Priya Chatwani

Priya Chatwani - STUDENT PROFILE 

Stanford in Santiago, Spring 2017-18
Major: Computer Science
Minor: South Asian Studies
College year while abroad: Sophomore 
About the photo: This picture was taken by Marilu Bravo on the Bing trip to San Pedro de Atacama, a desert in northern Chile. This valley, called Valle de la Luna, reminded us all of what we imagine Mars or the moon to be like.


Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?

I chose to study abroad in Santiago because I feel that South America is a part of the world about which I am very uninformed and wanted to learn more! Chile is also a country with a rich history and culture and a vast diversity of natural sites, from the driest desert in the world to enormous glaciers.

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

I was surprised by how welcoming my host family was - they invited me to their family gatherings, my host mom's parents had a birthday party for me, and I got to play with my younger host cousins. Everyone I met was so incredibly friendly! Another surprise for me was the ease of public transportation. I grew up in LA where public transportation was not very present, but the metro and bus system in Santiago was fairly easy to navigate! Finally, I did not expect the students of Chile to be so politically engaged and active. Their awareness and fight for justice continue to inspire me.

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

As a computer science major, I really enjoyed seeing the impact of technology in Chile, specifically with regards to urban planning because I took a Sustainable Cities and Transportation class with German Correa. I wrote a 15-page research paper in Spanish comparing and evaluating the smart city initiatives in Santiago and Rio de Janeiro, and I am now more aware of the importance of involving users and their feedback in every stage of development of a technological product.

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

I realized how much I enjoy meeting and learning about new people. It also became clear to me that I have so, so much more to learn about the rest of the world. I definitely felt braver and more adventurous during my time in Santiago as well, and that showed me that I do have it in me to be daring. Sometimes I just need to push myself out of my comfort zone to gain and learn from new experiences.

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

I don't know if this was the most challenging, but I do remember being really nervous about my last-minute decision to go camping in Cajon de Maipo (closeby town) with two other Stanford students. I was not at all prepared for the cold, but my abroad-mates shared all of their blankets, jackets, and socks with me. Together we looked at the stars and braved the cold and then woke up early to jump in the hot springs and hike to a beautiful glacier. I learned that camping is not as easy as I expected, but I truly value that experience and my abroad-mates' generosity!!!

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

I saw every cultural difference as an opportunity to learn and grow. Living with a different family is an adjustment regardless of culture, but I feel so grateful for their kindness and generosity because they really made me feel at home.

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

My favorite part was walking or jogging through the different neighborhoods. Santiago is filled with beautiful parks, and there are always children, families, and couples enjoying the outdoors and community.

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

There are many, but one of my favorite memories was climbing Volcan Villarrica. While going up it, I was not sure if I would make it to the top, but once we did, I truly felt on top of the world. And we then slid down the volcano on plastic sleds!

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Daring, new, surprises, friendship, acceptance

Fun Questions:

What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?

I loved the cheese and mushroom empanadas. Cheap and always yummy!!

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

My fuzzy socks really came in handy during some of the colder nights, and my host family gave me warm pantufas (fuzzy slippers) to walk around with!

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

My favorite Chilean artist is Violeta Parra, a folk singer and songwriter who I learned about in my Latin American Female Writers class.