Yasmine Goelzer ’13, Spanish major and native of Peoria, Illinois, spent the spring semester of 2012 in Santiago, Chile.
Where did you go? How long did you stay? How did you decide to stay in that country?
I was studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, from the end of February through early July. The program there (IES Abroad) caught my eye because it perfectly meshed my academic and professional interests. As a Spanish major who is also pre-med, I wanted to gain a functional and practical mastery of Spanish so that I will be able to interact with my patients in the future. The Santiago program offers a medical Spanish class as well as an amazing clinical observation program through the best university in the country’s College of Nursing. I got to shadow physicians and nurses in public and private hospitals as well as primary care clinics. I saw a birth! And some sweet surgeries! The medical practitioners I met were so impressive and nice and accommodating towards us. The experience definitely reaffirmed my desire to be a doctor and maybe even practice abroad for a while.
What was the biggest “culture shock” for you on entering that country?
It took me a while to get used to being the first Muslim most people had seen, let alone talked to. I’m pretty sure there are only two mosques in the ENTIRE country. I got a lot of stares in the metro and people were not hesitant about asking me very personal questions, but I appreciated the frankness. We’re used to so much diversity here in the States that even though I was prepared to enter a new culture, I forgot to consider that my culture might be new and foreign to the people I met.
How did your expectations of the culture of that country change as you became acquainted with it?
I’ve travelled a lot before, and even though I learn something valuable on each of my trips, what set this semester apart for me was the quality of the relationships I established: with my host mom, my professors, my Chilean friends, and with the other students in my program. There’s something about being plopped down in a geographically isolated country at the bottom of the world for four months that let me make genuine and sincere friendships. What I learned changed the way I interact with my friends from home and Williams as well.
What were some of your favorite experiences while you were in Chile?
Travelling on weekends was amazing. We didn’t have class on Fridays, so it gave us a lot of opportunity to explore Chile. I even went to Buenos Aires in Argentina for a week and LOVED it.