Mario, Resident Director

Mario pointing to map of Argentina

Mario speaking to students

Mario Cantarini is the heart and soul of the IFSA Argentina office. His laugh alone can brighten a day and a talk with him can solve even your most troubling problems. As Resident Director, it’s Mario’s job to make sure things are running smoothly and people are happy—and I personally couldn’t imagine anyone better for the job. So here’s a bit more about Mario, who he is, what he does, how he got here, and why he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Hometown: San Andrés, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fun fact: 
The IFSA Office moved locations 10 years ago, and Mario had something to do with it! Besides being an economic decision, the new location (right at the center of El Centro) is one block away from where his mom was born in 1897! She even attended the school down the street—alongside former President Perón!
Favorite ice cream flavor: Dark chocolate

How did your career with IFSA begin?
“I started out teaching Spanish in England. When I came back to Argentina, I got a job as Director of the School of Modern Languages for a few years, and then I founded a private school for foreign languages, called Estudio Buenos Aires, and through that, I heard about IFSA.

“The directors of study abroad at two U.S. universities contacted me to design the Spanish language program for their students. So I did that for four years, and there was a different Resident Director at the time. Then in 1992, she retired and they offered me the job, to which I said, ‘What is this?’ I had to learn from point zero how an international study abroad program worked. And that’s how I got here!”
What did you study?
“First, I studied law, and I didn’t like it a bit. So in my fourth year, I dropped that degree and started to study translation. I studied translation for four years and got the degree…but I’ve never been a translator—just one afternoon, no more. I think translation is a wonderful profession; I just wasn’t the right person for it. So I moved to London, where I lived for a few years, and it was there that I started to realize that my interests lied in the methodology of foreign language instruction. So I started on my third degree, I really enjoyed it, and that’s what I’ve done for the rest of life since then.”

What’s your favorite part of your job?

“Without a doubt, my relationship with the students. I like that we can get into arguments, discuss important topics, and think differently—I like the culture shock, it’s really rich. And on the other hand, I’m 74 and it’s fun to talk to kids your age. We’re 54 years apart—that’s a big difference! We can learn from each other. My job surprises me every day.”Mario speaking to student group in Buenos Aires
Mario’s advice to students:
“Study abroad programs are really important, especially for North Americans because the U.S. could live on without the rest of the world…but only the U.S. and China could do that. And it’s problematic because that creates a certain sense of isolation—it’s easy to stay in an American frame of mind and forget that you’re outside the U.S. It’s programs like this that can break through your outer shells to get through to your essence, your true self. It’s what I find most beautiful about this. I see it happen every day.”

Diego, Academic Coordinator

Diego working at his desk

Diego at his desk

Diego Peller is a gem of an Academic Coordinator, a teacher, an ear to listen, and a human being. He would simultaneously sit down and chat with you, give a lecture on translation in Argentina, and play with his kids all while reading a nice Borges novel if he could. We are so lucky to have him here in Buenos Aires, so without further adieu, here’s Diego, Academic Coordinator extraordinaire.
Hometown: Martínez, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Fun fact: To make some money in college, Diego worked as a jeans peddler! That is, he had his own solo business buying and then selling men’s jeans to whoever he could convince. He even accredits some of his teaching skills—like standing in front of a crowd and trying to capture their attention—to this entrepreneurial position.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mascarpone (it’s kind of like cheesecake!)
How did your career with IFSA begin?
“When I finished my undergrad, I got a job editing an educational manual for a university in the U.S. My supervisor on the project worked for IFSA, and when he went to the U.S. for a few months to finalize the manual, he proposed that I be his temporary replacement. 
“Now, I’ve worked at IFSA for 15 years, and I’ve done an array of things in my time here. I started out being an assistant on IFSA trips and bringing coffee and medialunas (croissants) around to the classrooms in the morning. Mario and the Academic Director at the time have in a way been mentors to me; I’ve really grown as a person here with them. From there, I started teaching Spanish and Literature, and then began designing the Literature concentration. When the Academic Director retired, she offered me the position and since then I’ve worked full-time.”
What’s your favorite part of your job?
“I like balancing the two aspects of my job: the organizational and the instructional. I like teaching because I have more direct contact with students—I get to talk with them, to listen to them, to see how they’re changing. That part is really important to me, but I like doing a lot of things at once and this job is really diverse! 
“It was also really exciting when I started out because the concept of study abroad wasn’t very widespread at the time. When they explained to me that there was an office where students from North America came to study for, I was like, ‘Wow, I had no idea this existed!’”Diego leading a group discussion
Diego’s advice to students:
“If you are enthusiastic and you want to study abroad, trust that things will work out. Students seem overwhelmed by all of their responsibilities, and especially their academic pressures, but the best way to have a great experience at this age is to just trust that things will work out when you get here. After all, for something to be an experience, there has to be something unexpected.”