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Catholic Studies Major Describes Her Study Abroad Experience in Chile
Seton Hall > News & Events 

Brianna Fitzpatrick in ChileSenior Brianna Fitzpatrick recently had the opportunity to study abroad in Chile on a trip sponsored by Academic Program International (API). She is a double major in Diplomacy and International Relations and Catholic Studies. Here is her reflection on the trip and how her studies influenced her experience:

This past May I travelled to Valparaiso, Chile, to study for 6 weeks. I studied with Academic Program International (API) with 12 other students from across the United States, and I chose to complete a homestay in hopes of being wholly immersed in both culture and language. Valparaiso, the city in which I resided and studied at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, is a functioning port city built upon many hills. While there are certain hills with an exorbitant net worth, it is fairly accurate to say that the further through the hills you go, the further into poverty you find yourself. There seems to be garbage overflowing and stray dogs which sometimes outnumber people, but still, in its own peculiar state, Valparaiso is beautiful in its own unique way. The city is known for its graffiti art which is quite modern and quite spectacular in its own right. The houses on the hills are lined one on top of the other, each a more brilliant color than the next. From almost any vantage point you can see the hills flowing into one another, with the coastal mountain range along the edge and the snowcapped Andes just beyond that. Below all of this is the bay area which flows into the vast Pacific, seemingly endless in both its immensity and its grandeur. The magic of it all was quite overwhelming at times, what with the sun rising and setting in a glittering force on either side of this picturesque scene, bouncing off the sea and highlighting all of Valparaiso’s odd and wonderful details.

As to be expected, attending university classes in Chile had its differences when compared to university classes in the states. Because I had an intensive short term of classes, it is quite possible that my experience may have been different than those students studying for a full semester. My classes in Chile had a casual tone. My professors, maternal in nature, immodestly shared their life experiences and stories with their students. They were also open and honest in their opinions, and they welcomed the opportunity to recognize the diversity of lifestyles and opinions among their students, politically correct or incorrect. School itself had a more routine schedule than what I was used to, but I welcomed the familiarity of routine in a foreign country. While my classes were challenging in certain ways, my Spanish classes at Seton Hall University readily prepared me for the conversational and grammatical portions of my term abroad. My success in the remaining portion of my classes, culture, was aided by my experiences and studies with Seton Hall’s Department of Catholic Studies. Not only was I studying a Pontifical university in Chile, but about 90% of the population of Chile identifies themselves as Catholic, which obviously influences their culture and practices. I was able to explain to my peers the formality, functionality, and progress of the Catholic Church in the United States, as well as detail some of the historical significance of Catholic practices. Accordingly, I was motivated to explore the facets of Catholicism within Chile, which allowed me to better appreciate the diversity and magnificence inherent to the universality of the Catholic Church.

The best advice that I had received before venturing to South America was to travel without expectations. In truth, I did not know what to expect while studying in Chile and so the task, for me, was quite simple. After completing my program in Chile, I think it appropriate to say that my Chilean adventures, filled with travels, fulfilling relationships, academic endeavors, self-exploration, prayerful intention, and majestic sightings far surpassed what my imagination could have conjured. I had the opportunity to travel within Chile and bore witness to the metropolitan lifestyle of the capital, Santiago, and the slower paced yet equally respected lifestyle of the more rural regions. Valparaiso leans towards a city like atmosphere but also functions as an oasis with views of the hills and the Pacific at every turn. These views force anyone and everyone, tourist and resident, to stop and to contemplate, even but for a moment. It is those moments of contemplation that I think I may be most grateful for after my experience. It was these moments of serious thought processing that I had discovered an incomparable feeling of being content, and in that, an intense joy- a joy which gave me the courage to explore the hills which Valparaiso was built on, to understand the values which the Chilean people cling to, and to cultivate relationships that already had begun to hold a fond place in my heart. It is this joy which gave me freedom, and it is this freedom that gave me an unparalleled experience studying abroad in South America.

For more information please contact:
Alexandra Castano
(973) 275-2808


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