Mackenzie Diekmann is an ambassador who studied abroad in Chile.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Fiestas Patrias is Chile's Independence Day celebration, except it lasts about a month. There are flags everywhere, people chanting Chile's gameday cheer constantly. There are more hotdogs and terremotos served than you could ever dream of. Chile's national dance of the cueca is taught in classrooms and performed in every plaza. It was so much fun to be in Chile during this celebration. Chileans' pride in their country and their freedom is contagious. The Ramada is like a town fair with rides and games and food and almost made up for missing the Minnesota State Fair. It was a great time to bond with my host family and friends I had made at my university and something about my semester in Chile that I will always treasure.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I am a Hispanic Studies minor and I was quite convinced that I would never be totally comfortable speaking the language until I lived in a place that spoke Spanish. Many of my professors echoed the same sentiment and strongly encouraged spending at least some time abroad in order to gain a greater understanding of Hispanic culture. Choosing between the Spain, Guatemala and Chile programs was somewhat difficult for me but I eventually decided I wanted to be in Latin America because of the Spanish class I took sophomore year in which I learned all about the crazy revolutions that had happened in the 18th and 19th centuries. I also perceived the culture of Latin America to be more authentic and multidimensional and that really excited me. Choosing between Guatemala and Chile came down to the fact that being abroad in the fall worked better with scheduling classes and living in a beach town like Viña sounded great to me!
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It is beyond difficult to sum up my semester abroad. It was wonderful, amazing. It was very challenging at times but other times were overwhelmingly rewarding. Deciding to go abroad is one of the best decisions I ever made and an experience I will treasure forever. I would strongly encourage any and every one to do it.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
I wouldn't necessarily say that my semester abroad "changed" me but I think it definitely enhanced parts of my personality. I always thought I was independent and confident but after living in a Spanish speaking country for nearly 5 months without my parents and the rest of the support system that I have known all my life, I realized that I grew much more self-sufficient. I have a new appreciation for risk takers and people willing to try new things because it can be really hard at times but it is so worth it. In Chile, I became quite close with my host family, especially my little sister María José. She could always get me to smile when I was bummed and she still sends me daily messages on facebook, asking me to come "home" to Chile. As hard as it is to be away from my new home, I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to find a home in a place so different from little ol' Minnesota.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
When you go abroad be willing to let go of plans and expectations and take in all that your semester has to offer you. If you allow yourself to be surprised by the little moments, your trip will mean so much more to you. You will learn an incredible amount about yourself and about what you're capable of but you'll also learn so much about your fellow program members and your host culture. All these lessons will serve you well when you return home and they will be the things you remember most. So embrace the uncertainty of moving to a completely new place and treasure every minutes because it goes so fast.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Chile? Email Mackenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.