Works and Days

Argentinian Spanish in Buenos Aires: Winter Fellowship for International Travel, Cristobal Mancillas

Cristobal Mancillas, junior political science major and recipient of the Winter Fellowship for International Travel, reflects on his time in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying Argentinian Spanish

I spent my winter travel fellowship in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I received private Spanish instructions from professor Susana. The focus was on building conversational fluidity and learning an Argentinian dialect of Spanish. Professor Susana was a compassionate and caring individual who helped me adjust to a new place, a new language, and a new way of life. We spent time discussing art in the park of memory, dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Argentinian Dirty War, receiving an unofficial and spontaneous private tour of the Argentinian national bank, and relaxing while eating choripan at a nature reserve in Puerto Madero. While I could endlessly recount the amazing experiences I had in Buenos Aires, I feel that it was also the not so rosy experiences that allowed me the tremendous opportunity to grow.


I had to make contacts within the local Argentines to exchange USD for pesos since Argentina manipulates their currency. I watched my neighbor's house catch on fire, while dogs, cats, and children evacuated nearby apartment complexes. I was nearly pickpocketed on the on the subway, and occasionally found myself lost in the middle of a city that I knew very little about. These frustrating experiences actually helped me reach a valuable insight; I rely on the assistance and goodwill of other people in order to navigate our complex world.

I am thankful for my host who showed me how to get to downtown, and provided me a place to stay. My teacher, who helped me adjust to a new way of life and learn a new language. I will always remember a nearby apartment security guard whose laugh brightened my day and whose advice allowed me to protect myself from pickpockets. I will remember the faces of random strangers, who guided me to train stops, or locals who sometimes smiled at my unfamiliarity with the use of “vos”, or those who laughed and told me that I don't look American.

My fear of this new place, new language and new people at times overwhelmed me. It provided me only a small dose of what my mother must have felt speaking English for the first time in the United States. My privilege as an American and the money from the college allowed me an opportunity that my grandmother or mother would have never imagined. I am incredibly grateful for this experience and the growth that my travel abroad has allowed. I hope Susana returns to the same food cart we visited and I hope that the Cojo supermarket near my apartment will be rebuilt. I hope the man I saw every time I rode the subway continues to sing beautifully and I wish that every steak here will be just as amazing as in Buenos Aires.3

Tags: winter fellowship, winter fellowship for international travel, international travel, language, spanish