My first time in Williamsburg was in August 2005 when I started work as the William & Mary Spanish House Tutor. I lived in the Spanish House for nine months with 24 students, and also taught a course in Hispanic Studies. It was a very interesting experience to have the time to make new friends, travel around a new country and discover new ways of understanding the culture, economy and policies of the United States.
I returned to Argentina in 2006, and from 2007 until today I have been the on-site coordinator for the William & Mary study abroad semester program in La Plata. It is an educational program that places particular attention on human rights due to its relationship with the Commission for Memory, an organization known around the world for its defense of human rights.
Every day in my work with William & Mary students I am reminded of the importance of education. Not just giving students the best education, but reminding them that the best education can be used to make them better people, and to contribute to building better communities. During their time in La Plata I watch the students change their ideas, projects, and perceptions. This is by far the most interesting way to understand what we do and why we are doing it.
My favorite part of working on the La Plata program is being able to show students my country and teach them more about it. Argentinian history has left us a legacy that today we are still debating, and I can see that being able to share this information with students, and exposing them to our rich history, as well as political and cultural identities, changes their mentalities and visions.
Studying abroad is a vital experience in the life of a student. Sometimes we believe our country is the world, but to travel, not as tourists but as part of an educational experience, brings with it the possibility of learning that there are other worlds as well. I believe that this is a key to bringing about change – when we understand there are differences in the world we know that we can also be different.
Or, at the very least, try to change.
The College of William & Mary offers students the option of living in one of eight residence halls dedicated to the study of language and culture. Diego Diaz is a past Spanish House Tutor who has become the on-site program coordinator of W&M’s La Plata, Argentina semester abroad. This program is the only semester study abroad program for American university students in La Plata, and is structured entirely around the in-depth, interdisciplinary study of human rights.