I decided to study abroad in Santiago, Chile because I wanted to challenge myself. Having spent a semester abroad in Mexico, I chose to stay for a summer in Chile to redefine the way I think about Latin America. Santiago differs from anywhere I have ever lived, in that it is a sprawling, modern city with over five and a half million people living there. I grew up outside Knoxville, Tennessee, which pales in comparison to the size of Santiago. I studied in Oaxaca, Mexico in the spring semester of 2018, which is also a relatively small town. I knew that the diversity of the population in Santiago would be rewarding, for I could have the opportunity to interact with people of all different backgrounds. Also, I intend to become a professor of Latin American history, and Chile contains a rich, complex history that I wanted to learn about firsthand.
Luckily, I chose CIEE as my study abroad provider. Rather than focusing on broad overviews of a country’s history, CIEE provides programs that highlight specific aspects that foreign students should learn to better understand the dynamics of the area. Through a political science course on development, poverty, and human rights, I studied the country’s complicated relationship with social movements and human rights. Also, because I took this course with other students from various parts of the U.S., it brought to light the differences amongst people within my own country. We had many guest lecturers and visited various sites pertaining to our classes, and each one taught me something about Chile, but also about the U.S. The professor constantly challenged us to think about our place in the world, and she wanted us to see how interconnected we all are.
Through this program, I lived with a Chilean host mother, which allowed me to test my language skills and step out of my comfort zone by practicing Spanish with a native. Chilean Spanish is notoriously more difficult to understand than that of other Spanish-speaking countries, and I found it difficult to keep up, in the beginning. However, by the time I finished my summer semester, my Spanish had improved dramatically. I was able to see how the locals lived their daily lives, and my host mother showed me how to cook Chilean dishes. I practiced cooking more through the classes that CIEE offered us, so I was able to learn how to make traditional foods, like Chilean empanadas. I went on many incredible excursions to places like Sewell, which is an abandoned mining town in the Andes mountains. I visited the first vineyard in Santiago, and I toured the homes of one of my favorite Latin American authors, Pablo Neruda. Because Santiago encompasses such a variety of people and places, I never found myself lacking in things to do; there was always a new part of town to see, or I could go to one of the countless museums in the city. I took day trips to the snow-covered Andes mountains and to the beaches of Valparaíso. I watched local artisans craft delicate art pieces out of copper, and I saw couples dance the traditional cueca in plazas. In one short month, I experienced many things that would I would remember for a lifetime.
Both times I studied abroad, I chose to go to nontraditional locations. In doing this, I have grown as a person in ways I never anticipated. I now have more confidence in myself to adapt to new situations and embrace cultural differences. I gained friends and new family members in two different countries, and I made professional connections through the universities and volunteer work. I observed the cultures and learned about the countries that I studied in, but each time I finished a semester abroad, I realized that I had learned so much more about myself. Studying abroad in Santiago, Chile made me a more well-rounded student, but it also made me into a better human being, as a whole.
Britany Green is double majoring in Liberal Arts and Spanish and spent Summer 2019 studying in Santiago, Chile through CIEE. Britany had the following to say about studying abroad, “I strongly believe that through travel and cultural immersion, we become better human beings. If you are able to, study abroad! It will change you for the better.”
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