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Spring Break 2017 LREC to Chile and Brazil

  POSTED ON: Thursday, April 13, 2017 11:06 AM by MIDN 2/C Hackbarth.

On Thursday, March 9, 2017, four Midshipmen, MIDN 3/C Erin McDonnell, MIDN 2/C Brittney Bruns, MIDN 2/C Colin Hackbarth and MIDN 2/C Aaron Wickard, along with Associate Professor Bradford Barrett of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Oceanography Department, departed for a Spring Break Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture (LREC) trip to Chile and Brazil. The focus of this LREC was to explore and learn about the culture and distinct meteorological and climatological characteristics of both countries. These goals were certainly met, as 3/C Erin McDonnell explained, “Traveling to Chile and Brazil provided me with an incredible opportunity to grow in cultural awareness and developed me further as a individual from both an academic and professional standpoint. I am so grateful for this experience.”

During the first half of the trip, the group spent time in the capital of Chile, Santiago, as well as the cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. In Santiago, they visited the University of Chile, where Dr. Barrett gave a seminar on tropical convection in South America. They also toured the Chilean National Weather Service, and climbed the famous Cerro San Cristóbal with the statue of the Virgin Mary at its peak. They then hiked in the Parque Yerba Loca in the Andes Mountains (pictured below), where they ended up ferrying two hitchhiking Italian students studying abroad in Valparaíso from the park back to Santiago. They also met with many friends and colleagues of Dr. Barrett, who lived and studied in Chile for a year before coming to the Naval Academy. In Valparaíso, they explored the bohemian city nestled amongst the hills, where nearly every house was covered in hand-painted, creative murals and artistic graffiti. One of the nights, the students met up with hitchhiking Italians from earlier and spent the evening on the rooftop of their apartment with Chilean, German, French and American university students in what was a great cultural learning experience for everyone.

Mids Hiking in Chile

The final stop before leaving Chile was the Chilean Naval Academy and the office of the two American Foreign Area Officers (FAOs).  At the Chilean Naval Academy they were given a tour and a chance to try out the Chilean naval ship simulators. The group touring the Chilean Naval Academy is pictured at the top of the article. In the meeting with the FAOs, the students learned what sort of roles and responsibilities FAOs have, and particularly how they operate in a country like Chile. 2/C Aaron Wickard had the following to say about Chile: “Chile was a really amazing country.  The landscape along the coast and in the Andes Mountains was just beautiful.  Professor Barrett's colleagues were extremely welcoming and took time out of their day to show us around the city and their meteorological sites.  It was these kind of interactions with Chileans that really made the trip memorable.”  

Midshipmen in from of the statue of Christ the Redeemer

After a short flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the group spent one day enjoying Copacabana Beach and visiting El Cristo Redentor, the famous statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Rio (pictured above). They then flew to Porto Alegre in the southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, and drove inland to the city of Santa Maria (Midshipmen touring Santa Maria pictured below). While there, they met with another colleague of Dr. Barrett at the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, where Dr. Barrett gave another seminar on tropical convection to students and faculty. On the last night in Brazil, the university students and professors invited everyone to a traditional Brazilian barbeque on campus. 2/C Colin Hackbarth thoroughly enjoyed this event, saying, “The barbeque was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip. The food was great, but even better was meeting with and talking to the students and professors, and comparing their lives and experiences to our own back in the US.”

Midshipmen touring Santa Maria

The next morning, the group drove the four hours back from Santa Maria to Porto Alegre, and boarded a flight to come back to the United States. Although the trip was coming to an end, the memories each person had made will last a lifetime. One of the bonuses of this particular LREC was the fact that Dr. Barrett had spent extensive time in Chile and had friends in both countries, allowing for a far more realistic cultural experience than most tourists would have received. As 2/C Brittney Bruns put it, “I really enjoyed meeting the natives that Professor Barrett knew, along with their friends. Eating home cooked meals in the natives' homes, taking the back-roads that only the locals know about, doing what the locals do in the streets - that was all irreplaceable and an experience I could never get on a vacation with my parents.”

Instructor Alexander R. Davies and Associate Professor Bradford S. Barrett of the USNA Oceanography Department contributed to this article. 

Category: General Interest

Press Contact

Alexander R. Davies
Oceanography Department, USNA