Francesca Basil poses in Patagonia, Chile

The time I spent in Patagonia, Chile during Winter Break 2015 taught me that studying abroad is more than learning or knowing. It is about experiencing.

 

 Although Patagonia’s most notable takeaways were the spectacular, untouched mountains and widespread countryside, there was much more at work on this trip. It was the subtle changes in day-to-day interaction between our own native guides and our entire group that shaped the trip. We experienced a bonding of our American culture with our trip guides’ Chilean culture. This program transformed me mentally, physically, and emotionally in less than 2 weeks after a long 70 kilometer trek through the mountains and valleys of Patagonia. All the while we camped without any light nor noise pollution from cities because we were so far away from civilization. It was a very freeing experience. Overall, my favorite memory of this trip was hiking on a Chilean glacier next to the second tallest mountain in South America, while drinking the purest water ever straight from a melting glacier.

 

 My trip to Patagonia with Adventure WV and WVU’s Study Abroad Program inspired me to yearn to experience new cultures, religions, viewpoints, and entirely different groups of people. This gave me a sense of wanderlust. I decided that a full semester program was needed, in order to be fully immersed in a new culture. I chose Melbourne, Australia with RMIT University. The city of Melbourne’s “melting pot” culture is what enticed me to take the trip, as well as the beauty of Australia’s environment.

 

 I believe studying abroad should be emphasized much more among university students because it allows a wonderful opportunity to understand and have greater respect for people after experiencing another country’s culture. It’s a very beautiful thing.


Friends pose on the trail in Patagonia, Chile