Four SU Santiago students were short-term interns at the US Embassy for its 4th of July reception. They used the opportunity to promote SU among the people who attended! Also pictured: Santiago students Daisia Glover and Christine Valenzuela with the United States Ambassador to Chile, Michael Hammer.
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.”
It is common for visitors and study abroad students in Chile to base their interpretations of Chilean society and culture on a very limited area of Santiago. In the past, the Syracuse University Abroad staff frequently heard students describe Chile as “modern” and “similar to the U.S.” — an assessment representative of only a small fraction of the country and its population. At the same time, students sometimes struggled to contextualize their coursework and connect their topics of study to local reality. In response, the SU Santiago center staff designed a set of activities that seek to strengthen the critical and analytical skills with which students interpret their daily surroundings abroad. These are extracurricular activities that enhance and complement students’ academic experiences in a “multifunctional” way that can be adapted to courses from different areas of study, while at the same time helping students “lift the layers” of their host culture in order to develop a deeper and more critical understanding of their surroundings.
Each semester, the SU Santiago staff select at least six points in the city that have the potential to demonstrate—and at the same time, to hide—indicators or clues about Chile’s society, economy, history, politics, and arts. The goal is to train each student’s eye to discover details that are hard to see, and in doing so, help them unveil realities that have been re-signified over the course of time, through the modernization of the city; sometimes even intentionally, in an attempt to hide or alter their meaning. To fully understand this set of activities it is necessary to simultaneously teach students about the tensions that are still ongoing and very much present in Chilean society, including: the real scope and meaning of the transition to democracy, the implications of an unfinished reconciliation process after the dictatorship that affected the country during the late 20th century, the unspoken racial tensions that mark Chilean society, and the effects of the urban transformation that has rapidly changed the city, among many others that function as cultural keys to be deciphered.
For example, for one activity students visit a public square that contains several monuments of presidents from the second half of the 20th century, the country’s most sensitive and controversial historical period. The group observes the apparent–and desired–process of peace and reconciliation represented in the commemoration of this time period. However, subsequently, students are encouraged to observe how the monuments are displayed and located within the context of the square’s overall design, to touch the materials that support the monuments, to listen to what Chilean passersby often comment while the group is conducting its analysis and, especially, to relate what they are seeing with topics they have studied in their classes. They discover, for example, that some of the monuments are solidly and properly constructed, that some are intrinsically related to the buildings and symbols of power that surround the square, and that one of them–perhaps the best known figure in Chilean history–is not a real monument at all: it is, in fact, a ventilation duct, and is built with light, flimsy materials. Through this activity, students come to understand how the recent past remains unresolved and that the supposed peace and reconciliation that the square attempts to demonstrate is only a thin layer of apparent calm.
Come check out the final movie of the three-part Chilean Film Series! No, a 2012 film starring Gael García Bernal, takes place in 1988 Chile when military dictator Augusto Pinochet calls for a referendum to ensure his continued power. The leaders of the opposition persuade a young advertising executive to head their campaign. The team conceive of a bold plan to win the election and free their country from the oppressive state of Pinochet. The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles. Refreshments will be provided. Best of all, SU Santiago Director Mauricio Paredes will be introducing the film!
Stop by: Wednesday, March 25th, 5:30 p.m., Hall of Languages Room 205