Even before Jillian Shropshire, ’11, commenced her studies at Loyola University Maryland, she developed an early interest for Latin American culture, so the decision to combine a demanding language and literature-based major in Spanish with an interdisciplinary minor in Latin American and Latino Studies minor was a no-brainer. Jillian explains that studying Latin America is essential to better understand the “many Latinos living in the United States today.” She notes that despite Latin America’s proximity to the United States, “so many people in the U.S. do not know anything about it.” As a result of her personal love of Latin American culture, Jillian pursued a minor in Latin American and Latino studies, which combines academic coursework in history, political science, economics, sociology, and language, concluding with an awareness of the region’s increasing importance within the international community. She underlines that her minor has changed the way she views Latin America in political, economic, and social terms. Her Contemporary Central America Spanish course, for instance, made her more cognizant of the United States’ involvement with Central American affairs as well as the region’s cultural, historical, and linguistic heterogeneity.
During the spring semester of her junior year, Jillian participated in a study abroad program in Argentina in which she took courses at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires. Jillian reinforced her grammatical knowledge of Spanish through her language class, which reviewed the vos tense that Argentineans, Uruguayans, and Central Americans frequently employ in their daily conversations. Along with her language class, Jillian enrolled in a political science course titled “América Latina: procesos e ideas,” which outlined the political, economic, and social developments in the Southern Cone region beginning with colonization. The course helped her comprehend the challenges various Latin American countries currently face.
In terms of cultural divergences, Jillian immediately noticed a difference between American punctuality and Argentineans’ more elastic concept of time. She explains that in the United States, “if you are meeting a friend for lunch at noon, you are expected to show up a few minutes early. But in Argentina, my friends wouldn’t show up until 12:15 and it didn’t really matter.” She adds that “I was able to enjoy the time instead of rushing through everything the way we do here.” Overall, Argentineans seem more appreciative of time and simple pleasures, such as taking a moment to enjoy mate. Mate, Jillian explains, “is a tea that people drink in Argentina all the time. But it’s more of a social tradition. Everyone sits down in a circle and passes the tea around and talks and eats snacks.” She adds that Americans have not developed a tradition of daily relaxation, which arguably contributes to the country’s exigent and high-stressed working culture. Despite some cultural differences, Jillian did note that American and Argentinean interests in “fashion and movies” are practically analogous. In all, Jillian’s time in Argentina proved to be an intellectually challenging and culturally enriching experience.
After graduation, Jillian plans to do service for a year or two. She will eventually pursue a graduate degree in Latin American Studies, International Development, or Public Policy. Undoubtedly, her academic preparation and her altruistic dedication to serving the Latin American community will make her an incomparable asset to any academic institution or professional organization she chooses to join in the future.
Stay tuned for future updates on Jillian’s accomplishments as she moves toward graduation in May 2011.