Alright, before all of the other study abroad students look at this title and feel themselves overcome with jealousy, I should explain.
I am not doing a traditional exchange program with a university in Chile. Technically I go to Universidad de Santiago de Chile, but that is only true in part. The School for International Training (SIT) is an independent organization that offers themed study abroad programs around the world. The program I am participating in right now is called “Chile: Political Systems and Economic Development”. All of the students in SIT programs take classes together. For example, my program has thirteen students and all of our lectures are in a classroom of just SIT students; we do not have classes with Chilean students as part of the program. With that said, I am not lying when I say I am done with classes. One of the characteristics of SIT is the month long independent research project students work on during the last month of studies, so for me this means November. Today we are starting a ten-day excursion in southern Chile where there are high concentrations of Mapuche communities (Chile’s biggest indigenous group). The drive will be about ten hours and we will do this during the night. The purpose of this trip is to engage in dialogue with the Mapuche community and the community leaders about Mapuche political participation, economic development, and the struggles over land rights that the government sells to multinational forestry corporations, and the Mapuche perspective of identity within a nationalist country that marginalizes indigenous identity.
We will return from this trip in late October. During the next couple of days I need to create a research proposal and make the decision to reside in Santiago for November or relocate to a place that would be more useful for my work. Then November will come and I will be in full swing on my independent research.
Now that I am done advertising for SIT, I would like to express some thoughts on how it feels to be finished with classes.
Time has passed by faster than anyone can understand until they participate in a similar study abroad arrangement. Of course this is because we literally have less time in the classroom with the excursions and the independent month. However even taking into consideration those circumstances, I still feel it is honest to say time passed very quickly.
I have truly enjoyed the group with which I spent the past two months. There are only thirteen students so we had the opportunity to become close to one another. I can say that all of them are people I would have chosen to be friends with under different circumstances. We learned about Chile together, we learned a different language, we explored Santiago, and we traveled to magnificent places and came back to hotel rooms discussing them under the lens of social progress. We sat in class together every day for the past two months learning and exchanging ideas. It goes without saying I will miss the group.
We are all meeting at the metro station in two hours to start our journey to the south. I feel ready for this next experience.
Stay tuned 🙂