Argentina Semester 2017

Argentina Semester is a 12-week experience for 18- to 21-year-olds who want to live independently in a foreign city, improve their Spanish, practice group living, and build real-world skills.

 When: January 25 – April 19, 2017 (12 weeks)

Where: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Two weekend trips to other parts of Argentina are included.

Who: 16 participants (ages 18-21)
The minimum age of 18 is firm; maximum age is flexible.

Program Leader: Blake Boles
View leader profiles

How Much: $6,500 includes housing, breakfasts & dinners, Spanish classes & optional CLEP study groups, workshops, and two weekend trips.
Lunches, personal laundry, ground transportation, and international airfare are not included.
This program does not offer the 10% returning participant discount or 5% sibling discount — sorry!
Instead, a $500 discount is available to any participant who fully earns his or her tuition (i.e. parents don’t pay for it)

How can I fundraise for this program?

Airports: Miami / Buenos Aires

Application Status: Closed

A Semester of Learning and Exploration

On the Unschool Adventures Argentina Semester, you will:
  • Live with five other 18- to 21-year-olds in your own apartment in Buenos Aires.
  • Practice the fundamentals of independent young adulthood: cooking for yourself, meeting new people in a big city, sticking to a budget, living with housemates, and motivating yourself. You’ll leave with the confidence and real-world skills you need to move out, thrive in college, or continue traveling independently.
  • Improve your Spanish through weekday group classes, one-on-one language exchanges, Spanish-only dinner parties, and extensive day-to-day practice opportunities—and join our optional CLEP Spanish study group to earn college credits for what you learn.
  • Get the chance to dive deeper into your interests and self-directed learning projects.
  • Join weekly staff-led workshops on real-world topics like Living on $30/Day, Staying Safe in a Big City, Travel Blogging, Group Dynamics, How to Make Friends Anywhere, and Independent Travel Planning.
  • Enjoy the freedom to live in a foreign city and explore it independently—all the while knowing that an Unschool Adventures staff member is nearby and available to provide advice, mentorship, and help when needed.
  • Escape the northern hemisphere winter and replace it with the warm summer/autumn of South America.

Who It’s For

We designed the Unschool Adventures Argentina Semester 2017 for young adult self-directed learners who want an immersive international experience with lots of personal freedom and a positive peer community.

Perhaps you’re a lifelong unschooler who’s ready for your next big adventure. Perhaps you’re taking a gap year before college or during college. Perhaps you desperately want to see the world, but you don’t feel ready for a solo trip. Or perhaps you have no idea what you’re doing, but you know that a change of scenery, big dose of independence, inspiring peer group, and enough café con leches will help you figure it out.

Unlike many other “gap” or “semester abroad” programs, the Argentina Semester grants you an extremely large degree of freedom in determining how you spend your time. We don’t require that you do full-time academics or service work; we only ask that you join our group Spanish language classes and regularly use your Spanish so that you can participate more fully in the local culture.

Beyond the Spanish classes and occasional workshop led by U.A. staff, you’re free to spend your time as you wish. Think of us like a college study abroad program… minus the mandatory studying.


This amount of freedom and responsibility is not for everyone! The ideal participant in this program will already be familiar with navigating large amounts of free time and will ideally already have significant experience away from home.

During your Skype interview, we’ll ask what you plan to do in your time in Argentina, and we’ll expect a few concrete ideas in response. A few examples might include:

  • Working on a writing, art, or music project
  • Learning a specific skill like cooking, coding, or tango
  • Volunteering or interning with a local organization
  • Making your way through an extensive reading list
  • Interviewing local people (Humans of New York style)
  • Starting or developing an online business
  • Going deeper into study of the Spanish language
  • Blogging consistently about your travels and experiences

U.A. staff will facilitate optional accountability partnerships between any trip members who want to more incentive to stay on track with their projects through the three months.

Of course, your unscheduled time is valuable. We don’t expect you to fill every moment of the semester with some pre-planned learning goal. The spontaneous adventures and late-night conversations between you and your new friends will certainly make the best memories. But we’re adamant about this semester being a place for doers and adventurers who want to take full advantage of their precious time in Argentina, not spend six hours a day watching Netflix. We want you to come to Argentina with some good ideas about how to spend your time, and then you can alter them as you need to stay fulfilled and engaged throughout the program.

The Argentina Semester is an opportunity to go beyond your normal surroundings, examine your life, work on personal projects, learn Spanish, develop interpersonal skills, and immerse yourself in a beautiful foreign culture. It’s not about going crazy, spring-break style. If you want to party non-stop, sleep with everyone you meet, experiment with drugs, or binge-drink: Go travel on your own! Unschool Adventures is for positive, motivated, mature, and community-minded young adults.

An Apartment to Call Your Own

The best part about the Argentina Semester is the living situation: you and five other participants will share your very own furnished apartment in central Buenos Aires. We will have 3 apartments located in 3 different neighborhoods: each a bus ride, subway, or long walk away from each other. (The Unschool Adventures trip leader will have a separate apartment.) Each apartment includes:

  • Furnished bedrooms with separate beds for each participant (two per room)
  • Furnished living room, kitchen, and bathroom
  • Wi-fi, hot water, and all other normal utilities

Apartments may be either same-sex or mixed-sex, but rooms will always be same-sex. Specific housing arrangements will be determined after the group is finalized. If you apply with a friend, you may request to room together.

Living together successfully with five other young adults is no small feat. Many of the workshops and group discussions in this program will focus on group dynamics and the little details that make or break communal living situations (e.g. leaving dirty dishes in the sink). Each house will decide its own policies through consensus (e.g. guest policy, quiet hours), and members will be responsible for cleaning their own spaces and apartments.

Meals and Transportation

For the Argentina Semester, we have a hybrid system in place for meals. Each apartment will receive a weekly stipend of US$70 per housemate to cover their breakfasts and dinners. This will be more than enough to spend on groceries for group breakfasts and dinners. Each apartment will independently manage their food budget.

Lunches will be the responsibility of individual participants; we recommend bringing US$10 per day if you plan to eat out or US$5 per day if you plan to shop at grocery stores and prepare food at home.

Buenos Aires has an incredible diversity of restaurants. If you search hard enough, you can find something to fit any budget. Just don’t forget to bring a little extra $ to sample one of the country’s famous steaks—or for vegetarians and vegans, one of its many posh veg restaurants.

Getting around town is also the financial responsibility of individual participants. Public transport via subway and bus is reliable and affordable (less than $1 per ride). Taxis can take you almost anywhere in the central city for $5-15  (which can be split among multiple riders). Or you can just walk the city’s beautiful, tree-lined streets. Taxis are recommended for safety in the evenings. We recommend a transport budget of $20/week.

(See the FAQ at the bottom of this page for an estimate of the spending money you should bring.)

Learning Spanish

Your ability to speak and understand Spanish (a.k.a. castellano in Argentina) will directly influence your ability to enjoy and participate in the day-to-day life of Buenos Aires. Every new word or conjugation you learn will take you one step away from being a turista (tourist) and toward becoming a porteño (Buenos Aires resident).

Unschool Adventures will be hiring two experienced Spanish instructors to lead private group classes for us, hosted in our apartments.

We’ll be working out the details of the Spanish classes in 2016, but you can expect:

  • 2 levels to choose from: beginner and intermediate
  • Roughly 8 participants per class
  • 2-hour long classes offered 4 days a week (Monday-Thursday) 3-hour long classes offered 3 days a week
  • Mid-day or afternoon scheduling to accommodate late sleepers
  • Light homework and real-world languages challenges assigned after each class

These Spanish classes will be crucial parts of our group experience—and one of our only consistent, recurring activities—so we ask that everyone joins unless they’re sick. Traveling with your housemates to another apartment to join a class will become an almost-daily tradition!

Another way that we’ll learn Spanish is through one-on-one or small-group language exchanges with strangers, commonly known as intercambios. In these free or low-cost events, native English and Spanish speakers (and those of other languages) practice speaking with each other and help the other person fix common mistakes. We’ll go to a few of these together in the beginning of the program to get a feeling for them, and then you’ll have the option to join them on your own leisure. (We recommend at least two a week for serious learners.) MundoLingo offers 3 free exchanges in Buenos Aires every week; Mate Club and Spanglish Exchanges happen each week for a small fee; and we’ll surely discover others along the way.

Once we’ve made some new friends in Buenos Aires, we’ll start hosting dinner parties in our apartments. And some of those dinner parties we’ll make Spanish-only! Imagine it: an eclectic group of young adults from U.S., Argentina, and elsewhere, all talking in broken castellano to each other while sharing a home-cooked or potluck dinner. It will be incredible! Or at least entertaining.

Any Spanish language preparation that you can muster before the trip—whether a community college class, Rosetta Stone, DuoLingo, Tandem, or otherwise—will serve you well.

Want to Earn College Credits For What you Learn? Join our optional CLEP Spanish study group, which will meet  once a week to prepare for the Spanish Language College-Level Examination Preparation (CLEP) test, “the most widely trusted credit-by-examination program for over 40 years, accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities and administered in over 1,800 test centers.” Take the test on your own when you get home ($80 at a local testing center) and earn transferable college credits. Visit the College Board to learn more about the CLEP and find your local testing centers.

Staff & Workshops

Blake-Boles-headshot-square-1000pxYour staff member on this trip will be U.A. director Blake Boles. Blake has been to Buenos Aires five times (four as an Unschool Adventures trip leader), and he went again in April 2016 specifically to lay the groundwork for this program. Blake speaks Spanish, holds an active Wilderness First Responder certification, and knows the ins-and-outs of the city—or at least the best places to drink coffee and dance tango!

Blake will stay in his own apartment separate from the participants. His role will be to:

  • promote group bonding and positive apartment dynamics
  • be available via cell phone 24/7 for emergencies
  • lead weekly workshops, help facilitate Spanish language learning, and organize the field trips
  • offer one-on-one mentorship for self-directed learning projects
  • generally support every participant in having a successful trip

Please note that Blake will not provide daily supervision of participants, but will actively check in with individuals and apartment groups.

The weekly workshops will concentrate on real-world topics relevant to young adults charting their own course in the world, like:

  • Staying Safe in a Big City
  • Group Dynamics
  • Staying Accountable to your Self-Directed Learning Goals
  • Travel Blogging
  • How to Make New Friends Anywhere
  • Independent Travel Planning

Weekend Trips

We’ll venture out of Buenos Aires as a whole group for two long-weekend adventures. Together we’ll brainstorm the specific destination and activities, working within a budget of $250 per person per trip. Who knows where we might end up! A few possibilities include:

  • Cordoba: Argentina’s second-largest city with a large concentration of college students
  • Mar del Plata: A beach city that’s blissfully quiet (yet still warm) in March and April
  • Montevideo, Uruguay: Another country is only a short boat ride away
  • Mendoza: A tree-lined city nestled in the foothills of the Andes, known for its wine
  • ???: A destination off the beaten path that you discover

Other Opportunities

Buenos Aires is a magical place with many unique opportunities. During your time there, consider:

  • Learning tango! Buenos Aires is the world capital of tango, and you’ll never have a better opportunity to immerse yourself in this elegant dance. Events happen every single night of the week. (Blake will take you to his favorite classes and milongas.)
  • Becoming a soccer fan! Futbol is almost a national religion in Argentina. There’s nothing quite like watching the Boca Juniors playing their rivals, River Plate. (Just don’t bring your wallet to the game.)
  • Getting lost over and over again in the Recoleta Cemetary, a fascinating and labyrinth-like collection of mausoleums and crypt cats. Maybe you’ll find Emo Blake writing poetry there.
  • Becoming a night owl. Most dinners don’t start until 10pm in Buenos Aires, and young people typically don’t go out till 1am. (This is why we don’t have morning Spanish classes.)
  • Immersing yourself in Buenos Aires’ subculture of art and fashion. The Palermo neighborhood is a hotbed of trendsetting artists, the MALBA awaits you, and gorgeous street art is waiting to be discovered.
  • Eating way too much gelato. High-quality ice cream awaits you, seemingly at every corner.

Safety in Argentina

Please read the U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisories for Argentina to learn more about safety in Argentina. Throughout our four trips to Argentina, Unschool Adventures has never encountered a safety concern beyond pick-pocketing. Buenos Aires is generally a safe place for Western tourists, but it’s also a big city with the same problems that every big city experiences, such as street crime (which affects both locals and tourists alike). The country experiences periodic bouts of economic instability and regular political demonstrations.

The first workshop will cover safety in Buenos Aires, including:

  • learning which neighborhoods are safe (at which parts of the day)
  • when it’s appropriate to walk by yourself
  • how to safely hail a taxi and retrieve money from an ATM
  • what to do in case of a mugging
  • how to intelligently exchange cash
  • identifying common scams
  • how to stay safe when going out at night

Want to make this trip part of a full gap year program?

Dev Carey’s High Desert Center 2016-7 Gap Year combines this trip with 16 more weeks of group living and adventure in Western Colorado. (Fall 2016 update: The Gap Year has started.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the extra costs on this program?

Beyond the program fee, you’re responsible for:
•International airfare from Miami to Buenos Aires (typically $1000-$1500 roundtrip)
•Getting yourself to Miami
•Argentina reciprocity fee ($160 for U.S. citizens / $72 for Canadians)
•Lunches: $5-$10 per day
•Personal laundry: $5-10 per week (washed, dried, and folded for you)
•Personal transportation (buses, taxis, subway): $20 per week.
•Additional spending money for activities, snacks, and non-group travel.
In total (but not counting flights), we recommend a budget of $400/month ($1200 total) to cover your costs.

What risks are inherent in this trip? (Parents, please read.)

International travel presents many inherent risks, and this trip does not provide direct safety oversight (see the FAQ question “How much staff supervision will be provided on this program?” above). Essentially, participants will be making their own decisions and living as they would if they were traveling abroad solo. Any risks that independent travel presents to a young adult will also be present on this program.

As a participant, if you don’t trust yourself to make good decisions in this high-freedom environment, please don’t apply; as a parent, if you don’t feel that your son or daughter is prepared for the risks posed by unsupervised living in a big foreign city (especially where drinking is legal), please discourage them from applying.

There will be an optional parent Q&A discussion via Google Hangout if you have more questions, and U.A. director Blake Boles is happy to field any questions via e-mail (

What if I’m under 18?

Sorry, our minimum age is firm. You must be 18 by the first day of the trip. The main reason is that everyone is staying in apartments unsupervised by staff.

What if I’m over 21?

We’d love to consider you, as long as you feel comfortable spending 12 weeks with a mixed age group that’s younger than you! 23 is probably our absolute maximum.

What’s the alcohol policy?

Legally, anyone 18+ can purchase and consume alcohol in Argentina at age 18. Drinking is common cultural practice for young adults in the country.

This trip is for mature young adults who aren’t focused on drinking and partying. If Unschool Adventures staff determines that the drinking-related actions of any trip members are detrimental to themselves or other group members, they reserve the right to dismiss you from the program.

What’s the drug policy?

The possession or consumption of illegal drugs is not allowed on this program and will result in immediate dismissal.

South America is not a place to mess around with illegal drugs! You can land yourself in jail. This is not a program for anyone who has an active drug problem or is looking for a place to “experiment” with illegal substances.

This drug policy includes the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

Please note that marijuana is not legal in Argentina.

What’s the relationship policy?

Relationships between consenting adults (age 18+) are allowed as long as they don’t detract from another group member’s sense of safety or significantly impair our group dynamic. U.A. staff will help resolve any such issues by moderating discussion between those involved.

How much staff supervision will be provided on this program?

U.A. staff do not provide day-to-day supervision of participants on this program. Please note that this is different from other Unschool Adventures programs! Think of the Argentina Semester as more of an independent “study abroad” program, comparable to what a college junior might do. The staff are living in the same city and will sometimes meet with participants to lead group workshops or enjoy a dinner together, but they do not provide the ongoing, day to day supervision that a more facilitated gap year program might. An Argentina Semester participant is effectively living abroad for 12 weeks with a group of friends.

How can I claim the $500 discount?

We’re excited to have participants on this program who earn their own passage. If you earn your entire program fee through employment, self-employment, or a crowdfunding campaign (that offers rewards that you personally produce), you can claim the $500 discount. We just need to see proof of the fact that you personally earned this money and didn’t launder it through your family… not that you would! :)

If you’re attempting to earn this discount, you’ll pay the the deposit ($1500) and first installation ($2500) normally—and your family can pay this for you (since you’ll likely be working and saving during this time). To claim the $500 discount you’ll need prove that you earned all $6000 by yourself no later than the final installation payment date of November 1 2016.

You do not need to pay for the international flights or other spending money to qualify for the discount.

Does the group travel together to and from Buenos Aires?

Yes. We will meet at Miami International Airport and fly together to Buenos Aires, and then fly back to Miami together at the end. Flying together in the beginning is an important, formative group experience. You may opt to fly separately on the return.

Can I invite guests over to my apartment?

It’s important that everyone feels secure in their apartments. Our default policy will be that new guests may be invited to group dinners without prior approval (as long their host supervises them). But if a guest wishes to spend time in your apartment beyond the dinner hours (including overnight), a consensus decision by all apartment members will be required first. Beyond this basic policy, individual apartments may determine their guest policies.

Can I travel outside Buenos Aires?

In general, we want everyone to stick together. You’ll need staff approval before you travel outside of Buenos Aires.

(If you’re excited to travel independently, we recommend you extend your travels after the program and see more of South America yourself!)

When do I need to pay the program fee?

After applying, interviewing, and getting accepted to the semester, a $1500 nonrefundable deposit is required to hold your space. (We give you a few weeks to drum up this money; usually parents pay for this.)

The rest of the program fee is due in two installations of $2500 due on September 3 and November 3, respectively. (If you’re claiming the $500 discount, the final payment is only $2000.)

What kind of previous experience should I have?

In order to successfully spend 12 weeks on your own, we’ll be asking about any previous experience you have with living away from home, especially in a group setting like summer camp, boarding school, or independent travel (whether with friends or solo).

Why are we staying in Buenos Aires the whole time?

Mostly because of money: traveling is expensive, and this is already a long and pricey program! Staying in one place saves us money on buses and hostels. It also gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a single location that you get to know really well. Our two weekend field trips will help give a little feeling for the rest of Argentina.

How can this trip fit into my college plan?

If you’re planning to apply to college, the Argentina Semester can become a valuable part of your portfolio. By thinking of this trip a “gap semester” or making it part of a larger gap year, you can explain your time away from formal studies in a language that colleges increasingly value and understand. Here are some great reasons that colleges like gap years.

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