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My first week in Buenos Aires has been a whirlwind of settling in, meeting new people and communicating in Spanish. Being on exchange is like a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re up, communicating easily and feeling like you’ll be fluent in no time. The next you’re down, not understanding a thing and calling yourself crazy for thinking you can live away from home for a whole year. Needless to say, I have mastered the “I have no idea what you’re saying” and “please take pity on the foreigner” looks. Here’s the down-low on my first week abroad!

The First Afternoon

I arrived in Buenos Aires a little behind schedule but was greeted by Barbara, a student from the Universidad de San Andres, as well as Daniel, our taxi driver. Barbara took me under her wing for the afternoon and accompanied me to the university, showed me my dorm room, and brought me to another residence for the night. I was unable to stay in dormitories on campus the first night since there was not enough security guards working. Instead, I stayed in student housing, which was a five minute walk away. Everyone I have met so far is very nice, understanding, and accommodating.

Let me be honest, with 20 hours of travelling and only 4 hours of sleep, the first day in Buenos Aires was very overwhelming! I felt much better in the morning, even after I fell asleep to cars honking and dogs barking!

The Next Few Days

My favourite part of being abroad is exploring a new area and learning about my surroundings. Hence, I have been doing a lot of walking! I now know where the closest grocery store is, have a SUBE card for public transportation and spent an afternoon relaxing along the river.


Thursday and Friday were mandatory orientation days for international students. It was very refreshing to meet other students settling into Argentina and trying to master Spanish too. Most students are from the United States and Europe. It was typical orientation stuff with presentations about courses, administrative support and joining university sports teams. The Universidad de San Andres is tremendously supportive to exchange students. They even help us apply for our student visas by ensuring we have the correct documents and bringing us to the police station to file for our temporary residency before completing our visa applications! Although orientation is boring, it’s an excellent way to meet the other international students and start getting to know each other.

Julia and Austin with the city in the background

Tigre with fellow BIBer Austin

Friday afternoon, I took the train with fellow BIBer, Austin, to the neighbouring area of Tigre. Tigre is absolutely beautiful! Personally, I love visiting markets and the one in Tigre was no exception. Covering a few blocks, the stalls are filled with beautiful handcrafted woodwork, leather purses and belts, fresh produce, shoes, other colorful articles waiting to be bought.

There is also a wide selection of mate paraphernalia. Mate is a popular hot beverage shared among locals. Me gusta mas! (I really like it). I will be visiting the market in Tigre again to purchase my own Mate set.

Saturday, Austin and I went into the city. After taking a 40 minutes train ride, we arrived in the capital city. We visited famous places such as the Plaza de Mayo and the Pink House. We also ventured into the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’s home base. The architecture and history the city holds is breathtaking.

A large pointy statue (Plaza de Mayo) surrounded by grass and a fence

Plaza de Mayo

One major cultural trait you will notice immediately in Buenos Aires, is greeting people with a kiss on the cheek. Everyone does it! Argentina is very different from Canada, and I’m not just talking about the weather. It’s important to remember that Argentina is still considered a developing country. The majority of houses are protected with fencing and intercom systems to communicate with the owner.

In Argentina, there are private and public universities. The latter are state funded and free for students to attend. The primary public university is called the Universidad de Buenos Aires, commonly referred to as UBA. Private universities like San Andres have tuition costs. Only families who can afford the tuition costs and students on academic scholarships are able to attend private universities. San Andres is small compared to Carleton with only 2,000 students. I’m already in love with the campus. There is a lot of green space and the guards monitoring the gates makes me feel very safe here. The neighbourhood around the university is also very safe. There are men every couple of blocks who sit outside in a small building keeping an eye on things.

a panoramic shot of the campus buildings with lots of green space in the foreground

Universidad de San Andres

As an international student at Universidad de San Andres, you have the option of living with a host family, finding an apartment to rent or living in dorms. Gaining a place in dormitories is dependent on if there is enough space. Apparently I am only the second international student to stay in dormitories so I’m a bit of an experiment. I chose dorms so I could be close to campus and other students.

The highlight of my exchange so far is ordering ice cream for delivery. I know, right? Delivery ice cream! I predict many late night ice cream orders to dormitories in my future!



Tuesday, March 10, 2015 in , ,
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