Melanie M., Argentina/Chile – Human Rights and Cultural Memory (Sociology/History major)

San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro, Region de los Lagos, Patagonia

Hello Sociology and History majors!!

If you’re thinking about studying abroad – especially if you’re considering Latin America – then you’re in the right place! Afraid you won’t pick a program that offers you the right credits? Get ready to hear about the most AMAZING program that UC Santa Barbara – actually, the WORLD has to offer! 

If you don’t know anything about the Human Rights and Cultural Memory Dual-Country Program in both Argentina and Chile, here’s a quick summary – and link – to learn what it’s all about!

Human Rights and Cultural Memory, Buenos Aires & Santiago – Fall
Torcuato Di Tella University 
University Alberto Hurtado

Following a week of intensive Spanish language instruction, spend equal time in the exciting capitals of Buenos Aires and Santiago. Courses explore human rights and cultural memory, examining how people in Argentina and Chile have reconstructed their societies very differently as their understandings of the past have shaped contemporary social and political life in the present.

AKA, the PERFECT program for Sociology and History majors!

My name is Melanie, and I participated in this prestigious program during Fall quarter 2018, and I’d love to give you some personal insight into what made it so special for me! Below, you can find some questions and answers I did interview-style with a friend, as well as some of my favorite photos from my trip! I hope you enjoy!

What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

My biggest fear about studying abroad was probably traveling on my own. I can say with a hundred percent honesty that this turned out to be barely as irksome as a speck of dust on a sandy beach! When you first get to Argentina, it might seem easy to panic at the idea of trying to figure out this whole new, foreign system of public transportation, but remember – there’s fifty plus other American students there with you trying to do the exact same thing! You’ll help each other and figure it out together, and seriously, by week two you’ll be taking el subte and los micros by yourself as if you’ve been living in the city for your whole life. By the time the switch to Chile comes around, you’ll be so well-equipped that you’ll laugh to even think that you were ever worried about getting lost!

Expanish’s Beginning Spanish Class 2018!

What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

The only thing that really comes to mind is more research. As somebody whose father is fully Chilean and Argentinian, I thought that growing up listening to him I had a good understanding of the histories of these two countries, but I do wish that I had done some more independent research before arriving! It would’ve saved me some wikipedia article-surfing in the middle of class to try to understand what events were going on in the world concurrently when events we were studying and discussing were happening.

Oh, and packing a greater variety of clothing. When you arrive in August, expect it to be absolutely FREEZING! It’s supposedly the middle of Spring, but it’ll feel like Winter for most of your time in Argentina. I think I spent about a hundred USD on scarves, beanies, and leggings alone! But on the flipside, bring shorts as well – because the last few weeks in Chile during December will feel like you’re living in the center of the sun.

Colonia de Sacramento Historical Town, Uruguay

What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

I honestly can’t pick! They were all so amazing, and the Professors were absolutely remarkable. If there’s one thing I had to pick as a favorite, it would have to be the relationships I created with them. Speaking with them and learning from their memories and firsthand experience living in these countries was so humbling and exceptional to behold. TALK TO THEM! Engage with them. They want nothing more than to tell you their stories. Some of them have lived through the horrors of the dictatorships – like my father – and lived to tell the tale. Listen to their stories, and carry on their legacies. If you’re worried about the classes being different to those at UC Santa Barbara, don’t. Same basic principle, just in a different country. Even the language is the same.

What is one of your best memories from abroad?

I think that my best memory from abroad is the privilege of being able to meet my little cousin Emiliano for the first time. My father is from Chile, and my entire paternal side of the family still lives spread throughout Chile and Argentina – with his immediate relatives in a small beachside town a few hours west of Santiago, Chile – called Reñaca. One of my father’s sisters has two daughters – and one of them attends the university that you’ll study at in Santiago! She is also the one who recently became a mother to my brand new baby cousin, little Emi. At only three years old, there was absolutely no way for me to meet him before now.  Being able to hug him and kiss him and hold him in my arms while telling him how much that I love him was an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I also got to see my eighty year old grandmother for the second time in my life, something I never thought I’d have the chance to do.

For those of you gagging at my sappy memory (hahahaha), a close second is tied between seeing Iguazu Falls in person or climbing one of the peaks in the Bariloche Region of Patagonia!

For those of you gagging at my sappy memory (hahahaha), a close second is tied between seeing Iguazu Falls in person or climbing one of the peaks in the Bariloche Region of Patagonia!

Foz do Içuazu, Brazil y Argentina
San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro, Region de los Lagos

What was your biggest challenge abroad?

I really missed my family, and especially my pets! I got quite a bit homesick, but to combat this I made sure to keep communication open with my family and talked with them every day. My host families really helped as well by making me feel as if I was truly a part of their own family. I own two cats,  and facetimed them every day – much to the annoyance of my parents.

However, I also supplemented the hole that my kitties’ absence in my life left by spending time with all of the stray cats that Argentina and Chile have roaming their streets. I think I had to have met at least a hundred unique cats during my travels, and I loved each and every one.

What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

The hospitality, hands down. The friendliness and willingness to accept essential strangers as basically family is astounding to me, and so heartwarming. Both cultures made me feel so welcoming so quickly, and there was never a “gap-period” where I felt like an outsider looking in, without a place to go.

Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?

I would have loved to, but there was no chance with my program! Because it is a multi-country program and there is only six weeks in each country, there are no available internships, volunteer programs, or research programs for us to sign up for.

I did, however, travel a ton!

Horseback riding through the mountains of Santiago

What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I’m vegetarian, so I hope this answer helps somebody on the fence about traveling to Latin America without a taste for meat! Spoiler Alert: you DON’T have to eat meat to survive there! So much of their food is vegetarian and vegan friendly. They even assigned me and the other vegetarian people in the program to host families willing to cook us vegetarian meals – and they were DELICIOUS, like meatless spaghetti and meatballs and the like. My favorite food of all time – cheese and onion empanadas.

In spanish? Empanadas de muzzarella y cebollas. You absolutely have to try them.

Yes, meat is HUGE in all countries within Latin America, but don’t gorge yourself on it. Try the other foods and delicacies that they have to offer. There’s a fantastic restaurant down the block from the subte station closest to the Argentinian university called Green Eat – delicious vegan, vegetarian, and generally health conscientious food! Branch out, y’all!

How have you changed since your time abroad?

So much. I was just talking with my friend about this. Going into this program, I was a devout pacifist who believed in protecting the peace at all costs. After participating in all twelve weeks of this program, I have noticed a change in who I am as a person. I won’t spoil any of the culture and history that you will learn, but it has changed me – for the better, I believe.

I now see myself as the woman who would seize a gun and march, fearless and exposed, on the front lines of the revolution, fighting for our rights – for the rights of each and every individual of the world whose voice was not heard.

And I am so proud of that.


What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Be prepared to change.

Don’t come into this program with a set idea of how you want to come out of it, or exactly what you want to take away from it. Just come into it with the desire to learn all that you can, and a thirst for knowledge. Use your privilege, because yes – you are one of the privileged! You have this amazing opportunity to study and explore these amazing countries, and you should definitely take it. There’s no way that you will change for the worst. Just stay open-minded, because this is one hundred percent a different culture than the one you are used to, and how open you are to trying new things will affect how easy you adapt to your new environment!

Keep in mind that your loved ones are always there for you –  if and when you need them. And then take that leap into the unknown!

PS: TALK TO THE LOCALS!!! They aren’t going to make fun of you. Ninety-nine percent of the time they want to help you enjoy what they think is the best part of their favorite city! There’s a time and place to be shy – right now ain’t it!

Book that local AIRBNB with the non-English speaker! Go out for drinks at the bar and dance with the cute Argentine you’ve been eyeing.

Live your life.

Education Abroad at Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil y Argentina


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