Friday, May 11, 2007

University of Belgrano (Ken)

During my final weeks here in Buenos Aires, I have been meeting with people from the University of Belgrano about the possibility of having students from my college in Maryland spend a semester in Argentina.

Over the past two weeks, I have visited the campus four times and met with Sr. Alfredo Martinez, who is it the Director of Student Housing; Sr. Silvia Maggiorini, the manager of the Office International Students; and Dr. Martin Furlong, the Vice Director of International Programs. I had to work my way up to Dr. Furlong after it was fully understood that I work at a community college.

The Community College concept is uniquely North American; the people at the University of Belgrano needed some help understanding just what it is. I explained that in 1901 the community college was born in Joliette, Illinois in response to increased desire for higher education and limited capacity. It was at this time, in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, that the need for educating middle and top management—as well as technical and scientific expertise—became critical. Existing universities were not capable of or willing to educate this new type of student who came from working class families with no legacy of university education.

The community college was a new concept that served two purposes: to provide the first two years of general education (mathematics, history, sciences, composition) for students intending to matriculate to four-year institution to continue on to the baccalaureate, and to provide two-year professional programs for direct entry into the work force. Once I explained that our graduates, who transfer to four-year universities, typically out-perform those students who began at the four-year institutions, they seemed satisfied that my community college students were every bit as capable of having a positive study-abroad experience as the other international students with whom they have been working.

We both still need to prepare and present proposals to our respective superiors before this can happen, but I believe it can be done.

Frederick Community College already has a semester abroad program where we send students to London. It is a good and successful program. Building on that success, I think we are ready to expand to South America. After all, going to London, for a USAmerican, is rather like going to visit your grandparents in the family’s original home town—the accent is different and some things look strange, but, for the most part—it feels like home.

Argentina is altogether a different story. While the British Pound is at 1:2 for the US Dollar, the Argentine Peso is a 3:1. That is six times the purchasing power for our students, which makes Argentina an affordable destination.

Another attractive reason is that, for most USAmercans, Latin America begins and ends with Mexico. It will be good for more of us, especially young Americans, to come here. We will never really know what the world is like unless we see it for ourselves. We need look no where other than the White House to see the truth of that.
On the evening of the 4th of May, there was a Noche Internacional where all of the International Students (of whom there are now 2000 a year at the University of Belgrano) were invited to set up a booth to share something of their culture with the others. I stopped by and talked to the kids from the USA. They were all happy with their experience in Buenos Aires and at the University.

In their booth, they had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread, hot dogs, apple pie, Oreos, and Peanut M&Ms as examples of American cuisine. For American culture, the boys set up a Beer Pong game and broke out the Beer Bong. So much for American culture!


emilyeffinconrad said...

that's America for ya.

Oblivious Observer said...

I remember when my roommate made that beer bong... everything after that is a little cloudy, though :). Thanks for the helping me remember again!