For most of May, 10 Georgia College sophomores, juniors and seniors traveled to Chile to job shadow professionals and leaders in academia, accounting, architecture, digital marketing, finance, real estate and tourism. Many of these individuals are the owners or presidents of their companies.
Georgia College senior Martin Wilson chose to study abroad in Chile because it is a historically and culturally rich nation.
“It represents countless ethnic groups and still maintains peace and a booming economy 30 years after a dictatorship,” he said. “There is a ton of economic and cultural opportunity in Chile right now.”
Wilson jumped at this opportunity as a chance to learn new things.
"I expect to develop somewhat of a grasp on the most difficult Spanish to understand in the world," he said. "Luckily after that, all other dialects of Spanish will come easy. I expect to get out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in a new culture and language."
Also fascinated by the culture, Dorothy Denham, a senior, at first didn't know if she would be able to participate.
"Originally, I didn't think I would financially be able to go, but I knew it wasn't an opportunity to miss,” she said. “I've always loved the country. I received a generous $1,000 scholarship through Georgia College, which has really helped me with the costs.”
Students will live with host families who have been instructed to not speak English unless there is an emergency. Despite this challenge, they are filled with excitement about this study abroad experience.
“Of course, there is some anxiety associated with living with a host family that does not speak English and diving into a high-level professional world, and in a foreign language to boot,” said Dr. Brantley Nicholson, assistant professor of Spanish and Latin American culture. “Most of the students studying abroad have advanced into the upper-division of Spanish classes, but a few have only taken the basic language requirement. These students proved to me that they have the linguistic ability and drive to take on the challenge.”
While in the country, students will also hear from speakers, who run companies, representatives of the Chilean Ministry of the economy and Start-Up Chile—a Chilean Government program that attracts entrepreneurs to bring together their start ups using Chile as a foundation.
Some of the sites they’ll visit include Santiago’s museums and cultural sites including the Museo Precolombino, Pablo Neruda’s Santiago and Valparaiso homes, the Teatro Mori, the Teatro Las Condes, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and the architectural works of the Pritzker Prize winning Alejandro Aravena.
“I'd really love to visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which gives a history of the atrocities of the Pinochet regime, but also an account of the resilience of the Chilean people,” said Denham. “I think it's important to understand the history of a country when you visit."
The students, who are majoring in accounting, English, management, marketing, mass communications, public health, rhetoric and Spanish, will temporarily live in the eastern half of Santiago—described as a modern area comparable to north Atlanta.
After the program ends, some students will travel to Buenos Aires, Machu Picchu and the Atacama Desert. Senior Allison Leotis is one of those individuals.
“I want to visit the historic places in Chile and the surrounding islands,” she said. “Places like Easter Island, Magdalena Island, Mano del Desierto, the mountains, beaches and the Atacama Desert.”
Nicholson’s expectation is that students gain linguistically, experientially and professionally from this study abroad experience.
“Their Spanish will improve, no matter what their level is going into the program through going about their daily lives in Spanish,” he said. “They will grow personally from learning how to navigate a foreign society both socially and academically. The students will also benefit from time spent in one of Latin America’s most sophisticated professional communities.”
May 16: GC students visit artist Gianfranco Foschino's workshop.
May 17: GC students listened to a talk by Alvaro and Matias Oyarce delivered in Spanish at the office of CAF Capital.
May 18: Touring Valparaíso: Lunch at La Concepción and a visit to La Sebastiana, one of Pablo Neruda's coastal homes and a museum dedicated to him.
May 23: GC students visit start-up incubator Imagine Labs and are presented with a "venture-capital talk" by Iván Páez Mora, founder and CEO of Kappo Bike.
May 26: Georgia College students gave their final presentation to their job shadow Alvaro Oyarce, general manager of CAF Capital. They advised him what to do with one of his large rental properties in downtown Santiago. They researched four different options regarding what to do with the property.
"Our research told us the best choice would be to sell," said GC student Martin Wilson. "We pitched our idea and research and thankfully, our boss agreed."
Check back for more updates.