U.S. Fulbright

A Marine Biologist Discovering Chilean Hospitality

November 30, 2015
Christopher Knight

Christopher Knight, 2013-2014, Chile (in red shirt, far left), collecting organisms along the rocky shoreline with Manon Sanguinet of France, Rodrigo Uribe Vásquez of Chile, and Dr. Simon Morley of the British Antarctic Survey

Overlooking the sea, I was wandering the dirt roads in the sleepy village of Las Cruces. It was my first week in Chile and I was trying to find the local bodega. I mustered the courage to speak Spanish with a man working in his garden.

-Hola, can you please tell me how to get to Malloco?

-Hi! Sure, it’s really close. How about I just drive you there?

During the short ride, we introduced ourselves. Incidentally, he had a son that recently moved to the United States and he was eager to visit. At the end of the ride, I thanked him and could not help but grin at his hospitality. Little did I know, such kind interactions would become a routine occurrence at my new home.

As a Fulbrighter, I was conducting marine biological research at the Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas (ECIM). Along with my advisor, Dr. Sergio Navarrete, and his PhD student, Joan Escobar, I explored how interactions between organisms such as sea stars, crabs, and mussels affect the community structure of the rocky intertidal zone. A typical day might involve collecting organisms for a lab experiment, dodging powerful waves while collecting field data, and on calmer days, ending with a celebratory plunge into the frigid Pacific Ocean.

The international environment of the marine lab offered a unique opportunity to work with individuals from all over South America, Europe, and North America. We were able to share our cultural differences, and more importantly, we bonded over our passion of studying the ocean. In addition to my work, I also volunteered with the local public outreach organization, Chile Es Mar.


Christopher Knight, 2013-2014, Chile (center), with his host country project supervisor Dr. Sergio Navarrete (right) and collaborator Joan Escobar (left) in Las Cruces, Chile

Outside of the lab, I gained a deeper perspective of Chile and the United States. I lived with a Chilean who felt hesitant towards the United States due to its past foreign policies. We often had discussions that were elucidating for the two of us. I began to understand the difficulties of diplomacy; building relationships are just as much about the past as our current motives. My housemate was also able to see that Americans may have different views about the actions of their country. As we became close friends, it was clear that average individuals are critical in building international relationships.

Along with home life, community asados, or barbeques that are worthy rivals to their American counterparts, were a staple. At asados, Chileans gather in camaraderie to celebrate life and food into the wee hours of the night. In addition, we also came together to make traditional Chilean foods such as empanadas, ceviche, and sopaipillas.

At the conclusion of my Fulbright experience, I was engaged in a conversation about life with an elderly gentleman on a bus. As the ride ended, he gave me his telephone number and invited me to an asado with his family. My time in Chile taught me that mundane interactions are often at the heart of building foreign relations. There are countless individuals that I will never see again, but whose positive impressions will resonate with me forever. I hope that I have had a similar impact.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Karen December 3, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Hi Cristopher:

    I loved your article. I am from Chile and had a Fulbright experience in the United States, it makes me very happy to read all the hospitality you found in chileans specially because I had a great experience in the USA also. I’m glad to hear that my people are as open and nice as americans were to me. Hope you can come back and visit our country again!


  • Reply Victoria Viteri December 4, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Thank you Chris for sharing your article and views about your experience in Chile. You are a vivid example of what senator W. Fulbright thought this scholarship that he promoted decades ago should be: sharing experiences, intercultural exchange and building relationships around the world between people of different countries.
    Greetings from Chile.

  • Reply Emily Yedinak December 19, 2015 at 8:18 am


    I cannot believe I found you here! You do you, team! So proud to have gotten to know you on our adventure! Chile is awesome!

    -Emily Yedinak

  • Leave a Reply