Alana Taylor ’12 (Portland, Ore.) is a psychology major and a member of Lafayette’s Division I volleyball and track and field teams. She spent her spring semester studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I don’t know what you have heard about Buenos Aires, but it is one crazy city! Forget about New York being the city that never sleeps; the people of Buenos Aires literally do not sleep. It was not uncommon to see old couples going out to pizza or walking their dogs at 2 a.m.! It’s also pretty normal to see live tango shows in the middle of the street! Like any huge city, there are endless things to do and see which made it a great place to spend my semester abroad.
Since Buenos Aires is below the equator, the seasons are opposite, so when I arrived in mid-February, it was hot and humid. Orientation for my program didn’t start until the end of February, so I decided to go down two weeks early and work on a farm an hour and half out of the city. There, I woke up at 6 a.m. every morning to work in the garden. The other volunteers were from all over the world, so needless to say, I met a lot of interesting people there and had a great two weeks.
Orientation was two weeks long, with a four-day weekend in the middle. Argentines love their four-day weekends, which was great because it allowed us to travel. Argentina is one of the coolest places to travel around because it’s a big country with a lot of different places to see. The first long weekend, I went to Mar del Plata, a beach town five hours away from the city with a group of eight other people that were in my program. It was a great trip and it allowed us all to get to know each other.
Classes finally started in the beginning of March. The cool thing about my classes abroad was they were specific to Argentina. Also, all of my professors were Argentine. I took Spanish, Argentine Environment, the History of Patagonia, a documentary film making class called Media and Society in which we made short documentaries about something specific to Buenos Aires, and a service learning class about human rights in Argentina.
Everyone in my service learning class interned at an NGO (non-governmental organization) that dealt with human rights. I worked at an NGO called “Abrir La Puerta” which means “Open the Door.” It is an afterschool program for underprivileged kids so they have somewhere to go while their parents are still at work. I worked there twice a week, setting up the snacks and playing with the kids. It was an amazing cultural experience and great for my Spanish!
I lived in an apartment with a host mom. She was a 70-year old artist who lived alone and had a cat. I ate dinner with her on weekdays, which was great because she was an awesome cook, and I got to practice my Spanish. She lived in downtown Buenos Aires on Avenida 9 de Julio, which is one of the biggest avenues in the world. I loved it because it was so close to everything, and it gave me a really urban living experience.
For the second long weekend, I went with a group of friends to Mendoza, a small city in Western Argentina. It was an 18-hour bus ride, but totally worth it! Mendoza is known for its wine, so they have a ton of vineyards. We took a bike tour through them (during which my friend and I tried out a tandem bike) and had a great time!
For the third long weekend, I went with my History of Patagonia class to Bariloche, a small city in Patagonia, south of Buenos Aires. Patagonia is known for its landscapes, and if you go even more south to the tip of Argentina, you can see incredible glaciers. As with any class trip, the days were packed with sights to see and lectures to hear. My favorite day consisted of taking a boat tour to an island and hiking up a mountain to get an overall view. It was a great class-bonding trip, and we all had a lot of fun!
My spring break was the first week in May, and was definitely my favorite trip of all. I went to Peru with five friends, and did a hiking trip called the “Inca Jungle Trek.” It included biking, hiking, rafting, zip-lining, and climbing to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was unreal and a dream come true for me. We also climbed Waynapicchu, a mountain that allows you to see Machu Picchu from above. Both hikes, Machu Picchu and Waynapicchu, were straight up for an hour each; not an easy feat when you are 8,000 feet above sea level! However, the views at the top were completely worth it!
During a weekend in June, I went with two friends to Iguazu Falls, which is on the border between Argentina and Brazil. It includes over 275 waterfalls and is quite the sight to see! It was a very relaxing trip, and a great way to end my travels.
All in all, my semester abroad was incredible. I love traveling, so living in a different country and getting to travel on the weekends was so much fun. I learned so much from my classes and from the places I went and people I met. Obviously, being away from your team can be hard; you miss a lot and miss the sport and your teammates. As much fun as I had abroad, I am so excited for the year to start and for the season to begin. I know we will have an awesome one!