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Bc. Vojtěch Tomanec, UCT Prague, ročník 4

Faculty Faculty of Chemical Technology
Field of study Materials Engineering
Field of internship Physical Sciences, Other
Specialization of InternshipInorganic Chemistry
Internship period (from - to) 26.9.2016 - 16.12.2016
Internship duration (weeks) 12
Transport (means, price) Plane+bus, 27000 CZK
Insurance/Insurance company AXA, 1800 CZK
Visa/Work permit (yes/no) Yes
Price of Visa 0 CZK (Just ESTA fee 14 USD for flight connections in USA)
City of Internship Zobrazit místo na mapě  Argentina, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires Province
Internship reference number AR-2016-16-UNS

About the country

Location of the place

Bahía Blanca lies about 600 kms to the south-west of Buenos Aires. The city is considered to be the gateway to Patagonia.

City

Bahía Blanca is an important port in Argentina, business centre and, thanks to its Universidad Nacional del Sur, it is also a city of students - they are everywhere. With its population of 300 000 inhabitants Bahía Blanca is a very nice place to live. Everything you need is within a walking distance, there are plenty of clubs, bars and restaurants to spend your nightlife in. The city also offers a lot of peaceful parks, paths for running, fields for playing various sports, skateparks, etc. The city is alive and full of cheerful people all the time.

Surroundings (possible trips, ...)

Bahía Blanca is surrounded by endless flat fields with loads of cows, called La Pampa. About 100 kms to the north there is Sierra de la Ventana mountains - popular for climbing and trekking. Almost the same distance to the west there are plenty of beautiful and vast sandy beaches (Monte Hermoso) ideal for surfing. The Argentina´s capital - Buenos Aires - takes 9 hours by bus to reach and it is full of nice architecture but mostly full of nightlife and tango.
Argentina is a huge country and thanks to the fact that it is stretched from north to south, it offers loads of beautiful places and different landscapes to admire. At the north there are canyons and cactuses (Jujuy), the largest waterfalls (Iguazú). On the east coast you can see whales and sea lions (Puerto Madryn). On the west there are Andes which represents the whole border with Chile with the highest peak after Himalayas (Aconcagua, Mendoza) and with glaciars and amazing places for trekking down in Patagonia (Los Glaciares NP).

Employer

Employer

My employer was Universidad Nacional del Sur in Bahía Blanca, Department of Chemistry. The professor, who was my boss there and also the other professors and researchers were very helpful all the time and it was a honour as well as a pleasure for me to work with them.

Work description

I´ve been working on two main topics: Synthesis of coordination polymers based on thiosaccharinate complexes and characterization of these products. The other one has been testing the efficiency of catalysts in the degradation of pollutants, e.g. in water treatment. I´ve been working in the lab and with analytical instruments. Being able to work with SEM microscope for example was very interesting for me. The work itself was not difficult thanks to the colleagues always ready to help me with anything. But at the same time it was also challenging for me as I saw the research group working hard and efficient.
Although one of the research topic was not within my specialization, it was still very interesting for me and also beneficial because I´ve learnt how to work with many instruments I had never had a chance to work with before. It was also very easy to meet and chat to other students there so it was interesting to learn other topics and trends in research not only in the field of chemistry.

Salary (sufficient for local conditions?)

The salary was 3250 ARS monthly and since my accomodation was completely covered by the university, that would be enough money to buy food and maybe some beer in the pub once a week. So if you want to travel a bit or go to the clubs often then the salary would not be sufficient and you would have to take some of your money with you.
Everything was slightly more expensive than in Czech republic - food, clothes, etc. Alcohol is very expensive at clubs and pubs but on the other hand the school canteen was really cheap as well as buses and taxi (I got a student discount for all that). Also if you plan your travels in advance you can get the plane tickets for a very good price.

Language requirements

The language required for the internship was just English and it was sufficient only during the work at the university. The people who spoke English were some of the students and university employees (maybe half of them) and airport staff. It is really helpful to know at least the very basics of Spanish before going to Argentina because it is not a very difficult language to learn and once you are in Argentina you will improve fast and effortlessly. But it is still possible to live and travel there with no Spanish at the start, like I had. I attended free Spanish courses there which helped a lot.

Accommodation (price, who provided it)

I lived in a small house with two other interns. The rooms were for two people and the house had everything we needed. Almost all the international students lived in those houses next to each other so it was a lot of fun there. The university was just 3 mins by walk from the houses. The accomodation was completely covered by the university.

Social life

Meeting IAESTE members (pick-up at the airport, organised events...)

My boss offered me to pick me up from the airport although it was 600 km away but I had already bought a bus ticket so it was OK. The international office of the university represented a big help to me. Its members told me and showed me everything I needed to know, there was no problem. They also organised a couple of great events, e.g. a day on a beach with BBQ. I also got an amazing buddy who took us for trips in his car and showed me all the important things.

Meeting other foreign students

Meeting other foreign students was very easy since we were literally neighbours and had our own place outside to do traditional BBQ. All the other foreign students I met at the parties organized by international office or ourselves and also during Spanish classes. There were about 40 international students in Bahía Blanca during my stay so I was very fortunate to be able to spend time with them. We were together almost every day so we could learn a lot about different cultures, opinions and got inspired in general.

Sport and culture

There were many opportunities to do different sports in Bahía Blanca. I got a student card so it was free for me to play almost every sport with the other students, including tennis and rugby. In terms of sport, there was everything you can imagine available within the university campus. The city itself offers a lot of cycling paths and parks for running as well as fields for football, basketball, beachball, outdoor workout and many others.
Every week there was a lesson of Argentinian culture at the university, there were a couple of tango dancing lessons, theatre and many restaurants, bars and clubs full of great people.
But most things about the local culture I learnt just by spending time with local students. Everybody was really friendly, keen on showing aspects of their culture as well as learning something about a different one.

Food, local specialties

The school canteen was really cheap (15 ARS for a meal) but for me (big eater) the portions were not sufficient so I cooked in the house. Argentina is known for offering the best beef and I can absolutely confirm that. Beef and fruit were the only food cheaper than in Czech republic and were delicious.
Argentinian couisine is very rich but for me the highlights were the beef steaks, local wine Malbec and empanadas.
It is very traditional to drink Maté and meet friends and family during Asado, which is like a barbecue party where one can experience the great atmosphere and of course the best beef in the world.

Other information

Possibilites to communicate with the Czech Republic

There was a free WiFi connection in our house and at the university. The time difference was 5 hours.

Recommendations for students who will go to the same place

I recommend to learn the very basics of Spanish just before you go, don´t just rely on your English. Once you are in Argentina it is important to contact the international office as soon as possible to establish an bank account for your salary and also to get your student card for all the discounts. In terms of bureaucracy, everything takes a lot of time in Argentina. I had to wait for almost two months to be able to withdraw first money from my salary due to some issues with the card. So you would need some money from your pocket to cover the time before you get your first salary, usually it takes 1 month. There was no problem for me to pay with my Czech card there. In supermarkets you get a big discount just by signing in for their loyalty programm.
Argentina offers so many different places to see and they are far away so if you want to travel, in most cases you need to use a plane. Try to buy the plane ticket as soon as you can and you will save a lot of money. I also recommend to purchase the tickets straight from airlines and not from different e-shops since I have some bad experience with them.

What not to forget with you

Protection from sun and wind (both very strong during the whole year), traditional things from your country (small presents, recipes for food), adapter for electricity plugs (USA type), all the clothes and shoes (very expensive in Argentina).
If you want to travel, bring your sleeping bag and tent (loads of trekking opportunities).

Benefits of the internship

Mostly, I learnt a lot about myself. Being able to spend almost 4 months in such a beautiful country with a completely different culture and the nature of its people was a huge lesson for me itself. In terms of work, I contributed a small bit to a research, learnt a lot of new things and skills. Also I broadened my horizons by meeting many interesting people. I learnt basics of Spanish language, improved cooking skills and visited stunning places. The most importantly, I met many new amazing, inspirative people and made good friends all around the world.

Cooperation with IAESTE in the foreign country

Cooperation was great, they also organised nice events for us and were always very helpful.

Overall experience with IAESTE

Perfect. Brief responds, always helpful. Thanks to IAESTE and this internship I could live my dream in Argentina. Without it, I doubt I would have been able to spend almost 4 months there just by my own means.

Student's website

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Employer's webiste

www.uns.edu.ar/ingles

Other useful links

www.omnilineas.com/
www.aerolineas.com.ar/
www.latam.com/en_un/

Other comments

Feel free to write to me (tomanec.vojtech@gmail.com) in case of any questions about Argentina or this internship.

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