It would not be inaccurate to say that my six months in Buenos Aires were some of the best of my life.
A condensed background--I am an Civil Engineering student at the Colorado School of Mines. I work during the semester, run student organizations, and bust my ass with my heavy courses. However, I have always had a heavy interest in economics, history, and literature. Furthermore, I have always wanted to learn Spanish because I thought it would be a helpful tool in the future. I decided to take advantage of my situation by taking a "break" and studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Two issues, however, arose: 1. I had no idea where to go. And 2. I did not speak a word of Spanish. Luckily, I found Mente Argentina. Mente offered me a program where I did not need to speak a word of Spanish beforehand to study in university. The program offered 2 months of Spanish lessons at a small independent school followed by 4 months of the actual semester. Mente can connect you to a broad selection of universities in Buenos Aires.
I chose the University of Belgrano, a good-sized private university centered in the beautiful neighborhood of Belgrano. There, I could chose classes from the PEAL/PALAS program. One of which had courses taught in Spanish and the other in English. I took five classes: 2 in Spanish and 3 in English. Despite not knowing a word of Spanish before arriving, I was successfully able to understand (most of) and succeed in the Spanish-taught courses due to the 2 months of Spanish lessons beforehand. However, here arises my only complaint: the courses shown by Mente were *not* the same courses offered by the university. As a result, I had to get a new set of courses approved by my host university. I was unable to get all the credit I wanted too because they didn't offer the high-level course that Mente had advertised. The professors were very friendly and knowledgeable. I personally recommend the "Argentine Economy" course taught by Professor Arguero and the "Political and Social Change" course taught by Professor Gonzalez. Both of these are taught in English.
The Spanish school (VOS), was incredible in their job. I met lifelong friends there and made my mark on their wall (if you go there, my handprint is by the staircase and labelled Lucas with a heart in the middle). As I mentioned before, I was able to get to competent level of Spanish to take basic university courses within two months of their 5-day/week Spanish program. The building is beautiful and centered in the stunning neighborhood of Palermo. If you do go to this school, I recommend hitting NOLA: a Cajun fried chicken restaurant that is located a two minute walk away.
As for housing, Mente supplied me with an apartment in Palermo. The location was amazing! Five minute walk away from Santa Fe St. 20 minutes away from Plaza Serano. Bus station is outside. Less than 10 minute walk to the subway. It was fairly easy to get a taxi there. There are multiple kisocos and a small supermarket (Dia) directly outside it. There is also plenty of great places to eat around there. The apartment itself was clean with very few issues. I loved hanging out on the long balcony. Mente will circle roommates in and out depending on their program. The roommates I have had became very close friends with me (with the exception of a strange hiccup at the beginning).
Mente will host weekly events and invite everyone who is involved in a Mente program. This is where I met my closest friends in Buenos Aires, not at the university. Events include: happy hours (and miniature theatre), restaurants, museums, shows, and more. Samantha and Bea, who work at Mente, are both very friendly and fun to be around. If I ever had any questions or concerns, Mente was fast to address them and make sure I was comfortable there.
As for Buenos Aires, it is a magical city. As you live here, you will learn about the history, culture, and areas of the city. I spent most of my time in three neighborhoods: Belgrano, Palermo, and Recoleta. Belgrano is a nice neighborhood home to my university and many grand houses, including embassies of all countries. Palermo is where I lived and is the premiere place to shop and dine (in my opinion). Recoleta is more upscale and touristy, home to many attractions. As for places to see, I recommend: Puerto Madero, the Recoleta Cemetary, El Ateneo "The Grand Splendid", the Colon Theatre, the Obelisk, the Casa Rosada, all the gardens, Tigre, and many others.
Take your time to explore Argentina outside of Buenos Aires. I have been to: Mar del Plata, Bariloche, Iguazu Falls, and Salta. I won't go into detail about all of these locations, but know that Argentina is an incredibly diverse (and big) country. Make sure to explore everything that you can! And make sure to explore the rich history, too.
Before going to Buenos Aires, I had never lived in a big city or spoke Spanish. Within no time, I had become a proud porteño! Take part in the culture...eat milanesas, asado, dulce de leche, and empanadas. Drink mate and partake in merienda. Learn the phrases (dale, boludo!). Take it easy and take your time. Cheer for River Plate and play some soccer!
Altogether, I am very satisfied with my experience. Looking back, it feels too good to have been real. Surely, I will be returning to Buenos Aires, my second home!