Daniel in an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Growing up in a suburban neighborhood located closely to North Minneapolis and attending schools as racially diverse as they come in the Minnesota gave me a unique drive to learn more about other cultures. However, the classroom setting limited my understanding of these cultures and I desired a more immersive experience. I chose to study in a Spanish speaking country knowing the immense benefit and relevance Spanish has in our current demographic situation in the U.S., Minnesota, and even the Central Minnesota community. Chile called to me because it fulfilled my desire for a complete immersion into a new and foreign culture, challenged my Spanish skills to approach fluency, and offered some of the most pristine and extreme geography found on this Earth. Chile chose me as much as I chose it.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
About a month into the program Chile celebrated its independence day called "Fiestas Patrias". Professor Salomó (Chilean faculty member at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez) described the celebration and demonstrated "la cueca" (the traditional dance) as well as warning us of the dangers of our potential caloric intake by means of grilled foods. I immediately thought of organizing our own Fiestas Patrias cookout as a CSB/SJU group with our host families. Luckily I had the help of Juan Francisco Toledo (or as we all affectionately call him "Juanfra") who was the host brother of a Bennie on the trip. Juanfra and I managed to buy enough chorizo sausages, fresh baked bread, and a special sweet wine called "chicha" to feed our whole group and then some. We brought all of the necessities to the botanical gardens and enjoyed a sun-filled afternoon sharing stories in English, Spanish, and Spanglish, devouring "choripan", and learning "la cueca" from our host brothers and sisters. The night ended with fireworks viewed over the bay and traditional Chilean music filling our ears. The experience of organizing a truly Chilean celebration deeply connected me to the traditions and the roots of the Chilean people and left me with a few new dance moves to boot.
Describe your overall study abroad experienc
The first word that comes to mind is: challenging. The language challenged me to speak and understand Spanish on an almost fluent level without the safety net of English that I had in Spanish classes in the U.S. The geography and climate challenged me with imposing volcanoes that needed summitting, the world's driest desert that needed exploring, and mountainous regions full of glacial rivers that needed to be trekked through. My service learning challenged me by placing me in front of a class of Chilean students when I had no prior teaching experience and allowing me to share in a learning experience with them. But most of all, Abuelita, my beloved host-grandmother, challenged me with a world view utterly and completely different from my own and a stubborn attitude. It was by engaging in these challenges and learning to adapt to a new culture, language, and pace of life that my fond memories of Chile were created. I planted many seeds in Chile that I know I will return to. Upon returning to the U.S. I realize that my study abroad experience is just beginning and that feeling is exhilarating.
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
?My self confidence has grown exponentionally as a result of my study abroad. Living in Chile gave me my first truly independent moments - I had an entire country to explore on my own terms, experienced the bar scene and night life, and even managed the hectic micros (public transportation). But I it all in another language! After those experiences I came back knowing that any challenges I would face in the U.S. would seem miniscule to the obstacles I overcame in Chile.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Budget some time where you allow yourself to explore your surroundings with no purpose in mind. We fill our school schedules up to the brim with classes, homework, internships, meetings, etc. Study abroad permits you to operate at a change of pace. Grasp on to that. I explored Viña by strolling down a new street each day I walked to the bus stop. I found hidden panaderías selling the best pastries at incredibly cheap prices. I found fruit stands and flower carts whose vendors had the most genuine and friendly smiles. I found the charm and beauty of los viñamarinos and I recommend that future students search for it too. Aprovechelo!
Do you have questions about study abroad in Chile? Email Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org