Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pre-Departure Preparations

Group Dinners:
Leading up to our departure to Chile, our group has spent numerous days preparing. As a group, we met once together and a second time with participants from last year’s program. Our first group meeting midway through the semester was the first time that many of us had ever met. We bonded over delicious empanadas and Chilean postre (dessert) while looking at slides of stunning Chilean landscapes and dynamics neighborhoods throughout Santiago.

We also met at the end of the semester with last year’s group. This brainstorming dinner was helpful in many regards. How cold does it actually get? Were you able to understand Chilean Spanish? What’s the office environment like at the Acción Emprendedora sites? Where are good places to visit on weekends? Which projects should we think about for our contribution to AE? What advice do you have for making progress in such a short period of time? Last year’s group answered many of our questions, assuaged our concerns, and sparked even more excitement. The dinner helped me focus on what types of projects I was interested in and how viable they may be. I began to think more about the work aspect of my summer. I’ve interned before at several financial firms, but my work at these firms was different than what I will face this summer. The stakes are higher this summer because my work helps individuals, not just a large company. If I want to make a sustainable impact, I must hit the ground running. I also must be prepared for roadblocks and the realities of time and financial constraints. Ambition is great, but it must be paired with reality.

DukeEngage Academy:
The three day long DukeEngage Academy provided the capstone to our preparation. Throughout the Academy, we attended numerous workshops that ranged from interacting with our community partner (AE) to the ethics of service. All six of us agreed that the most valuable preparation from the Academy was spending time as a group and getting to know each other better. We even had a group skype call to the intern coordinators at AE, including Joe, a Duke student who has spent the year abroad in Chile interning for AE.

Antonio assigned us quite a bit of reading to learn more about Chilean history, politics, and culture. We read “Death and The Maiden,” which is a thrilling short play that looks at addressing the atrocities committed during General’s Augusto Pinochet’s reign. Many countries throughout the world have had to cope with “reconciliation” processes following the rule of an oppressive regime. How do you prosecute those who committed crimes, yet move forward? Other pre-trip readings included chapters from Chile The Legacy of Hispanic Capitalism by Brian Loveman, as well as chapters from How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle by John Brennan and Alvaro Taboada, which aims to teach Chilean modismos or slang.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


¡Hola Todos!

Thank you for taking time to check out my DukeEngage Chile blog. My name is Grant. I’m a rising senior at Duke University, double majoring in Public Policy and Spanish, with a minor in Economics. I was born and raised in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I spent the fall semester of 2008 living with a host family and studying in Madrid, Spain through the Duke in Madrid program. After traveling to 21 countries on five continents and living with three host families in Spain and Costa Rica, I want a summer experience that will challenge my Spanish skills, my ability to perform service work to help others using a combination of my academic knowledge with my personal experiences, and to fully integrate into a foreign country.

For two months, I, along with five other Duke students and Antonio, our trip leader and senior program coordinator for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, will participate in the DukeEngage Chile summer program. DukeEngage’s mission is clearly and concisely articulate in its motto: “Challenge yourself. Change your world.” Started in 2007 thanks to a generous donation by Bill and Melinda Gates, DukeEngage enables both individual and group service projects throughout the United States and the World.

DukeEngage Chile is in its second year. The six of us will live with host families in three comunas in Santiago: Santiago Centro, Providencía, and Ñuñoa. For me, this will mark my fourth experience living with a Spanish-speaking host family. Nonetheless, every experience is certainly unique and challenging.

We will work as interns for the non-profit, Acción Emprendedora, which translated means “enterprising” or “entrepreneurial action.” AE, founded in 2003, is dedicated to the development of the small businesses sector in areas of high social impact through a process of training, technical assistance, and support in the obtainment of financing. Ultimately, AE seeks to help individuals overcome poverty through entrepreneurship. As interns, we will work on various projects to assist AE in its mission. While we are still unsure which projects we will undertake, possible projects include organizing the annual alumni celebration, researching the effectiveness of AE classes by gathering data from micro-enterprises, or developing a database of practice problems or scenarios for the classes. Last year, Engage interns worked on a project to develop a new curriculum and support for female entrepreneurs.

In addition to working with AE, we will participate in tertulias or tutorials with accomplished and famous Chilean artists, writers, and politicians. We will also be matched up with Chilean college students to learn more about life in Santiago. Finally, we will have time on weekends for excursions around Chile, Argentina, and potentially Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

As the blogging correspondent for DukeEngage Chile, I hope to share a blend of informative knowledge about Chilean culture, history, and politics, Acción Emprendedora, and alleviating poverty, as well as my colleagues and my personal experiences from our service.

¡Hasta luego!