From: Johnston, Iowa
Study abroad semester: Fall 2015
Studied abroad at: Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
Why did you decide to study abroad?
After the third year of my Bachelor of Architecture program, I found myself with more than enough academic credits; in fact, I didn’t have enough remaining credits to be considered a full-time student for my remaining semesters. It really made me think about what it was that I wanted. I could graduate early, do a hybrid work-study semester or spend my time learning from another culture and lifestyle.
How did you choose the location?
I began looking into Spanish-speaking countries to build on the foundation I had from my basic high school Spanish courses and became convinced that I wanted a complete immersion experience. I went to Santiago to learn architecture through a different lens — the lens of a different language and culture. I chose Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile because I wanted a challenge in terms of the content taught.
What did you study?
I found a host family to live with for the semester (given the unavailability of student housing in much of South America) and arrived a month early to take an intensive Spanish course. It was then that I realized how much there was to learn about the culture and people, and my focus shifted from the architecture in my classes to the people and the way of life throughout the city and country.
What were some of the highlights of your experience?
Some of my best memories are of hopping on a bus after class and exploring the country. Chile uses a system of buses rather than trains to navigate its length and I found them to be very affordable — a 6-hour bus ride cost the same as a 15-minute taxi ride halfway across Santiago. I also enjoyed the many family gatherings with my host family.
What did you learn about yourself?
Throughout my six months in Chile I learned more from interacting with the local population than anything else. They taught me another definition of success and of happiness, a rearranged order of priorities and a new perspective from which to look at the world. The students I studied with at the university taught me to push myself rather than wait to be guided to the correct solution. This confidence and drive to be independent and pursue my own life is perhaps the most important thing I will take from my experience in Chile. It didn’t change my love for architecture; it directed me toward a life not centered on fame and prestige, but on making a real difference in the lives of real people.
December 5, 2016 2:23 pmShow all profiles