I remember the sense of pride I felt as I submitted my absentee ballot to vote for the President of the United States for the first time ever. Having freshly turned eighteen, I was excited that I got to voice my opinion and exercise my patriotic right to vote. Although I have failed to vote correctly in both the primary and general election, it was still an interesting time in the United States and the state of the country following the election result was very interesting to follow. I imagine how difficult that would've been for an international student who was studying abroad in the United States.
Now approximately a year later... I'm living that experience that I imagined would be so difficult! It is pretty difficult, but I'm learning to roll with the punches and picking up on some political Spanish terms along the way! It's a very interesting time to see the country, travel, and meet Chileans because you get to hear their opinion completely candidly. You let them know that you know completely nothing on the topic outside of the limited scope of information covered in my Transformation of the Chilean Economy class and they're very glad to speak their own opinions. From just staying in hostels all over the country of Chile and meeting locals in restaurants and parks, I've managed to hear a plethora of different opinions on each candidates and even those who didn't vote at all! I found it very similar to the political environment back home in the United States, especially among college students who are more sympathetic to the needs of the poor, immigrants, etc.
Other comparisons I drew were between the upper and the lower class and what they felt were important or not. One big issue in the Chilean economy is the pension system, which is one of the most succesful privitized pension systems in the world! However, there are arguments made that it should be publicized and it's unfair to those who do not make as much or those who are forced to participate in the informal economy (selling in stands on the street, performing on the subway, etc.). Although I am not a political science major and it has not come into my studies frequently at Babson, it was very interesting to learn about international and regional politics inside and outside of the classroom. It's definitely been a challenge on my Spanish but it's been a great look into the culture and their perspective about elections.
I think it was a very pivotal and eye-opening time to be in Chile and I'm glad I got to experience the initial elections. Although the final election will not take place until after I leave for the United States, it was still amazing to see the transformation around me and the thoughts and opinions of people from all walks of life. It was amazing the way the opinions differed vastly from my host mother to the Haitian immigrants I encountered at the park to the different Chilean students I'd come across sitting on the grass lawn near Catolica, one of the largest catholic universities in Santiago. The recent first round saw the rise of Sebastián Piñera, of the alliance Chile Vamos, and Alejandro Guillier, of the alliance The Force of the Majority, as the two main candidates heading into the second round vote that will happen in mid-December.
If you're interested in politics, I strongly suggest studying abroad in a country where there has been a lot of political transformation over the past few years and where elections are in full swing! Chile was a completely socialist nation not long ago, and now they're making the transition into a democracy. Even if you're not interested in politics, its a great way to experience the country and learn a little more! At this point... I think I know more about Chilean politics than American politics.