Argentina: Transnationalism and Comparative Development in South America was, in my experience, a life-changing program packed with unforgettable moments. I studied with a small group of 12 other students from U.S. universities. Group projects and the program's many excursions and visits provided ample opportunities to get to know my classmates. The program directors were absolutely incredible and willing to help us however they could over the course of the semester. I constantly found myself excited to get the most that I could out of every moment. I learned in firsthand ways that I never had before and reshaped my perspective on the world.
The program is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and students spend most of the semester there, starting with orientation during the first week and culminating with Independent Study Project (ISP) and internship presentations during the final week. Students take courses in the program's core content, transnationalism and development, and social science field research methods and ethics in el Instituto de Desarrollo Económico y Social (IDES) in Palermo, Buenos Aires. They also take a Spanish language course in la Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) in the center of Buenos Aires. All courses are in Spanish. Students live with a homestay family during the semester and engage with Argentinian culture firsthand.
The program includes incredible excursions that greatly enhance students' development of transnational and comparative perspectives and generate experiences that, while certainly cross-cultural, emphasize shared struggles and regional integration with regard to social, political, economic, and cultural organizations and movements. Meetings with organizations, groups, and communities allow for an unparalleled understanding of the way people are impacted by, and themselves shape, political and economic changes. Students, through these experiences, lectures, and assignments, get a sense of the way local communities, nations of the Southern Cone region, and the world are interconnected.
In Argentina, in addition to living in Buenos Aires, program participants visit La Plata. They also leave the country on program excursions that feature more visits with local groups, lectures on program content specific to the places visited, and opportunities to explore new cities and world-renowned landmarks. Students stay in Asunción, Paraguay; see the binational dam at Itaipú; tour the powerful Iguazú Falls; explore Río de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil; and study in Montevideo and Colonia, Uruguay.
During the last month of the program, students either put together an ISP or participate in an internship. An ISP student, I was able to study the social construction of collective Argentinian memory by way of three memory sites in Buenos Aires that functioned as clandestine centers of detention, torture, and extermination during Argentina's military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. I observed the sites, went on official tours/visits, and interviewed employees at each one to gather my own data in the places themselves where history and memory have been shaped, an experience completely irreplaceable.