Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone in Santiago: Ambassador of the Month Emily Garrity

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Victoria Bruick
September 25, 2017


We’ve had the opportunity to chat with Emily Garrity, our September 2017 Ambassador of the Month! Emily candidly shares what it was like studying abroad in Chile, immersing herself in the local culture, and holding on to the faith that she values.

Emily studies Kinesiology at Texas Christian University, and will graduate this December. She participated on the IES Abroad Santiago - Health Studies Program in Fall 2016.


IES Abroad: Why did you choose this study abroad program and location?

Emily Garrity (EG): I studied abroad in Santiago and completed an Internship & Service Learning Seminar in pursuit of my long term goal of becoming a medical missionary. I felt like this study abroad program allowed me to apply my minor in Spanish to the health professions, and really learn about health care in another culture and country.

Anyone who knows me also knows that my other joys in life are dancing and my faith. While I studied abroad, I had the chance to perform with a company on a well-known stage in Chile for a paying of my dreams come true! I also took salsa and bachata classes throughout the city and at the local university.

I also joined a wonderful church while abroad, as well, where I had the chance to worship and serve the people of Santiago in another language. All of which were experiences of a lifetime.

In my spare time, I loved traveling and hiking the many breathtaking trails through the Andes Mountains and parts of Patagonia, to name a few.

IES Abroad: How did you meet Chileans while you studied abroad?

EG: I got involved in the community. As I mentioned, I took classes at the local university. The dance class I would highly recommend because everyone is in a vulnerable situation. Not many people take dance classes already knowing how to dance, so you become very close with the people in those classes.

I went to just one meeting of a volleyball club because I was so busy, but I saw those people around campus. It was fun to wave and greet people I recognized on campus. Through local dance classes, which were for people in the community of all ages and backgrounds, I met people who were in school like me as well as people who were long into their careers. What was really nice was that we all shared something in common: we all loved to dance. Find something you love to do, and get together with people who love that too! It will go a long way.

IES Abroad: How has an element of your identity been affected by your study abroad experience?

EG: I was a bit worried going into my time abroad that I would lose my faith. I didn't know many people on my program who had as much interest in religion as I did, initially. This fear of losing something I so dearly wished not to lose, was what drove me to search for a home church while studying abroad. I can honestly say that I have never grown so much in my faith in a short period of time as I did while I was abroad.

I believe that we grow the most when we are not in our zones of comfort. And though I grew up speaking Spanish, communication in the first two months was very exhausting as I had to think about not only words, but cultural context cues and how the words I learned growing up sometimes meant something completely different in Chilean culture.

It was these moments I was the most grateful for, where I sought peace and guidance and learned to rely on God to love people in different manner than what I knew. It also gave me the opportunity to worship in a different way, a more meaningful and intentional way. I was so conscious about the words that I was choosing to pray and sing that I meant every single syllable from the bottom of my heart. There were many more beautiful and wonderful life lessons during my time studying abroad in Chile, all only because I was stepping out of my comfort zone.

IES Abroad: What do you wish you knew before you went abroad?

EG: I wish I actually would have done a little research before I went to study abroad in Chile. I would have been able to learn a lot more at the beginning of the program had I done more research ahead of time. A lot of stuff, however, you can only learn once you are there. Later in the program I found that I was able to learn the most from my day-to-day interactions by keeping a journal of them. I would encourage anyone who is studying abroad to keep a journal of things they are learning about the culture, themselves, and their own customs they may not have recognized that they had.

Thanks, Emily!

Do you have more questions about what it’s like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador. They’re recent IES Abroad alums with a lot of study abroad expertise, and they volunteer to answer your questions. They’re here to help!

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Victoria Bruick

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