos Airesguide comes with maps of each of the neighborhoods as well as subway & bus routes. Travel guide books will also give you ideas about what to do in the city and the hot spots to go. Buenos Aires
- Communication: Email, email, email! Email will be your primary source of communication with the group as well as your instructors. It is also a good idea to email with your friends and family. Phone cards are relatively priced but you do not get a lot of minutes with them. Check your email daily. Kirk will communicate changes and news via email. The Residencia has a computer lab but it gets crowded and sometimes you have to wait a while to use them. Consequently, if you have a laptop, bring it with you. If not, try going to one of the internet cafés (locutorias) that are on every block. You can also try taking your laptop to one of the wireless coffee houses that are around the city as well.
- Transportation: Getting around in
is not a difficult task. There are lots of options for transportation. The subway (subte) is a great way to travel. There are 4 lines and the subways come frequently. However you might want to avoid the subway if you are claustrophobic or do not like crowded places. The subway cars get very full very fast, especially during the rush hours. Buses are also a good way to get around. There are many routes so be careful that you know what bus you are getting on! If you are in a hurry, you can also take a taxi. Buenos Aires is New York City-esque in the fact that there taxis everywhere. You can ALWAYS find a taxi. Look for the “libre” (free) signs on taxis. Make sure your taxi driver is taking the fastest, most direct route. Sometimes taxi drivers will take advantage of tourists and take longer routes and drive around. Also, be sure to CHECK YOUR BILLS if you get change back. Taxi drivers are known to give counterfeit bills. Here is the rates for transportation as of May 2006: Buenos Aires
Subte: 70 centavos for one way
Bus: 80 centavos for one way (this rate fluctuates)
Taxi: starting rate $1.98 pesos
- Shopping & Gifts: There are plethora of options for shopping. There are LOTS of shopping malls as well as the weekend artisan/craft markets and local stands. Many stores in the shopping malls are exclusively Argentine brands. I recommend that you try to buy items you cannot get back home. This makes these gifts unique and special keepsakes. Argentine women are small framed. Thus, it is hard to find anything above a size 6 in clothing and a size 8.5-9 in shoes for women.
is known for its leather and silver so indulge! Buy a nice leather jacket, wallet or a pretty silver ring. Argentina
- Food: If you are a lover of spice, I’m afraid you are out of luck in
. The Porteños cannot handle the heat! I highly suggest you bring a bottle (maybe two) of hot sauce. You will not regret this! After a month without spicy food, I was dying! Buenos Aires is also known for its variety of restaurants. They have everything from traditional Argentine Bar-be-que to Korean to Greek. Go out to these places and try them. You will probably end up being pleasantly surprised. The meat in Argentina is incredible. Even if you do not regularly eat red meat, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY suggest you try a steak in Argentina . Also, if you get the opportunity, try going to an asado (traditional bar-be-que). It is lots of fun and a very tasty experience. Buenos Aires
- People & Culture: Argentines are very affectionate. It is customary to kiss a person on the cheek when you meet them. Men also partake in this custom. You can also find couples participating in some heavy PDA (that’s public displays of affection) everywhere. If you are squeamish about this, I suggest you get used to it because there is no escape! Be sure to try and catch some dance shows, especially tango.
is full of venues that host events that cater to dance and music. You have to hit Señor Tango. This show will be quite the experience. Also stop by Cantares. It is a restaurant that has a Flamenco show that is spectacular. Many of the Argentines speak English. Consequently, if you are not a fluent or semi-fluent Spanish speaker, you will be able to get around. You may get frustrated, but you will be able to find your way. Keep in mind that many people might not understand your broken Spanish. They may ask you to repeat many times or not be able to understand you at all. PLEASE PLEASE do not be obnoxious about this. You are a foreigner in THEIR country. Buenos Aires
- Soccer/Fútbol: Soccer is the critical in
. People rally around their respective teams. You will find people to either be a fan of River Plate or Boca Juniors. These teams are fierce rivals and so are their fans. There are many stories about fights and arguments between families, couples, friends, etc on account of this rivalry. Argentines are also very supportive of their national team. I had the fortunate opportunity to watch the 2006 World Cup Team Exhibition Game. The support and charisma from the crowd was unbelievable. If you have the option, GO TO A SOCCER GAME! There really is nothing like it. Argentina
- Sleep: If you are a light sleeper, bring earplugs or earphones!
is a VERY noisy city and sleep will not come easy. There is always some sort of noise whether its barking dogs, construction, people talking, etc. You will not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep if you wake easily. I suggest you bring heavy earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Buenos Aires
- Group Dynamics: Do not have the impression that everyone needs to be your best friend. This is both illogical and impractical. You will find out soon enough that you clash with some people and get along great with others. Be conscience of this fact. You are spending 2.5 months with this group so you need to find some way to get along with everyone. Be courteous to every person. Whether or not you like them, every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. At the same time, do not forms cliques or be exclusive. You will wear yourself out if you only hang out with certain people all the time. Give everyone a chance, some people might surprise you. Also, spend time with the locals. Some of my best times in
were spending time with the locals and hanging out with their friends. The locals will show you around and you will get to experience a lot of unique things because they will take you to some of the lesser known/touristy places and events. Buenos Aires
Whew! This is a lot of information. However, do not get bogged down with all of these tips. Make your trip your own experience. Figure things out for yourself. Although my advice may help you, you really have to learn a lot of things through trial and error. I will conclude this blog with one last thing. The most important advice I can give you is that you need to go on this trip/program with an open mind and an open heart. If you do not allow yourself to “let go,” you will not be able to fully appreciate and experience everything. Soak in the culture and live every moment with appreciation. If you can do this and follow my practical advice,