Summer Spotlight: International Student, Max Vargas

Each year the Summer School welcomes students from around the world to join our five-week International Summer Study program. Since 2011, more than 325 international students have participated in this rigorous and rewarding program. Maximiliano "Max" Vargas joined the program in the summer of 2019 as a representative from the University of Chile. Max offers a reflection on his experience as a student in the program below.

What led you to apply to the Int’l Summer Study program at WashU?

I’ve always wanted to study outside my country, especially where English is the main speaking language. By January 2019, I was able to apply to the summer school thanks to a partnership agreement between WashU and University of Chile. The summer school was very attractive to me because of the many courses it had and all of the activities I could end up doing in the city. I was very enthusiastic about being part of an international community and meet people from another country sharing my own vision of the world. I really liked the idea of enriching my knowledge while living an unforgettable experience.

Max (left) with his roommate and friends.

Describe your experience as an international student at WashU.

Being apart of the summer school community was very meaningful to me. I met amazing people from the program that was always

by my side, worried about me, and always trying to make me feel safe and secure. My teachers were very important as well; I could freely share my opinion with them, making interesting discussions in class. Also, the residence was very cozy and comfortable; personally I liked the kitchen because I was able to cook food from my own country. I’m very thankful for having the opportunity to develop myself professionally and personally in such an excellent environment. On the other hand, I really enjoyed all the activities the Summer School prepared for us, from Moonlight Yoga to the Six Flags Amusement Park.

What did you enjoy most about your summer classes?

I liked the methodologies of my classes, very interactive. In one course, I had many excursions around the city, one of them led me to the St. Louis Botanical Garden, a very beautiful and interesting place. I also went to a local community garden, something that is not so common in my home country. I was able to talk and discuss with many professionals in classes, exploring solutions about today’s real-world challenges. In another course I interacted with many people from St. Louis, developing a wonderful project in teams in a very innovative way. This was the first time I worked with people from another country, it was very meaningful and enriching to me. I appreciated that classes did not have the usual lecture format, they were more dynamic with a lot of participation.

What did you enjoy most about being a student in the summer program?

In my country I take transportation every day to go to my university, it takes me around 45 minutes from my house to college. In WashU I had the residence inside the campus, so It took me only 5 minutes to get to class. I found this so cool, because I had time to focus on what was important and I found free time to hang out with friends. On the other hand, infrastructure was cool and comfortable. I had many places to find peace and concentration, with many green spaces to lie on. I also enjoyed the use of technology in classes, and the way teachers encouraged us to use it. Flexibility was something I appreciated a lot; I am very thankful for the teachers that I had. I think WashU is a nice place to study and develop yourself as a student.

Max (right) visiting the Gateway Arch with program friends.

In what way was summer beneficial to you and your academic career?

I learned and developed a lot of skills during the program. At the end of it, I found myself more independent and self-sufficient. I improved my English a lot, since it was the first time that I spoke to native speakers every day for a long time. I also lost fear and shyness to communicate my ideas to the world. I feel more encouraged to make a difference in the challenges we face today as a society. Returning to Chile with an international summer school on my shoulders is a great deal when finding a job in the future, but more important when developing projects. I acquired knowledge and skills that will allow me to face real world problems from a new perspective. The program brought me a lot of meaningful experiences that I will always be thankful for.

Take a journey through Max's experience at WashU and around St. Louis.

View Digital Gallery