by Anna Quattrone, Class of 2018
…The second most popular question during my five weeks in South America, the first being “Did you vote for Donald Trump?” When people asked me, “why Chile,” I think what they really meant is why did I choose to spend my first five weeks of summer vacation in South American winter, learning one of the most difficult Spanish accents. The truth is, I did not have a solid answer when asked this question besides that my University was offering a new abroad program in Chile, I enjoy traveling, and needed these six credits to help me graduate on time, so here I was in Valparaiso, Chile.
Eight months before this trip, I declared a second major of Hispanic Studies in addition to my major in Media and Communication Studies. This decision came after a semester abroad in Costa Rica during my sophomore year. I knew I wanted to keep practicing my Spanish, and my best options were to continue taking classes or to go abroad to another Spanish speaking country. With this new summer program announced, I was able to do both. The timeframe was perfect; the classes fit nicely into both of my degree progress tracking sheets, plus it was pretty affordable compared to other study abroad options. Other than this preliminary information, I had not done much research prior to my arrival…which might be the reason why I did not realize it would be fall/winter in Chile until about 2 weeks before my departure.
I arrived in Valparaiso on Monday, May 15th where I was greeted by Camila, my host mom. Camila is a screenplay writer for telenovelas, movies, and TV series, as well as a freelance journalist. This was great because we had many similar interests which created a lot of conversation between the two of us. Often she would speak in “Spanglish” to practice her English and I would do my best to only speak Spanish. I like to think we both helped each other with our language skills during the five weeks that I lived with her.
Camila also has two sons, 12 and 14 years old ,who were surprisingly very interested in my life and US politics. In fact, their many questions are what sparked a lot of dinner conversations. They would often ask what it was like living in the US, if college was really as it seems in the movies, and who my family members and I voted for. In return they taught me all about the Chilean culture, slang, and politics. Personally, I think living with a host family is the best way to learn a language and these three people certainly challenged and entertained me in the best way.
Although my host family taught me a lot, I was still in Chile to take classes at the university. Every morning Monday through Friday all four of us would get into the car and Camila would drop us each off at school. During these five weeks I took two classes, sociopolitical history in Latin America and literature and cinema in Latin America. Both courses were taught in Spanish and only had international students in them. These courses were both interesting and challenging, but I especially enjoyed the film and literature class. In this class we mostly watched and discussed movies and short stories from all different Latin American countries.
When I wasn’t in class or sharing a meal with my host family, I was walking around Valparaiso checking out all the incredible street art. Although I normally found myself in the same area, it was so easy to find a new mural, cafe, or artist’s shop. With all the staircases and little roads in the hills of Valparaiso it is nearly impossible to walk the same path twice.
On the weekends we would go on excursions with the university to various nearby places. These trips included tours of Isla Negra and La Sebastiana ,which are two of Pablo Neruda’s houses, a boat tour of Valparaiso, a Casablanca wine tour, and a day trip to Santiago. In addition to these excursions, a few other students and I did some traveling on our own to nearby towns and beaches. One Sunday we decided to hike La Campana and surprisingly made it all the way to the summit where the view was absolutely incredible.
Overall, my five weeks in Chile were filled with adventure, challenges, and lots of questions. It was a great way to end my junior year and begin my summer by being able to practice my Spanish and learn about a new culture. I look forward to visiting Chile again one day to experience their summer