Rachael Hernandez is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the first cultural experiences I had on my trip was actually the birthday party of my host niece. She was turning 7 and had a party that included pretty much everything one would expect of a child's birthday party but multiplied by about 5. The food was plentiful as was the company. For me the feeling of family and closeness was what stood out the most. Everyone was talking to everyone, everyone was serving everyone and most importantly, everyone was speaking Spanish. This was the first time I was exposed to strictly Spanish in the most positive way possible.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to study abroad not just because I am a Spanish major but because I wanted to actually experience the language, the culture and the way of life. I wanted to expose myself to something completely different, new and exciting. I wanted to meet people my age who live on a completely different continent and be able to connect with them. Also I really wanted a cool stamp in my passport. I had no idea exactly how much that stamp would mean to me.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I would describe my experience as something I wouldn't trade the world for; every single moment, whether it be good or bad. I believe that every decision I made, everything I did and every person I met I learned from, grew from or hopefully influenced in some small way. I am still in contact with some of the friends I met while studying abroad and find that in the 4.5 short months that I was there, there was so much to take in, give back and just observe
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
This trip has both confirmed a lot of who I am as well as allowed me to, from an outsider's perspective, be able to observe a culture and adapt to that culture. I believe I am different in respect to understanding what it means to be a foreigner. Never have I been branded as a minor in my entire life. As an American girl in Latin America, there is a lot of attention to attract. I believe this trip has helped me, as a person, grow into accepting the fact that change isn't always a bad thing. Something I have always had trouble with.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
1. Remember this is an opportunity and a privilege, so take advantage of your time.
2. Remember that not everyone has the courage to do something like this, you are brave for just taking the first steps.
3. Really try to get out, meet people and soak up as much of the culture as you can.
4. Be nervous, but willing to try new things.
5. Do what YOU believe will make the most of your experience.