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Chile: An “Island” All On Its Own by Haley Stauffer, BioRenewable Systems Major, International Agriculture and Spanish Minors

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Posted: June 21, 2018

"Upon hearing of the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Patagonia, one of the most remote and untouched regions of the world, through a Natural Resources and Sustainability course offered through the Environmental Resource Management department within the College of Agricultural Sciences, I knew I had to find a way to make it a reality."
Our guide, Armando and I at the final spot to see the mountains in Torres Del Paine National Park

Our guide, Armando and I at the final spot to see the mountains in Torres Del Paine National Park

Upon hearing of the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Patagonia, one of the most remote and untouched regions of the world, through a Natural Resources and Sustainability course offered through the Environmental Resource Management department within the College of Agricultural Sciences, I knew I had to find a way to make it a reality.

Having traveled to Costa Rica for a summer internship prior to this adventure, I understood the weight of this request on my time, and frankly, my parents’ pocketbook. Nevertheless, I am truly thankful that my family recognized the significance of building upon one’s global skill set and allowed me to establish unforgettable experiences in this opportunity abroad.

Gratitude was a common theme throughout this trip as I learned that not only were the 25 student participants out of 50 applicants the first to travel to this region of the world through Penn State but that it was also the first time that the travel agency, CIEE, embarked on this journey as well. It was completely new for all of us and I remain awestruck at the people we had the privilege to meet and what they were able to share with us. 

Being vegan and understanding prior to the trip that the Latino culture is patriarchal, I knew that I would be a foreigner on this trip in many ways. Thankfully, our exquisite guide, Romina, who was also vegan, took care of us all as if we were her brothers and sisters. Because that is what we became, a family. From our guides at our first stop in Olmué, trekking through 104 degrees Fahrenheit in La Campana National Park, to our last guides who journeyed with us through the seasons to the base of the world-renowned towers of Torres Del Paine National Park, I have formulated such fond memories and meaningful connections participating in this experience.

I am incredibly thankful to have shared in the Chilean way of life, in which “those who hurry lose time” and have tried to superimpose that mentality, along with many others, at the forefront of my future decision-making. This particular trip has left me feeling incredibly empowered and has validated my skill set as I was deemed the translator on the trip and was able to specifically connect with a woman who lived in Santiago over the course of our one-night dinner homestay.

From glaciers to guanacos, Chile is truly a one of a kind country as it is separated by the Andes to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the ice fields to the south. There is a tremendous amount of flora and fauna that are invariably endemic to this region and this isolation further adds to the native dialect that is exchanged between Chilean people. With a bountiful amount of beauty, history, and opportunities for connection, I am notably thankful for all that I was able to share and grow from through this experience abroad.

Traveling has opened me up, in mind, body, and spirit, in ways that I could not have imagined. I have learned that my body can journey up many steep and rigorous planes despite the doubtfulness of my mind. I learned that my mind is capable of overcoming obstacles as I connected with those that spoke a different language than me. Finally, I learned that despite the culture and life experiences that separate us all, we are truly all one, we are all human and have the affinity for life, love, and happiness.