By Sofia Puente-Duran, PhD student in the Psychology Program
My international practicum placement was set in Chile, a country defined by its 4,300-kilometre range of landscapes, spanning from the northern Atacama Desert to the southern Antarctic land. While living in Santiago, I worked in the Department of Psychology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Measurement Center, MIDE) – a department responsible for large-scale evaluation programs, which work toward the investigation and improvement of the Chilean Education System at a national level.
Undertaking this placement in Chile – with the support from the RIWEF Award – was fundamental in my growth and development as an academic, researcher, and individual. It afforded me the opportunity to gain an invaluable international experience while working and collaborating within a different institution, cultural setting, and language. It also provided an opportunity to gain insight into high-quality methods and advanced statistical procedures grounded in both theoretical rigour and standardized-based practices. This placement was particularly important, given that it provided me with first-hand experience conducting research that was grounded in cultural sensitivity within a Latin American country. During the placement, I was able to assist in the completion of a manuscript in English regarding the validity of teacher quality and student learning across schools and neighbourhoods, and I also assisted with a report in Spanish, with the goal to disseminate such findings across disciplines and making it accessible to a broader audience within Latin America.
In addition to the academic setting, I sought out moments where I could explore some of the beautiful Chilean landscape. Naturally, I was unable to travel across Chile in its entirety, though I managed to take short trips, which included a visit to the south of Chile, to an important museum in Isla Negra – home to a grand Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, travelled across the border to Mendoza, Argentina, and partook in weekend hikes through the Andes mountains. The south of Chile was particularly impressive, and marked by notable greenery, forests, lakes, and rivers, with fluctuating weather patterns of sunshine and rainfalls. In fact, in contrast to the dry northern desert regions, the southern landscape is described as the “Region of the Lakes” (which shows some similarity to cottage country in northern Ontario). One scenic view included a visit to the Lake of Todos los Santos (“All the Saints”), a crisp blue body of water surrounded by the cordillera mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, and skies full of condors, the national bird. In addition, I was impressed by the sight of numerous stunning sunrises and sunsets during my time exploring, as well as daily from my apartment balcony – perhaps there is a certain magic that occurs when the sun hits the Andes mountain range.
Overall, this placement was a unique opportunity that supported the exploration of psychology, education, and evaluation-based research all within an international setting. It is a privilege to gain insight into the strengths and challenges that exist in other societies and cultural contexts, particularly embedded within settings that foster scientific exploration, in order to capture an
awareness and understanding of societal issues across cultures overall. I would highly recommend opportunities that foster these explorations, specifically supported by Ryerson University. It was an unforgettable experience that I hope can be repeated at some point in my academic, professional, or personal path.