In this series of interviews with current and former study abroad students, This is Chile has the word straight from the horse’s mouth: classes, friends, travel, language – it’s all here.
Each year, thousands of students wing their way to Chile for the chance to study at one of the region’s leading universities, polish their Spanish, and travel one of the world’s best natural playgrounds.
Today we talk to Amanda Reynoso-Palley, from the University of California, Berkeley.
Highlights from the classroom
This history major spent both semesters of her junior year at the Universidad de Chile, the country’s oldest and most prestigious public university, with campuses throughout the capital city of Santiago. She took three history classes and two film classes, but she says the best class she took was in an entirely different department.
“My favorite class was actually in the theater department,” Amanda says. “I took a [class on the] history of Latin American theater. It was fascinating and also really challenging and I loved the professor.”
Learning Spanish, Chilean style
Every study abroad student travels his or her own bumpy road along the idiosyncrasies of the Chilean idiom. Whether you’re a Brit accustomed to Iberian Spanish or a New Yorker who’s used to the rapid-fire of Caribbean Spanish, Chile’s former geographic isolation and the linguistic influences of the indigenous language Mapudungún have created a treasure trove of expressions, popular sayings, and a very distinctive accent.
So, what was Amanda’s favorite “chilenismo”?
“I’m a strong supporter of ‘po’,” says Amanda, referring to the ubiquitous vocal tic in Chilean Spanish. According to linguists, “po” is a shortened form of “pues” (“so” or “then”), but “po” runs rampant through daily Chilean speech.
Now back in California, she says the old habit is hard to beat: “I still annoy my Mexican boyfriend when we speak in Spanish and I respond ‘Sí po.’ But it just comes out naturally, I can’t help it.”
The best of Chile, on a student’s budget
“While I absolutely loved traveling around Chile,” says Amanda, “I always got homesick – except not for the United States, for Santiago! After more than three days out of Santiago, all I’d want to do was go back.”
With the wealth of cultural events, live music shows and culinary explorations on hand in the capital, it’s not hard to understand the Californian’s perspective.
“That being said, my favorite place… was Valle de Elqui. It was stunningly beautiful. I have to go back because my camera was stolen right after I returned from my trip so sadly I lost all my amazing pictures.”
And no matter how long you spend in Chile, this diverse country always leaves you wanting more. For Amanda, it was the famed adventure mecca in southern Chile: “I never went to Pucón,” she says, “and I always really wanted to go.”
Little pearls of wisdom
“Try your best to meet and befriend Chileans,” Amanda says. “It can seem hard or intimidating at first, but it will really make all the difference in your study abroad experience.”
The California native set up language study sessions between her Chilean classmates and friends from her study abroad program, “where we could practice speaking Spanish and English and help each other out.” Que buena onda!
By Jacqueline Seitz