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Organization: College of the Canyons
Date: April 14, 2009
College of the Canyons Students Explore Argentina
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Gathered around a television set at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, a group of College of the Canyons students watched as President Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.
    "We stood together and sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,'" remembers Diane Raines, a nursing student who was on the trip. "I have never felt more proud to be an American."
    Raines was one of the 22 students who recently spent three weeks in Argentina thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of State that funded 22 travel scholarships in order to promote the study of tourism in South America.
    "I do feel differently after taking this trip," said Raines, who studied conversational Spanish and contemporary environmental issues while abroad. "It expanded my world. I think I also lost the sharp edge of cultural elitism that so often permeates our society."
    Raines — whose previous international travel included Canada and Mexico — enjoyed the culture and people of Argentina.
    "The people were great," said Raines. "They truly went out of their way to embrace us."
    Among the many things Raines will remember about the trip is visiting Iguazu Falls — majestic waterfalls located on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay — and how a butterfly landed on a friend's hand.
    "It was beyond belief," she said. "It was a spectacular setting, and our contact with the wildlife was really up close and personal."
    Also traveling with the group was Ani Datastanyan, who studied biology, tourism and hotel management during the trip.
    "I feel very different as a result of this trip," said the 21-year-old, who had never traveled outside of the U.S. "I am a whole new person."
    After getting over her initial culture shock, Datastanyan flourished.
    "I would go out during the day and speak to people while buying water, calling cards or anywhere. It helped me expand my language skills."
    Datastanyan, who traveled with her cousin and best friend Martina, says she loved experiencing independence for the first time in a foreign country.
    "It taught us how to live on our own, especially since we were living in apartments and had to find our way through the city," she said. "I loved it so much I didn't want to come home."
    "For a teacher, it is exciting to see students step up to the challenges of living in a foreign country," said Kevin Anthony, chair of hotel and restaurant management at the college who was one of three instructors leading the trip.
    Anthony recalls what happened on the day of the group's departure and how two students stayed behind to continue traveling.
    "When it came time to leave, all the students gathered around them to say goodbye," he said. "None of these students knew each other three weeks before, but you could see how close they had become."
    The trip also brought back memories for Anthony.
    "I spent my third year of college in Rome and this trip reconnected me to that time," he added. "It is amazing how some experiences have the same effect on you after thirty-five years."
    Studying abroad, Raines said, intensified her intention to serve those who would otherwise not have access to medical treatment. The nursing student hopes to work for Doctors without Borders.
    As for Datastanyan, she has caught the travel bug.
    "I loved studying abroad and I'm thinking of doing it more often," said Datastanyan. "It made studying and going to school much more fun and interesting. It was a very huge change and I loved it. I wish everyone could experience that."
    The next study abroad trip will be a three-week trip to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. While studying biology, tourism and Spanish, students will visit the Panama Canal, Tortuguero — a national park in Costa Rica — rain forests, volcanoes and the Caribbean.
    For more information, visit http://www.canyons.edu/travel.
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