Marla Torrado, 31 years old, born and raised in Puerto Rico, currently lives in Austin, Texas, as she is completing her PhD at the University of Texas-Austin in Community and Regional Planning. She was offered a Fulbright Fellowship in order to carry out her dissertation fieldwork and is spending nine months of that time in Argentina to work on her thesis… one month in Buenos Aires and eight months in Córdoba.
Connecting Worlds wanted to speak with Marla about her experience in Argentina to date to dig deeper into what it’s like to be a foreign student studying in the country. Here’s what she had to say…
Which university in Buenos Aires do you attend and how is everything organised? Are there lectures to attend or are you solely completing research? How has everything been worked out?
I am completing independent research, so do not attend classes. However, I am affiliated with two research centers in the city: Humboldt Research Center and IDEAS from the Universidad Nacional de San Martín. I established communication with professors from both research centers way before coming to the country, and given their research topics, they were interested in my work and approved an affiliation with their respective centers. They serve as academic advisors while I am in the country. We get together as needed to discuss the progress of the work and/or deal with issues or difficulties.
What made you decide to stay in Buenos Aires for the first month?
Even though my work is centered in Córdoba, many governmental offices, professors, and organizations relevant to the topic area of my thesis are located in Buenos Aires. For that reason I decided to stay in the city for the first month.
How did you find out about Connecting Worlds and what made you decide to organise your accommodation needs with our help?
I have an Argentine friend who lives in Buenos Aires, whom I contacted when I was ready to look for housing. Every other time I’ve been to Buenos Aires, I’ve rent a one-bedroom apartment. This time, however, I wanted to stay with more people since I was going to stay longer in the country and wanted to have that interaction. It has also proved to be cheaper this way, which gave me the opportunity to save on costs and use those savings to travel around more.
What’s the accommodation like? How’s everything arranged and organised? How have you settled in?
My particular accommodation is an apartment with five bedrooms and one bathroom. I was skeptical at first about it, because I have never lived with more than one other person. It has been a good experience so far, everyone is pretty mellow and nice, and I haven’t had any problems. The positive thing about this is that you get to meet different people; in my apartment there’s a girl from the US, another from Germany, a guy from Denmark and another one from Argentina.
What are you enjoying in Buenos Aires during your stay, as well as focusing on your thesis?
I always look out for cultural activities on the official government website (www.agendacultural.buenosaires.gob.ar ). There’s always something free and super interesting to do! This week, for example, starts the independent film festival and there are several free showings. There’s also free music at the Teatro Colón on some weekends and there’s always the ferias at Recoleta and San Telmo. Always lots to do!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about completing their thesis in Buenos Aires? What are the benefits? What has been testing about the experience so far?
I think it is a good idea, especially if the topic is related to the country/city. I would advise to get in contact with professors at different universities, because they can introduce you to other academics that could be helpful, as well as to other students. In addition to this benefits this has on the production of your thesis, you also start to build a social network, which is normally one of the hardest things to build as a foreigner.
Do you believe Buenos Aires to be an interesting place to visit and spend a few months in? If so, why?
Definitely. The city in itself is very beautiful and there is a lot of architecture and history to see everywhere. The cultural and social feel is also amazing. People are very nice and active and there is plenty to do and see.
Are there other parts of Argentina you would like to visit while you are here in the country? Do you have plans to make these trips in the near future? Have you already visited some places? If so, can you tell us a little about those experiences?
I really want to go see the Iguazú Falls and go to Mendoza for a wine tour. I have also heard that locations in the north, like Salta, have beautiful landscapes.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your experience so far?
I would just say that living abroad is a great experience. It makes you understand the world and yourself better. It is definitely a humbling experience that everyone should experience, if possible. While it could be scary and overwhelming at first, pretty fast it turns into a very enriching adventure. So if you can do it, don’t over-think it and just dive in.
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