Hello everyone! My name is Tobin, and I am delighted that I will spend this spring semester in Santiago, Chile. I am from Wyndmoor, PA so my house is about 20 minutes on foot from Philadelphia city limits. I am a junior majoring in English Literature, minoring in Spanish and doing the BPhil in International and Area Studies – Global Studies Track. This combination is ideal for me as it lets me pursue my interest in literature and film from the Global South, particularly Latin America and Africa, which I read through cultural, historical, and political lenses. Here at Pitt, I currently serve as the President of Mindspace, a discussion club dedicated to answering what we call “impossible questions” and am responsible for communications and social media in the Fantasy Studies Fellowship (FSF) a literature and film discussion club focused on the fantasy genre. At this point, I plan to go to graduate school once I graduate and am considering a degree in fields such as Comparative Literature and Latin American Studies. When not studying, I spend my time with my family and friends, watching movies, reading, taking walks in our neighborhood, and when not in the midst of a pandemic, traveling any chance I get.
The program that I am studying abroad with is C.V. Starr Middlebury Schools Abroad, which means that I will be taking regular local university classes at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC). This also means that since the semester in Chile doesn’t start until March (and then continues into July), I will not be leaving until mid-February. I will be taking four classes at the University – though I have not been able to enroll yet, my plan is to take two in the literature and history departments respectively – and a one-half credit class with other students in the Middlebury exchange program which is Writing for Linguistic and Cultural Competence. I chose this program because of the almost total immersion Middlebury provides. I will be taking regular Chilean university classes which are taught for students who are native speakers and all members of the Middlebury study abroad program have signed a language pledge to only speak to each other in Spanish. Of the universities in Chile, Middlebury is partnered with, I chose the PUC because it offers classes which can help me with the research I am doing for my BPhil such as “Chilean and Hispanic American Narrative II,” in which students read key texts of 20th and 21st century Latin American literature including many I have not had in a course at Pitt and “Contemporary American History,” which deals with Latin American history of the same period.
While I will arrive in Chile with a very high level of Spanish, I believe I will be able to improve my Spanish even further. Because I chose Chile, I will have the additional useful challenge that the Spanish spoken by many Chileans is quite distinct from the Spanish spoken in Spain or other parts of Latin America. Being able to understand these variations (for example, Chileans don’t pronounce the “s” ending in many plurals when they speak) will give me a better ear for the diversity of Spanish as it is spoken throughout the world and might help me understand other regional variations such as Cuban Spanish later in life.
I believe this study abroad will help me grow academically in that it will afford me the unique opportunity to take classes on Latin American literature and history in a Latin American country. I believe my understanding of these and of the role the 20th century past plays in contemporary Latin America will grow here in ways it just couldn’t at Pitt. This will help me make my academic writing on Latin American film and literature, both for my BPhil and other future projects, more informed and culturally sensitive.
Another one of my goals during this study abroad is for me to become more independent and self-reliant. I had previously lived abroad – in fall of 2018 I did an internship with the German Film Archive in Wiesbaden and the German Film Museum in Frankfurt am Main, and at the Youkali Musical Theater School in Barcelona, Spain. While this experience helped me navigate a new kind of work environment, commute in and around a major city by myself, and other learning experiences which I value greatly, I still had a considerable support system – in Germany I lived with family friends and my employers at the archive knew my father. While there will certainly be a support system with this program through Middlebury and my host family, I believe I will attain a greater degree of independence here. Since I don’t yet know the people I will be interacting with on a regular basis I will need to build relations of trust with them without being able to consult an outside third party. I will watch and listen a lot before speaking to become aware of cultural nuances and ensure I interact with others respectfully, something that I anticipate needing to do frequently later in life. Because of my global outlook and interests, I anticipate that whichever career I ultimately pursue, it will involve a lot of international travel, in which being comfortable in and sensitive to other cultures will be crucial.
Since I am not yet in Santiago, I’m sharing images from my previous internships in Germany and Spain. On the left is the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona where I would go to walk around and relax and on the bottom is the work table I used to view old film reels and evaluate their quality while working at the film archive in Wiesbaden.
Until next time! Nos vemos!