By Rachel Robinson
Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication
Dear Members of the Travel Review Committee,
I returned on Monday November 14th from my trip to Chile with my mentor, Professor Westphal, and I would like to share with you some of the details of the wonderful experience.
On Friday November 4th, we arrived in the morning in Santiago, Chile. We were greeted by a good friend Mr. Pedro Matta, who is known to the UMBC community for his recent presentation on campus regarding “Repression and Impunity in Chile.” He is a very hospitable man, kindly taking us around the city to familiarize me with the history of Santiago and the significance of many structures. From Mr. Matta I truly felt welcomed, and his knowledge of the city details, history and even anecdotes is unsurpassed.
On this first day we were taken to the Universidad Católica de Chile (Catholic University) where I had the fortunate opportunity to meet and interact with graduate students and faculty in the department of Linguistics. At that time we were able to discuss the research that we had done, the findings, and have very stimulating discussions with other students as well as colleagues of Professor Westphal.
During the week of November 7th, the SOCHIL (Chilean Society of Linguistics) held its 40th Biannual and 19th International Conference in Valparaíso. The group as a whole was engaging and friendly, eager to discuss different theories and work being done in linguistics. There was a diverse group of topics, from historical and anthropological linguistics to methodologies behind foreign language teaching. During breaks between presentations, I was able to meet many of the presenters and discuss their work as well as ours.
The day of our presentation was quite exciting. After looking through the schedule of presentation topics, it became immediately apparent to us that our joint paper on the critical period of language acquisition, using neurolinguistics as empirical evidence, was unlike any other of the presentations being held. This made me both nervous and happy. As the presentation was about to begin, more and more people began to pile into the room. When it began, the room was entirely filled with people who listened intently to the discussion about the Critical Period. It went over very well, and after we finished presenting, professors and students asked interesting questions for more than half an hour before we were forced to break to stay on schedule. Some of these questions reinforced our stance on our topic, others raised interesting questions which would be good for further research. In the end, the presentation was well-received, and I believe UMBC was represented in a very positive manner.
The opportunity to present original work at an international linguistics conference is unparalleled. However, my “free time” was fantastic as well. I learned much about the history and culture of Chile, witnessed the beautiful Andes mountains, and I saw first-hand the student movement that is having an enormous impact on the entire country. I witnessed protests by the students, the responses by the government, and saw the impact that students can have when they demand better education for all. It was inspiring. Here in the US, the Chilean Student Movement is only a blip on the news, but I saw evidence of the passion of these students to ensure generations are not lost to costly ignorance. Being there for the purpose of my education made this even more poignant.
Included with this message are a few pictures from the trip. I would like to once again express my sincere gratitude for the support of the committee, which greatly assisted me with funding for this opportunity. Thanks is also due to Mr. Matta and his wife for their warm hospitality, the SOCHIL society for accepting and encouraging our work for the conference, Universidad Católica for networking with UMBC in the departments of linguistics, and of course my mentor Professor Westphal who has provided me with guidance, knowledge and helpful feedback. He has knocked me on the head a few times, but has always encouraged me to push myself harder, be more creative, but keep my ideas grounded with evidence.
This past year with my experiences in MLL has helped shape the foundation for my educational goals. Presenting at the SOCHIL conference has solidified the foundation. I will always fondly remember this experience.