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A Change of Scenery

by Jen Wagman Monday, April 23, 2018

As part of the study abroad program that I am in here, our program (CIEE) offers one group trip a semester. Last semester, we went to Patagonia and I had one of the best weekends of my entire life. After a 5am flight, I found myself sharing a bunk bed on a lake in the Lake District of Patagonia, surrounded by the Andes Mountains.I hiked, mountain-biked and fell in love with nature all over again, as we were surrounded by clean, crisp spring air.

A blue river forded by a bridge with lush greenery around
This is a picture from our trip last semester.

However, this semester the exchange program took a different approach to our group overnight excursion. We headed up north to the province above Buenos Aires called Entre Rios, "between rivers" in English. Instead of a flight, we took a bus and drove to a small factory town of 3,000 people to visit a school. One of our program coordinators had a childhood friend teaching in a school in this town and wanted us to connect more with another side of Argentine life.At the school, we had a cultural exchange, talking, dancing and laughing with the students, but we also helped paint a wall in their school and clean up the school lunchroom.

Two white buildings surrounding a courtyard
The school we helped at, right after the kids went back to their classes after our visit.

It was interesting to learn from the students that they were shocked that people from abroad were going to visit their school because nobody ever went to their town. They knew all of the people who lived there. The kids spent their days riding bikes in the streets, playing soccer, going out, dancing or just hanging out.A lot of them were planning on going to the university, but there was a strong orientation of Agropecuario studies. Agropecuario is the word they use here to describe everything related to the countryside, both concerning livestock and agriculture.Some people who study this in high school pursue higher education in biotech, kinesiology, agricultural sciences and other subjects related to the hard sciences or pretty much all of the degrees you would find in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Madison.

After our visit to the school, we went on to a different town to learn more about the history and culture of this province. The entire town experiences a tourist boom in the summer when the population more than doubles. We also visited a national park nearby that is considered one of the most austral places in the world. After, we went and visited a palace by a former head of government for the region during the early days of Argentina. 

Tall palm trees
The National Park

The trip wasn’t something that I would have planned for myself, but I am definitely thankful that I went and had the opportunity to go. It also got me excited for my next trip. I’m off to Chile at the beginning of May to meet up with friends that I made over the summer, but also friends from back home in Wisconsin!