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Jul 30, 2019

Argentina Reflection - Millie Wilcox

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On July 14th I embarked on the life-changing ‘Entrepreneurs in Argentina’ program. This trip gave me a deeper understanding of the argentine economy and how businesses mitigate the effects of its instability, it also highlighted the unique features of our economy, and how trade between countries can utilise the benefits of both. My perspective on a great deal of issues has changed from this experience; I am now more globally minded, and recognise the reality of life for people without such privilege. The levels of poverty certainly don’t compare, neither does the plastic waste!

Some seemingly mundane cultural differences really stood out. At first it was hard to believe we were in the heart of Buenos Aires, as skyscrapers stood beside two-story buildings. The architecture was very diverse and spread out. Perhaps my favourite difference was the Argentines individually greeting everyone at the start of each day, with a hug and kiss on the cheek. They would also brew a hot drink called mate into one cup, to be shared with everyone. The Argentines welcoming nature made it easier to slip into Argentine life, I appreciated their eagerness to share their culture, and their help with my learning Spanish! The experience opened my eyes to the poverty seen in some parts of the world, and I was still in a more sheltered area! I never realised how simple things such as someone’s education system (public or private) could lead to drastic limitations on their life prospects. During one of our many bus rides, I was shocked to see slums out the window, crammed between two upper-class areas of the city. This was a wakeup call, I realised that it is our responsibility, as people living in privilege, to ensure we improve the situation of those who aren’t. Perhaps some comfort came from a business we visited, making clothing and accessories from other factories waste. They were not only helping mitigate the amounts of pollution but were also giving work to those who wouldn’t have it otherwise – women having to stay at home. These experiences taught me that there are bigger global problems than I ever imagined, but how we can tackle these in our small way through entrepreneurship.

As someone who is quite politically minded, I was interested in their politics from arrival. But I never imagined it would affect the lives of Argentines as greatly as it did. Civilians and businesses alike did not have a plan for after the next presidential election, because their future would be heavily influenced by the result. This wasn’t the only uncertainty they faced either, the Argentine peso also has huge inflation. Reading about it in a textbook was no preparation for seeing inflations heavy impact on their lives, there was such uncertainty that all Argentines I met put their pesos into US dollars immediately as they earned them. What also surprised me was that around half their population does not have a bank account, which means that part of the population was mitigating high-inflations harmful effects, while the other was drowning alongside it. This taught me the value of equal education and opportunities, as I believe that if these people understood more about bank accounts, they would be able to have more financial stability. The trip accumulated to us developing market entry strategies for established NZ businesses. This perfectly solidified the knowledge we had learned, I was even presently surprised by the amount of knowledge I had gained. The photo on the left shows my group and the judges. We created a strategy for an online shares platform, which was challenging with Argentina’s economic instability, rapid inflation, and low bank account ownership.

This trip changed my life forever. While much of what I learned in Argentina was eye-opening, I also learned the power of being an entrepreneur and creating businesses to tackle these issues. I will take away a global outlook and newfound passion for having my own enterprise and interacting Latin American economies. Alongside my appreciation for the privilege we have, has come a sense of responsibility to improve the lives of those who aren’t as fortunate. But this trip wasn’t all about poverty, Argentina has one of the most beautiful cultures in the world, and impressed me beyond words. The kindness of the people paired with the unique bustling city life of Buenos Aires has left a huge impact on me. Argentina, I will be back!