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Buenos Aires - Sp12

posted Aug 10, 2012, 5:46 PM by Joanne O'Toole   [ updated Aug 28, 2013, 6:02 AM ]
Adolescence Spanish Education major, Brianna Carnevale (, participated in the SUNY Oswego study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in Spring 2012.  This quarter course begins on campus in January and concludes over Spring Break in Argentina.  Brianna shares her experiences below and invites you to contact her if you would like to know more about the program.

What was the program like?

This quarter course was centered on the city of Buenos Aires.
Professor Loayza focused on Buenos Aires past and present, including its founding, exploration, political history of the Perón dictatorship, Argentinean soccer, customs, and modern-day society such as life in the “conventillos” or slums for the poor. On campus, we learned about the city and how to navigate it to prepare for our travel. Once in Buenos Aires, we went to the various sites that we learned about and applied our knowledge to make history come alive in front of our eyes. We went to La Casa Rosada or the president’s house in Plaza de Mayo, La Reccoleta, which is the famous cemetery of Eva Perón, several cultural museums, the old and new ports of Puerto Madero y La Boca, Tango Salons where we took a tango lesson, the theatre to watch a Spanish play, Las Pampas where we spent the day on a Gaucho farm, and more. It was an incredible experience to not only see these historical sites first hand, but to also experience the different markets and culture within the city which was perfect for talking with the local residents and feeling like we belonged to this Spanish-speaking culture. Learning about the city ahead of time was the perfect approach because we had a foundation of background knowledge when we arrived.
How did this study abroad experience inform, influence, or change you?

This experience in Argentina was unforgettable. I want to share with my future students one day and persuade them to travel as well. This trip allowed me to make the connections between the past and the present. For example, it was interesting in class when we learned about the Perón dictatorship and watched a clip of Eva Perón speaking to her followers on the balcony of La Casa Roasda. In Buenos Aires, however, I found myself blown away by actually standing in the middle of Plaza de Mayo and staring directly at the President’s house envisioning where Eva Perón had spoken. Just thinking about how many people supported Eva during this time when women weren’t normally associated with political power was unreal, and I was standing in the very same place where they had been. Also, “los desaparecidos” or “the disappeared ones” recalls a terrifying time for the people of Argentina. Right on the floor of the plaza are painted white bandanas where the mothers and grandmothers of the disappeared stood protesting and rallying for justice against the government while holding pictures of their missing loved ones wearing these white bandanas. I developed a real empathy for what the people went through. History is all around us, and it will never go away because what happened back then still impacts a country today.

What experiences helped you develop your target language skills?

This was the first trip where I was able to speak the Spanish outside of the USA. Simply bargaining in the markets or talking with the waiters at dinner about what’s good to try on the menus or what are the typical dishes that represent the city, really helped me to practice my Spanish! When restaurant servers saw we were Americans and handed us menus in English, we asked for the Spanish version or simply read the Spanish version on bilingual menus. I learned so much vocabulary from that and from reading the signs around the city. By dedicating myself to speaking Spanish in Argentina, like when I asked for directions on the street near the hotel, I was successful in making myself understood and was proud of myself. Having even small conversations put me on the right step! Listening was another skill I felt that improved for me. In the hotel room, the TVs were only in Spanish. Forcing myself to only watch Spanish soap operas or even music videos, helped me to focus in and try to understand what they were saying. The play that we went to was awesome to experience. It helped me to focus and pay attention to the characters, story line, and what was going on! Keeping a journal in Spanish improved my writing and is something I recommend for anyone traveling anywhere! Writing in my journal at the end of the day forced me to practice my grammar and vocabulary while mentally recapping the places visited that day…stories I hope to share with my own classes one day.

How did the study abroad experience help you develop cultural understandings?

A lot of the restaurants that the group went to were local, authentic Argentina cuisine. There is a strong immigrant influence, however, throughout all of Argentina. There were cafés, for example, that mixed traditional Spanish cuisine with Italian food. Trying different foods was huge because the country is known for their beef, so I definitely wanted to try different cuts of meat or local fishes when we were near the ports. Embracing the impact that the immigrants had on the city such as having various pasta dishes or going to a local café for pizza done Argentinean style was equally important to me because when I think of Italian food, I immediately think of Italian-American food such as chicken parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs. In Argentina, everything is extremely fresh and fragrant with usually smaller portions. It’s typical with their culture to eat a late dinner usually around 9 30 or 10 00 and just relax with friends. In the first restaurant I went to with the group, the waiter gave us the menus, and we had to tell him when WE were ready to order. He never rushed us or kept asking are you ready yet? We were never rushed or given the bill right when we were done eating. Their culture embraces the definition of “living free.” Never in the USA would people be sitting outside at a café till 1am eating and having a good time knowing that they have to get up for work early the next day. City tours also helped me to develop cultural understandings because not only is the guide solely speaking in Spanish which helps listening skills, but also I got a better appreciation for the Porteno’s typical lifestyle, how much more expensive or cheaper things are than here in the USA, the architectural aspects of the city, and more insights on this huge city.

What special stories or experiences illustrate the value of the program for you?

The experience on the Gaucho farm absolutely blew my mind and was by far one of my favorite parts. It was the day that made me realize why I want to be a Spanish teacher and why I traveled to Argentina. Traveling to the Pampas was a 3-hour bus ride from the city, and it truly was open fields of green with small cowboy towns mixed in. One town we stopped at was so small, but it defined the gaucho lifestyle, selling mate and the traditional poncho and boots of the gauchos. Leather is a huge industry there and the smell of fresh leather belts and satchels in one of the stores was incredible. There were hand-painted pictures of gauchos in their natural settings living on the ranches. Once we got to the ranch, the group welcomed us with homemade empanadas and a feast of fresh vegetables that the ranch grew, handmade sausages, different fresh cuts of meat the gauchos would eat, delicious sweet potatoes and salads, and so much more. The irresistible meals really gave us a sense of what it means to live like a Gaucho. During our feast, three of the men began playing typical songs with the instruments native to their cowboy culture where the women began dancing and showing us different steps to one of their fun, cultural dances. After lunch, we went horseback riding through the open fields of the Pampas which were absolutely breathtaking. It was an experience that I will never forget because of the innocent beauty of the lush, green fields with the mountains in the background. Finally, the Gauchos preformed many tricks for us on horseback such as standing up on the horse’s stirrups with it galloping as fast as it could towards a giant bar with a tiny hook hanging from above. The Gaucho must hook a metal circle on to the device hanging above while on the horse going extremely fast. They did a lot of tricks with the flags on horseback as well as more events too. This day was by far my favorite because it put a smile on my face. Knowing that these Gauchos live carefree, yet work so hard to sustain everything, makes a person truly appreciate life and the effort and value of life these people treasure. When I stepped onto the ranch it was as if all my worries were forgotten because of the warm, tranquil and welcoming atmosphere surrounding the Pampas. These cowboys are proud of where they came from and are committed to keeping things traditional. It goes to show that a person doesn’t need materialistic items or a whole bunch of fancy things to be happy.