Evani Radiya-Dixit (she/her)- Stanford in Santiago
Major: Computer Science
College year while abroad: Sophomore
About the photo: At the top of some rock formations in the Atacama desert. It was incredible view of the surrounding mountains and sand dunes.
Questions and Answers with Evani
Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?
I wanted to study abroad, because I was eager to immerse myself culturally in a new place and live away from the bubble in the Bay Area. I choose Santiago for many reasons. I wanted to live with a host family and practice my Spanish. I knew little of Latin American history and was excited to learn more about Chilean politics. Lastly, the country’s incredibly diverse nature from the Atacama desert in the north to Patagonia in the south was fascinating to me.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Santiago?
I did not have strong expectations going in, but I was surprised by the diversity in Santiago. I learned that Chile is a country full of different cultures and people, and I enjoyed having conversations with immigrants from Venezuela, Argentina, and Haiti.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?
I audited a Chilean economics class taught by Professor Rolf Luders who worked briefly in the Pinochet military regime. He took us out for dinner and invited us into his home. I enjoyed having interesting conversations with Professor Luders about his perspective on Chilean and American politics. I also took Director Iván Jaksic’s history class on the emergence of nations in Latin America. I remember learning about Argentina’s history, and then visiting Buenos Aires the following weekend where I had the amazing opportunity to see and learn more about the country’s past. During a walking tour of the city, I discovered how Afro-Argentians were systematically erased and decided to choose that topic for my final class presentation. Not only was the city was incredible to explore, but it was also refreshing to see how it enhanced my understanding in the classroom.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
Study abroad was a space where I was surrounded by new people. While my friends at Stanford have similar backgrounds and values to me, I found myself a minority as a POC during the study abroad and sometimes with people who spent money or free time in different ways. During my time in Santiago, I understood more about what I value in friendships. It was a learning process of finding points of connection, knowing when to retreat from conversation, and discovering when to engage in meaningful relationships.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
Though we were in a different continent, the study abroad program in many ways felt like a bubble. For example, there was a homeless center right across from the Stanford center, but it was rarely talked about. While it was easy for conversations to focus on Stanford or classes, I found it important to think and talk about things outside of our narrow view. Especially towards the second half of the program, I made the conscious effort to meet people outside the cohort and explore the city to immerse myself more fully. I learned from people by talking to strangers in coffee shops, dance classes, my hostel during a weekend trip, and many other places during my time abroad.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Learning the subtleties of Chilean Spanish such as diminutives and particular terms that are used in Chile. I remember the first time my host mom said "aguita", and it took me a bit of time to realize that she was referring to "agua", or water.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Santiago?
I loved the time I spent with my host mom. She was kind and honest and effused so much love for me. Our conversations would spill far past when we finished eating our dinner, as she would share a lot of stories. I enjoyed learning random words and began to associate them with her stories. For example, she had talked about her dog who had long eyelashes, or "pestañas". We had wonderful and funny conversations about language, Tic-Tac-Toe or "El Gato", vegetarian food, and our families. My host mom was incredibly open, sharing her struggles when her husband left her and with her own siblings. I heard from her about cultural norms and classism in Chilean society, and she imparted the lessons she learned throughout her life.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Santiago?
One experience that was particularly memorable was a Stanford event where we chatted with Chilean students for more than 3 hours. One of the women, Barbara, had talked about a feminist strike that she led regarding sexual harassment at her university. She shared her thoughts on how Latin American culture is often very touchy—people greeting each other by kissing on the cheek—and sometimes men take advantage of that or use the culture as an excuse. It was inspiring to hear her perspective and talk to everyone at the event.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Humbling, exploration, friendship, different, bachata.
What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?
An incredible empanada place in Valparaíso. They had delicious sauces such as salsa de pebre (pepper sauce) and salsa de merkén (a chilli pepper sauce). My host mom’s food was also quite tasty. She would often make me an omelet with cheese for dinner because she knew I loved eggs.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My journal. Throughout the quarter, I noted things for which I was grateful, new food I tried, and places I explored. Re-reading my journal has been a wonderful way of recollecting the details of conversations and interactions with my host mom, other students in the program, and strangers I met. It also serves as a reminder to myself to appreciate things that can be easily taken for granted: clean air, learning English as my primary language, safety, and the luxury of traveling, among many other things.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?
I listened to a lot of music in Santiago. It was sometimes overwhelming to always speak in a different language and not fully be able to express myself. I found that music was a wonderful, different way to listen to and pick up more Spanish. I had the chance to see the local band Moral Distraida live in a concert at El Clan. I remember everyone in the crowd singing the words to their songs, and I felt there was something special about how they connected to their audience.