As I sit in international departures at the airport, I think of my memories over the last three months. Chile is such a magical place, where everything comes together.
Traveling and immersion experiences should be a requirement for all college students. Being immersed for three months allowed me to learn about Chile and what life is like in Latin America. Being away also taught me to appreciate the little things, like flushing toilet paper and how much I like barbecue. I learned a lot of lessons through my classes and travels, and simply from experiencing a new culture.
I traveled to some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, like Torres del Paine and Pucón. Chile has many incredible natural formations, like its volcanoes and the Atacama Desert, but the city of Santiago is also a marvel of its own. Even if I had an extensive Spanish vocabulary, these places would still have left me speechless.
What made traveling to these places so mesmerizing were the great friends I went with. Deciding to study abroad with IES turned out to be an incredible blessing. I met many great friends from different universities in my classes whom I would never have connected with if it weren’t for this experience. Even though I am not fluent in Spanish, I also made friends with many Chileans. I will miss many things from Santiago, especially my new friends, but I look forward to returning to the Texas heat.
Within our group, we had people with diverse educational interests, including other pre-med students like me. It was great to study abroad with other students applying to medical school at the same time as me. It was challenging to complete schoolwork, apply to medical school and explore Chile simultaneously, but my friends and family were very encouraging.
Although it was hard to apply to a graduate program while studying abroad, that should not discourage you from going abroad. The benefits of experiencing the world outweigh the stress of any application.
On top of this, the education abroad staff and the university want to help make your time abroad easier. I would not have been able to apply without the assistance I received from UT Austin. Use the resources available to you!
Along with taking Spanish courses, I took an art class and a history class. Through these courses, I’ve seen the beauty of Latin American creativity. While most people want to travel to Europe, Latin America provides the same opportunities for growth and discovery.
I also discovered that I need to learn more about the history and art of Austin. Being abroad deepened my appreciation of our school and the culture around us. Being immersed in another culture gave me a new perspective to appreciate my everyday life.
I had the opportunity of living with a host family, which forced me to become immersed in the culture of Chile immediately. Host families come in all shapes and sizes, and you may have the opportunity to choose the type of family you live with.
My host family was not traditional, as it consisted of two sisters living together, Pilar and Gloria. They were both extremely excited to have me live with them. Pilar would cook me breakfast and dinner while Gloria worked at a school.
Going home every day and having to keep using Spanish improved my speaking skills exponentially and taught me more of the nuances of Chilean culture. I am excited to make their recipes for my family here. I will now call my host family to update them about my life because they have joined my family.
Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, and it was for me. I learned more about what I like and dislike on multiple levels. This program also gave me a new level of confidence in my path and my abilities. You can study abroad!
This post was contributed by Jordan Matkin, a fourth-year neuroscience major and Spanish and social work minor studying abroad in Santiago, Chile. Read his first post here.