Help Karla Study Abroad in Chile!


On June 23, 2014, I will begin my journey to South America to participate in the yearlong University of California, Education Abroad Program at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, Chile. The opportunity to study abroad in Chile as part of my University of California, Berkeley (UCB) undergraduate experience will further develop my transnational identity and foster tremendous growth (academically, personally, professionally, and politically).

A few weeks ago on May 17, 2014, I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies. During my year abroad at the Universidad de Chile, I will complete a second major, Chicana/o Studies. While abroad I plan to enroll in classes that will complement my studies and experiences through classes that focus on the intersections between race, migration, citizenship, culture, arts, gender, and human rights. Such an experience will enable me to locate myself within Chile in the context of being a Latina exchange student from the United States (US) with birthroots in Jalisco, México.

I am fundraising for my trip and humbly ask for your support. For a majority of past experiences (from travel to moving away to college), I didn't let the lack of money stop me from pursing my dreams. That has meant having full-time employment and being a full-time student in order to support myself. The Chile visa I will receive doesn't permit me lawful employment, only to study. Thus, I will use the funds I raise to pay for a one-way plane ticket, Chile Visa processing fees, immunizations, room and board living costs abroad.


Before Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara became a world wide iconic revolutionary figure, he traveled throughout Latin America on a motorcycle in a journey that led him to find his life calling. In one of his diary entries he wrote, “How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?” Similarly, previous travels to Cuba and throughout México have all left me with a nostalgic urge to further explore the world.

Particularly, my nostalgia of Chile has been cultivated by some of the countries’ most brilliant scholars and activists I admire—from Pablo Neruda’s love poems, humble past president Salvador Allende, Victor Jara’s folkloric melodies and being inspired by student leader Camila Vallejo, who is now a member-elect of the Chilean Congress!

Moreover, cultivating my identity in broader context of Latin America from my own lived experiences will contribute to my work in the U.S. and internationally. Along with my excitement and nervousness of the unknown, I bring my diverse experiences, love, passion, and social justice experiences to Chile. Although I won’t be traveling by motorcycle like Che, I am both excited and nervous about the unknown. I have learned that growth awaits me outside of my comfort zone. I look forward to fostering my own academic and political journey that will forever change my own consciousness—be that by foot, bus & planes.

What I hope to gain?

Parallel, I intentionally chose to study in South America to improve and strengthen my Spanish language skills. During the first month of the program, I will be enrolled in a language intensive immersion program and the entire year program will be taught in Spanish. Although Spanish was my first language, I look forward to sharpening “academic” Spanish and improving my improvisational translating skills.

Lastly and most importantly, as a first generation college student whose parents did not have the opportunity, and access to attend college, I am very blessed and privileged at the opportunity to learn in another country. In 2006 I received U.S. Permanent Residence and I don’t take the opportunity to leave and return to the states lightly. Thus, it is in the context of the migrant justice work I engage in, the contradictions I navigate, and my desire to seek opportunities of growth that I await the next chapter of my life. Studying in Chile will give me exposure to another educational and political system, which will ultimately contribute to my future career as a well-rounded bilingual public interest attorney.


My roots are in Jalisco, Mexico, but I was raised in the Napa Valley since the age of three. I am the oldest child of four, and the first person in my family to graduate high school. After graduating high school, I enrolled at Napa Valley College (NVC) where my passion for education, community and social justice was cultivated. I developed a deep-rooted commitment to my comunidad and creating a better world. My commitment stems from witnessing both, an array of systemic injustices towards my Latina/o comunidad and the beautiful fuerza, which blossoms at midst of those struggles.
As a former undocumented young person and growing up having witnessed the realities of our broken immigration system within my own family, in 2010, I co-founded the Napa Valley Dream Team (NVDT). With NVDT, I led the development and coordination of the first and second "Dreamers Conferences" at NVC to support undocumented students and families. Additionally, I co-founded the Napa Valley Ethnic Studies Advocates to ensure the perseverance of culture and implementation of ethnic studies courses to reflect the student demographics in the Napa Valley.
Five years ago, I was far from being college bound and had no idea of the existence or physical location of Berkeley, California. Fast-forward some years and on May 17, 2014 I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley! I had the honor and most humble privilege to participate in the 2014 Chicana Latino Graduation ceremony alongside my parents, Isabel and Amador Pelayo. We walked the stage together because we graduated!
I have not arrived here alone, nor am I alone on this journey because as Gloria Anzaldúa) once said: "I am a turtle, wherever I go, I carry ‘home' on my back." I carry every person and place, which has fed my curious spirit, fueled my burning fire to learn, broadened my consciousness, and nurtured my soul.

In lak'ech,


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Karla Gomez-Pelayo 
Berkeley, CA
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