Alexandra Wilson '21
Program: Chile Fall Semester
Major: Mathematics and Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience a completely different part of the world and meet new people. As a Hispanic Studies major, I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country in order to fulfill my language requirements and improve my Spanish proficiency. I was torn between Chile and Spain, but ultimately chose Chile because it seemed to be the more unique opportunity. People travel to Europe all the time; however, few are able to say they have been to South America.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One cultural experience that I will never forget is the asado (cook out) my host mom brought me to in Olmué, a mountain town located 45 minutes from Viña Del Mar to celebrate Fiestas Patrias, a holiday to honor Chile’s independence from Spain. When we first arrived at her aunts’ house, I was completely overwhelmed. It was me, my host mom and about 20 of her extended family members that I had never met before. However, as soon as I got there, I was greeted with open arms. It is typical in Chilean culture to kiss everyone you meet on the cheek, so I was getting kissed left and right. It was strange, but it made me feel very welcomed. My stress quickly went away. The whole day everyone was so friendly to me speaking slower if I needed them to and letting me try every typical Chilean dish they had. I absolutely loved getting to know her extended family and learning about their culture though them. It was fascinating to hear about Chile through so many different perspectives all at once. They treated me with such kindness that by the end I truly felt like I was a part of their family celebration.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It was the best four months of my life. I had the opportunity to backpack through Patagonia, hike Machu Picchu, white water raft through the Andes, star gaze in the driest desert in the world, and even repel down the side of a mountain in Argentina. I cannot sufficiently put into words how much my time abroad has meant to me. Not only did study abroad give me the chance to experience amazing places, it also gave me the opportunity to meet incredible people. I am truly blessed to have been able to know my host mom, Cristina. She is the kindest woman I have ever met and made her home feel like my home from the very beginning. I loved spending time with her and getting to understand Chilean culture through her. Overall, study abroad brought me something new and exciting every day. It was the challenges, uncertainty and adventure that made my study abroad the most rewarding experience of my life.
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?
There are so many benefits of spending a semester abroad. Personally, I was able to expand my horizons, grow as a person, and become more independent. Academically, I was able to complete courses in my major and improve my Spanish speaking abilities. Being immersed in the Chilean culture, living with a host family, and speaking the language for an entire semester helped me to develop more confidence and a willingness to try new things. Now, I enjoy speaking Spanish and am not afraid to use what I know. Lastly, my communication skills have improved, and I have a better understanding of the world around me.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My advice is just do it! Study abroad is an opportunity of a lifetime! It is an incredible way to meet new people, step outside of your comfort zone, and grow as a person. It has so much to offer and I believe that everyone should take advantage of it.