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Ziva Berkowitz Kimmel

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Ziva Berkowitz Kimmel, Chile

Ziva Berkowitz Kimmel (she/her) - Stanford in Santiago

Major: International Relations
Minorw: Human Biology, Geology
College year while abroad: Sophomore
About the photo: This picture was taken overlooking Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, in northern Chile. Later that day we watched the sunset; the sky was the perfect host, entertaining us with dueling reds and greys and blues. And if you looked (and listened – you could hear rock crack when it shrank at night) closely enough to the ground, you were rewarded with browns, greys, beiges, greens, and cunning reds that could tell you all about themselves if you give them the chance. A rock, turns out, is never just about a rock. It’s a longer, forking story about winds, waters, heat, time.

Questions and Answers with Ziva

Why did you choose to study abroad in Santiago?

I had visited Chile a few years ago (pre-2019 protests!) and have been eager to return ever since!

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Santiago?


What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Santiago?

I learned a great deal about Chilean culture, environment, and politics. Most of these lessons came from beyond the classroom, but the small classes I took with engaged faculty added dimension and context. In the immersive experience of a study abroad program, these lessons all fed and fed into one another. For example: the country sits on impressive volcanic activity, which is responsible for dangerous and expensive earthquake activity but also an impressive geothermal energy potential. That access, in addition to fiercely diverse climates and geography to be expected from so many different latitudes, supports Chile's unusual renewable energy portfolio. Etched into this line of inquiry is important Chilean pride about this land, mixed with complicated colonial history and current Indigenous rights issues. On top of all of these layers, the country was preparing to vote on a new constitution, something I had only ever read about.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

I lost my phone the first day of my trip down to the program and didn't get a replacement until a few days before I returned to the States. One of the best consequences of this plot twist was that I spent much more time with the cohort students than I likely would have otherwise. I tend to steer clear of group activities and love spending time with myself, especially while traveling or otherwise in new environments. But I learned how much more you can (can! not will.) get out of experiences that you share.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

I learned how to navigate interpersonal, cross-cultural conflict after some of our cohort offended some members of the language partner program. It was largely a miscommunication and intentions everywhere were good, and I learned a lot about how to manage some difficult conversations.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

There is a much smaller difference between public and private spheres of life in Chile than I was used to after a long childhood in the U.S. This manifests itself in a few different ways. For one, there are far more public spaces (i.e. parks, free museums, cultural centers) in Chile's cities and towns. Even the private properties were subject to public art; I had never seen so much art, posters, graffiti, paint, etc. on city walls -- all having one big conversation with each other. For another, what I would consider more private information -- your ethnic, political, religious background, family life, etc. -- were fair game in my new friendships. Friendships formed much more quickly than I was used to, a foreseeable consequence of sharing more time (and information) with each other.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Santiago?

Walking to the center for classes.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Santiago?

Returning to Valparaíso after four years. The city looked and felt remarkably similar, four years later.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Immersive, diverse, curious, thoughtful, magical (realism)

What was your favorite food you had in Santiago?

I cooked most of my meals, and every week our program informally hosted a potluck. I think Ricky's date cake takes (pardon the pun) the cake. Zach's fried rice is a close second. And I highly recommend any Santiago visitors try the empanadas and sopaipillas you'll encounter at every other corner.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

Notebook, pens!

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Santiago?

Violeta Parra