Based on all of the stories and pictures from my adventures around the city that I share with my family and friends from back home, many of them have joked that I don’t even go to school here—contrary to popular belief, however, I am indeed fully enrolled at la Universidad Católica Argentina (better known as UCA). UCA is a private university with an enrollment of around 18,000 students, located in a very modern neighborhood called Puerto Madero, which translates to “wooden port.” This name is fitting, as UCA is situated right on the water—the views of the river from a few of my classrooms are beautiful (albeit distracting), especially during my evening class when the sun sets over the water.
I chose to enroll in four classes in the Latin American Studies Program, which is a group of classes taught primarily for study abroad students. All of my classes meet once a week for three hours and are taught in rapid-fire Spanish. By the end of such long class periods my brain is always fried, but hearing so much Spanish (especially about specific academic themes as opposed to regular conversational Spanish) has definitely been a huge help to my language skills. I am enrolled in Peronist Argentina (Peronism is a political movement/ideology that is highly relevant in Argentine politics), Latin American Art and Architecture, Political and Social Processes in South America, and Argentine Civil Society, and so far I have really enjoyed all four classes. Argentine Civil Society, which is about Argentine Non-Governmental Organizations and their comparative efficacy, is definitely my favorite class. The professors bring in a lot of guest speakers that work for local NGOs, and it is interesting to hear how such organizations (and the problems that they seek to address) differ from those in the United States. We also did a class trip to Plaza de Mayo, a famous plaza outside of la Casa Rosada (the Argentine equivalent of the White House), where unfortunately many homeless people gather to sleep at night. There, we helped cook dinner and distribute clothing with a group that aids the homeless population in this area every week. It has been awesome to have the ability to be engaged in and learn more about the community through my schoolwork.
While sports teams, clubs, and activities in general associated with the university are not common here like they are at Richmond (which is something I definitely miss!), I have also had a couple of fun experiences through UCA outside of the classroom. A few weeks ago, classes were cancelled for a daylong tradition called las Olimpiadas de UCA, or the “UCA Olympics.” The different majors/schools at UCA form teams for a variety of sports and activities that take place in a massive sports club on the outskirts of the city. I played volleyball for UCA’s team of international students—although it was difficult to understand volleyball terms in Spanish, it was still a very enjoyable experience. In typical Argentine fashion, at the end of the day, everyone gathered for a huge asado (barbeque).