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Experiencing culture and Argentine microfinance

By Katrina Bennett '16 on May 30, 2013

For our last day in the big city, we spent it doing a lot of little interesting things! We started off the day visiting an Argentine micro finance organization called Cordial Negocios. The meeting was extremely enlightening and allowed us to greatly expand on our knowledge on how micro finance works in Argentina. We learned that the particular company we were learning about has about 7,000 clients that they lend money to and these loans are often not large and are only several thousands pesos. Where these loans goes is also monitored by the company. In addition, we learned that this year, for the first time since the start of this micro financing, in 2001, the company is making a profit this year. It was very interesting to hear stories of individuals who had received the loans, many of them being former immigrants, and how successful these individuals and their family members were able to become after the small loans. For the remainder of the day, after this interesting meeting we enjoyed our last bits of the great culture and richness of Buenos Aires. To work on the video project that we are creating, a couple of us ventured to the University of Buenos Aires Law School and interviewed students. Among other interesting things, we found that the law students here are extremely political and think that having a free education system for university is crucial. Finally, we ventured to the Malba, to see all of the beautiful Latin American art. I am sad to leave Buenos Aires and our time in the city really has flown by, but I can’t WAIT to get to Iguazu tomorrow!!

Hola Colonia!

By Katrina Bennett '16 on May 30, 2013

Yesterday, we embarked on yet another adventure; this time to an entirely new country! We went to the city of Colonia Uruguay. This city, located on the Rio Plata seems as though it would be a beautiful and touristy beach location during the warmer summer months. While in Colonia, we experienced the use of yet another currency, the Uruguayian peso, which had an exchange rate of 20 to 1 with the dollar, making it quite confusing to gage whether or not what we were buying at first. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, and I was more than happy, being a pesxetarian, that I got to have some delicious coastal fish. After, we spent most of the day exploring the older parts of the island, climbing the lighthouse, and just enjoying the view. A few of the members of our group even went for an almost winter swim, which was well photographed by some curious natives. Overall, the day was a huge success and very relaxing and I have my Uruguay flag that I purchased to document my adventure to yet another country!

Buenas Ondas

By Victoria Gullen '16 on May 28, 2013

Last Wednesday, May 22nd, was our first full day in Buenos Aires which we spent taking a bus tour of the city to give us a feel for the layout of the areas we’d be exploring for the next nine days. Wandering through the Plaza de Mayo, La Boca, San Telmo and a few other locations, we learned some background on these popular areas and got our first taste of this vibrant and eclectic culture.

Later on we took a bus (which we learned is never an easy process in this city) over to a bar in Palermo Soho to meet up with the Argentine students from UBA who we had been emailing with over our spring semester. In one of the younger areas in the city, it was the perfect atmosphere to talk  comfortably with these students, only a few years older than us, comparing both our academic and social lives to gain a better understanding of our different lifestyles. Our equal curiosity in each culture made our conversations both lively and informative.

This day was particularly exciting for me because it was also my 19th birthday. Not only did my classmates make this evening a special celebration for me but all the students who we’d only just met we’re equally as eager to make this an unforgettable night which I thought really represented their welcoming nature and their ability to throw a great party.

As a whole I felt we were happy to have our full group finally here in the city together and our interactions with this energetic city and its interesting people left us incredibly excited for what was in store for us in the coming weeks. After anticipiating this trip for so long we were definitely off to a promising start.

Yo Soy un Gaucho

By Adam Basciano '16 on May 27, 2013

It was nice to leave the city of Buenos Aires for a day trip today when we ventured two hours out to a ranch known as Estancia. After getting much needed rest on the bus after a weekend full of shopping and B.A. night-life-ing, we arrived on a beautiful farm for a full day of fun in the sun.

I think it’s safe to say many of us had no clue what to expect on today’s adventure, but as soon as we get off the bus we were greeted by dozens of dogs ranging from chihuahuas to German Shepherds. We then spent the first hour roaming la tierra on horseback, taking in the beautiful scenery and admiring the wonderful animals. Everyone was having a great time, and damn did I look good in my New Mexican cowboy shirt I got at a thrift shop a few days before the trip.

The clothes did not stay on for long for some of us guys as we gave in to the blazing sun (keep in mind it is their winter, but it must have been 70 degrees today) by swimming in one of the ranch’s pools. Sun-tanning and chilling with the horses filled our afternoon until we enjoyed a feast full of freshly cooked meats, empenadas, and of course, vino rojo (red wine). Being a vegetarian my entire life and never trying steak, I decided to take a bite out of Tobias’. I figured if there was ever a piece of steak to try, it’d be on a ranch in Argentina.

While some of the group took some time for a post-meal nap, the majority of us enjoyed a show of the ranch’s gauchos. They showed us gaucho-style musical chairs, raced one and other, and showed some other horse tricks that resurrected my long lost dream of becoming a cowboy, gaucho style though. We then took another round at riding los caballos, with some of us learning how to gallop without falling face-first into the mud.

Our time at Estancia closed with a 9 on 9 Benton futbol match that left all of us sweaty and ready for the two hour ride back to the city life. The match’s top scorers were Jerod, Susan, and Tobias who all put in two goals a piece. Kevin’s long range 150 yard (exaggeration) goal will definitely be on your Top 10’s in the morning as well.

All in all- the week got off to a great start with a day at Estancia. Tomorrow we’re back to hitting the books with a morning lecture at Ditella. Each day brings new adventures and cool insights into the country and its people. I’m incredibly grateful to the Benton Scholars program and Colgate for this amazing opportunity in South America.

Until next time,


National Celebration: 25 de Mayo

By Nicole Simpson on May 27, 2013

We were fortunate to be in Buenos Aires on the 25th of May, which is the anniversary of Argentine independence from Spain.  To celebrate, Argentinians go to the street of Buenos Aires. In fact, the celebrations took place less than a mile from our hotel. Many of us tried to join the celebrations, but the crowd was overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people were carrying signs, banging drums, singing and chanting. Many of the cheers were political – in fact, the event was organized by the national government and the president spoke to the crowd. But we got a sense of how politically people here are (they are required by law to vote), and how Argentines celebrate.


Street Art in Buenos Aires

By Anastassia Bougakova '16 on May 24, 2013

Argentine street art design on a wall

On our fourth day in Buenos Aires, we were treated to a graffiti tour of the city. For three hours, we walked (and drove in a minibus) across different neighborhoods, not only getting to admire beautiful street art, but also learning what makes Argentine graffiti unique. Large, colorful, meticulously-painted murals point to Argentina’s openness to and acceptance of street art. While painting on public walls is still technically illegal, as it is in the US, the enforcement of these laws is much more lax in Argentina.

Here in Buenos Aires, there is a small plaza dedicated to street art where an international street art festival was held a few years ago. The plaza’s walls are covered with breathtaking art: from multi-story murals to smaller pieces by local artists. In this plaza, as in all locations in the city, the street art is impermanent and liable to be covered by tags and other graffiti sooner or later. Even commissioned murals on privately-owned walls that may eventually disappear behind layers of other graffiti, though these murals are usually guaranteed a significantly longer life than ones found on public walls.

Argentine street art is fluid, impermanent, and often collaborative. Most if all, it is passionate. It makes the street around you come alive, lending it character that spreads across whole neighborhoods.

In the late evening, just on the cusp of midnight, a friend and I ventured into another neighborhood in Buenos Aires to see a play performed at an independent theater called Timbre 4. It was a phenomenal performance, in a way made better by my lack of knowledge of Spanish. I paid so much more attention to the minute expressions of the actors, their movements, and the props used in the scene. But, Argentine theater deserves a blog post of its own, so I will leave that tale for someone else to tell. Suffice to say, that Argentina’s theatre and its street art have a lot in common: the passion, color, and range of emotion, ranging from open aggression to unrepressed joy.

Lesson in Inflation

By Nicole Simpson on May 22, 2013

Well, we arrived in Buenos Aires yesterday, but are still missing three of the students (whose flights got messed up). They should arrive today. We are getting a lesson in inflation and currency depreciation. While I knew that inflation was high and that the Argentine peso was weak, I did not fully understand the implications of that on a practical level. The Argentine government is restricting the amount of pesos I can withdraw from the ATM’s, and the unofficial exchange rate is nearly double the official exchange rate. Meaning: if you have US dollars (in cash), your money goes twice as far but if you pay by credit card or use an ATM (where you get the official rate),  you are out of luck! Crazy. While I teach macroeconomics at Colgate almost every semester, never have I ‘lived’ in an environment with a tanking domestic currency. It brings it all to life. We did have a fabulous steak dinner last night at a typical Argentina parilla, but had to pay with credit – ouch!


Tobias Lescht PreTrip Post

By Tobias Lescht '16 on May 21, 2013

I have very high expectations for our trip to Argentina and I know they will all be met. Even if we did nothing, being with such a great group of people in such a vibrant culture will be amazing. I have always been interested in Argentina. My view of experiencing a different culture is that one doesn’t need to do much. Just by being somewhere and keeping off the beaten path you will absorb your surroundings and have a great experience. My past interest in Argentina stems from my fascination with the Falkland Islands or the Malvinas as the Argentines call it. The dispute over this small archipelago has resurfaced with the discovery of oil and the 30th anniversary of the 1982 conflict. I want to learn more about the Argentine perspective and how young people treat the issue. I’m also curious to see how I, a British citizen, will be treated traveling through a “hostile” country. Apart from the Falkland issue, I’m excited to experience this country however right now Susan and I are enjoying the beauty that is Montevideo airport in Uruguay.

Adventures in Argentina

By Morgan Wagner '16 on May 20, 2013

I’m sitting in the airport, ready to board a plane that will take me and some of my closest friends to Buenos Aires, Argentina. My family is worried about me being in another country without them. My friends are excited for me and wish they could come. The older Bentons have told us that we are going to have the time of our lives. I feel mix of everyone else’s emotions about this trip. I’m nervous, excited and extremely grateful for this opportunity. A year ago, I had no idea that such amazing adventures were in store for me. Taking a class called “The Making of Latin America” was definitely not on my agenda originally, but I am so appreciative of everything I learned in that class and the way that it enabled me to broaden my horizons. Now my experience in Argentina will be even more meaningful. I cannot wait to explore the city of Buenos Aires and the waterfalls at Iguazu and gain more perspective about the world and what my role in it might be after graduation.

South America Bound

By Susan Price '16 on May 20, 2013

When I first heard that our class of Benton Scholars would be heading to Argentina I was ecstatic. Growing up in Texas I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to Mexico and Latin American countries but not as much to those in South America. That being said, my grandmother is originally from Argentina so she’s given me a bit of insight into what life in Buenos Aires used be like as well as a wide variety of cultural norms that still remain today. A lot has changed politically and socially so I’m curious to see if my experiences bare much of a similarity to hers. Her parting words of wisdom were to drink lots of mate, “beware of the Latin men”, and of course take lots of photos, three things I will do my very best to fulfill.
What I’m most excited about would have to be visiting the Iguazu Falls. Coming from a fairly adventurous family I’ve been lucky enough to explore some spectacular parts of both the U.S. and Canada, but from what I’ve heard, these falls are truly unmatched in sheer size and beauty. Also, as the heat begins to rise here in Dallas I can’t help but relish the chance to dip back into cooler weather.
In addition to this trip, I will be spending the three weeks directly following volunteering in Quito, Ecuador, funded in part by the Benton Scholars Program. I will be meeting up with a friend from home to volunteer at a local organization that allows children who would otherwise be working in the local market with their parents to receive an education and just have a bit of fun. In high school I volunteered in Costa Rica and Thailand so I’m curious to compare this experience to those. In addition, it will be interesting to go directly from one of the relatively wealthiest areas of South America to working with kids and families who have very little. Time to shove one last shirt in my bag, drive to the airport, and head to Buenos Aires!