Post-Program Reflection

  1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA experience. What insights did you gain into the language acquisition process? How did you engage and understand cultural differences? Did you meet your goals for language learning that you articulated on the blog before you started your program? Why or why not?

By studying at HIF over the summer I was able to complete my second full year of Japanese in less than a full calendar year. This has accelerated my progress as I will 1`now be taking the third level of the language as I head into my sophomore year. Specifically, I improved most in terms of my speaking ability as I was able to converse with my host family and others outside of the classroom, while using the grammar and vocabulary that I was learning inside the classroom. Every Thursday I would accompany my host family to their gospel choir practices. There I was able to talk with and befriend many of the members, and therefore strengthen my conversational skills. Furthermore, through this experience, I was faced with many cultural differences besides language. Religion, song, food among others were different from what I was used to back home, but I embraced these differences as I was eager to learn more.

Regarding my initial goals, I believe that I was able to meet them. I definitely gained a mastery over level two of the language and am planning to continue studying it until I am able to master everything. Secondly, I believe that I was able to forge many strong relationships with the people that I met in Japan. I became friends with not only my classmates, the other students in the program, and most host family, but many people and students of Hakodate through my IS and extracurricular involvement.

2) Reflect on your SLA experience overall. What insights have you brought back as a result of this experience? How has your summer language abroad changed you and/or your worldview? What advice would you give to someone who was considering applying for an SLA Grant or preparing to start their own summer language study?

By participating in the HIF program I have not only improved upon my ability to communicate in Japanese, but also learned how to live the life of a Japanese student. Because of this, my horizons have been broadened in both a cultural an intellectual manner. I’ve become more understanding regarding the different types of lives people live and the hardships they go through. I’ve seen and experienced the differences in religion and celebration, and the overall mindset of the Japanese culture. Through this, I’ve really come to appreciate the fact that there are many different cultures and lifestyles that coexist in the world as it brings about diversity and difference that is pleasurable to explore.

If someone were applying for the SLA grant or wanting to study abroad, the best piece of advice that I could give would be to be open minded and be willing to experience new things. Because receiving both this grant and the opportunity to study abroad are such rare and exclusive experiences, I wanted to be open to as many new things as I could during my time abroad. I was able to make the most out of my two months in Japan while doing this and I believe that other people who wish to take advantage of every opportunity will also benefit the most from their experience.

3) How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future? Where do you go from here? How will you maintain, grow and/or apply what you have learned? How might you use your SLA experience during the rest of your academic career and post-graduation? How will your SLA experience inform you as you move forward academically, personally and professionally?

From here I wish to revisit Japan next year studying abroad during either the Spring or Fall semester. Because my language skills, as well as my cultural understandings, have improved this summer, I believe that I will be able to have a more effective and enjoyable experience next year than I would have otherwise. Further in the future, I wish to work in abroad in Japan, or in a position in which my language skills would be utilized. Therefore, I believe that because I was able to accelerate my Japanese language learning, as well as practice my skills in a real-world setting, I have taken a great step forwards into making this goal a reality.

¡Chao-po, Valpo!

I am now two weeks post-arrival in the United States, and while I certainly feel more comfortable back at home, I would give anything to be pushed out of my comfort zone once again in Chile. My biggest takeaway about language acquisition from this SLA experience is that language acquisition is by no means a linear process. One day I’m on top of the world because I understand the jokes in El Rey León, and the next, I’ve lost my keys and can’t figure out the directions that my host mom gives me to get them replaced. The feeling of culture shock definitely comes in waves, but for every difficult day, there are three more which are absolutely fantastic.

To anyone thinking about applying to an SLA, I would absolutely say, go for it! And go somewhere that you wouldn’t initially think of going! I am so glad that I chose Chile for my SLA because I don’t know when I would have had another opportunity to go somewhere so different from the United States. I am studying abroad in London spring semester, and while I am greatly looking forward to this experience as well, I am very glad that I chose to have this fully immersive experience. The SLA is a wonderful opportunity to just put yourself into an environment far from the Notre Dame bubble. In my experience, this is where my most valuable learning occurred–both about another culture, and about myself.

I hope to go to law school somewhere down the line, and I am most interested in practicing either working on criminal justice reform or practicing immigration law. In either of these areas, Spanish proficiency will be absolutely crucial. No matter what I end up doing, Spanish is rapidly becoming an important skill to have in the United States, as the Spanish-speaking population will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. While I do not consider myself fluent by any means, the SLA grant has allowed me to get much closer to that long-term goal.


Week 4. El desierto Atacama: the Atacama desert

This weekend, a few of my friends and I took advantage of our day off of classes and took a long weekend to San Pedro de Atacama.

The trip had a bit of a rocky start: one hour before I had to be on the bus to Santiago, I found out that I had booked a flight for the wrong weekend! I went into a bit of panic mode, as there was a moment where I didn’t know if I would be able to go, and I didn’t quite know how to fix the problem. Luckily, however, mi papa chileno was able to help me navigate a phone call with LatAm Airlines to buy a (much more expensive) last-minute ticket. After this incident, all it took was one short 30-minute uber to the bus station, a two-hour bus ride to Santiago, six hours of “sleep” overnight in the Santiago airport, an hour-long flight, and another hour-long bus ride, and then we were in Atacama! And boy, was it all worth it for the nature that I was about to experience.

Each of our tours topped the last. We watched the most beautiful sunset of my life at Valle de la Luna. We saw flamingos at the crack of dawn. We inadvertently saw a beautiful sunrise while on the side of a volcano, because our bus broke down on the way to a tour to one of the world’s most prolific geysers. We floated in a salt flat in the middle of the Chilean winter. We stayed in a hostel surrounded on three sides by active volcanos. We stargazed from the driest, and therefore clearest, place in the world. Despite our 4:00am wakeups each day, we had an absolutely phenomenal experience.

On Monday night, our last night in Atacama, we made a fantastic meal of the comfort food we’ve missed from home: mac and cheese, and scrambled eggs with bell peppers. It was a great feeling to be able to cook for ourselves in the hostel! Mi mama chilena makes great food, but I’ve missed being able to cook the food that I am used to eating in the United States. My hostel had an amazing rooftop deck, so we took dinner up to the roof and had a picnic while watching the sunset with a 360-degree view.

It was the best way to end an out-of-this-world trip, before our 4:00am bus ride back to the airport, pictured below.

I know Atacama is one of those memories that I am only spontaneous enough to do while in college. I will ask myself, “What was I thinking? Six students staying in a hostel in the middle of a desert of a country that we barely know?” While it sounds like a recipe for disaster, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life, with some of the best friends.

Week 3. La políticas de Chile en vida moderna: The politics of Chile in Modern Life

During my third week in Chile, I have focused on learning about the history and modern politics of Chile.

My program had a tour of the national congress building.

Rather than a full dinner meal, many Chilean families eat once, a light snack consisting of pan with aguacate, salsa, or mayonesa, along with coffee or tea, as well as other items. My friend Kate invited me to stay over to eat once with her family yesterday evening after working on a presentation about former President Michele Bachelet, and we started to ask Kate’s mom about modern Chilean history. Her host mom then described how, when she was an architecture student in the early 1980’s, she was almost arrested during the first major protest against Pinochet. Before coming to Chile,I had never learned about the CIA’s involvement in Pinochet’s golpe de estado in any of my classes; however, this remains at the forefront of many Chileans’ minds when they talk about the United States. This makes me understand a little bit of what it means to be an American in another country: as the United States has had such a global presence in the last century, there are many countries which have been used as pawns to further American interests. The United States did not like the idea of a democratically elected socialist president in Latin America, so it supported a coup d’etat to put an end to the changes that Allende was making.

“Aborto libre, seguro y gratuito”

Not unlike en los estados unidos, there is a lot of pessimism in Chile about the government. Michele Bachelet, a moderate leftist, was widely unpopular by the end of her term in office due to allegations of her son’s corruption, only to be replaced by another unpopular right-wing president, Piñera. I able to witness a powerful act of nonviolent resistance against Piñera’s government as many Chileans got together to protest against his policies on abortion. Regardless of one’s views on abortion, this protest was a powerful demonstration of solidarity and of the culture of social protest within Chile. The female-led crowd demanded that abortion be “libre, seguro y gratuito”, which was interesting to me, because in the capitalist society of the United States, the idea that abortion may be free is not even on the table. To the crowd, the lack of access to abortion services meant that poor women would die. They put that fact at the forefront of their protest, making it incredibly powerful to watch, and to hear the women chant: “poder elegir, para no morir”.

Week 2: Mi Cerro


I’ve started to think of my cerro, or hill, as home base. Recreo is a quaint residential neighborhood between the downtown centers of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. Each weekday, I leave my house around 9:15am to meet my friends at the bottom of my cerro, at the Recreo metro stop. This metro stop just so happens to be on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and is conveniently two stops away from both downtown Viña and the university in Valpo. There is something soothing about my commute: as I walk down the same winding road, I have started to notice the numerous varieties of flowers local to the area. One house on my route has no one, but four golden retrievers whose barks I’ve come to expect as I turn the corner. While I wait for the metro with my friends, I can hear the crashing of waves, and if we are coming back at sunset, we go down the steps to the abandoned dock to watch the sky change color.

My block has the cutest panaderia, or corner bakery, which I’ve gotten in the habit of visiting on my way back from classes. I don’t know the names of many of the desserts, so I usually just ask the sweet old lady who works there to give me her favorite! Maybe if I try all of the desserts, I will learn the names…

Aside from the neighborhood, so much of what has made Recreo feel like home has been my host family’s warm welcome. They have done everything to make me feel like part of the family: my host mom’s almuerzos are always such delicious, homemade meals, and my host family threw me a surprise party for my birthday, despite only having known me for a couple weeks! I wasn’t really expecting to do anything to celebrate, and right as I was starting to get bummed out about it, my host mom called me downstairs. We had completos (left), and a guarana-flavored cake. Completos are the Chilean version of hot dogs, topped with avocado, salsa, and lots and lots of mayonnaise. Though I enjoyed my completo, I don’t know how often I will be having them—I’m not a huge mayonesa person. It was such a sweet gesture from my host parents, and I really am starting to feel comfortable in my Chilean home.

Furthermore, my host sister, Antonia, is the cutest three-and-a-half-year-old I have ever met. I practice using new verb tenses on her: if I get a confused look, I know that what I’ve said doesn’t make sense. She’s the only person in my family that I am sure will let me know if I say something incorrectly! Antonia has also, unknowingly, taught me many command verbs. When she wants to play with Snapchat filters on my phone, I hear “¡Dámelo! ¡Dámelo!”. When she wants more attention, it’s “¡mírame! ¡mírame!”. When my host father tries to serve her vegetables, he receives an emphatic “¡vete!”. When I go downstairs each morning, she is already speaking what seems like rapid-fire Spanish to my tired ears, reminding me that the idea of full immersion is not to be taken lightly.

La comida y la naturaleza

Week 1. La comida y naturaleza:  The food and nature

My first full week in Chile was a busy one! On Tuesday, we went to watch the solar eclipse, which was only visible in a few parts of the South America. We were very near to the zone of totality, but only one of us was able to locate eclipse glasses before the event. Luckily/unluckily, however, my friend Ally had brought her x-rays with her (she had twisted her ankle on Sunday on our excursion to Playas del Norte) and we were able to view the eclipse through those! I now have a new goal of seeing eclipses on as many continents as possible. The whole experience was very interesting because we went to a branch of PUCV (my university) which was further out from the city and which felt much more like a traditional American college campus. We ate our galletas and watched the eclipse, with our DIY eclipse glasses!


After the eclipse, we went to eat chorillanas, a Chilean favorite. The chorillanas restaurant is at the bottom of my cerro, which may prove to be dangerous: they are so good, but so unhealthy!


On Wednesday, we got our first official tour of Valpo, exploring the art of Cerro Alegre. Cerro Alegre is Valpo’s most famous cerro, where artists have been commissioned to paint murals on its many winding roads. Valpo is a series of steeper and steeper hills, so I got the chance to work off some of that chorillana while viewing a variety of art, much of which had political messaging.

These stairs have song lyrics written on them, saying: “tu no puedes comprar la lluvia, tu no puedes comprar al sol”. “You cannot buy the rain, you cannot buy the sun.” This song is anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist in nature and demonstrates the important role of social movements and protest in Chilean culture. Social protests are extremely common, so much so, that the local students at my university are on strike right now for better mental health services. There was plenty of apolitical art too, which was no less beautiful.














Yesterday, we went on a hike in la Campana. La campana is just at the end of the metro, and it only cost 1500 Chilean pesos to get there: approximately $2.50. At the peak of La campana, we were able to see both the Pacific Ocean and Argentina.

I have never considered myself a “nature person”, but between the eclipse and this hike, I think I am starting to be converted; and as always, even though I am 4000+ and 5000+ miles away from my two homes, I was representing New Orleans and Notre Dame.


Final Reflections

At the beginning of this summer, I outlined a few goals. Now, it’s time to see how I’ve done. Here we go:


1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to read any Arabic news article with relative ease.

This is somewhat true! It depends on what the topic of the article is, of course, but with relative ease I can read the news in Arabic these days. (I still can’t quite hear the news– those radio newsmen speak way too fast for me).

2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to hear and piece together conversations without translating in my head. Conversation will become much more natural and I will be able to structure sentences in Arabic without first forming them in English.

Yep. Conversation is much easier. Even in my english interactions, now, I find myself finding the Arabic word for a concept before I can think of the English word. That’s pretty wack.

3. At the end of the summer, I will have found an academic advisor in Jordan to help with formulating, specifying, and executing my Fulbright research proposal.

I, unfortunately, will not be proposing a Fulbright Fellowship research idea. Why? Well– the idea I have is not feasible given the constraints of a single year of field research. So, for that reason, I’ve actually just scrapped the whole application.

4. At the end of the summer, I will be able to understand the lyrics of Arabic music.

Ehhhhhhhh this one is tricky. Since songs are often written in the colloquial language, it always depends on who the artist is. For isntance, I can understand Jordanian and Palestinian artists pretty well. Egyptian? Some of it. Morroccan? No chance.

5. At the end of the summer, I will be able to write in Arabic creatively; beyond simple mechanical sentences and more toward a poetic style of the language.

Yep. I love playing with Arabic words these days. It’s really fun to stumble upon some rhyming schemes or interesting metaphors that come through the ARabic language only.

6. At the end of the summer, I will have grown in fluency equivalent to two semesters of intensive Arabic study at Notre Dame.

Yep. Cheers to Amman and thank you to everyone who was able to make this happen! Ma’a salama! 🙂

Week Seven in Amman

This is my last week in Amman. I’ve had such a great time through this summer and I am already excited to make it back for another visit. The country is beautiful. The people are beautiful. The food is beautiful. Even the disgusting streets filled with coffee cups and tar are beautiful. I don’t want to fly back to America. But, such is life. I’m surely going to miss my falafel guys. I offered that one of them should come back to America with me and open a falafel shop (I even said he could stay in my dorm… Stanford Hall). It would be incredible business and much better falafel than at the Mediterranean place in the Hesburgh center. He turned me down: usratee ahm mn hatha (my family is more important than this). It was a fair point. Until next time, Amman! 🙂

Week Six in Amman

This week my friends and I hit a local art museum. There was some great stuff in there. A lot of it was focused on the Syrian civil war and the Israeli settler-colonial state. So, while it focused on tragedies, the art maintained a certain beauty that only tragedy can bring: the beauty of raw human emotion and loss. It was incredible witnessing these peoples’ stories through a medium such as art. Even more effective, in my opinion, than listening or reading about the stories. Art, especially in the Arab world, has such a great narrational style which greatly enhances its reception in the public world. I loved this museum: Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts.

Week Five in Amman

This past weekend my friends and I took a five hour bus ride to Aqaba with Jett Travel (the Jordanian equivalent of Greyhound). It was a long bus ride with lots of cigarette breaks (all Jordanian men smoke… around 80%… they’re fiends for nicotine!) but we made it with pretty good morale. Upon arriving we went to our Airbnb and immediately went in search for some great food. We stumbled upon the best cafeteria in all of Aqaba. For just 3 JD (around 5USD) the entire group of 8 of us ate falafel and hummus and pita galore. It was incredible. The next day we hit the beach and drank a few beers and smoked some shisha (hookah– all tobacco product). It was incredible to think that we were swimming in a body of water that historically caused one of the most catastrophic Arab wars: War of ’67 (or, in Arabic, al-Naksa… the setback). It was an awesome weekend.