by Thomas Edwards ’20
Providence College student Ann Kleinschmidt ’19 and Gabriella Sanchez ’18 found themselves in San Miguel de Tucumán, the capital of Tucamán province in Northern Argentina by way of the Smith Fellowship. This fellowship is a program for rising juniors and seniors to spend six weeks serving or studying with Dominican Friars or Sisters anywhere in the world. PC students serve with Dominicans to enrich the community and learn more about the Dominican tradition that PC is based on.
The students lived in a convent with the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, who run several Catholic primary to secondary schools in Tucumán. Of these schools, Kleinschmidt and Sanchez had the chance to visit and facilitate English seminars for students in kindergarten all the way through senior year of high school at Santa Rosa Colegio and Santa Catalina, giving the students the opportunity to practice English with a native speaker.
They also visited some of the rural communities, including an isolated mountain community called Chasquivil, which took an 8-hour horseback ride to reach, where they taught at the local school. On the weekends, they would join some of their high school students in visiting the rural community of La Soledad, where they would do ministry work with the locals.
Another part of the Smith Fellowship is working towards a deeper understanding of the Catholic tradition. Both Sanchez and Kleinschmidt felt this deeper understanding through their experience. Kleinschmidt, a biology major and Spanish minor, described it as “strengthening my relationship with God and helping me to better understand the identity of the Dominican Order,” as well as “teaching me that [my faith] can be celebrated in so many beautifully different ways throughout the world.”
Sanchez, a global studies major with Spanish and theatre minors, compared her time in both schools, one more affluent than the other, noting that the wealthier school would organize biweekly service trips to the areas surrounding the city, while the poorer school struggled to get by due to regulations from the government. “The contrast working in these two very diverse schools was striking, but faith was a pillar for both,” Sanchez recalled.
Both students described themselves as having a stronger relationship with their religion after this experience. “When I felt unprepared for class, without much formal education training, or struggled to communicate with someone, it was nothing short of divine intervention that got me through it,” Sanchez said.
Now, of course, the question of food had to be asked. “We ate lots of asado, which is the Argentine version of barbecue, and let me tell you, it is incredible,” said Kleinschmidt. “Argentina on the whole is known for its wine and red meat and a traditional asado takes barbecue to a whole new level,” said Sanchez. Both described the food of Argentina as being delicious, from empanadas to locro (a thick stew with meat, corn, squash, and potato), and there was never a bad meal.
When asked if they would recommend the experience, Kleinschmidt stated, “I’m not going to lie to you, it isn’t always easy, and it honestly shouldn’t be. You learn some of the greatest lessons from the most personally challenging of situations.” She would recommend it to “anyone who is willing to take a leap of faith and immerse yourself in the unknown.”
Sanchez responded by saying, “The Smith Fellowship is a once in a lifetime chance to spend an extended period of time in a very unique community, without spending a dime of your own money. I would recommend the Fellowship to students who are looking for a deeper, richer faith experience and who are ready to take on the sometimes demanding challenges of service abroad.”