Smiley Rojas-Nunez

Spanish Language & Chilean Culture at ECELA, Santiago, Chile

 Warm weather, blue skies and the bright shining sun. This is not the scenery I am used to seeing on December 30th, but this is the beautiful sight I was able to see when I touched down in Santiago, Chile for my study abroad trip this past wintersession. After getting to know the other students who were traveling abroad with me at the airport, we all loaded up into a taxi and then I was dropped off at my host family’s house. Coming from living in a dorm, it was strange to be in such a beautiful home, and it took a while to get used to the fact that that’s where I would be living for the next three weeks. I was first greeted by the father of the house, who took the time to explain to me what life was like in Chile. He could speak both English and Spanish, but as a native Spanish speaker, I was ready and willing to improve my Spanish.

El me habló de la vida en Chile, la cosas de hacer cerca de la casa y también me ofrezco un vaso de jugo natural hecho de frutillas. Eso fue el vaso más bueno de jugo que bebí  hace muchos años y me encanto tanto que lo bebí todos los días que me quede en Chile.

On my second day in Santiago, I met with the other students at the ECELA Spanish Language School, and we all took our placement test to gauge what level of Spanish we would be taking at the school.  As a result of this proficiency test, each student was placed in the appropriate language class (which ranged from beginner’s level to advanced). I had the opportunity of taking a Chilean History and Culture class while at ECELA, which was offered entirely in Spanish.  In the lower level Spanish classes, sentence structure and grammar where concentrated on, while in the higher levels, the spoken language was the bigger concern. I was able to improve my speaking by constantly speaking in class about a range of different topics regarding heritage, culture, and history (both in my home country and in Chile).

In addition to the learning that took place in the classroom, we also had the opportunity to take off-site field trips to learn more about the history and culture of Chile. One of the topics we focused on was the Golpe de Estado, a coup d’état which occurred in 1973. It was saddening but very interesting to learn about the dictatorship that ruled over Chile (a dictatorship that ended in 1990, which is really not that long ago). Learning more about the rich history and culture during classes allowed me to connect with Chileans that I would meet at bars and restaurants throughout Santiago, which made the experience all the more authentic.

ECELA as an institution was amazing, from the staff to the after-school excursions (which were offered during the week and on the weekends).   During one of my favorite days in Chile, I was able to visit a breathtaking vineyard, go horseback riding through a mountain valley, cool off at a nearby waterfall and then eat some great Chilean food at a barbeque. Along with the excursions and staff at ECELA, the school proved to be an international hub where I was able to meet people from all over the world. Because of ECELA I now can say that I have a home to stay in if I ever decide to visit Chile, Brazil, or London.

Nunca voy a olvidarme del tiempo que pasé en Chile, los amigos que gané, o todas las montañas que subí.  La cultura de Chile es muy bonita, y espero visitar el país otra vez en el futuro. Deje el país con mi corazon apretado.

Get more details about the Spanish Language and Chilean Culture at ECELA (Wintersession) program.

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