Mi Vida en Viña: An Amazing, Immersive Semester in Chile Past Review

By (Rhodes College) - abroad from 07/27/2019 to 12/10/2019 with

API (Academic Programs International): Vina del Mar - Universidad Adolfo Ibanez

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Studying abroad with API in Chile helped me challenge the United States-centric narrative of the continent America that I had internalized, and absolutely upset my conceptions of democracy, capitalism, and political protest as I lived the Chilean people's revolutionary social unrest. I am also incredibly more confident in myself, not only in my ability to be strong and independent and flexible, but also my ability to handle difficult, unexpected, and sometimes scary situations and still make the right decisions. As well, I gained lasting friendships, cross-cultural competency, and Spanish fluency (including business Spanish) that will be an amazing asset in my career.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

My coursework was engaging and interesting - I took 5 classes at the local Universidad Adolfo Ibanez (UAI), 3 in Spanish and 2 in English, but all with other international students. Although sometimes the periods were long, the professors were clearly passionate about their subjects and were on top of teaching international students with varying levels of Spanish and knowledge about Chile. Studying at UAI also gave me a fantastic opportunity to get to know other students outside of the API program itself.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

API also provides a program that is incredibly well-supported - the resident on-site coordinator for the program is the nicest, most helpful, and knowledgeable person on the planet, and she genuinely cares about each and every student. She quickly answered every question I ever had, and checked in regularly with each student, plus the orientation she provided was comprehensive and helpful. As well, she led many fun, fascinating group excursions and trips for the API students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a comfortable, centrally-located apartment with a retired Chilean grandmother as my host mom for the duration, and it was fantastic. The room was a little small, but perfectly serviceable, and I had it to myself.

* Food:

I'm Celiac, and was worried about the availability of gluten-free food options while abroad, but my host mom cooked all of my meals without a problem - and they were delicious! So is traditional Chilean food, by the way - empanadas, completos, lomo a lo pobre, sopaipillas, pebre, pastel de choclo, alfajores...try them all.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with a host family was key to helping me get integrated into the local culture, as my host mom and I shared meals together and discussed all current events and happenings, plus I got to know her family. It was harder to get connected to other Chileans my age, as there was a pretty big divide between international students and Chilean students at my university, but an "exchange buddies" program run by Chilean students did help.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I got sick once while in Viña with API, and the resident director helped me navigate the Chilean health system as well as insurance (which was easy to get reimbursement for), even to the point of taking me to the doctor herself. The local healthcare system is convoluted and difficult to navigate alone, but she knew the ins and outs and I didn't have any problems at all, thanks to API. I got the typhoid vaccine for Chile, and as I planned to (and did) travel to other Latin American countries while abroad, I needed the yellow fever vaccine, too.

* Safety:

Viña del Mar is very safe, even in the early hours of the morning or late at night. It's actually far safer than many US cities as far as violent and armed crime goes, but there are more instances of petty thievery, so I just had to be aware and careful with all of my belongings, e.g. not having my phone out while walking. There was civil unrest and protests that occurred while I was abroad, and some of those turned violent, but API and the resident director did very good, proactive jobs of keeping us informed, prepared, and safe in the difficult situation.

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


* 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)

The Chilean cost of living is surprisingly high for a Latin American country, so expenses were more than I expected, but not unmanageable.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100-$150
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Save your money for experiences, especially ones that you can't get at home, instead of spending it on physical things.


* 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

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? SPAN 315
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? Take courses consistently, and practice with native speakers!

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?
  • Resident director support
  • Home stay, food included
  • API student group trips/excursions
* What could be improved?
  • Connections with other Chilean university students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That being flexible and vulnerable with your abroad experience will be hard, and that going abroad is going to put you in difficult situations - but that that's necessary, because that's where your growth (and the fun!) comes from.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.