Four UAFS students spent their fall semester immersed in Spanish language and Chilean culture as part of their study abroad requirement for their degrees in Spanish.
Spanish majors Miraya Marciano of Alma and Jordan Pomeroy of Ozark studied at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile in Santiago, taking courses in international relations, government, and history, as part of their studies in the Spanish program at UAFS. They both graduated in December 2018. Spanish majors Makayla Newby of Alma and Catherine González of Van Buren studied at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria, also in Santiago, Chile.
Marciano, whose mother is Colombian, had always wanted to travel to South America to see the landscape and culture firsthand.
“It’s definitely taught me how to acclimate to another culture fast and to appreciate my own culture in the U.S.,” Marciano said. “You meet a lot of people from different backgrounds and see their different lifestyles and work ethics.”
In their courses, Marciano and Pomeroy learned about how the United States interacts with Latin American governments and how those interactions affect citizens of both nations. With aspirations to work in international relations or civil services in a Latin American country, they found the experience to be valuable preparation for their career goals.
“It also made me realize what we have that other countries don’t,” Marciano continued. “Regardless of our politics, our government is much more structured and stable than those of many other countries.”
González, a junior Spanish major, gained a new appreciation for the value of friendships in acclimating to her international study. “I had friends and made great friends,” she said. “They believed in me, and I believed in them.”
González further notes that her semester abroad taught her to have greater flexibility when the unexpected happened: “Studying abroad in Chile has changed me. I no longer plan ahead with hopes of everything going exactly right, because honestly speaking, it never does!”
Newby said she learned to appreciate the things and people she’d taken for granted, and learned that things are not always as they seem. She also learned that “being quick to judge may not be the best idea when faced with a new challenge.”
Dr. Mary Sobhani, head of the World Languages Department, said Chile is a fitting location for students who wish to expand their academic horizons with a semester overseas.
“Historically, due in part to Chile’s geographic location at the very tip of Southern Hemisphere, U.S. cultural influence isn’t as great as it is with, say, Mexico or Central America. With this study-abroad opportunity, our students gain an understanding of viewpoints that can be remarkably different from what they’ve grown up hearing in their own backyards. At the same time, they discover unexpected similarities,” Sobhani said. “Besides honing their cultural intelligence regarding Chile itself, our students also acquire new perspectives on the role the U.S. has played globally. That’s very valuable.”
Sobhani added the experience helps students form a “world-embracing vision.”
“We want our students to understand that the earth is really just one homeland and every person on this planet is a citizen of this homeland,” Sobhani said. “That’s where study abroad comes in. It’s all about having a broader context of the world. It’s a priceless experience.”
Pomeroy echoed that, saying, “I was impressed by the coexistence of so many cultures and ethnicities. My time in the university inspired me to expand my knowledge of the world and helped me understand the depth of how entwined we are as a society on a global scale.”