My name is Valentina Mazziero and I’m from Argentina. I’m currently finishing my studies to receive my degree in Communication from the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. I just turned 24 years old and about two weeks ago I returned from my exchange in Chile. I had five months of experiences, from March to July 2013, in the beautiful city of Valparaiso. There, I was welcomed by the University of Playa Ancha (UPLA ) to take courses in journalism major.
I was born in Mendoza, located on the other side of the Andes mountain range. The apartment where I live, called Lujan de Cuyo, is right on the western limits with Chile. I’ve never felt alien to Chilean culture and its idiosyncrasies for this same closeness, and also because my family always choses to visit Pacific beaches for our summer vacation. Living in Chile for five months was a different way for me to connect to this country.
Chile undoubtedly received me with open arms. Valparaiso is such a cheerful place that’s full of energy and actually makes you feel more alive. Its streets invite you to learn more, along with its endless stairways, elevators, vivid colors everywhere you look, cats posing on balconies. Every bit of Valparaiso invites you to feel something new, so much that it can carry you away.
More than just enjoying the beautiful Chilean scenery, in regards to academics, the education system is very different from what I’m used to. There are different requirements and the current rules that are embedded into the education system in Chile have a lot to do with what’s happening within universities with student strikes and protests. But despite these differences, I was able to learn a lot. My classes that were related to the social sciences provided the best example of the differences: in my university social sciences are the most important subjects so they are taught most often and we’re required to know them well. Knowing theory is key, so our materials are longer and have more content. On the other hand, my university lacks field experience. This was a great compliment with my UPLA exchange, where real life practice is much more important than theory.
During my time in Chile I had a very powerful experience. Witnessing the struggle for better education was the most interesting for me as a foreign student. Talking with friends every day made me realize how difficult it is to choose certain things in Chile, and how necessary it is to struggle to make education a basic right for all Chilean people. I learned that some struggles are more than necessary and are worth fighting for to create a better future.
Another thing that I really enjoyed and I would like to emphasize is the warmth of the Chilean people. I brought many things back with me to Argentina; things that were academic, social, personal, among others, but I think what I brought back the most was human warmth. During my experience I met people that in just five months became a huge part of my life. The fellow exchange students who I lived with become my family during my time abroad and my Chilean classmates accepted me as just another Chilean. They taught me so much and invited me to share parts of their lives as if we’ve known for years.
For these reasons and many more, Chile will always be the country that welcomed me with open arms, which filled me with fond memories and new experiences. The place that gave me dear friendships and more affection than I could have ever imagined.
Today, after so many experiences, my home is back to Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza, but I know that I also brought back a piece of Valparaíso with me. I’ll remember its streets, stairs, and colors as if they were and will always be mine. Now I feel that Chile will always be a little part of me, and in some way I will always be a part of it.