Name: Rachel Chikowski, '09
Major: Biology
Minor: Dance
Academics: Theatre and Dance Scholarship
Activities: Orientation Chair
University Dancers
IMAGES, President
Habitat for Humanity
Class of 2009 Cabinet
Omicron Delta Kappa

What's you language experience?

I had three years of Spanish in high school but no Spanish classes at Richmond.

Argentina is the most popular study abroad program at Richmond. Why did you choose this trip?

I went to Argentina in order to explore a foreign place and practice using Spanish. I love to travel and had never been to South America, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to experience a new culture.

Tell me a little about the program.

There were 26 Richmond students in the program and it lasted 6 weeks. Everyone took two upper level Spanish classes about four to five times a week, so we only really had about 17 classes over the whole time. We went on a few trips and those were the most fun because we got to just hang out together. We traveled as a group everywhere we went and visited all sorts of museums, ruins and historical places. The group bonded really well and everyone learned a lot about Argentine culture.

Is there an activity or experience that was especially meaningful for you?

I really enjoyed the week in Buenos Aires. We had more free time and were able to fully take in the experience of living in a foreign country. The city was unbelievably beautiful and the people were incredibly welcoming. I definitely want to return to Buenos Aires some day.

What made you choose a summer study abroad program versus a semester?

As a science major it is difficult to squeeze in a semester abroad. In addition to this, I am a University Dancer, so if I went abroad for a semester I would not be able to dance in our annual show in the spring. I am also a part of Orientation Leadership. This is a two-year commitment and made it unable for me to study for a semester. However, I loved going for a summer session. It was a perfect amount of time to get a taste of the culture.

What was your living situation like?

I roomed with another Richmond student and we stayed with a young couple in a fairly modern house. The host mother was an English teacher, so she helped us improve our Spanish and we helped her improve her English. The house was very comfortable, but since we were in Argentina in their winter, it was extremely cold! I loved my host parents and still keep in touch with them.

Since you hadn't taken a Spanish class at Richmond, how difficult was it to communicate?

It was difficult at times for me to understand everything, but most of the group spoke to each other in English. I didn’t start the program with a strong Spanish background, but by the end I improved more than I thought I would. I feel like if I had had more time to become completely immersed, I would have improved even more.

How do you feel about Spanish now that you’re back at Richmond?

I love learning Spanish and take any opportunity to practice it. I am much more passionate about Spanish as a language. Traveling to Spanish speaking countries has become increasingly more desirable since I returned from Argentina. I wish I had room in my schedule to fit in a Spanish minor!