Name: Emily Stout
Program Attended: Santiago, Chile
Program Term: Spring 2012
1. Why did you choose the program that you did?
I chose Santiago, Chile because my first priority was to learn Spanish. I have always been really drawn to Latin America, and I ended up choosing Chile specifically because it’s SUCH a versatile culture and country! Where else do you get to experience the driest desert in the world (the Atacama), Patagonian wilderness, Pacific Ocean, Andes Mountains, AND a buzzing metropolitan city all in the same country!?
2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?
Latin America holds a special place in my heart, so I would love to continue to explore countries there, especially Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands! But if I wanted to add another language, I would love to immerse myself in Italy and study Italian!
3. What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?
I had an INCREDIBLE spring break. Studying abroad encourages you to explore where you are, and for me that meant flying down to Patagonia and backpacking the three-day “W” route in Torres Del Paine National Park with two of my peers. The week was amazing; I can’t count how many rainbows we saw, how many friends we made, how many wild guanacos (cousins of the llama) we tried to pet, or how many blisters we had at the end. And it’s just one example of how we made our time abroad even more memorable and life changing. But my favorite memories are from simply hanging out with my host family and host grandparents. They really adopted me and we all enjoyed each other’s company, even with the initial language barrier. I explored the city with my host sister, got ice cream with my host mom, and even went to extended family birthdays and barbeques. I really got to experience life Santiago style.
One of the biggest benefits is confidence. Personally, I definitely noticed an increase in confidence after I came home; something that helped me to be a better student and boosted my social life on campus. I think that studying abroad also gives students a more Global Mindset, a valuable thing in today’s world. Living with a host family, forming new friendships, and assimilating into a new culture teaches you how to live and succeed in an increasingly globalized world.
5. What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?
While studying, I was lucky enough to be able to coordinate with USAC and my host university to swim competitively with the swim team! I went to practices two to three times a week and got to be a part of a Chilean swim team for 2 months! The experience really helped my Spanish and I was able to work off some of those Chilean empanadas at the same time!
6. What was a funny cultural experience?
Oh man, my poor host family could probably answer this better than me, as they were there to laugh (and then correct) all of the cultural “problemas”. One ‘cultural faux pas’ happened on the first day I met my host family! We went out to eat and the first time I reached to eat a french fry with my fingers, I got lectured! Chileans use a fork and knife for EVERYTHING… including french fries, sliced apples, even cupcakes!
7. What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that when I stick with a challenge- I am capable. I CAN do it. I wouldn’t have learned that so effectively had I not studied abroad. Likewise, gaining confidence in a new language is such an empowering kick! That moment when I finally started “getting” Spanish… I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
8. How did studying abroad change you?
Studying abroad taught me so many things, like the value of hard work, the importance of family (both at home and my host family in Santiago), the power of asking for help, and how to find courage in scary situations. Overall, the 6 months I spent abroad shaped me into a more humble, confident, and culturally sensitive individual.
9. What’s one thing you would have done differently?
I would have studied abroad for TWO semesters! I wish I had planned my finances better and studied for a full year! I’m not sure if I would have stayed in the same city or moved to another location in South America, but either would have added to my Spanish proficiency and my experiences!
10. Now that you’re home, how do you see the impact of study abroad on your life?
Well, I have less friends to hang out with because I convinced all of them to study abroad! Just kidding… but my experience in Chile really does influence almost everything I do now that I’m home. Right away, I noticed I was a more successful student and employee after studying abroad. I had increased confidence in academics; I learned Spanish in four months, I can do anything! I was also more laid-back at work; living abroad, I became really good at accepting when things were out of my control. I even got a job being a USAC ambassador for my school!
11. How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?
It took me 5 years to graduate, but I changed my major three times… Studying abroad actually helped me to become more focused and pointed me towards choosing a major (Psychology! In case you were wondering). After coming back from studying abroad, I averaged a higher GPA and was a more successful student because of my success while abroad.
12. What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about studying abroad?
From being a USAC peer advisor at my home university, I learned that students were often surprised that their classes for their major/minors were even offered abroad. Many students believe that studying abroad is only beneficial if you have an international focus (such as language, International Businness, etc) but the experiences gained while studying abroad adds to any discipline. In my opinion, studying abroad is beneficial for EVERY major.
13. What advice would you have for students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?
My advice to college students is to challenge them to ask themselves “Why am I in college in the first place”? Most likely, we are all pursuing higher education in order to be more successful and happier later in life. On that note, studying abroad increases both. For example, 97 percent of students who studied abroad land a job in the first year after college, with only 49% of college students who didn’t study abroad. When thinking about your future, studying abroad give you valuable experiences and skills that set you apart, and you get amazing stories and memories in the process! (http://studyabroad.ucmerced.edu/study-abroad-statistics/statistics-study-abroad ).
Check out the Santiago, Chile photo gallery!