These are two words of advice from Brantley Nicholson for any student considering studying abroad.
Nicholson, a world languages and culture assistant professor, facilitates a study abroad program in Santiago, Chile.
Participants take upper-level Spanish classes at the Universidad de los Andes and complete a job-shadowing program in their field of interest.
Students also learn about Chilean culture by visiting museums and listening to guest speakers.
“It really is a three-fold experience,” Nicholson said. “Students develop personally being abroad, they develop an emotional attachment to friends and their host families and they gain professional experience.”
Participant Sarah Robles said that the experience felt like a natural ending to her Spanish minor.
Speaking Spanish in a foreign country is a much different experience than speaking Spanish in a classroom setting. Robles gave up on having perfect grammar in order to keep up with the notoriously fast-paced Chilean Spanish.
Mary Emma Johnson touched down in Atlanta the Friday before classes started. It was her first time on American soil after spending two months in Santiago.
For Johnson, what was supposed to be a three-week trip turned into a two-month extended stay.
After two weeks in Chile, Johnson realized that she was not ready to go home.
When her job-shadowing program ended, Johnson took over a friend’s job working for a hostel and continued living with the family who hosted her during her internship.
She also made friends through the university while she was taking classes since Chilean students were allowed to come to their events. When they found out she was staying, they would continue to invite her to hang out with them.
More often than not, “hanging out” meant partying.
“I feel like it’s always a party there,” Johnson said with a laugh.
Partying in Chile can mean anything from a group of friends having appetizers and drinks to an apartment full of people dancing.
No matter the size of the occasion, there is always Pisco, a Chilean liquor. Often served with Coke over ice, Pisco is a point of Chilean national pride.
“It’s a big dispute between Peru and Chile for who has the best Pisco,” Johnson said. “If Peru and Chile ever went to war with each other, I think it would be over Pisco.”
Johnson’s time in Chile did not always feel like a party. Studying abroad can be an uncomfortable experience, one that pushes a traveler well beyond his or her comfort zone.
“It was challenging, sometimes, being new to a city and trying to overcome language and cultural barriers,” Johnson said. “So it’s not like it was like, super great and perfect all the time. Sometimes it was really hard and lonely and frustrating.”
However, Johnson was quick to say that those challenges are what make studying abroad such a rewarding experience. Learning to overcome the difficulties of navigating a foreign country is what allows a traveler to grow personally.