Students, Professors Share Stories from Croatia, Chile

A panel of students and professors reflected on their time spent in summer programs in Croatia and Chile as part of the third day of International Education Week.

Grace Duncan, CSON ’20; Caleb Oh, MCAS ’21; and philosophy professor David McMenamin talked about the course “Through the Eyes of Service: Social Justice in Chile.” Charlie Henderson, MCAS ’20, and philosophy professor Richard Kearney discussed “Philosophy of Peace and Hospitality: Philosophy of the Person II,” which was taught in Croatia.

In Chile, students stayed with host families while learning about the history of the country, with a particular concentration on the Pinochet regime, which violently governed Chile from 1973 to 1990. Traveling to the places where the violent events, such as disappearances, actually happened had a profound impact on the students, according to McMenamin.

“We are joined in the program by a gentleman who … as a graduate student at the University of Santiago, disappeared,” McMenamin said. “He leads the students through a tour [of the torture faciliary, now a park], and he takes them step by step through what the torture process was, as he experienced. … It is incredibly brutal, dehumanizing, [and] humiliating.”

“What I took out of it was kind of like the impact of the people that were affected by it,” Duncan said.

She did her final paper for the course on the wave of people that fled the Pinochet regime.

“[Pinochet’s] focus was to eliminate political opposition, but in that he actually … forced Chile to tell everyone around the world what was happening because they were forced out … to the United States, or even all throughout Europe,” Duncan said.

Seeing and having real conversations with the people affected by the history was also eye-opening to students. McMenamin noted that conversations among students typically centered around how people are capable of treating one another, as well as reflection on the scary realities of torture.

The panelists surmised that students—through having difficult conversations with their host families—other Chileans, and the homeless at the shelter that the students volunteered for, were able to put human faces and voices to the Chilean story that they were learning through the course.

Though on a different side of the globe, Croatia is also host to a painful history. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, mass genocide broke out throughout the region, including in Croatia.

“There’s spots along the city that look like almost painting on the ground,” Henderson said. “It looks like it was almost an accident. And when you learn that later, those are a sort of memorial like at the spot where bombs were dropped.”

Henderson’s project for the course was on hospitality. Her primary example came from a Croatian stranger who invited her and a friend into his yard to show them kittens.

“I don’t know if it’s a direct result of the war and the conflict that’s been there, but people are just really open and hospitable,” Henderson said.

Featured Image Courtesy of the Office of International Programs