Student Gains World Experience in Argentina

Meredith Gallagher

Instead of spending her last few weeks of summer at home, senior Martha Hawkinson opted to live thousands of miles away in Argentina where she spent a month as a foreign exchange student. Hawkinson lived in the city of Rafaela, attending school, meeting new friends, and experiencing a new culture.

She arrived in Buenos Aires on July 28 and spent the day on a bus to Rafaela, a city about five hours away. “Travel was quite easy,” Hawkinson said. “My family greeted me at the bus station when I arrived with big smiles and kisses on the cheek.”

Hawkinson spent the next month living with the Marzionis, her host family, and adjusting to life in Argentina. “The hardest adjustment was the time difference,” she said. Even though Argentina is only two hours ahead, the night life didn’t start until much later. “We ate dinner around 10 p.m. The night started at midnight and ended around 5 a.m. That was the hardest. I was tired all the time

Hawkinson also found it difficult to adjust to constantly speaking Spanish in the beginning of her trip. “[At first] I really really struggled with the language and found it nearly impossible to communicate with the people around me,” she said. “I felt like I was never going to get better.

Eventually, she began to overcome the language barrier. “Near the end of the trip, I was loving speaking castellano (spanish) all the time,” Hawkinson said. “It was still very difficult to understand conversations sometimes, but…as the month progressed, and I spent time with people who talked slower, it got a lot easier.”

While in Argentina, Hawkinson attended the Plaza School, a private high school in downtown Rafaela, with her host sister, Augustina. She was in quarto, which is the equivalent of junior year. “The quartos were all very nice,” she said, “they were all interested in my life in Minnesota and how different it is from Rafaela.”

Hawkinson also had to adjust to the schedule at the Plaza School. “Classes were very different from BSM. We stayed in the same room the whole day, and teachers switched classes,” said Hawkinson, “except for English. This class was in different levels so all the students are mixed depending on fluency.”

After school, Hawkinson spent most of the time with her friends. “I went to sports practice with my friend Vero, went to the Plaza (downtown) with friends, or just hung out at someone’s house,” she said. “It’s really quite similar to here except for the fact that they spend more time after school with friends instead of going home or to sports practice.”

Outside of school, Hawkinson loved experiencing a new culture. “The biggest cultural difference is with personal space,” she said. “Whenever we met up with my friends, we would all kiss on the cheek. When people were talking to each other, they all stand very close together and look right into the other person’s eyes. I really liked that they didn’t need the personal space that we find necessary for some reason.”

Though Hawkinson has no current plans, she hopes to visit Argentina again one day. “I would love to go back for a longer time,” Hawkinson said. “I honestly loved my friends, family, and especially the culture so returning to Rafaela is a no-brainer for me.”