Last summer, Kiona Jones flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina to immerse herself in the topic of urban development through the Buenos Aires: Urban Field Experience program. A graduate student pursuing a Master of Social Work, Kiona was excited to travel outside the U.S. for the first time.
“I decided to participate because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience a culture different than my own. As a social work student, it’s important for me to build cultural competency by having intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be a visitor in a space that belongs to a different culture.”
The program’s seven students and two professors were split between two apartments. Each apartment included basic accommodations as well as luxuries like a bidet, heated towel rack and juicer. The location, a neighborhood called Palermo, was excellent. It was close to the supermarket as well as the best tourist attractions like the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires. For some late night fun, the apartments were within walking distance of Amerika, one of the biggest queer nightclubs of Latin America. In addition to the plentiful available activities, one of the perks of studying in Buenos Aires was the awesome food.
“We survived on dulce de leche, toast, empanadas, and pizza. All the food was amazing! Ham and cheese is very popular, so it was in empanadas, on pizza, and even flavored into chips.”
The month-long program exposed the students to Buenos Aires’ current political, economic and cultural reality through the lens of urban studies. They studied urban problems, issues and developments through site visits, presentations by local experts and student research and reports. Students pursued independent projects and collected field data for analysis at the end of the course. Kiona’s project focused on discrimination that queer women face from policies that are geared toward protecting the queer community as a whole.
“Doing this project actually inspired me to do similar work here at UW (Tacoma). I’m currently doing research on misogyny that queer women face from queer men. I’d love to eventually be able to tie the two together and compare my findings.”
Living in Buenos Aires also gave Kiona meaningful experiences interacting with local people. Her favorite story is when she and some of the other students ate at a family-owned restaurant. The restaurant began to close to celebrate a birthday and an upcoming wedding. Kiona and her friends were about to leave, but when they offered to take pictures for the party, the owners invited them to join in the celebration.
“We shared cake, laughs and pictures with these perfect strangers and felt like we were part of the family. Best experience ever!”
“I don’t always have to completely leave everything I’ve ever known to experience new things. Sometimes just exploring your home turf can be just as mind blowing as going to new places. I’ve learned how important it is to explore my horizons and take advantage of the opportunities sitting on my back step.”
For future study abroad students, Kiona recommends keeping an open mind and being open to surprises. She also advises fellow students to express their individuality and take charge of their own experience.
“Trust yourself and the people you travel with, but don’t be afraid to speak about things that stand out to you as good, bad, amazing, terrible, or whatever. It’s your once in a lifetime experience. Make it worth it.”
Written by Madison Gallagher
Photos courtesy of Kiona Jones