The rewards of Naomi Caldwell ’19’s studies abroad last summer began unfolding as soon as her plane landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her cousin, an architect, picked her up at the airport.
“My first vision of the city was through the lens of someone interested in the intersection of history and public space,” says Caldwell, an honors history major from Woodbridge, Conn. “That really influenced the direction I took with my project.”
The result, an examination of the history and evolution of moments in Buenos Aires, earned her the highest honor a student researcher can receive while studying abroad: The Forum on Education Abroad Award. The recognition was given to only two other other students for 2018.
Caldwell will present her research, which continued into the fall, and reflect on her experience at The Forum’s 15th annual conference in Denver on March 29.
The nominating committee cited her “commendable research project that elucidates the social history of a city through its physical history … demonstrating the significance of societal factors in interpreting the underlying meaning of visual artifacts.”
For Caldwell, the recognition caps an immersive experience.
“I’m thrilled to see my project recognized by [The Forum],” she says, “and excited to continue to engage with historical research as a way to understand distinct cultures and societies.”
Caldwell studied through Middlebury’s C.V. Starr Schools Abroad program in Buenos Aires. Swarthmore partners with the program, which offers students the chance to take tutorial-style classes and do internships for credit.
She also worked closely with Professor of History Diego Armus, who arranged for her to take a class taught by historian Lisa Ubelaker-Andrade ’06 at Universidad de San Andrés. Caldwell learned how to use urban archives for a book Armus and Ubelaker-Andrade are developing on the popular culture of Buenos Aires before using the archives to follow her own line of inquiry.
“Naomi asked questions that quickly tapped into real issues in the city,” says Ubelaker-Andrade. “She fully took advantage of her opportunities, heading far outside the normal geographic terrain of the city’s visitors and essentially building her own archive of information that will be of real use to her future research or that of other scholars.”
It was a new experience for Caldwell, who had not thought much about urban studies or lived in a city before. She credits the “amazing” mentorship she received while abroad and the chance to reconnect with family for enriching her experience.
“Doing this project pushed me to explore the city in a completely different way,” she says. “It was a new type of learning, and I really appreciated the opportunity.”
For all of these reasons and more, Caldwell encourages classmates to consider the opportunities the College offers to study abroad.
“Being in a different environment allows you to explore your academic and social identities in a different way, find new interests, and reflect on and have new appreciation for Swarthmore when you come back.”