Office of Study Abroad

Profile: Roman Loper '20

Roman Loper in Chile

Major/minor: Double major in Biology and Health: Science Society and Policy

Program/Year abroad: SIT Chile Public Health, Traditional Medicine and Community Empowerment, Spring 2019

Reason you chose this program: I knew from the beginning that I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. I had taken Spanish classes since high school and felt like my next step was full immersion. I focused most of my search on SIT programs because of their experiential learning model and the importance they place on getting to know the community you live in. As far as the subject goes, I am interested in public health and wanted my study abroad experience to be centered on studying public health (especially regarding different health systems in other countries).

Based on these criteria, I came up with a handful of programs. This program caught my eye because it also included a study of traditional medicine (a topic in my medical anthropology classes that really interests me). The community empowerment aspect was also very unique because it showed that this program taught public health with communities in mind. This program checked all of my boxes, plus a few I didn’t even know I had!

Favorite classes: Traditional Medicine, especially learning about the Mapuche worldview and healing practices.

Housing situation: Homestay

Best memory: Going to a community event in Acha Valley where I was doing my internship. I normally worked with a Chilean girl who was also interning at Servicio Pais, but she had to go to Santiago that weekend so I was on my own. I was a bit nervous to be going to this event alone, but I knew that it was really important to get to know the community I was working with and build a good relationship with community members. We did the whole Subir La Cruz celebration, and afterwards everyone ate dinner.

The girl I worked with must have told the community members that my birthday was tomorrow, because everyone suddenly broke into song and surprised me for my birthday! I felt incredibly cared for and accepted by the community. It was so rewarding to realize that the people of Acha we’re just people I worked with and interacted with, but they were also my friends.

Greatest challenge: My greatest challenge while studying abroad was probably stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging Chileans in conversation. I am introverted to begin with, so that paired with my hesitation to speak Spanish for fear I would mess up made it hard to start conversations with people.

Although this was my greatest challenge, I am happy to say that after a couple weeks of adjusting I pulled myself beyond my comfort zone and got plenty of practice speaking to Chileans. It paid off, because I was able to meet some incredible people and make lots of friends.

Did you apply for any scholarships? If so, which ones and how did they impact your time abroad? I did not apply for any scholarships to study abroad.

What you know now that you didn’t know before: Before studying abroad, I didn’t realize how tiring it would be to constantly be thinking, learning and communicating in a foreign language. After a few classes, I realized that my brain was working extra hard just to understand all of the information, not to mention analyzing it and participating in class!

On a different note, I also know now just how rewarding it is to meet people from a different culture. I had met people from different cultures before, but talking with people like my Chilean host mom, in her language, about Chilean culture and politics, was so much more fascinating than I expected!

Fact about (country) that you think people would be surprised to learn: Although the name suggests very spicy food, the Chilean cuisine is actually quite bland. Most Chileans I met did not like spicy food. The food was still really good, but not very spicy.

“This program checked all of my boxes, plus a few I didn’t even know I had!”

Roman Loper '20