Student: Asha Thomas-Global Studies - Carnegie Mellon University

Student: Asha Thomas

Class of 2013, Majors- Business Administration; Global Studies

Bio

Asha Thomas spent the fall 2011 semester in Viña del Mar, Chile, with International Studies Abroad (ISA). Through this program, she was able to fully immerse herself into the rich and diverse Chilean culture by taking classes in Spanish, living with her host family, contributing her artwork to the streets of Valparaiso, teaching children English and witnessing an internationally recognized, nation-wide revolution conducted primarily by the students of Chile for the right to free and quality education.

Study Abroad Perspective

Being thrown into a country where you are unfamiliar with the language, the culture, and the general way of life can be intimidating and overwhelming. Adaptability has been the main characteristic I have acquired since I have been here. I have learned to redefine my perspective on life and the way I live it. I have opened myself to the galaxies of information that exist on the brink of a human mind on the other side of the equator. One of the most fascinating parts of studying abroad for me has been discovering the stories of the people I have encountered through my travels and everyday life here. The myriad of perspectives that comes together from around the world in combination with the inspirational environment of Chilean passion has created an incredible learning environment.

With the Pacific Ocean on my one side, the Andes Mountains on the other and the colorful hills of Valparaiso in between, Chile has captured my heart and soul. The genuine people and the novel experiences I have had since I have been here have taught me more than books ever could. One of the things that stood out to me from the first day I arrived here is the amount of passion the Chilean people are filled with. Just before my departure from the States, I discovered a nationwide student revolution had commenced within Chile. I was a little bit nervous as to how this would affect the educational part of my experience in Chile, however; it turned out to be just another unbelievable didactic quest. Seeing tanks roll down the streets spraying tear gas to disperse the resolute students as they peacefully hold their ground demonstrates this fervor, this life-force for change. This is the fight for one of our universal rights-a right that I often take for granted-the right to education. Learning that the leader of this student movement is a woman of only 22 years, Camilla Vallejo-a woman who has mobilized the entire nation to fight for the transformation of the educational system-has made me take a more introspective look at my own life and see what I hope to accomplish within the rest of my college career. What values will I uphold? Which causes will I fight for? This kind of unity is one that makes me realize the potential that I have and gives me a little bit of a tighter grasp on my place in this world.

So whether it is horseback riding on the beaches of Concon, playing with my four year old Chilean nephew, learning a couple new Spanish words everyday, painting murals within the streets of Valparaiso, eating a sopaipilla from one of the street vendors, or witnessing a student revolution, I would say my experience in Chile has thus far been one of the best and I am lucky to have had this opportunity.

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