Not What I Expected—But That's Okay. Past Review

By (Concordia University Nebraska) - abroad from 05/19/2019 to 06/22/2019 with

API (Academic Programs International): Valparaíso, Chile - Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about the diversity of Latin America; it simultaneously has an underlying collective culture, while still maintaining distinct differences between each country. Chile was not what I was expecting. I thought I was heading to a country with a very warm culture, similar to what I had experienced in Central America. Boy was I wrong! I also improved greatly on my listening skills; the way Chileans speak is absolutely difficult to understand. I would equate going to Chile for five weeks like shoving someone who barely knows how to swim into the deep end. At first I felt like I was drowning, but after some time to adjust, almost every other accent in Spanish is easy to understand!

Review Photos

API (Academic Programs International): Valparaíso, Chile - Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso Photo API (Academic Programs International): Valparaíso, Chile - Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso Photo API (Academic Programs International): Valparaíso, Chile - Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso Photo API (Academic Programs International): Valparaíso, Chile - Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso Photo API (Academic Programs International): Valparaíso, Chile - Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I thought the academic rigor, at least with the classes I took, could have been enhanced more. Though, I acknowledge there was only so much we could do in 5 weeks.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I LOVED Alejandra!! I absolutely cannot think of a better program director for API to have. She was a wonderful cultural and linguistic liaison for us and made all of us feel right at home. I looked forward to seeing her and knew I could ask any questions without judgment, and she would be able to give me a clear answer so that I could best understand and interact with the culture.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I enjoyed my host family and did like the apartment where I lived. It was nice to have my own room and own bathroom. My host mom was not as warm and talkative as I would have liked, though it was still pleasant living with her. My host sister was an immense help with Spanish.

* Food:

The food in the country as a whole was different to get used to. I enjoy lots of strong flavors and using a variety of spices when cooking. Chilean food tends to be more bland; if I had known this I would have brought my own spices down! However, it was evident that my host mom did not like to cook, and she wasn't familiar enough with vegetarian food to make it both tasteful and nutritious. Myself and my peers found ourselves missing fresh fruits and vegetables while in the country.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I absolutely feel like I left Chile with a much more comprehensive understanding of the culture, even after just a short 5 weeks. I think the differences between Viña del Mar and Valparaíso also help one to learn the differences between classes in the country. However, I found it was extremely hard to make Chilean friends my age. I heard from other students that people are typically nicer in Valparaíso, but most people I interacted with in Viña were not friendly. I greatly wished that I could have made more friends with Chileans instead of just international students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

My program director was extremely easy to get ahold of in times like this. I did have a pretty hefty cold for a few days and she helped me navigate the pharmacy system in Chile (OTC medication readily available on shelves in pharmacies or grocery stores does not exist).

* Safety:

I lived in Viña del Mar, which is extremely safe. You must be careful about petty crime in both Viña and Valparaíso, but I frequently felt physically safe in both cities. It is just important to care for your things and keep them on you at all times, even in restaurants. This is most important if you go to the bars in Valparaíso at night. My host sister told me it is best to be with Chileans, if possible, when going to the bars in Valpo; pickpocketers are much more likely to steal if they see a group of gringos walking together rather than in a group with Chileans.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I wanted to go somewhere that did not have a wide array of English speakers (like Spain). Chile had this, but I also knew their system of higher education is more rigorous than others in Latin America.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I chose to spend more money than most people. The only cost that you are required to give out of pocket is 2-3 meals throughout the 5 weeks and public transport every day (unless you live extremely close to the University.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$75
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Understand conversion rates early on and make a budget. It's easy to sometimes feel like things are so cheap when you are using a different currency, but some things cost the same amount or more than they do in the United States. Also, pull out large amounts of cash from the ATM so you rack up the least amount of fees possible (unless you have a debit/credit card that does not charge international fees).


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

It was hard to use Spanish when I was hanging out with my friends who were also from the United States. Although the cultural excursions with the program were an absolute blast, we always spoke English when we were all together (unless we were speaking with the program director, which was typically 50/50 when using English and Spanish, depending on the subject of the conversation).

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? A 300-level course
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Spend time with your host family and make friends with natives from the country, especially people who do not speak English, so that you are forced to use your foreign language! Hanging out with natives your age really helps, especially because you both want to learn relevant slang in each others' languages.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The cities (Viña del Mar and Valparaíso)
  • My professors
  • The freedom with support available
* What could be improved?
  • The food
  • Real interaction with locals (outside of tours through cities)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Just how different Chile is from other countries in Latin America.