August 3, 2012
By Hannah Hylla ’13 and Megan Voss ’14
At the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, study abroad is a two-way street.
Nine Chilean students are studying abroad on the CSB and SJU campuses this summer, thanks to a partnership with Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI), in Santiago and Viña del Mar, Chile. The students arrived in central Minnesota July 15, and will depart Aug. 11.
The Center for Global Education organizes the four-week program, which includes a course on American history and society taught by CSB and SJU professors.
The Office of Education Abroad at CSB and SJU has offered a semester-long study abroad program in Chile at the university in Viña del Mar since 2005. In return, the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez has offered a short-term study abroad program at CSB and SJU since 2009.
It's like a campus exchange program; the Chile study abroad program is one of the few semester-long programs at CSB and SJU that hosts a group of students from their partner school. Other programs that do that include Australia, Japan, Northern Ireland, India and South Africa.
"It's a really unique partnership - more reciprocal in nature and it's more than just a student exchange. It's deeper than that. There's a collaboration of research, information and faculty," said Nicole Clements, an Education Abroad adviser at CSB and SJU.
This past fall, Julio Fabres, professor of literature at UAI and brother to the late Jose Antonio Fabres, former associate professor of Hispanic Studies at CSB and SJU, taught a Hispanic Studies course at CSB and SJU.
Maria Veronica Rojas, a Hispanic Studies professor at UAI, has also built a collaborative relationship with CSB and SJU. Rojas has traveled to CSB and SJU for the past four years as the on-site coordinator for the Chilean students. While on campus, she teaches an English course to the students and attends excursions with them. When the CSB and SJU students arrive in Chile, she teaches an advanced Spanish grammar class to them, creating a deeper connection.
Rojas is able to understand where the CSB and SJU students come from and help them immerse in the Chilean culture once they arrive in Viña del Mar. She's their connection to home.
"For the last two years, I have taught some of the Bennies and Johnnies who have gone to Chile. This fall, I will be teaching the advanced grammar class. I am very excited to arrive in my country and meet the 24 students who will be in my class," Rojas said.
"I have lots of fun teaching your students (from CSB and SJU), and it is great to have the chance to spend time with them and talk not only about Spanish and grammar but also talk about the fun they will have in Chile, and, of course, to give them some tips about restaurants they have to visit and cool things they must do while they are there," Rojas said.
While in Minnesota, the Chilean students will do some cool things as well. They traveled to Target Field for a Minnesota Twins game, will visit Alexandria, Minn., for an "up north excursion," will participate in home visits and enjoy all that the CSB and SJU campuses have to offer.
"My experience as the director of the summer program (at CSB and SJU) has been wonderful and rewarding - not only for me but also for the students. We all thoroughly enjoy our activities, the classes and the opportunity we have to spend time with professors from different areas, and meet some wonderful faculty members who really care for us and do their best to help the program to be a great and an unforgettable experience," Rojas said.
The Chilean students also had the opportunity to build relationships with CSB and SJU students who are studying in Chile during the fall semester. Sarah Wierzbinski, a junior at CSB from Chanhassen, Minn., did just that.
"The relationship that CSB and SJU has built with the Universidad Aldolfo Ibáñez is mutually beneficial for both the Chilean students and those students preparing to go abroad. Having established a connection with them has given me a better understanding of what is ahead as I study at UAI," Wierzbinski said.
CSB and SJU students arrived in Viña del Mar on July 27 and began classes at UAI on July 30, two weeks earlier than in 2011. It is the first time that the CSB and SJU students are in Chile at the same time the Chilean students are in central Minnesota.
The campus exchange is alive and doing quite well.