Published: June 13th 2012June 6th 2012
This Chilean student is NOT happy.
As Usher says, let it burn. Okay, that was cheesy! Haha
Okay...okay, certain people have brought to my attention that I haven't talked much about my classes here in Chile. And as I review the blogs that I've written it does appear that I am "partying abroad" instead of studying abroad. So, to prove that I'm doing other things besides clubbing, I'll let you in on my school daze in Chile.
I could say "school days" in place of daze, but to do so would be remiss when I've definitely spent ample time in a heavy, impermeable fog during my classes with Chilenos
(Chileans). I attend la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. I'm taking Español escrito, comunicación y cultura chilena, gramatica, and un taller de la creación poetica.
In English that's written Spanish, communication and Chilean culture, grammar, and a poetry creation workshop. I was taking an acting class too but that needed to stop. Because I'm no longer in the acting class, all of my classes are with other foreigners except for my poetry class.
How to explain my experience here at a Chilean university? Four words: crazy, exhilarating, challenging, and enlightening.
I say crazy because every other week, there have been student protests. The students in Chile,
tired of overwhelming debt from the expensive cost to study here, have been uprising to demand free education like there is in many parts of Europe and in Argentina. The banks take major advantage of the students and charge interest out the wazoo. Also, the price to study here is unreasonable considering the average salary. My host parents tell me that in Chile, it's more expensive to go to college than to buy a house! As a result, the debt incurred is so high that people literally spend the rest of their lives trying to pay it off. For this reason, Chilean students are ticked off! When I say there are protests, I'm not talking about peaceful picketing and chanting catchy phrases of what they want to happen. I'm talking about tear gas, chaos, streets getting closed down due to the students' refusal to move, cop cars getting attacked with paint bombs, students running around in masks and getting tackled by the police, and vans full of protesters getting carted off to jail for disturbing the peace! It's serious! My friend Briana was at some restaurant with a friend when a student riot began in the plaza outside of the
restaurant and she said it looked like a scene from a movie. Jack, said that he was trying to walk home during a riot and got tear gas in his eyes. Eilene, another ISA student, happened to be at one of these protests just to watch. Unfortunately she was dressed in all black which looked highly suspicious and was almost detained as the police insisted that she was one of the rioters! Studying here is crazy fun and also just plain crazy!
It's exhilarating because the pace is more relaxed than in a United States university. I love it! There's more flexibility for spontaneity. For my writing and culture classes, we've gone to el mercado open aire
(outside market) to interview the workers about their jobs, buy fruits and vegetables, and see how it operates. Other classes have taken trips to museums in Santiago, the capital. For my grammar class, we've gone out to eat, to the beach, and to get ice-cream...DURING CLASS! Soraya, will say "class, it's such a nice day outside. Let's have class at the beach shall we?" And just like that we go! As we sat there on the beach last week, waves lapping behind
us, a dog napping in the middle of our circle, a refreshing breeze roving over our faces, sand beneath our toes, I thought "who does this?!" It was sublime. Never would any of my classes do that in the U.S.
I also feel exhilarated because of the extracurricular activities PUCV offers at no extra cost. Every Monday and Wednesday, I do yoga from 5:30-6:30. On Tuesday and Thursday there's danza arabe
(belly dancing) at noon. Belly dancing lessons in the states are freaking expensive but here, I receive them for free! It's so much fun. This Friday, although I don't have classes on Fridays, me and Bridget are going to a bachata
class at noon! I love dancing bachata
! So basically, I'm taking Spanish, writing poetry, doing yoga, going out for ice-cream and to the beach with classes, belly dancing, and dancing bachata
. I don't think my education could be more refreshing!
My classes here have also been challenging. Not for the amount of work, because it's much lighter than what I'm used to, but rather for having to operate in Spanish 24/7. A month and a half ago, I wrote one of the hardest papers of my
Out for Ice-cream!
With grammar class. Who does that? :D
life! For my Chilean culture class, I had to write a three page paper over the political history of Chile...in Spanish!! First of all, I despise politics and second, it was hard having to write at a fairly high academic level and THREE pages at that. I was dying. As I searched for resources for my paper, it was intense. It takes me FOREVER to read something academic in Spanish because there are many words that I am seeing for the first time. Some words are essential for the comprehension of a text and therefore, I can't read fluidly because I'm constantly looking up definitions. My 3 page paper was due by midnight and I was in despair. Yes, I procrastinated... Haha different country, same me! :D Anyway, I was in despair. I had to decide whether it would be best to read articles in Spanish so I would have better access to appropriate vocabulary (but would take hours to read and adequately understand). Or if I should read articles in English over the subject so I could read faster and grasp the concepts better but then have to look up a ton of vocab. I opted for English. By
Grammar class in J. Cruz Martinez
Known for their chorrillana which is a dish big enough for 3 people to share...and then still struggle to finish it!
some miracle, the paper turned out really good. I wrote about Pinochet, a dictator that Chile had for almost 20 years, starting in the 70s, although they were a democratic society before and after. The history is riveting especially after discovering that our Nixon administration supported Pinochet who was responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances in Chile. No one talks about that
on the news.
Also, I've had the challenge of trying to decipher what my professors are saying. I have NO problem understand my culture, grammar, or writing teachers because those classes are for foreigners and they enunciate well. For my poetry and acting teacher, it was the opposite. Chileans generally don't pronounce their 'S's and speak very fast. I dropped my acting class because I was the only foreigner up in there and it was a whole new world. I only understood about 30% of what the prof. said, missed all the jokes, and dreaded having to ad-lib in front of the class. It was so bad that he would give us directions and I didn't even know what he was talking about. It was definitely too much, so that class needed to stop. Too bad,
because I had just started talking to this cute guy named Francisco. For my poetry class, I have this dude in his 40s who legit looks like Fabio with a receding hair line. I like him but he's super abstract and goes on rants about how we, in his words, need to "not decide what we are going to write but rather let the inspiration speak to us and tell us
what it wants us to write". One of our assignments was to go out into the world and let the inspiration find us. Yeah, super artistico ese tipo pero me cae bien y me da mucha risa pensar en él. Jaja
There's a great appreciation for poetry in Chile. In fact, many of the poets in the past, like Pablo Neruda, lived a popularity comparable to that of a rock star.
For the first few weeks of my poetry class, I felt like I was in a different dimension. The stuff "Mr. Fabio" talked about was so out there that I couldn't follow him because it had no bases in reality. It was like the classroom had opened up, the desks had turned into clouds, and we into scholars
who were perhaps a bit off our rockers.
Lastly my experience has been enlightening. The classes I'm taking have been such a help to clear up many of the confusions I had about Spanish. I love the feeling of that light bulb going off when I finally grasp a concept that has been baffling me for years! Although I still have a ways to go, I am so happy with the progress I see in myself. I know this would never have been possible had I not studied abroad here. The unique thing about this experience is my ability to learn something in class and then go home and use it! Every day is an opportunity to get better in some way, or clear up some doubts. I'm happy to say that I now understand my poetry teacher. A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I was listening to him with a lot less strain. He still speaks fast. He still doesn't pronounce his 'S's, and he still mumbles...but I understand him the same! I'm also happy to say that I wrote a series of juxtaposition sentences, which was one of our assignments, and he praised my
Art building where I have "Mr. Fabio"
It's a huge house, in the middle of a normal neighboorhood which has been converted into multiple salas for the arts and theater.
work heavily! I knew he liked it because he had just finished ripping other people's work to shreds. Ouch!...but yay for me!
Over the course of this semester, I've also seen my writing improve. I promised myself that I would be more daring with my Spanish. I decided that it's better to say something wrong and learn from it, than to always use simple sentence structures and not make errors but also not learn anything either. When I write, if I'm not sure about something, I put it anyway. The teacher will correct it and that's what I'm in the class for. To my surprise, many of the experimental things I put are actually right! And the things that aren't get cleared up. Now I'm noticing that there is much less red ink on my paper returns. When I write even two paragraphs with no corrections, I feel my heart soar with the joy of a hard earned accomplishment.
I love how all of this is going to help me understand my future ESL students (English as a second language) better. I'll understand them because I WAS them! I'll understand how hard it is to study in a
language that is not your native language. But then I'll also be a source of encouragement that it does get better. Because of my studies here, I now know what it's like to feel embarrassed in a class full of natives and not want to ask what a particular word means. I know what it feels like to be afraid to speak in class because you don't want to sound like a fool. I know what it's like to sit in a class and not know what the heck the professor is talking about and the awkwardness of showing up to the next class with the wrong homework because you understood wrong. I know what it's like to have to allot a ridiculous amount of time to read a passage that a native could finish in 30 minutes. I know what it's like to feel like you did good on a paper, only to have it returned full of red pen for simple grammatical mistakes that you made. But I also know the feeling of triumph. And that makes it all worth it. My time in Chile has given me more than an opportunity to party. It's given me an
opportunity to taste the sweet taste of victory.
There are more photos below