Annika Brakebill

Annika Brakebill - STUDENT PROFILE 

Stanford in Santiago, Autumn 2017-18
Major: Biology
Minor: Spanish
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: My friend and I hiked the W in Torres del Paine after the program ended in December. We were exhausted from finishing the quarter, moving out, and traveling, but the park was so beautiful we could hardly believe it was real.


Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?

It was always a goal of mine to go abroad and I wanted to keep working on my Spanish. I chose Chile over Spain because I had never spent time in South America and it was more mysterious and exciting to me than Europe.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Santiago?

I had few expectations before I went and tried to go in with a totally open mind. However, throughout my time in Chile and on trips to Argentina and Peru, I was consistently surprised by the huge breadth of cultural diversity of the region. I was also surprised that despite this diversity, some popular items of Chilean culture, like hot dogs (completos) and bad TV (teleseries) are stereotypically "American" things.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?

As a biology major, I was only able to earn 3 credits of WAYS-SI (a breadth graduation requirement) toward my degree. However, I definitely benefitted on a personal level from taking courses outside of my major, like political science and history classes. I also really enjoyed the infectious disease seminar taught by our visiting faculty, Dr. Eran Bendavid.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

I used my time abroad to do a lot of reflecting about my on-campus activities to decide what to continue with and what to change when I returned. I learned that my Spanish is decent, but also that I can sometimes get by on personality alone in a pinch.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

When I first arrived, I had a hard time understanding my host mom. Over time, after some miscommunication and some fumbling through, I was able to understand her, and was able to have some nice conversations with her by the end.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

I am very relaxed navigating Stanford campus, and often smile a lot and sing to myself along with my headphones as I bike to class. I did a lot of quality walking around in Santiago, but definitely had to dial back the smiling and singing to the Chilean commuter norm.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Santiago?

I walked to the Stanford center every day from my apartment, 15 minutes at a fast pace and 20 more slowly. I loved having the free time to eat a nice breakfast and then walk to class. It was very relaxing and a beautiful change of pace from the mad dash to class back on campus.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Santiago?

On our Bing trip, we went on a short hike on the Pacific Ocean-side of Chiloé island. I remember climbing around on the rocky beach and thinking it was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever been in my life.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Reflective, relaxing, adventurous, enlightening, bacán

Fun Questions:

What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?

Besides empanadas, which I never managed to get tired of, my favorite food was either the vegetarian Pad Thai from a place by Santa Lucia or a vegetarian waffle wrap (not sure how else to describe it) from Buffalo Waffles in Lastarria.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

The backpack I used for school was also useful for daytrips, weekends, and hiking. I was thankful for the hip belt, water bottle and Camelbak bladder holders, and lots of space for stuffing in whatever I needed for the day.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?

I have 3: Natalia Lafourcade, Nano Stern, and Bomba Estéreo. Since returning to the US, I've seen all of them live in concert-- Nano Stern even came to Stanford. They are fantastic!!