The Study Abroad Dilemma

In the study of foreign language / literature / culture, it is extremely helpful to visit at least one country where the language you are learning is spoken. This is why every foreign languages department organizes Study Abroad programs for students. In the case of Spanish Majors, students have the option of going either to Spain or to Latin America.

Here is the problem, however. Latin American countries are very much behind even the US in terms of the rights of women. Like light-years behind. Intense harassment of women on a daily basis is rife. I first traveled to Cuba when I was 23 and even though I come from a country where men routinely beat women in the streets to huge popular acclaim and every other woman reports being raped, I was shocked at what I experienced in Cuba.

Of course, in the end, I’m glad that I’ve been to Cuba, Mexico and the DR and experienced Latin American machismo first hand. This gave me a profound understanding of the culture that I would have never acquired otherwise.

But here is the dilemma. Our female students – who are very sheltered by their life in small rural communities in the Midwest – go to Latin America on Study Abroad programs and return in a state of complete shock and panic. They even find endless cat-calling in the streets (and when I say endless, I mean it) to be very traumatizing, not to speak of more serious stuff. Of course, we warn them about machismo before they travel but this is not something you can even begin to imagine before you experience it.

Our students routinely complain that the Latin America they see on their trips is plagued with crime, violence, sexual harassment. But we can’t offer them a prettier Latin America because it does not exist. If we send them to programs where they spend all their time locked up with other US students to protect them from the contact with the non-cute Latin America, they complain they don’t get to have an authentic experience.

So what should we do? Cancel all Study Abroad trips to Latin America and send students exclusively to Spain? They insist they want to see Latin America, however, and then they come back angry. The only positive thing is that they now can express their grievances in very good Spanish because these trips improve their language skills dramatically.

I would still like to hear any suggestions if you have them.

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86 comments on “The Study Abroad Dilemma

  1. To be honest, I haven’t really had too many problems going to the Dominican Republic because people don’t instantly get the conclusion that I’m some American tourist and actually have many relatives living there. Neither has my older sister or mother. It really helps if you’re already have ancestry in the specific country you’re going to, but if you’re not, stay away from any dodgy areas or areas known to have a lot of crime (Boca Chica for instance). Try to blend in as much as possible with the actual people and don’t carry anything that will make people believe that you’re wealthy or loaded with cash.

    There’s also a lot of antagonism towards Haitians.

    • An old Soviet joke:

      An American spy spent years preparing for his covert mission in Ukraine. He mastered the language, the customs, even the facial expressions. But the very first Ukrainian he met after landing in Ukraine, a half-blind old woman, greeted him with, “Hello, American spy.”

      “How do you know I’m an American spy???” the spy asked, shocked at this rapid detection.

      “It’s because you are black,” the old woman explained.

  2. Hm, perhaps just a very thorough warning and education. I always wanted to study abroad in Latin America, but I know that a lot of cat calling would traumatize me so I would opt for Spain.

  3. Puerto Rico is part of the US, but it could be included under your definition of Latin America. If acceptable, IIRC, Americans shouldn’t need a passport to go to PR. Another possible objection to PR is that, being part of the US, I suppose that it is harder to completely avoid English there; I can conceive of students somehow not learning Spanish as well there as they could learn it in Spain.

    • Puerto Rican Spanglish is the worst thing that could happen to our students. And I don’t think the harassment is not there. All Puerto Rican women I know are completely beaten down to the point where even Mexican women don’t do much worse.

      We have been sending students to Costa Rica, which is the richest LatAm country but they keep complaining.

      What’s left?

  4. What if one of the sent students returns from the trip raped? Or probably already returned and didn’t reveal?

    Legally, is university responsible in any way over mental / physical traumas the students may suffer?

    I would explain, explain and once more explain. May be a video would help them to really “get it” on the emotional level better than a thousand words.

    • “What if one of the sent students returns from the trip raped?”

      – Statistically, they are much more likely to get raped right here on campus.

      “May be a video would help them to really “get it” on the emotional level better than a thousand words.”

      – We show LatAm movies, do the readings, but they don’t take it seriously. Do you remember the Juan and Maria story? Nobody gets machismo before they experience it. I also thought the idea was funny before traveling to Cuba.

      • Hey.. didnt’ read the whole comment stream.. and this may be somewhat simple.. but something along the lines of a skype session with someone in one of these countries?

        I understand that technology might not be overly prevelant in some of these locations (or perhaps it is).. but I would think that there would be some people with internet/skype. Perhaps look for university contacts, social activists.. women’s rights activists there.

        Not sure if it would help… but thought i’d throw it out there

      • I am actually working on a telecollaboration/study abroad combo pairing university students along the guidelines of the ethnographic projects posted below. You could consider this. There are lots of resources on telecollaboration projects and they have substantial linguistic and cultural benefits if done well.

      • I find this practice to be extremely dangerous because it leads to the eventual outsourcing of all of our jobs to Nicaraguans or Guatemalans who will teach languages over Skype for 50 cents an hour.

      • I have no idea what you are talking about. Telecollaborations are highly structured activities that require skilled teachers to design, implement and assess them. They are not chat with a random Guatemalan instead of taking a language class or whatever you have in mind (which is not clear to me).

      • I have been present at too many discussions with the administrators who insist that language departments are not needed and that language can be taught by native speakers for the minimum wage.

      • People who hold that opinion do not base it on technology. For them, there is no difference between a Skype “lesson” or a face to face one from an uneducated random native speaker off the street. If you read the telecollaboration literature you will see what I am talking about which is completely different. I’m on my phone again, so can’t link sources, but there are several articles by Kinginger and Belz and of course the Calico journal to start with.

      • “People who hold that opinion do not base it on technology. For them, there is no difference between a Skype “lesson” or a face to face one from an uneducated random native speaker off the street.”

        – I know! Our only saving grace right now – with an administrator who think precisely like this – is that there are no native speakers to be found in the streets.

  5. An idea: bring students, who returned angry (and can express themselves well – I mean in English, not necessary Spanish), to speak to them and answer questions.

    • There are many ways to dissuade them from going to LatAmerica. But should that be our goal?

      I honestly don’t know the answer.

      For me, it’s better that they all go to Spain because I get more students interested in my area of expertise as a result. But I don’t know what’s best for them.

      • You cant sanitize the world for them. They will make better leaders and people if they get to see the unedited version of it.

      • “You cant sanitize the world for them. They will make better leaders and people if they get to see the unedited version of it.”

        – I think so, too. But will they agree?

  6. Maybe send them somewhere more rural? I had a student spend time in a village in Ecuador and who had a wonderful experience. I also had a student visit somewhere more rural in Nicaragua and she didn’t report any harassment. Perhaps it’s more of an urban problem? I don’t know because I haven’t visited these countries……Also: how about Argentina? I know that Argentines tend to pride themselves on being “different” from other Latin American countries…..

    • The idea is good but the problem is that in Latin America universities are not hidden in the middle of nowhere like in the US. I’m not sure I’m even aware of any village-located universities.

      ” I know that Argentines tend to pride themselves on being “different” from other Latin American countries…..”

      – My opinion: they flatter themselves. :-) :-)

    • I’ve never been to France but I have been to Spain on various occasions and this is simply not true. I enjoy being in Spain while being in Lat. Am. – unless I’m with a huge and burly man at a secluded expensive resort – it’s martyrdom.

      Cuba was especially horrible.

      • I have been getting this in Spain since age 7, at which time I started coming up with ways to deal so I might be ahead at this point due to practice. France and Louisiana have it; when I moved back here (I have moved here twice) from northern US it started happening immediately and I burst out laughing, I am in a Latin place again. Cuba is a special case.

      • “I have been getting this in Spain since age 7, at which time I started coming up with ways to deal so I might be ahead at this point due to practice.”

        – Maybe things changed since then. I literally can’t name a single case of anything even nearing harassment in Spain. I’m going in 3 weeks, and I will report how it goes.

        In my experience, men from Spain (the ones born after 1975) are light years ahead of men from the US on women’s rights. On a personal level, they are often unpleasant (especially the Catalans and those from North of Spain), but in terms of women’s rights – they are real Europeans. The difference between them and the pre-Transicion generation is, of course, huge.

      • Even years ago I did not have problems with roommates, classmates, things like this in Spain. Even now if you go to the kind of tourist resort you are talking about in Cuba, I would bet you would have problems in Spain. I have young Spanish colleagues now who talk openly about going to harrass foreign tourists on Mediterranean beaches. In 2012.

      • Ok, so if in Lat.Am. you get harassed by roommates, classmates, people in the street, in the store, at the restaurant, at the gallery, at the museum, etc. and at the resort and in Spain only at the resort, then where do we have more harassment?

        I was at a Spanish resort in Cuba where most guests were from Spain and Germany, and the men from Spain and Germany behaved impeccably. And offered protection against the Cuban men.

      • I have not had any of those things happen to me in Latin America. Or Spain, in those kinds of venues. Resorts and other tourist places are magnets for this kind of thing, though, esp. certain Mediterranean ones and those Cuban ones, for all sorts of reasons having to do with the Cuban situation.

        In general catcalling on the street is something one must learn to navigate and there is less realistic chance than in US of redress for sexual harassment at work / in graduate school / research settings although that is not to say it’s ubiquitous.

        You have to know how to deal with these things with some confidence and this may be why our students do not normally have these kinds of difficulties — we are such a similar society already. My students are also less tall than IL students and not as white/blue-eyed. If you look like that and your Spanish is not good and it is your first time it is hard to navigate, yes, and you need advice.

        I think that since you and you students are comfortable with Spain, you should just emphasize those programs. With Latin America I am more concerned about other things, namely general safety — not just from crime, but also buses falling down hills. I have had students nearly killed in Ecuador because of this last and I nearly was in Peru, recently.

        Also except for Mexico which has many connections to US, Lat Am is just more foreign than Europe, harder to get your sea legs. I tend to advise people traveling for the first time to go to Europe, especially if they are going by themselves. In Lat Am if they are placed with host families these families can help orient and some programs actually train host families on how to train students for this.

        In Mex. there’s Cholula if you want to send people to a US style campus outside town. In the DF a lot of Americans go to the Iberoamericana which is in a western suburb, safe type place and all that with a lot of supervision; I’d totally go to the UNAM though and have never seen weirdness happen there / around. Argentina/Chile actually have various nice universities in smaller places.

      • ” Resorts and other tourist places are magnets for this kind of thing, though, esp. certain Mediterranean ones and those Cuban ones”

        – Resorts are the safest place because there is security everywhere. At least, nobody would ever grab you physically at a resort.

        ” In Lat Am if they are placed with host families these families can help orient and some programs actually train host families on ho”

        – That’s precisely where all the problems happen, in the host families.

        “You have to know how to deal with these things with some confidence and this may be why our students do not normally have these kinds of difficulties — we are such a similar society already.”

        – Yes, I think you are right!

        I’m upset about this situation because I have a very strong suspicion the issue is being used or about to be used in some sort of an intrigue that will damage the department. I can get away from it and not discuss it at all but we are going in the direction where we will not have a department at all, and then what will happen?

        I strongly suspect that the goal here is to make sure the Study Abroad is cancelled altogether in order to prevent students from improving their Spanish dramatically. Then they will be bogged down in endless grammar courses here. Then we will be told that we don’t provide anything that a native speaker can’t provide for a minimal salary, so why keep us and pay us professorial salaries? Then there will be budget cuts and the whole department will be slashed.

        This is where we are going and what a shame, because we have such a potential to be a really great place. And the worst part is that I have no idea what drives people to put their own jobs at such an enormous risk and participate in all this. There has to be a reason. Nobody acts irrationally, so there has to be an explanation. I’m just not seeing it.

      • ITALY is also a really bad place for this. I lost it once in Palermo, told some guy I would pour my coffee on him if he did not knock it off, then did it and threw my croissant at him as well.

  7. Ma’am, with all due respect, are your students the sort of white American chicks who’ve never been around Latino or Hispanic students? I’m Cuban and I got some pretty macho male relatives and spent time in Miami, I’ve never had a problem with it on a personal level. As I am short, fat, wear glasses and dress like a boy I don’t get that sort of harassment when I go to Miami to visit la familia, but the guys do that to all the attractive girls. I hope this isn’t insensitive, but maybe they ought to grow a backbone and only start complaining if something serious happens, this sort of harassment is peanuts compared to some of the stuff I hear about coming out of Latin America :D

    • I think I agree, although it is never nice to be harassed. When I took a short cut through a park in Zimbabwe, a couple of years ago, to walk part of the way home with my friend, a whole bunch of the guys who had congregated there began yelling at us in Shona. I think there were asking if we had boyfriends. It’s a form of territorialism. If we had been two white women it might have been different, but one white and one black probably looked intriguing and suggested something a little bit flexible or loose about my attitude. So we got the harassment.

      • In Cuba, machismo is not about being asked questions. It is about being groped, poked, pinched, grabbed all day long in absolutely every public space by men between the ages of 5 and 95. Unless, as I said, you hide at an expensive resort where you only get harassed verbally. But that also goes 24-7, relentlessly.

        In Havana, I had to make a serious effort to force myself to leave my room every day.

        And the really bad thing is that women do the same shit. They also grab you, try to lift your skirt to look at your underwear, pinch you, it’s horrible.

      • That’s pretty extreme. I would certainly fend them off physically if they tried that. I’d put a thumb in their eyes, or lift up their leg and make them fall.

        The questions asked in Shona, of course, have sexual implications, especially on a Sunday afternoon when people have been drinking beer and mob mentality takes hold.

      • As we all know, I’m not very athletic. :-) I once tried to fend off a 7-year-old and he won. :-)

        But even if you hide in your room in Mexico, for example, and turn on the TV, the horror will not end. I consider Mexican television to be a form of psychological warfare against women.

        The most traumatic part when you travel to Lat.Am. is that your entire perception of yourself as a human being, a person, somebody valuable, somebody with a brain, somebody who deserves respect, is canceled out and trampled on every single minute of every single day. By men, women, old people, children. Once again, Cuba is especially bad in this area.

        Of course, as Shedding says, one can prepare and develop a set of psychological defenses against that. But at the age of 20, this can hardly be expected.

      • Yes, I see. Very interesting. One probably has to be born into that situation to get used to it.

        It’s a bit similar about Africa, too. One kind of knows, intuitively, not to walk past a bunch of guys who are talking together loudly, making merry and perhaps have been drinking beer. My insurance, in this case, was the black woman I was walking with, who knew Shona. But at the same time, my walking with her indicated that there was something strange about me, which reduced my status. The color line is such that one is protected so long as one does what is expected.

    • “Ma’am, with all due respect, are your students the sort of white American chicks who’ve never been around Latino or Hispanic students?”

      – As I explained many times, we live in rural Midwest. There are no Hispanic people here for hundreds of miles around. I can’t wait for this to change but it hasn’t changed yet.

      “I’m Cuban and I got some pretty macho male relatives and spent time in Miami, I’ve never had a problem with it on a personal level.”

      – Miami is the the US. There are many remedies in place in the US against harassment, so men don;t even think of behaving this way.

  8. American female students report similar issues in Spain (and many other places in the world) so it is not really Latin America that is the issue, but dealing with and negotiating the variety of gendered identities that are available in a particular socio-historical context in ways that are advantageous rather than disadvantageous to language and cultural learning. Solving this problem requires much more than the standard orientations or warnings about machismo, or saying dress conservatively or don’t stick out (not always possible). The most promising technique so far for dealing with this and other identity related issues is ethnographic training for language learning, However, this requires a great deal of program coordination and development. These are good sources to start with:

    Jackson, Jane (2006). Ethnographic preparation for short-term study and residence in the target culture. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 30 pp. 77-98

    Roberts, C. et al (2001). Language learners as ethnographers: Introducing cultural processes into advanced language learning. Multilingual Matters: Tonawanda, NY.

    For a brief introduction into issues of identity for American students abroad (including gender), and a critique of uncritical American assumptions about gendered experiences abroad, see:

    Kinginger, C. American students abroad: Negotiation of difference? Language Teaching, 2010 vol. 43 pp. 216-227.

    Also, I must warn you that as this is a substantial part of my research (but in Egypt, which I can assure you has Latin America matched if not beat in the gender challenges) so I can go on quite at length on this topic and potential solutions that I fully intend to implement as I grow the Arabic program here :-)

    • Spain is not perfect, of course, but it is still a European country and matters are not even in the vicinity of being as bad as in Lat. America. Spain’s feminism is a lot more advanced than that in the US. In Lat. Am., however, it’s in the stage where it was in Spain about 200 years ago.

      Thank you for these very interesting reading suggestions!

  9. This is an article that reports similar issues in Spain. There are similar complaints in France, which I would also consider more advanced in feminism than the US. It is not always about the actual advancement of feminism in a particular country but what American students perceive as feminist or not (which is not necessarily correct, especially since the US is not the most advanced country in terms of feminism) and the particular contexts they frequent.

    Talburt, Susan; Stewart, Melissa A. What’s the Subject of Study Abroad?: Race, Gender, and “Living Culture”. Modern Language Journal, 1999 vol. 83 pp. 163-175

    Just let me know if you want more reading suggestions:-)

    • “It is not always about the actual advancement of feminism in a particular country but what American students perceive as feminist or not”

      – I’m not American and I insist that there is absolutely no comparison between Spain and Lat. Am. in terms of the treatment of women. I find it bizarre that we are even discussing this.

      Among our students, not a single one ever even mentioned any issues in this respect in Spain.

      • The point is that gendered issues abroad are not limited to countries whose feminism is less advanced than the US, and there is actual research on this topic that is worth paying attention to if this is an issue you are interested in addressing. Just because you and your students have not experienced harassment in Spain does not mean that this is not an issue there, as the research (and Z’s experiences for that matter) show. There is of course also plenty of research demonstrating that gendered issues are a major problem in Latin America, specifically Costa Rica, Mexico, and Argentina, but I didn’t list these because that is what you started with. I suspect that harassment in Egypt is worse than all of these places, but this doesn’t mean that I should discount the experiences of students harassed in Latin America because it’s worse for students in Egypt. Same goes for the Spain/Latin America comparison.

      • “Just because you and your students have not experienced harassment in Spain does not mean that this is not an issue there”

        – This is not even remotely what I said. I said that we cannot compare the harassment in Spain and Lat. Am. because they happen on different levels. This is the difference between stubbing your toe and having your legs amputated without anaesthetic.

        ” this doesn’t mean that I should discount the experiences of students harassed in Latin America because it’s worse for students in Egypt. Same goes for the Spain/Latin America comparison.”

        – Who are these students whose experiences I supposedly discounted if I said that I haven’t had any students complain about their Study Abroad in Spain? If such complaints happen, we will address them at our department but if the issue hasn’t presented itself, there is nothing to discount or not.

      • I was referring to the students in the research on gendered experiences in Spain, whose language learning and local contacts are impaired by harassment. In any case, I do not really care whether the harassment is better or worse in Spain, France, Russia, Latin America, Egypt or wherever, as my main interest is in understanding gendered experiences abroad in order to develop resources for students to negotiate these experiences in ways that promote their language and cultural learning rather than turning them off of these countries and languages forever.

      • In Latin America, the best way to handle this is extreme aggression. Like Soviet-type ramped up to the extreme aggression. Then they get very scared and behave in a much more controllable, meek, even subservient fashion. The only issue is: would a US woman be able to summon this degree of aggression?

      • Probably not, and if they can summon up the aggression, but feel extremely uncomfortable doing it, or unhappy that they have to be aggressive all the time, simply stopping the harassment won’t make the gendered issues go away. Harassment is only part of the issue–for example, the following book has an interesting discussion of the gendered experiences of French women studying in Australia, including a woman who is unhappy that she is not catcalled, as she then doesn’t know how to flirt or interact with strangers. This is a striking contrast with the American students who cannot handle catcalls in a variety of countries. To be clear, I am not equating catcalls (verbal) with physical harassment such as groping.

        Patron, M. C. (2007). Culture and identity in study abroad contexts: After Australia, French without France (4). Bern: Peter Lang Publishing.

      • “Harassment is only part of the issue–for example, the following book has an interesting discussion of the gendered experiences of French women studying in Australia, including a woman who is unhappy that she is not catcalled, as she then doesn’t know how to flirt or interact with strangers.”

        – The only issue here is extreme narcissism that this person is, for some reason, choosing not to treat with a professional psychotherapist. I’m talking about real victimization, not about a tantrum of an immature self-involved drama queen.

        Also, I just have to mention this: Peter Lang is a a vanity press.

      • How does Soviet-style extreme aggression look like? I’ve never been to Latin America, and harassment in my native Romania tends to be both less nasty and way more hit-and-run than what you’ve described (and you can encourage them to get to the run part much faster by sudden, very loud, continuous swearing), but if I ever go there, I’d like to know functional harassment-response tactics beforehand.

      • That is one example of catcalling perceived by recipients as flirtation rather than harassment. There are others in both the study abroad literature (Costs Rica, Egypt, sorry can’t copy citations on my phone) and the literature on cross-cultural definitions of harassment (Ehrlich is one author). Since I am quite familiar with the research area I can judge on content rather than press, but the majority of the research is in peer reviewed articles or non vanity press books,

      • “But Montreal is the most feminist city in Americas…”

        – Continue your “smart” immigration policies, and you will turn into another Brussels. As long as language is the only criterion in privileging immigrants, the result will be the empoverishment of Quebec and the erosion of its progressive values.

    • Let’s not bring a completely different country with a completely different culture into the mix. What is the point of trying to compare the incomparable?

      There are very specific reasons why Spain is light-years ahead of any Latin Am. country in terms of women rights. And this is something you perceive within second in any interaction with people born after 1975. People in Spain made huge strides in that time while in Lat.Am. they are still stuck in remote past. I recently attended a feminist conference on Hispanic Literature and presenters from Lat.Am. caused a lot of embarrassment by trying to prove things at the level of Mary Wollstonecraft.

      • The point is that when you look at the research on the gendered experiences of American students abroad, they report strikingly similar experiences and feelings despite the diversity in locations (within and across national boundaries), and this is worth understanding and exploring if you want to address these issues in whatever location you are interested in.

        I am not disagreeing with you on Spain being more advanced than Latin America in terms of feminism, I assume you are correct about that.

  10. I’m faced with a similar conundrum at present; you see, there’s a summer-school that I really want to attend in Sao Paulo, Brazil this year. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Sao Paulo is the world capital for murdering transsexual women, a fact which (understandably, I hope) makes me rather nervous. Indeed (assuming I am accepted), I am honestly considering spending the entire 9-week period pretending to be a boy: an unpleasant choice but certainly better than the alternative.
    Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be an option for your students.

    • There’s a huge pride parade June 2. http://www.paradasp.org.br/home/2013/02.html I would look for organizations, try to meet people via FB or Orkut (lots of Brazilians on this version of FB), etc., before you go. Just don’t be doing anything risky late at night in a chancy part of town. People get targeted on the way home from being out, etc. I don’t do this in cities I am really familiar with but there are night safety customs one can invoke such as: calling, or making prior arrangements with, a cab that you know and trust rather than wait on the street to hail one you don’t — etc.

  11. I think the most useful thing you can do for students is to ask the ones that have come back to talk to them honestly about the pros and cons of going to Latin America.

    Forewarned is forearmed, but if the girls are put off they can go to Spain. I don’t really see what the problem is. It doesn’t matter if they don’t go to Latin America because they have the choice of going to Spain instead, and they’ll probably come back a lot less angry.

  12. I don’t see what you can do besides warn the students ahead of time.

    With a longer time frame you could solicit help from Latinas you know and/or non-Latinas who’ve learned to deal with piropos* and eventually develop a kind of workshop (including coping strategies) that students would have to take ahead of time. But that’s a long term project and I would understand you not wanting to undertake it.

    *I’ve known non-Latina women who’ve travelled extensively in Latin America and what they’ve told me is that the behavior is very different in different countries (in that different mixes of ethnic and class features make the behavior less or more awful) and what works to discourage men in one country just makes things worse in another.

    • “With a longer time frame you could solicit help from Latinas you know and/or non-Latinas who’ve learned to deal with piropos* and eventually develop a kind of workshop (including coping strategies) that students would have to take ahead of time.”

      – As I already explained, there is no Hispanic population around here. None. Things would be very different for our department if we had a different demographics but it is what it is. Most of the problems we face as a department come precisely as a result of the lack of a Hispanic population in the area.

      Seriously, folks, telling me to ask Latinas for help is like telling me to eat cake.

      • I was thinking of professional or personal contacts you might have (in physical or online realities). People you hit it off with at conferences, academic online forums, academic trips, that kind of thing.

        Gathering the right information would certainly take a lot of time and effort on your part (and I certainly understand not wanting to go through the bother) but I think it could be done if you’re willing.

      • “People you hit it off with at conferences, academic online forums, academic trips, that kind of thing.”

        – I’m sorry, this really made me laugh. I mean, these are great suggestions but you forget: I have Asperger’s. I don’t hit it off with people. :-) :-) I do all I can to avoid them. Maybe my other colleagues should put these suggestions into practice.

      • “but you forget”

        I kind of remembered but you’re so outgoing here I thought that might carry over to real life at times (hope springing eternal and all that). I think the bigger problem is the frequent unpleasant nature of academics and how they might react if they think an outsider is criticising their culture.

        All things considered though it’s probably is something your colleagues should be taking the lead on (if they also perceive it as a problem, that is).

  13. “what works to discourage men in one country just makes things worse in another.”

    I know one thing that works very well in all countries: men stopping to rape. Fuck that Catho-machist orthodoxy!

  14. Maybe Spain for blond students? Problems for my African-descended ones have to do with harassment due to being confused with immigrants and having more finding housing / not being able to get as good / safe housing. This can be truly dangerous, not just irritating. Problems for Latin@ students are being called “sudaca,” being considered less intelligent, etc. If you hang with really educated people you do not get these things but when you are unfamiliar with a place you do not know what to avoid — and you also just *do* have more random experiences.

    I have not fully recovered from sexual harassment at work in 2009 by one of these enlightened post-Franco Spaniards, and the expectations of some others that the world revolves around them, women will drop everything to serve them, etc. These behaviors and ideas would be considered crude in parallel venues in Lat Am, but on the other hand Spain is overall an easier place to be a tourist.

    Here, meanwhile, we are trying to explain to Spanish women that if they go to a certain kind of restaurant by themselves in the afternoon, and they order a drink, they have to be prepared to be harassed — it sends a message to locals that they do not mean to be sending.

    • “Maybe Spain for blond students?”

      – I’m not sure how I can word this to them. :-) :-)

      “I have not fully recovered from sexual harassment at work in 2009 by one of these enlightened post-Franco Spaniards, and the expectations of some others that the world revolves around them, women will drop everything to serve them, etc.”

      – I am very sorry that this happened to you! very sorry.

      There are jerks and idiots everywhere but with men from Spain I know there is a high probability they will look at me and treat me as a human being. With men who grew up in Lat.Am., I know that this possibility does not exist. If they grew up someplace else, then they are fine. I think I have met people from all countries by now and the worst men in this respect are from Cuba, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia. The most reasonable ones are from Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Old generation Dominicans are kind of OK. Not in comparison to a man from, say, the UK, of course, but in comparison with old generation Mexicans.

      • // I’m not sure how I can word this to them.

        That more harrassment is directed at women, who look like foreigners and thus stand out and attract attention. F.e. the iconic blond, blue-eyed American woman would attract more abuse than somebody looking closer to the natives.

      • Being blond can also be an advantage though if negotiated correctly, because people will want to talk to you because you are exotic (but in a good way). The trick is giving students the skills to distinguish between people who are interested in harassing them and people who are simply interested in talking to them, and this is very difficult and can only be done through long term training. In my opinion it is very important though.

      • @el, shedding, yes, blond can actually be very helpful. And one thing I note coming up often in this kind of discussion is the idea that harassment is of the blond/blue-eyed girl. But men get mugged and we don’t get bent out of shape, and students of color get discriminated against, and we don’t seem to care too much about that, either.

        I like Shedding’s bibliography and note there is an interesting movement against street harassment, multibased (Bs As Lima Bogota DF NY and maybe more places) and it could be interesting to meet some of these people / do an ethnographic project on this.

        “There are jerks and idiots everywhere but with men from Spain I know there is a high probability they will look at me and treat me as a human being. With men who grew up in Lat.Am., I know that this possibility does not exist. If they grew up someplace else, then they are fine. I think I have met people from all countries by now and the worst men in this respect are from Cuba, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia. The most reasonable ones are from Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Old generation Dominicans are kind of OK. Not in comparison to a man from, say, the UK, of course, but in comparison with old generation Mexicans.”

        My point A would be look how amazingly Orientalizing this discourse is. There is a certain upbringing that generates problematic people but I’d look at class and a few other factors, not countries / generations. In terms of countries you do not discuss Honduras, Paraguay, Venezuela, which I would recommend looking at if you want to paint a whole place as sexist; I’d also recommend thinking in terms of societal structures in places and not just nationalities or alleged national cultures. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador are also quite conservative countries in this regard.

        My general point — people have bad and good experiences in all sorts of places and there are all sorts of ways to handle/avoid/mitigate/use. I personally do not, for example, have a lot of patience with British forms of sexism or enough interest in England to be willing to find a workaround. This does not mean others shouldn’t. It sounds as though your students did not get a lot of orientation / support; your university may not be good at this, God knows mine isn’t.

      • ” In terms of countries you do not discuss Honduras, Paraguay, Venezuela, which I would recommend looking at if you want to paint a whole place as sexist; I’d also recommend thinking in terms of societal structures in places and not just nationalities or alleged national cultures. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador are also quite conservative countries in this regard.”

        – I had to end the list somewhere. :-) But you just proved my point for me.

        ‘My point A would be look how amazingly Orientalizing this discourse is. There is a certain upbringing that generates problematic people but I’d look at class and a few other factors, not countries / generations.”

        – I believe differently. Everything I know, have read, have seen, or have observed about Lat.Am. culture is that it is extremely sexist. I cannot even read a novel or watch a film without being insulted or traumatized. And I’m talking about art, not even entertainment. Until the problem is acknowledged, it will never be addressed. Of course, if anybody can suggest any works of literature to me that are not absolutely revolting in their sexism, I will be very grateful.

        “My general point — people have bad and good experiences in all sorts of places and there are all sorts of ways to handle/avoid/mitigate/use.”

        – I just talked to a student who visited Costa Rica / Panama. She says that three months of being treated with contempt and disrespect, being shushed, told to shut up and stop offering opinions, and seeing every other woman (local or not) being treated in the same way was very traumatizing. This is really not something that happens everywhere. There are places where it does and places where it doesn’t. I have no idea what goal it serves to pretend this is not the case.

      • “And one thing I note coming up often in this kind of discussion is the idea that harassment is of the blond/blue-eyed girl. But men get mugged and we don’t get bent out of shape, and students of color get discriminated against, and we don’t seem to care too much about that, either.”

        – I find the use of “we” very strange in this context. I hope that nobody is suggesting that I should be included among this racist and sexist “we.”

  15. “As long as language is the only criterion in privileging immigrants, the result will be the empoverishment of Quebec and the erosion of its progressive values.”

    Many french-speaking non-refugees are deported every year in Québec, because they a danger for the Canadian unity.. And we should harbor moderate muslims and non-muslims coming from extremist islamic countries.

    And the all-white-aryan Quebec City is less progressive and more machist than Montreal.

    • And we should realize the Québec secession to control ourselves our immigration to have more French-speaking (and others) non-refugees.

      USA have way more immigrants than Canada, but they are more liberals than whites. This is the same thing here.

  16. Having just studied abroad in a Latin American country this summer, I can say firsthand that the benefits of learning about a completely different culture and language, being “thrown into” a unique country with its own people, and potentially not knowing anyone considerably outweigh any preconceived cost associated with studying abroad (i.e., getting lost, becoming sick, being harrassed,etc). I cannot think of any activity more personally fulfilling than study abroad, especially in Latin America.

    In my case, I was fortunate enough to have been placed with the most caring and supportive family imaginable. My host mother would have done anything for me; conversely, I would have done (and would do) anything for her. I consider her to be my second mother. Now, I realize that not every student who decides (or is thinking of) to study abroad will be as fortunate as I was in respect to his or her prospective host family. However, I believe that it should be a main priority of the respective foreign university (or language school) to find the “best” host families who are dedicated to providing thorough care of and support to their students. During my study abroad experience, there were other students who had host families who were infrequently home (aside from meals), didn’t try to get to know their student, or who would belittle their student’s Spanish skills. This is a main oversight of the university and needs to be addressed. However, it is difficult to ascertain how a potential host family will be in the future when everyday factors contribute to their attitude toward a student.

    In regards to being harassed, I cannot give a firsthand account of experiencing this problem, as I am not a girl. However, for the girls who did study abroad with me and who had harassment issues, it was a double-edged sword. There were days when the girls were blatantly harassed without warrant. In contrast, there were days when some girls would dress provocatively and expected not to be harassed. Now, I understand that it is fully within a woman’s right to dress as she pleases; I would ask for nothing more as an individual with free will to decide what to wear, how to have my hair, etc. The issue arises, though, when my girl friends didn’t expect to be harassed for dressing somewhat provocatively. My friends, then, would be upset that they received cat calls throughout the day. I understand that no one has the right to disrespect someone like this, but to know the social norms of a country and to dress as though you won’t face repercussions is obnoxious to an extent.

    Additionally, in my study abroad experience, I was robbed at gunpoint and became sick multiple times. In all of these instances, I never once felt like I had made a horrible decision to study abroad in a Latin American country. Sure, it can be dangerous in certain sections of this city and certain food can be hazardous if it is not cooked properly, but this is common anywhere in the world. Even in developed nations like the US. So, while I was utterly mortified for weeks on end after having a gun pointed at my back, this was a growing experience. I needed to have an experience like that in order to realize my naïveté and become a wiser person (because I could have potentially lost my life that day). I would not change these events for the world. They are all part of the study abroad experience: the excitement, the uncertainty, and the shock value of things while abroad.

    So, in essence, I cannot express my enthusiasm for study abroad enough. If I had enough money and time, I would return to that same country in a heartbeat (or another country in Latin America). There is no better way to learn a language than by traveling to a native-speaking country. I want to express that studying abroad, in general, has pros and cons, BUT you have to make the experience worth it by broadening your horizons. Moreover, students need to realize that Latin America, generally, is a great destination to study abroad. It is imperative that students take enough time to evaluate in which country to study abroad by thoroughly exploring what the country has to offer.

    I guess, then, it is imperative for your school to rely on students who have studied abroad in such countries in order to express the good, the bad, and the ugly. Students can only rely upon adult figures to a certain extent. I believe that students, usually, rely upon other students’ opinions more than professors (not to demean your experiences by any means). This firsthand account from other students is incredibly insightful for potential study abroad students to make decisions.

    • MN: I don’t know where students like you come from but I want to go there and get a bunch for myself. :-) You sound like an exceptionally bright, self-aware, and intelligent person. It was a pure joy to read your comment. Thank you!!!

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