Sophie Kem is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression. Towards the end of the program, I traveled by myself to Pucón, a quaint little town located in southern Chile. This experience had a lasting impression on me because it showed me how much more of an independent person I had become. I made my own itinerary with sights I wanted to see and activities I wanted to partake in. I had some unforgettable experiences canyoning into waterfalls and climbing a volcano. To make it a little more challenging for myself, I decided to choose Spanish-speaking guides and I was surprised to find how much easier it was for me to communicate to them and to understand what they were saying back to me!
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to experience being immersed in a new place that I could call home for the next few months, while improving my Spanish. I chose Chile because South America had always been a continent I wanted to get to know better. Upon doing some further research on the country, I realized how much the country had to offer to me - the Atacama Desert, Andes Mountains, Patagonia, tons of beaches and everything in between! I also liked that I would be living with a host family and attending a Chilean University! I really liked these two aspects because it was going to allow me to meet and build relationships with the people of Chile.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It was an unforgettable experience that could not have been replicated in any other way. There were endless opportunities to grow as a Spanish speaker and a global citizen. Each day greeted me with excitement, challenges and chances to learn new things. It was an amazing opportunity for growth because I experienced both the good and the bad. There were moments I found to be uncomfortable, awkward or frustrating but I would not have had it any other way because it was through those moments that I learned the most about myself and the world around me. I can honestly say that it was the best semester of my college career.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
I wouldn't say that I am a new person because of studying abroad but I would say that it has improved me and allowed me to learn a lot about myself. I became a more independent person because I did many things on my own such as exploring my surroundings and mastering all the modes of public transportation. I learned to be flexible and to adapt to my surroundings because that was the best way to "fit in" with the locals and to become one of them. I also became better with the language after months of conversing with family, friends and locals. This helped me to become a more out-going and confident person because I was comfortable socializing with Chileans whether it was in a social gathering or if it was as simple as asking someone for directions.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
There is a group of students from UAI (the university you will be attending) that come to CSB/SJU for one month in the summer and my advice would be to get to know them. Some of them will attend the same campus as you when you're in Chile and they will be your best resources!! The people I met became some of my best friends! My other piece of advice is to put yourself out there and make friends outside of your CSB/SJU group. You will get so much more out of the experience!!