Student Stories: Mountains to the Sea

​Shelby Knight, a Natural Resources major and senior from OSU Cascades, traveled to Chile during Spring Break 2018. She stayed in Chile to complete a two-month internship at the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve. 

The Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve is located in the Los Lagos (“The Lakes”) region of southern Chile, between the towns of Puerto Fuy and Neltume. Privately owned, it consists of 100,000 hectares of temperate rainforest, grasslands, and mountain ecosystems and has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2007. The Reserve operates on the pillars of Conservation, Community Integration, and Sustainable Tourism. This includes reforestation programs, conservation programs for the Darwin’s Frog and South Andean Deer, jobs and training for local communities, and partnerships with the local indigenous Mapuche community. In fact, the name of the Reserve means “much bamboo” in Mapudungun, the Mapuche native language.

For her internship, Shelby worked in the excursions department of Huilo Huilo, helping to deliver environmental, cultural, and outdoor education to guests. She also tracked and mapped “illegal” trails within the reserve, assisting the department with their Trail Interpretation Plan, which will help them tackle replanting and recovering those illegal trails. Shelby also got to participate in the development of a nature-driven activity program for the Reserve’s smallest visitors, los pequeños exploradores or “the tiny explorers.”

​If you ask her about the professional development experience she gained from this internship, Shelby mentions learning how to better navigate language and cultural barriers, an improved grasp on the Spanish language, increased cultural, political, ecological, and geographical knowledge of Chile, and more experience working with diverse people from all over the world.

Her most treasured takeaways from her experience are her new relationships and the feeling of being part of one family while at Huilo Huilo. Shelby notes that there were some challenges to her experience, particularly her lack of Spanish and the short time she spent there.  She’ll also state that the hardest thing to adjust to was the difference in work culture and the homesickness. Chile’s culture around work is much more relaxed than in the United States and focused more on relationships and the little things. Shelby says that took a lot of getting used to. 

While Shelby may have spent her time interning at the Reserve, she also got the chance to explore some other places in Chile! She went back to Valdivia, one of the stops on the Mountains to the Sea program, and spent four days exploring the capital of Chile, Santiago, with a friend. One of the highlights of these little getaways was the chance to enjoy another aspect of Chilean culture: the food, and especially the important social culture of lunch, or “almuerzo”. Some of her favorite snacks were piñones, the seed of the Auricaria tree, the fried dough called sopapillas, completos or the Chilean hot dog, and asada, the Chilean barbecue!   

Finally, Shelby says that her experience, while difficult at times, was absolutely unforgettable and definitely a growing experience. If you are interested in international internships like Shelby’s or learning more about the College of Forestry’s faculty-led program to Chile, visit our website or contact Michele Justice for more information!

Thinking about interning abroad?

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