Though he has long studied the poetry, history, politics and geography of Chile, Dr. David Faught, associate professor of Spanish, had never actually been there.
That is until this summer when he was selected for the first Fulbright Hays Seminar in Chile, a Fulbright Program funded through the U.S. Department of Education.
“It’s kind of weird being a scholar of Chile and never having gone to Chile,” Faught said. “This program was already on my radar, and when it came through email, everyone was like, ‘you have to do this.’”
After completing a complicated application process, Faught was accepted into the program and spent approximately three and a half weeks in Santiago, Chile’s capital.
“The seminar itself has a central theme every year,” he explained. “The one they chose was the educational reforms they are trying to institute in Chile right now. They organized 13 three-hour lectures. It was about an hour and a half of lecture then another hour and a half of question and answer with the scholars. [The lectures] consisted of a variety of topics to give us an idea of what’s going on in Chile.”
“That’s one component,” he continued. “Along with that, they show you as much as they can of the country.”
Along with 15 other professors from around the U.S., Faught got to see some of Chile’s most well-known landmarks.
“They took us to all the museums,” he said. “They took us to a ton of universities because we were looking at education. We saw a lot of sights and did a lot of tours around the city.”
“Wine, copper and seafood are the main exports,” Faught continued, “so we went to see the beautiful valley where all the grapes are grown. We went to see a huge copper mine. We saw it all. We saw mountains, beaches and valleys, and to cap the whole thing off, we spent four days in the Atacama Desert, which the New York Times listed as the No. 2 travel destination for 2017.”
“I had that understanding, but I didn’t understand it on the same level. When I went, there were just so many connections – things that suddenly totally made sense.”
Since he was already familiar with Chile, Faught also did a lot of activities on his own, attending such events as a rodeo, a chamber music performance, an opera, a theater performance and an art exhibit opening. And while being fluent in the language helped, it did not come without its own set of challenges.
“I’ve already studied a bunch of Chilean writing,” Faught explained. “That wasn’t the issue. But I will say the literature is a different type of language than what people speak on the street.”
“First of all, Chileans mumble,” he continued. “It took me about a week to get used to that. The other thing is that their Spanish is like the geography of the country – mountains on the east, seas on the west, and then desert up top. It’s hemmed in. So their Spanish, they’ve got all sorts. They have volumes of books devoted to Chilean Spanish. It did take a little getting used to.”
And while Faught’s knowledge of the country already ran deep, visiting the country in person increased his understanding of various Chilean cultures.
“Here, I’ve studied all the poetry,” he said. “In order to understand the poetry, you have to understand the history and politics and even the geography. I had that understanding, but I didn’t understand it on the same level. When I went, there were just so many connections – things that suddenly totally made sense.”
“It filled the gaps,” he added. “It made some connections for me.”
Now back at ASU, Faught is hard at work completing his curriculum unit for the Department of Education and has big plans for his students.
“I teach a Latin American civ class in the spring,” he said. “My curricular unit will be a unit of that class. So what I’ll do for about a month is present the different sides of Chile – political, historical, educational and cultural. Then what I’ll do is have my students pick another country, like Bolivia, and compare and contrast.”
“You come back renewed,” he added. “It’s such a rich experience seeing the sights, associating with other great professors and having those lectures from wonderful scholars. It gives you more motivation, more energy, and that translates to the students.”