Shaheem Valentin ’16 is a dual accounting and marketing major from the Bronx. He spent Spring 2015 taking part in the SU Santiago program, which begins with a month of intensive Spanish language study in Ecuador. Once students wrap up their time in Ecuador, they embark on a two-week traveling Signature Seminar that takes them to Uruguay and Argentina. Shaheem loved his time in Latin America and recently answered some of our questions about his experience:
- What was your most memorable experience abroad?
The most memorable experience was when a person, who would later become one of my best friends in Chile, invited me to go hiking after one day of meeting each other. I had to met this person at 9 a.m. at his house to meet up with his friends and also for us to drive to the hiking destination (Quebrada de Macul). I had an amazing time hiking with everyone, we laughed, we fell, and just overall had a good time. Later on, they invited me to come back to the house for a bbq and a little get-together. It was the first time that I was hanging out with so many Chileans, and funny enough they all become some of my closest friends during my time there (and still are).
- What was the biggest difference between what you thought the experience would be like and what it was actually like?
At first, I was nervous about my Spanish, not making friends, and I guess every other common worry that people have when traveling to a new country. It seemed once I landed in Ecuador that all my fears dissipated and I threw caution to the wind. My Spanish wasn’t perfect but over time it improved dramatically, I learned how to converse and showcase my personality, which led to me making friends and acquaintances. Also, these countries are much more beautiful that I ever expected, in terms of scenery and the kindness of the people.
- What was your favorite part about study abroad?
My favorite thing about study abroad is the freedom of it. There will not be another time in my life that I would act so carefree, and be so willing to try half of the things that I tried.
- How did you like your host families?
My living arrangements in both Ecuador and Chile were wonderful. The families were amazing and completely generous. I had my own room, and the host families gave me the freedom to explore and do my own thing, while still having them as a “safety-net.”