Scholar Spotlight | My Semester in South America

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross in Machu Picchu, Peru

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross spent the spring of 2017 studying abroad in Argentina and Chile. He spent seven weeks in each country learning about economics, political development, and business in Latin America. During breaks he visited Uruguay and Peru. Cross sat down with the Tower Center to talk about his experience.

Describe your life in Argentina. What was a typical day like for you?

I began each day enjoying breakfast with my host family and roommate. Coffee, fresh fruit, medialunas (a croissant-like pastry), and dulce de leche (a spread similar to caramel) were staples. Next, I rode a public bus to the office building that housed the program’s classrooms. I participated in a lengthy seminar each morning with the nine other American students led by professors from distinguished local universities. For lunch, I often ate Argentine empanadas: a pastry shell filled with ground beef, olives, and eggs. Throughout the afternoon, my friends and I strolled through Buenos Aires’ eclectic mix of neighborhoods. We explored posh Recoleta, industrial La Boca, and youthful Palermo Soho, coming into contact with a cross-section of Argentine society.

Dinner with my host family was the highlight of each day. Over an Italian-style meal of gnocchi, ravioli, or risotto, we discussed current events and debated politics. In Argentina, asking about political views is not as taboo as in the U.S. My host family was captivated by the daily drama of President Trump. In fact, they followed American politics more closely than I did! Since most American college students study abroad in Europe, I was often the first young American Argentines had ever met. 

What is one lesson you took away from your time there?

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross in Santiago, Chile.

Living in Latin America requires all-embracing patience on a daily basis. I was routinely frustrated by small aspects of life which we take for granted in the United States. Modifying my expectations to match the reality of city life was imperative. For example, public transportation in Buenos Aires is notoriously unreliable. My 45-minute morning commute was often stymied by strikes and protest marches that obstructed thoroughfares leading to the city’s center. I surmounted this challenge with extremely flexible planning.

How has this experience impacted your goals for the future?

My semester in Argentina and Chile brought me one step closer to my professional goals. I secured a summer internship at the headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service in Washington. My responsibilities centered around Latin American affairs. Drawing upon my newfound comfort speaking in Spanish, I communicated with foreign government officials by letter, phone, and email. I helped to facilitate bilateral negotiations with the postal services of Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, and Venezuela. This opportunity solidified my interest in pursuing a career oriented toward Latin America.

What is it like transitioning back into life in Dallas and at SMU?

After living in dense neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and Santiago my lifestyle in Dallas feels relaxed. I now understand what a breeze it is to live in the Park Cities. Compared with the chaotic streets of Buenos Aires and Santiago, the busiest roads near campus like Mockingbird and Hillcrest are calm and orderly. I also enjoy the availability of green spaces like the Katy Trail. While I am grateful for the exposure to life in Latin American cities, I cannot deny that Dallas provides a very comfortable environment by comparison.

About Karly Hanson

AA-Dedman(Political Science)
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