Stanford in Santiago, Spring 2013-14 Major: Human Biology College year while abroad: Junior
questions and answers with Clarisa
Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?
I wanted a chance to explore a country and culture that I had never known before and I saw an opportunity to improve my Spanish by immersing myself in a Spanish speaking culture. I had also heard that Chile was a gorgeous country to visit and explore and I would be able to hike the Andes Mountains while still being inside one of the fastest developing cities of South America.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Chile?
I am of Mexican background and have visited Mexico on occasion and I thought that my Spanish would be similar to that of Chile, and that I would just have to pick up some Chilean slang and I would be ok. I was so shocked at the difference in Spanish. Chilean spoke in a Spanish that seemed to go millions of miles per second, shortened certain words, cut out syllables, and had a completely different slang. It was fun learning this new Spanish and adapting to the new environment. I also didn’t expect how American a lot of things were in Santiago. Music in shops and restaurants was often popular American pop or rock around the city and chains like Dominos and Pizza Hut were not just take out places but also classier looking restaurants than I was used to.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?
Classes in Santiago were extremely flexible. Classes were offered in both Spanish and English and there were a variety of topics. Recently at Stanford, they’ve cut down on Latin American history courses on campus and in Santiago, they have probably one of the best history professors I’ve ever had teaching a history class that wasn’t so much a lecture, but a weaving together of international geopolitical history affecting Latin America.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad? And what did you learn from it?
The most challenging was navigating the public transportation system. The metro was super crowded no matter what time of the day it was, and you usually had to map out your route for the bus systems before making a trip because there were no maps near bus stations. This just took some extra preparation though so it wasn’t too difficult to remedy.
How was your experience living with local families?
My host mother was so sweet and always made sure I was comfortable and enjoying my stay. I met her grandson and was able to have casual conversations with her son about politics and world issues, which provided an interesting point of view that I could learn from.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Chile?
The most memorable experience for me in Chile was going with a group of friends to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. We experienced snowstorms and sand storms in the span of 24 hours, went sandboarding down mountains of sand dunes, visited geysers in the Andes at the crack of dawn in freezing weather, and roamed around the village of San Pedro and its adobe buildings. It was probably one of the most amazing weekends during my time in Chile.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in Santiago?
Take every chance you can to explore. Chile and Santiago have so many beautiful and amazing things to see, and there is so much to see that you’ll find yourself having to choose between experiences. It’s easy to be resourceful in Chile as Stanford staff there provide you with a lot and make sure to help you in any way. Make sure to take advantage of them as a resource because they’ll give you the best tips about exploring the city and finding internship or volunteer opportunities.
How has the experienced changed or enhanced your future academic and career goals?
I am definitely going to take more history classes now. I loved Professor Ivan Jaksic’s class and would love to take more classes like his. I believe I also have more confidence in my capabilities and myself after having explored a city and its nation and adapting and learning to be self-sufficient during my months there.
What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?
Well, it wasn’t my favorite, but six of us visited the town of Pomaire and ordered a restaurant’s specialty meal, which was meant to feed 4. What we got was a huge ceramic pot filled with all different kinds of meat. Even by the end of the meal, all of us were so full, but the ceramic pot was still stuff with meats. One of the things I liked to share with friends for a quick lunch though was a chorrillana. If you like animal style fries from In-N-Out, then you’ll love chorrillanas.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?
I’ve actually fallen in love with the Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra, especially her song Gracias a la vida. She has an interesting political history and her story is tragic. Getting to know Violeta Parra is to get to know parts of Chilean culture and history.
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.