Snow-capped peaks, rolling pampas, enormous glaciers, grand salt flats, booming nightclubs, the passion of 70,000 soccer fans, the tallest mountain in all of the Americas, waterfalls that dwarf the size and awe of Niagara Falls, and a people so warm and friendly you feel like you’ve been friends with them forever.
Argentina has it all, really. For me, someone who set out to study abroad looking for adventure above all else, there was really no better destination that could offer me so much to see in only 5 months.
Both Argentina and its sprawling capital of Buenos Aires have been called the Paris of South America, the land of the gauchos, La Ciudad de La Furia, and even The-country-where-Spanish-speaking-Italians-eat-milanesa-on-horseback-while-sipping-mate-and-singing-Cuarteto (Okay, that last one is just me). But it’s none of those things individually, and so much more than all of that together. It’s Argentina. A country that will challenge you and fascinate you and make you grateful and ashamed and perplexed to be American (or should I say United Statesian? To them, America’s the whole landmass from Canada to the very tip of breathtaking Patagonia).
When choosing my abroad experience, I knew I wanted to live in a country that boasted a distinct culture and forced me to rely strictly on my Spanish skills to get around (Buenos Aires has a lot less English speakers, and English-speaking tourists, than, say, Barcelona). I also wanted to travel as much as I could. Argentina offered all that for me, and more. And IFSA gave me the support I needed to accomplish these goals.
What I appreciated most about the IFSA Buenos Aires program was the flexibility in scheduling classes. IFSA Buenos Aires gives you the opportunity to directly enroll in three distinct universities – Universidad del Salvador, Torcuato Di Tella University and La Universidad de Buenos Aires – each with hundreds of courses to choose from. IFSA also offers a host of courses in-house. And, let’s be honest, my goal was more to find myself, jaw wide-open, in front of towering mountains than to be studying in the library. (You could do that too here, if you want, and there are some damn-beautiful libraries).
The literally thousands of courses to choose from let me find that balance between interesting classes and loads of time to travel. IFSA’s academic advisers not only helped me navigate the class-selection process, but were always there to read my class papers or listen to class presentations. With this guidance and support, I was able to travel to ten different Argentine provinces as well as Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and a bit of Brazil. I know, that’s a lot. Part of the reason I could do that was because I had the ability to pick a schedule that only had me going to la facultad twice a week, while still taking on a full academic load.
Through my adventures, I saw waterfalls, glaciers and penguins, clear night skies with mesmerizing constellations and jungles so thick the sunlight barely made it to the selva floor.
But you should know that Argentina is obviously more than its natural beauty. Its populace is an eclectic mix of Europeans, Criollos, and indigenous peoples that is lively, friendly and inviting. But they’re also extremely fed-up with sky-high inflation rates and a government that has cheated them for what seems like forever.
Once upon a time, Argentina boasted the world’s fifth-highest GDP and, with its gargantuan colonial mansions and impressive opera halls, was truly a modern gem in a changing world. Today the situation is different, and sometimes living in Argentina can feel like an exercise in nostalgia. Argentines often remind you they know what Argentina once was and are acutely aware of what it could be.
But what can you say? This is Argentina, che. The country almost always leaves you scratching your head, dropping your jaw and literally stretching your wallet (the largest banknote is about $3 USD right now, though the peso’s value will be astoundingly different by the time you read this). And, just as I notice the moonlight bouncing off the bobbing head of this horse I’m riding in the Andean foothills, I start to think about all the quilombo in this country –– it’s economic instability and political confusion. And I know there’s a certain charm to this place, its beautiful landscapes and all its people, and, che, I know that I really do love Argentina.
Jason Beeferman is a student at Northwestern University and studied abroad with IFSA at the Argentine Universities Program the Fall 2022 semester. He is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.