Alumni Spotlight: Maria Johnson

Maria Johnson is from all over the United States. She currently resides right outside of Chicago. While studying abroad, she studied Spanish/Latin American literature as well as Argentine History and Argentine Film with IES and Universidad de Buenos Aires. She enjoys traveling, eating, experiencing new cultures, and volunteering.

Highlights: The interpersonal connections that I made while studying abroad with IES will always stick with me. The woman who worked as the maid for the family where I stayed was as just as much a part of my host family as I was. Although, she lived about an hour to an hour and a half outside of the city, I would visit with her family occasionally. I tutored her children and I learned how to make delectable pastries with her daughter. My host family was fantastic. They were very inclusive by inviting me to family game nights and my host mother also invited me to afternoon brunches with some of the other women of the neighborhood. They were also great by offering suggestions of places to go and sites to visit. Through traveling I was able to do while on summer vacation, or temporary breaks either from IES or Argentine national holidays, I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people. The hostels where I stayed were quite enjoyable and I had the chance to meet other people from all over the world. I met one of my dearest friends while traveling. Now that I am a few years out from having lived in Buenos Aires, it is a great joy to know that I’ll always have a place to stay if I ever get the chance to return and vice versa. Many of my friends that I made there, I still keep in touch with.

Waterfalls in the distance

Morning: I lived in a homestay, so the typical morning was no different from what I experienced in the U.S. Argentine breakfasts are a bit different from the American ones in that many people only have mate, coffee, and a medialuna. I needed a bit more sustenance so often I would have some tea, medialuna, cereal, and make a fruit salad. I sometimes would make omelettes or French toast, but it just depended on the time I woke up. I like to maximize my sleep time minimize my prep time, so more extravagant breakfasts were usually reserved for the weekends. For Argentines, the more important meal either tends to be lunch or dinner usually since family style eating is popular. Once I was finished with breakfast and getting ready, I would walk to my student center. It was about 20-30 minutes from my apartment depending on traffic. I would go to my morning classes at IES and hang out with friends there if there was not much time between classes. If I had classes at UBA, I would take the train or a series of buses if the subway workers decided to go on strike, which happened more often than not.

Afternoon: If I had class in the afternoon, I would go to the classes at either IES or UBA. Sometimes you would get lucky and the UBA students would be on strike or some political occurrence would be going on and classes would be cancelled. I liked the afternoons in particular because it was a time to try out little cafes and restaurants and catch up with friends. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to eat. Buenos Aires is an ethnically diverse city, but it is mostly known for its Spanish/Italian cooking; thus, I was on the hunt for the perfect pizza, ice cream! I wanted to see if the Argentine paella really could stack up with Spanish paella. Every Wednesday without fail, I showed up with a kilo of dulce de leche and dark chocolate ice cream. I tell you, there is not a more perfect combo, I cannot think of another one…some may say peanut butter and jelly…oreos and milk…but this is pretty up there. The afternoons were also a perfect time to go city exploring visiting museums, film screenings and festivals, arts exhibitions, Fashion Week, outdoor concerts, and participating in commemorative events.

Evening: In the evenings I would only have UBA classes occasionally because the majority of UBA and IES students are working during the day. Therefore, a large percentage of UBA and IES classes are held at night to accommodate working students. I would also attend family dinners, which would generally occur on Thursday or Friday nights. The family dinners were a big deal because my host sister, host brother and wife, and a family friend would come over and we’d all talk and play cards. It wasn’t required that I eat every dinner with my host family, but I ate with them frequently. It was also nice because they allowed me to have friends come over for dinner as well. Thursday nights are a big night for going out in Argentina. In fact, I would say it’s pretty common for people to go out at least 2 if not 3 times week. Depending on when my family dinner night was I would go out on that Friday and Saturday or Thursday and Saturday if the dinner was on Friday. There definitely is something for everyone in terms of the night scene. There are great hole in the wall places to hang out, bars, concerts, and comedy shows to go that provide endless entertainment.