Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Chile (page 1 of 4)

Why should you study abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile?

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Viña del Mar, Chile

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

As I reflect on my past semester in Chile, I think about all of the amazing people I met, the unforgettable moments, and the many life lessons I have learned in the past 4 months. But before this semester, I was actually uncertain about spending my semester abroad in Chile. I was considering studying in Zaragoza, Spain or Puebla, Mexico instead, and was doubting my final decision to go to South America. But now, looking back, I can’t believe I was second-guessing myself. Studying abroad in Viña del Mar was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my life. I can’t stop talking about Chile, and all of the love I felt there, and I want everyone to experience this amazing country! I think other Valparaiso University students would really benefit from this experience, even though it might not be as iconic or well-known as other semester destinations, like Cambridge or other European programs. Chile has without a doubt become my favorite place in the world, and I just want other people to love the South American country as much as I do. So, in no particular order, here are some of the top reasons why other students should study abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile.

  • The UVM International Club: The University of Vina del Mar is really special. Not only are the courses really enlightening, but the social aspect is incredible. I’ve never seen a university that is so accommodating to international exchange students. They have a really well-developed International Club, in which 50 Chilean students organize events and outings for about 100 international students. Every Chilean that I met through this club greeted me with nothing but kindness and eagerness to teach me about their culture and country. In addition, this club was a great way to learn about other countries. Every few weeks, we would organize special events to learn more about other students’ home countries. So we had days about Mexico, France, Finland, Peru, and various others. Every time the club got together, it was so much fun and by the end of the semester, we were like a little family and super sad to leave each other.

  • Cultural Exchange: Because of the International Club, I got to know people from all around the world, not just from Chile. Some of my best friends from the semester were from France, Germany, and Mexico. So I ended up learning about their cultures as well, and we spent a lot of time discussing the differences and similarities between our home countries. For example, I spent a lot of time with a boy, Paul, and a girl, Fanny, both from Paris, France. It was really interesting to hear about their experiences in Europe, and I feel like I learned a lot about French culture just from hanging out with them. Plus, they taught me some really good French slang for when I visit them in Paris!

  • Language Skills: Since not very many people in Chile speak English (mostly just the younger generation), you’ll get to practice Spanish daily and your language abilities will improve so much! I had a friend from Germany, Laura, who arrived in Chile and spoke absolutely no Spanish. But by the time she left, just 4 months later, she had reached level B1 and was speaking really well. Overall, Chile is a great place to practice your language skills, simply because you have no choice but to practice every day. And every Chilean that I met was more than happy to teach me something new or explain something that I didn’t understand.
  • The People: You will meet so many great people and form amazing friendships! By the time your semester ends, you will feel like you have a family in Chile. In all of my travels, I have never met kinder, warmer people than the people I have met in Chile. They go out of their way to make sure you are taken care of and happy. In addition, they understand that you might not be fluent in Spanish, and are always willing to help explain an unfamiliar word. The Chileans I met also seemed to love the fact that exchange students come to their country, and they love sharing their culture. Throughout the semester we celebrated birthdays together, traveled together, and formed really strong friendships. Before I left they wrote me letters, gave me gifts, and went out of their way to spend time with me- just to make sure that I knew how much they loved me and would miss me. They are one of the main reasons why I love Chile so much.

  • Nature: If you like nature, then Chile is the perfect choice for you. As the longest country in the world, Chile has countless places to visit, with so much diversity in the landscape. From the driest desert in the world in the north (Atacama) to one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the south (Patagonia), there are so many varieties of places to visit! Plus, with 2,653 miles of coast, you will have endless beaches to visit. My friends and I loved just sitting on the beach in Viña, watching the sunset. Almost every day, the views were beautiful with constantly changing colors. I wholeheartedly believe that Chile has the best sunsets in the world.

  • Personal Development: You will become so much more confident. Studying in a different country, learning a new language, being independent, and meeting so many new people- all of this helps your confidence immensely. After 4 months, you might not even recognize yourself! I never would have imagined how much I could change throughout the semester. I went from being more shy and introverted in the start of the semester, to actually performing a dance and presenting awards (in Spanish!) in front of 100 people at the university’s goodbye dinner at the end of the semester! I can credit this personal change to nothing but living abroad and knowing I can survive (and thrive) in Chile.

Overall, despite some initial doubts, studying in Viña del Mar was one of the best choices that I could have made. I met so many incredible people, saw unforgettable landscapes, improved my Spanish skills immensely, learned a lot about other parts of the world, and became a much more confident person. Because of this, I really recommend Viña del Mar to every student who is even considering a study abroad program. It was the best semester of my life, and it’s been a pleasure blogging about it and sharing my experiences. Thanks for reading!

Easter Island

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Easter Island, Chile

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Hello friends! About 2 months ago, I was researching flights with some of my friends, trying to find the cheapest option to get out of Viña del Mar and explore a different part of Chile. And I found an incredibly cheap flight to Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by the island inhabitants or Isla de Pascua by Spanish-speakers). It was about $250 roundtrip, which is especially cheap because usually flights can go for around $1000. So I booked immediately, even though none of my friends wanted to go (their loss!). It would be one of the major solo trips that I’ve taken this semester.

So on Wednesday, I caught a 5am bus from the Viña del Mar bus terminal. I had a 9:30am flight, and wanted to make sure I was at the terminal with plenty of time. But about an hour into the bus ride, I was sleeping and suddenly heard the bus driver tell us that we would have to get off, unload all of the luggage, and get onto a new bus to continue the journey to the airport. We were given no explanation. So around 6am, we were all standing on the side of the highway in the cold, waiting for another bus to come pick us up. Off to a great start! I really thought that I was going to miss my flight, but thankfully, the other bus came around 7am and I made it to my flight with about 20 minutes to spare.

The flight was technically a domestic flight (Easter Island is a Chilean territory), but lasted about 5 hours. It’s the most remote inhabited island in the world, and has a population of about 7000. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I immediately saw how incredibly green everything was, and felt the sun and the ocean breeze. It was such a nice change from the clouds and rain in Viña del Mar! I spent the first day on the island getting to know the other people in my hostel, and wandering around the center of town. I visited a quiet beach with clear blue water, and saw the sunset from the best place on the island, according to locals. I could see a few of the iconic Moai statues (built around 1400 AD), with the sun setting and the clouds changing colors behind them.

The next day, I wandered around the city center with a new friend from New Zealand, who was traveling around South America for 6 months.  We walked along the coast for a few hours and stumbled upon some caves that served as the protection for the indigenous people during attacks, many years ago. After walking for a few more hours, we sat on a tiny beach near our hostel, surrounded by cute dogs. So relaxing! And later on that night, I went with some new friends from my hostel to a performance of the traditional dance of the island, called Kari Kari. It was so entertaining! I could see on the performances’ faces that they genuinely enjoyed dancing and loved showing their culture to visitors. That made it even more engaging and fun to watch. At the end of the show, all of the dancers went around and took pictures with people from the crowd.

With two days left on the island, I fully intended to take my time and explore the majority of the island. So I found a few Chileans (an older married couple from the south of Chile and a younger woman from Viña del Mar) who were going around the island in a rented car. We left at 5:30 in the morning to catch the sunrise from the best place on the island, called Ahu Tongariki. When we arrived, we could still see the stars. After waiting for a few minutes for the park entrance to open at 7, we entered and I could see the 15 infamous Moai statues. We stayed there for about 2 hours, simply watching the sky change around us. Every few minutes, the colors would completely change. It was one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen in my life. After, the Chileans and I drove around the island to a few stops, like a beautiful beach called Anakena, which had a herd of wild horses grazing underneath the palm trees. Such a beautiful, tranquil place!

My last few days on the island were spent with my new friends from the hostel- a few Chileans, an international couple from Germany and France, and a traveler from New Zealand. It was really cool to meet so many people from around the world, and really fun to swap travel stories! And I’ve come to learn throughout my travels that although I might start a trip solo, I never actually end up solo. I always meet new friends, who are really interesting and very open to hanging out with a solo gringa from Chicago! And because of that, I’ve come to love my “solo” trips, and I’ve gotten much more comfortable going off on my own. Plus I love telling all my friends to go on a solo trip too! It’s a great way to learn about your own abilities, increase your independence, and meet new friends from different parts of the world. So next time you want to go somewhere but none of your friends want to go with you–go anyway!

Viña del Mar Advice

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Viña del Mar, Chile

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I’ve loved my semester in Viña del Mar! I’ve met some really great people, had some incredible experiences, improved my Spanish skills immensely, and learned a lot about myself. With that being said, I really want the next students to enjoy it as much as I have. So I’ve compiled a list of things that I wish I had known before coming, or words of advice that I think everyone should keep in mind during their semester abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile.

The Chilean dialect is really distinct. Well-known for talking fast, with every sentence full of slang, Chileans don’t pronounce the ends of words. Even some of my friends from Spain and Mexico told me that when they arrived, they struggled to understand the dialect too. So don’t feel bad if you’ve spent years studying Spanish and don’t understand a word they say! Just be prepared to say “¿Cómo?” or “¿Qué significa?” a lot! More often than not, Chileans know that their dialect is difficult, and they’ll be really kind about explaining themselves.

Invest in a change purse and carry coins with you everywhere. Chileans don’t like big bills! Even though they have bigger bills like 10,000 or 20,000, they sometimes refuse to accept them and ask if you have anything smaller (“¿Tiene más sencillo?”). You will start to accumulate a lot of coins, and make sure to carry them with you! If you hand a bus driver a 10,000 for a 300 peso bus ride, he will just look at you and laugh.

Always carry hand sanitizer and tissues. Free toilet paper and soap in public restrooms are rare! Sometimes you have to pay for the paper, sometimes there isn’t any paper, and other times you might even have to pay just to use the bathroom. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have been thankful for hand sanitizer and Kleenex, especially at bars or clubs.

Be careful on public transportation. In Chile, the buses are called micros. And usually they are pretty safe. But always keep your guard up! Don’t pull your phone out, don’t text, and keep all of your pockets zipped! A few of my friends have had their wallets/phones stolen from them simply because they weren’t paying attention. Keep in mind, I’ve never feared violence or anything scary like that. For the vast majority of the time, stealing phones/wallets is their only objective, and it’s easy to prevent! Just be smart and keep your valuables safe and out of sight!

Eat street food. Some of the best food I’ve had here has been from tiny, random places around town, not from the fancy places catering to tourists. Of course, be smart about where you eat- make sure there are local people eating with you before you eat the stick of meat from the lady cooking off a shopping cart in the street. But I swear, fries from the street in Valparaíso are a step above. And I’ve had an eggroll from a street vendor in Santiago that puts my favorite Chinese restaurant to shame. Seriously- don’t be afraid to eat street food!

Get to know Chile. This country is the longest in the world. That means there are countless places to explore. From gorgeous and green Patagonia in the south, to the dry Atacama Desert in the north, there are endless places to explore. Maybe they aren’t as iconic as the typical European destinations like the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum, but Chile is unique and special on its own. Take time to get to know different regions, and you’ll feel like you have a much deeper understanding for the country by the end of the semester.

Make Chilean friends. At the end of your semester, you will probably have friends from all over the world (Mexico, Germany, France, etc). But be sure to also make an effort to spend time with your Chilean classmates as well! They will be able to show you cool lesser-known spots around Viña, help you with the Chilean slang, and by the end of the semester, they will be one of the main reasons why you loved Chile.

Say yes to everything! Some of my best experiences this semester have been the ones where I originally didn’t want to do anything, but just said yes anyway. You didn’t come all the way to Chile to stay at home, or be comfortable- you came to challenge yourself, to improve your Spanish skills, or to know a different culture. Whatever your reason was, saying yes to (almost) anything will pay off. You’ll have a great time and be thankful you said yes, or at least you’ll have a great story.

Bring stuff from home. For example, I brought Reese’s peanut butter cups, chocolate Rolos, and other typical American snacks because I knew they didn’t have them here and I wanted to share them with new Chilean friends! My other American friends also brought things like postcards from their hometowns, the USA flag, and other “American” things to share with our international friends. It’s nice to give them a little something to share your culture, and also give them something to remember you by when you inevitably, unfortunately, leave to go back home at the end of the semester.

San Pedro de Atacama

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Last week, Chile had its national Labor Day, and most businesses, supermarkets, and restaurants shut down for the day to give workers time to rest and be with their families. It actually started a day earlier, with most places closing around 6pm the night before. So with our extra day off, my friends and I decided to take a mini-vacation up to the north of Chile, in the Atacama Desert. It’s widely known as one of the driest places on Earth, with an average rainfall of .6 inches per year. One friend, Delaney, and I went first, with an extra day in the town San Pedro de Atacama before the rest of our group joined us. We rented bikes and rode around for half the day, in search of an abandoned tunnel in the middle of the desert. It was extremely hot, which was a nice change from the cloudy, chilly weather that we’ve started to have in Viña del Mar. On the way, we actually ran into a family of wild cows! They were so cute and fluffy, and actually allowed us to get super close to them!

The next day, four friends from our program met us in San Pedro. We spent the next few days exploring the desert and seeing some of the most incredible landscapes I’ve ever seen. One day, we decided to take a tour to the 3rd largest geyser field in the world, but the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The tour company picked us up from the hostel at 4am so we could see the sunrise over the geysers. Despite being so hot during the day, it was surprisingly cold at four in the morning! My friends and I had to wear multiple layers, scarves, gloves, and very thick socks to survive! But regardless of the below freezing temperatures, it was well worth it. The views were amazing, and even though we were all tired and cold, the girls and I had a great time learning about the geysers, practicing our Spanish, and experiencing the unforgettable sunrise together. After a few hours at the geysers, the tour took us to a few more spots in the desert. This included a natural hot spring, a lagoon, and a cute town with a tiny church and only 5 families living there!

Overall, the girls and I had a great time together. Every night we hiked to nearby viewpoints to watch the sunset, and every night we were in awe. The sunsets in Viña del Mar have been really great, but there’s something extra special about the sun setting in the desert, with nothing but mountains and volcanoes in the distance. My friends and I have decided that the views we’ve seen in Chile, from the northern Atacama Desert to the southern Patagonia region, have been the most impressive we’ve seen in our lives so far.

My short trip (only Wednesday to Monday) to northern Chile has been, so far, one of my favorite experiences this semester. It was extra special for a few reasons. Firstly, I got the chance to see landscapes that, in photos, actually look photoshopped. Each day was full of sceneries that took my breath away. Plus, how many times can you say that you saw the sunset in the driest place in the world? But another really important reason why I loved this mini-vacation was because of the people I spent time with. In addition to the lovely girls from my program that were with me, I also randomly ran into someone I met in the very beginning of the semester in Viña del Mar, over 700 miles away. In the first few weeks of the semester, I went out in Viña with some members of the UVM international club. I ended up spending a few hours talking to a Chilean local, who did magic for my friends and me. It was really cool! Then, 2 months later, over 700 miles away, I ran into the Chilean magician again! It was such a chance encounter, and it made me realize how small this world really is. The more I travel, the more I realize that the world isn’t as big as I used to think. Everyone seems to be connected, and I’ve learned to look forward to the next time I run into someone I know, whether I’m walking in downtown Viña del Mar, or exploring the driest desert in the world.

Housing Advice while Abroad

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Viña del Mar, Chile/Granada, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

What advice would you give to students (we have one who is concerned about this that will go abroad in the Fall concerned about accommodations?

I was concerned about accommodations before going abroad, but I learned that it really isn’t as stressful as I had thought. The people I lived with were very kind, and gave me a true glimpse into the country’s culture. I wouldn’t stress too much about the accommodations. Your host family just wants to make sure you’re enjoying your experience abroad. Plus, they usually have years of experience hosting students so they’ve seen it all. They give you home-cooked meals, do your laundry, and take care of you when your family back home can’t. For example, I got bronchitis during my semester in Chile and my Chilean host mom went with me to the clinic, talked to the doctor, and helped me get the medicine. Without her, I don’t know if I would have known what to do, or how to talk to the doctor at the clinic. I’m so thankful she took care of me, because getting sick while abroad can be scary! One really important thing students should know is that communication is really important. If you don’t want to eat certain foods, tell your host family and they’ll stop giving it you. If you’re having issues with the host family, tell your program director and they’ll do their best to resolve the issues. It might be hard or embarrassing to talk about the issue, but saying it once will be better than living with it for the whole semester. Just make sure to communicate!

How does setting up accommodations work (what’s the process)?

The process was super easy. VU and the host institutions do a lot of the work for you, and you just need to put in your preferences and restrictions. For example, I told the program directors that I’m vegan/vegetarian and they worked with the families to tell them what I can and cannot eat before I get there so everyone is on the same page. Before you go, there is usually a survey to help find the best fit with students and family. For Granada and Viña del Mar, it was a pretty seamless process and everything worked out really well.

Is it something you should be ashamed of? Were you ashamed?

I’m not really sure what you would be ashamed of. I loved living with a host family in Spain and Chile, and my accommodations at the YMCA in Valparaíso were really great as well. It’s an easy way to get even more immersed in the different culture, and the people you live with are great resources for information about the country and the town you’re living in. Although it might be uncomfortable or awkward at first, I think living with a host family is the best way to experience a semester abroad. It’s also a great way to improve your language skills!

Will you have anonymity and privacy when you tell personnel that you need accommodations?

Yes! Of course, it varies depending on the program. However, in all three of the VU study abroad programs I’ve participated in, the personnel that I’ve worked with are very accommodating. The grand majority of the people working with VU and the other institutions really just want to make sure that you’re safe and you’re enjoying your time abroad. They will do whatever it takes to make sure you feel comfortable wherever you’re living. Privacy can be a big concern, but everyone I’ve worked with has been discreet and only share what is necessary.

Will it stop you from having fun and making new friends and experiences; how does it work abroad? How is your experience?

Absolutely not! No matter where you live, you’re going to have an incredible semester, meet interesting people, and have lots of fun! In my experience, the host families just want you to love the country and enjoy the semester. They don’t mind if you come home late, or skip a meal to go out with friends. They only want to make sure you’re safe. The only frustrating thing is that I couldn’t have friends over to my house (although it depends on which program and the family you live with). However, instead of having that ruin the experience, my friends and I used that as an excuse to go out and explore the city more! I think that no matter what, accommodations won’t stop you from having fun or from making really great friends. And if it does, tell your program director or someone at VU and they’ll work with you to improve the situation! Regardless of where you live, your semester abroad will an unforgettable experience and you’ll meet people that will become some of your closest friends.

Semana Santa in Mendoza, Argentina

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Mendoza, Argentina

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Happy Easter! Here in Chile, they don’t celebrate a very huge, extravagant Holy Week/Semana Santa, like they do in some other Spanish-speaking countries (i.e. Spain or Mexico). Usually, Chileans just don’t have work or classes on Good Friday. Most stores and restaurants are closed, and many Chileans take the long weekend to travel to a nearby city called Mendoza, across the border in Argentina. So I decided to follow the crowd and cross the border into Argentina for the weekend. I took a bus from Viña del Mar directly into Mendoza, which took about 11 hours, mostly because of the long line at the border crossing. However, I didn’t mind because the way into Argentina is well-known as a very beautiful route- it curves right through the Andes and is surrounded by nature and giant mountains. During the bus ride, I actually got the chance to watch the sunrise in the Andes mountains, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Once I got into Mendoza, I walked around the city and visited a few main attractions. I had a full day to myself before some friends from Chile were coming the next day. So I visited street markets and then walked around the giant city park (it has a zoo, a lake, two museums, an amphitheater, a country club, 34 sculptures, and so much more). I also met some really nice people at my hostel, and we all went out to dinner at a very popular restaurant in town called Fuente y Fonda. Our table consisted of two people from Mexico, two people from Argentina, three people from France, and me! We made a point to only speak Spanish at the table, and it was really satisfying to practice my language skills and see how much I’ve improved in just the short time I’ve been in Chile.

The next day was busy, although very enjoyable. Some friends from my program in Chile came to Mendoza, and we ended up taking a few tours around the city together. For the first, we went to thermal baths an hour outside of Mendoza, in the middle of the mountains. Although it was a holiday and full of people, the thermals were really relaxing and had some great views! The next tour that we took involved three vineyards and an olive oil factory. Mendoza is well-known for its high-quality, low-price wine (most specifically a red wine called Malbec), and most tourists actually come to the city just to visit the vineyards. And in addition to the great wine, Mendoza is also known for its really popular olive oil. We ended the day with a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, because food in Argentina is super cheap compared to the US and Chile! Early the next morning we had to take an early bus to get back to Viña del Mar in time for Monday classes.

Throughout my weekend in Argentina, I was practicing my Spanish abilities and getting more comfortable with different accents. For example, I noticed that Argentinians use the verb tense “vos” instead of “tú,” stress different syllables of their words, and also use a lot of the “sh” sound. In contrast, Chileans talk really fast, barely pronounce the ends of the words, and almost never pronounce the “d” or “s.” As I’m improving in Spanish, I’ve gotten much better at distinguishing different accents, and as more time goes by in the semester, I fall more and more in love with the Spanish language in general. I love that I chose to come to Chile for my semester abroad, as opposed to England or Scotland, where I would speak the native language. Not only am I learning about different parts of the world during my semester abroad, but I’m also greatly improving my language skills. Overall, knowing a foreign language will always be a good thing, because it allows you to communicate with so many more people of the world. And in my opinion, studying abroad and being immersed in a new language is the best way to perfect your skills. If you want to get better in a foreign language, spend a semester immersed in it and by the end, you’ll have improved so much! Even though it can be a challenge, spending the semester in Chile has been so worthwhile and incredibly beneficial for my language skills- I don’t want to leave! I’ve already learned so much, and I can’t wait to see how much better I get by the end of the semester.

A Week in Patagonia

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile/El Calafate, Argentina

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

In the very beginning of the semester, there was a week of classes that was not mandatory for the students. Since this was one of the only chances to travel for longer than a weekend, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Six girls and I planned a spontaneous trip to Patagonia, in the south of Chile and Argentina. We flew from Santiago to a southern city called Punta Arenas on Monday, then took a bus to Puerto Natales, which is the starting point for most people who want to hike in the National Park of Torres del Paine (the most well-known part of Patagonia). The next morning, we got up bright and early at 6am to go on a hike with the most well-known viewpoint in the park. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was mostly uphill, for over four hours, just to get there. However, it was well worth it. The views were incredible and since I was with great company, the hike was really fun.

The next day, we decided to take it easy and go on a much more relaxed hike in the same national park. We passed beautiful lakes, and actually stumbled upon a herd of wild guanacos (a South American relative of the llama), who were so calm and let us sit in the middle of their pack for about 10 minutes! It was so calming to see the animals quietly grazing around us. Definitely unforgettable.

The next day, after two days of hiking around the park, my friends and I decided to take a road trip over to Argentina, to a town called El Calafate. It’s pretty small, but very touristy because it’s really close to another popular national park in Patagonia. We wanted to go there because there is a well-known glacier called Perito Moreno in the park. After driving for about five hours, we finally arrived at the glacier, and it was more than impressive. It took my breath away. It’s one of the only glaciers in the world that is actually growing in size rather than decreasing, and scientists still haven’t figured out why! The pure size of the glacier was incredible. The width is over three miles wide, and the average height is about 240 feet above the surface of the water. It was a bit strange, but we could also hear the sounds of the ice creaking and splashing into the lake. It was so blue that it looked like someone had photoshopped it. It was definitely one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve seen in my life so far.

After the glacier, we left Argentina to drive back to Puerto Natales in Chile, then took a bus back to Punta Arenas to catch a flight to Santiago, then took another bus back to Viña. Incredibly, despite the many modes of transportation and the many hours in transit, we got back to our houses in Viña del Mar in time for our early classes on Monday. And although my friends and I were exhausted from a week of traveling, we all happily went to class the next day with nothing but good stories and cherished memories from the trip.

As I reflect on my week in the southernmost part of the world, I have realized how happy I am to be here for this semester in Chile. Before arriving, I was second-guessing my decision to study abroad for my last semester of college. Because I chose to be here, I can’t walk across the stage at graduation, I’m missing my friends back at VU, and I can’t partake in any of the traditional “second-semester senior” activities. But as I continue to think about those things that I’m missing in Indiana, I’m also thinking about the incredible experiences that I can only get here in Chile. Because I am here, I can sit in the middle of a herd of wild llamas, watch chunks of ice fall from one of the biggest glaciers in the world, and have met the wonderful girls I traveled with. So although I am missing out on some things in Indiana, I am more than happy that I chose to study abroad this semester because I am able to experience these once in a lifetime experiences. So for those students who might be hesitant or doubting a decision to study abroad, I would simply advise them to stop hesitating and take the leap. Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions of my life, and I really believe other students should experience it as well.

Spring 2019 in Viña del Mar

Author: Casey Bremer

Location: Viña del Mar, Chile

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I’ve been in Chile for about a month now, and I absolutely love it! I live in a coastal town called Viña del Mar, which is about an hour and a half from the country’s capital, Santiago. I live in a cozy home with just my host mother, who is an amazing cook and loves to tell me stories about her life. The house is a five-minute walk from the beach, and the sunsets are incredible, so I’m spending a lot of time there with new friends. Viña is full of interesting things to see and do, and I’m a 10-minute bus ride away from a nearby town called Valparaíso, which is another great city with endless culture and artistry. Last summer I spent 2 months volunteering in Valparaíso (through another great VU study abroad program), and I loved Chile so much that I wanted to spend a whole semester here!

I’ve been spending a lot of my time with the other people in my program, who are from all over the world. I’ve gotten close to some students from Germany, France, Mexico, and so many other places. I joined the International Club at my university as well, which includes about 45 Chilean students and 100 foreign students. We get together often for excursions, like sand-boarding at the nearby dunes, hiking to the only waterfall in the region, and wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley. In addition, the club pairs up Chilean students with international students to learn more about the culture and to practice languages. A few days ago I walked around Viña with my Chilean “big brother”, Normann, to take pictures at some iconic places around the town.

There are a lot of differences I’ve noticed between here and the US. For example, there are so many stray dogs running around! I’m definitely not complaining, because they are very friendly and love to come up to people for a pet. But it does get a little sad when it gets colder at night and the dogs don’t have a warm home to sleep in. However, it’s not all sad because I’ve noticed that Chileans give jackets, warm blankets, and food to the street dogs.

Another interesting difference I’ve noticed involves the people. The Chileans I have met are so much more than just friendly. In the US, people are nice, but Chileans go above and beyond. They go out of their way to help a stranger, try really hard to make you feel welcome and comfortable, and they absolutely love when a gringa tries to speak Spanish! And when a Chilean enters a room full of their friends, they make sure to greet every single person with a kiss on the cheek. They also make sure to say goodbye with a kiss to everyone individually as well. It was a bit of an unexpected shock to see how warm and friendly everyone was, especially with foreigners like me.

Overall, I’m loving my semester here so far. I’m learning a lot about the Chilean culture, improving my Spanish, and I have met so many interesting people. I also have a few trips planned, like to Patagonia in the south or to Argentina, and I’m looking forward to blogging about them throughout the semester and showing everyone what a great place this country is! Before coming here, many friends and family members told me that they didn’t know much about Chile. They also warned me and said that it was unsafe or undeveloped, simply because it’s in South America and there is a stigma or stereotype attached to the continent and its people. However, I’m looking forward to using this blog as a way to show people how great this country really is!

Introducing the Bloggers: Elisa

Blogger: Elisa Espinosa

Location: Valparaiso, Chile

Major: Professional Writing with a Spanish Minor

I chose to intern abroad because Brittany Reynolds participated in the same internship last summer and encouraged me to apply. I am most excited to get more experience with TESOL and to better my Spanish fluency.

Student Spotlight: Rachel Corradin

Rachel is currently studying in Viña Del Mar, Chile (located right next to Valparaíso, Chile!!)
Here is a picture os Rachel at at Valle de la Luna, located in San Pedro de Atacama.

Her favorite favorite class is Latinamerican Literature. All of her classes are taught in Spanish so not only is she studying a specific subject, but she is constantly improving her Spanish skills!

“One of my favorite expereiences would be living with a host family in general. Everyday turns into an adventure thanks to them. I live with a host mom and 21 year old sister (and a 16 year old dog!). I click really well with them and they are a main part of what has made my experience so amazing. They let me be really independent while also letting me tag along with all their crazy adventures. They always give me tips for everywhere I go and are always there when I get lost.”

Advise for other students thinking about traveling to Chile: “have Spanish experience. It is definitely a Spanish intensive program and I can´t imagine being here without knowing it. Also, it is very important to be open to new experiences because South America has a very different way of living. It is an amazing culture to experience but it takes getting used to.”

Rachel, we are jealous of all the fun you are having! We hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Chile!

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