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Story by Brooke Harman and Maggie Vanoni
Photos courtesy of Peter Laufer

We’re here in the South American city where Che and Messi were born. How cool is that? Since arriving in Rosario, Argentina, four weeks ago, we have become accustomed to life south of the Equator. Our SOJC cohort of 14 students, along with James N. Wallace Chair of Journalism Peter Laufer, are spending summer term practicing our cross-border interviewing and story development techniques.

Assignments have included sculpting stories from the city’s hotspot locations and uncovering the local hidden gems, including the people who inhabit them. Some of us have taken the opportunity to travel to neighboring cities like Mendoza and Córdoba to conduct journalistic reporting beyond the streets of Rosario.

Professor Laufer likes to remind us, “There are no slow news days, only slow news reporters.” With this in mind, we maintain what we believe is top journalistic pace as we take our reporting on a trip to Argentina and Uruguay!

Our excursion to Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, started with quite the quilombo (the Porteño Spanish word for a mess when our tour bus got stuck in one of the many narrow city streets. This further emphasized a golden rule of journalism: Always be flexible. Lucky for us, our hotel was only a 15-minute walk.

The rest of our time in the city went smoothly. The first night we put on our nicest outfits to attend a fancy dinner and tango show. There’s no greater experience than sharing fine wine and local dishes with your classmates and professors. As the night progressed and the Malbec flowed, we enjoyed an elegant show demonstrating the progression of tango through the past several decades via dance and music.

The following day, we took a tour of Casa Rosada (Argentina’s White House, but pink) and had the privilege of visiting Tiempo Argentina, an independent newspaper headquartered in Buenos Aires. In the newsroom we had the opportunity to talk to the editor-in-chief, Javier Borelli. Borelli is a fine example of how the passion for journalism can bring a community together despite strong opposition.

We witnessed quite the contrast to the previous evening’s tango show when we toured the Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA), a detention center used during the dictatorship of the mid-1970s to torture and pull information from kidnapped civilians, many of whom were killed. The experience was sobering to us, not only as students, but as journalists. The tour gave us an eye-opening glimpse into the deep history of Argentina’s civil rights abuses.

On our final night in the city, after a filling buffet of Argentinian carne and vino, we ran across the Puente de la Mujer bridge. Legend has it that once you cross the bridge, you’ll travel back to the city in the near future. Our fingers are still crossed that it comes true!

After our lively weekend in Buenos Aires, we found our way to another country’s capital: Montevideo, Uruguay. Our mode of transportation was a ferryboat that, with its multiple shades of teal carpeting and golden chandeliers, seemed like the perfect setting for an indie adventure film.

It’s not every day you take a voyage from one oddly charismatic city to the next with a bunch of new friends you just met. While we waited to arrive, we spent our time playing card games, taking siestas and playing an anti-climactic match of eye-spy while staring off into the horizon.

Montevideo felt like a South American San Francisco. Think wide, cobblestone, pedestrian-only streets; large public plazas; and friendly, outgoing people. We once again exercised our journalistic flexibility and held class in our hotel’s conference room.

After class, we walked through the newsroom of La Diaria. Thanks to the two fluent Spanish speakers in our cohort, we conversed with the head editors and learned how they report on politics from every side, regardless of their personal opinions.

Don’t let these adventurous explorations fool you. We also had our fair share of fun in our base city, Rosario.

The whole program was put to the ultimate test as we broke down the basic steps of tango during our lesson at Club de Español. We partnered up and tried our best to keep up with the graceful instructors, blushing as they took turns teaching us moves one on one. It’s fair to say that, while the majority of us will keep the J-school major, a few of us just might dabble in a dance minor.

Two weeks ago, we got the opportunity to visit a Santa Fe province prison. We took a tour of the facility and met a handful of inmates. After spending half an hour in their living quarters, we accepted cups of juice and soda as an offering for our new acquaintanceships. Some of us sat in on a discussion class on philosophy and music led by local university law students. The program is comparable to the University of Oregon’s Inside-Out class, which matches UO students with prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

We have spent our summer traveling to distant locations with new friends, embarrassing ourselves in front of locals more often than we’d like to admit and. most important, learning about journalism in a new context. Getting hands-on practice with story development and interviewing skills outside of Eugene has been as rewarding as it has been entertaining. This experience has shaped us as journalists and is something we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Our bonds with one another have also grown stronger and closer than any of us would have thought. With our bellies full of milanesa and vino, our tango moves just a smidge better, and our Spanish fluency now past basic conversation levels, we are no longer 14 UO students and a professor studying interviewing and story development. We are now 15 amigos discovering the city and doing journalism together throughout the country of Argentina.

Brooke Ranae Harman is an advertising major with a multimedia minor in the SOJC’s class of 2020. She is a photographer, writer and designer for Align Magazine. 

Magdalena Sofia “Maggie” Vanoni is a journalism major in the graduating class of 2019. Within the J-school, she is focusing on writing and sports journalism.