A semester has ended, the final transcript has been received, all my courses have been passed with a decent mark, and a little winter break is more than needed. Because this has not been an usually semester. This has been my exchange semester on Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Things went pretty well. The classes have generally been of high quality and with interesting content. My head has been filled up with lots of information about politics in Latin America, and Argentina in particular.
However, looking back here a semester later, there has been some curious things about studying in Argentina. So, in case you are considering the same move as me, here are a few things to take into account that I wish I had known before studying abroad in Argentina:
Please mind that this is based on personal experiences at Universidad Torcuato di Tella. Things might change from university to university in Argentina - feel free to share your own experiences as an exchange student in any Argentine university in the comments below or ask if you have any questions.
Your hands will burn during exam times
The exams are old fashion written by hand… ALL of them! This mean that "computerized" people as myself will have a hard time with their hands and hand writing during exam periods.
I don't think I have ever written a whole exam essay by hand… I mean in like EVER. The last time I wrote an exam by hand was my math exam in high school which… well, are quiet a couple of years ago.
Ever since I started university in Denmark all my exams have been written on computer, and close to all my notes are taken on computer as well… Soo, ah! My hands were burning by the end of the final exams. The good thing is though that exams are only of two hours duration. Apart from that…
… Exams were super informal done inside the class room
For me exams are normally a whole little official ritual of going to the big exam hall far away from the rest of the campus, getting your student ID inspected, having a whole group of elderly people guard you for the 4 hours’ duration of your exam to be sure you don't do anything you are not supposed to… And they are hard on you; show me the inside of your pencil case, don't leave your jacket on your chair, and (for God stake) DO NOT have your bag close to you at all. And then of course, we start EXACTLY on time! Not one minute before, not one minute after. 9 o'clock means 9 o'clock, end of story!
The atmosphere around exams at Universidad Torcuato di Tella was quiet different. You could enter the assigned class room for the exam without anybody checking you. There would be two or three guards, and some time before the exam start you would causally hand them your student ID, no big check or anything. And maybe-maybe not your teacher would be there. Maybe-maybe not he or she would arrive a bit late, and you would therefore start the exam late. Maybe-maybe not they would give you a couple of advises on the answers or help you understand the questions… It is a lot more relaxed than what I'm used to.
Classes are small and the teacher quickly learns your name – or at least knows who you are...
Normally, I study at what is considered a smaller program at Copenhagen Business School with around 100 students per year. Sometimes the teacher remembers who you are but mostly you will pass by as one in the mass of students going to class.
In Universidad Torcuato di Tella the classes were smaller with approximately 30 students per class, and most teachers made an effort on getting to know you are little bit more, remember your name or at least have an idea about who you are. Even a teacher I was sure had no idea about who I was started greetting me in the hallways.
The students are generally more active in class discussions than back home
I don't know if it is something with my program back home but generally most students are not that keen on saying things or are starting debates in class. Some teachers have been better than others in kick-starting class debates but it has not been that impressive.
However, in Argentina, the students in general seem to be more active and eager to discuss in class, and the teachers also try to push toward discussions. Surely, it also has something to do with the class size. In the classes with more students, the lesser people seemed to get involved in discussions.
There are no breaks during the classes... So if you wants to go to the bathroom you just stand up and walk out
This sounds very strange, and it sort of is. Thus, it took me a very long time to get used to the fact that you can just stand up in the middle of a class and walk out if you need to go to the toilet. I'm used to teachers who get pretty annoyed if you do so during classes but in Argentina they didn't seem to mind at all.
You will need your student ID every time you enter or leave the university
It might just be that this control of everybody entering and leaving the university hasn't arrived to little trusting Denmark. So, for me it was something have had to get used to at first. Everytime I entered or exited the university I had to scan my student ID, and if I forgot it at home I had to ask the reception permission to enter, and they would check my name in the student database. At Copenhagen Business School you just enter, and only use your student ID for exams, printing stuff or the library.
You will be confused about their grading scale
Basically, the grading scale is pretty easy, and goes from 1 to 10 where 10 is the best. At least that was what we were told on the introduction day.
Then suddenly some teachers start giving your grades according to the percentage of correct answers (okay, that's easy to convert to the 1-to-10 scale). Until you receive the grade from another teacher in another course, and he is using a A-B-C etc. grading scale... And then finally, on the final transcript the grades are according to the latter. A bit confused? Maybe it is just me who a used to the fact that only one system is applied for all.
Now you are a little bit better prepared for what to expect of studying abroad in Argentina. All in all it has been an enjoyable experience to study in Argentina, and highly recommendable if you would like to improve your Spanish and want a high academic level.