12 Sep 2017
Once a year, several Loyola students participate in the Intercambio Exchange program. In this four-week program, Loyola students experience Argentina and Uruguay by attending schools, building houses in rural cities and enjoying points of interest.
Although Director of Community Service Tom Zeko has lead Intercambio for several years, he has passed down the leadership to Spanish teachers Kaitlin Collins Paro and Ana de Castro.
For the first three weeks, Loyola students stayed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and attended classes at Colegio del Salvador, a Jesuit high school much like Loyola. Loyola students were paired with Colegio del Salvador students and stayed with them and their families.
Junior Joshua Moran said, “Every day we would go to their school and we would go to class with them and see how their classes differed from our classes culturally and academically.”
Senior Carlos Casillas said, “We’d usually have a class where we’d meet up with Zeko, De Castro, and Collins, our teachers there, and they’d take us to see a museum there or something interesting in Buenos Aires.”
After three weeks of attending school, Loyola students stayed in Uruguay for 10 days at Pachacuti Camp in Montevideo, Uruguay.
“There were 400 students that came from 10 Jesuit Colegio dels: Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and the US,” said Zeko. “We were the only U.S. school.”
At the camp, students traveled to rural towns or cities and focused on building houses and other service activities. Some of the sites were as close as two hours while others were as far as five hours from Montevideo.
Loyola students enjoyed spending times with the families whom they helped.
“It was nice to help out the people who were in need and build houses and actively go out and spend time with the children who needed it,” said Moran. “It gave you a satisfying feeling and a sense of gratification.”
Senior Pablo Burgos said that the experience opened his eyes to things he took for granted. He said, “One of the days, I think it was the last day of the camp, we were playing with the kids and one of the kids I was playing with asked me for water. I said ‘No.’ Then I said, ‘Do you have water at your house?’ And he said, ‘No.’”
After Pachacuti Camp, students travelled back to Buenos Aires for two days to eat dinner with their host family and visit a ranch. They then flew to Iguazu, Argentina and stayed there for four nights. There, students visited an old Jesuit mission and visited nearby waterfalls.
Students were amazed by the waterfalls. “You’d look and it’d take your breath away,” said Moran, “It was really beautiful.”
During the immersion trip in South America, students noted differences and similarities between American and South American cultures.
“[South Americans] are very family-oriented,” said Zeko, “A lot of [practices] are similar, except in Spanish. Family is a big thing.”
Students enjoyed their four weeks in Argentina and Uruguay. “It’s a good experience,” said Moran. “It’s good to see how there’s a difference in the world and how it varies country to country.”
“I would definitely do it again,” said Burgos. “I just loved the whole experience, being in two foreign countries and experiencing what it’s like living over there.”
“I would highly recommend it,” said Casillas. “It is, if not, the best experience I had here at Loyola. It forces you to grow.”