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

Coming Back Home

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

This might be the blog post I have dreaded the most. When hearing “final blog post,” one would think it should wrap up my whole semester abroad nice and neatly with a cute little bow, probably with some important moral of the story or reflection about how much I’ve grown this semester.

However, I can’t quite do that. Not only is it too much of a cliché, but I am also realizing that my experience abroad cannot all be summed up in a few hundred words, written about with a note of finality that could somehow mean I’m done living it.

A lot of my friends in my program have mentioned how much they’ve changed and discovered who they are. I am not sure I really had that experience. Sophomore year at Georgetown was an important, challenging and transformative experience—and I think I left it already knowing who I am and the person I want to be. So what do I take away from my experience? While they can’t really sum up my whole experience abroad, here are a few things that really impacted me:

  1. My host family: I’ve touched on this in past blog posts, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Living with a host family has helped me to improve my Spanish so much more than I believe I could have if I lived in a student residence with other international students. I can’t begin to explain how comforting it was to have a warm, home-cooked meal to come home to each day at the end of my classes. Having a “mom” abroad to hug, vent to, and share my day with is what really made me feel at home in Santiago.
  1. Improving my Spanish: This comes from living with a host family to taking all classes in Spanish with Chilean students. It was difficult at first—especially taking an economics class in Spanish with different symbols and formulas, but it was worth it. It was a learning curve—I didn’t feel like I started to notice myself significantly advancing until about two months in.
  1. My classes- Two classes I took were a couple of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken. I took a class called “Economic Development in Latin America” and “The Foreign Policy of Latin American Countries.” In the States, the only time we ever learn about Latin America is when we talk about the Mayas, Aztecs, or Incas, great empires, and important to study, yes. However, I’ve never really studied contemporary Latin America, especially from a non-U.S. perspective. While there are definitely aspects of my country that I am extremely proud of, I’ve learned just why so many non-Americans are angry about actions of our past. Learning of the not-so-stellar ways that the U.S. has involved itself in other elections has been humbling.
  1. Learning about the dictatorship: I don’t believe that I discussed this in any earlier blog posts, and perhaps I should have. Chile experienced a dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet from 1973-1990. I can’t even begin to describe how awful it was or the ways that it still permeates society today. Before I came to Chile, I knew nothing about it, so I’m glad that I am at least a little less ignorant about it now. While I don’t want to go into details for personal privacy’s sake, my host family was actively involved in the resistance. Unfortunately, many people, usually political opposition like socialists, were tortured, exiled, and executed. While it was sad to learn about, learning about it helped me to better understand Chile as a country.

I am back now at home in Boston. I miss Chile, especially my host family. But it is also really nice to be home. I don’t, however, feel like this is the end of my abroad experience. Maybe what I can take away is that I opened my mind more this past semester. And I plan on continuing doing that, traveling, and learning through the stories of more people I meet as time goes on.


Volunteering with Domingo Savio

Time December 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

As my time is coming to a close here in Chile, I have been thinking about the experiences that have really come to shape my time abroad. Without a doubt, volunteering once a week at Doming Savio, an after-school boys and girls club, has been one of my most meaningful endeavors. Doming Savio is located in Santiago, but on the outskirts, far away from the upper-middle class areas of Providencia, Santiago-Centro and Las Condes. The children of Domingo Savio see it as their second home, a safe place to go so that their often single mothers can work grueling hours to make ends meet.

Silvana and Isa from IFSA-Butler really encouraged us to take part in some form of volunteering activity. I didn’t know much about the organization when I signed up, but I was eager to continue my work with kids, a big part of my life at Georgetown with the D.C. Schools Project.

Starting about mid-August, three other girls from my program and I headed to Domingo Savio to meet the runners of the organization and the kids. That first day I was amazed to discover that every child that walked through the door, upon seeing us, politely greeted us with a kiss upon the cheek and an, “Hola Tía” or “Hello Aunt.” What makes Domingo Savio so special is that Tío Jorge, Tía Olga, and the other volunteers/ teachers make it their mission to instill good values within the kids, from washing their dishes, to treating their elders with respect. Everyone is treated as family, and the organization provides as much as possible to the low-income families, such as supplies of toilet paper or breakfast kits.

Anyway, I began my role as Tía. Although I was treated with total respect, I felt completely useless. As we were new to volunteering, we were unfamiliar with the routine, and where materials were kept, so often the kids would be the ones directing us. Our main tasks consisted of helping out with homework, from math to English, then playing games and assisting with crafts or cooking workshops, and finally preparing “once, “or their 6pm snack. I’d say my awkwardness, at least, was in large part due to my lack of a good grasp on the language. Before arriving in Santiago, I thought my Spanish was pretty good. However, coming here, being forced to think in Spanish constantly, and having the kids speaking rapid-fire Spanish in the typical Chilean fashion, with Chilean slang thrown in, I was pretty lost. Consequently, I felt like I was more of a liability than an asset when I first began volunteering.

Slowly, that all began to change. While yes, I’m sure that as my Spanish improved, my usefulness increased; however, a huge part of how I began to feel more at ease and more a part of the Domingo Savio community is all due to the kids. They treated us tías with the expected respect, but they also joked with me in unexpected ways. One day, as I was helping some kids with homework, Felipe* asked me how to say “fat” in English. Rather naively, I told him, and he then proceeded to taunt his friend Nicolás: “You’re fat, you’re fat!” Nicolás, rather than be upset, turned to me with a grin and shrugged, “He’s calling me fat, but we are both obviously fat”. I couldn’t hold my laughter, and soon we were all laughing together. The great thing about Domingo Savio, like I said, is more like home to the kids than school. It’s supposed to be both a break from school and a safe space at the same time. While perhaps this interaction would be considered inappropriate in a U.S. school, it was just one of many jokes that were perfectly acceptable at Domingo Savio, and what makes it so fun for the kids.

Finally, we had a routine. I didn’t really feel like I was volunteering in the sense that it was an obligation. I looked forward to laughing with the kids, giving lessons in English, helping with multiplication tables, dancing Zumba together, and preparing cheese sandwiches each Thursday. But what really made this activity so impactful in my overall experience abroad is that I got to see and be a part of another Santiago. I learned about another Santiago that one cannot easily see in the la Universidad Católica or Costanera Center. Chile is considered one of the most advanced and developed countries in the region, but just like in any other city, we can’t forget that there are families struggling as well. It was inspiring to see families work so hard to provide their children with as much opportunity as possible. Domingo Savio has strict requirements for the families in order for their children to remain in the club: incentives such as working the hours that the children are cared for. Everyone, from the parents, to the Tíos and Tías, to the children, contribute to the sense of community. I felt more involved, like a part of the city, due to this experience with Domingo Savio.

Last week I said my goodbye to Domingo Savio and everyone who is a part of it. I am not sad because I know that the kids are in extremely capable and caring hands. I am mostly just thinking how cool it was that I got to be a part of it all.


*Names have been changed




What’s It Like Living with a Host Family?

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

I’ve met a lot of foreign exchange students here in Santiago—from all over Europe, Latin American, and the United States.What I’ve come to notice is that my study abroad experience is totally different from theirs in one major respect: living with a host family. While all ten of us IFSA-Butler program students are staying with Chilean families, I’ve come to realize that we’re living an unique experience that most other students I’ve met do not get to enjoy. Living with a Chilean host family has come to shape my experience abroad, and I decided that it is an important aspect for me to share for any students who are considering studying abroad with IFSA-Butler.

As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, moving in with a new family was an adjustment for me. For the first couple of weeks I struggled with the loss of my newfound freedom and independence that I found in college. However, I have grown to love it more and more each day. Perhaps this is what inspired today’s blog post: last night I had a dream that I was going to be moving from my host family’s apartment into a student-housing residence for the rest of my duration in Chile. I found myself panicking. I didn’t want to move—I realized I would miss my Chilean host mom, home-cooked meals, and playing with our dog, Toldito. Most importantly I feared no longer having a family to come home to at the end of the day to talk to in Spanish. The next day, as I am writing this blog post, I now know that it was all a dream (or nightmare). But it made me really recognize the fact that I now truly feel at home here.

A few weeks ago, my mom (biological, not host mom) came to visit me in Santiago. I showed her all the touristy sights, the beautiful view at the top of Cerro San Cristobal; we ate amazing food, and even toured some wineries on a weekend getaway in Santa Cruz. At the end of the week, I asked my mom what her favorite part of Santiago was. I guess I should not have been so surprised to learn that it was meeting my host family. My host mom Pili was very excited to invite over my real mom for lunch, and as soon as my mom stepped through the door, Pili excitedly told her to “Make herself at home, my dear.” While Pili speaks some English, it was my job to translate between English and Spanish for my mother and host family. While it was definitely chaotic and confusing, it was also very fun and amusing. My host dad, Ivan, would explain a complicated history about Chilean exports in Spanish and then excitedly direct me to translate for my mother. There were plenty of us around the table sharing empanadas—six of us including my host parents, my host brother and his girlfriend, and my mom and I. Every single one of them was so kind to my mom, and the lunch that my host mom prepared, as usual, was delicious. Discussing it later, my mom and I compared my experience with my brother’s homestay in Spain. A few years ago, while visiting my brother in Grenada, my mom and I had lunch at his host mother’s house; the difference was, we concluded, that she was not as warm and friendly as my host mom is. Unfortunately, my brother’s host mother was not so interested in forming a relationship with the exchange students she hosted. I am so lucky then, to have a Chilean host mom that truly wanted to bond with my real mom. Later that week, my mother and Pili went out to lunch by themselves, though neither of them knows much of each other’s language. I found it adorable and I was so proud of the both of them. My positive home stay experience can be explained by many factors: the general warmth of Chilean culture, the great job that IFSA did in finding us host families, and the fact that I was just lucky enough to be placed with special people.

No matter what the explanation is, I have been showered with kindness and affection. Whether it’s my host brother packing me lunches when my host mom’s away, Ivan introducing me to his friends as his “hija gringa,” or my host mom giving me a hug when I come home from class, I have been accepted into a family that make me feel like their home is my home. I’ll admit that there are both pros and cons when deciding between doing a homestay and living with other students, but the choice I made is one of my favorite parts of studying in Chile.


Anticuchos, Terremotos y Cueca

Time September 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

Lively. That’s how I’d describe the vibes of Santiago this past week and a half. On Monday, September 18th, was Chile’s Fiestas Patrias, or day of independence. Even though I was out of the country for the official day of celebration, (I was in Lima, Peru to meet up with my dad who happened to be there on business) I definitely did not miss out. What I’ve learned is that unlike our July 4th, Chile’s celebration of independence lasts more than a couple of days. And I love this idea! The more days the merrier, right? You can always use an excuse to eat delicious food, spend time with family and friends, and fill the streets with festive music.

Last weekend, on the 10th of September, I went with a few friends from my IFSA-Butler program to a fonda. What’s a fonda? According to my host brother, it is essentially a type of old-style fair that dates back to the earliest celebrations of Chile’s independence in the early 1800’s. There was so much food there I couldn’t believe it. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit how much food I ate. I first bought myself an anticucho, which is basically a kabob: a skewer of beef, sausage, and vegetables. Later, my friends and I bought some cheese empanadas and terremotos. Chile is infamous for its terremotos. Literally meaning “earthquake,” it is an iconic alcoholic beverage made with pipeño, a sweet wine, and pineapple ice cream. The drinking age here is 18, by the way, so it is nice to be legal. (That being said, obviously drink responsibly). The funny part is that it’s called a terremoto because if you drink it too fast, you will get up and feel like there’s an earthquake due to the effect of the alcohol. Needless to say, we all drank responsibly. It was fun to take part in this Chilean tradition, laughing with friends and being surrounded by excited Chileans! Read More »


A Foodie in Paradise

Time September 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

img_7532 Manjar Crepes

Manjar. Also known as Chile’s Nutella. You know how they call the food of the Greek gods “ambrosia’? Well I’m thinking that what they really meant by ambrosia was manjar. Some of you may know manjar as “dulce de leche”, but for those of you poor souls who’ve never been lucky enough to try it, it’s a caramel-like spread made of condensed milk and sugar.

I have no shame in admitting it; food brings me an abnormal amount of happiness. Especially sweets. My sweet tooth is out of control, and Santiago has been living up to its expectations. One of the reasons why I was so excited to come to Chile was to try a new type of cuisine that I’ve never had before. For whatever reason, despite all of the Argentinian, Peruvian, and Brazilian restaurants, I’ve never found a Chilean restaurant in Boston. Now that I’m here eating Chilean food every day, I can honestly say that my inner foodie is content. Before coming here, I had heard that Chile is not known for their food—nothing compared to renowned Peruvian cuisine. While Chileans eschew spiciness, the plethora of other flavors makes up for it. Read More »


First Two Weeks in My New Home

Time August 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

I have been putting off this blog post for a couple of days now. I couldn’t decide if I should write about the tough transition and the homesickness or about some of the experiences that have been truly wonderful. And I guess I am deciding to write about both. Because while I am writing these blog posts for my family and friends I am also writing it for prospective study abroad students and I think it will be useful to read about both sides of my arrival. Read More »


Saying Goodbye to Home

Time July 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

One day left. One day left until I leave for Santiago, my new home for the next five months. When I think about that fact, a flurry of emotions passes through my gut. I am, as I’ve repeated a thousand times to friends, family, and acquaintances, excited. I am curious to see what Chilean culture is like and I am exhilarated by the opportunity to speak Spanish every day. But I am also nervous. There is a part of my heart that seems to drop down to my stomach and I’ll be honest with you, it’s not the most comfortable feeling. Those of my friends and family who know me well know I am apt to overthink and reflect on my emotions a lot, for better or for worse.  Well, reflecting on why I feel so anxious to leave, I think it has more to do with what I am leaving behind than what I am about to endeavor on. I love my city of Boston, from the North End to Post Office Square Park. I love being able to see my parents every day and hang out with my high school friends. I am going to miss that New England autumn, where the leaves transform into a crescendo of bright oranges, reds, ambers and browns. I will miss being around people who don’t give it a second thought when I say “wicked.” I will miss the people I love. Read More »


Higher Ed in Chile Pt. 2: Majors as Communities

Time June 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In the United States, liberal arts college students apply to an entire school, sample various academic departments for a year or two before picking a specific major and even then continuing to study a minor. In contrast, higher education in Chile (and most of the world) is a system of earlier specialization in which even elite university students apply to a carrera — nursing, law, publicity, chemistry, etc. — within a university, study only that subject for the next three to five years and, if all goes according to plan, emerge with a professional title.

In short, whereas I spent my first two years of college dipping my toes in the water, my Chilean friends dived right in.

Dive Right In

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Higher Ed in Chile Pt. 1: La U vs. La Católica

Time June 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week I’ve been asked to describe higher education in Chile. I’ve broken it up into five sections, starting with this profile of Chile’s most (in)famous universities.

Asamblea Read More »


Chilean Food vs. Food in Chile

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Food: It’s the reason we wake up every morning.

In lieu of exhausting my thesaurus in search of sixteen synonyms for “yummy,” I’ll take a more sociological approach to analyzing the Chilean foodscape. Fair warning: you’ll see terms like “culinary imperialism” more often than nonsense phrases like “tantalizing garnish” or “a filling salad.”

Let’s start with a Chilean anthropologist’s definition of food:

Los alimentos son algo más que nutrientes, son signos mediante los cuales las distintas comunidades comunican sus sistemas de prestigio y poder, sus creencias, así como el sustrato valórico que legitima las jerarquías y estatus de las personas y de las cosas. — Prof. Sonia Montecino Aguirre, “Conjunciones y disyunciones del gusto en el sur de Chile

In short, Montecino says that food is more than nutrition. It’s an expression of a community’s beliefs as well as a system of prestige that legitimizes the status of people within that community’s hierarchy. So what does the food here say about Chilean society?

Doña Maria

“Preparing an authentic Mapuche meal.” Photo: Daniel Bergerson, 2015.

Well, there is a difference between Chilean food and food in Chile. The first is the canonized cuisine of a colonial society blending indigenous (mostly Mapuche) and European (mostly Spanish) traditions, while the second is the modern-day menu that one can actually find on supermarket shelves and in the streets of Santiago.

Most travel writing describes Chilean food rather than food in Chile, so I’ll start with the former and leave the culinary imperialism for dessert.

Read More »


Molotov O’Clock: Photos of a Campus Tradition

Time May 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Campus Juan Gómez Millas, Universidad de Chile.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016.

12:00pm — Third block begins. I shuffle into 19th Century History of Latin America, surprised to find the professor cueing up a movie. Normally he lectures the whole hour-and-a-half. Rarely does a man who loves the sound of his own voice willingly step down from a podium. I figure the film must be important.

1:00pm — I was wrong. It’s an Argentinian period piece heavy on cliché romance and light on historical insight. Class gets out early because the professor must get going. I head straight to the study room.

desk 1 Read More »


The (Study Abroad) Spanish Test

Time May 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Welcome to my study abroad Spanish test. Carefully read all instructions before beginning.


Photo: Mirtha Alcayaga, 2016.

This test will measure your ability to be a vocal citizen of the Hispanophone world. It will take place in universities, discos, bakeries, terminals and bedrooms. You will be tested during first dates, popular assemblies and soccer games. There are no multiple choice questions and no blanks to be filled. True and false are but a matter of perspective. Please respond to all questions thoroughly. If you do not know the answer, guess. Or get homesick and cry. Use Spanish and, only when necessary, the miming equivalent of stick figure drawings.

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Replug: Technology in the ‘Raw Abroad’

Time May 12th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Unplugging is like using sunscreen: I know I should do it, I often don’t and maybe that’s why I’ll die of cancer.

Even though it is generally good advice, I tend to roll my eyes whenever someone tells me I spend too much time on my laptop. So earlier this month when Inside Higher Ed published “Digital Cocoons and the Raw Abroad,” a plea by two U.S. professors for study abroad students to unplug from their “digital helmet,” I rolled my eyes so hard I felt like I was thirteen again. Here’s an excerpt:

Today’s study abroad explorers may leave their home country but not leave home at all. Thanks to cheap international data plans and smartphones in their pockets, millennial Americans seldom say goodbye to familiar friends, family and online comforts as they set out to experience life in a different country. Can a digital native ever go native?

What does it take for a digital native like me to “go native” in Santiago? Well, considering how many of my Chilean friends also grew up glued to a Game Boy, I would have to plug in, Santiago-style.

“Don’t unplug. Replug.” Photos: Daniel Bergerson, 2016.

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adventures during semana santa

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This post is way long over due, but better something than nothing! 😀

During Semana Santa (March 30th-April 7th), some friends and I headed to Chile, where I had one of the most enjoyable and relaxing vacations of my life! I was obviously excited for the trip, but I had no idea how much fun I would have in Chile.  I learned so much from the culture, met incredible people, indulged in delicious food (seafood and sushi, YUM), and loved every minute of it. Everyone studying abroad in Argentina should head on over to Chile! Luckily for us in Mendoza, it’s only a 5-6 hour bus ride with some amazing views 😉

so many curves while crossing the andes

view from the bus ride

We spent two days in Santiago, trekking through the metro (and getting shoved in the process, there were a lot more people that weekend particularly because of the music festival), frequently treating ourselves to delicious gelato after long walks in Santa Lucia, trying pancho con palta + mote (national drink of Chile with peaches and rice, very sweet!), constantly buying water (urgh, that was annoying) and admiring the street art and architecture. The style of the buildings was something I noticed immediately. First off, it was very different from Mendoza, and second, the architecture reminded me of….Spain. I couldn’t really place a finger on it. The vibe of the city was also hard to characterize. There were many, many tourists and it was a relatively busy city, yet, the palm trees, artists casually sketching the scenery, and the local people sauntering by just gave Santiago a chill, sleepy vibe.

pancho con palta

architecture in the square


central administration

horses and police were everywhere!

so much color compared to mendoza

street art!

indulging in some delicious helado!

pretending we were at lolla

at the top of santa lucia

view from santa lucia

busy church for easter

After Santiago, we took a two hour bus to Vina del Mar. I was so taken back by the scenery during the ride! But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about/get sick of the scenery here. Everything is just too beautiful :)

For the rest of the week, we walked around Vina then took a metro to Valparaiso (the transportation was so convenient!).  I was absolutely in love with these two cities…..we took the elevator to go up the steep hill so we could explore the fun, colorful houses that were stacked up on the hills. And of course, once we were at the top, the view was amazing. I could see the ships near the port, some people lounging by the ocean, and the stray dogs aimlessly sauntering in the streets…..I particularly liked the view from Pablo Neruda’s house. He could see everything from his room!

beach at vina

reloj de flores


houses along the beach

steep neighborhood

a sunny day in vina

The street art is another story. Calling it “graffiti” simply doesn’t do justice to the talent of the work. Walking around in Valparaiso was like receiving tickets to a free art exhibition.

Although I was in Chile for only a week, I feel like I got an authentic essence of the three cities I visited. Vina and Valpo, in particular, were two places that didn’t seem to be engineered toward tourists and so, I felt like I was exploring the true culture and dynamic of the city. I loved being able to talk to the people on the streets, striking up a conversation about various Chileans wines with a friendly man at the supermercado, and learning about the ascensors (elevators) from a nice woman while we we were waiting to go up to the cerros (hills). Needless to say, it was hard for us to leave.

favorite street art

piano stairs

colorful houses in valpo

valpo, the port city

another fave!

steep ride up

I was particularly drawn to Valparaiso. It felt like the people in Valpo really knew how to utilize every inch of space given to them! Every wall was adorned intricately and each building had its own character. The houses are all neatly  stacked on the mountains, with each cerro (hill) having a different reputation. Nothing was uniform in terms of design, but in the sense of aesthetic appeal, the buildings provided the eye with a homogenous pattern of colorful splashes of beauty. It was similar to Vina….yet I loved Valpo more. I felt as if I was walking into someone’s home, exploring their lifestyle and trying to adopt their habits as my own and make myself familiar with their ways. Everything was set in its original, functioning place and nothing was altered for the benefit of tourists. It was ridiculously convenient to hop on the metro from Vina to arrive in Valpo within minutes. I loved the transformation from a cool, unique port city into a crazy wild scene at night. Oh, Valpo.

I loved striking conversations with vendors, having people approach me out of genuine curiosity while I was waiting for a friend at the plaza, befriend other travelers, and walk up and down the long, steep hills (and award myself with delicious gelato after). The people here get their exercise (RIDICULOUSLY long stairs with many steps)!!! We took a free walking tour (I believe it was called Tours for Tips, there is also one in Santiago as well!) and we learned so much about the city! As we walked up and down the hills, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the tourists “touring” the city on a bus; walking is the only way to get a real feel for the city! We passed by so many beautiful artwork (free exhibition!), got to talk to locals and eat some delicious cookies and swig some pisco sours. Not to mention, we met awesome Europeans on the tour, and we all went for DELICIOUS (and cheap) sushi afterward. Ahh. I’d missed sushi. In Mendoza, sushi/seafood is expensive, not THAT delicious, and I had to pay for chopsticks! Grr. The delicious and cheap seafood is something I’ll miss! It is truly a unique port city tucked away, and I could feel the immigrants’ presence from years before.

orgasmic sushi

Before we left, my friend and I deemed the one cent peso (un peso) cute, and thought it’d be a cute idea to give them away as souvenirs. (Maybe punch a hole in it to make a bracelet or keychain?) But since it is of so little value and rarely in use, we had a hard time finding a store that had those pesos. Strangely enough, a male cashier in a lingerie store ended up being able to trade 10 pesos for the ones we wanted. He thought our idea was funny.

slanted :)

so much valpo pride

color splashes

pablo neruda's house

Things we did not anticipate: the unreliability of buses. As it was getting closer for us to leave, I realized that I wanted to stay a little bit longer. But since we bought all of our tickets in advance (Vina–>Santiago–>Mendoza), I decided to just go along with the original plan. This was mistake #1. To my future self: make hostel reservations in advance, but if possible, buy tickets at the terminal of the destination once I have a better idea of dates/how much longer I want to stay. Because in reality, you meet friends and encounter places you want to spend more time exploring. Mistake #2 happened when the bus was 40-60 minutes late. Hence, we missed our bus from Santiago to Mendoza, and had to spend the night in Santiago. We also had to buy another set of tickets because the offices weren’t open early enough, and we didn’t want to risk waiting any longer. Luckily, the tickets were cheap, but this mistake could have been avoided. To my future self: don’t buy bus tickets in advance; be flexible with travel plans!!

On our way to Chile, we traveled at night, so I was comfortably asleep for most of the ride and the entry process was very efficient and quick, as there weren’t too many travelers. But since we were returning to Argentina during the weekend, amidst the peak traveling time, we ended up waiting at the border for three hours. I mean… didn’t feel that long, though. We made friends with the people (only four of us on the bus, haha) and was asked the popular question, “do you like Chile, or Argentina, better?”  😀 We waited a long time because the entry process consists of a bus driver registering every passenger on his bus. Lots of buses=lots of people=long time. But eventually, we got through and it wasn’t too bad, like I said. The mountains were breathtaking and we mostly sat around and relaxed.

vina, night time

I couldn’t  help but feel jealous of the many European students we met along the way, who were traveling the continent by themselves.  The freedom! The adventure! But then again, it’s wonderful to be back in Mendoza, and I’ll be going to Peru in two weeks!





Gimme them bright lights, long nights

Time March 25th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My song of the week: “Top of the World” by the Pussycat Dolls. In my opinion, this song perfectly describes the challenge of taking on a new city, and to be honest, that’s how I feel now. I’ve been in study spanish in Chile for 2 weeks now, yet it feels like it’s been soo much longer. In a good way of course. My Spanish is slowly but surely improving, and I am learning new things about the Chilean culture everyday. I must admit, it will be hard to go back to the cornfields of central Illinois after living in this South American paradise for 5 months.

What have I been up to? Hmmm…well I have more or less finalized my class schedule. I am taking 2 courses through the IFSA-Butler study in Chile program, including Spanish and History & Contemporary Society in Chile. We have the choice of taking classes in 3 universities: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC), Universidad de Chile, and Universidad Diego Portales. I am taking a class entitled Salud Intercultural at PUC, which basically teaches about the cultural differences in the use of medicine. I am also taking a class at la Universidad de Chile, but I still haven’t officially signed up for anything yet. More on classes later.

Before arriving in Santiago, I had a picture in my mind of a city with a proper downtown surrounded by the suburbs, like most U.S. cities. But Santiago is actually composed of many comunas, which are comparable to the boroughs of New York City. I live in the comuna of Providencia, and it’s only a 5-minute walk to a major subway stop (Pedro de Valdivia). Interesting fact– Pedro de Valdivia was a Spanish conquistador who founded various cities in Chile, including Santiago. Even Santiago’s famous Plaza de Armas dates back to this time. But I’ll explain more about the city after I take a tour of Santiago tomorrow.

Sadly to say, I am still trying to keep up with the Chilean nightlife. Parties, or carretes as they are called here, don’t begin until at least after midnight. And they go on for many hours. And somehow, people still wake up early in the morning. Que raro, no? Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be used to it soon enough. I am just so happy to be here and experiencing this wonderful culture. So far, everyone that I have met has been extremely kind and helpful, and I am looking forward to a semester of great experiences.




Bienvenido a Santiago

Time March 25th, 2009 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


After months of planning and preparation, I am FINALLY in Santiago, ready to begin my Chilean adventure. Between the overnight flight from Dallas to Santiago and the numerous orientation activities, it has been a whirlwind past few days, but I am having an incredible time. During the first few days, our entire Chile study abroad group, composed of 15 or so people, are staying in Hotel Manquehue in Las Condes, an adorable area of the city. Initially, I was slightly nervous about meeting the other people in the program, but all my fears went away as soon as I began talking to them. Despite the differences in our characters, we have all become friends and are exploring Santiago together.

The IFSA-Butler study abroad in Chile program has done an excellent job arranging the accomodations and explaining all the important information that we need to know. On Thursday, we met our host families for the first time! I was overcome with excitement and nervousness to meet my host mom and her 16-year-old daughter. They were both very friendly and excited to show me around Santiago. I have also already met several members of the extended family, and with each meeting, I am seeing how friendly and helpful Chileans are!

On Sunday, my host mom and I went to the Centro Artesanal de los Dominicos. Los Dominicos represents the historical sector of Las Condes, one of the various sections of Santiago. At this location, there is a beautiful church called Parroquia San Vicente Ferrer, a remnant of the colonial era. In addition to the tourists, many local Chileans come to this church to attend Mass. This site serves as a major cultural center of Las Condes, combining traditional dances and music with the arts and crafts typical of the Chilean culture.

And did I mention that the city of Santiago is gorgeous? The city lies in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountains as well as beautiful beaches. And it’s surprisingly clean. ::sigh:: I could honestly live here forever.

Tomorrow is the first day of orientation at the local university. And for once, I am actually excited about starting school. Here’s to a great semester. :)