Ellie Bowen (she/her) - Stanford in Santiago
Major: Symbolic Systems
Major: English Literature
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This photo was taken at the end of our week hiking Patagonia. The towers — as this rock formation is known — were some of the most magnificent things I had ever seen. Some of these crazy people pictured here jumped into the freezing glacial water after this was taken.
Questions and Answers with Ellie
Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?
I chose to study abroad in Santiago because I wanted to strengthen my Spanish skills while living somewhere that felt really adventurous. Chile presented the perfect place for me to go because it was so different from anywhere I had ever been before or planned to go in the near future (although now I plan to return often to visit my friends and host family!). To me, study abroad was a chance to choose a place that pushed me, because never again would I be able to move somewhere like Chile while having all the support of Stanford's BOSP program. This is all not even to mention the allure of the unbeatable nature in Chile.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Santiago?
Because Chile — and South America more broadly — was a region of the world that I knew very little about, I didn't come in with too many preconceived notions. That said, living in Santiago felt like a constant string of pleasant surprises (for example, I've never been to a city park that had flamingos you could feed in the pond!), and I felt like I was constantly learning something new and exciting. I'd say the two most surprising things about Chile were that the spanish spoken there is extremely fast and full of slang words known as "chilenismos," and that the food is spiceless. Additionally, one thing that was surprising to me was how easy it was to travel to other countries in the region; our group had the chance to not only to explore a great portion of Chile — from the Atacama Desert in northern Chile down to Patagonia — but also to surrounding countries Argentina and Peru during long weekends. As to the city of Santiago itself, I think I expected it to be very different from other cities that I knew; however, it surprisingly reminded me of a lot of American cities, in particular LA and Chicago. Finally, while I expected the natural environment to be quite beautiful, I didn't realize quite how awe-inspiring it truly is until I got there. It's like nothing else in the world.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?
The academic benefits of studying in Santiago were threefold for me. First, the program is relatively small, so you get a lot more individualized attention from professors, especially in comparison to normal Stanford classes. The teaching team for the Santiago program is extremely dedicated to student learning, and are always willing to meet with you to discuss class material, offer book recommendations, or help you practice Spanish. Additionally, we all had the opportunity to take individual spanish tutoring courses, which hugely improved my Spanish skills, and our Spanish class teacher also took us out in to the city to practice the phrases we were learning in the real world. Second, and relatedly, the things you learn in class you can apply directly to your experience living in Santiago. Whether it's Spanish language material or Chilean history, your knowledge will be compounded by discussions with the people around you or trips to museums and cultural sites. Finally, living with a host family affords you the opportunity to continue learning even when you are not at school. Whether it's asking your host family about their thoughts on politics or a short story you are reading in Spanish literature, the wealth of knowledge you gain from your host family is invaluable.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
That I'm a lot braver than I thought.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
A group of five of us from the program decided to hike the W in Torres Del Paine. The force of nature there was utterly moving, and this proved to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. However, one day during that hike, I got lost from the group, and ended up climbing up the side of a steep waterfall in the wrong direction of my friends. The way up was very slippery, and there was no one else around to yell for if anything went wrong. I was cold and exhausted from hiking all day. I wanted to give up; to sit down and rest, but I knew that if I did, I would be in even more danger. So I kept going, and eventually I reached a rock overhang that allowed me to see the right path and where I had gone wrong. After climbing back down, I finally caught up with my friends and shared what had happened. We laughed at my disheveled appearance and the fact that I had managed to meander so far away, but from that moment onwards we were careful to stay together while hiking. Through this challenging experience, I learned not only the importance of following the golden rule of the trail — thou shalt stick together — but also that I had a lot more grit than I knew.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The food was a bit difficult to get used to, especially the mayonesa on everything ... and I'm from the midwest, so that's saying something. Luckily my host family cooked excellent food and tempered their mayo usage, so I managed just fine (but not without having to try broccoli with mayonnaise on it, unfortunately.)
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Santiago?
The moment after classes were over and everyone was in the center together, buzzing with excitement over either an impending trip or the planning of a future one.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Santiago?
Driving through the Atacama Desert in a pickup truck with nothing around us except for dunes and beautiful skies
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
¿Por qué no los dos?
What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?
My host mom's ceviche.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?
Paulo Londra and Ceaese (I can't choose).