College, two ways

Hey there friends,

I don’t know if it’s me adapting to life in BA or what, but it is pretty cold this week! Not real winter cold, but cold enough that I walk a little faster, add an extra layer, and complain about it (because weather is an easy convo starter anywhere).

Yesterday, I went to Ditella for a Contemporary Latin American history class that didn’t wind up happening last week because the professor was sick. Turns out there was something wrong with his eye so he couldn’t read that well and couldn’t update the syllabus. But he has the first few weeks done. Ditella’s the hardest private university in the country and lots of the professors got their PhD’s abroad: this professor’s is from Cal, which makes me a little bit more comfortable to take the class. I know he speaks English as a fallback. It seems really cool and we will focus on Argentina but still look at regional trends. He says Argentina doesn’t really like to admit it’s part of Latin America which is so true but history says otherwise. I’m intrigued. It’s annoying that it’s twice a week but hopefully it’s worth it.

I came back from DiTella in time for another spin class (it’s the farthest of the schools, a solid hour away) which was not any harder than the friday one.  They also played music that does not really motivate cardio work (Livin’ on a prayer, summer of 69). I want to give our instructor a Beyoncé cd.

Then I grabbed lunch and got organized before I headed to UBA Ciencias Sociales. All the departments or facultades, are in different parts of the city but this one wasn’t too far. I was supposed to take a class about how poverty affects development (super cool) and three IFSA girls were in it. The professor, however, never showed up so I traveled for no reason in the late afternoon. Since we have next monday off, I won’t get to try the class for two weeks which is really annoying as I have to make decisions!

Today I didn’t have class until 4 so I started the day with an aerobics class that I really liked. The instructor actually made you work and there was a wide age range which always makes me feel better: if the 50 year olds can do it, so can I! Then I took my laundry to be washed and got some documents printed for class. It’s so expensive (1 peso a page) and I’m hoping I can find a cheaper way to do it. I also don’t know how many of the documents I need to print and bring or how many I can just read at home. But spending like 200 pesos a week on printing is not okay. Photocopies are cheaper but I get them all from email/dropbox. Then i sat down to do some reading and eat lunch and observed Argentines on lunch dates. First of all, why was this cafe full of 20 somethings on a tuesday at 1? Not so sure but all the groups of friends eat really slowly, sip their drinks really slowly, and seem to have a really nice time. As Mario said about new cultures: first you observe, then imitate, then judge. Definitely still in the beginning stages!

Then I went to the IFSA classes for my castellano class. We all have to take a spanish class run through IFSA but there are two levels and they’re all different topics + the common grammar/writing component. Mine is Mujeres Argentinas (Argentine Women) and I loved it! It’s only ten people and our professor is Marcela, this woman of a certain age who is just so hysterical and wry in her explanations of everything from Peronismo to what people will think of you if you use improper grammar. IFSA also gives us the books for the class (hallelujah!) so that’s super convenient and wonderful.

After class, I went to a meeting of Education USA, a program of the embassy that helps Argentine kids apply to American universities. Compared to other large Latin American countries, Argentina sends very few students to the US (about 1000 total) whereas Brazil sends around 6,000. The program was at a North American cultural center run by the embassy and I found out about it from someone I met at the party on Saturday. She invited me to come and talk about going to college and the process of applying. One other abroad student from GW was there and she was super sweet. The students are all pretty wealthy or hoping for full tuition scholarships. They were doing SAT prep (there’s only 1 test site in the whole country) and talking about the TOEFL, an english test they all have to take. We broke up into groups and I told them about Penn, life as an American college student, application tips and the concepts of safety schools. They all love the big name schools but don’t always have great scores so the women who work in the program were big into safety schools. The kids were really sweet for the most part and seem a little confused about the essay supplements. One kid asked if an essay for Wharton should discuss how he wants to go into finance and Wharton is good for that. It was hard to diplomatically explain why that’s a really bad idea. Another kid told me he wasn’t considering Penn because the Eagles are there and he’s very upset about Michael Vick. Tried to assure him there’s literally no connection but he seems to prefer UChicago and Colombia. They have these meetings once a month and I’m going to try to keep going. I’m comparing the two experiences on a daily basis so I may as well share it.

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