When I was twenty, I got a Rotary scholarship to go study literature at the University of Buenos Aires for a year. At the time, I only knew was that UBA was a public university with an excellent reputation. Later, I’d encounter its chaos: professors who chain-smoked without ashtrays in class, roving political party members soliciting donations, graffitied profiles of Che Guevara, and, what shocked me most, no toilet paper in the bathrooms.
But I got a hint of the chaos early: after asking for admission, the university sent a letter saying they’d enroll me if I sent transcripts. But after I sent my records, I heard nothing. I called the administrative offices over and over, but the official the receptionists directed me to was never there.
Desperate to figure out how to make sure my time in Argentina was not a fiasco, I scrolled through UBA’s very rudimentary website, finding cryptic links, Spanish educational jargon, and as I got more frantic, page after page of names in an enormous, badly organized staff email directory.
The educational jargon stuck. One word reminds me of that ugly, frustrating site: carrera, Spanish for degree or career; also, journey, ladder, race. In some Spanish Bibles it’s the word used here: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith….”
I’m at The Mudroom today talking about writing without a clear, easy path to follow. Also, about my amazing, crazy university experience in Argentina. Won’t you join me there?