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Croft Student Travels to Chile for Invaluable Experience and Unforgettable Memories

The Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi has broadened many students’ horizons. Anne Dee Thomas is one of the many as she spent one unforgettable semester in Chile from July to December 2015.

Anne Dee Thomas is a Spanish and Accounting double major hailing from Nashville, Tennessee. She credits Croft for bringing her to the University of Mississippi. She was undecided between Croft Institute and the Birmingham International Business School until one visit to the “beautiful” University of Mississippi campus.

Now a junior, Ann Dee Thomas has one post-graduation goal: “I want to work for an international accounting firm where I can speak Spanish and work in an office overseas.”

Croft requires for its students to learn foreign languages, and studying abroad is one of best techniques to practice speaking other languages. Thomas chose to travel to Chile to explore the mountains while practicing Spanish with the citizens.

Thomas said, “Chile was great for adventure tourism because it has no snakes, and only one or two kinds of poisonous spiders and they are house spiders. And there aren’t any thunderstorms to speak of.”

While in Chile, she lived with a host family in Valparaiso. She took four classes that met three days a week at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso.

Thomas said, “When we arrived, there was an educational strike (both on the side of the students and the professors) that lasted a few a couple of months, but was wrapping up when we arrived.”

She also experienced an 8.3 earthquake while home alone. Thomas said, “Overall, it didn’t do much in the way of destruction. Also, when we went to Cordillera de los Andes with my mountain sports class, there was an earthquake while we were camping in the middle of the night.”

She traveled to the northern Atacama desert, middle Chile, northern Patagonia and Southern Patagonia “and many other places in between.”

But her long trips in the Atacama desert and the Patagonia mountains were the most memorable.

“Driving around the Atacama desert for a week with five friends in the Scooby Doo mystery machine and camping was unforgettable.” Thomas said, “We got ‘Scoob’ buried in the sand and had to use the wooden boards that were used to support the bed inside the van under the wheels to get it out. We burned a tire mark in one board, but the company that rented the vans didn’t notice.”

The Patagonia range left Thomas with beautiful memories, though.

Thomas said, “Backpacking in southern Patagonia for a week was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. We backpacked the W trek in Torres del Paine national park with six other people for five days. It has anything you could ever want from the bluest water you’ve ever seen to crazy strong winds to mountains to glaciers and ice fields with hanging glaciers (frozen waterfalls that sound like thunder when they break off), waterfalls, and clear, pure water that you can drink straight from the source every 45 minutes to an hour of hiking.”

Naturally, she snapped numerous pictures, and each is worth a thousand words. Here are the pictures and their stories.

"This was a indigenous day ceremony and these are some of the Aymara people doing there traditional dance in Vina del Mar. -second should be a picture of a wine valley with a Chilean flag. This is Casablanca Valley and is between the capital of Santiago and Valparaiso where I lived."
“This was a indigenous day ceremony and these are some of the Aymara people doing there traditional dance in Vina del Mar.”
"This is Casablanca Valley and is between the capital of Santiago and Valparaiso where I lived."
“This is Casablanca Valley and is between the capital of Santiago and Valparaiso where I lived.”
Thomas with her wine-tasting friends in Casablanca
Thomas (far left) with her fellow study-abroad classmates enjoying wine-tasting in Casablanca.
Thomas (on right)
Thomas (on right) partially up La Campana mountain/ national park. Thomas said, “I have photos of the summit, but it was cloudy and you can’t see much. On a clear day from the summit you can see the Andes mountain range to the EAst and the Pacific Ocean to the west.”
Thomas in front of Las Docas, a remote beach about an hour or two south of Valparaiso.
Thomas in front of Las Docas, a remote beach about an hour or two south of Valparaiso.
Thomas said, "We rented this six-person camper van and drove around the Atacama desert for 6 days. The photo was taken somewhere along the drive."
Thomas said, “We rented this six-person camper van and drove around the Atacama desert for 6 days. The photo was taken somewhere along the drive.”
Thomas said, "Valparaiso is known for its historic architecture as well as street art."
Thomas said, “Valparaiso is known for its historic architecture as well as street art.”
Thomas with three other girls after hiking a mountain in the Cordillera de los Andes (Saladillo).  She said, "I am on the far right holding a Chilean flag and the Mapuche indigenous flag."
Thomas with three other girls after hiking a mountain in the Cordillera de los Andes (Saladillo).
Thomas
Thomas is holding a Chilean flag and the Mapuche indigenous flag.
Thomas said, "We used to "sandboard" in Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Sun) in the Atacama desert. You send the snowboard and a candle, rub the candle on the bottom of the board for wax, and then board down the slope."
Thomas said, “We used to “sandboard” in Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Sun) in the Atacama desert. You send the snowboard and a candle, rub the candle on the bottom of the board for wax, and then board down the slope.”
Thomas in front of the Torres del Paine for which Torres del Paine national park was named.  She said, "This park is in Southern Patagonia, and I, along with six others, backpacked the W trek (around 55 miles) in five days."
Thomas in front of the Torres del Paine for which Torres del Paine national park was named.
She said, “This park is in Southern Patagonia, and I, along with six others, backpacked the W trek (around 55 miles) in five days.”

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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