Greetings from Chile!
In my last blog, I talked about the difficulties of studying abroad in Chile and shared some interesting experiences that I had with y’all. At that time the only place I had traveled to from Santiago was Valparaiso.
Since then I have been able to travel a lot more. I have been to the Embalse El Yeso reservoir, the El Colorada Ski Resort, and the Atacama desert. These have all been wonderful adventures, but the best by far was going to Atacama. I traveled there with my sister and a group of exchange student friends. We stayed in the small town of San Pedro. This town is an extremely popular tourist town. It is very interesting thing to see how the town has responded to the fairly new market for tourism. I was able to go on a tour of the town, and during the tour it was explained that tourism has only become popular in the last 20 or 30 years in the area.
Atacama is the driest desert in the world and was definitely a sight to behold. While walking in San Pedro, I was able to enjoy views of the Andes and a variety of volcanoes. The volcano plays a significant role in the culture and beliefs for the indigenous peoples of Atacama, and so much of the decorative designs on the buildings and in the architecture of San Pedro include triangle patterns to symbolize the volcano.
As a bit of advice to any students who want to study abroad in a country where they do not speak the language or are not fluent in the language, it is good to travel with friends who are fluent or natives of the country. There were many times during my travels where I was very happy to be with other students who were fluent in Spanish, especially since my level of Spanish is very low. For instances like transportation to the airport and talking to taxi drivers on the cell phone, it is very useful to have those who can help.
While I have been here I have also realized a lot of cultural differences and attitudes. For example, the people here in Chile do not call those who are from the U.S. “Americans”. This may seem like a very small difference, but it is actually something that I have to constantly work at. Since Chile is apart of South America, it is considered inaccurate and offensive to call those who are from the U.S. “American”. The Chileans call them “estadounidense” , which roughly translates to united “statesian”. I constantly have to stop myself when I say that I am from America or I am American. I also constantly find myself saying “Americans” when I am talking about other people from the United States. It is a very hard, but important, habit to break. The way I see it, it is very Eurocentral and a very western mindset to call the U.S. “America”, since there is also South America, Central America, and Canada that is included in the Americas.
This post was contributed by Elise Higgins, a 2018 Ambassador. Elise is a UT Civil Engineering student currently studying abroad at Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santiago, Chile!
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Elise’s experience in Chile>>