Service Learning in Santiago, Chile

Programs for this blog post

Open Campus Block

Authored By:

Angelica C.

When I started my service-learning placement at El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (MMDH), I was more nervous than excited. My role with the reception team was a "front-facing" position, meaning I would be working directly with the public- something I had never done before. My responsibilities included greeting guests, answering questions, directing visitors to exhibitions, promoting and operating Alfredo Jaar’s multi-sensory exhibition "La Geometría de la Conciencia," setting up audioguides and guided tours, and managing the guest visit book.

Initially, speaking Spanish was intimidating. Despite having taken Spanish in high school, my confidence plummeted in real-world situations and especially when faced with the famous Chilean accent. But each interaction, whether explaining an exhibit or helping with directions, pushed me to expand my vocabulary and improve my fluency. The support from the museum staff, my service-learning advisor, and the entire CIEE Santiago team was invaluable, encouraging me to keep practicing despite my fear of misusing Chilenismos.

The museum, dedicated to preserving the memory of human rights violations during Chile’s dictatorship, exposed me to powerful stories of resilience and hope. Engaging with the multi-sensory exhibition by Alfredo Jaar, I saw firsthand how art can be a powerful tool for education, connection, and remembrance.

By the end of Open Campus Block 2, my Spanish had improved significantly and so had my understanding of Chile’s complex history. I no longer felt like a student-tourist in Santiago, but rather a member of the community.

This service-learning course did more than enhance my academic knowledge- it provided a comprehensive experience that merged learning with real-world and real-time application. My time at MMDH was the highlight of my study abroad experience, making all of Santiago my classroom and giving me key lessons on what it means to be a global citizen.