Dana Alcala ’24

Program: Chile Semester

Major: Communication

Minor: Political Science

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

I chose to study abroad after hearing about the experiences my older sisters had during their time abroad. One of the main reasons I choose Saint Ben’s was because of their study abroad programs. I specifically chose Chile because I wanted to learn more about another Latin American country that would hold the similar values that I was taught growing up in a Mexican household.

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

One of my favorite cultural experiences when abroad was celebrating “Las Fiestas Patrias” which took place on Sept.17-19. My neighbor next door invited me and a few other students to join them in celebrating Chile’s independence. We had a lunch gathering with about 30 people, and they just took each of us in and we ate. At the beginning of the lunch we got to see the Chileans toast which insisted on a chant that went “Chi-Chi-Chi, Le-Le-Le, Viva Chile” and just witnessing that made me have a sense of how much they appreciated their country. That moment will be forever ingrained into my memory.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I would say my study abroad experience wouldn’t have been what it was if it weren’t for the Professor Megan Sheehan. She did an amazing job at helping us understand Chile through Intersectional Lens and understand Chile through its history. I had days where it was difficult, I would get homesick and not want to do anything, but Megan had made a space in the classroom to really share those feelings and everyone would do a good job at listening and being just as vulnerable so overall it was such a formative experience.

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?

One of my favorite benefits of studying abroad would probably be the fact that we didn’t have classes on Friday. I felt like I was allowed to be free and explore the city I was in, but also work on things that connected with the places that I was at. For example, I got to go on field trips that explored the city of Viña or Valpo and although I was technically in class, I was also learning about the spaces I was at. Studying abroad contributed to my personal development in that I was able to make friends with the Chileans and I know if I ever want to go back that I would have a space to go. In terms of academic contributions is that I have a better understanding of how the “us vs. them” mindset can be toxic and that going abroad really makes you expand you’re worldview on things that you wouldn’t even have thought of if you didn’t have those experiences.

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

My advice to other CSB+SJU students considering studying abroad is to simply do it. It’s scary thinking you will have to see new places, but sometimes we need that in order to better understand who we are. One of the ideas I learned in a class I took in Chile was how there are three circles, the inner one is you, where you are comfortable with everything around you, the next is you sort of getting out of that comfort and then retreating back to you, however like studying abroad, you are in this outer circle, where everything is just constantly new and you get to discover what things mean to you. So studying abroad will definitely take you out of your inner bubble and push you to see things in a new perspective. Now that you have these experiences of studying abroad, you get to come back to that comfortable inner circle with more knowledge and experience and decide who you want to be when you come back and seeing things.