Kraft Fellows Stories: A Bridge to Wonder

Katrina Machetta, one of the Columbia undergrads who visited Chile in March, shares a personal account of her journey.  

April 12, 2024

Six Columbia students visited Chile during the first half of March under the Kraft Global Fellows Program, an interfaith and inter-cultural exchange trip led by University Chaplain and Associate Provost Jewelnel Davis, and the Columbia Global Center in Santiago.

The Santiago Center asked these Fellows to share reflections on their experience in Chile. The following is the personal account of Katrina Machetta, a sophomore studying Human Rights at Columbia College. 

They say that a place is defined by the people within it, and from the first moment I stepped into Chile, I was greeted affably by Chileans who sought to welcome foreigners, creating a place at the table of communal learning.

In the Kraft Global Fellows Program at Columbia University, I had the opportunity to discover Chilean communities where history was entrenched in every generation and education was at the forefront of a culture that many people may never have the chance to experience. Every landmark, religious site, and community venue we visited served as a place to experience beyond what can be read in any textbook.

It is hard to describe Chile in just a few words. No news article, report, or video can fully capture the exquisite culture or enlighten the world about Chile's historical complexities, cultural marvels, and linguistic intricacies.

In North America, we spend years learning about classic literature books, global historical dates, and political regimes that have impacted students on this side of the world. While all of these are important to know, it wasn’t until I stepped outside the classroom that I fully experienced the breadth and depth of a world of wonder.

One of the global destinations in Santiago, San Cristóbal Hill, is one of the most well-known places of worship for the Catholic Church of Chile. We saw art and architecture that resonated with visitors across religions, cultures, and backgrounds. We saw breathtaking views and majestic religious symbols that were spiritually enriching and inspiring. Culturally empowering and galvanizing, our experiences propel us further into discovering the richness of the Chilean land, the amplitude of the country’s strong religious presence, and the significance of Chile’s history in a global context.

Every place we visited was full of life-giving cultural exchanges that we will treasure for a lifetime. Conversations with community members were filled with new insights, horizon-expanding, and profoundly enriching engagements.

I was first introduced to Chilean culture in my 9th grade World Geography class, where we learned about Easter Island and Chile's Andes Mountains, but I never could have imagined the country's wonders far beyond our textbook studies.

In a classroom located on the other side of the world, imagining a world beyond, such as the unfathomable peace one receives in standing inside the Bahá'í Temple of South America is impossible. It is challenging to comprehend a community without experiencing and immersing oneself in it.

Visiting Chile opened my eyes to see a culture and place unlike any other. It allowed me to travel across cultural barriers and build a bridge from the classroom to the other side of the world. Thank you, Chile, for giving me the perspective of a lifetime and being able to travel across a bridge of wonder.