Fall Semester in Argentina

Hailey Fortson

Education Abroad


I spent five months living in Buenos Aires with a host family and taking classes at the University of Belgrano. All of my classes were in Spanish and contributed towards my Spanish major at OSU. I was able to travel throughout Buenos Aires, Argentina and some other countries nearby.

Spending a semester abroad helped me develop confidence, problem solving and general independence. Getting outside of my comfort zone taught me that no matter how much you plan, sometimes things don’t go the way you thought–sometimes problems arise and you have to use the resources available to you to figure out how to get yourself out of that situation. Weird situations will always come up while you travel in a foreign country and put yourself in new environments. While it helped significantly that I spoke the language, I still learned a lot about myself every time I had to get myself out of a new problem, whether it was in Buenos Aires or in a new country. In a way, getting lost or into some other problem also helped me connect with locals, because I found that I often needed their help to get myself back on track. I’m a huge planner, and I also learned that sometimes you can’t plan every detail and that it’s okay to figure something out as your go.

Studying in Buenos Aires also reaffirmed my interest in learning about the world. While I was there many important events took place: a historic vote on abortion, the G20 summit, some large city-wide protests and their economy continued to fluctuate. Not only was I more aware of what was going on in Argentina, I also got to hear the thoughts and opinions of people living through these situations. I learned a lot about Latin America, Argentina, economics, etc., and I think what I learned will stick with me better because I witnessed many of the events and had conversations with locals. I was also able to learn a lot about Argentina’s history, specifically related to the dictatorship of the late 1970s and 80s. What I learned was much more impactful because I was in country.

A large part of this new experience was simply living in a large city with a new family. I had to learn to use public transportation, get used to a city that I am not used to and learn how to get myself around without using my phone constantly. Sometimes it would have been easier to just stay home instead of figuring out how to get wherever I was going and possibly getting lost; however, it was always worth forcing myself to get out, and the more I did it the easier it became–I got lost less often and when I wasn’t sure where I was it was easier because I was more confident in myself to figure it out. I took a lot of weekend trips with my friends throughout Argentina and sometimes to other countries. I always tried to plan out every detail, but as I mentioned sometimes that isn’t possible. Sometimes not all the information was available or you had to book the tour in person. That kind of experience has helped me relax a little and be more okay with spontaneity and figuring things out as I go.

I learned more about Argentina and its history than I probably ever will in such a short time just by living there. Because human rights is one of my interests, that’s naturally what I tended to look into more. I was aware before going into the program that you learn the most about a country when you are physically there, but I don’t think I previously realized to what extent that was true. It also helped that I had a couple of literature and film classes that focused on either Latin America or Argentina specifically. Some of my classes were only with other international studies, so my professors were often aware of making recommendations and teaching us about Buenos Aires. I also had a class with Argentine students; it was nice to have both as a contrast and be able to talk to college students from Argentina.

Traveling outside of Buenos Aires, both with the program and individually, helped me gain confidence in myself. I enjoyed that some excursions were planned out for us and for others it was completely up to me to me to figure out. I think it was a nice balance and helped me learn as I went. I definitely have more confident when it comes to traveling outside the country, especially by myself; however, I think I am also a lot more willing to do something new here at home, especially by myself. After I graduate I will be working and at some point returning to go to graduate school. In all of these new experience I think I will be slightly more confident because of my experience in a new environment.

As I continue to study international studies and human rights, I think it will essential that I get outside of the United States and travel to other parts of the world. I think traveling is something that takes practice, and you get better at it the more you do it. The next step for me would be to travel in a country where I don’t speak the language. I hope to travel during graduate school and throughout my adulthood, and I can take many of the things I learned from this trip. I would definitely like to return to South America–there is still so much to visit, but I realized I would also like to return to Argentina. It is a huge country and it would have been impossible to see everything I wanted to see in just five months.


La ciudad magica de Buenos Aires

This past autumn semester I participated in a semester-long study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was able to improve my Spanish skills as well as engage with the rich culture of the port city by taking classes at the University of Belgrano and exploring the city in my spare time.

Spending prolonged time periods in another country is the perfect opportunity to transform a person and five months in Argentina completely transformed me. Firstly, my Spanish language skills improved a lot which then allowed me to communicate with more people in Buenos Aires. Without that language barrier, I dived even further into the porteño culture and was able to make closer bonds with the Argentine people. My perspective on the world changed because I didn’t receive any American political news unless I looked for it in Argentina. I learned about Argentine politics and news and I became aware of the situation in that country. I was able to take myself completely outside of the U.S. and live like someone from Buenos Aires. I learned how people’s attitudes about the economy differed from Americans but also the historical context behind their opinions. I also learned the cultural significance behind the food and customs of Argentina which allowed me to have a more global perspective.

One of the biggest things that helped this transformation was meeting and making friends from Argentina. I was able to practice my Spanish with native speakers every single day, but I also was able to form lifelong friendships with someone from a culture very different from my own. This is how I received a lot of my political news from both Argentina and the United States. The Argentine people are very outspoken people and are not afraid to share their opinions and politics is not excluded from this. Everyday I would have someone sending me an article and then we would meet up and talk about it later over coffee and traditional Argentine cookies, or alfajores. We would have conversations about everything and when the G20 Convention took place in Buenos Aires in November of this year, we watched and kept up with the news and talked about world politics and how it will affect Argentina.

Speaking of this, the economy is also a topic on everyone’s mind in Argentina. This is because the Argentine economy has been struggling for a while now and has gotten worse since I’ve been there. One day in September the dollar hit 42 pesos and my friends and host family were getting worried. I even remembered that I bought lunch for my friends that day because the exchange rate favored me. This economic struggle was favorable for me because I traveled with dollars. It allowed me to see more of Argentina and not spend as much money as I would in the U.S. However, I had to learn that although I was favored in this situation, the Argentine people were really hurting. Sometimes I would ask my friends to go out for coffee and they would say they’d prefer to stay home and save money. So, over time I did learn to become more economical in my spending and overall, spent less money on material things than I would have in the United States.

As I said before, I did travel a lot around Argentina and this also helped in my transformation. I got the opportunity to teach English in the central Argentinian city of Cordoba. I worked with elementary school children who were learning English and I got to bring some of my American culture to them and teach them about our traditions like Halloween, the 4th of July, and St. Patrick’s Day. Later I traveled to Mendoza on the Chilean border. This was my first ever trip completely alone and it gave me the opportunity to be more social in a context where I knew no one. I made friends in Mendoza from all over the world and really grew as an individual. I then took a trip to the north of Argentina to the poorer provinces of Salta and Jujuy. This is where Argentine culture really grows. Buenos Aires is nothing like these other parts of Argentina. In the north I was able to experience Argentina as it would have been hundreds of years ago. The regions are more poor as they are far away from urban life but the people are so genuine and live their lives to the fullest. Finally, I traveled to the south of Argentina to a city called Bariloche. In Bariloche I enjoyed the nature. It’s a beautiful place that resembles the lakes, forests, and snow-capped mountains of Switzerland. I really connected with nature and myself and it gave me a breath of fresh air from the city life. Traveling around Argentina is almost like traveling in the U.S. because it’s such a huge country and has so many different landscapes, customs, and traditions to offer in each region. I was able to gain a fuller perspective of Argentina and Latin America by traveling.

As I’ve only been home for a few days from this amazing 5 month journey, I’m still letting everything sink in, but I do feel that I have changed as a person and this change will be reflected in my lifestyle. I’m more self-conscious about spending money and more globally aware when it comes to things like politics. I not only check up on American news, but also Argentine news now. I’ve even decided to change my future plans because of the positive impact that Argentina has had on my life. I decided that Buenos Aires is my city. It’s the place where I want to live and I feel like I belong. It was very difficult to leave all of my friends behind but I have already started to do some research. Overall, I want to finish my degree here in the U.S. and then look for a job in Argentina so I can move back and live in the place that I feel like I belong in. I knew I loved Argentina before I went there but now I know that I’m totally in love with everything about it and I’ve wanted to go back the few days I’ve been home. In the end, this project completely changed my life path and plans, but it is for the better. I’ve made new goals and have new dreams and I can’t wait to start working on them.