Becker Career Center’s PCA, Katya Perez discusses her term aboard in Argentina!
“In my 20 years of life, never had I ever traveled to a foreign country. I’m your regular city girl from Boston and my biggest vacation up to that point had been a family trip to Puerto Rico when I was 12, where I visited my family for less than a week. So, you can imagine that a nearly 4-month trip to South America had my head spinning!
I originally chose Argentina because I wanted to learn more about Latin American culture. Yeah, I’m a Latina, but I’m also a first-generation American…I was just as clueless as any first-time traveler would be. I was fascinated by Argentina’s long revolutionary history; from their role in liberating South America from Spanish rule to the last military dictatorship of the 20th century, I just wanted to learn more about the social and political climate.
When I first arrived in the country, my group and I spent a week in Buenos Aires, the capital city. Here, we were tourists…we saw sights like the Obelisco monument, visited Victorian-era homes of famous writers like those of La Familia Ocampo, and went to amazing live performances like Fuerza Bruta. (a.k.a. The most fun and exciting show I’ve ever been seen! 10/10 would recommend!) And the food…? Don’t even get me going. Argentina is well known for its steak, wine, and cheese, and every day we went to incredible restaurants. When we left the capital for a 10-hour bus ride to Córdoba, the second-most populated city in the country and the place I would call home for the next 14 weeks.
Córdoba is located right in the middle of the country at the foot of a mountain pass called Las Sierras. It’s a large city with a lot of private colleges and public universities, so it was the perfect place to meet other students, both local and foreign. Here I lived with my host mom in the barrio or neighborhood known as Providencia in a cozy apartment. Classes were held in the center of the city, so I used the city’s bus system to get to school or hang with friends.
We attended class twice a week, which left tons of room for traveling and getting to know our surroundings. Each of us was assigned a speaking partner – a local student who was studying English – with whom we spent time practicing the languages we wanted to learn. My speaking partner Yesica often times took me and my friends out to explore the city and introduced us to many of her other friends. When I wasn’t in class or passing time at a café, you could almost always find me at La Feria de los Artes, also known as Las Pulgas, where hand-made artisanal goods and souvenirs were sold (at really great prices!).
Our trip was jam-packed with museum trips and regular excursions to neighboring communities like Alta Gracia (Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s childhood home), but some of my most fond memories are of those in which I traveled around and within the country. Traveling was relatively easy and affordable and almost always required a bus trip of 10 or more hours. (But don’t worry; you can book tickets for a cama bus where the seats recline into a bed!) As a group, we visited the northern, mountainous regions of Salta and Jujuy where we learned a great deal about the indigenous culture. It was here that I ate llama and tried coca leaves for the first time! We also went to a city called Mendoza where we hiked and rappelled down mountains, visited a natural hot spring, and ate the most delicious asado, an Argentine barbeque. But my favorite trip was to Iguazú Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world right on the border of Argentina and Brazil. I took a 22-hour bus ride to get there, but it was the most breath-taking and exhilarating experience I’ve had to date.
Throughout my time in Argentina, I struggled to break the language barrier and learn to adjust in a completely different culture, but the amount of personal growth I experienced in those few weeks was incomparable to most other moments in my life. I learned how to be truly independent and get out of my shell more. I learned about social justice. But above all, I learned that no matter where in the world life takes us, it is through empathy and determination that we realize that we’re all equal human beings just trying to get by the best we can. I’m so grateful I challenged myself enough to have an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience!”