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 Kelsey Chatlosh, a student from George Washington University (GWU) in the United States, who studied abroad in Chile from July to December, 2010.
Highlight from the classroom
Kelsey’s experience in Chile is a testament to just how much studying abroad can enrich your education – and life experiences.
Taking courses from both of Chile’s two leading higher education institutions – Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica – in Santiago as well as courses directly through GWU, she studied themes as diverse as photography, revolutionary literature, anthropology of the Americas. . . and salsa.
But Kelsey says that her most “memorable course experience” was something that came outside of the classroom, in a course on Chilean historical memory of the twentieth century.
“One of the last days of the semester our professor [a Chilean himself with firsthand experience of detention during the Pinochet dictatorship] took us on a field trip to both Villa Grimaldi in the morning and then the cemetery [Cementerio General] in the afternoon,” she says.
“At Villa Grimaldi, we were given a tour by a man who was once tortured there and spoke from his own experiences. Our professor then gave us a tour himself of the [Cementerio General], the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen. In particular, we saw the memorial towards those lost under the dictatorship as well as Víctor Jara’s grave.”
For the U.S. exchange student, the outing was a powerful experience, and one that is likely to stay with her for the rest of her life.
“After spending several months getting to know Chile, its history, its culture and its people, and its dark recent past of the dictatorship, Villa Grimaldi and the memorial at the National Cemetery just made everything I’d learned so much more real, concrete, both the past and the aftermath of all the lives that were lost,” she says. “It was a very emotional day.”
The best of Chile, on a student’s budget
For Kelsey, the best Chilean travel experience was not found in the wild expanses of Patagonia or the heights of the Andes, but in its people and culture – or more specifically one of its most famous sons, Pablo Neruda.
“One of my favorite trips in Chile was going to Isla Negra and seeing Pablo Neruda’s house there,” she says about completing the trifecta of Neruda’s houses that have been converted to museums.
“Like his other houses, all of the eclectic decorations inside and out seemed to explain so much of the poet’s ironic and playful sense of humor and wide-ranging interests in cultures from all over – but his house at Isla Negra did so the most,” she said.
Little pearls of wisdom
For students coming to Chilean capital during the summer months, Kelsey’s advice is to head to Emporio la Rosa for “the most amazing ice cream ever.”
For the winter semester, she says not to underestimate the cold of June and July, and to pack plenty of warm clothing.
But a chilly winter has not kept Kelsey away from the Andean nation – she has already returned once to visit friends and her former home-stay family, and with an itch to explore the mysterious archipelago of Chiloé, she says she is “determined to go back to Chile again in the near future and look forward to visiting soon!”