I was in search of a CV-enhancing, culture-immersing experience for the summer holiday period when I discovered Projects Abroad. A journalism internship working on an Argentine radio station and living with a host family was an opportunity I couldn’t resist, and one that was sure to satisfy my latest travel craving.
Discovering Argentina's culture
Once setting foot in the Republic of Argentina, more specifically in a small city by the name of Unquillo in the province of Córdoba, I revelled in discovering the cultural quirks and friendliness of the nation. Unquillo itself was a quaint and tranquil location set against the backdrop of the picturesque Sierras Chicas. As I was visiting during the winter months, I found the place reminiscent of a ski-resort with its frosty mornings and cold nights, intercepted by beautifully warm afternoon sun, along with the small selection of cafés, shops and bakeries comparable to those of the Italian relatives.
I was lucky enough to catch Argentina’s penultimate match in the Football World Cup – complete with my host Mum’s commentary of loud blasphemes, instructions and cheers as well as our celebratory hugs—and I was even luckier to see them win!
On heading outside Unquillo was almost unrecognisable; the tranquil town that seemed to be in hibernation had now exploded with the colours of the sky on hundreds of flags or faces and with the orchestra of voices, horns and drums. The celebrations gathered pace as cars whizzed by, trucks paraded fanatics kitted in the Argentine strip as they sang and toasted tankards of the love-hate spirit of Córdoba, Fernet, whilst blowing their Vuvuzelas. It was heart-warming to see the gathering of fans united by their love of the beautiful game, but more importantly by the intense pride of their country.
Trying new foods in Argentina
Cuisine and culinary customs play a vital role in the culture of any country, so I love to sample traditional dishes, drinks or attend gastronomic events- and in Argentina, I made no exception. Mornings provided sweet treats in the form of tempting facturas – delicious pastries of various shapes, sizes and fillings- or the iconic dulce de leche which combines the delights of toffee and caramel in one plastic tub.
Mid meal snacking usually at 6pm or 7pm, which was a strange concept for an early dining English girl, was another excuse to get out the dulce de leche, though this time we would spread the gloopy toffee over criollitos; adorable books of folded pastry - like bread. About the same time, and in fact any time of the day, the typical maté tea was passed around - the tradition of sharing the distinctly bitter herb tea further uniting friends, family and volunteers alike!
For me, the highlight of Argentina’s culinary repertoire was the infamous asado; a weekly, or more frequent, get together for family and friends over a barbecue of the most mouth-watering meat you will find, char grilled to perfection on the parilla.
My Journalism placement
My favourite element of the project was undoubtedly my placement at the local radio station, Serrana FM. The team, like the station, was small and humble but what it lacked in size, it made up for in character and friendliness. Working with José and Flavia was inspiring and I looked forward to “work” every morning - I use quotations because it never felt like work, but rather having fun and chatting with your friends in between music!
Friends and family at home were very impressed that I was to work alongside DJs abroad and speaking in another language. I always joked that I would probably end up just making the tea and the truth is, this actually did happen most days but it was not the bog standard errand one does at home because I learnt how to make a round of maté!
My journalistic skills were put to the test and advanced too as I conducted research for the show, interviewed teachers at the local primary school about the newly introduced Law of Education and broadcast a music profile for an up and coming rap artist. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing citizens of Unquillo on the street, hearing their various opinions on the theme of gay marriage that was, at the time, a hot topic in Argentine politics, before continuing with a debate back in the studio.
The opportunity to work at Serrana FM enabled me to not only learn about media and journalism but, more significantly, my level of Spanish greatly improved - albeit with an Argentinean accent!
Travelling after my placement
Following my time on the project I took a few weeks to make the most of what Argentina had to offer, as well as the neighbouring countries; this made a fantastic and unforgettable ending to my trip and is something that I highly recommend.
Salta, in north Argentina, boasted beautiful mountainous scenery, Buenos Aires entertained with its tangible yet elusive voices and moves of Tango, whilst Mendoza was an educational and merry spot for wine tasting. Santiago de Chile is a buzzing city with great atmosphere and the Latino spirit was very much alive; the nearby coastal city of Valparaíso made for a very intriguing visit and brought out the photographer in me. My highlight, however, was my visit to the Iguazú Falls - it’s true that photos cannot do them justice.
Although I could occasionally see why it is that many Argentineans get the notorious bronca in times of frustration – and felt the specially named irritation myself - what strikes me most about the people of Argentina is their kindness. I have never been made to feel so welcome by so many people in their own homes, helped by as many strangers or invited by them to events and different places.
All in all, I am happy to have found Projects Abroad and had to opportunity to improve my Spanish, get a taste of a career in journalism, make friends, see remarkable places and have new experiences.