The first part of this article is in response to my last post about what I believe to be Harlaxton’s pitfalls. Skip down (after the YouTube video) to just read about my study abroad experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina!
My most recent, apparently rather controversial blog post about Harlaxton received over 1,000 views. I myself received lots of angry comments, emails and DMs. There is also a pretty popular Twitter thread wherein the person tweeted the link to my post and said, “Drag her.” And about 15 replies later, I was dragged.
JUST KIDDING. I do not feel dragged. As a wise young child once said, “I’m a bad bitch, you can’t kill me.” So despite the emails, messages and subtweets, I stand by my blog post and everything I said. When I wrote the post and even rereading it now, it never crossed my mind that it was negative, hurtful, cruel or bitter. Sure, calling Harlaxton a “trap” makes for good clickbait but everything else in the article was written either to be funny or to make a good point. Apparently everyone in their early 20s thinks they are right all the time but like, in this case, I am? There are plenty positives to Harlaxton–they do accept financial aid, scholarship money, and courses that transfer over to actual university CRNs. I did meet lots of cool people there and still have friends from Harlaxton (if they still like me after the blog post, apparently?). But I didn’t want to write about the positives. There are too many positives already published or promoted out there by the advertisements UE pays for. Students deserve to know that Harlaxton isn’t the perfect fit for everyone, like it wasn’t for me. I am so grateful I was able to afford studying abroad twice while I was in college! But I don’t have to only say positive things about Harlaxton (all my haterz do that for me!)! I’m just not required to do that. A lot of people were angry that I spent the entire post “tearing down” a program in place of “promoting a better one.” In my mind, there is room for both of those things. So here is me doing the latter: promoting my preferred study abroad experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina with SOL Education Abroad. I highly doubt the angry mob who read my last post will be reading this one but here you guys go–here is the side of me that I guess is not mean, judgmental or bitter for no reason.
P.S. Toxic positivity can take a hike somewhere. I refuse to be “good vibes” and kindness all the time when I don’t genuinely feel or act that way. If that’s what you expect from me, giddy on up now and get going ‘cuz back at this ranch we are a little naturally bitter and honest (S/O to having depression since fifth grade, taking 18-24 hour semesters in college, and surviving an abusive relationship where everyone still thought he was the good guy–all that shit will make you a teensy bit bitter, relax.).
I started planning my second semester abroad in Fall 2017. I was originally drawn to Buenos Aires for a few reasons. As a Spanish major, my options were limited to South America or Spain. Since I had already lived in Europe, I wanted to go south. I considered programs in Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Argentina. I was drawn to Buenos Aires specifically because they say it’s the Europe of South America–gorgeous French and Spanish architecture, a big city with public transportation and plenty to do with progressive people. Another deciding factor was that I wanted to do my program with my best friend at the time and she wanted to go to Argentina. So Argentina it was!
Here is where I was a little stupid: I originally registered for a full semester, January-June. This would include two months of intensive Spanish plus university classes with local students. But due to the aforementioned abusive relationship, I decided to change my program to three months because I guess I thought I was in love or something stupid. The group we went with was SOL Education Abroad, which also has programs to Mexico, Spain and Costa Rica! The program included a homestay, planned excursions and cultural activities with the onsite directors, Raul and Beatriz, and two back-to-back intensive Spanish courses at the Universidad de Belgrano. Everything was great!
My homestay was incredible! At the time, I was a vegetarian but had also requested to get a homestay with my friend (turns out she did not request me because she didn’t want to live together and this should have been a sign that we wouldn’t be friends by the end of the trip lol). She is celiac so we were placed in what was essentially a “food restrictions” home with Clarissa! Our third roommate, who was living there before us and for a few weeks with us ate mostly vegetarian as well! Clarissa is the sweetest woman in the world. Period. I still hang out and text with her. She is so helpful with Spanish, cooks great food, has great stories and made me feel so welcome the entire time. Our apartment in Recoleta was so cute and cozy and in a great location! Clarissa provided great support and didn’t speak any English with us which really pushed me to always be speaking Spanish at dinner with her. On the weeknights we had dinner with her and then she provided us breakfast every morning (sometimes she cooked for us on the weekend because she was too nice).
I also loved that my program included lots of activities planned by SOL’s onsite directors, Raul and Beatriz. These activities were usually once a week planned in the afternoon after our classes. There was also a weekend long excursion to Mar del Plata and a Sunday day trip to Colonia, Uruguay with SOL and my SOLmates. SOLmates are the other students in the program from colleges all over the U.S. and Canada. Cultural activities included in the program fee included: museum visits to places like Centro Cultural Recoleta, Centro Cultural Borges and MALBA (The Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires); a tour of the Boca Juniors stadium; empanada cooking and tango classes; walking tours throughout the city and bike rides through the Ecological Reserve! All of these things are included in the program cost!
My Spanish courses were also great. Once accepted into the program, students must take a Spanish test in order to test into one of the courses offered. The first half of the program I took Intermediate Spanish II and the second half I took Advanced Spanish. The classes focused solely on learning the language and grammar and worked primarily out of a work book designed for the course. The two professors were engaging and fun and my Spanish improved a ton.
What I loved most about studying abroad here in Buenos Aires was the independence and fun I had. Coming into the program, I wasn’t doing the best mentally–in fact, the worst! I was heartbroken from an abusive relationship and dealing with my depression. I was doing terrible! I was suicidal when I landed in Buenos Aires. I for sure was not prepared when I boarded the plane but that didn’t matter when I got here. I can honestly say studying abroad here changed my life (mostly because I met my husband here but just in general, things were already looking up before I met him). There were so many helpful resources to help me get around, meet people, practice Spanish and just enjoy the city.
From Mundo Lingo to Mate Club to volunteering with Un Techo Para Mi País, there were so many opportunities to interact with porteños and South American expats living here in BA. Everyone was so welcoming and kind and patient with my bad Spanish. It took me a while to get used to the time difference (clubs don’t get busy until 3 or 4 AM and people don’t eat until 10 or 11 PM), but once I did I loved getting to go out with my SOLmates and dancing, drinking and meeting Argentines throughout the city. With Techo, I was able to volunteer with a group of a few young mostly Argentines and build a house in the greater Buenos Aires province. This is where I learned to LOVE Argentina’s national drink, mate. I learned a lot of construction terminology in Spanish and had an amazing time.
I loved my time studying abroad here. Sure, learning a foreign language is frustrating but when there is so much to do and experience, it makes it so much fun. ALSO I got my vitamin D fix while studying here and I was tan for the first time in my life and it was incredible. I’m trying to be like that again this year.
Here’s the deal folks, all study abroad is good study abroad but some are better than others. SOL accepted my scholarship money and was cheaper than Harlaxton. I felt safe in Buenos Aires. I experienced and embraced an entirely new culture rather than one that’s just slightly different than mine. It wasn’t hard or difficult or expensive to find opportunities to interact with locals. I made friends and enjoyed myself in both programs contrary to what you may read about me online by a bunch of angry tweeters or commenters.
Thanks for reading!! If you have any questions about SOL or studying here in Buenos Aires, please reach out! You won’t regret coming here!!