Three months, four countries, and countless unforgettable memories later; I accomplished a childhood dream to study abroad. During fall term 2012, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel abroad and study Spanish in the South American country of Chile. I traveled to Chile with 17 other students from Oregon State in search of life changing experiences and a unique opportunity to study Spanish in a native Spanish speaking country. What none of us expected is that we would create deep roots and a second home in Chile.
During my time in Chillan, Chile, I had the unique experience compared to the rest of the group. I arrived two weeks later due to my sister’s wedding. The rest of our group had two weeks to get use to the new surroundings, the language barrier, and ultimately settle into our new lives in Chile. At the beginning it was difficult, overwhelming and unlike anything I have ever had to overcome, but in the end it did not hold me back thanks to the help of my host family, friends, and our program coordinator. Through everything, I have created lifelong friendships and our group has become my second family. Our classes were very different than I expected. Our professors were very easy going, patient, and encouraged us to travel and to learn more about the Chilean lifestyle and culture.
The Chillan, Chile study abroad program offers students an unique opportunity to fulfill their Bachelor of Arts language requirements in three months, while learning about an entirely new culture in a foreign country. My initial intention to study abroad was to finish my second year of Spanish in three months, but what I did not expect to happen was to find a passion in learning Spanish and to continue my education working towards a Spanish minor. Oregon State offers a wide variety of study abroad programs with endless possibilities. I considered studying abroad in Spain or Costa Rica, but something stood out about the Chile program. When talking to the program coordinator, Lucia Robelo, and past program students, I could see how enthusiastic they were about the program – learning a foreign language and most importantly how their lives had changed. Chile had become their second home. In the end, I felt Chile was the best program for me, and I was right!
During my time in South America, I traveled to Argentina, Uruguay, and topped it all off with a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. Buenos Aires, Argentina, the birth place of the Tango and some of the best vino (wine) y carne (steak) in the world. Six other students from the program and I ventured to Buenos Aires in early November. We spent a week in the country’s capital as well as a day in Uruguay. We drank the wine, ate the steak, danced the Tango, and experienced the Argentinean lifestyle. Uruguay was an unplanned day trip, but ended up to be one of the most memorable adventures I experienced in my three months abroad. Rounding out my three month stay in South America, two others and I traveled to Peru in early December to visit one of the 7 wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. After living out of a backpack for 7 days and hiking through the Peruvian rain forest in a straight down pour, we finally arrived at the city of Aguascalientes below the site of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was one of the most remarkable and breathtaking experiences of my life that I will never forget. Throughout all my trips, nothing was more important and exciting than meeting natives from the different countries I visited. I truly enjoyed learning about their experiences and culture.
On my last day in Chile, I was very excited to board the plane and begin the long 22 hour trip home to the U.S. After the plane left the runway, I knew I would not be saying “goodbye”, but “see you soon” to my Chilean family, friends, and my second home in Chile. In the future I hope to return to Chile to visit my Chilean family and friends, but until then we all have remained in close contact. My study abroad experience was like nothing I have ever experienced or expected. It was BETTER! I was emerged into an unknown culture, community, country, language, and overall way of life. I can proudly say I have grown as a person and have the utmost respect for other cultures in the world. I would recommend studying abroad to any student interested. It is not impossible!
If someone were to ask me when I was beginning my first year of Spanish if I planned to study abroad or if I would continue studying Spanish after I fulfilled my foreign language requirements. I would say it was very unlikely. However, the unexpected happened; I studied abroad in South America and I am currently six credits away from completing my Spanish minor. After my experiences abroad, my life and goals have changed for the better. I graduate next spring with a degree in History and a minor in Spanish. After all the life changing adventures I have been fortunate to experience within the last year, I have created one life goal for myself: to maintain my Spanish language skills.