Danny Mottesi (he/him) - Stanford in Santiago
Major: Symbolic Systems
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Me at Patagonia!
Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?
I wanted to have an experience that allowed me to do tons of outdoor activities, improve my Spanish, and live in a big city. Santiago was a perfect choice - with options to ski, surf, hike, and travel all within bus rides of the city, it was the perfect option.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Santiago?
Before I left, I expected to spend most of my weekends exploring other countries in South America rather than Chile. Once I got there, I realized how much there is to see in Chile. I ended up spending the majority of my travel visiting different Chilean cities and landmarks, such as the Atacama Desert, Cajon del Maipo, the El Colorado Mountains, the Lake District, Valparaiso, and Pichilemu. I also didn’t account for how much I would enjoy just living in the city. There were plenty of weekends when I preferred to stay and do things in the city rather than travel elsewhere.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?
I’ve always loved studying history and art in high school, but never had the opportunity to study it in college since they don’t align with my major. Being able to take such cool classes regarding these topics and Latin America was incredible. Most of the classes are small, giving you the chance to make close relationships with your teachers. In one of my classes, we even took a mini field trip to my teacher’s house!
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
Studying abroad in Santiago showed me how much I love to meet new people, and got rid of any fear I had of starting conversations with strangers. Whether it was asking for directions, talking with Uber drivers, making new friends in elevators, or asking for recommendations about what to do on a trip, I always loved meeting new people throughout the country. Being able to talk to strangers is something that I went into the program feeling unsure about, but left feeling confident talking to anyone.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience I encountered was maintaining a healthy, consistent schedule. With so much to do in Santiago, it became easy to spend my whole day out and about in the city and forget about the things I had to do like laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, cooking food, and other essentials. Furthermore, the nightlife in Santiago is very fun but continues late into the night, so it requires a good amount of responsibility to balance and maintain a healthy sleep schedule. I learned to be a far more well-rounded person from it, learning to cook better and intentionally schedule out different times of day to do chores.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make was learning Chilean slang. While everybody understands you if you speak normal Spanish, learning the local words helps you integrate into the culture better. It ended up being a fun adjustment, though - my Chilean friends would spend time teaching me different Chilean words while we ate or hung out, and it ended up being a very fun learning experience.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Santiago?
Always meeting new people in LivinX! LivinX is the student residence where everybody in the program stays, and it's a great place to meet Chileans as well as other study-abroad students from across the world. Everybody is super friendly, and having conversations with new people in the gym, elevator, hallways, or study lounge was always a highlight of my day.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Santiago?
Backpacking Patagonia after the program ended with 4 other students I met through the program. We hiked the W Trek, and it was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. From the first catamaran that ferried us across an icy blue glacial lake, to leaving our campsite at midnight to see the sunrise hit Torres Del Paine, the entire experience was magical.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Adventurous, Fun, Enriching, Spontaneous, Beautiful
What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?