EJ Daniels (he/they) - Stanford in Santiago
Major: Human Biology
Minor: Earth Systems
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: It’s a picture of me kayaking in front of the marble cave structures in Lake Chelenko.
Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?
I chose to study in Santiago because I wanted to improve my Spanish and become more acquainted with Latin America’s history and culture.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Santiago?
I was worried that I was going to stick out like a sore thumb in Chile and be treated differently because of it, but I quickly found that I was treated really well as a foreign visitor and was made to feel just like anybody else anywhere I went.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?
Because of the connections that my cohort had made with local Chilean students and community members, my Spanish improved like never seen before. By the end of the program, I was able to sustain entire conversations without stumbling over my words or having to think twice about what I was going to say, which was really fulfilling for me.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that not only did I really like to travel and explore new places, but I was comfortable and capable enough to do it on my own! Knowing this has helped me to get to know the places I’ve resided in since on a much more intimate level.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
Adjusting to the different selection of foods not only when it came to what was served in restaurants, but also base materials that were sold in grocery stores, was initially a challenge when it came to preparing food for myself, but I learned to exercise flexibility in my diet and culinary know-how and now have a wider range of knowledge for foods that I am very grateful for and continue to use to this day!
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Chileans are very welcoming and comfortable making conversation with strangers, which is something I feel is lacking in the US, so becoming open to making friends and acquaintances not only in the hallways and elevators of our residence but also on the street and in establishments I frequented was something I had to learn during my stay — for the better, of course!
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Santiago?
Taking the metro! It’s such an easy and convenient way to get around to almost anywhere in the city, and makes experiencing the whole of Santiago so much more accessible.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Santiago?
A group of students and I went to the Aysén region of Patagonia, and the natural scenery — tall, snow-topped mountains towering over lush river valleys filled with all shades of greens and blues, with specks of pastels from local patches of flowers and little hamlets tucked in-between — blew me away. We also had the chance to kayak on the crystal blue lake Chelenko to see La Catedral, a huge marble cave formation. Chile hosts a wide variety of biomes, from deserts to temperate rainforests to alpine tundras, that are all wonderful to experience!
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Invaluable friendships, experiences and growth.
What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?
Lomo saltado, a stir-fried dish with sirloin steak, onions, tomatoes, and french fries, definitely stood out to me and was something that I found myself ordering a lot!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Plug adapters and portable chargers, for sure!
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?
Kizulariki, a psychedelic funk band based in San Pedro de Atacama!