Volunteer Review: Sophie G., Human Rights & Spanish in Argentina
My first impressions
When I arrived at the front door of my host family in Córdoba, I was absolutely terrified. Little did I know that over the next fourteen days I would make some of the best friends and most unforgettable memories of my life.
My host family
I was lucky enough to share a house with six other girls on my project: three from the USA, one from Barcelona, one from Italy and one from the UK. It was a truly multicultural group but we soon became like sisters – especially given that we all shared one huge bedroom! The best way to describe it, is like a giant sleepover every night. We were cared for incredibly by our host mom, who was funny, welcoming and incredibly kind, but most importantly the most amazing cook. Her guacamole is possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten and every night we would beg her to make it for us. Thanks to my host mother, we experienced many traditional Argentinean foods from guiso, to empanadas as well as international classics such as pizza and pasta. Leaving Viviana on the last morning was truly heartbreaking and my experience would not have been the same without her.
I did A-Level Spanish and was looking to improve my fluency and vocabulary whilst immersed in Argentinean culture. I had underestimated the differences in pronunciation and grammar between the Spanish we are taught at school and the Spanish spoken in Córdoba. However, the teachers were very understanding and ran classes full of fun and useful activities to help us become more competent and confident. These ranged from posters about trips to the moon, to videos we filmed about our time in Córdoba. My host mother did not speak much English and whilst this was daunting at first, it was actually incredibly helpful in forcing us to use our Spanish and find ways to communicate our thoughts.
My Human Rights Project
I took part in the Human Rights & Spanish High School Special and it was not only fun but also incredibly eye-opening and rewarding. The highlight of the project was going to work with young girls in a state home. We visited and ran activities such as face painting and baking to help build their self-esteem and confidence. Prior to all our trips we had a workshop to teach us about the background of the legal system and history of human rights in the area. One of our busiest days involved cooking and distributing meals to around 300 homeless people in the city – an experience I will never forget.
Córdoba is an incredible city. The large student population means its buzzing with energy, trendy shops and streets and amazing cafes and restaurants. We got to explore and see the sights whilst also traveling further afield to see the surrounding areas. Our trip to Che Guevara’s house was a definite highlight, bringing to life the complex history of the region we had been learning about on our project. Social activities with other projects meant we developed great friendships with a wide group of people from all over the world, these included asado’s, football matches and even a salsa lesson.
- Be open minded! I had not been looking forward to the salsa lesson but it ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. It was so funny to see everyone trying the moves and most of us failing miserably. The same goes for trying new foods and drinks, you’ll be surprised at what you like.
- Check the weather… I went to Argentina during their winter. The mornings were incredibly cold but it got warmer during the day. Check to see what the climate will be like for the time that you are visiting. I definitely needed more jumpers and an umbrella too!
- Consider extending your trip to visit other parts of Argentina. I wish I had gone on to see Buenos Aires or Mendoza, especially given how far I had traveled.
- Speak Spanish! It is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the language and the culture and a real chance to improve your language skills in a short space of time.
- Get to know your hosts. My host mother was incredible. I hope to go back and see her again. Her stories about her life in Argentina and abroad gave us a unique insight into the history and culture of the country.
- Have fun, have no regrets and make the most of what will be an incredible and life-changing trip!
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.