Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Orientation and Relearning Spanish

I haven’t even been in Chile for a week and I already feel like I’ve been here for forever, except for the minor detail where I get lost every time I try to go somewhere! That will of course come with time. Paciencia is the word of the semester as I’m learning.

Most of our group arrived in Santiago on Sunday. We were picked up at the airport by our director and assistant director and then headed immediately for a hotel for orientation. The hotel was fantastic. We were definitely living in the lap of luxury. We had coffee (very much needed after an overnight flight) dropped our bags in the room and started orientation.

Orientation consisted of sessions about the culture, universities, families, safety, etc. held in a conference room in the hotel. As informative as they were, sitting in a conference room for hours on end was painful. Two days into orientation, we spent a day touring the city, which provided a much needed break from the conference room. It was also a really great first look at the city. We started at Palacio de la Moneda, which is where the president works, and saw the changing of the guards before taking a tour. Next, we toured an artisanal shop and learned about the techniques used in various pieces brought in from the north, from there we headed all over the city center seeing museums, theaters, etc. and finally finding the IFSA office. It was a full day.

Santiago is very westernized. My host mom told me that there has been a lot of French influence in Chile, which I can definitely see when walking around. There’s also a lot of American influence. I live a few blocks from the Chilean WalMart chain, Lider. Santiago also houses what is, or what will be, the tallest building in South America. It’s also a decently safe city. During orientation, we learned that the majority of crime in Santiago is petty theft. Moral of the story; watch your stuff and you should be ok.

Santiago is also huge. I’ve managed to get lost every time I’ve gone out running. This last time, I ran in a straight line and around a plaza, figuring that when I turned around I’d be back on the same street. Somehow I managed to not make a full rectangle and return to my original street. However, I did end up a few blocks from my house and have no idea how I got there. I’m hoping this luck continues.

Our last night of orientation, we went to our “Cena de Bienvenidas.” A van picked us up, and we headed for the Parque Municipal. At the top of the park is a restaurant that offers a fantastic view of the Apoquindo and Sierra de Ramon mountains ranges.

The next day, we got our families. I was super nervous, but my family has so far been nothing but fantastic. My host mom is a vegetarian and wonderful cook, my host brother is super nice and cracks me up, and my host dad is really sweet although I can’t really understand him and I don’t think he can understand me. This brings me to my next story.

I am currently relearning Spanish.

The Spanish spoken in Chile is much different than the Spanish spoken in other countries. Let’s start with the accent. Chileans “swallow” consonants. I’ve had to ask to have multiple words that I know repeated because I simply can’t understand what my host family is saying to me. Next, vocabulary. Spanish spoken in Latin and South America is very different from Castellano spoken in Spain, and many countries reflect an influence from the indigenous people. in their language. Things keep being said, and I have no idea what’s going on. I already have a story.

My host mom’s daughter also hosts for IFSA, so last night (our first night with families) we went to her house for dinner. Her student and I were just barely following the conversation, but the word “gallo” (rooster) kept popping up in all of their stories. There was a gallo at the office, a gallo out the window, a gallo in the forest, etc. We were doing the oblivious polite laughter at appropriate moments thing when eventually my host dad leaned over and asked if I understood. “Kind of, but where are all of these roosters coming from?” They all cracked up. “Gallo” can also be used to say guy. They were talking about people. Life makes a bit more sense.

I’ve started making a list of all the Spanish I’m relearning.

Here it is so far:

Novio: Castellano=boyfriend, Chileno=fiance


carretear= to party

copete=a drink



mechón=lock of hair

mechoneo=essentially hazing

mechones=1st year students (who have been hazed)

torniquete-turnstyle, tourniquet

pila=battery, pile, water fountain




nana=nanny (puertas adentro=live-in, puertas afuera=live out)

lonko=chief, head

a pata=on foot

al tiro=immediate




italiano=hot dog with tomatoes, avocado, and mayonnaise

ave=chicken or turkey



tuna=prickly pear


Hasta luego!



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