Sydney is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I thought it would be an amazing experience to spend 5 months living in a different country and learning about a new culture. It's probably something I will never get the opportunity to do again. I decided on Chile because I am a Spanish minor and thought the program would be a perfect chance to improve and practice my Spanish speaking abilities. I also liked the fact that we lived with host families. Chile is a unique program because South America is off the beaten path, and I think that provides students a better opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The first day we got to Chile we met up with our host families and were sent home with them. It was the most awkward day of my entire life because my Spanish was awful and we basically had to play charades in order to communicate. It didn't help that I was tired from almost an entire day of travel the day before. That evening it was one of my host cousin's birthday party so I tagged along. The thing I remember most was walking into the party and every person in the room came up and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek, even though we were strangers. The entire night they made sure I was okay and made an effort to talk slower than normal so I could understand them easier. It wasn't my birthday but the focus was on me for most of the time. They even got out a dictionary at one point in order to translate a word I was struggling with. I could not believe how caring, loving and generous they were to this complete stranger. I immediately felt loved and part of the family, and that is something I'll never forget.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Incredible. It was easily the most amazing, unforgettable, scary and exciting experience I've ever had. I would do it again in a heartbeat and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested. I don't think I have ever learned so much in such a short amount of time. I learned about the culture and about myself. In my opinion, I am a much more independent and ambitious person. There is not a day that goes by where I am not thinking of Chile and wishing I could go back. Studying abroad was the best decision I have ever made.
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?
By spending time abroad you will learn so much about yourself and the world. I found out what some of my strengths and weaknesses were, and learned how to be flexible and adapt to new situations. By traveling and seeing a different part of the world, I began to look at my life from a different perspective. Also, I chose a Spanish speaking program so my ability to talk, write and listen improved more than I could have possibly imagined.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Do it, because you will regret it if you don't. This is probably the only opportunity you will have to spend a significant amount of time in a different country. Spending a semester abroad is a completely unique experience because you are not seeing the country from a tourist perspective, you are seeing the country as your home. It will be scary and challenging at times, but you will learn and grow so much in those few months. The memories you make will last a lifetime.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Chile? Email Sydney at email@example.com@csbsju.edu