Michael Cola

 Michael is an Ambassdor who studied abroad in Chile
Major: Hispanic Studies and Mathematics

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Studying abroad allows me to finish both majors within four years. As well, I knew I wanted to study abroad when I came to CSBSJU on one of the Spanish programs. I didn't want to go to Europe for school, and I preferred Chile over Guatemala. As well, the Chilean culture matched my personality after doing some research,;the laid back attitude and caring people we're a perfect fit for me. As well, I was very excited to live on the coast and interact with all the opportunities that living on the ocean provided.


Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
In early October, we traveled to the Atacama desert with a tour agency. The tour guides were Chileans and right away when we left for the desert, I connected to the guides. Over the trip, I got to know them and I spent almost the whole weekend talking with them in Spanish, improving my abilities, which was and is a very important thing to me. Also, the desert is a major part of Chile. I saw some of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life. I felt like I was on another planet. It was completely unforgettable. I also had the opportunity to visit some Incan ruins, which felt like a step through time. The ruins were instill partially intact, and I stepped into ancient Incan living spaces and sacrificial areas. I will never forget the view from the location, as it was carved into the side of a hill, with a complete view of the town we were staying in and the surrounding area. The entire trip through the desert was like living on a different planet. I will never forget it.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The time at I spent in Chile cannot truly be described in a few words written in a paragraph; it needs to be lived. I did so many things and met so many people, it is not like anything I will ever do again. It was a completely different experience from attending CSBSJU for a semester. It was like a high school/college hybrid, where I had a mom and a dad who would make meals for me and always be home to talk to me about my day, but as well I had complete freedom to leave and come whenever I wanted, as long as I let them know what I was doing. Viña del Mar is a city of great opportunities, like horseback riding, scuba diving, long boarding, surfing, sand boarding, or just tanning on the beach. I never had a dull moment. School was not easy, but it was not as difficult as CSBSJU, which I was thankful for. As well, I had class three out of seven days of the week, so every week I had a four-day weekend, which allowed for many adventures. The people were amazing. They didn't treat me differently for being a foreigner, they were always understanding of my Spanish abilities, and they were always willing to lend a hand in anything I needed, whether it be directions, or simply holding the door open. The Spanish was very difficult at first, but without that level of difficulty, I would not have improved my fluency as much as I did. The entire trip was unforgettable, I was always doing something, always having a good time. I am thankful for everything I did and I know the friendships I made will be every lasting and the memories will always be with me.

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?Spending a semester abroad in Chile allowed me to improve my Spanish speaking abilities. The dialect was very difficult to understand at first, but once I got the hang of it, I was learning something new everyday. I also now have a complete,y different perspective of my own culture. After living with the Chilean people and interacting with their culture, i have a broadened view of the world at large, which may sound cliche, but is the best way to describe it. I can see that every culture is unique and portrays itself in a certain way, whether loudly and proudly like Hollywood does for the U.S., or calmly and quietly, like Chile. Studying in Chile also helped me understand my financial habits and helped me get my spending under control.

I have gained a new perspective on myself and on my culture. My Spanish speaking abilities have immensely improved and I feel confident speaking to any Spanish speaker now without any fear. This has already helped me at my place of work, and I have been able to help some friends with their Spanish homework. I know I will now perform much better in my Spanish classes as a direct result of my trip.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?First off, save money now. It costs a lot to do this, and once you're there, and not using American currency, it is extremely easy to spend a lot without realizing it. As well, research the culture where you're going to be living, as well as the area around where you will be. If you're going to a country where they don't speak primarily English and you know the language (French, Spanish, German, etc.), use it, use it, use it. All the time, as much as you can, speak that language and get used to making mistakes and being corrected, because it will happen a lot. I thought I was at least partially good at Spanish, but my host family corrected me all the time. It only helped me to improve my understanding of the language and immensely improved my confidence in speaking. Keep an open mind to everything you see, and realize that these people have been living the way they are long before you arrived, and it will be different from what we are used to. Broadening your mind and reserving judgments helped me to enjoy my time greatly.



Do you have any questions about studying abroad in Chile? Email Michael at mrcola@csbsju.edu