I’ve been learning Spanish for practically all my life, so IFSA-Butler’s Argentine Universities Program (AUP) was a natural choice for study away. In addition, I was looking for a research aspect that would help prepare me for research in my academic future. For these two reasons, I signed up for the IFSA-Butler Directed Research Concentration in AUP. This post discusses the structure of the concentration, the possibilities for research, and reflections on my personal experience.
Structure of Directed Research Abroad
The Directed Research Concentration (DRC) consists of two courses, and the remaining classes are selected from a large list of options at several universities nearby. The first program course is a castellano, or Spanish, course taught by an Argentinean professor. This course focuses on academic writing in Spanish, as well as grammar and conversation practice. Note that each AUP concentration has an accompanying castellano course, worth three credits, tailored to the theme of the concentration. Every AUP student must take a castellano class, but you can easily find one that matches your interests if you decide against participating in a concentration.
In addition to castellano, the DRC includes a course worth six credits in which a local professor guides you along the process of research and writing a final paper. Five times throughout the semester the class meets for lectures about how to research and write an academic paper, in addition to the weekly one-on-one meetings between the student and the advisor/professor. The only material graded for this course, besides the paper, is the final presentation of the research.
The idea behind the DRC is that you can research any topic that you like, as long as it relates to Argentina or Latin America. There are six students in the concentration this semester and we are each researching a distinct subject. One student is researching the Argentinean dictatorship’s propaganda campaigns during the Dirty War, while another is analyzing Buenos Aires’ startup scene. One student traveled to the north of Argentina to compare two provinces’ reactions to and treatment of Chagas disease. Another student is writing a paper on several contemporary Buenos Aires artists and their work, while another classmate is examining practices of “extractivism” in Latin America, wherein countries pursue human development through the extraction and exportation of resources.
I am a linguistics and Hispanic studies double major, so my research here has to do with the Spanish language. I am dealing with the stereotypes surrounding the speech of various social groups in the Argentine capital. I want to find out how the public defines these speech stereotypes: what are the specific clues that listeners use to judge a speaker as a member of a particular social community? In order to answer this question, I sent a survey to students at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras where I asked how they defined the speech of porteñxs (a person from the city of Buenos Aires), specifically gay men, women and men, people of high and low socioeconomic status, and old and young people. Using the responses, I am currently putting the final touches on a paper discussing the ways in which people define and identify a person’s membership in a social group based on their speech style or perceived speech style. This is just one of an infinite number of trajectories you can take within the Directed Research Concentration in AUP.
The Directed Research Concentration uses up nine of your 15 credits in the semester. That gives you room for two classes at a smaller university like Universidad del Salvador (USAL), or one course at Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA). I opted for the six credit course at UBA, which means that I have two classes with IFSA-Butler and only one at an Argentinean university. This is my only regret about the concentration, but it is a choice that I made, not a fault of the program. The concentration itself has been everything I expected it to be. The professor has been very helpful; even though she is not a linguist, she has referred me to resources that I can use for help. Just last week I had to adjust my project, and she was very accommodating.
Past students in the Directed Research Concentration have used their work in future academic endeavors, such as Fulbright research grants and honors theses. If you have a question, the Directed Research Concentration is a great way to get it answered. I am very proud of what I have done so far, and I know that the skills I have gained here will take me far into my academic future.
Ellis Davenport is a Hispanic Studies and Linguistics student at Macalester College and studied abroad through the IFSA-Butler Argentine Universities Program, Buenos Aires Directed Research track in 2017. He is an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the Work-to-Study Program.