Barnard College student's first-hand account of her study abroad experiences in Chile

Barnard College student Izabella Lizarazo is studying in Chile, through the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA).

June 07, 2023

Izabella Lizarazo is a Barnard College student majoring in Political Science and Spanish & Latin American cultures. She is currently in Santiago, Chile with a study abroad program where she is deepening her knowledge of the region and its people, history, politics, and culture.

The following is her story of the decision process that led her to study in Chile via the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad program – an academic consortium formed by Columbia University and 11 other leading research universities that organizes education abroad programs in collaboration with top universities worldwide.

In her account, Lizarazo describes how Chile piqued her interest when it came time to deciding where to study. She reviews her positive experience with CASA, what she is studying and where she is living while she is in Chile, and how her experience has been overall in the South American country.

When I started college, I always knew that I was interested in studying abroad. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn about another way of living, another system of government, and another culture. It seemed like a great opportunity to grow as a scholar and as a person. After my first year of college, I knew I wanted to study political science (specifically comparative politics) and Latin American cultures and I began taking political science and Spanish classes. That's when I decided I wanted to study abroad in a Latin American country. But it wasn't until I took the Spanish Advanced Language through Content course: Ritmo, Amor, y Revolución: Cultura y Política en los "Largos años sesenta" en América Latina," taught by a Chilean Columbia graduate student named Eduardo Vergara Torres, that I decided I wanted to study in Chile.

I was fascinated by what I learned in this class. Our professor taught us about the social and political events that took place in the sixties and seventies in Chile, Argentina, and Cuba, among other Latin American countries. Concerning Chile, he taught us about the election of Salvador Allende, the Nueva Canción movement among other musical movements and groups, the coup d'état of 1973, and what followed during those dark years. I wanted to learn more and decided that I wanted to study abroad in Chile.

My experience with CASA has been very positive. I am so glad that I was introduced to this program by the Barnard study abroad office. They made sure that we were very prepared before coming to Chile. Our program director Pilo [Mella, CASA resident director] did a great job at checking in with us throughout the process, answering any questions or doubts we had, and coordinating everything for the program. She did a great job of communicating what we need to do before coming here, what academic options we had, and what we would be seeing during our time in Chile. I have loved staying with my host family. I am living with a woman named Carolina Gallo in [the Santiago borough of] Ñuñoa and we have had a great time living together. She has made me feel at home and helped me learn more about Chile. She has embraced me like a part of her family.

Here in Chile, I am taking three political science classes and one with the CASA program. I really like my classes, but I think my favorite is my "Género, Poder y Desigualdad" class. I'm learning a lot about gender theory, history, and the laws around gender and gender-based violence that exist in Chile. My other classes are "Política y Movimientos Sociales; Migración y Derechos Humanos;" and my CASA Program class. I am studying at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile at campus San Joaquín. It's really beautiful and it reminds me a lot of Columbia; it's a campus located in the busy city, it has a lot of people, and the subway is located right across the street. I felt right at home when I arrived because of this.

I have had a great time getting to know Chile outside of my class too. I love music, dance, and theatre, so the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral is one of my favorite places. I've seen dance and theatre shows there and I attended a women in music panel discussion, where I saw Javiera Parra and MC Millaray speak about their experiences. I can't believe this but I've gotten the opportunity to see many artists live that I wouldn't have been able to see if I was in the United States. A few weeks ago, I saw Quilapayún and Inti-Illimani Histórico live. I have gotten really into salsa dancing here in Santiago. I started by attending the university's salsa club, which meets every Thursday at 5:30 PM. It was a bit difficult to learn at first but I've learned many fun moves. Now my friends and I also go to Santiago Salsa, a salsa dance lesson and social event that takes place every Thursday at 7 PM. We continue to learn and pick up more fun dance moves and meet new people in the process.

I'm really thankful that I've had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling outside of Santiago. During our first few weeks here, we organized a trip to Viña Del Mar and Valparaíso. It was a wonderful trip and it brought me closer to the people in my program. In the past few months I've also visited Pichilemu, where I surfed and learned about a beautiful beach town; the Región de Aysén, where my program introduced us to Patagonia and we saw how great and diverse Chile's geography is; Valdivia, where I traveled alone for the first time and learned more about the south of Chile and it's beautiful greenery; Chiloé, which is unlike any place I've ever seen and where I ate so much seafood; Puerto Varas, where we hiked Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales; and San Pedro de Atacama, where my program introduced many of us for the first time to the desert, which felt like a completely different planet. I am amazed at how beautiful the country is and how diverse its environment and geography are.

As for anecdotes, I have so many, but I'd like to share a very recent one. This weekend I organized a picnic for my friends, both friends from my study abroad program as well as friends I've made in my classes, at salsa, and other places. I thought it would be nice for them to meet each other. I was really excited for it and so was everyone who I invited. Yesterday we met at the Parque Forestal near el Museo de Bellas Artes and everyone had a lovely time. There were so many snacks, we had a lot of fun, everyone had the chance to meet someone new, and we even played games. And what really surprised me was that everyone got along so well that between themselves they were making plans to go out next week! I was really happy about how well this picnic went.