The University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies is offering a summer study abroad program in Argentina.
Students have made this trip with instructor Thais Diaz Montalvo for the last two summers, but this year will be different.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be held in Brazil in June. Argentina, which borders Brazil at its northeastern tip, is expected to field a strong team with high expectations in the tournament.
The six-week program begins May 25 and the World Cup kicks off June 12, with Argentina's first game planned for June 15. Students will feel the impact that "futbol" has in Argentinean culture, Diaz Montalvo said.
"You know when the big games are being played," Diaz Montalvo said. "You can hear it around the city that you are in."
The program will be based at Blas Pascal University in Cordoba. Richmond students will be paired with a mentor: a college student from Blas Pascal who will orient students and visit sites of interest in Cordoba, Diaz Montalvo said.
Classes centering on culture, landscape, human rights and the World Cup will be held at the university. Although it is helpful, students do not need to be a Latin American and Iberian studies major or minor to apply. The only requirement is that students have taken the 221-level class that the LAIS department offers at Richmond, Diaz Montalvo said.
"The entire program is designed to provide students with an informed sense of the past and continuing opportunities to experience the vitality of contemporary life in Argentina, its political, arts, culture, economy and its plentiful nature," Diaz Montalvo said.
Despite being in a university town, students will live with host families around the city. Cordoba is located in the center of Argentina with a population of over 1.1 million.
"The bond the students will make with their host families is probably one of the things they will remember the most about this experience," Diaz Montalvo said.
David Leith and Josh Grice, both juniors, attended the program in Argentina last summer. Their living situation was unique because they lived with a single host dad, Jose, who spoke no more than 10 words of English, Leith said.
"On the morning we left, he waited with us by the front door for the taxi to arrive, and when it did, he began to tear up as he gave us each a huge hug and told us how much he would miss us," Leith said.
Grice paid special attention to the soccer culture in Argentina, traveling to different stadiums on his own, he said.
"Spending time with Argentineans watching soccer is a beautiful thing," Grice said. "Casually drinking mate tea and socializing. As soon as a goal is scored though, they lose all sense of composure."
The Argentinean national team, also called La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue), is currently ranked third in the FIFA world rankings. The team has won two World Cups in its history, in 1978 when they were the host country and in 1986, led by Argentinean hero Diego Maradona.
Maradona, who coached Argentina in the World Cup four years ago, has passed down the reigns of "best Argentinean player ever" to current superstar Lionel Messi, 26. Messi has already won the FIFA Ballon d'Or (annual award for the world's top player) three times and will captain the Argentinean squad in the coming World Cup.
"The people [of Argentina] are looking to him this year," Diaz Montalvo said. "He hasn't played too good in past World Cups but this is the year people see him overtaking Maradona."
Diaz Montalvo said he was unsure of where students will go to watch the June 15 match, but he was sure that they would be watching.
"It's important for them to see it. It's part of the cultural experience," she said.
The program includes two units of credit and costs approximately $5,700. The cost is less than what a student would pay to stay on campus and take two units over the summer, Diaz Montalvo said.
The application deadline has passed but students may still be able to apply, Diaz Montalvo said. The first payment is due March 15.
Contact staff writer Oliver Murphy at email@example.com