BU Abroad: Inspired by Buenos Aires
Argentine writer’s work comes alive for student
In the video above, Arlene Ovalle-Child (GRS’06,’11) talks about her fascination with Buenos Aires and the incomparable experience of her study abroad program.
Before Arlene Ovalle-Child went to Buenos Aires in 2008, she was undecided about her dissertation topic. In Buenos Aires through BU’s Argentina Cultural Studies Program, the PhD student immersed herself in the literature of numerous Latin American authors. She found herself mesmerized by the short stories and poems of Silvina Ocampo, and the decision was made.
Studying in Buenos Aires brought the 20th-century writer’s stories to life in a way that Ovalle-Child (GRS’06,’11) says she couldn’t have experienced anywhere else. When she wasn’t researching at the Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina and shopping for rare books by Ocampo in the city’s numerous bookstores, she was able to experience firsthand the streets and neighborhoods portrayed so memorably in her poems and stories.
“When Ocampo mentions ‘la Recoleta,’ for example, I know exactly what type of image she is trying to create, because I’ve lived in that neighborhood,” Ovalle-Child says. “I can see myself there, hear the voices of the people in the street, and see the women in fur coats with their expensive handbags, the dog-walkers, and la Recoleta’s countless cafés.”
She embraced Buenos Aires culture and lifestyle as well. Afternoons were often spent reading at a café. And like most of the capital city’s residents, she got used to eating dinner fashionably late. “I wouldn’t eat dinner until 9 p.m., sometimes later,” she says. But she made a point of not staying in bed too late the next morning. “I guess I just wanted to make the most of every day there.”
The following summer she returned to Buenos Aires to conduct additional research and to work as a graduate teaching assistant, an experience, she says, that created a “great opportunity to work closely with my dissertation advisor.”
Ovalle-Child, who currently teaches fifth-semester Spanish at BU, is looking forward to going back to Argentina. In the meantime, she says, she hopes to finish her dissertation in May 2011 and “get back into taking tango lessons.”
“I definitely plan on returning to Buenos Aires, both for fun and to research,” she says. “If given the opportunity, I would live there for a few years. Once I get a teaching job, I’d love to take a group of students abroad as well.”
Alan Wong can be reached at email@example.com.
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