Taylor Billion

Taylor is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Chile

Major: Biology

Minor: Hispanic Studies


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I am a Hispanic Studies minor and I feel very passionately that the best way to learn a language is through immersion. I had witnessed this in my older sister who studied abroad. There is an immense difference between sitting in a 1 hour Spanish class twice a week and actually being forced to speak the language 24/7 in a new country. For me, if I had invested so much time in being a Hispanic Studies minor, it would only be worth it if I came out a better speaker and I knew the best way to achieve this was studying abroad.
So I narrowed it down to the 3 Spanish Speaking countries. Many factors contributed to my decision on Chile. The most important I believe was that with the tension between the US and many places in Latin America, I wanted to gain a new perspective to better understand our neighbors to the South.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

One thing I loved about Chile was their emphasis on the importance of family. Most social circles, parties, events and weekends were planned with family. It is a more heavily prevalent part of life there and for this reason most young people go to school and work close to home. It was a refreshing new way of life.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Like most people, I created certain expectations in my head about my upcoming experience. I was picturing in my head a glamorous city with exotic cultured people filling the streets. However, the image of the city that I had was solely based on the big cities I had visited in the US. I didn’t consider the idea that Latin America may have a distinct twist. While Viña is a big thriving city, it is nothing like busy New York or Chicago. It was a more relaxed sensation, which I very much enjoy.
Being a student in Chile was quite different than my previous semesters of university. The biggest difference is that instead of taking my usual list of science courses, I dedicated this semester to spanish and literature. Instead of being asked about the subjective technicalities of the living world, I was asked to present my objective thoughts and feelings. I was a nice change and break from the intensity of being a pre-medicine Biology major.
The greatest skill I have learned as been my ability to handle difficult situations. By being in a new city, a different culture, and traveling I have had my fair share of times when things don’t go as planned. For example, 3 of my flights while being here have had to be rescheduled, completely changing my travel plans. Previously I did not have much experience with these types of situations and I would react despairingly and irrationally. However, having lived through the struggles, I feel ready for any type of obstacle.

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?

My language skills improved much more than if I had not studied abroad. Additionally, living with a host family helped my realize the goal of being fully immersed in a culture. There are lessons I have learned that would not have been possible without my family. I have noticed immense personal growth during my time in abroad. One big thing is that I feel a greater sense of self worth. Seeing this new culture and view of the world has made my previous worries seem less important.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

Do not hold back. The way to get the most out of this experience is by going all out and fully participating in the new culture even if it is uncomfortable at times.