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From Marian to Osorno: Ella Kennedy ’25 Studies Abroad in Chile

Ella Kennedy ’25 shares her experience studying abroad in Chile. Discover how her experiences in Chile, marked by courage and curiosity, have ignited a passion for foreign languages and exploring diverse cultures:

Could you please share your current incredible journey as a high school student studying abroad and how Marian helped make this opportunity possible for you? 

The idea for my study abroad experience came from my mom, who had a similar experience in high school when she studied abroad in Chile. She asked if I’d be interested in staying with one of her friends for a few months and attending school in Chile, just as she did. When we presented this idea to Marian, they were incredibly supportive and worked with my school in Chile to ensure it was academically feasible. 

Tell us about the school you are attending. Could you describe a typical day for you while studying abroad? 

I am currently living and going to school in Osorno in the south of Chile. The region is known for its beautiful lakes, volcanos, and agriculture. I attend school at Colegio Aleman, an IB school founded by German immigrants in 1854. The school offers traditional classes such as math, sciences, social studies, literature, and foreign languages. Students are required to learn both German and English. Classes start at 7:45 AM and end at varying times in the afternoon. After school, I handle any work from Marian, study for tests, run errands, go for runs, or facetime my parents. Dinner with my host family typically happens around 9 PM, which was definitely a cultural adjustment for me!

Studying abroad can be a transformative experience. How do you think this opportunity will influence your personal and academic growth? 

During my time abroad, I’ve experienced significant personal growth, with the most noticeable being my improvement in Spanish. When I first arrived, my Spanish was basic, but now I can understand almost everything and speak the language naturally. This newfound skill will help me excel in my Spanish classes at Marian and obtain a fluency certificate. Being in a new environment has made me more outgoing and appreciative of meeting and connecting with new people. 

Can you describe a valuable lesson or skill you've gained in Chile? 

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the value of being open-minded to new experiences, people, and ideas.  I didn’t have many expectations for what my experience would be like in Chile, which has allowed me to be more adaptable and willing to try new things. Some of my best memories have come from experiences I entered into with zero expectations. I hope to bring this open-minded perspective back to Marian, trying new things and letting go of any preconceived judgments.  

How have you engaged with local culture and traditions? 

Engaging and assimilating in a new culture has been one of the most rewarding parts of studying abroad. I love to prepare and try traditional food with my host family and friends, as well as listen to popular Chilean music. One of my favorite things to do in Chile is gather for asados. An asado is a social event where all kinds of meat are prepared using traditional grilling techniques. In gym class, I recently learned the national dance of Chile called “La Cueca,” which our grade performed in celebration of Chile’s Independence Day on September 18.

Travel often offers unexpected adventures. Could you share a memorable moment you’ve had? 

One of my most memorable moments from my experience abroad was the first day of school. Starting as a freshman at Marian from St. Regis, I never felt what it was like to be the “new kid” and not know anyone. When I arrived on the first day of school in a foreign country, it was extremely overwhelming. However, a few girls noticed my nervousness, started talking to me in English, answered my questions, and helped me feel comfortable. Over six months later, these girls are now my best friends.

There can be many hurdles while navigating a foreign environment. How has Marian equipped you to embrace these challenges? 

Going to school in a foreign country and learning a foreign language is not easy. There are many times where I do not understand the lectures or am left unclear about something. However, my education at Marian has taught me not to fear asking questions and has equipped me with strong studying and test-taking skills, enabling me to succeed in school abroad.

Looking ahead, how do you anticipate that your experiences in Chile will shape your future goals? 

Studying abroad has deepened my passion for foreign languages and exploring different cultures. I hope to bring an international perspective back to Marian and take on an active leadership role in the Spanish Honor Society. In college I hope to continue my Spanish education while obtaining a degree in international business. I can definitely see myself living abroad again during my college or professional years. 

Thank you, Ella!

As Ella prepares to bring her newfound international perspective back to Marian this winter, we can only anticipate the positive influence she will have on our school community. Marian looks forward to witnessing her continued growth and leadership within the Spanish Honor Society!

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