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UC Chile Student Visits Chad: A Journey of Insight and Inspiration

A student from the UC Chile Catholic Religion Education program recently visited Chad, as part of a bilateral international cooperation initiative between the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (Pallqa UC Program) and the Vicariate of Mongo. Here is an excerpt from her experience in África.

student taking a walk with a person from Chad

photo_camera Student Bernadita Pérez with camels eating leaves from a tree behind her.

The word “Pallqa” comes from the Aymara indigenous people and it means "place where several paths get crossed". Using that it was born the “Pallqa UC Program” that propels our university community to the forefront of social responsibility and global leadership. 

It is part of a bilateral international cooperation initiative between the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (VRAI, as per it Spanish acronym) and the Vicariate of Mongo. In that line, VRAI has developed mobility programs that can complement and contribute to leadership flourishment considering access, inclusion and diversity principles as well as commitment to society.

This network works connecting students, professionals, and academics with counterparts across Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Africa. Together, it can become a powerful force, fostering collaboration and tackling shared challenges to build a better future for our planet.

Who can apply? UC Chile students who demonstrate leadership in different spaces, such as social, religious, cultural or sports. A clear exercise of leadership at the service of society with knowledge, skills and values is valued to develop social impact initiatives that generate positive changes. That was the case of Bernardita Pérez.

Journey to the Other Side of the World

During January and February, Bernardita Pérez, a student enrolled in the UC Chile Catholic Religion Education Program, embarked on an academic expedition from Chile -one of the most southern countries in the world- to Chad, a country placed in the middle of África. This trip was made alongside Professor Maili Ow, who accompanied Bernardita during her stay. 

We conducted an in-depth interview with the student to learn about her experience.  

Her day-to-day routine varied depending on the specific city they were in. In Mongo, they visited nomadic schools and assisted in a sewing workshop designed to help women support their families. In this workshop, women actively participate in sewing workshops to support their families. In Abéché, mornings were dedicated to attending school sessions. 

— What was your experience like? 

—It was an incredible experience. It really opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at education. Sometimes we get stuck thinking education is just about hitting the books, but this trip showed me it's so much more than that. As Gabriela Mistral, a chilean Nobel Prize winner and worldwide known poet, wisely put it, learning isn't confined to the four walls of a classroom. It's all around us. There is great value in embracing education for life. In Chad, lots of kids might not get a top-notch academic education, but they sure know a thing or two about life. Their connection with nature is something special. 

—Do you feel you made an impact? 

—Honestly, on a trip like this, I feel like whatever I could offer falls short. They taught me way more than I could ever teach them. Trying to describe this trip doesn't do it justice. It's just such a whole other world. Kids, whether here or in Chad, are the best teachers you could ask for. They are incredible teachers. The way in which their worries become a part of your life, that's what molds you as a teacher. That's key, especially in Religious Education. 

Nearly two months after this experience, Bernardita reflects on how vital it is for teacher training. Despite acknowledging the challenges that come with trips like this, she firmly believes that with a determined mindset, you can do anything. “Even beyond having a strong mind, the truth is, my strength comes from someone greater. For me, it's God who empowers me, and because of His strength, I find my own.” 

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