Studying in BA for 4 weeks


Apr 15, 2010
Hey all, I've been reading for a while, getting ready for my trip and I thought I'd jump in and say hi and ask a few silly questions. :)

I'm Genna, I'm 24 and I live in Hawaii. I'm married and have 2 little boys, 3.5 and 5yrs. I am going to be taking a study abroad trip with my college to Buenos Aires, leaving at the end of May until the end of June. My husband will be staying home with the kids (this is my first time away from them for more than 2 days!). I'll study Spanish at the University, and will be staying with a local family (haven't received any details about that yet).

*I would like to bring some kind of gift for the family I will be staying with, and was wondering if you guys have any suggestions. Some ideas I had were chocolate macadamia nuts, Kona coffee, maybe a book of Hawaiian art or photos?

*I've heard that peanut butter is hard to find there, is that true? Should I bring my own?

*I was curious how fast people can actually pick up Spanish while immersed in it for only a month? I will be studying Spanish 15 hours a week, but starting almost from scratch. I'm pretty determined to get as much out of it as possible, but I have no idea what to expect!

I'll probably have more, but I'll try not to annoy you too much at one time. :D
Hi Genna!

Welcome to the forum and an early welcome to Buenos Aires!

As for your questions, I think that your gift ideas are excellent. Kona coffee and macadamia nuts are not readily available, but maybe once you find out who you're going to be staying with you will have a better idea. I studied here for a semester with a host family and a lot of people in my program brought things like maple syrup or other regional food items, so I think you're heading in the right direction.

It's true that peanut butter is hard to come by. You can buy imported peanut butter in some locations, but if you can't last a month without it I would bring a small jar.

As for your Spanish question, I can really only speak from my personal experience, but keep in mind that the speed of language acquisition can really vary. I did a month long immersion program in Nicaragua when I was 16 and after the month I felt that I could understand fairly well and I could certainly communicate beyond the basics. I also started with nothing (seriously nothing, my host family asked what my name was and my response was "I'm 16!"). My program focused on speaking though, and not reading or writing, so I didn't develop those skills very well. Mostly it depends on your attitude and effort; the more time you spend around native Spanish speakers the better your Spanish will be! That seems obvious, but once you get here you'll see that it takes a lot of effort to try to cut yourself off from English books, television (there's a lot of programming in English here) and other English speakers.

Good luck! I'm also 24 and I've been here for a year and a half, so let me know if you have any other questions. I promise I won't get annoyed ;)
Katie, thank you so much, its really encouraging to hear how much Spanish you learned in just a month. I'm trying to do some studying now, but its not really sinking in with no where to actually use it and practice. So I'm hoping that it will click once I'm immersed in it.

Lee, Hmmm you're giving me ideas on how to recoup some of the money for this trip, do you think it would look suspicious if I went through customs with a couple dozen iPads? :D :p (joking, joking /tinfoil hat)
And now for another round of questions :)

*I would like to go to a football game while I'm there (of course)- is there some kind of schedule, or season or something, or is it year round?

*How COLD is it going to be? I've lived in Hawaii for 6 years now, so anything under 75 and I need a sweater. From what I've read June in BA is anywhere from 30-60 so I bought a winter coat and a fleece jacket, and I'm still on the hunt for gloves and a scarf. I figure I'll probably look like a ridiculous eskimo. :p

*Safety wise- I've read some scary threads on here, and some other places that say not to worry. I've read about how to stay safe, but is the crime that much worse than a big city in the US? I've been to NYC plenty of times, is it at all comparable? My husband is slightly worried, and is (half jokingly) suggesting a can of mace. Is it a bad idea to take my laptop with me? Its sort of my third arm, so that would be a huge deal for me to leave it behind . . . but I'd rather it not get stolen.

Thanks again for any advice!
I think staying with a local family will really help your spanish, but at the same time, i have heard that for many people (and I would include myself here) that it really takes around a year to start getting a decent grip on the language if you are starting from close to zero. As well, I have found that the local slang and accent in Buenos Aires is a wee bit tougher to understand than in other parts (e.g. Peru, Ecuador). I hope that doesn't discourage you, but rather, just enables you to do your best without putting too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy your trip!
Hola Genna, in terms of how much you could achieve in Spanish in one month starting from close to zero, I think I can speak from the experience of having worked with so many students and seen their progressions that other than taking classes daily and staying with a local family (which you'll already be doing!), the true difference lies in really how much you apply yourself in speaking Spanish outside of the classroom and "home".
Living with a local family definitely helps tons but what I have seen a lot also is that study abroad students are here to travel and make new international friends as well, so they do end up spending a lot of time going out and sightseeing together and they speak English to each other! While I know it's difficult to speak Spanish 24/7, we do encourage students to speak in Spanish with each other as much as possible!

If improving your Spanish is your priority, I'd highly recommend you to do language exchange. Try to find an Argentine who'd like to practice his/her English, meet up and chat away! Finding a good language exchange partner could take some time though. Since you'll only be here for 4 week, if you like, you could check out our Intercambio Club. This is an event open to everyone. We have expats, spanish students, Argentines meet up every week, drink, eat, chat and play games in Spanish/English. All participants either chip in a little or bring something to share with everyone. If you are interested, PM me and I can tell you more.

To answer your other questions:
Cold- I'd say it's good that you'll have your winter jacket and fleece, just in case. Once in a while we do get cold currents coming from the south. In June, usually it's not that cold (well to us), but the climate all over the world has been a bit out of whack, so not sure what's the norm anymore. It's good to be prepared.

Safety- Buenos Aires is just like any big city, use your common sense and don't wear anything that would draw attention. Many people bring their laptops and have no problems, but again, to minimize the probability, only use it at home. If you do have to take it out with you, put it in a bag/backpack that could conceal it entirely. Carrying it in a computer-bag/case is not recommended for obvious reasons!

Hi Genna ,I too have 2 little boys aged 3 and 5,can I send them over to Hawaii so your boys don,t get bored???seriously,in June it will be quite cold here,maybe i notice it more because i,m English!!!I have seen ONE frost in the 6 years I,ve been here so you never know,come well prepared.Good luck,have a safe trip and let us know when you arrive,regards Howard
I saw some peanut butter in the little Carrefour on 9 de Julio the other day - it was more expensive than gold, but I still bought it.....and I'm not even American!