What Does It Really Mean to Study Abroad?

Maggie Lowenberg is a student at the University of Colorado, Boulder and an ISA Featured Blogger. Maggie is currently studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile on an ISA Fall 1 program.

I had the opportunity while in Copacabana, Bolivia to dance with some locals during a parade!
I had the opportunity while in Copacabana, Bolivia to dance with some locals during a parade!

I wanted to dedicate this blog post not only plugging a special recommendation for people to study abroad in Chile but also, why studying in a foreign country can change your outlook on life.

I came to Chile as a wide-eyed, Spanish grunting, unprepared traveller. As I begin to pack my five months worth of worn clothes and regalos (gifts) for friends and family, I realize I will be returning to the U.S. as a different person. I am now an expert on the different currencies of South America, understand how to travel in micros and collectivos, and have graduated from Spanish grunts to conversing with an array of world travellers and locals. I’ve had the opportunity to take classes at one of the best universities in Chile with other foreign students and Chileans. My home university (University of Colorado) is massive and getting to know my fellow pupils and professors is very difficult. However, in Chile I knew the name of every student in my classes and knew about the personal lives of each of my professors.

I have learned that knowing Spanish doesn’t just mean I will be a more desirable candidate for jobs but also, language is a tool that shapes our daily lives. I would have never understood Chilean culture without conversing with locals or reading the eloquent poetry of Pablo Neruda if I didn’t know Spanish. The frustration and tears that were poured over language

Southern Chile is picture perfect
Southern Chile is picture perfect

I guess what I want each of you to understand is that studying abroad is not just based on academics; it is based on revolutionizing your life. On December 29th I will touchdown in the USA after living in Chile for five months. I will be a college graduate and I will have no future planned. Before arriving the Chile, the “old” Maggie would have been freaking out that my life was not organized or decided. However, I look forward to the uncertainty, the challenges, and transition. I guess if anything, I can always return to Chile.

5 thoughts

  1. I enjoyed reading your posts and learning a bit about Chile, as I tend to be Ms. Argentina all the time! You’re right about how hard it is for CU undergrads to meet people — I was a grad student there about 20 years ago, and it was getting to be too large a school. I taught creative writing and had an advantage right there — my classes never had more than 20 students, so people got to know their classmates.

    There’s something about living in another country, or even traveling in it for more than a few days, and speaking in that nation’s language, that gives someone more confidence in herself. My older women friends used to say to me, “You’re going to Argentina by yourself?! That’s brave!” I didn’t see it as brave, but as something I’d wanted to do for 20 years, and I was grabbing the opportunity. Every time I return, I learn more and have more fun.

    You’ve taken one leap; I hope it leads to a great future, whatever that future looks like! Suerte!

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