I’ve been living in Santiago, Chile for the last 3 years (Since Nov. 2012). It’s been an amazing change in my life that has allowed me to reach a professional level of fluency in the Spanish language, experience a new and interesting culture, see some of the most amazing places on our planet, and meet some of the most beautiful, humble, and loving people I’ve ever come across.
Chile is a small country that occupies a large portion of the West coast of South America. Many Chileans refer to it as a ”noodle”– it’s long and thin. It reaches 2,670 miles from north to south, and only 217 miles from East to West at it’s widest point. This shape gives Chile an amazing variety of climates and industries. The north of the country is mainly desert, and is rich in copper. The central zone of Chile is considered to have a Mediterranean climate, great for agriculture and wine production, and the south is rich in forests. Chile is home to the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, as well as several active volcanoes and many lakes. It is home to a great deal of space observatories, has a variety of shellfish unique to its waters, and is the world’s 5th largest wine producer.
I love Chile, its culture, and its people. However, it is also plagued with many serious problems. According to the World Bank, the richest 10% of Chileans capture 42 of every 100 dollars of disposable income in the country. Chile has the largest income gap between the rich and poor out of all of the OECD states. The public school system in Chile is disappointing, although there are exceptions, and this drives many families to seek out private school educations for their children. A main factor in choosing a private school is the English program offered. However, many private schools charge around one month’s minimum wage per student. This makes it difficult for many families to access a decent education for their children. Seeing this problem among my own students and their families has motivated me to direct my research towards improvement in this area. I have been educated my entire life via the public system, and while my education hasn’t been elite, it’s definitely been more than acceptable. I would never have known that this isn’t the norm without having left the United States.
Chile is a new immigrant destination, and as such, I’ve had the unique experience of living here with students and professionals from France, Finland, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and Germany. My circle of friends here includes people from all over South and Central America, Europe, and the United States. Being an immigrant in another country has truly opened my eyes to a situation many of us don’t spend much time thinking about, and has inspired me in ways I never could have imagined.
My life in Santiago, the capital of Chile, is a whirlwind of learning, teaching, and sharing. I wake up every morning in the shadow of the Andes mountains, and race with around 6,000,000 people to get to work on time. I look out over the Pacific ocean every other weekend and visit the bustling open air markets to get my groceries, and I had the enormous pleasure of spending my 24th birthday in the driest desert in the world, the Atacama. I still haven’t mastered the Cueca, or learned how to make a proper empanada, but studying this Master’s guarantees me at least another 2 years in Chile, so I have lots of time to practice!
What a journey!