Sarah Cardona ’15 traveled to Chile last summer with 12 other students from St. Edward’s. They explored graffiti-lined streets and the beautiful contradictions of urban Chile. When the kissing started, Sarah Cardona ’15 knew everything would be all right. The St. Edward’s University sophomore had arrived in Chile three days earlier, and she now found herself in the coastal city of Viña del Mar, with little more than a suitcase and some meager Spanish skills to depend on. How would she survive a few weeks’ immersion in a Chilean household? She began to worry as the car pulled up in front of her host family’s home. ¡Hola! ¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás? ¿Tienes hambre? As a half-dozen smiling people poured out of the house, peppering her with questions and kisses of greeting, Cardona knew she would be just fine. Her Spanish language skills might not be fluent, but people have always found ways to communicate even when there are barriers. In this case, Cardona knew enough Spanish to get by — and the welcoming embraces of her Chilean hosts were more than reassuring. A Special Education major, Cardona was among 13 students who traveled to Chile last summer, accompanied by Todd Onderdonk, associate professor of University Programs; Cory Lyle, assistant professor of Spanish; and Grant Simpson, dean of the School of Education. From June 2 to June 29, the group immersed themselves in the culture, cuisine, language and lore of Chile, visiting museums and historic sites, as well as living in host homes and tutoring schoolchildren one-on-one. International travel often has a way of accelerating language skills and fostering bonds among strangers. For Cardona and her fellow travelers, this trip would prove to be exactly that kind of journey.
As recently as last spring, however, Cardona had no plans to go abroad while in college. It seemed too expensive. “I thought a trip like that would be $20,000 or so out of pocket,” says the Austin native — who held down two jobs last summer, one as a cafe associate at Sam’s Club and another as an after-school counselor with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department — to keep up with tuition and other bills. “I thought there was no way I could afford to do it right now.” Lyle, one of her Spanish professors, had a different view. For starters, the program was considerably more economical, roughly $6,000 total. Plus, Cardona wanted to use her degree to enter the field of special education. “I’m keenly aware of the advantages of getting bilingual certification if you’re going into the teaching profession,” Lyle says. “If you’re in Texas or any of the border states, bilingual [teachers are] often in very high demand.” Lyle suggested that Cardona sign on to study in Chile. Cardona didn’t immediately take the hint, so Lyle pressed harder. When Cardona’s mother visited campus for an honors ceremony for Spanishlanguage students, he approached her and said he was surprised Cardona wasn’t considering the study-abroad opportunity. “Why not?” her mother asked, directing the question to her daughter. Shortly thereafter, Cardona’s family offered to cover part of the program cost. “Many [relatives] have lived in other countries for a short time and wanted to make that kind of experience possible for me,” Cardona says.
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