Reconnecting with Chile

I would just like to take a moment to thank DRCLAS for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. After moving to the United States from Chile at age 6, my undocumented status made me believe that I would never see Chile again.

DRCLAS gave me the tremendous opportunity of reconnecting with my native country in the most beautiful way. After some investigation, I discovered the DRCLAS-U. Mayor Experiential Learning Program: Healthcare in Rural Settings, and I have never been more grateful. Not only did this program give me the chance to return to my native country through a special U.S. Advance Parole permission I obtained, it also gave me the opportunity to give back and discover a side of Chile I didn’t even know existed.

Traveling to Temuco in Southern Chile, and connecting with the locals was truly incredible. I had an experience more rewarding than I ever imagined, helping my own people get access to health services that are not available, for the most part, in their rural communities. I got to do things that never in my wildest dreams thought I would be doing, such as vaccinating cows and cleaning out people’s ears (it really is as gross as it sounds).

Since I was born in Santiago and most of the Chilenos that I know in the United States are also from there, it was really enlightening for me to meet people from other parts of Chile. I cannot say enough about the generosity and the humility of the people from Temuco. With astounding warmth, they welcomed us into their homes and into their lives for those precious ten days. I was constantly baffled by their constant generosity. They always offered us food and drinks when they had so little to begin with. Being surrounded by other Chilenos made my experience incredibly enriching because I have not been around that many in a very long time. Being immersed in a culture that felt so familiar yet so foreign was jarring in the best possible way.

Through this experience, I also made some great friends along the way and got to know people from Harvard I never expected to meet. I cannot thank DRCLAS enough for giving me this opportunity. Going back to Chile, after being away for 15 years was life changing. I will cherish this experience for years to come.

Written by: Lisette Candia Díaz '16
DRCLAS-U. Mayor Experiential Learning Program: Healthcare in Rural Settings – Chile 2015