By Ross Rozanski
Zip lining above a treacherous ravine. Playing soccer on a rustic ranch. Horseback riding through chilled rivers. Waiting in line at a Burger King at five in the morning. In all of their exciting and exhausting and excellent thrill, I, along with nine other high school students, experienced these activities and more in Argentina. Except for waiting to order a Double Whopper in a line that almost extended out the door on a sub-forty degree night, this Argentinian trip was an experience so full and engaging and just pure fun that few of us ever complained.
During my junior year in high school, I was part of an intercambio program with my high school, in which a group of students from a high school in Buenos Aires lived with us in our homes for one month. The following summer, we were hosted by them in their city. At this point in my life, I had studied Spanish for five years, and I was thrilled by the opportunity to use the language in one of its native lands. We had many great memories when they visited us in Massachusetts, including snowboarding, Patriots games, and small house parties. To say I was ready to hop on the plane already is a tremendous understatement.
Our arrival into the city of “Good Aires” was delayed by about twelve hours when, approaching the United gate for our 9:10 pm flight from Houston to Buenos Aires, the board said in contrasting black on red lettering, “CANCELED.” Bummer. This ending up being only a minor misfortune though, as we were provided hotel rooms free of charge and got on an 8:40 flight the next morning. Once we arrived though, it was a roller coaster. From cheering for a club soccer team in one of the several stadiums throughout Buenos Aires (Boca>Arsenal) to dancing the tango on a Monday morning to drinking a submarino (a beverage consisting of hot milk and chunk of chocolate in the shape of a submarine) in the most historic café in the city, we did it all. At times, taking in all the sights and people and places was overwhelming, to the point where we just had to push through our jet lag and do everything we could. I was lucky because my host brother Iván took me everywhere he went on weekday afternoons and Friday nights and weekends. It is easy enough to buy a plane ticket to some exotic locale, buy a hotel room, and walk around the city by way of tour books. But the essence of an exchange program juxtaposes that notion in such a significant way. Going to Iván’s parties and playing Modern Warfare 3 with his friends and meeting different families was such a personal experience. I was stunned by the life of this other 17 year-old boy from a Jesuit high school and that, among our other similarities, he too brags about his stats on Call of Duty.
A highlight of the trip for all of us was our three-day excursion to Córdoba, a city 450 miles west of Buenos Aires with a population roughly that of Pittsburg. Here we saw the stunningly beautiful Lago San Roque, conquered the activity of arbolismo (in which one walks between trees on thin wires), and blasted the SNL hit “I’m on a Boat” in our Bluetooth-equipped van (in which our supervisor Mr. Rakovec was not amused). Outside of the city of Córdoba is also where we rode horses, along curving dirt trails, from a farm that provided the utmost in loving hospitality and excellently cooked asado, the Argentine equivalent of a barbeque. On the long overnight bus ride back to Buenos Aires, we all knew we would miss this welcoming city that was, unremarkably, remarkable.
A cloudy Wednesday afternoon in the city that invented the tango, I needed to rush to the Colegio del Salvador, the school our host brothers attended, to catch the bus. Our bus would, at about 4:30 pm, take us from downtown Buenos Aires to the international airport, where we would catch our evening flight to Newark then, later, back home to Boston. Everyone was going around the courtyard of the school, capturing photos with families and students and teachers that would, hopefully, capture the memories. As I and everyone else grabbed our suitcases to walk out to the street though, Iván insisted on one last photo. Throwing our arms around each other, Iván gave me a playful squeeze on my back, always in his playful mood. The quirkiest out of all the host brothers, this single odd sensation reminded me, along with his joyful and fun attitude, of an equally odd but worthwhile memory to think back on, something he told me a few weeks prior when we were coming home from a party in Buenos Aires. “Ross, you’re my American idol. You, are John Travolta.”
Ross is a rising senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, with a specific interest in aeronautics and aviation. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has had the opportunity to travel the world and experience what it is like to be an international student in countries such as Germany, Japan, and Argentina. Ross also has extensive experience tutoring in different settings, from teaching math in middle schools to one-on-one English tutoring in a prison! He is familiar with the challenges that come with learning a new language, with experience studying Spanish, German, and Japanese. Ross’s hobbies include hiking, reading, and playing video games. He also has a very deep interest in cars. A fun fact about Ross is that he’s a licensed pilot! Always willing to try new things, Ross loves to travel and is eager to learn about different people’s backgrounds and stories.