The Chilean Classroom
Being the international students at a school, there’s the expectation that we have the most fun. We do trips almost every weekend, and are together most of the time. While other students are stressing over their tests most of us are planning trips south to Patagonia, east to Argentina, or north to Peru. However, I don’t want to speak for everyone, some international students are studying just as hard as the local Chilean students here, just not me.
It may be that after a couple months out of “real school” I’ve become incapable of conventional studying, but I also cling to the idea that most of the study abroad learning happens outside of the classroom. I feel like I learn the most Spanish when talking with my host-mom, or trying to communicate with my neighbor on the bus.
With this in mind, I do my best to avoid a typical day or routine. However there are some unavoidable repetitions. On any given day I will most likely have one or two classes focused on learning and speaking Spanish and usually very small class sizes (3-10 students). Before and after classes, I have stellar meals made for me by host-mother-of-the-year, Eva Jimena Lorca Cruz. On some days, I teach English at the Paul Harris elementary school, and that is pretty much the only other obligation I have besides my classes and meals. The extra time is spent exploring, usually with the other international students. We plan trips, go to the beach a lot, walk around the city, sometimes go to restaurants, buy ice cream, and lots of other things that don’t necessarily benefit from having a routine.
When I’m in the U.S. studying or working, I love having a schedule and knowing what to expect. It’s good for my grades and being successful at school, but grades aren’t always the best measure of learning. Here in Vina del Mar, I’ve shirked the idea of a set schedule because studying abroad should never be stale. Some people might expect to see more of a focus on classes and others might say that studying in a different country is just an escape from hard work and reality. However I would argue that I’ve been challenged more here than I have been at school in San Diego, just not in the classroom. It’s not the typical challenge of working your ass off for a good grade. The challenges I deal with here are trying to explain the student visa process, in Spanish, to an irritated government employee, or figuring out how to get home when I accidentally take the bus way too far. I always hear students say that study abroad was the best semester of their life and I hear parents say that their kids learned more studying abroad than they did in the rest of their college career. Both can be true, but neither is going to be because of a business class, taught in English.
Nate Sweasey is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Vina del Mar, Chile. He is currently a Junior at University of San Diego.