Argentinean university, U exchange students, programs

by Liz Kohman

Andres Forenza is a fourth-year Argentinean student studying agriculture. Like many university students, he tries to juggle school, work and a social life. But Forenza’s college experience in northwestern Argentina is somewhat different from student life in Minnesota.

Forenza doesn’t pay tuition for his classes because the National University of Tucuman is a government-funded institution. Although tuition is free, life in Argentina is expensive and Forenza, like many of his friends, lives with his parents to save money.

Also, Forenza will have to spend more time in school. He has one more year of classes and then will have another couple years of studying for and taking tests to officially receive his diploma.

Argentineans live under different stars, speak a different language and take classes under a different educational system, but many University faculty members say students from Minnesota and Argentina would benefit from learning more about each other.

Last fall, deans from both schools signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the exchange of students, faculty, research and academic programs between the University’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the department of agronomy and zoology at Tucuman.

This May, nine students traveled to Argentina for a class in agricultural processes, culture and globalization issues – the first exchange under the new memorandum.

“Students need to have an understanding of another culture,” said department of soils, water and
climate professor Thomas Halbach, who helped to organize the class in Argentina. The program allows students to see another part of the world with a different history, political system and academic system, he added.

Halbach also said comparing and contrasting systems and ideas in Tucuman and Minnesota will help both parties find better solutions to environmental problems.

Firsthand experience will help students to understand problems facing Tucuman and Minnesota. Talking about pollution problems in a classroom is not the same as being in Argentina and smelling the air pollution, he said.

The Memorandum of Understanding complements the University’s goal of improving education – specifically global opportunities, Halbach said.

The memorandum is one of many agreements between the University and other universities around the world.

The University Office of International Programs, which coordinates foreign programs, has more than 200 exchange agreements registered in its database, said Gayla Marty, communications coordinator for the office.

Agreements with foreign institutions are usually reciprocal and create many types of exchanges, from library materials to students and faculty. The agreements can be University-wide or geared toward specific colleges or departments.

The department of soil, water and climate sponsored the class in Argentina through the agriculture college, but the trip was open to all students.

After flying from Minneapolis to Chicago to Buenos Aires to Tucuman – a trip that lasted approximately 27 hours – the nine students began to learn about life in northwestern Argentina.

“The most important thing is the cultural part,” said Mariano Chehin, the director of student affairs at the National University of Tucuman. The exchange gives students from the United States an opportunity to learn about other countries, he said.

“You can apply everything you learn here at home,” Chehin said.

Students who participated in the exchange toured farms, fields and factories, discussed globalization issues and studied the climate of northwestern Argentina. They also spent time with students from Tucuman exchanging stories and learning about each other’s culture.

“It’s good for students to see how they live. I never would’ve known,” said Raquel Severson, a senior studying animal production systems. “It’s a huge growing experience and learning experience.”

In August, students from Tucuman will travel to the University to learn about Minnesota’s culture and agriculture.

Forenza doesn’t plan to make the trip to Minnesota, but acknowledged the importance of exchange between different cultures.

“Every person is a new world to discover,” he said.


Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]