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Student Profiles

Molly visits the iconic Iguazu Falls in Argentina

Overseas Study Program

Buenos Aires,  Argentina

I wish someone had told me that not every day of study abroad was going to be easy. The days that are more challenging just help the highlights of living in another country be even better.”

Molly Zweig

Molly’s majors: International Studies, Spanish and Portuguese

Term abroad: Academic Year 2013-14

Reason you chose this program: I chose to go to Buenos Aires because I wanted the chance to practice my Spanish in a city environment. My studies focused more on South America than other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, and Buenos Aires seemed like the best place to get the credit I needed for my Spanish and International Studies majors.

Favorite classes: I greatly enjoyed my Cultural Questions in Argentine History course. Our professor was so interested in the topic and tailored the class to help explain Argentina's culture to American students. I loved seeing what I was learning in the class in my everyday life-- I understood why certain holidays were celebrated and I learned the significance and history of buildings around the city. Taking this class helped me a great deal in my coursework at the local universities.

Describe the housing situation: I lived in a homestay with a woman who was about 30 years old in the Palermo neighborhood. I wanted to have the experience of living with a local family and also some of the same independence I had living at IU. For me, my housing was perfect! After living with my host "mom" for a year, we became real friends. I liked living with someone younger because her friends were close enough in age to me that we could all hang out as a group.

Biggest surprise: I was surprised how long it took to get tasks done. I had to learn to add about twenty minutes of travel time to wherever I was going to account for potential problems. Even going to the grocery store takes longer than at home. Efficiency isn't as great a cultural value as it is in the United States. I don't think this is a bad thing, I just had to remember to adjust my ideas about how long certain tasks should take.

Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: I experienced some aspects of culture shock when I arrived in Argentina. Argentines cheek-kiss everyone to say hello and goodbye, always ask people how they are doing, and always say goodbye or thanks when leaving a store. There is a perception that Americans are very cold people because we don't do these things. Some of my Argentine friends would try to shake my hand every time they saw me because they thought I would be afraid of a traditional Argentine "beso." I learned to explain that my customs were different and that I was happy to try things the Argentine way.

Biggest challenge: Rolling my R’s! I have tried so hard, and yet the skill eludes me every time! When I was abroad, I tried modifying my vocabulary to avoid words with my dreaded double r. I can fake a porteño (person from Buenos Aires) accent fairly well, but my butchered r sounds always gave me away.

Facts about Argentina that you think people would be surprised to learn: I think many people have the perception that all countries that speak Spanish are the same.  This is not the case at all!  Argentines are afraid of spicy food, think of Buenos Aires as a modern, European-style city, and use a different grammatical features.

Going abroad vs. staying on campus: For students studying a language or about another part of the world, the best way to learn about it is to go there and study.  IU has great academic programs, but I knew that my language skills could only improve so much in a classroom.  There is a lot to be learned from seeing how other people around the world think, communicate, and problem-solve.  During my year abroad, I missed my friends, family, and being in Bloomington, but I knew that my experience abroad was really valuable also.