So I saw that there were some questions from Ms. LeClair’s class, so here are your answers! I’m glad that you all are getting to learn about Latin America – it’s a really interesting place and I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves in schools!
What is it like to go to school there?
Going to school here is a really interesting experience. I’m taking one class at FLACSO (my program center) called International Relations of Latin America, an Argentine Literature class at the University of Buenos Aires’ language center, and two classes at the University of Buenos Aires’ Social Science Department, one about Argentine history and the other about modern Latin American Political Economy. UBA is an experience in itself – it’s a HUGE, public university and it’s notoriously under-funded by the government, so the buildings are rundown, there’s no heat, and the bathrooms are always broken. Also, since the professors are so underpaid (I actually just read in the paper that over half of the UBA professors teach for free), there are professor strikes pretty much every other week. The student body is extremely political, and walking into the building is like walking into an indoor political rally. There are flyers, posters, and murals on every surface, and tables for student political groups line the hallways. Most of the students there are really liberal, so groups like the Youth Communist Revolution Party and the Leftist Socialist Party are really common. Also, you can’t turn a corner without seeing Che Guevara’s iconic face staring you down. I can definitely tell that there’s a fair amount of anti-U.S. feelings there too, as evidenced by spray-painted pictures of President Bush with a swastika on his forehead and posters protesting against U.S. “Imperialism” and telling “Yanquis” (the Argentine word for people from the U.S.) to get out of Latin America. I’ve never felt personally attacked as a U.S. student studying there, but I think for the most part the students know how to separate the U.S. government from its people. At least I hope so.
It’s definitely hard sometimes taking classes at an Argentine university because I’m coming in with a natural disadvantage (not being a native Spanish speaker). Even though I speak Spanish well, there are still times when I have absolutely no idea what the professor is talking about because they speak too fast, or they use vocabulary that I don't know. Overall though, it’s really fun because I’m learning about Latin America from a Latin American perspective, from Latin American professors and with Latin American students. It’s immersion at its finest!
Why is Santiago so polluted? WOW!
I’m not exactly sure, but I think the pollution in Santiago has a lot to do with smog that comes from the city’s industries and cars. I think the fact that the city is surrounded by mountains keeps a lot of the pollution trapped there. Also, most Latin American countries are known for paying very little attention to environmental policy and environmental conservation, and I think Chile is one of those countries.
It is really cool that you get to travel to so many different countries and experience different cultures.
I agree, it is really cool. There’s really no better way to learn a language, or learn about a country than by going to it and experiencing it for yourself. I’ve been really lucky to have the chance to spend this year on two different continents!
Why did you decide to go to Argentina? How many people are you with?
I decided to come to Argentina because I’m really interested in Latin America and I wanted to study abroad in a city where I could get a lot of practice speaking Spanish and where I could experience Latin American culture firsthand. Buenos Aires was the perfect combination! Also, there are about 100 people on the program with me.
Is a funicular like a cable car on a zip line? How long did it take to get to the top of San Cristobal Hill?
A furnicular is like a big open-air elevator that rides on a track up and down the side of a mountain. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the top of the hill - not too bad of a ride!