Since 1992, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile has hosted significant numbers of Notre Dame undergraduates through a robust and immersive study abroad program. Approximately 40 students take part in the program each year. Having begun as a consortium with other Midwest universities, the PUC-Notre Dame study abroad program was independently established in 2007 and has since become a model for successful language and cultural immersion experience.
Noted among study abroad programs for its excellence in facilitating student engagement, the program begins with a three-week immersion prior to the academic semester that includes intensive Spanish classes, cultural activities and field trips in the rural part of Chile. This strong preparation program is consistently one of the best evaluated elements of the study abroad program as it gives the students the chance to experience a different reality of Chile, and helps them create strong bonds with the rest of the group before arriving in Santiago. The preparation program is organized and led by Cecilia Espinoza, Maryknoll lay missionary.
During their semester of studies at PUC in Santiago, students live with Chilean families and take up to five classes, typically taught in Spanish where Notre Dame students learn alongside Chilean students. In addition to their specific program classes, Notre Dame students enroll in a Spanish class and the course “Politics and Society” organized especially for them. Many students also choose to enroll in the course “Poverty and Development” at Universidad Alberto Hurtado. The course includes a significant service component and facilitates students’ experience of the socioeconomic differences in Chilean society. Program staff continually developes the service, learning, research, and internship opportunities for students who come to Chile. The outstanding student interest in this program reflects the reputation of the Chile program among our students and the potential for the program to increase the number of accepted students.