Please Talk About Politics & Religion
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December 21, 2018
Ryan Bender, CAS '21
GRIP Intern - Buenos Aires, Argentina
There's a bit of household American wisdom that goes something like this: "Friends who want to stay friends don't discuss religion or politics." While it is polite to be mindful of others' sensitivities, this wouldn't get you very far in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentines are very political. Many people in Argentina grew up during a military dictatorship that stripped people of their right to criticize the government and generally organize for a cause. Having survived this tumultuous time and regained political rights, Argentines are not afraid to ask you what you think about important topics, even the more sensitive ones. For example, in the first few weeks of my internship, more people asked me about what I thought about abortion than in almost twenty years of living in the United States. It wouldn't be unusual to walk through Plaza de Mayo, the plaza overlooking the Argentine equivalent of The White House, and see complete strangers discussing important issues of the day. There are often demonstrations for different causes in this section of the city.
I considered it a privilege to regularly get to talk at length about important topics that I would consider avoiding at home. Conversations with my host and coworkers ranged from social issues to different economic policies, to perspectives on history. They'd ask me about my country and I'd ask them about theirs. Over dinner, my host and I would routinely discuss how she felt about things going on in their Congress and so forth.
I learned a great deal from my Argentine counterparts by exploring this custom. I learned to not be afraid to ask people hard questions and to work with people who grew up in vastly different contexts. I developed a profound appreciation for the things that Argentines find important. I learned to interpret events through a lens other than my own. Through exploring this custom, I gained a greater understanding of how people in a different culture think. I believe this made the experience all the more formative and would recommend engaging with people about issues important to them to any other person studying or interning abroad.
The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.