The Study Part of Study Abroad

On my first day of class, the professor walked in 30 minutes late. If I hadn’t been told this was perfectly normal, I probably would have left after the first 15 minutes. Adjusting to the Argentine university system was a bit of a rollercoaster: my schedule wasn’t finalized until three weeks in, the classroom locations were unclear, there are often two professors teaching one class, four-hour classes exist, night classes are common, and no one knows when assignments are due. All of these grievances were very frustrating at the start of the semester, but as I continually reminded myself, this was part of the cultural adjustment. Two of my classes are now completed, and they were the two  offered by the University, so for students who want to study abroad in Mendoza, here are some points to keep in mind.

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  1. Argentina is a laid back society, so don’t worry too much about showing up on time. As previously stated, professors often arrive close to half an hour late, so only leave class if the local students are.
  2. Double check the class location with your program advisor. On the first day of class, I planned on attending Sustainable Development. When I arrived, the class list said Sustainable Tourism, so I attended that class, thinking it was misnamed. The next day, I found out that the class I originally wanted to take was in an entirely different building.
  3. There is no syllabus, so you will not know what’s going on. I admit that when professors handed out syllabi at DU, I barely glanced at them. They are actually very helpful when planning out study time, something I took for granted.
  4. Make friends with the locals. Going off of point three, you will likely not know if there are assignments and when they are due. The locals usually know what is going on, at least more than foreign students; they are a vital resource when it comes to adjusting to the Argentine education system.
  5. Take classes you wouldn’t normally do. That is my only regret in regards to my study abroad experience. I was so hung up on getting specific courses approved for credit that I didn’t try anything new. If you study abroad in Mendoza, try and take Tango; I wish I did.

It’s hard to adjust to a new way of learning, but it’s an exciting opportunity to gain new insight into a culture. I enjoyed my time at the Universidad de Congreso; it was an enlightening experience.

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Zoe Kaldor

 ARGENTINA – IFSA: MENDOZA UNIVERSITIES PROGRAM, 2018 FALL

Zoe Kaldor is an International Studies and Strategic Communication double major. She is studying abroad with IFSA-Butler in Mendoza, Argentina. Originally from New York, DU’s study abroad program was one of the reasons Zoe chose to attend DU. She specifically chose to study abroad in Argentina because she wants to improve her Spanish skills and experience a new culture, for she believes it is so important in an increasingly global society to be able to communicate in languages besides English as well as experience different ways of life. Zoe is an avid traveler and loves to explore new places; she is excited she gets to do both.

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A Unique Experience for Both

I was already five minutes late to the class as I ran up three flights of stairs, pushing past groups of men huddled in silent circles. The timetable for the courses offered failed to mention which room number any of the classes were in, so I was forced to run into every room and ask what course was being held. After four times of repeating my question, there was a 60% chance that they would be able to understand what I was saying through my accent. More often than not, I blindly sat down next to whoever was there and hoped it wasn’t a Telugu or Hindi course.

A man stood outside of the door to a lecture hall that seemed to be in the right location of my political science course. He was wiping the sweat from his forehead and armpits, but with every movement of his arm, more seemed to slide down.

“Western Political Thought?” I asked him as I pointed towards the classroom. He creased his eyebrows together and tilted his head, so I repeated the question two more times. He then nodded, making a grunting sound that seemed like it meant yes.

The blue paint on the classroom walls was chipping away, probably from the moisture which came through the open windows. There was no AC in any of the classrooms, only three fans pushing the warm air and flies around the room.

As I paused in the doorway trying to decide which seat to choose, I felt eyes scan up and down my body. Most of the seats in the classroom were filled by men. Seven or eight women all sat together in the first row. The room seemed to quiet as I maneuvered through the rows of seats and waited patiently for the men to wake up from their day-dreaming to take their feet off the chairs in front of them.

Immediately after finding a seat on the far left side, everyone else in the class abruptly stood up, their chairs screeching on the blue tile floor. They looked down at me struggling to rearrange my backpack so that I could stand up as well, the last one to rise. A man in a light-blue kurta and white linen pants walked down the center aisle between the desks of students, walking at a slow enough pace that you knew he enjoyed this moment. Motioning with his right hand, the class simultaneously sat down in their seats in silence.

The professor turned on the microphone that was on the podium and greeted the class. He gave an overview of what the course would look like, what students should expect, and who should be in this graduate level course.

“Before I go into too much detail of what the course will be like, I want to warn you about what many of you will face when studying this material,” he said. All of the students perched on the edge of their seats, ready for whatever hint of stress they may experience.

“You are all going to be extremely confused when reading the course material. As native Indians, you likely have no understanding or background to Western philosophies,” he said to the entire class. He then turned and faced me. “In India, we have the caste system. In America, they have Democratic thinking or individual liberty. We are all reading material written in something other than our mother tongue, so do not feel stupid when you don’t understand it.”

I looked around at the rest of the class and saw them nodding their heads at the professor’s words. A couple of students looked back at me. I could see the questions running through their minds, wondering why I was taking a course about the West’s philosophies.

The professor paused as he gauged the students’ reaction to his words. “Prepare to be confused, attracted, and perplexed in this class. This will be a new experience for most of you sitting here.”

I realized then that this would be just as much of a learning experience for the native students as it would for me. In all my classes at the University of Denver, I was taught by professors who were from the West and were expecting their students to have a baseline understanding of western politics. By taking this course in Hyderabad, I would be able to see an Indian understanding of Western philosophies and also experience the student’s opinion of it.

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Anne Berset 

INDIA – UNIVERSITY OF HYERDERABAD, 2018 FALL

Anne Berset is double majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology as well as a minor in Philosophy. She is studying at the University of Hyderabad in India for the Fall term, where she will be taking philosophy and political science courses. She hopes to gain a new perspective on culture, politics, and religion while abroad. Anne loves to watch films, go on hikes, and spend time with animals.

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