Ohio Wesleyan University students Samantha Merino ’21 and Austin Strayer ’20 visited Argentina with faculty member Andrea Colvin to study the country’s ‘culture of remembrance.’ Their experience was supported by The OWU Connection.

Understanding Argentina

Ohio Wesleyan Students Explore Country’s Culture, Political Climate, Economy

By Cole Hatcher

Name: Samantha Merino ’21
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Major: Spanish
Minors: Philosophy and Economics

Name: Austin Strayer ’20
Hometown: Willard, Ohio
Major: Spanish
Minors: Education and Latin American Studies

OWU Connection Experience: “Argentina’s Culture of Remembrance”

Spanish majors Merino and Strayer traveled to Buenos Aires for 10 days in December with Andrea Colvin, Ph.D., associate professor of Modern Foreign Languages, to explore issues from Colvin’s fall Spanish 300.11 class, “Remembering the Dirty Wars in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.”

In Argentina, they explored how the country has dealt with its past and how its history continues to affect its culture, current political climate, and economy. Their travel was supported by an Ohio Wesleyan-funded Theory-to-Practice Grant, part of The OWU Connection.

Lessons Learned

Merino: “What fascinated me the most about this Theory-to-Practice Grant proposal was its interdisciplinary approach. By examining the culture of remembrance, we had to delve into issues of politics and government, education, social activism, Spanish language, cultural norms, and many more factors that make up society and culture.

“The most important lesson I learned from this trip was the value of staying curious and going with the flow. There were times when we would be speaking with Argentine professors and I would get lost in what they would say, but because of my curiosity and my need to understand them, I made sure I read and researched information that could better supplement what I had heard.

“Instances where I felt intellectually lost were moments that taught me that learning is a lifelong journey that requires time, patience, persistence, and, most importantly, a willingness to go with what life throws at you.”

Strayer: “Through this Theory-to-Practice Grant, I’ve learned that Argentina’s past still has a massive effect on their society today. Much like the United States, Argentines are still a very divided society, and it doesn’t look like that will improve anytime soon. …

“It is one thing to learn about the topic in class, though to actually travel to Buenos Aires and see firsthand what we had studied was almost unreal. We were able to talk with Argentines who had lived through the dictatorship, watch Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo march in their ongoing fight for justice, and visit the Ex-ESMA, where people had been detained and tortured only 40 years ago.

“These experiences helped us connect to and understand the topic much more than we would ever be able to in a classroom. As I am studying to be a Spanish educator, I took a particular interest in how the dictatorship is taught in schools, both in Argentina and in the United States.”

My Favorite Moment

Merino: “My favorite moment of the experience was when I was able to interact with local Argentines through my use of Spanish and my knowledge of their country. Being able to put what I learned into practice gave me a better sense of my intellectual duty to the worldwide community.”

Strayer: “My favorite part of our trip was our rooftop ‘asado’ dinner on our last night in Buenos Aires. We were served various kinds of typical Argentine foods (mostly meat) by a local named Benjamin as we sat on his rooftop patio, talking about our trip and Argentine culture in general. It was a special night that I won’t soon forget!”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

Merino: “Trips like these were the reason I chose to come to OWU. Early on in high school, I knew I wanted to explore the world, go to a liberal arts university, and go on an adventure away from home. I knew that I wanted to challenge myself and explore as much as possible and, it was my mom’s suggestion that drew me to OWU.

“My mom's gut feeling told her that OWU would be a great environment in which I would be able to learn, grow, and thrive and at that point in my life I had come to learn that my mom was 99.7% right most of the time – and I was not going to disagree with the famous ‘mom’s gut feeling.’

“Overall, I would say that the reasons for which I chose OWU might have been skeptical for others, but for me they were perfect, and I would not change my decision, to attend OWU, for the world!”

Strayer: “I chose Ohio Wesleyan for a number of reasons: The great Spanish program, beautiful campus, and small school atmosphere are among the biggest ones.”

My Plans After Graduation

Merino: “After graduation, I plan to marry my college sweetheart and go onto pursue a master's in translation and interpretation!”

Strayer: “After I graduate this spring I will take a gap year, and the following year I plan to go to Spain to teach English to Spanish students and travel around Europe!”