By Earth Day Network Intern Madeleine Ergastolo

Over the summer, I spent about six weeks in South America learning about the culture, language, and history of the cities I studied in. Along with about 25 other students from my school, we spent four weeks in Buenos Aires, a week in two cities in Uruguay, and our final week in Patagonia. Although I started with little Spanish experience, after a few weeks of practice, I could already see how much I had improved. The ability to take a language class and live within the country where that language is spoken created an immersive environment — it allowed me to learn and practice the language in a much more effective setting. As an international affairs and environmental studies major, I was particularly interested in how Argentina protected their expansive natural beauty. My group and I had the privilege to travel to the very southern tip of the country and continent, in a region called Patagonia. There we toured lakes dotted with icebergs, trekked on top of the Perito Moreno glacier, and a few of us even took the “polar plunge” challenge by jumping in the lake beneath the glacier. It’s an important tourist attraction, and the guides explained that the glacier was protected within the Los Glaciares National Park and is one of the few glaciers in the world to be steadily growing despite our changing climate. Having learned the science behind, and the climactic importance of glacier formations in multiple environmental courses, it was stunning and inspiring to experience one first-hand.