Beyond the Classroom

By: Emma Fleddermann

It’s official! We have been in Chile for a month now and it feels like only yesterday that I left home. Within in these first four weeks I have already been on so many different adventures with both the group from Simpson as well as with my host family. Whether it’s getting lost in downtown Concepción, figuring out how to conquer the dreadful buses, venturing out into nature, or just visiting a family friend’s house, being able to explore has been the most influential part of this trip.

Going into this semester, I had the impression that we would be going to class like normal with our group excursions added on. Never would I have believed that I would be able to see as much as I did in such a short amount of time. My host family has been so good in making sure that there is some activity to do or some friend to see every weekend instead of having me just sit around and watch Netflix. When we were first planning this trip, there were two options in terms of housing; you could either choose to live in a type of dorm room or you could live with a family. If the next trip also gets this choice, chose the family. I am almost positive that if I didn’t get a family, I would actually be sitting around watching Netflix in my room not knowing all the amazing things I was missing out on.

Of course, with each study abroad trip comes a package of incredible excursions. Just this past weekend, the 11 students plus our professor from Simpson were able to go to Santiago and Val Paraíso. It was a weekend full of amazing sights and interactions. Even within the same country, there were different cultures to be found and so many things to learn. Being able to experience the way the culture differs from what can be found back home is something that I don’t think I would be fully able to understand in a classroom. Seeing the breathtaking art on the walls and the way of life is something that has to be seen in person to get the full effect.

It has just been through everyday experiences that I have come to feel much more confident with myself in both my Spanish abilities as well as cultural awareness. In the classes that we are taking, we are able to learn the fundamentals of Spanish as well as practice all the tiny details of the language that are actually quite important if you don’t want to sound like a hopelessly confused gringo. But, by being able to go out and explore the nature scene of the Chilean and Latin American culture, I feel like I have advanced so much. So, for the next lucky group that is able to study abroad, be sure that you get out of the house. Go explore. Go get lost in downtown. Obviously be sure to do your homework and attend your classes, but for me, my experience so far would not have been the same if I hadn’t been able to see the wonderful country that I can call home for these 4.5 months.