Back to SummaryErin Dizon - Student Advisor Profile
ACADEMIC INTERESTS: Infectious Diseases and Virology
My world turned upside down as I stepped off LANChile flight #324 onto the ground into the Santiago airport. The Spanish I was hearing was not remotely like the telenovelas I had ardently watched before arriving in Chile—the quickened pace, the half-finished words and phrases, and constant additions of “po” (ie. si’po, no’po) completely baffled me. Loved ones and strangers alike were greeted with kisses on the cheek, an act Americans rarely demonstrated for fear of losing personal space. My head pounded as I tried to take in this new country with its different customs and language that would be my home for the next three months. I repeated in my head “Soy chilena ahora” to build my excitement and confidence.
Moving away from Stanford for a quarter was a decision I did not take lightly. Though studying abroad has been part of my plan since I started college, I had no
idea my overseas experience would bring me to Chile. Prior to the trip, I knew very little about a country ruled for 19 years by a dictator and his military regime, the remnants of which are still very present in Chilean literature, government legislation, and youth opposition and rebellion. The country is full of extremes, from desert landscapes in the north to snow and ice in Patagonia, from strict Catholic elders to more liberal religious youth, from the large mansions in the city to the barrios in other parts of the country. Santiago, in particular, surprised me in many ways, with its Western façade and modern amenities mixed with the bronze statues and gilded buildings made to celebrate Chilean independence. I took pleasure in learning about the politics and culture of Chile and how seeming contradictions have helped to build a country poised to become South America’s first ‘first world’ nation.
The classrooms in Santiago not only introduced me to the roots of South American independence and the history and culture of Chile, but made me realize the importance of learning about a subject while living in-country. By the graciousness of Helen and Peter Bing, Stanford flew us to Buenos Aires to experience the literature of Jorge Luis Borges and to compare Chile and Argentina in terms of history, culture, and society. In a class dedicated to the emergence of nations in Latin America, Director Jaksic taught us about the first government organization in Argentina, called a cabildo. My classmates and I were so excited to see what we learned in person that we took a photo in front of the cabildo and gave him a copy as a remembrance of our class.
Each day living in Santiago or traveling throughout the country on the weekends was a chance to utilize what I had learned. Spanish class proved integral to my
understanding of the culture and customs of Chileans. In order to not “meter la pata” (stick your foot in your mouth) while on the metro, Professor Mabel Abad instructed us on the proper way to say “Excuse me” when exiting the train (“Perdón” not “Permiso”). Looking back on this lesson, it seems trivial for a Stanford student used to working through the Kreb’s cycle or memorizing viral families. But I cannot express how much nicer the other passengers were on the train when I uttered the right phrase. Stanford-in-Santiago taught me that no lesson or fact is unimportant, especially while trying to assimilate into a new and different country.
Living with a host family helped to bring a little bit of home to Santiago. My host mom and dad, affectionately called Tía and Tío, and my host brother, Felipe, welcomed me into their home as their “reina niña” and “hermana”. I spent my nights talking about Chilean music with our maid, Miriam, and learning about popular dishes during dinner with Tía and Felipe. I was excited to walk home along my favorite streets of Providencia so I could tell Tía about my travel plans for the weekend, play Wii with Felipe, or learn about the unique buildings of Santiago from my architect host dad. They created a home away from home for me, and from day one made me feel like part of their family.
My experience studying abroad would not have been complete without the wonderful classmates and friends I made in Santiago. Being part of a small class of 19 students allowed us to grow closer to people that we otherwise would not have met on the Farm. One of the most memorable travels I took part in was camping in Patagonia in the heart of the Chilean autumn with five other Stanford
students. We backpacked through rugged, beautiful terrain in sunshine, rain, and a little bit of snow. Our food (of what little we brought with us) was eaten during the night by ratónes. The three day journey consisted of 8-hour hikes that never seemed to end. What I will remember most about this trip is not the heavy backpack or the empty stomach, but all the breathtaking scenery, all the frozen streams and river-hopping, and all the inside jokes and camaraderie we shared that continued even after we returned from our trip.
After studying abroad for a quarter, my world is turned right side up again. I have grown an incredible amount in my ability to speak Spanish, and my desire to keep up my skills has led me to discover excellent Spanish radio. I am proud when people comment on my Chilean Spanish with its unfinished words and slurred syllables. I miss greeting strangers and friends with a kiss on the cheek and hearing my host mom say “¡Que lo pases bien!” as I left for school in the morning. The friends I have made, the subjects I have learned, and the family who welcomed me have enriched my life immeasurably. Stanford-in-Santiago taught me about a world that, although located half-way around the globe, will continue to be very close to my heart.