You know that feeling when you finish watching a movie at the theater – something freaky and different like Paranormal Activity or that one Justin Bieber biopic – and step back outside into the real world, wondering if that really just happened? Coming home from the HSI program in Chile has been like that, only instead of two hours the film lasted two months and instead of just feeling like I was in the movie, I actually was living in it.
People always praise and glorify studying abroad. Students who have done it will jump out of their seats to tell you how much they loved it, and students who haven’t will most likely list that as one of their biggest college regrets. In my experience, when something has that kind of overwhelmingly positive reception, it’s usually a scam (I promise this isn’t a fake review). Yet I still applied and went to Chile. I reassured myself that there was no way that many kids could have all been brainwashed. And after seeing what the hype was about myself, I can reassure you that your time and money will be well-spent on this trip.
Not because everything will be sunshine and flowers (the DRCLAS summer programs actually happen during winter in South America, but that’s beside the point). While I was in Chile I got sick multiple times, spent several hours daily drowning in a sea of metro commuters, and even got robbed by racist delinquents. Granted, that stuff doesn’t always happen. And there will obviously be positive moments too. You’ll figure out the absurd but also absurdly interesting Chilean Spanish, feel the simultaneous respect and discontent Chileans have for their country, and most likely taste your very first (but certainly not last) Pisco Sour. Point is, everybody has different experiences. And the reason I urge you to go study abroad is exactly that – everybody on this planet has a different experience of life, and leaving the U.S. to see how other people live is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
It’s the same reason we watch films, read books, and even listen to certain types of music. We all, especially as young and poppin’ college students, strive to learn about things that capture our interest – and something that is new and foreign is inherently interesting. Through this program, you’ll be bombarded with a language, culture, and people that will hopefully make you question your own values and priorities. You’ll inevitably come out of the experience a more tolerant and understanding person, a wiser traveler, and a better connected citizen of the world with the friends and the Instagram pictures to prove it.
Staying with a host family will provide you with friends/pen pals for life
P.S. Due to character limits and my own bad habit of rambling, I didn’t talk much here about the Health & Spanish Immersion program in Chile specifically. However, if you would like to get the juicy details on what exactly I did, peep over at my blog here: www.jiangounchained.wordpress.com
Written by: Matt Jiang ’18
Health and Spanish Immersion Program in Chile