During the 2019 – 2020 academic year, I planned to study abroad for two semesters at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV) in Valparaíso, Chile. Due to ongoing protests happening in every major city, most Chilean universities are still shut down. This April, a referendum will be held to rewrite the active constitution that was enacted by the Pinochet Dictatorship. Larger universities such as PUCV and Universidad de Valparaíso plan to start a new semester after the referendum.
Although many of my close friends from last semester who studied on exchange in Valparaíso chose to leave after last semester, some of my closest friends will study at PUCV and Universidad de Valparaíso next semester. One of my flat mates and close friend, Álvaro, traveled to the US for the holiday season and lived with my family. Introducing him to my family and day one friends was very special. Álvaro in back in Chile surfing and backpacking near Patagonia with some of our Chilean friends while supporting himself with his student allowance from the Basque government. I miss him a lot.
Out of respect for wildly worried parents and grandparents (who begged me to not study in a Latin American Country), I am now studying at University of Otago with the IFSA Butler program. As a Latin American Studies major, studying in New Zealand is not my first choice. Nevertheless, balance is imperative and I deeply value the respect of my parents. After fishing around for different programs and considering many different study abroad locations, I know I will be very happy studying at University of Otago here in Dunedin. Believe it or not, I am taking two Latin American literature courses taught in Spanish.
Dunedin is a small city on the South Island of New Zealand. Although fall is underway here, the weather is unruly. One minute the sky is bluebird, the next minute a torrential downpour will clear the streets. A good raincoat is an utmost necessity. Although I have never been to Scotland, the architecture and city planning of Dunedin reminds me of the pictures I have seen of Scotland. Dunedin is a university town and the University of Otago has about 20,800 students and boasts a renown Environmental program. I am also enrolled in ES courses.
Until the end of June, I will live in a flat owned by the university. The people I live with are from Oregon, New Jersey, Glasgow (Scotland), and Auckland (New Zealand). While we are all different, our shared appreciation for many similar bands facilitates great conversation. It is going to be a great semester. I am looking forward to learning how to cook new meals with my vegan Kiwi host, Tosh. We have a great dynamic in my flat. Live at my new home is comfortable and easy.
How does one rate their study abroad experience? Connect with the locals. Befriending a local is the best way to learn the intricacies of a city. While Dunedin is quite small, there are many hidden aspects of the city that do not jump out at first glance.
On my first night in Dunedin at a small kickback at my neighbor’s flat, I met my friend Gabe. In a mass of anxious students doing their best to make new friends, Gabe and I began talking about our interests outside of the classroom. Speaking about surfing, snowboarding, and playing music allowed to quickly connect. After my first night in Dunedin, I quickly met Gabe’s small group of friends. The tight-knit group shared the best trekking trails, beaches, and fringe bands from the Dunedin area with me. I am forever grateful for that kickback on my first night. We are jamming next week and I will be using their extra keyboard. Very exciting!
Adjusting to the University of Otago is not difficult. While I miss improving my Spanish, there I enjoy articulating my thoughts perfectly in English. I am thankful for my wide range of academic, artistic, and recreational interests (YES LIBERAL ARTS!). I look forward to sharing more on this platform throughout the semester. Until then.