Joel is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Major: Environmental Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Everyone really should study abroad. There are things you simply cannot learn in a classroom, and studying abroad definitely exposes those opportunities to every student. These two sentences sum up what was explained to me by just about everyone I knew who went abroad, and were a large part of why I decided to study abroad. I chose Chile for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to pursue a higher level of Spanish speaking ability, which narrowed my options to Guatemala, Spain, and Chile. I had already been to Guatemala and Europe, and wanted to get to South America. Also, the linguistic demands are greater in Chile because of how fast they speak and unique words they use, and I relished that challenge. Lastly, my family hosted a Chilean student a few years back and I wanted to experience some of the things he described to us about his country. And I wasn't disappointed!
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A friend and I travelled to the south of the country over a holiday weekend, Chile's independence. After a day of hiking around beautiful scenery all day, we set out after dinner to find a local celebration we could take part in. We ended up getting lost in a town when everything was closed due to the holiday. While pondering our next move, we heard music from a distance, and followed it to a barn on the outskirts of town. What we found was a live band playing Chilean polka music and around 150 townspeople (average age being around 40-50) dancing the night away, celebrating their independence. We were undoubtedly the only gringos there. And what started out as a fruitless and stressful situation turned into being part of a cultural celebration very few tourists get to experience, and afterwards we felt like a part of their community.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Amazing. I felt I had a good blend of spending time with new friends, old friends, and my host family. Each group taught me new things about myself, where I come from, where they come from, and the country of Chile.
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?
Professionally, enhancing my fluency in another language opens hundreds of opportunities for me in the future if I so choose. Personally, I now have countless stories, new friends from both CSBSJU and other schools internationally, as well as a host family who tells me often that my room is always open to me whenever I decide to return!
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
First of all, everyone should study abroad. Financially, the benefits of what you get out of it far exceed the costs of the program and flight. When you've decided to study abroad, get to know how each SA program fits into your academic plan, as each program potentially caters to different majors.