I am indecisive and a worrier. Tasks as simple as deciding what to wear can leave me perplexed for over an hour: What if it rains? What if it doesn’t rain and I’m stuck carrying a jacket in the heat? What if I’m dressed too nice? What if I suddenly get invited to an upscale event and am underdressed? Within my first few months of freshman year at Tulane, however, I made a big decision; I chose to split my year abroad between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Madrid, Spain. Whether it was my friend Brad’s persuasion skills (in high school he did a study abroad program in Buenos Aires and raved about it) or the excitement of getting to travel around South America, I never really questioned my choice. Then one day in the summer I woke up and realized I had a week left before I was off to Argentina. Furthermore, I am leaving my comfort zone to go to an area of the world I had never been to before, South America. I had a page filled with appointments I needed to make and tasks to complete. I had to get all my necessary medications (Argentina is not the easiest place to ship things to), vaccinations, documents to enter and remain in the country as well as somehow fit three seasons worth of clothing into two bags.
After consulting numerous handbooks and double checking that I had not missed anything, I am finally all packed and ready to start my journey. Though I still have some concerns, such as taking my classes and communicating to my host family entirely in Spanish, I am mostly over the week of panic and extremely excited for my new adventure in “the Paris of South America”! It also helps to have my boyfriend, Grant, and my best friend, Brad (both Altman scholars), studying abroad with me, especially for reassurance on the plane ride over. While in Buenos Aires, I will be taking my international relations electives at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella and a writing class through the Middlebury program. Additionally, I will be interning at IDES, a nonprofit institution that predominantly focuses on economic and social development research in Argentina and Latin America. With my spare time, I am hoping to travel to various places in Argentina and potentially to nearby countries, as well as explore the cultural mecca that is Buenos Aires. I cannot wait; in fact, I already have my South American Handbook packed in my carry-on to start reading on the plane and to begin the important process of deciding where to visit first!
Branching out of my summer and precollege abode, the illustrious Iowa City, I am now faced with the startling yet exciting reality that I am a now a junior in college and my year abroad is just about to start! Influenced by the desire to learn Spanish and explore a country I have never been to with my beautiful girlfriend (and fellow Altman Scholar), Cara, I chose to study Spanish abroad in Buenos Aires through IFSA-Butler. Admittedly, the persuasion of my dear friend Brad (also a fellow Altman Scholar) and his previous stay in Buenos Aires years ago also played a crucial part in deciding where to study.
Having studied Spanish since the seventh grade, I am feeling confident in my ability to function in Argentina. That being said, I know that I am not fluent and have a lot of room to improve while here as well as in Madrid, Spain next semester. As a Spanish (and Marketing) major, this experience will be crucial in increasing my language proficiency.
While I have done homestays in Spain (2012, one week) and Bolivia (2005, one month), I have never spent such a long period of time, August-December, in a foreign country. Thus, I am most nervous about the amount of time spent away from family and close friends, as well as adjusting to an entirely different culture. However, the things I am most nervous about are also the things I am most excited about. I get to live with a host family, make more friends, and live in Argentina, and am extremely lucky to have this amazing experience!
This summer, I helped my mother move across the country and helped my sister move into her first college dorm. For my mother and sister, these were highly stressful events. Ironically, I will make the farthest move as I journey to The National Taiwan University in Taipei, but I am not experiencing the same stress that they did. It could be that the change has not truly sunk in yet, or that I have prepared well, having taken Chinese for six years, but I chalk it up to my Type B personality, marked by being generally less anxious.
Another aspect of the Type B personality is the tendency to reflect on the world and concepts within it. The prospect of doing so in Taiwan interests me greatly—how better to get a different perspective on the world than to see it from its literal other side? I have tailored my Finance classes, which will be taught in English, to best give me a Chinese outlook on business. How do they view their unprecedented economic rise? What does a regional or global hegemon mean to the Chinese? What do they think of their current stock market crisis? I am excited to ponder.
I view Taiwan as a step into the shallow end of the pool—Taiwan has a fascinating history wherein it has been pulled by both American and Chinese forces. It is less regulated than the mainland; the Internet is largely unfettered and they have their own separate government. But soon enough, I will swim to the deeper end on weekend voyages to the mainland and then my second semester abroad, which I will spend in Beijing. The final aspect of a Type B personality that I will share is the propensity to enjoy the journey, not simply the destination. I intend to.
The entire notion that I am going abroad for a year is still a little mind-bogglingly. The idea of going abroad has been a distant intangible thought the last two years, so I still cannot believe I am on the plane with two other Altman scholars, heading for South America.
This year I will be studying in Argentina through two different universities. First semester, I will be studying at the entirely free public school, La Universidad de Buenos Aires, in the Filo (Filosofia y letras) building. Everyone says la UBA is definitely an experience considering it is the best and hardest university in Argentina; however, because la UBA is open to the public, the university “houses” 200,000 students of all ages, equating to a very authentic experience compared to the US. I just hope the school does not become too overwhelming! Next semester, I will be studying Finance through either Universidad de Di Tella or the Universidad de Belgrano.
At Tulane, I study environmental studies, which roughly translates to Geography classes in Argentina. I visited Argentina for a summer in high school, so for the most part I already know what to expect from the culture shock. More importantly, however, I am excited to see how my perspective changed three years later, and the differences in the way I analyze and adapt to the culture (ideally with a much less ethnocentric view, and a better understanding of politics abroad). Truthfully, I just can’t wait to get my hands on an authentic empanada and bite into some asado!
Through my study abroad program, I will work for an environmental NGO, and I cannot wait to see how the firm operates and compare it to my own experience interning at an American NGO: World Trade Center of New Orleans.
Overall, I could not be more excited to go abroad and start this new chapter in my life! I do have to say that I am grateful to go with two of my best friends, fellow Altman scholars Cara & Grant [they’re dating] to make the transition a little bit easier!
My bags are finally packed and I am ready to depart for Madrid tomorrow evening. It’s hard to feel entirely prepared for such a big move. I have been waiting for an experience to study abroad for as long as I can remember, but now it feels as if it has come too soon. This semester marks the beginning of my second half of my undergraduate education. I feel like I have just met my Altman friends and began to feel settled into my city, New Orleans.
In addition to the shock of leaving my new home in Louisiana, my Spanish-speaking has definitely been lacking over the summer and it will take some immersion to start to feel confident in Spain. It’s intimidating that immediately after landing in Spain, I need to meet my first-ever landlord and get the keys to my first-ever apartment, and do so almost entirely in Spanish.
Rather than stressing about the uncertainties in this huge transition period, I am welcoming all of these changes in my life with open arms. I am excited to continue my education in management at La Universidad Pontificias Comillas ICADE. I know this will be an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to updating my experience once I’m settled in.
They say that time flies like an arrow, and fruit flies like a banana. I’m no expert in fruit flies, but it sure does seem like time has been moving swiftly lately. I can’t believe it’s time to go abroad already. I feel like I just arrived on campus, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, when this notion of a year abroad seemed very vague and far away. Now I’ll be spending a semester in Lima, Peru at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, studying economics, followed by a semester in Bogota, Colombia at Universidad de los Andes, pursuing finance. I’m excited to start my next adventure, but I probably should have prepared a bit more.
I wish I had a better sense of the cultural context of the cities that I will call home for the next 9 months. I’m realizing now that my decision to take a class on the history and culture of Spain rather than Latin America was a bit misguided. It was an excellent class, but right now it would be more useful to know about the evolution of art in Lima than Madrid. I will be taking a Peruvian Social reality class as a requirement of my abroad program, which will hopefully fill some gaps in my historical record.
I also wish my Spanish was better. It’s really frustrating to have studied Spanish for five years and still be unable to hold a coherent conversation about what I did over the summer. I can speak pretty intelligently about the different artistic styles of the past 500 years, but that subject does not often pop up in the course of everyday interaction. I really should have practiced more over the summer too. There’s nothing I can really do about it now, so I am going to hit the ground running when I arrive in Lima, where all of my classes will be conducted in Spanish. It’s an immersion program, so hopefully my Spanish will be greatly improved by the time I go to Colombia.
That being said, I am very excited to have a grand new adventure. I purposefully chose Peru and Colombia to push me out of my comfort zone and leave the Westernized mindset. I really want to travel and see more of South America. We are visiting Machu Picchu in September, which I am looking forward to. I also want to connect with the people. One of my favorite moments from the past few weeks was when my host mom sent me an email asking what I liked to eat for breakfast. It was very sweet. The food in Peru is also supposed to be phenomenal. It is the birthplace of the potato, after all. I have a lot to look forward to.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m very excited about going abroad. I know I’m going to learn and grow a lot, and meet a lot of amazing people. Right now, I am feeling a little jittery. I feel like I’m going skydiving, and I’m scared to jump. It will be an unforgettable experience while I’m there, but I need someone to push me out of the plane. Here’s to the start of another chapter!
I’m writing this post from the middle seat of the 40th row of Delta Flight 105, headed to Guarulhos International Airport. In case you were wondering where that is, it’s in São Paulo Brazil, the 2nd largest city in the Western Hemisphere! I’m definitely getting a little bit antsy, and I’m only five hours into my nine-hour flight. I can’t wait to arrive in Brazil. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the people, the food, the music, and the culture. Although I’ve travelled to Latin America four times previously, I’ve never had the chance to experience Brazil.
This semester I will be studying abroad at Fundaçao Getúlio Vargas (FGV), and I will be taking classes across disciplines for my finance and political science majors. When I arrived at Tulane, I only spoke Spanish, but Natalia, our program coordinator, encouraged me to test out a Portuguese class during my first semester in New Orleans. Ever since my first class with Professor Corley, I’ve been hooked on Portuguese and Brazilian culture. I can’t wait to arrive in São Paulo! I will give a fair warning, however. The amount of paperwork required to get my Visa and to enter FGV was a little bit absurd. I’m pretty sure half of the Amazon was used to print out my paperwork J. Anyways, I think it’s time that I head to sleep so that I’m well-rested when I arrive in São Paulo.
A view of the São Paulo skyline once William finally made it!
Welcome to the blog of Tulane Altman Scholars spending their Junior years abroad. Through the collaboration between Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and the Center for Global Education in the School of Liberal Arts, these scholars selected from a wide array of programs and universities abroad in order to sharpen their language skills and experience higher education in different contexts and cultures.
On this blog, they will document their encounters, challenges and triumphs as they spend the year all over the world!