If any NYU student comes to me to ask whether he should study abroad in Buenos Aires, I would whole heartedly say yes. Hell, I’ve actually already given that advice to many contemplating underclassmen, who somehow never seize to find me on social media and bombard me with questions about the program. Pack your bags and fly down to South America, people. When else will you make time to live in Argentina for a few months?
Some practical advices first.
Bring cash. Due to its unstable economic climate that I won’t pretend to understand in the slightest, the official exchange rate between American dollars and Argentinian pesos is a joke. While banks will give you 8.9 pesos (as of May 5th, 2015) for every dollar and charge you transactions fees whenever you make an withdrawal, you can use black markets on the street to receive a much higher rate; at a high point in January, I got 12.8 pesos. Sure, it is technically illegal, and you should watch out for counterfeit bills, but it really isn’t a problem since everyone does it. Just step out of the subway station near Calle Florida and chat with someone who’s yelling “cambio, cambio” on the street. Check with a few to ask for a better exchange rate, and voila!, it’s that easy. Make sure to bring your semester’s budget to Argentina in $100 bills — people are less willing to buy smaller bills.
On a side note, understand that Buenos Aires is not the most budget friendly place in the world. Although general prices of living is lower than it is in New York, imported goods tend to boast a high price tag due to taxes. Also, traveling within the country can be quite expensive: flights are pricey, and even buses to Mendoza or Cordoba will run you upwards of $100. Plan accordingly.
Bring warmer clothes. Although the temperature rarely drops below 32F in Buenos Aires, it is hardly a tropical paradise that you might mistakenly associate with South America. As we transition into winter, it is definitely chilly at the moment, especially during morning and evening hours. You don’t need a thick parka (unless you plan on traveling to Patagonia near Antarctica during winter; not recommended), but definitely bring a coat.
Brush up on some Spanish before coming. Although you can get around Buenos Aires with a minimal grasp of Spanish, your experiences in Argentina will be so much richer if you did speak the language. From making reservations at restaurants over the phone to comprehending curators in museums, Spanish is essential. If you’ve never studied it before, pick up a pocket book or two before arriving. It will help a lot.
Most importantly, come with an open mind. Your stay in Argentina will be miserable if you start comparing Buenos Aires to New York. Come eager to explore. The majority of NYU students who claim that Buenos Aires is boring never leaves the neighborhoods Palermo and Recoleta: where they live, and where they go to school. There is so much more to the city. Walk along the graffiti-covered cobblestone streets of San Telmo. Hang out at a neighborhood bar in Villa Crespo. Go eat some roasted chicken in a dingy Peruvian restaurant in Abasto.
Like I’ve said so many times before in blog posts, Buenos Aires is a city that will love you back as much as you love her. Only when you spend your time and effort with her, she will reciprocate. Come prepared.