Chi-Chi-Chi, Le-Le-Le, Viva Chile! This is part of the chants that can be heard anywhere from ocean to mountain and from desert to icebergs in the beautiful country of Chile. Now Chile wasn’t my first choice in country to study abroad in for a semester, in fact, I never really considered Chile to be somewhere I wanted to go in my travels, but the Millikin Center of International Education presented the opportunity and I took it. This was my first chance to actually leave the United States and really experience a foreign culture in its entirety. I knew nothing about the Chilean people, their language or even any of their customs, but I was going to dive head first and find out quick.
Preparing to leave was an experience within itself. The process to become an exchange student is a long and tedious one filled with paperwork and loads of mental preparation. It is also your first insight to how another country’s government systems works. It is nerve-racking to imagine living several countries away from your friends and family but their support was really what got me through it all.
Sitting on the plane getting ready for takeoff, surrounded by people that don’t speak your native language and who look very different from you makes six months seem like it will be a super long time, but as many international students find, time flies faster than you can even imagine. For me, the first two months of my experience were filled with stress and frustration but through the mix-ups, the embarrassing moments, and the miscommunications, I was able to overcome the struggles. I found a culture of passion, love and acceptance. During our time in Chile, we witnessed many protests in the streets begging the Chilean government to reform the Chilean education system. The entire country, as a whole, cared so much about their education that they banned together to demand a reform which would equalize the opportunities of all citizens for a quality education. The value they set on family was also very present. I personally enjoyed constantly seeing a grandmother, a mom and a baby together enjoying a stroll in each other’s company. I truly fell in love with a culture that cared deeply about its people and fought hard for what they believed in.
I would have to say after the end of everything, leaving the friends I had made, and the country I had learned to love was one of the hardest things about this whole experience. They warn you that in going to another country you might experience culture shock for a while until you adjust, but what they don’t tell you is, how much you are going to miss it all once you have to leave. At first I wasn’t quite sure this was the exact international experience I was looking for, but in the end, I found it to be one of the most impactful experiences in my lifetime. Chile will forever hold a place in my heart.
Abbie, a Junior Early Childhood Education major, studied abroad in Santiago, Chile in fall of 2011. Abbie was enrolled in the School of Education at Universidad Del Pacifico in Santiago, Chile
Abbie at the top of Santa Lucia with the city of Santiago displayed in the background.
This picture shows Rachel Spenn, Ashley Daniels, Grace Walworth and Abbie sharing the USA tradition of Halloween with some of the other international students they lived with. They carved pumpkins and talked about how different countries celebrate Halloween, if at all.
This picture is of all four Millikin students studying in Chile last fall semester, Abbie Christensen, Grace Walworth, Rachel Spenn and Ashley Daniels at a waterfall in the beautiful country of Pucon which is a southern region of Chile.
For this picture, all the USA students from Millikin, Rachel Spenn, Ashley Daniels, Grace Walworth and Abbie, as well as one other U.S. student got together for a Thanksgiving celebration. The five of them made a thanksgiving meal for the other 30 international students who had never experienced a Thanksgiving meal before.
This photo was taken during the Gay Pride Parade that took place down one of the central streets of Santiago. On the left it showcases the gay pride flag and to the right it is the Chilean flag. In the center is the prominent Entel Tower.