Global Experience a Whole New Equation for Math Major

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Angela Hanson

Chilean Adventure: A global education exchange program allowed senior Angela Hanson to enjoy the sights and sounds of street artists and shows at the Plaza de Armas, located in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, in the capital city of Chile.

There's something about being nestled on a mountain peak overlooking one of the world's most breathtaking sights, Chile's El Valle de la Lunda (Valley of the Moon), that can change your perspective on life.

That's what happened to senior mathematics student Angela Hanson during a five-month study abroad experience in the South American country.

"It was a life-changing experience in so many ways," she says. "From learning that I could live on my own with a host family that was thousands of miles from home, to opening my tastes to so many delightful foods, participating in such wonderful cultural activities, and witnessing a spectacle of colorful sights. Everything was vibrant and exciting."

Within these experiences was studying for courses in abstract algebra and Chilean culture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and an astronomy class at the University of Chile, both located in the country's capital city of Santiago.

Hanson was among a group of American college students participating in a study abroad program this past spring and summer for students who value and embrace cultural diversity.

With a deep-rooted family heritage in South America, Hanson had always been intrigued by Spanish culture. She studied the Spanish language for six years, was president of Rose-Hulman's Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers student organization, and is earning an academic minor in Spanish from the institute.

However, nothing could have prepared her for this Chilean adventure. Spanish was the predominant language spoken by those around her from the moment she passed through the international customs gate at the airport in Atlanta. Her courses at the two universities were interrupted for three weeks by student protests.

"This global experience was much more than learning courses in a foreign land; it was experiencing life and coming away a better person from these experiences," she says. "I'm a different person now, not in observable ways, but in appreciable ways. I'm much more curious about other cultures. I'm more patient. I'm more aware of things happening around me."

Hanson recalls, "The first three months were frustrating and exhausting. I thought I was never going back (to Chile). But by the end of the fifth month, it was hard to leave the friends that I had made, and I can't wait to go back, hopefully sometime very soon."

In the meantime, Hanson is completing her degree studies in mathematics, with minors in Spanish and economics, and is interested in advancing to earn a doctorate in combinatorics-the study of mathematics pattern recognition-and becoming a college professor.

She's also passing along her appreciation for math and problem solving as a tutor and supervisor for Rose-Hulman's Homework Hotline. Five nights a week, the free tutoring service helps youths in grades 6-12 better understand the complexities of math and science by calling 1-877-275-7673 or by posting questions online at

"I love helping others, especially young children, work through their homework problems," Hanson says. "I was once one of those students who called the hotline when I needed help. So, I know how important each phone call can be."