Once a self-​​described “naïve trav­eler” who never drove below the sur­face of the lands he vis­ited, Michael Coakley, ’10, real­ized last year that he needed to dig deeper to make the most of his inter­na­tional experience.

While on co-​​op at the Vina Emil­iana Winery in Casablanca, Chile, from Jan­uary to July 2009, the inter­na­tional affairs major worked as an events planner, leading tours, run­ning fes­ti­vals, and mar­keting the vineyard’s organic growing methods. Then he took it a step fur­ther, studying local cul­ture, learning Spanish, and landing a job at a local newspaper.

The work helped me con­nect more with the cul­ture and deep­ened my overall expe­ri­ence in Chile,” he says. “Before I went to Chile, I was a pretty naïve trav­eler, and I decided that given the choice (of inter­na­tional options) I wanted to get my hands dirty at a vine­yard and learn to speak Spanish.”

In his co-​​op job, Coakley spent many of his days leading vis­i­tors through rows of vines and explaining how the winery used a nat­ural glue to cap­ture insect pests and planted grass and legumes to feed nitrogen to the vines instead of using chem­ical fertilizers.

As much as the work enabled Coakley to get the feel of Chile’s soil, he wanted his inter­na­tional co-​​op to be more than just co-​​op. Shortly after arriving in the country, he con­nected with the main Eng­lish speaking news­paper, The San­tiago Times, and quickly was brought on as a columnist.

I went in and got an assign­ment right away,” he says. “I trans­lated arti­cles and wrote a handful of sto­ries about my expe­ri­ences in Chile.”

As a scribe, he gained a new, dif­ferent per­spec­tive of life in Chile, he says, writing about expe­ri­ences good and bad, from the per­spec­tive of an Amer­ican in a for­eign land.

At the end of his six months, Coakley felt he gained a life­time of expe­ri­ence that will shape his quest to work in inter­na­tional affairs someday.

I spent a lot of time learning about Latin America while I was there, and the region’s strug­gles. Working in a for­eign land really informed me of the dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties of dif­ferent cul­tures, and it inspired me to con­tinue with my goals to work in the realm of inter­na­tional activism.”