Approximate Start & End Months
Argentina, land of gauchos and the tango, is also home to rainforests, glaciers, and penguins. Sophisticated and lively, Buenos Aires offers first-rate museums, music, and theatre as well as a café scene that rivals Europe. Argentina values tradition and hospitality and is the ideal setting to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking environment.
AFSers in Argentina live with host families and are placed in public schools throughout the country, including Ushuaia, the southern tip of South America. AFS Argentina also places students in neighbouring Uruguay, usually in or around Montevideo or Punta del Este.
Studying abroad in Argentina or Uruguay for a year or a semester will be an interesting and deeply fulfilling experience. Your local chapter may organise get-togethers for AFS students or excursions to other cities or regions in the area. Also, over the course of your program, AFS staff and volunteers will meet with you at orientations to evaluate your experience and help with your cultural adjustment.
Spanish is the official language of Argentina and Uruguay. German, Italian, French and English are also spoken.
It is not mandatory that you speak Spanish in order to be accepted into the program yet we suggest that you prepare yourself by learning as much as possible prior to departure.
Host Family & Community
Most students are placed with middle-class families in cities ranging in population from 10,000 to 3,000,000. You may be placed in any region of Argentina, from the southernmost province of Tierra del Fuego, to downtown Buenos Aires, to the northern province of Jujuy. Few participants are placed in rural areas. AFS Argentina also places a few students each year in Uruguay.
Host families in Argentina and Uruguay, like all AFS host families worldwide, are not paid. They open their homes to students in order to share their community and culture as well as to enrich their own family lives.
Both countries' populations are prevalently of European heritage. They are generally sociable people who value courtesy and respect, especially toward their elders.
Although Argentina is a strongly Catholic country, families and society welcome people of all beliefs. Many people smoke in Argentina, and, while it may be common to have someone in the house who smokes, families strongly prefer that their children not do so. It is also very common to find pets in the home.
Family life plays a central role in the social structure of Argentina. Families tend to be close-knit with grandparents often living at home and many extended family members always nearby. Argentine families are protective of their children, especially girls; parents expect to know when and where their children are going out. They won’t lack for warmth or spontaneous displays of affection though.
Both parents generally work, although they probably come home for lunch and a quick nap, or siesta. Lifestyles may vary, especially in Buenos Aires where of course they are as diverse as in any big metropolis.
Argentine teens have very active social lives. Friends are around so often in fact, that teens seem to lack much privacy and may consider their friend’s property theirs as well. What teenagers enjoy the most is getting together at friends’ houses or in the central town square, going out to eat or to the movies, going to parties and dancing, or just hanging out in the local café.
Most students are a part of sports teams (soccer is very popular), and many attend a gym or other sports club in the afternoon. Many teenagers also study a second language at a special school. You may be able to join groups involved in music or arts activities.
To get around teenagers generally walk, bike or, when in major cities, take public buses.
Argentina is a proud cattle raising country, so beef is present at almost every meal. For that reason, AFS Argentina does not accept vegetarians. Parillada (mixed grills of all parts and cuts of cow) are very popular, especially during social gatherings. Milanesas (breaded fried cutlet) and empanadas are other popular dishes that reveal the strong influence of Italians. Other examples of Italian influence are the abundance of pasta dishes and gelato. Unlike other Latin American cuisine, Argentinean food is not spicy.
Lunch and dinner are important family meeting times. Argentines normally have a large lunch followed by a siesta and a large meal late at night, normally after 9:30pm.
It is considered inappropriate for individuals to request special foods, to prepare separate food for themselves or to raid the refrigerator, although your appreciation of and request for some particular dishes will be happily received.
Argentines are also known for their love of mate, a local green tea. This is more a socializing element than a beverage served with a meal: mate is shared among people during any kind of gathering and the special gourd it comes in is offered from person to person.
You will most likely be placed in a public school in the second-to-last or final year with classmates ages 16 to 17.
You will attend classes Monday through Friday either in the morning (from 8am to 1pm) or in the afternoon (1pm to 6pm), but not both. Unlike schools in Australia, teachers change rooms while you will remain in a classroom with your classmates.
School uniforms are required and the volunteers in your host community will try to help you find a gently used uniform. If you are not able to find one second hand, please make sure to have $60 available to purchase a new one.
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically, you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximise your AFS experience, prevent culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills and a global understanding.
Many local chapters organise activities for students and host families throughout the year. These will vary from chapter to chapter but may include parties or excursions to other cities or regions in Argentina. Unlike the orientations, these activities are optional and are not included in the tuition.
Katie was a Year Volunteer Abroad Participant to Argentina and shares her experience below since returning home...
So it’s now April, and I’ve been back...