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Student Perspective on Santiago Study Abroad

I have asked our students to journal their impressions and responses to our study abroad experience in real time. They will either respond to my blog entries or insert their own thoughts. Following are the initial thoughts of one student, Michael Stark:

We are only three days in, but I can say without any hesitation that Chile has both surprised and delighted me in many ways. It has been a whirlwind few days to say the least. To give you a general sense of what it has been like: in the past seventy-two hours I have (1) worked to acclimate to a new culture that I knew practically nothing about, (2) discovered just how inadequate the remnants of my grade school Spanish are, (3) learned the names and stories of about twenty people whom I barely knew before but now spend almost all waking hours with, (4) visited, discussed, and analyzed businesses in many different industries and sectors, (5) received a crash course in the rich history, politics, and religion of Chile, (6) gotten incredibly lost and spent hours walking in circles while only a few blocks from my hotel, (7) biked the incredible parks and shared public spaces of Santiago on a three hour tour, (8) met a few talented and inspiring ex-pats, (9) eaten more cured meats, incredible seafood, and fresh fruit than I previously thought possible, (10) met a group of students from my beloved alma mater, Notre Dame, (11) seen firsthand that Groupon Chile seemingly employs all of the hipsters and creative-types in town, just like their North American counterpart, and (12) given up both complaining over or trying to count the number of group pictures Dr. Reilly has taken in the course of documenting our Chilean adventure (pretty sure the number of pictures exceeds the number of hours we have been in this country ). [Go to our Facebook page to see some of these.]

The funny part is that this list is by no means inclusive of everything we have done in Chile. There are easily another dozen interesting experiences or thoughts that I could add to that list. In a sense that is what has surprised me most about Chile. What I mean by this is – I have been so surprised and blown away by Chile, that it no longer surprises me. When I think about it, I didn’t really think much about Chile or what to expect on this trip until I boarded the airplane to come down here. Now, after seventy-two here, I expect to be surprised at nearly every turn. It is hard to describe just how welcoming the people have been, how beautiful the city of Santiago is, how the overt and widespread public displays of affection shared by young Chilean lovers can totally catch you off guard and inspire nostalgic thoughts of one’s own romances at the same time, and what four million stray dogs really looks like.

I am glad I came into this trip with no expectations. I am pretty confident that whatever expectations I could have had would have been so far off the mark that I worry it would have biased the experience for me. I feel fortunate that it worked out this way, in that I have been able to take the experiences as they come and at face value and without any pre-conceived notions. I believe this is how my Chilean counterparts would handle a situation like this, and I must say that it is a refreshing perspective through which to view a new culture, city, country, and the people that comprise it. Now the only thing that really surprises me is how often I find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to live here, only to realize that I really think I could live happily here. I’m sure Chile has its dark side and that there is a chance my opinion could change over the remainder of the trip, however all the evidence and my instincts tell me that Chile and its people will further amaze and impress as we dig deeper into all it has to offer.

Stay tuned for more comments from our other adventurers.

Mary Ann

  • By Kathleen Steinfels on 3.7.2013 at 12:19 pm

    Just before I left the snow of Chicago for the sun of Chile, a co-worker told me of two friends who had visited Santiago and returned to the states only to resolve a few things before moving to the city they had fallen in love with half a world away. She warned that I better not do the same. I chuckled and said “I can pretty much guarantee I’ll have no interest in moving to a country where I don’t speak the language, and has a climate of sunny and 85 degrees much of the year” (I’m a fair-skinned, freckled Irish girl).

    That being said, I’m more and more amazed each day I’m here. The city has shown me a level of livability I’ve never observed while traveling abroad previous to this. As Peter, the founder of La Bicicleta Verde, said over and over again, he absolutely fell in love with the people of Chile. I can relate to this – the people consistently demonstrate kindness, patience and authenticity. Our guides, Roberto and Alejandra have been fantastic at showing and telling us about their country – both good and bad. While trying to find our way around the city, many perfect strangers have stopped to try to help, even though many of us (me included) don’t speak Spanish. One gentleman (presumably on his way back to his office from a lunch or ciesta) not only pointed us in the right direction, but physically walked with us – clearly going a few blocks out of his way. The welcoming nature of the people of Chile has been a tremendous surprise, and truly appreciated.

    With only three days before heading back to the snow, I find myself looking forward to taking Spanish after I finish my MBA this May. And, fully intend on returning to this beautiful country and city. Having lived in the Chicago area since birth (I didn’t even leave for college), I’m not convinced my first “permanent” separation will be an 11+ hour flight, but the fact that it’s in my mind demonstrates just how amazing this experience has been.

  • By Kerry.Yang on 3.8.2013 at 10:24 pm

    It is a really fantastic and valuable experience to explore the beauty of Santiago, Chile. When visiting here, it reminds me my hometown: Taiwan in some aspects. Therefore, I would like to make a brief metro comparison between Santiago, Chile and Taipei, Taiwan. Santiago does have a very convenient, bright and clean metro system but lack of air-conditioner, which might be annoying because Santiago is known for its sunny and high temperature climate. Taipei has a similar climate condition; therefore, when Taipei Metro built, the air-conditioning is built-in across all different routes. Also, based on different routes and estimation of growing passengers numbers, Taipei Metro have different capacity trains operate in different routes to make sure resources are effectively utilized. Though the fare charged method is different from Santiago, one interesting point is for less frequent commuters such as traveler, Taipei Metro use recyclable Single-journey RFID IC Token and Santiago use one-time paper ticket. What reminds me when living a place too long, we tend to take everything for granted without understanding or starting outside box thinking to make things better until we received an external stimulus.

    Last, I do impressed by Chile sustainability concept. Most of time the public scarifies environment because of self-interest or convenience. However, Chile does a lot of things that are all built on the concept of sustainability. Unlike most of countries, it is not just a slogan or promotes the sustainability concept after destroying our mother nature.

    All in all, I think Santiago do have the potential to become a much more modern city in South America based on its consolidate infrastructure base and environmental protection concept.

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