Experience of a Lifetime: Learning Culture, Yourself, and the World Past Review

By (Accounting, Trinity University) - abroad from 05/29/2014 to 07/14/2014 with

IFSA: Buenos Aires - Advanced Language and Culture in Buenos Aires

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned too much to type out. It was definitely worthwhile. Life-changing. But, it's really what you make it. I really tried to adapt and immerse myself and that helped immensely. I think it's a must for all university students.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It's obviously a well-known, prestigious program and most of the students there were from excellent universities (many of them Ivy League schools). However, I'm not sure if it was my placement or what (they placed us into different classes for each subject based on our level) but I was by far the most motivated/dedicated student as well as the one with the best Spanish. This made the classes frustrating because often no one would participate and I felt I had to do so more than necessary. There was one instructor (one of my two for literature) who was extremely punitive and petty. He spent much time berating the class and not much time actually teaching. He didn't seem to care if we were with him or understood, rather, he would just shout quickly in Spanish and get upset when no one answered his questions. Worst class I've ever taken. Also, there was way too much work outside of class. By the time I got home from my one-hour commute standing on a bus, I had little time to work. There was too much reading assigned. They should have valued quality over quantity-- if they had focused on specific sections and gone beyond literal meaning, that would have prompted greater understanding. I mentioned my issues overall (especially with the lack of motivation among other students) and nothing was done and I wasn't contacted by a director until the end of the program when it was way too late. I don't feel like I learned as much as I could have. However, this program was clearly more academically focused than that of most people I know who have gone abroad.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Very professional and well-organized.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Loved my host "mom" (she's only eight years older than I am...). It was difficult living with only one person at times because she didn't understand my need for space and solitude sometimes. Also, she was extremely undeserved and didn't have the money to have fruits and vegetables all the time as my medical condition requires. I ended up eating a lot of carbs and food that causes reactions with me. If someone has a medical condition that requires fresh food (which is more expensive often) they should be placed with a well-off family, not a poor, single lady who never eats freshly.

* Food:

Wonderful! Absolutely loved the wine, milenesa, empanadas, and everything. Obviously, I was limited in what I could eat, but I still was able to try and enjoy many things.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very integrated. However, because of the time spent with other American students during class and on excursions, these weren't necessarily times of immersion. Also, many of them spoke English outside of class.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

They were great about my medical condition, extremely considerate and helpful.

* Safety:

Obviously, it's a large city with crime like any other, but I felt safe, especially because I didn't act like a stupid American tourist.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I'm an accounting student. I also am extremely frugal. I made a very accommodating budget based on the figures given to me by the program (about $200 leeway on top of their projections). Those figures were COMPLETE BULLSHIT and completely screwed me over. I had to borrow $500 from my parents.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? (all USD) Food: $60; Fun/Shows: $25; Gifts (self and family): $35; Necessities/transportation: $35; Travel: $92
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Obviously, make a budget. If you plan to travel, leave room for transportation and eating at restaurants. Record everything you spend and put it in a categorized spreadsheet. Each week, analyze spending and predict future spending and saving based on it. You'll want to enjoy yourself and buy gifts, so you can't be too thrifty or you'll be miserable (you can't just say "no" to things because they're expensive, you need to be exploring and seeing the landmarks, history, culture, food, whatever).


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Advanced Grammar, but I took a semester off from Spanish before the program
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Only use the language. Write down new words in a notebook. Look over them each night. Memorize common phrases and use these often since they'll be comfortable. Add to these common phrases. Speak with the locals and make friends. They will help you. Pay attention to which words/pronunciations are different than what you've previously learned before. Become one of them.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Organized excursions
  • Free week at the end for travel
* What could be improved?
  • Class load/experience
  • Communication with directors
  • Delegation into classes
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It's really expensive to go abroad, even if you go to a country where the exchange rate really favors you. Don't listen to their budget predictions, those are there to make their program make look more appealing.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!