I had wanted to study abroad immediately upon my discovery of the ‘other cultures’ section of my elementary school library as a third grader. I knew, sitting in my room at home pouring over every book I could find about other customs and routines and places I knew nothing about, that I wanted to go everywhere I could. That is my of my clearest memories when I think back to the beginning of my educational career and it could not be any more fitting to who I am today.

I knew in high school when I found an ad online for a study abroad on a ship that looked almost fake, but ended up being my first program last fall, that I needed to experience more than what was surrounding me.

I realized after that experience, in multiple countries, that I needed to utilize the opportunities I was being given to go abroad again, this time in one country for an entire semester. 

I’m here, in Santiago de Chile, for so many reasons. My name is Anna S and I am a third-year Spanish major who desperately needed some immersive experience with the language. This program, through USAC, was the cheapest I could find that would allow me to live in a Spanish-speaking country and still have the money to travel a bit and experience more than just the city in which I am now living. 

I have had the chance to do two different, very, short-term home-stays in the past. Those combined two weeks of experience are what made me feel equipped and confident in my decision to live with a Chilean family for my entire four months here. 

It was important for me to consider how this all would impact my graduation plan and which classes I would need and when. I did nothing less than extensive planning of my course load for the rest of college before deciding to take on more time away from Alabama. Every class I am taking here counts for one, if not both, of my majors and it is because of that I am able to be here and still stick to my original graduation date.

I am extremely fortunate to have the scholarships and the aid to be doing these things, as well- I have never felt like I’ve just been handed things, but acknowledge that it takes a lot of hard work combined with the generosity of others to get us to certain points in our respective journeys. More than that, I have a support system beyond the school and my advisors. Had my family not been as open to me leaving the country constantly in search of something ‘more’, this may not be my current reality.

Another big thing to think about for this program at this time specifically, is what has been going on in Santiago for the past ~8 months. The protests surrounding the metro system and raises in fares turned into something that is more about the socio-political climate as a whole here. While I was never overly-concerned about the situation, it was a factor to consider before committing to live here during this time. I realized after more research and time, that protests are everywhere and America is not excluded. In fact, this is not all that different than the situation with the NYC system that is taking place right now, as well. There is a certain level of risk versus reward anywhere you go.

There were so many factors that lined up to allow me to be here, and for each one of them I am grateful. I am so excited to get to share more of my journey as it unfolds and cannot wait to write more about this incredible place!