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Dayton Engineer

CAP Study Abroad in Santiago, Chile - An Engineering Student’s Reflection

By David Albrecht '25

Undoubtedly, my study abroad program based in Santiago, Chile, stands as one of the most transformative events in my lifetime. 

Living for one month in a foreign country taught me lessons about myself and the world that I likely would have never had otherwise. It was a striking experience to live outside of the mainstream demographic group for the first time in my life, and it gave me new appreciation and understanding for those that live within societal margins. Upon arrival, I experienced firsthand the hardships of not being fluent in the country’s spoken language, relying almost exclusively on my cell phone to help me with directions and translating things such as signs and restaurant menus. Coming from the United States with a family that only speaks English, this was an extremely eye-opening experience for me to personally understand the added layers of difficulty imposed upon migrant and non-English speaking families in order for them to simply get around their cities and communicate with others. Not to mention, a considerable amount of restaurants and businesses that I visited in Chile had staff that spoke English very well and offered alternative versions of menus with English descriptions. My experience with the language barrier, and seeing how another country adapts to be more accommodating to a global population, truly made me consider all the ways our own businesses and institutions come up short in this regard.


Through my History of Religion in Latin America and Social Philosophy courses, in addition to on-site excursions and site visits, I learned of the importance of community as an asset for supporting others and organizing for change. Notably, during Chile’s right-wing military dictatorship (1973-90), community-based organizations came together to support the most vulnerable and oppressed people, some of which are still in operation today. One of these organizations is Fundación EPES (Foundation for Popular Education in Health), an independent non-profit that began its operations out of Santiago in 1983 with roots in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Its mission is to improve the health and life of people and communities living in situations of vulnerability, through participatory strategies of education, promotion, advocacy and social mobilization, with a gender and rights approach, and with respect for diversity and the environment (translated from their website With my class, I was able to visit EPES and learn from their founder and director Karen Anderson the value in utilizing the community as an asset for change. It was truly inspiring to hear about the ways EPES empowers their local communities through education and engagement, and left me wondering how I can use my platform as an aspiring engineer to leave a similar impact in my own communities.

Inspired by the experiences of my program, this study abroad trip instilled within me a vocational call to utilize my education and future career in engineering to do good for others and the world. I can no longer sit comfortably and hope that other people and organizations will be active in addressing global issues that impact people and the environment, allowing my own career interests to be driven primarily by the prospect of a high salary paid by a corporation motivated by profit. Instead, I want to affirm myself as a changemaker in the world, and leave a legacy of positive impact in my own communities and beyond. I plan on using the rest of my undergraduate education at UD to explore ways in which I can build a career to be an engineer for the common good.

Not only was the trip personally transformative, but it was also an amazing experience to be exposed to the culture and landscape of Chile. Our group saw so many things across the country, from the intra-city sites of Santiago such as the Presidential Palace and San Cristóbal Hill, to the Pacific coast of Valparaiso, and the harsh yet beautiful terrain of the Atacama desert. One of the things I especially enjoyed was the variety of Chilean food that I was able to eat (particularly pastel de choclo and empanadas). Living with my host family was also an unforgettable experience, and it taught me so much about how people from completely different countries can still have so much in common. I will never forget the feeling of belonging I felt in my host family's household when my host father and I spent an entire evening talking about our favorite American rock bands. 


In summation, my study abroad trip to Chile ranks among the most extraordinary chapters of my life. It granted me profound self-discovery, forged enduring friendships with fellow UD students, and ignited an unwavering passion to harness my position for positive change. My heartfelt gratitude extends to the UD Human Rights Center and the Curran and Renzetti scholarship for making this transformative journey possible. For all students who have the opportunity to study abroad, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it. Although I left for Chile with a considerable amount of apprehension, I came back with an even greater desire to do it all over again.

David Albrecht is a rising junior majoring in mechanical engineering from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is passionate about environmental issues and is eager to use technological innovation to benefit the common good.

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