Blog: Severson’s Second Week in Chile

The Gustavus student experiences a new culture -- and a new way of looking at the world -- during her January travels.
Posted on January 19th, 2017 by

Emily Severson '17 is spending January in Chile.

Gustavus Adolphus College senior Emily Severson is spending January Interim Experience in Chile through the Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Education (UMAIE). She, along with students from other colleges and universities in the Midwest, is taking the course “Sustainability through a Business Lens: Exploring People, Planet, and Profits in Chile.”

Here, Severson reflects on her second week in Chile:

As I walk through the bustling streets of Santiago with my new friends from other small, liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, I get a strange feeling of familiarity to what I know back in Saint Peter. Community is a core value at Gustavus, and it wasn’t until I was removed from my own little Gustavus family for the month and then plopped in a completely new country with all new faces did I realize how much I rely on my community to hold me accountable, encourage me to grow, and remind me who I really am.

Severson at Parque Pumalin, a National Park in south Chile that is owned by the Tompkins Foundation.

The people on my team are from all over the Midwest, and we have majors ranging from mechanical engineering to communication studies, and that doesn’t even begin to dive into the different personalities of all of these people! But after spending time on the Gustavus campus, walking around and listening to the stories of my peers telling me “why Gustavus,” I realized here in Santiago that my Gustavus community has taught me how to find community and build relationships wherever I go.

Excellence is another Gustavus core value that I am seeing all over during my journey through Chile. So far our group has visited key stakeholders in the sustainability movement in Chile such as the Ministry of the Environment, 3M Chile, the Port of Valparaiso, la Universidad Catolica and the Tompkins Foundation, who are all working in their own sector to make sustainability a priority for the future of this very diverse country.

This morning we met with Wendy Benson, the Managing Director of 3M Chile, who is a St. Paul transplant. Ms. Benson is the only “gringa” (an affectionate term used to describe Americans) who is also a director of a major Latin American company, and I couldn’t help but be in awe of this amazing woman. My class here in Chile is mostly women, and I cannot understate the impact that this meeting with Ms. Benson had on us. Not only was she an incredible, humble, and nurturing leader, but she is passionate about leading 3M Chile to be an innovative and high-performing company that serves its community.

Tomorrow morning our group is headed off to visit the country’s largest landfill to get a completely different view of the sustainability movement happening in Chile. So far we have seen the most dedicated groups of people working together with the shared vision of sustainability, so I am anticipating a bit of a reality check as we see the not-so-good side of Chile’s development. Being aware of this, I want to walk into our meeting tomorrow not with a judgmental view of their business, but with a critical eye that sees the necessity of their practice but also has hope for a better way to move even this landfill towards sustainability.

– Emily Severson ’17

Read Severson’s first reflection here.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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