Emily Stolfus 

Hometown: St. Joseph, MO

Where did I Study Abroad: Valparaíso, Chile

Major:  Elementary Education

Favorite Foreign Food:  Empanadas! 

Favorite city/site visited while abroad: Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia   

Where is my next trip going to be to:  Somewhere in Africa or India

 

Before leaving the US I knew I wanted my study abroad experience to teach me about the similarities and differences of people all around the world, so as soon as my plane touched down in South America I started looking for ways to get involved in my new community. In my classes I met wonderful friends from the US, Chile, Norway, Sweeden, Australia, and many other parts of the globe. It was amazing to hear everyone’s stories and see how people from so many walks of life happened to come together in the same classroom with the purpose of improving their Spanish communication skills. I also had the joy of taking an Afro American percussion class with local Chilean students and spent my Tuesday evenings playing djembes and chatting about the uniting power of music. I participated in a church youth group and spent my Friday nights going to a worship service and then hanging out with American and Chilean friends at different restaurants around the city. I found that college students are college students no matter where they come from; we all love spending time with friends, eating delicious food, and exploring the world around us.

One of the most important parts of my experience was my internship. Every day I got to wake up and spend a couple hours before my university classes working as an English Teaching Assistant in 2nd – 6th grade classrooms in an inner city elementary school. My main job was to work with the students individually and help with pronunciation and sentence structure, but I also led daily lessons and helped the Chilean teacher grade assignments. There were definitely days when it was incredibly challenging (if you ever want to test your foreign language fluency try listening to the complaints, stories, and excited ramblings of a seven year old native speaker!), but it was exponentially more rewarding.  I learned so much about teaching students of different cultures and the inequities that exists within the education system. This new knowledge helped shape my passion for education, and I realized that I want to pursue a career in educational social justice. 

Finally, no discussion of my time in Chile would be complete without mentioning my amazing host family. Though we had relatives and friends living with us off and on throughout the semester, the main members of my host family were my host mom and 12 year old host sister. My mom was my go-to person whenever I had the slightest doubt, question, or curiosity regarding everything from the type of dessert I should sample next to how I could get involved in relief efforts after a huge forest fire destroyed thousands of homes in our city. We spent nearly all of our time together in the kitchen, and some of my most treasured memories are of her teaching me how to make Chilean desserts while simultaneously explaining her beliefs about human nature. Every night I looked forward to dinner time when she would call for my host sister and me to stop playing whatever game we were in the midst of and come join her for a delicious meal and great conversation. I could not have asked for a better experience!

 

 

chile

My amazing host mom and I on a Saturday morning bike ride by the beach

 

chile

Taking a goofy selfie with my host sister – one of our favorite pastimes! 

 

chile

One of my amazing 4th grade students – her favorite part of English class was getting to sing “Do you want to build a snowman?” and “Let it Go” from Frozen.

 

chile

Eating empanadas with friends from youth group one Friday night!

 

chile

Made it to the end of the Earth! It was absolutely incredible to hike through Torres del Paine (the 8th wonder of the natural world!) and explore all that Patagonia had to offer!  

 

chile

So much soccer! Here we are all decked out to go watch the Chilean national team play in Valparaíso against North Ireland. A few weeks after this picture was taken the World Cup started in Brazil. We got to watch Chile defeat the defending World Cup champions (Spain), and see how the country just exploded with joy! ¡¡Vamos Chile!!

 

Advice for future Study Abroad students: Just go! You will gain so many new perspectives about the world, yourself, and others. Be adventurous and try as many new things as you can; you will be amazed by how much you grow.