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  • Writer's pictureGrace Rector

Week 1: Introductions

In the fall of 2019 I will be studying abroad in Santiago, Chile studying comparative education and social change in the Universidad de Alberto Hurtado and organized by SIT. As part of the program, my cohort will visit 20 schools in Chile and Argentina to better understand intercultural education and to get first hand experience in the classroom to understand how education policy directly impacts students and teachers.

The first week is always an adjustment period: getting to know the program participants, getting to know my host family, and getting accustomed to taking the metro and other forms of transport. I was grateful for orientation in Valparaiso to begin the experience and to have all my questions answered upfront. My initial reaction was positive because I met our Academic Director and coordinators who are extremely kind. They met me and other participants at the airport and coordinated our transportation to Valparaiso.

We had a great orientation in Valparaiso for a few days before returning to Santiago to meet our host families. I was excited and nervous to meet my host family because the relationship with your host family deeply affects your experience. Lucky for me I got along with my host mom and host brother immediately. He told me that he has always wanted a brother and that he would make me a man! I laughed out loud at his declaration but decided at that moment to be the most playful host sister I could be.

My favorite part about my host family I’d sharing conversation over dinner every night. It helps me practice Spanish and it always allows me to reflect on my day and hear about their day. I also had the chance to attend a birthday during my first week in Chile. It was a good opportunity to meet my entire host family and also to experience what real Chilean Spanish is. Previous to this celebration I’d only heard, for the most part, the program coordinators speaking Spanish with formal pronunciation.

Being a tourist

During the weekend I had the pleasant surprise of having lunch with a friend from high school who happens to live only 2 blocks away from my house here in Chile! She’s been here for a month already and so she took me to one of her favorite places: Cerro St. Lucia and Barrio Lastarria. We visited various local stores that sold handmade products and tried vegan granola. This neighborhood was a bit touristy but really beautiful! On every street corner was another group of artists performing their original songs, in the small park there was a group of young women performing an African cultural dance complete with drums and beautiful voices.

Dancers in Barrio Lastarria

Another facet of this week that intrigued me was the history of the dictatorship from 1973-1990 under Pinochet. I had read the “story” in my readings from university in the United States, but after watching two documentaries about the Coup and hearing accounts from various Chileans I learned about the complexities of this historical event.

Visiting the General Cemetery

This week made me grateful that I had chosen Latin America to study abroad because knowing the language has allowed me to fully immerse myself.

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