From January 3rd-January 15th, Drs. Al Rydant & Lara Bryant led a group of 14 students to the beautiful South American country of Chile. While studying there, they stayed in Sanitago, Vina del Mar, and La Serena. Students enrolled in the four credit field course for the fall semester. They completed assignments throughout the semester, culminating with the trip in January.
The students were required to complete assignments during their stay in Chile, including field journals, observation quizzes, and a comprehensive final exam. That does not mean they did not have time for fun as well. A typical day would include walking tours, group lunch, and chances to spend extra pesos on excursions like horseback riding on the beach, riding funiculars to observation points, and souvenir shopping. The nights would usually give the students free time to explore the cities and grab dinner at a restaurant or pub of their choice. Some nights would be booked with extra activities like the exploration of the Mamaluca Observatory in Vicuna or working on an urban planning project. Some highlights of the fieldcourse include:
1.) Staying four nights in Vina del Mar with host familes. The 14 students were separated into single, doubles, or triples and required to meet local families where they would experience Chilean culture firsthand. Most families did not speak fluent English, so it was an opportunity for the students to put their language learning skills to the test. Needless to say, many students learned more Spanish in four days than they did in their entire lives. Many of the students said they ate some of the best food of their lives while staying with their hosts. Some also felt that they made lifelong friendships and connections that would resonate in their minds and hearts for a lifetime.
2.) A volunteer fieldwork day in the botanical gardens outside of Vina del Mar. The students and professors aided the botanists during a full day of work where they weeded hundreds of local and exotic plants and learned about Chilean flora. Some of the students even played with tarantulas that surprised all of them while getting their hands dirty. It really put into perspective how much work goes into maintaining a park like the botanical gardens.
3.) A trip to a local winery. “Fundo El Sauce” was a local winery where students learned about how much love and work goes into making wine the old fashioned way. They were able to sample various wines and it was a once in a lifetime experience. It takes six months to make a commercial bottle of wine while it takes “Fundo El Sauce” 2 years. The winery also specialized in training horses to participate in the rodeo. A jockey showed them what a horse is capable of after years of training. The rodeo in Chile is not like the rodeo here in the US. Chilean rodeo is more of an artform where the horses will follow commands and earn style points. After the tour was over, the students were able to purchase a bottle or two of the homemade wine to bring back home.
Overall, the field course in Chile was a life-changing experience for the students. They were able to learn about a new culture and a new language. Whether it was playing futbol with locals in a park, figuring out how to navigate a Chilean city, or simply catching some rays on the beach, the trip provided opportunities to do things that they may never be able to experience again. The next field course is yet to be determined, but Dr. Rydant and Dr. Bryant will surely not disappoint!