Writing writing writing, keep those fingers writing…

My goal for today was to finish the first chapter of the body of my ISP and write the entire second chapter, and… I think I might have managed that already? It’s only one in the afternoon, too — I wasn’t even awake at this time yesterday. It’s amazing what waking up at a reasonable hour can do to my productivity.

So the writing is going relatively well, but I’m doing my best not to get too overconfident — I still have two more chapters to write, plus my introduction, my conclusion, my theoretical background, and my abstract. And then I need to go through all my notes and make sure I haven’t left anything out, because I did a lot of writing in bits and pieces as I completed various interviews. It’s a whole big process. I’m going to amend my goal to include writing at least one section of my third chapter by the end of today, just to keep things moving along.

I head back to Santiago on Thursday, and as much as I love Buenos Aires I’m really excited to be going back to Chile. I miss my program-mates! I miss the program staff! I miss having more than a week’s worth of clothes! And, as of today, I have exactly two weeks until I leave for the U.S., and I really just don’t know how to feel about that. On the one hand, I really really want to see my family and friends… on the other hand, I am going to be so upset to leave this freaking amazing group of girls I have here on my program. Nothing about this situation is okay.

Breakthroughs!

I now have a week left before I need to send my ISP to my advisor and head back to Santiago, so it seems like a good time for an update! Also because I discovered something in my interview today that kiiiind of changes what I’m working with.

My research, like any social science research, has been… evolving, shall we say, based on what I’ve been finding out. I haven’t changed my theme, or anything, but the focus of my project has shifted a bit. It turns out a) that the relationship between poverty and educational problems has a lot more to do with various social challenges that poverty brings than specifically with the lack of money (which I knew), and b) that there are a lot more projects and interventions to try and deal with those challenges and problems than I had realized before. The latter is particularly important for my project, because it’s been three weeks now and I haven’t been able to get in touch with anyone who’s part of an EOE (School Orientation Team, the program I wanted to write about initially).

Today I found out why I haven’t been able to get ahold of them: in School District 19, where I’m doing my research, the entire EOE consists of two people. TWO. PEOPLE. D.E. 19 has 23 primary schools and I-don’t-know-how-many preschools, all located in neighborhoods that have high levels of poverty, violence, and drug trafficking, and the city has assigned TWO individuals to try and deal with all the behavioral and social problems that come up in the district. Great job, city government. Way to support the kids in your constituency. (And the professionals who work for you, for that matter — being one of those two people has got to be the most stressful/least rewarding job ever.)

So I’m not expecting to hear from them at all — I’ll probably end up using what the other teachers and professionals have told me about their work (and the difficulty of getting in touch with them) as my evidence for my paper. I have talked to people who work in a bunch of other programs, though, and gotten a lot of good insights from them. I just think it’s kind of funny that the entity that got me interested in the topic in the first place is turning out to be impossible to interview precisely because of the problem I put into my hypothesis. Oh well!

Anyway, I have five interviews’ worth of material and some good theoretical and statistical information, so now it’s on to the writing portion of the exercise! I started working this week and last week, and have a couple of sections done, but there’s a loooooong way to go. Wish me luck!

Ah, public transit.

Dear City of Buenos Aires: you actually could not have made it more difficult to find a bus stop in this city if you’d tried. The skinny little signs at random points on the street are bad enough, but just slapping stickers with bus numbers on otherwise nondescript light poles, and having that be the only stop for blocks around? That’s just mean. At least make the stickers brightly colored, or something.

Dear fellow passengers: STOP MAKING OUT ON THE BUSES. Especially stop making out on the buses during rush hour when they’re super crowded — I can deal with the lack of personal space, because a lot of people need to get places, but having you and your S.O. playing tonsil hockey six inches from my face is really just not okay with me.

(And still, these gripes aside, the public transit system here is miles better than anywhere I’ve lived in the U.S. Oh well.)

Infuriatingly Suspenseful Post

In my last two posts I’ve been conspicuously silent about the actual topic of my ISP, mostly because I am long-winded as all get out and if I try and talk about two things in one post, that post will never end. I’m sorry! I know the hedging must have been annoying. So, without further irrelevant blathering, this is the post where I talk about my ISP!

In our very first day of seminars here in Buenos Aires, we talked for a while about the inequality in the education system here. One of the topics that the professor brought up was the work done by the Equipos de Orientación Escolar (School Orientation Teams, abbrev. EOE), interdisciplinary teams of clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, social workers, and other professionals that work with each school district, one team per district per level. In the districts in the wealthier regions of the city, the teams have plenty to do, but their workload is manageable, and the families they work with are generally well-equipped to support their children. In the poorer region of the city, however, the EOEs tend to be stretched thin — there are so many social, psychological, and educational problems that come up in those districts that often the teams can only deal with the most severe and urgent cases, and have to leave the (often underprepared) schools and families to try and deal with the rest.

By that first day of seminars, I was already in love with the city, and desperately looking for something to do for my ISP that would let me stay. The subject of the EOEs intrigued me even beyond my frantic search, though: if I looked at the work they did, especially in the context of economic inequality, not only would it be super interesting, but I might be able to tie it into my major! (I’m taking Clinical & Counseling Psychology next semester, and I feel like every little bit of background information will help.) I asked Alicia, our lovely Buenos Aires program assistant/homestay coordinator/jack-of-all-trades, whether it would be possible to observe with an EOE, or at least interview them about what they do. In fact, I asked her three times in as many days, just to be extra extra sure my idea would be possible. With her repeated and exceedingly patient assurances that yes, that was definitely possible, I wrote up a proposal about the consequences of childhood poverty on child development and academic achievement/well-being, asking to look at the types of problems that occur in the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and the work the EOEs do to try and alleviate those problems. My proposal passed with flying colors, my silly program-mates who didn’t want to stay in Buenos Aires flew back to Chile (I miss you guys, come baaaaaack!), and voilá! ISP period.

So far, progress has been good. Everyone on the program gets assigned an advisor for the ISP, someone who has some connection to or professional expertise in the topic they want to study. My advisor is the principal of a primary school in Villa Soldati, one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city, and has frequent contact with the EOE in her district. So far I’ve visited her school, interviewed a maestra recuperadora (a kind of special education teacher that works in the mainstream school system, helping kids whose needs aren’t severe enough to place them in a special school) about what kinds of obstacles and problems she faces with her students and the interactions she’s had with the EOE. While I was there, I also ran into a few of the EOE members, who said they were going to talk to their director and see if I couldn’t sit in on one of their all-team meetings, and talk with the whole group afterwards. I’m still waiting to hear from them about that, but hopefully I’ll be able to get that done next week, and then see where I need to go from there (interviewing individual EOE members, investigating whatever the central governing office for EOEs is, looking at different primary schools, maybe even checking out the high school level). It’s been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait so far — some days I’ll have nothing, and then suddenly the next day I’ll have three different things to do. But I think it’s going pretty well — if nothing else, I’m fascinated by what I’m working on!

Things I Love About Buenos Aires

So as I may have mentioned previously, I never thought I was going to be doing my ISP in Buenos Aires. “Why would I want to stay there?” I said to myself at the beginning of the program. “I’ll have spent so much more time in Chile by the time my ISP rolls around that I’ll be way more comfortable staying there. Plus I’ll understand the academic content from Chile much better than the Argentina stuff — I’d never be able to come up with a topic in less than a week! How cool can Buenos Aires be, anyway?”

Guys, it is SO COOL. SO. COOL. I love the topic I have, and feel like it’s even more relevant to my major and my interests than my previous ideas were, but a big part of my motivation for staying has been the city itself. I don’t know if I can explain it properly, so I will post some pretty pictures and let them do the talking for me.
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BsAs

Well, as of yesterday, most of my program-mates and my academic director have headed back to Chile, so I guess it’s extra super official: I’m staying in Buenos Aires for another month to do my Independent Study Project! Woohoo!

I know, I know, I had my whole project theme worked out for Santiago. But before that I had a different theme, and before that I had a different theme, so I’m just fickle when it comes to picking themes, okay? But my proposal is very much written and turned in now, and I really like the theme I ended up with, so that’s good. I’m not actually going to tell you about my ISP right now, though, because first I have to cover the past two weeks of wonderfulness! If it try to do it all in one post, that post is going to get unbelievably long, so I’m going to be a good student and talk about the academic side first.

I have to admit that, academically, I was kind of checked out these past two weeks. I think most of the people on my program were; for one thing, we were all anticipating starting our ISPs, and didn’t really want to try and deal with anything academic other than the themes we were developing. (We turned in our proposals on Friday.) For another, it’s so not fair to bring us to a HUGE city full of TONS of things to do for only two weeks, and fill all our time with seminars and observations. And, for a third, people here stay up ridiculously late — 10pm is a completely normal dinner time, even on weekdays — which becomes problematic when one has to wake up at 6:30am to make it to activities that start at 8:30am. The things we discussed in our seminars and saw on our visits were incredibly interesting (so much so that I got an ISP proposal out of them!), but I think our priorities were definitely more on the side of experiencing a new city/country/culture and less on the side of paying perfect attention in class all the time. Still, we did some cool stuff!

My three favorite academic experiences in BsAs:

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