By Livvie Avrick ’19

While studying away in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Isabela Escalona ’18 (Oak Park, Ill.) and Emmet Hollingshead ’18 (Pittsburgh, Pa.) both strengthened their Spanish and found community as volunteers.

Hollingshead, an international studies and political science double major, worked with Caminantes, serving food to homeless people in Buenos Aires. “The organization stressed that we are not just feeding people, we stick around and have conversations with them,” he says.

On Friday nights, Hollingshead joined other volunteers making and packaging the food—usually pasta and meat sauce—then serving it and talking with people until one in the morning. “Argentines are extremely social,” he says. “I got to talk with people who were living on the streets of Buenos Aires about their lives and what they thought of Argentina.” One person in particular stood out. “There was one guy who was going blind, but he was very funny and knew movies so well,” he says. “We talked about movies forever.”

Volunteering was not originally part of his study away plans, but Hollingshead was glad he found Caminantes. “It helped me to immerse myself in the culture and to meet Argentinians,” he says.

The IFSA-Butler: Argentine Universities Program offers students the opportunity to take classes from five universities. Hollingshead knew he wanted to do the human rights concentration. International studies major Escalona chose the film concentration, wanting to try something outside her comfort zone.

“That was pivotal in my academic and career [trajectories],” she says. The film classes were an unexpected, but helpful, way for Escalona to explore the culture of Buenos Aires and Argentina. The class went to film festivals together and watched movies in class. The best part of the film concentration, though, was the volunteer component, “one of my favorite things about going abroad,” says Escalona.

As part of the class, Escalona filmed and volunteered at Hecho en Buenos Aires, a non-profit that provides mental and sexual health services, and classes in English, art, and literature for homeless people. Hecho en Buenos Aires is also an arts and culture magazine that homeless people sell for money that they retain.

Escalona’s film focused on a sculpture that honors two homeless people who were killed by police 10 years ago. It was a pivotal moment in Argentine politics, according to Escalona, who found it interesting to see another country’s perspective on lethal police actions. “The artists from the universities had created the sculpture alongside homeless people who were learning English,” Escalona says. She filmed the unveiling of the sculpture at a political rally.

Previously unsure of what she wanted to do with her international studies degree, Escalona found film and media to be game-changing. The personal narrative film that she made for that same film class was recently screened at Electric Machete Studios in St. Paul, which was showcasing work from women and non-binary Latinx artists.

March 23 2018

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