Michael is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile
Major: Global Business
Minor: Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
The main reason I chose to study abroad was to pursue a Spanish minor. I felt that the best way to be able to do this was by receiving full emersion into a Latin American culture. I decided to choose the Chile program because it offered its own unique culture. Viña del Mar offered a beautiful location with an abundance of activities to do after classes. Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez was situated on top of a hill in Viña and gave a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city.
However, as I have assimilated back into American life, I realized that the reasons were much more than this. I decided to study abroad because it gave me the opportunity to travel abroad by myself, without parental supervision. I knew that by doing so, I could really focus on myself and step out of my comfort zone. In addition, study abroad could possibly be the only opportunity that a student has to travel outside of the country, while still being able to work towards their degree.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the best ways to experience Chilean culture is going to an asado, or grill out, with your host family. I was able to travel to the campo (countryside) with my host mom and visit her extended family who had a small home there. The day was full of drinking traditional Chilean wine and liquor and indulging in many different types of meat. During the asado, there is a time that the whole family dances the national dance of Chile, the cueca. This dance is said to be the mating pattern of a rooster and a hen when male is trying to win over his future spouse. The asado usually concludes with singing and drinking mate con huesillos which is a typical Chilean dessert. From this experience, I gained a sense of how accepting the Chileans are towards others, even though you mess up their sacred dance. Finally, I learned just how important family is to Chileans.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The Chile study abroad program offered an overall positive abroad experience. The program included opportunities that allowed me to travel with my fellow classmates to locations such as a winery in Valparaiso, the Atacama Desert and the capital of Santiago. Also, given the opportunity to study at one of the top business schools in Latin America allowed me to improve my Spanish significantly. I was taking 3 out of 4 classes in Spanish, maximizing my opportunity to fully emerge myself in the language. Lastly, I was blessed with an incredible host family who I can confidently call my second family. The lessons they taught me about not only myself, but also about the history and culture of Chile will forever be in my heart.
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?
In general, I learned how to become a “global ambassador.” This goes two ways. The first is to represent the United States in the best way possible as I was making the first impression to others. The first thing that people associated me with while abroad was my home country. Foreigners already have negative presuppositions about the culture in which I live and I felt that it was my responsibility to break those presuppositions. The second way was learning more about the country I called my home for the next 5 months. This meant that I had the responsibility of learning the history and culture of Chile and understanding how Chileans lived their day to day lives.
Personally, I learned more about myself than I ever could have staying in the states. I learned the value of money to me personally (I hate to see it go) and learned how to become a better friend to those who were struggling with relationships back home or had a spell of homesickness. I also was able to step out of my comfort zone by traveling by myself for 5 months. Academically, I was able to work towards my Spanish minor and fulfill almost all of my credits. I was also able to see what classroom life was like outside of the US. Professionally, I have taken away skills and stories that I can use to add to my resume and job interviews to make myself stand out from other candidates.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
The biggest piece of advice I could offer CSB/SJU students who are planning on studying abroad is to create a list of reachable personal goals they wish to accomplish while being abroad. Looking back on my time abroad, I realized that I did not set reachable personal goals, which made it difficult to gather information about my personal success while abroad. Another piece of advice I could offer is to start learning how to live in the moment, in the here and now. So many times while I was abroad I continued to worry about homework and school. Until I learned how to put all of that aside, I truly was able to make the best out of my experience. I found that I was continuing/developing deeper relationships with those around me and appreciating what Chile had to offer in terms of nature and fulfillment.