Missouri State University
Vinai Thomas Uthipratuma

Vinai Thomas Uthipratuma

  • Major: Global Studies
  • Second Major: Spanish
  • High School: Republic
  • Hometown: Republic, Mo.
  • Program: International Student Exchange Programs
  • Country: Argentina

'The best part ... has been the hospitality and generosity'

Thomas made many new friends in Argentina while practicing his Spanish and learning about cultural norms, including drinking tea and having a more relaxed concept of time.

Thomas is double majoring in global studies and Spanish with a double minor in Latin American Studies and Asian Studies. He studied at the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, Argentina.

What has been the best part of your experience so far?

Hands down, the best part of my time in Argentina has been the hospitality and generosity the Argentine people display. In Córdoba, everyone is willing to talk to you if you have curiosities or questions about anything and everything. Most people greet with a near-kiss on the cheek, and all are interested to know where you are from, what you are doing in Argentina, and if you want to drink maté (a traditional tea) with them.

Since my arrival, I have met many new friends and families who have invited me and others to meals at their homes or excursions in the surrounding areas. It’s very comfortable here. The lifestyle is very relaxed and welcoming; I never feel awkward or uncomfortable walking down the street. Los Cordobeses — as the residents of Córdoba are called — really know how to make you feel at home away from home.

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest social difference I am still adjusting to is the daily routine. It becomes very ambiguous when discussing matters of “When is it time to eat?” and “Do I get to sleep BEFORE 4 in the morning?”

The conception of "time" here is not the rigorous 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. we have in the States. (Don't think about arriving on time when meeting up with some locals, they will usually arrive 1 to 1 1/2 hours later than planned.)

A more trivial challenge I am facing is the omnipresence of English. In general, my main goal is improve my Spanish to a bilingual level. People around the world, however, know how crucial it is to know English in order to compete and advance in today’s workforce — which is, without a doubt, an international contest. If I tell people I am from the United States, they prefer speaking English, and for me, this is counterproductive.