Haleigh Linn is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Major: Hispanic Studies and Environmental Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
As a Hispanic Studies major I was looking at the three programs that our university offers for learning spanish abroad: Guatemala, Spain, and Chile. I was also interested in Spain but I decided on Chile because I thought it would challenge me more to be a better spanish speaker. I had known several people that had gone to Spain (not through our university) not knowing any Spanish at all and got around fine so I was looking for a country that wasn't so conscious of English. I also love the outdoors, camping, and adventures so I opted for Chile because I knew that it was a good place to go and do that kind of thing in my youth. Chile has one of the most well known natural parks in the world for its beauty, Patagonia. If you are an outdoors person too this program is definitetly for you! From hot springs to floating to salt pools in the desert to zip lining its the best outdoor kind of experiences.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Chile is intriguing culturally! You will live next to an awesome city called Valparaíso (which comes from "vale" a "paraíso"- we came to paradise). It is filled with artists and musicians. There are always artists painting on the walls an cool new bands playing in cafés and bars at night. If you go to the south you will be met by the Mapuche culture and in the north by the indigenous groups of the desert. From the dictatorship that happened fairly recently in Chile there is so much cultural history that invades into the music and the propaganda on the walls.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I had a host family that really took me in as part of their family and had a great time exploring a country that I couldn't have imagined before I came. Being able to join clubs on this program is a great experience that really lets you engage in your university. Also there is an awesome part where you get to host Chileans!!! I hosted two girls at my house before I left and met up with them in Chile. They took me around with them and I got an idea of what to pack for and expect from talking with them. I think that culturally I experienced a country very unique to that of other countries in South America and very different from a European, North American vibe. I was so happy and surprised to realize just how nice Chileans are. I have traveled a lot of the world and I have never met nicer people as a whole!!
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 think that learning Spanish on a study abroad defintetly depends on your willingness to learn but everyone will come back having improved their Spanish. I think that the connections that I have made in Chile will help me in the future to make connections if I ever want to return to South America to work or travel. I also think that I learned a lot more about how other countries who are behind view and deal with their environmental problems (I am also an Environmental Studies major) That was a great insight for me as a student. I hope to help the immigrating latino population in the future and having lived with a family in South America I learned a lot about how they viewed life and improved my Spanish.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Chile is not like Ecuador or Peru culturally so don't expect that image when you are thinking of this program. Chile is much more modern and industrialized. Chile has rich European roots which makes the food at times bland (like ours) but a really interesting mix of cultures and people (you will see red-headed Chileans). I think you should come to this program with the mindset of that you are going to have to work to learn Spanish and you are going to have to want to engage into the outdoors to really enjoy this trip. It is also important to know that Chile has a very laid back culture so if you are a person who needs organization and structure you should maybe look at a different program but if you are looking for adventure sign up now! And study up on your host country and what you can do there before you go! Make sure to know what the excursions are for you specific program because ours were fairly low but that lowered the price of the trip and gave you more freedom to do your own traveling to other parts of South America. My last bit of advice is try to plan out your own excursions with people before you go and you can tweak them before you get there to make sure that you get to see all that you want to see when you are there.