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Argentina: an experience vs. an immersion

Zac Wilkins

Issue date: 10/2/09 Section: Opinion
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Real immersion in a foreign culture doesn't just happen - it requires active effort.
Real immersion in a foreign culture doesn't just happen - it requires active effort.
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One would quite understandably assume that by traveling to a foreign country where another language is spoken to study abroad for an extended period of time, immersion is the term one would ascribe to the experience. Although, as I have discovered, in order to authentically, and I stress authentically, live, breathe, and exist as an Argentine, much more is required than simply being in the same country as them, studying at their universities, going to their bars, and eating their food.

Mind you, I don't feel as if I have shied away from expriencing this country. I´ve traveled all over the city, seen various neighborhoods, bars, and restaurants, traveled outside the city more than once to see other Argentine cities, and met locals at every point along the way.

So I´m right on the road to immersion, right? No, still far from it, and I say this for reasons you wouldn´t initially expect.

What has made me feel like there´s something missing in my experience? It´s what I realize as I customarily board the Subte (subway) listening to bands like the Killers, Coldplay, and Keane. It´s what I realize as I read the latest article of in The New York Times concerning the debate on U.S. health care reform. It´s what I realize as I decide to go out for a coffee with one of my American friends after a class. It´s what I realize while writing this very column for The Observer, for which I have to funnel my thoughts and opinions into an English medium. What I´ve realized is that true immersion is a far more personal and conscious process than I had previously imagined.

As it turns out, I have not found hordes of Argentines eagerly running up to me, wanting to become my best friend, and desiring to spend hours upon hours patiently dealing with my clumsy control of the language. Tango classes that aren't filled to the brim with tourists or other Americans are scarce. I do not have a cell phone full of my Argentine classmates´ numbers; they have their own boyfriends, girlfriends, jobs, problems, hobbies, and passions, and this semester is just another one tacked onto their lives, and I happen to be a temporary consequence of one tiny, incedental aspect of their lives. Buenos Aires is an enormous international city where a foreigner - literally one in a million - does not shock or impress a passerby.

A truly immersed student is not passive. Immersion in the true sense requires an active and voluntary change of daily habits and customs. It means completely changing the playlist on my iPod such that I can´t hear my favorite bands as a comfort on the way to class. It also means allowing myself to become somewhat ignorant of the happenings in the U.S. and instead concentrate on filling my mind exclusively with the events and problems of Latin America. It also means trying out bars and visiting neighborhoods alone, and ones outside the typically American-infested areas of Palermo and Recoleta.

In short, one can without doubt have a good experience studying abroad without making the extra efforts to abandon their old comforts and habits. But for me, the most important thing is to have a true experience where I get as close as possible to being an Argentine in every sense of the word.
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In This Issue

News

  • Can you name this place?
  • Have you heard about Case Western Undergraduate Bioethics Society?
  • Homecoming at CWRU
  • Preparing for 2009's local and state elections
  • President Barbara Snyder engages the student body in first-ever student State of the University address
  • RAD classes aim to protect students
  • Six CWRU students test positive for H1N1
  • Students celebrate sustainability at campus-wide GreenFest

Sports

  • At least Anderson keeps it close
  • First round robin puts Spartans in driver's seat
  • Football Gameday: Case vs. Wooster
  • For Denison QB, first test is daunting
  • Judges bring Spartans down to earth

Fun Page

  • Combo Scramble Solution
  • Crossword Solution
  • Maze Solution
  • Sudoku Solutions

Opinion

  • Drastic healthcare reform unnecessary, wasteful
  • Editorial: USG must take action, stem abundance of resignations
  • Moore's Capitalism: an undeserved bully pulpit
  • Recycling: getting to know your plastics
  • State sex education legislation provides needed overhaul
  • State your case: what do you do on a rainy day?

Focus

  • Acappella for Africa successful fundraiser for Global Medical Initiative, showcases CWRU's multiude of a cappella talents
  • Baker-Nord Center to hold student-run Flip Camera Film Festival
  • Botanical Gardens, Baker-Nord Center present compelling afternoon of poetry reading and composition
  • Cleveland Museum of Art opens Paul Gauguin: Paris, 1889 exhibit
  • Eldred Theater season opens with Heidi Chronicles
  • GLTF season opens with gut-busting Edwin Drood
  • Hitting the Spot: Cody Wood
  • Kid Cudi brings introspective musical perspective to Case Western
  • The Buzz
  • Thinking about summer jobs and real-world employment can never start too early

Cross Country

  • Women emerge from "mud pit" with title

Football

  • Nicely catches 3 TDs in win

Sex and Dating

  • The real reason to get a flu shot

Soccer

  • Streak snapped: Spartans get first UAA win since '06

Spartan Spotlight

  • Spartan Spotlight: Brian Evans

Worst Case Scenario

  • Cold season
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