Interview by Sara Cimino, Editor in Milan
Michele Caspani is a 21-year old Italian student of Economics and Management for the Arts, Culture and Communication, but also editor for BadTV.it. Now he is studying in Buenos Aires, we are going to see how is a student life in a different continent through his eyes!
S: Hi Michele! Where are you?
M: I’m in Argentina for six months. I came here to study as part of an exchange program that my university offered. I got here in July and I’m gonna stay here until January.
S: It’s sound so good! Why Argentina?
M: I had to pass a selection process in order to go somewhere for my exchange semester. Bocconi can get quite competitive when it comes to selections so, knowing that my average mark wasn’t exactly stellar (and selections are based SOLELY on your academic records), I was well aware that I had to choose my destinations carefully. Meaning: trying to get into an exchange semester at Princeton would have been quite hopeless, if not fooslish. I could put in 5 different destinations, in order of preference. I knew I wanted to do something different, and go somewhere far, somewhere where I wouldn’t really have the chance to go again. And I wanted to learn Spanish. Spain was way too close to home, so I chose Latin America instead.
S: How was your first impression?
M: Well. The first impression getting off the plane was NOT the best. It was July 18. I had left beautiful, sunny, summer Italy something like 20 hours before and I had just stepped in chaotic, rainy, winter Argentina. I was more than open and positive to this experience, and I really wasn’t expecting anything in particular, but what I definitely was not expecting was THE COLD. The moment I got off the plane I realized that deciding not to put any winter clothes in my bag had been a bad idea. The truth is that in my head Argentina was one of those countries where the weather never gets too cold, and temperatures are more or less mild all year long. Well, this I can say: I WAS WRONG. It was definitely cold during the day, and freezing at night, and it was like this until mid-September. Of course seeing Buenos Aires for the fist time under the rain didn’t contribute to get a good first impression. What I saw at a first glance was of a very messy city, quite dirty and incredibly disorganized, spreaded out over miles and miles of decadent achitecture. It was overwhelming, and I decided to take it all in with no judging, but my first impression of the city was not the one I started getting after a couple of months that I’ve lived here.
S: How is the education system in Argentina? Do you have a special exams?
M: The education system in Argentina is very different from what i was used to. One of the things that surprised me was the bad reputation that most private university have here. Some of the best teachers in the countries teach at UBA, University of Buenos Aires, which is a public school. Public universities are known for being extremely tough: any bachelor’s degree is 6 years, and any career in any field starts with a year of general studies. No matter if you’re studying literature or physics, in your first year at uni you will be having courses in math, history, biology, literature, and a number of other subjects. What’s more, private universities in buenos aires have in general a bad reputation: they’re known for being way easier than public schools, places where rich people can go and basically “buy” their degree. Another thing: while private university are extremely expensive, public unviersities are completely free. Anyone can enroll and there is absolutely no fee. I am in no position to discuss the argentine education system, but to me that sounds like something pretty damn revolutionary. Of course public universities here have A BUNCH of other problems that mainly involve the general lack of organization, infrastructures and, of course, funding. I am currently enrolled at Universidad Torcuato di Tella, which is one of the most prestigeous universities in the country, and one of the few private universities with a very good reputation, especially for its degree in Economics. I started off thinking I could attend four courses during my stay here, but I soon realized that some of them where too advanced: this was due partly because of the fact that a bachelor degree here is a 4-year career (while in Italy it is only three, and I just ended my second year), partly because I came here in the second semester (my first semester back home), and most courses are divided in two semesters: the whole summer-winter cycle being the opposite of what our emisphere is used to, my fall semester is a spring semester here, obviously the second part being much more advanced than the first. Coming back to your question: I revised my initial ambition and am now attending two courses. Marketing and Contemporary Argentine Cinema. In the meantime I try to get the most out of this experience trying to learn as much spanish (“castellano” actually) as possible.
S: And abput the “movida”?
M: Nightlife in Buenos Aires is something that average europeans are not used to. Let me just tell you that one of the first nights here I went with some of my friends to a club, and it was 1AM. We were told that people here go to the clubs pretty late, and we thought that 1AM would be a fair time to go. Again, we were wrong. The club was closed. And not because – like it sometimes happens in Milan – it had already closed. It hadn’t opened YET. Ok, so let me tell you how an ordinary saturday night here in Buenos Aires goes: dinner with close friends around 9:30/10:00PM, eating a lot of food (preferably some delicious meat from the “parrilla”) and drinking red wine; at 12:00 it’s time to go out for drinks in a bar, meeting up with some other friends (here is when some stronger drinks come into action); then, around 2:00/2:30 (3:00 is even better) people start going to the clubs. Most clubs are deserted before 3:00AM. People dance usually until 7:00AM, then go have breakfast, and then off to bed around 9:00AM. Let me tell you that getting used to the weekend routine is not easy, just as it is hard to go back to normal weekdays.
S: How is the routine?
M: As anybody who’s ever been studying abroad for a semester or more will already know, there is no such thing as a “daily routine” for an exchange student. Of course I go to class and everything, but I mean: life here is so cheap for europeans that I have been having dinner in restaurants 5 days a week. So I’m not sure I can tell you a lot about daily life in Buenos Aires: every student here is living something that is completely different from what argentine people are living everyday.
S: There are many Europeans?
M:The French are everywhere. It is incredible. Most Italians here are from my University, and there are quite a lot. Then I met quite a lot of students from Germany, Holland and the UK as well. But the number of French students is impressive, it’s like an invasion. Though I sort of feel that there are more Americans than Europeans anyway. There are A LOT of Americans.
S: What will be your best memory?
M: I don’t know what’s going to be my strongest memory of my days here. Spring has just kicked in and I feel that the best memories will be about Summer.
S: Your next project?
M: I’ve been blabbering about this since I was 12. I want to work in the film industry, either as a director or as a producer. Of course I know it’s a tough industry, and a 21-year old can probably only aspire to bring coffee to the important people, but I guess the time has come for finally giving it a shot. My next project is graduating and going to the States to study film. I’m applying right now to a few film schools. And yes, I think this experience will help me realize it: first of all because I’m studying argentine cinema here, so I’m getting a whole perspective on how films are made in this country, and it is just fascinating. Second of all because this experience in its entirety made me realize that this is what I want to do with my life. I can’t really tell you why, and I couldn’t possibly explain how these two very different things are related, but being so far from home and in such a different country, with its raw beauty and its intricated social and political problems, helped me finding a sense of who I am and who I want to be as a person. Being overwhelmed with diversity and living such an unpredictable experience helped me define myself. I had to react to all the impulses I was receiving, and the only way was putting myself out in there in the world and simply see how things went. I can’t dive in much more on what my next projects are going to be, because what I just told you it’s really all I know about what I want to do with my future. I hope it works out.