Why did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Chile specifically?
Because I lived half of my life abroad in Bermuda and England, I have always loved travelling and learning about other cultures. I had always been interested in doing study abroad when I was at Bowdoin, and give my double major of Romance Languages (Spanish and French) and East European/Eurasian Studies (Russian), I was encouraged by my departments to go abroad. I decided to go to Chile because I really wanted to do a program in Latin America with Middlebury, known for their Spanish language pledge and immersion.
Can you briefly describe your academic program while abroad and how your Bowdoin education prepared you for your time abroad?
The Bowdoin Spanish department offers a major which is centered on Hispanic literature in general, so I had never specifically concentrated on Chile during my time at Bowdoin, but I did have an extensive background in Latin American literature in general. I felt very prepared in anticipation of the experience and was very comfortable while I was in Chile, because Bowdoin had given me a strong background in language skills. While I was abroad, I directly enrolled in a university and took history and anthropology classes, which were completely immersed with Chileans; I was the only foreigner in almost all of my classes.
What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you personally?
Even though I already knew I loved languages, I gained a whole new appreciation for the process of language acquisition. Being forced to speak Spanish all of the time was an exceptional experience and strengthened my language skills in a way that could never have happened if I were taking a Spanish class twice a week at Bowdoin. I was experienced being on the other side of the equation through teaching Chilean middle school and high school students at a local girls school how to speak English. My time with these Chilean students made me reflect upon my process of learning languages and allowed me to compare the American and Chilean education systems from a linguistic developmental perspective.
How did your time abroad impact your involvement with the McKeen Center and serving the international community locally?
This year, I have worked as the McKeen Fellow for International Connections. Because of my interest in international issues, I proposed this fellowship to the McKeen Center in the spring of my junior year. I became interested in reaching out to these populations because of my international upbringing and my experience abroad. I realized that even though Maine is not a very diverse state in terms of Mainers, I could still find an international community to be a part of without having to travel all over the world. As I learned more about refugees and immigrants in Maine, it has allowed me to think about my own personal identity in a different light and has given me perspective on my own nationality. One project that I undertook was organizing the Alternative Winter Break trip, during which eight Bowdoin students came back early from Winter break and volunteered with a multicultural population in the Portland.
How is the learning that you gained abroad impacting your academic work and engagement here at Bowdoin?
When I came back to Bowdoin, I took a class entitled “19th Century Latin American Novels”, which correlated with the “19th Century Chilean History” course that I took abroad. Having a strong background in what was happening in Chile during that period enabled me to take the course here at Bowdoin to a whole new level. In terms of engagement with the Bowdoin community, I think I surprisingly learned how to time manage more effectively in Chile and have not overcommitted as much since I have come back! That being said, I am working with Portland Adult Education on a weekly basis working with English language learners here in Portland!