Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lorena Ulloa On Her Time in Chile


             After a semester abroad in Santiago, Chile, Lorena Ulloa’s vernacular was adjusted to include Chilean slang.  With “Po!” and “Filete” included in her Facebook photo captions and in her everyday Spanish, Lorena has transformed herself to become a much more versatile Spanish speaker.  However, along with the slang words she adopted, Lorena also adopted valuable life lessons, which she now implements in her daily life at Grinnell.
            Lorena, a fourth-year, biology and Spanish double major, attributes the majority of her love for Chile to her host family, but confessed that the experience, as a whole, could never be replaced.
            “Chile, as a whole, was wonderful,” Lorena said in an interview. “My host mother, the friends who studied abroad along with me, and the friends I made in Santiago all contributed to my newfound love for Chile.”
            In Santiago, Chile, Lorena lived in Providencia, a comuna part of Greater Santiago.  A comuna, like several U.S. cities, is like an American version of a district, Ulloa said.  Providencia is ridded with plazas and parks, which Lorena took advantage of during her downtime.
             However, Lorena's Mondays through Thursdays started very early in the morning. Her love for 8 a.m. classes did not change while in Santiago.  Thus, Lorena usually woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get to class on time.  Because her classes were on the opposite side of the city of where her host mother worked, Lorena relied heavily on public transportation.
            “I remember the buses always being packed.  Sometimes the buses pulled away from the bus stops with people hanging out of the bus because it was so packed inside,” Lorena recalled with a smile.
            Weekends in Chile were longer than in the States because she didn’t have classes on Fridays. With their three-day weekends, Lorena and her friends sometimes took the opportunity to escape the city and explore the world outside of Chile.  But when she did stay in the city, Lorena spent a lot of time cultivating stronger bonds with her host mother and her extended family. 
            Her host mother indubitably changed the way Lorena perceived her world.
            “Being at Grinnell, I lost contact and became out of touch with my Latino roots,” Lorena admitted. “But my host mother taught me why I love being Latina and she taught me the value of my Latino roots.”
            But her biggest challenge was to open up to strangers.
            “Chileans are very open and warm and they want to make people feel part of the group even if someone may look or act differently than the norm,” she said. “In the beginning I felt really uncomfortable with people being too nice. I always asked myself what people’s true motives were for being nice. But my time [in Chile] really taught me to talk to people regardless of their age, but it ultimately taught me how to really develop stronger relationships with people.”
            Since her arrival, Lorena has noticed a difference in her dynamic with other Grinnellians.
            “I definitely participate a lot more in class and am much more vocal now than I was before Chile. Also, as a Grinnell Science Project (GSP) Student Assistant, I had to show some level of enthusiasm, which, at times was hard for me to explicitly show because of my [introverted nature], but I find that it was much easier than if I wouldn’t have gone to Chile,” she said.
            One of Lorena’s priorities now is to find a way to get back to Chile once she graduates from Grinnell and maybe study at the graduate-level in Chile.  But if she can’t go back to Chile, she definitely wants to give back to her community through teaching. She attributes her success thus far to her teachers and she wants to offer what other people gave to her to other people.
Lorena (right) takes a picture with her host mother (left).

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