Buenos Aires, Argentina Project Center - HUA
Buenos Aires: South America::New York: North America:: Paris: Europe. It's a city. It's big, full of hustle and bustle, and it's beautiful. Argentina’s economic ups and downs illustrate its shared ancestry with neighboring Latin American countries, yet its capital’s French architecture and Italian influences reveal a storied and gloried past. Depending on who you talk to, the locals of Buenos Aires—known as porteños—are equally proud and frustrated that their city is known as the Paris of South America. Known for its unique neighborhoods, its urban feel, and its sing-songy Spanish, Buenos Aires offers students an easily navigable environment in which to improve their Spanish and their cultural knowledge through daily classes at the Universidad de San Andrés. The city is also just hours from many spectacular sites, including Iguazú Falls, Montevideo & Colonia in Uruguay, as well as the vast countryside of Argentina, known as the Pampas. Students visit these locales and others (for instance, museums, film screenings, restaurants, and theaters) on planned weekend excursions. This Project Center was established in 2011.
The Buenos Aires Project Center provides a unique opportunity to bring together language and culture in the real-world setting of Argentina. By taking language classes in the morning and then using that grammar to learn about culture in the afternoon, students see measurable improvements in their language skills through the four-week immersion. They learn to navigate a foreign city while also becoming proficient in daily Spanish-use—in other words, the Spanish required for real settings—to order food, to get off at the right bus stop, to make friends with their doorman, or to purchase a SIM card. Although such experiences can be simulated in the WPI classroom, they cannot be replicated; for this reason students sign a pledge to speak exclusively in Spanish during their time in Buenos Aires. Students document and reflect on their experiences in a class blog and in personal journals. Additionally, they are quizzed weekly on assigned readings and cultural excursions with their WPI professor. These requirements compose 1/3 unit of project work. Another 1/3 unit comes from the two courses students take at the Universidad de San Andrés with Argentine professors: the “Curso Intensivo de Español” and “Español a través de la cultura popular, la literature y el cine.” In the final three weeks of the course—back in the United States or anywhere they have access to a library and Internet—students are required to complete an independently designed research paper that relates to Argentine literature, culture, history, or film. Students gather research, artifacts, pictures, and interviews related to their topic beginning in their first week in Buenos Aires. Advised by the on-site WPI professor, this paper will determine the grade for the final 1/3 unit of the one-unit project.