Falling for Minnesota

Chilean students wrap up visit to CSB and SJU

By Mike Killeen

Students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University are justifiably proud of the Study Abroad program. It's a nationally recognized program that sends over 350 students abroad each year to 17 different program sites.

But for the last three weeks, the tables have been turned. Twenty-three college students from the University of Adolfo Ibañez (UAI) in Chile have participated in a short-term study abroad program at CSB and SJU.

The students arrived in Central Minnesota July 18, and will depart Aug. 14, living on campus at CSB. During that time, they have taken a class on American history and culture taught by Julie Davis, assistant professor of history at CSB and SJU; honed their English skills; and visited sites around Minnesota, including a trip to a Twins' game, the Iron Range, the North Shore and several museums and local landmarks.

"It has been great. It has been a very good experience," said Maria Veronica Rojas Machuca, a Spanish professor at the Chilean school who is the on-site coordinator for the group. "This is our second program (at CSB and SJU). We're very happy about it. I think it's a very positive experience for our students, because they can have the study abroad experience."

She said the students particularly enjoyed their visit to the Twins' new home at Target Field. Some of the students also swam in Lake Superior on their swing through Northern Minnesota.

"They thought it was warm water, because the water on our coast is very cold. So they were saying, 'How come the people don't swim here?' The water is just perfect," Rojas Machuca said, smiling.

Joy Hemmesch, education abroad advisor at CSB and SJU, said the visit was born from the CSB and SJU study abroad program to Chile with UAI.

"Our students have such a great experience in Chile that it was only natural to find a way for the UAI students to spend some time at CSB and SJU," Hemmesch said. "Our office and CSB/SJU faculty directors worked with UAI to put together this short-term program. The end result has been great and it really has deepened our relationship with UAI."

Rojas Machuca said that the trip will help the Chilean students determine if they wish to take a longer study abroad program.

"This is a program for beginners, in terms of language, so they get more fluency. They feel more confident once they finish this program," Rojas Machuca said. "Being together as a group, it's easier for them to do it because it's their first time outside the country, on their own."

Rojas Machuca said that one of the students who visited CSB and SJU last year is now doing a semester-long study abroad trip in Spain. She added that several students are interested in possibly returning to CSB and SJU for a full semester study abroad program.

"This is a very nice environment. We all feel very comfortable here. We feel like everybody loves that we are here. That's great," Rojas Machuca said.

Posted August 9, 2010