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Richard Durham ’11 writes on learning about business, culture, and natural beauty in Argentina

Richard Durham ’11 (Braintree, Mass.), a double major in economics & business and Spanish, studied in Argentina for a semester through IES Abroad, an academic consortium of more than 175 U.S. colleges and universities. He writes about his experience:As I excitedly stepped into the wintry climate of Buenos Aires this past July, I never would have imagined my very first welcome on Argentine soil would involve foolishly receiving counterfeit money from my taxi driver.  Since all Americans here joke that foreigners are destined to have one inevitable theft of some sort, I was pleased to have my tiny mishap out of the way, and I was ready to enjoy my five-month stay in Argentina as part of the IES program.  Nevertheless, my transition here was markedly unique, mainly because I was the only one from Lafayette here for the semester, not only in my program but also in the entire country.

As a double major in economics & business and Spanish, the logical next step for me was to attend a business school in a Spanish-speaking country.  Through my program I had the opportunity to attend the Universidad Torcuato di Tella, as well as secure an internship with the Fundación BAPRO, an NGO that works towards social and economic development in the province of Buenos Aires.  With the interest I fostered at the Fundación about how microcredits function within the province, after graduation I would love to continue learning about and working with micro and small businesses in Latin America.

Argentina is unlike other Latin American countries: Apart from their dramatically different accent, most Argentines do not come from indigenous backgrounds but rather are of European descent.  As one tour guide accurately put it, “All Argentines are basically Italians who speak Spanish, think that they’re English, and act like they’re French.”  Boasting everything from rainforest in the north to Patagonian glaciers down south to the impacting Andes Mountains in the west, Argentina is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the Americas.  In fact, I never left the country to travel.  Among other amazing sites like Puerto Madryn and small towns along the Pampa, my travels included the majestic Iguazú Falls on the northern border with Brazil and Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

I had countless first experiences while I was living in the bustling city of Buenos Aires, aspects of the city I never imagined seeing in the U.S.  Buenos Aires is one of the few places where one can find seven taxis crookedly lined up on a four-lane avenue, or see 5- and 6-year-old homeless children staying out past 2 a.m. to beg, unaccompanied.  In Buenos Aires one can buy a pound of all-natural beef in the supermarket for $1.50 or see restaurants booming with business past 1 a.m.

The city of Buenos Aires was for me a unique piece of Latin America, full of its own quirkiness, style, and culture, and I’m thankful to have immersed myself in it.

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