Each day, Facebook has a memory for me to relive. My personal favorites are the ones reminding me of my year abroad in Spain through Union’s ACA program. It was seriously the best experience in my life so far and I made so many memories.
Also experiencing tons of memories is Regina Leach, a sophomore Pre-Allied Health major, who’s currently attending the ACA program in Argentina.
Wanting to know more about how her time was going, I asked Regina some questions.
Melissa Ratter: Where is your favorite place to visit near the campus in Argentina?
Regina Leach: My favorite place that is super cool is el puente negro. It's an abandoned bridge that's really fun—and sketchy—to walk across because it is falling apart—if you step in the wrong spot you'll probably fall to your death. Another place that I go to a lot is the café across the street, Güelcom, because it's the only place we can get good wifi.
MR: Oh wow! That bridge sounds like an adrenaline rush. What about the school, is it as exciting?
RL: The Universidad Adventista del Plata (UAP) is pretty similar to colleges in the states. The campus is really diverse; there are people from Honduras, Russia, Spain and all over South America. It's bigger than Union but the cafe is worse—it only serves cereal, rice and beans, salad and some unknown pasta/veggie meat entree.
MR: Have you tried traditional Argentinian food?
RL: Italian food is very traditional here because there are tons of Italian immigrants. It's actually a tradition to have gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) on the 29th of every month. Besides Italian food, I've tried empanadas, chipas (little cheese bread balls) and mate (a drink similar to tea). Mate’s served in a special cup and there are different variations. True Argentines drink it bitter but it's also served with sugar, juice or coffee depending on your liking.
MR: You mentioned you go with friends to the cafe; tell me about your friends there?
RL: The ACA group here is small compared to the past. There are only 26 of us and we are together a lot of the time so we have all become pretty good friends. We take the same classes together, go on trips together and scour the town for food that is better than the cafeteria.
MR: It sounds like you are having a great time so far. Tell me your best experience.
RL: Definitely going to Buenos Aires! We pet lions, saw a tango show and went sightseeing around the city. Buenos Aries is super European; a lot of the architecture was built to look similar to Paris. Some of the famous historical areas we saw were La Boca, Recoleta cemetery and the Theatre of Buenos Aires. On our way back to the university we went to an Argentina Estancia where we ate asado, rode horses, and watched a Gaucho (Argentinian cowboy) riding show.
MR: Besides the cafe food, what has been the hardest part about studying abroad?
RL: The hardest part about studying abroad and learning a new language is feeling like a toddler, but in reality, you are a 19-year-old college student. It's really hard not being able to communicate with everyone. When you try you get laughed at because what you said wrong. It's hard to give yourself slack and remember that you are learning a new language and it is going to take some time.
MR: Learning another language was one of the best things I did for myself. How will learning another language help you in the future?
RL: I've always wanted to learn another language and I think Spanish is the most useful. It will be helpful for getting a job, especially as an occupational therapist. It will be easier to connect and communicate with patients if I am able to speak the language they are most comfortable with. The first time I job shadowed was at an elementary school in Phoenix where the majority of the kids spoke Spanish. The therapist I was shadowing only spoke English and some of the special needs kids we were working with only knew Spanish. It would've been much easier to work with them if one of us had known Spanish. So far, I'm much better at writing in Spanish then I am at talking.
MR: I’m glad that you are having this experience then and building up your skills as a future occupational therapist. Would you recommend the ACA program to Union students?
RL: Yes. I would recommend it if you really want to learn another language. What everyone says about actually learning Spanish in Argentina is true because you are surrounded by people who speak Spanish. As soon as I got here, I was forced to start practicing because neither of my roommates speak English. Also, you get to go to some of the coolest places in South America like Machu Picchu and Rio de Janeiro.
MR: I’m glad you are having a good time. And maybe your experiences will influence other students at Union to go talk to Tamara Seiler in the Humanities Division about the ACA summer or academic year programs.
Melissa Ratter is a senior studying language arts education.