Social Justice and Human Rights

Explore Chile’s recent political and social history, delving into issues of human rights and social justice through the lens of indigenous land rights, education, and community empowerment.

At a Glance




3 semesters Spanish, Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Sep 14 ‎– Dec 22

Online Component

Sep 14 ‎– Sep 25

On Site Component

Sep 27 ‎– Dec 22

Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon

Education & Social Change

Education & Social Change Icon


Why study human rights and social justice in Chile?

This program has been modified with a later in-country start date preceded by one to two weeks online. The online portion will include: program orientation; introductory activities to get to know your academic director and local program team; faculty-led sessions; guest lectures to provide the theoretical frameworks for the course and historical background to the sites and partner organizations; readings; preliminary assignments; and discussions about independent study projects and, if applicable, internship opportunities. We will also have online discussions to debrief sessions and prepare you to join faculty, local team, and peers in country. 

Chile has undergone monumental political, economic, and social changes over the past four decades with a recent resurgence in the struggle for social and economic rights. From the program base in Valparaísowith an extended period in the capital city of Santiagoyou will explore how Chileans today are working for a more equitable and inclusive nation. The program will take an indepth look at education as a human right. You will have the opportunity to study a variety of education models including schools for underprivileged, bilingual, and intercultural populations. You will also learn about indigenous and immigrant populations and their struggle for identity and recognition. You will have educational excursions to Temuco to learn from the Mapuche communities about their cosmovision, struggle for land rights, and educational models to better understand the longstanding challenges faced by Chile’s indigenous people.  Additionally, you will go on an educational excursion to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to do a brief comparative study of Argentina’s history and struggles for social justice and human rights.


  • Explore how Chile’s political and economic history impact their current struggle for social justice and inclusion.
  • Study human rights through the lens of education, investigating different educational models in Chile and in Argentina.
  • Spend time in an indigenous community to experience diverse cultures and lifestyles.
  • Rapidly improve your Spanish through coursework, excursions, and homestays.


3 semesters Spanish; Relevant previous coursework


Valparaíso and Santiago

You will have several local, field-based excursions in Valparaíso and nearby Santiago.  These will help you learn about the Chilean social justice movements and human rights struggles.  While in Valparaíso you will also meet with young local artists and local union leaders to talk about Chile’s current social situation and reform initiatives and visit an elementary rural school in Laguna Verde. 

Highlights of your extended stay in the capital city of Santiago will include visits to Chile’s national Congress, Villa Grimaldi prison camp, social organizations, and NGOs.

Temuco: Mapuche Region

On this excursion to Temuco, you will learn about the Mapuche, the largest group of indigenous people in Chile. You will study the complex issues of ethnicity and diversity in human and social rights.  You will have the opportunity to participate in local educational activities such as helping to construct a ruka, a typical Mapuche house, and playing soccer and palin, a Mapuche sport, with community youth. You will be invited to consider the challenges facing the Mapuche and will live with a Mapuche family to better understand the human rights and social justice issues from their perspectives.   

Buenos Aires, Argentina

During a two-week excursion to Argentina, study at Instituto de Desarrollo Económico y Social, where you will have the opportunity to learn about Argentina’s human rights movements, education models, and struggles for social justice.  This short opportunity for a comparative study between Chile and Argentina will be enhanced by visits with government officials, professors, members of the human rights organization, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, as well as other historical sites.   

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.



This program combines topical seminars and discussions with field-based learning around the themes of cultural identity, social justice, and community development. These themes are divided into modules so that students can contextualize Chilean experience, taking into account historical elements, current realities, and emerging trends. Theoretical perspectives are provided through academic seminars and are reinforced through the Spanish language classes. Subsequently, academic excursions and community work experiences contextualize theories and provide opportunities for critical reflection around programmatic themes. 

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.


Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Chilean history from colonization through Pinochet to the social protests of today
  • Social justice and education initiatives for marginalized communities
  • Challenges facing Chile's indigenous peoples and access to education
  • Chile's neoliberal economic model and social inequities

History, Socioeconomic Development, and Social Justice

History, Socioeconomic Development, and Social Justice – Syllabus
(LACB3000 / 3 credits)

Chile’s history of colonization, independence and building of its nation state follows the script of many other Latin American countries, with some notable exceptions. In this course students will learn about Chile’s aspirations for social justice throughout its history and how Chile was thrust into the world’s headlines and the subsequent drastic political and economic shifts since the military coup of 1973. After the end of dictatorship in 1989, economic growth and political stability in Chile were hailed by the international business community and development agencies, but the aspiration for social justice was not achieved. With impressive macro-economic statistics, Chile became a showcase of the merits for neoliberal reform and a model of emulation for the rest of Latin America.   

This course critically interrogates the complexities of the Chilean history, political system, and the models of economic development that have led to the current crisis. Is Chile still, or was it ever, an economic model for emulation? We examine the legacies of human rights violations, the constitution, labor relations along with institutional continuities and discontinuities between dictatorship and civilian rule. The role and scope of education is studied. We explore the importance of new and not so new political actors and their demands for social justice in a country that continues to be polarized and segregated along political, generational, ethnic, and economic lines.

Quality and Equity of Human and Social Rights

Quality and Equity of Human and Social Rights – Syllabus
(LACB3005 / 3 credits)

This course offers a broad introduction to human and social rights. The course delves into both the challenges and achievements in human and social rights in Chile.  The course will study the shifts in cultural values from the dictatorship onwards and explore along the community responses and struggles for social justice. Education, as a right, will be explored from decolonial indigenous worldviews to limited access and quality for vulnerable populations. Students will also learn about indigenous land, territorial, and identity rights sought by the Mapuche people in southern Chile. Students will learn from local LGBTQI+ groups and community empowerment efforts in Valparaíso, Santiago, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. This course will confront stark inequities and learn from voices of dissent that are challenging the status quo.


Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – Syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

This research methods course is designed to prepare students for an Independent Study Project or internship. Through lectures, reading, and field activities, students study and practice basic social science methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to the program themes and are guided through the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic or internship placement, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project or internship related to the program themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Spanish for Social Sciences

Spanish for Social Sciences I – Syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits) 

Spanish for Social Sciences II – Syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits) 

Spanish for Social Sciences III – Syllabus
(SPAN3503 / 3 credits)

In this course, students hone their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They practice reading literature as they learn the theoretical terms and local expressions needed to discuss social issues, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings related to the program themes. Students are placed in small classes based on an in-country evaluation that tests both written and oral proficiency. 

Course Options

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – Syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in Valparaíso, Santiago, or in another approved location appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. 

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Memory and political violence 
  • Identity issues and intercultural education in rural Mapuche schools 
  • Social movements  
  • Gender roles in schools 
  • Indigenous beliefs and culture 
  • Migration and ethnic minorities  
  • Gender and sexuality 
  • Youth culture, art, music, and cultural production 
  • Education and cultural identity through children’s arts 
  • Ethnicity in childcare in marginalized areas of Santiago and Buenos Aires 
  • Social activism with LGBTQi+ populations 
  • Popular education and social change 


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – Syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

The internship consists of a four-week period with a local community organization, research organization, or NGO. Students complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. International internships offer students an opportunity to combine an experience abroad, with all the benefits of intercultural and foreign language learning, with a pre-professional experience, acquiring 21st Century skills such as an ability to flourish in a diverse and multinational workplace. An internship advisor/mentor appropriate to the organization/institution is also selected. Mentors are usually host country research professionals. In conducting their internship, students use the concepts and skills of field-based learning. The internship will be conducted in Spanish.

Topics and placements may vary according to the availability of each institution, but examples of internships include:

  • Strengthening vulnerable populations through art, sports, and respect for diversity at School Laguna Verde, a primary school in rural Valparaíso 
  • Providing advocacy, education, and support for people living with HIV/AIDS at ACCIONGAY 
  • Supporting indigenous populations through methods based on Mapuche cultural practices at Guacolda, an intercultural high school in Chol 
  • Promoting labor inclusion of socially excluded men and women at Fundación Emplea 
  • Helping with human rights issues within local communities at the Municipality of Valparaíso’s Communal Office for Migrantes, Sexual Diversities, and Indigenous Peoples 
  • Aiding Espacio Santa Ana’s efforts toward community development through self-management, arts, education, and territory in the context of vulnerability 
  • Addressing sexual violence against women from a perspective of gender and human rights in the region of Valparaíso with CVS 
  • Supporting Organic Style’s ecological focus on products, art, and training services in the Valparaíso region 
  • Learning pedagogy, school administration, and the relationships between school and community at a public school  
  • Providing intercultural bilingual education and promoting intercultural health at a private school in Chol or a public school in Chapod, both in Mapuche territory 
  • Supporting human rights and historical memory at Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos



During the first weeks of the program, you will live with a Chilean host family in the seaside city of Valparaíso. Through this experience, you will gain important insights into Chilean society, improve your language skills, and experience daily life in Valparaíso.   


You will also have the experience of living for a few weeks with a Chilean host family in the capital, Santiago, to experience urban Chilean culture, practice your Spanish language skills, and learn about your family’s experiences with the current and past struggles for social change.  


Live for a week with an indigenous Mapuche family in the community of Chapod, Temuco, in southern Chile. Here, you will experience a rural, indigenous community and learn about the ancient traditions of the Mapuche, learn about their struggle for land rights, and their educational system. You will also see firsthand the challenges faced by this indigenous population and speak directly with community leaders.

Buenos Aires

During a two-week excursion to Argentina, you will live with host families of professionals, academics, and university students in the downtown area of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires offers an outstanding array of cultural opportunities, which many students enjoy together with their families. Most host families are middle class and live in apartments or small houses in the city. All live within the Capital Federal District.

Other Accommodations

Hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Career Paths

Students on this program represent a variety of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue professional or academic experiences that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Alumni of this program are currently working in education and public policy, as teachers, researchers, administrative assistants, and directors for schools, institutions, and NGOs. Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Research analyst at Vera Institute of Justice, New York, NY

  • Legislative press aide in the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC

  • Enrollment specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, Boston, MA

  • School-based clinician at Association House of Chicago, Chicago, IL

  • Research scientist at Albany Molecular Research Inc., Indianapolis, IN

  • Production software engineer at MaxPoint Interactive, Raleigh, NC

  • Project manager at an electronic health record software company, Madison, WI

  • Women’s programs coordinator at the Mexican Association for Urban and Rural Transformation, Oaxaca, Mexico

  • Program coordinator at FoodCorps, Washington, DC

Faculty & Staff

Chile: Social Justice and Human Rights

Roberto Villaseca, PhD Candidate
Academic Director
Karina Bilbao
Program Administrator
Noemí Muñoz
Program Coordinator
Vania Berríos, MA
Internship and Spanish Program Coordinator
Claudia Zuñiga
Homestay Coordinator, Santiago
Juan Antonio Painecura
Program Coordinator, Temuco, Mapuche Territory
Marta Kesilevski, MA
Program Coordinator, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Discover the Possibilities


    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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