Danelle is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
As a student with a double major in Biology and Hispanic Studies aspiring to gain acceptance to Medical School, I felt that studying abroad in Chile would enhance my undergraduate study experiences beyond that of many other competing Medical School applicants. There are not many opportunities in life that present themselves to you in such a distinguished way as study abroad. While being fully immersed into a different culture, I knew I would learn to communicate effectively with people of different backgrounds. I wanted to learn to share my ideas and interact with people from very different circumstances of my own.
I knew that I wanted to study Spanish while abroad to gain proficiency and fluency. I had never had the opportunity to personally visit South America before Chile, but through my academic studies, I had fallen in love with the diverse biomes, music, and the Spanish language as a whole. Chile was a good fit for me because I was able to directly enroll into Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, one of Chile's finest Universities. The aspect that I was most looking forward to was living with a host family, because I had many opportunities to enhance my oral fluency and develop close and personal relationships.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Independence Day. Fiestas Patrias. Chileans pride themselves in their history and culture. Independence Day is celebrated for an entire week in Chile; there is so much pride, so much enthusiasm wherever you go. No matter the town that I was in, Chileans proudly displayed their roots while dancing their national dance, la cueca, in the streets. Everywhere I looked, there was a flag, traditional dress, and Chilean cuisine. Everyone comes together to celebrate their independence; families, friends, and strangers. The importance of a close-knit community is clearly evident.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I can honestly say that the time that I spent abroad was the most amazing 6 months of my life. I built many relationships, some of the closest being with my host family. I became incorporated into the Chilean culture, and I became much more proficient in Spanish. I volunteered over 100 hours while being abroad, meeting incredible and inspirational people. Classes at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez were interesting, and the option of direct enrollment allowed for more interaction with Chilean students rather than with only international students. However, experiential learning was my favorite part of being abroad. Through different trips I learned about the history of Chile and what makes Chile different from other Latin American countries. I traveled from North to South - all over Chile - as inexpensively as possible with my fellow Bennies and Johnnies as well as with my new Chilean friends. I loved the culture so much that I actually stayed with my host family a month and a half longer than the program to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with them.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
I gained many life skills while I was abroad; a few being adaptability, independence, and confidence. I learned quickly that in order to improve my Spanish, mistakes were not only going to happen but were also necessary. My goal for being abroad was to improve my Spanish and live the life of a Chilean. Not only was I immediately immersed into the Chilean culture by staying with a host family, I quickly realized that asking questions and going on impromptu excursions were the best ways to learn about the completely different way of life that I had walked into. While abroad, I began to process the world in a different way with a much more open mind.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Choose a program that fits your interests - interests will turn into passions. Enjoy and make the most of the time you are abroad - it is a once in a lifetime experience. Try new things - especially if they make you step out of your comfort zone. Interact with the locals - you are abroad to experience a different culture, who better to show you the culture than someone who is from there? Don't be afraid to speak the local language - how else are you going to improve? Travel and learn the public transportation - you will gain so much appreciation for your host country as well as for America.