Passports, Not Textbooks

by Emily Enquist

Oh, you don't read your textbook? 

Perfect. No textbook needed. Not when you're studying abroad anyway. And I don't mean to say that your classes aren't important abroad, there's just so much to be learned outside of a book. The experience studying abroad gives you spans way, way beyond the classroom- something I've learned during my semester abroad in Buenos Aires. 

You may have heard of Argentina a few times in the news in the past few months; what with their incredible World Cup run, and not so incredible economic default issue. As an international business major, living these experiences instead of just reading about them has given me an understanding much deeper than I could have had by staying at Drake. Living abroad has shed an incredible amount of light on the classes we IB majors are required to take, and I want to highlight some examples to show you how.

The first IB component I’ve lived first hand: International Marketing. What I've come to realize in a country like Argentina--where the people worship the sport of soccer and the men who play it-- is that an astounding amount of advertising revolves around the sport. Take that knowledge and put it in the context of the World Cup, and what do you get? Lionel Messi's face. Everywhere. Messi is one of the best soccer players in the world, and is the essence of Argentine soccer. For that, he's everyone's hero. Companies including Lays, Adidas, and even random cleaning supply companies use Messi to sell their products, and in Argentina, it works. 

Another component I've had first hand experience with here is the area of International Finance, and the fluctuation of exchange rates. The argentine peso is so unstable that when I'm chatting with a friend before class, we discuss exchange rates before we discuss the weather. In Argentina, both can change drastically from day to day. And I'm not talking about the official, government exchange rate, which has stayed right around 8 pesos to every 1 dollar while I've been here. I'm talking about the Blue rate, a rate given for black market exchanges between pesos and dollars. Although this is technically illegal (note the use of the term black market), it is practiced by anyone and everyone with access to dollars and euros. Since I've arrived, the blue rate has gone from 10 pesos to every dollar, to reaching as high as 15. So the difference between using the official rate and the blue rate on, say, a steak and a glass of wine (I am in Argentina after all), which costs about 130 pesos, would be $16.25 with the official rate, and $8.66 with the blue rate. Now try to tell me you wouldn't use it, too.

Enquist February

Although the exchange rate works in the favor of international students like myself, it is hard to be excited about getting a great rate when it means the value of my host parents and friends' pesos deteriorate every day. Restaurants, cafes and stores that were once a part of my daily life have closed. Inflation has made buying beef and wine for some families impossible--items that are regarded as staples of Argentine culture. All the while, the upper class gets richer, and the middle and lower classes struggle more every day. When talking about international finance we don’t often discuss the social impact a fluctuating exchange rate has on a country’s people, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to see it’s effects up close.

These are just two areas that being abroad has helped me understand why and how we study subjects from an international perspective, and why it is so important that international experiences be included in the curriculum. As IB students, we can't be expected to understand how marketing, economics, and finance work in the world if we haven't experienced them ourselves.  For those of you who have already had your experience abroad, I hope you agree with me, and are thinking of your times abroad fondly. For those of you who have yet to go: know that I am insanely jealous that you have your entire experience ahead of you, and I hope you are excited for the adventures that await you. As my good friend Mark Twain once said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

CBPA News
September 15, 2016
A series of free and low-cost public events at Drake University will highlight the experiences of social justice leaders from developing countries around the world.
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