Almost exactly one year ago to the day, I was boarding a plane from Chicago to begin my six months of study abroad in Santiago, Chile. I remember feeling anxious in the airport, as I had no idea what to expect – what would Chile look like? How would my Spanish skills hold up? What would my host family be like? As I sat at the gate amongst my peers awaiting our plane, a million questions and concerns swirled in my head along with excitement for the unknown adventure that lay ahead.
A view of the Santiago skyline from a lookout point in Parque Metropolitano
In this post, I want to briefly mention the study abroad experiences offered through Notre Dame International (NDI). NDI offers not only semester and year long study abroad programs, but also summer international programs, collaboration and exchange programs as well as research opportunities offered through the various global engagement initiatives. Many Notre Dame students choose to study abroad for a semester of their junior year, and there are opportunities available for all majors so that no matter what your course load or schedule, a semester or summer abroad is always attainable and more than doable. My six months abroad was full of challenges and triumphs, and it has been a whirlwind having the opportunity to return to Santiago almost a year later.
Walking through the Japanese Gardens at Santiago’s central park, Parque Metropolitano
This week, I have shifted my research focus mainly to interviews with university professors. For the past two and a half weeks, public school teachers at the elementary, middle and high school level have been on strike, and schools have not been in session. Chile has been undergoing a long and meticulous process of education reform, which has been met with protests from both students and teachers alike. Currently, teachers are demanding higher wages, a requirement of no more than 30 students per class in schools as well as professional teaching evaluations, amongst other requests that would improve the status, reputation and benefits of the teaching profession in Chile. However, while the teacher protests are calling attention to flaws within the education system, the long duration of the strike is having negative consequences for the academic semester. Classes are typically scheduled to end in July for a month of winter vacations, but given that schools have not been in session for the past few weeks, exams are being delayed and schedules completely interrupted.
Walking through the Sculpture Park located along Río Mapocho, the main river that runs through Santiago
Unfortunately for my research project and me, these strikes have made it difficult to get in contact with and issue surveys to high school English teachers. On the plus side, it is an exciting time to be in Santiago, and to live near the city center, as I witness peaceful walking protests on a daily basis as I head home each evening from the metro. Furthermore, I am lucky in the sense that the universities at which I am conducting my interviews have remained unaffected by the current uproar. In an attempt to make the best use of my time here, I am focusing my attention on these interviews. However, I have not given up hope on my surveys! I am currently converting my survey questions into an online format so that I can issue the surveys to English teachers electronically, in the hopes that though schools are not in session, teachers are still checking their e-mails and will take a moment to fill out my survey.
Crossing the Río Mapoch with a cool view of the city. That tall building is the Costanera Center, and is the tallest building in South America
In between interviews and survey conversion, I have also been making time to continue exploring Santiago as I am consistently finding that there is still so much of this city to discover! I have shared some pictures of my recent excursions and have hyperlinked to the NDI website. Remember, NDI offers various programs, and there is a lot to peruse and learn about online. Just keep clicking, follow the links and get lost in the collection of opportunities! Until next time, saludos y que les vaya súper bien!