Christina Bitten

Major: Math

“It sounds cliche, but I changed a lot as a person.”


What led you to study abroad? Why did you choose your country/program?

I knew I wanted to really speak Spanish, more than just all those years studying it and I felt so close. I choose Chile specifically because I have a Chilean uncle and grew up hearing about Chile from him and my cousins.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

I lived very intentionally, so everything was interesting!! But, I would have to say when my internship sent me off by myself for the weekend to go work at a organic farmers market in the South. I ended up getting lodged by one of the farmers and his family on his farm and I learned a lot from them. The next night, I realized one of my Chilean friends in Santiago was visiting his family in this really small town, and we got together and (surprisingly enough, because this was a realllyyyy small town) did what we always did- went to a queer club. It was fun, and really interesting to live in more of a small town even if just for that extended weekend.

What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?

The language. My first many months there were really rough as I struggled to communicate and participate in daily life. However, as the months went by it cost me less and less, and eventually I was speaking just like a Chilean with all my friends and communication was not a problem!

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

Wake up, make my food for the day, go to school, come home and either go to work or study, and if it was a weekend, go out with friends.

What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

I took tons of courses: sustainable agriculture, beekeeping, native plants of Chile, organic agro-ecology, environmental problems of Chile, farm animal management, representation of masculinities in popular music/ culture, and a film class. The classes were much more hands-on with lots of field trips (maybe that was because I was studying agriculture though, I don't know). The outside-of-class workload was lighter, but what you did do, you had to complete it much more thoroughl

What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?

There are so many. In terms of something quantifiable (only so that I can answer the question), I found my life's passion in sustainable agriculture...something that I would have NEVER found out about here at Berkeley.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

It sounds cliche, but I changed a lot as a person; I am way more laid back, more deliberate about taking care of my mental health and well being, more intentional in how I spend my time and with whom, more accepting and warm as a person in general, and many ways I probably could not even pinpoint.

What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country or program?

OF COURSE. But they just need to know what they are getting into with the language and culture shock. It's NOT a semester of fun. It's hard work and frustration and learning. SO WORTH IT!!