My class last Monday at Di Tella (a class on Contemporary Issues in Argentina) was scheduled--scheduled is a key word here--to begin at 12:45, but as it was my first day I arrived early at 12:20 to ensure I could find the classroom and what not. Around 12:50, five minutes after the class was scheduled to begin, the first Argentine student arrived. Around 1:00 the second Argentine student arrived. We waited an hour and 15 minutes and still no sign of the professor, so one of the Argentine students went to look for him. The professor was sitting calmly in his office at his computer--he hadn't realized class started that day. An hour and twenty minutes late we finally began class and the professor told us that while we were schedule to meet on both Mondays and Thursdays he only thought we needed to meet once a week, so we wouldn't have a Thursday class. He also said that while the class started at 12:45 there was no need to come before 1:00. I listened to him, and this week I arrived at class right on time at 1:00 only to discover that the professor seemed to have forgotten what he had said earlier, starting his class promptly at 12:45.
That was my Di Tella experience--and Di Tella is quite organized considered to the Universidad de Buenos Aires. UBA as it's called here is a public university with a 300,000 person student body, and it's often considered Argentina's most prestigious university in part because of the skill it takes on the part of the student to navigate the logistical nightmare UBA creates in order to graduate. UBA has various sedes (department buildings) scattered all over BA and it can take up to an hour to travel from one sede to another. I'm shopping classes at Filosofia y Letras and Ciencias Sociales, continently located about 30 minutes from each other.
UBA is also known as a socialist hotbed. There are posters everywhere (there were even tiny little fliers taped to each step on the stairs) and you can even find graffiti supporting various causes on the classroom walls. For my first UBA class, a Political Science class about Argentine Foreign Policy, I arrived at the Social Science sede an hour early. After waiting in line for an hour in attempt to find out my classroom number I was informed that even though Political Science classes are offered by the Social Science Department the classes are usually held in the Communications building located about 45 minutes away if you use public transportation--whoops. As it was now time for my class to begin, I hopped in a taxi (after first having to stop at a cash machine in order to be able to pay for the taxi) and hurried over to the Communications building.
I arrived to class about 30 minutes late (but I was not the last to arrive), and I understood about 25% of what the professor said. It wasn't that he was speaking too fast; the problem was the acoustics of the room and the fact that he was speaking rather softly. After the class I approached the professor, and upon discovering that I was a foreign exchange student his attitude transformed completely. He told me that in the future he would make an concerted effort to speak more clearly. He also offered to hold tutorials just for the foreign exchange students--three of us in total--to make sure we understand everything. He then walked us down to the photo copy store where you go each week to pick up your readings. While walking there we made a connection, realizing just how small the world is. A friend of his is currently getting her Masters in Latin American Studies at Stanford--maybe I'll meet her this Spring in one of my Latin American Studies classes for my minor!
Oh, and one other funny thing about UBA--the professors frequently stop class to let visitors come in and make announcements or etc. In my first class the professor stopped for five minutes on two separate occasions. First to let some man lecture to us about leftist politics (he distributed a pamphlet titled "Bulletin of the Union of Young People for Socialism") and second to let a man speak to us about Down's Syndrome and then ask for money--and almost all of the students in the class gave him money! It was crazy. Haha. I'm clearly quite far away from Stanford.