“An incredible experience, the strongest of my life, it opened my head in several aspects”, said Nicolás Aguiar, the Argentine 24 year old international-relations student who spent a week in the Falkland Islands as a guest of the local government.
I was treated wonderfully; people were most kind and respectful. Before travelling to Malvinas, I imagined a situation of rejection from the Islanders, but fortunately there are people who despite the dispute are interested in knowing us, added Nicolas who together with young representatives from Chile, Brazil and Uruguay was selected to travel after presenting a one minute video saying why they were interested in the Falklands.
It was a week with a full agenda from tourism and adventure activities to political and cultural events, including meeting members of the elected Legislative Assembly, talking to the locals, a visit to government offices and the most poignant a visit... to the Argentine military cemetery at Darwin.
Nicolas was surprised to find out that several Islanders had visited Argentina as tourists. They told me they liked the country very much. He admits the only time in which he felt some rejection was in the pubs, and I was warned that being Argentine I was recommended to avoid it.
In effect I found Islanders who admitted to hating Argentine governments, but nevertheless we managed to chat and exchange ideas, admitted Nicolas.
Nicolas is the first Argentine student to travel to the Falklands under the annual exchange program which has several years but with students from Uruguay, Chile and Brazil. He is an international relations student at the University of Rosario and admits it was not easy despite his enthusiasm to take the opportunity.
When I decided to stand for the exchange trip, I was aware it would be highly controversial. And I understand it, I understand what the Malvinas cause means for us Argentines, but after listening to the critics, humbly and respectfully, I decided to accept. I am convinced that inter-cultural dialogue is always positive” Nicolas underlined.
In effect some of the main Argentine universities, including that of Buenos Aires, UBA, was highly critical and insisted in not accepting the opportunity.
However for Nicolas who has enjoyed two exchange programs in the United States, the Malvinas was a challenge, a privilege of a few, and last October he was informed he would be spending a week with a Falklands' family, supposedly, he imagined, in the midst of a hostile climate.
Obviously nothing of this happened, and following a meeting with UK ambassador Mark Kent in Buenos Aires, Nicolas travelled with students from Uruguay, Brazil and Chile, to Santiago and then after a call in Punta Arenas, landed at MPA in the Falklands.
Back from the Islands he must decide what area of international relations he will specialize, and most probably it will be diplomacy. His interest on international relations woke up in high school, with the United Nations at the heart of his inspiration. Thus his exchange programs' experience is understandable and his interest in the subject continued to grow. Dialogue is the only means for diplomacy and international relations, points out Nicolas.
But as before travelling to the Falklands, Nicolas feels that Argentina's juridical arguments are very strong. My position on Argentine sovereignty over the Islands, stands firmly.