Catherine Taylor Duke - Head Program Advisor and Program Coordinator
Catherine was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a BA in Spanish and international affairs. With a passion for languages and cultures, she has lived, studied, and traveled all over the world and has nine years of experience in Argentina. She has been working for Mente Argentina for more than two years, and enjoys helping students learn as much as possible about Buenos Aires and Argentina.
You are originally from Denver Colorado (not far from the GoAbroad Office in Fort Collins!). What inspired you to venture to Argentina?
When I was in high school, one of my Spanish teachers had planned a summer community service trip to Salta, Argentina. He asked me to join the trip and I was more than excited to be a part of the experience. We hosted events and drives in order to gather donations of clothes, books, toys, medical supplies, and money to bring with us on the trip. Between 14 of us, we raised enough to fill 28 suitcases to maximum capacity and brought them with us. We spent most of the trip living with host families in Salta and a few days at the end of the trip were dedicated to visiting Buenos Aires. I was hooked after that. I decided to return to study abroad in Buenos Aires and after graduating college, decided to move back to try my luck in the adult world!
What do you think makes it such a great place to experience studying, interning, or volunteering abroad?
Buenos Aires is a dynamic, fun, bright, energetic city that offers something for everyone. By interning and volunteering, people get to experience the day to day lives and culture of the locals while also giving back to the community. There are many tourists visiting Buenos Aires year round, but for those who want a different perspective, and the ability to incorporate themselves into the daily lifestyle of the locals, interning in a company or volunteering for an NGO is a great way to do so! Studying in the universities also gives students the opportunity to improve their Spanish and earn academic credits while immersing themselves in the lives of local students.
You spent many years in Argentina before you began working with Mente Argentina. How did you get connected with the organization?
When I came back to Argentina after graduation, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I remember how great it was for me to study abroad here and decided that I needed to find a job that let me help other international students learn about the city I am so passionate about. The international community of expats here in Buenos Aires is wonderful, and after several different encounters and recommendations I went online and looked for different opportunities in the study abroad industry. I came across Mente Argentina and realized that it is a great organization and that I wanted to be a part of it!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love being able to help students with both limited and extensive travel experience learn about the culture and lifestyle in Buenos Aires. I enjoy being able to give them a different perspective on life, other than simply being a tourist. Giving them the kind of experience they will want to take back home with them, and hopefully inspire others to want to visit this country as well!
How do you help prepare participants for the transition to life in Argentina?
Through our Program Coordinators, we meet individually with each and every participant upon arrival to welcome them to Buenos Aires, to talk to them about what to expect during their stay, invite them to take part in our many events and activities and make sure they have the necessary tools and support to move independently throughout the city and country!
What is your best piece of cultural advice for anyone considering studying or volunteering in Argentina?
My best piece of advice would be to step out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of everything that this city and country have to offer. Meet the locals. The locals are very welcoming people and can be a great resource to get to know the city/country! Try empanadas, drink mate, join friends for an asado. Walk as much as you can. Buenos Aires is a very active city and there is so much to see and experience, that by walking, you will find places/sights that you could miss by being in a bus.
How do you ensure participants have an unforgettable experience in Buenos Aires?
We are a small company, so it is easy for us to really show our participants the city! Whether it’s through our many activities, events, or our excursions, we can make sure to show all of our participants the best parts of Buenos Aires. We make sure that students are placed in the best neighborhoods, near public transportation and close to many different sights around the city. This allows participants to immerse themselves as much as possible in the day to day life of Buenos Aires.
Do you have any pro packing tips for Buenos Aires?
The weather in the city is always changing. It can go from freezing cold to extremely hot in just days. Layers, layers, layers! Also, even though the country is relatively cheap for foreigners to visit, many things can be much more expensive, such as electronics, clothing, and toiletries, so make sure to bring your own.
What sets Mente Argentina apart from other program providers in Argentina?
Mente Argentina offers great flexibility in our programs which really sets it apart from other study abroad organizations. We have programs starting every month and can last from two weeks to 15 months! There is something for everyone. We also allow participants to mix and match their programs and offer great discounts for combining. As a small local-based company, we are always available to help.
What does 2016-2017 have in store for Mente Argentina? Any new developments or programs to look out for?
Looking toward the upcoming year, we are preparing to expand outside of Argentina and make our way into other parts of Latin America! We are in the process of finalizing details and specifics, but we look forward to providing the same high quality service and experience outside of Buenos Aires. Stay tuned.