The Best Time of My Life: A Semester in Vina del Mar, Chile Past Review

By (Bryant University) - abroad from 07/08/2020 to 12/06/2020 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Beyond completing my goals to improve my spanish speaking skills and to travel the world, I gained so much more than I expected. I learned a lot about myself and who I am as a person. I learned about the complexity and power in Chilean history and culture. I made so many friends, and even more life-long memories. I gained a family (my host family). I made business connections with my internship in Valparaiso. I don't think there is one thing I didn't gain throughout my semester. It was 100% worthwhile.

Review Photos

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

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

In terms of rigor and intensity, the classes at Universidad de Adolfo Ibanez (UAI) allocated for international students, did not have a heavy work load in comaprison to what I was used to back home. That being said, however, you have the choice to take classes with Chilean students which are of course, much more difficult and immersive. I enjoyed taking classes with other international students. Although we didn't have a lot of homework, the classes were extremely engaging and thought provoking; the professors were some of the best I've ever had in my life. Not only were they some of the most knowledgeable people I've ever met, they were the most caring and enthusiastic teachers. They cared so much about not just the coursework and material, they cared about our well being and our overall abroad experiences. Their courses were about the "big picture" the "WHY" of everything we would learn. I am still in touch with my professors today because I saw them as mentors and great friends.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

API provides the greatest on-site program coordinator in the world. Our RD was always there for us. She is so caring, so easy to talk to with any concerns, and so helpful. Our coordinator was like our mom away from home, and it would make my day seeing her around town at our favorite local cafe. API does a great job in easing the transition abroad for students through things like orientation, group excursions, and fun outings around the town. I always felt comfortable in our group and with our RD and I think they add a special component to your abroad experience.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in an apartment with a middle aged stay at home mom, in the most convenient location in town, ever. Of course, living with a host family is intimidating, but I am confident that living where I did MADE my experience that much greater. I bonded so much with my host mom and the rest of her family who would come to visit for long lunches. We would go to the movies, go to the lunch, and go shopping together, but at the same time she knew when to give me my space. We have the greatest relationship, and still talk all of the time. I lived so close to the beach, the supermarket, and all of the cutest shops, bars, and restaurants. I absolutely loved my housing arrangement.

* Food:

Chilean food was not at all what I expected, but that made me love it that much more. My host mom was a baker and she would make the most delicious desserts after already making amazing lunches and dinners. I love all food, so nothing she made scared me, and everything was so good. Going out, I fell in love quickly with traditional Chilean dishes as well. Vina del Mar has so many amazing restaurants, many great Chilean ones as well as your typical pizza or burger place if you're missing the taste of home.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I was really happy that my university sent me with a group of students through API on this study abroad experience. I think that being with other students from my school and/or from API allowed me to get comfortable and not have to go through this transition alone. Living with my host mom was also a huge part of feeling integrated with the local culture. She taught me so much about Chile: the language, the people, the places and the history. She was always able to give me advice and suggestions when it came to travelling, meeting new people, and finding fun things to do. There were also a lot of great opportunities with UAI that allowed me to make lifelong friends. Around campus and nightlife outings allowed me to make great friends and learn so much more about Chile.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I personally didn't have any experiences with healthcare while abroad. I got sick a couple of times, but it was nothing I couldn't handle. Still, my coordinator was great, and she made sure to check on me and was ready to help if my cold ever got any worse.

* Safety:

Viña del Mar is a very safe city, even at night. I never felt like I was in danger even with the social unrest and protests that broke out in the middle of my semester. Even still, API did a great job with making sure we were all safe, and informed of everything going on in Chile and at home during that time. It was a difficult situation, but I think our resident director did an amazing job in keeping us safe. The only thing I had to get used to was the threat of pick-pockets and thievery. It's easy to avoid if you're always looking out. Keep you belongings away in a handbag and do not walk around with your phone out, and you'll be fine. You just have to keep an eye out at all times.

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

Studying abroad in Chile was the most amazing and transformative experiences of my entire life. I would choose Chile 1000 times over if I could.


* 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 cost of living in Chile is much higher than I had expected. It's pretty close, if not more expensive than living in the U.S. I came with about $4,000 which I thought would be gone before the halfway mark of my semester. I learned quickly how to budget, and what was really worth spending money on, and I somehow was able to make that money last me my entire semester...and that was WITH going on a trip every weekend of the semester! It's all about how you budget it.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $200-$300, not including excursions and travels
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Save your money for weekend trips and excursions! Chile is the most beautiful and adventurous country I've ever been to, and you won't want to miss one bit of it. Budget your meals and nightlife during the week, and don't waste your money on material things. Take advantage of the public transportation and the meals your host family provides for you. Do all of this so you have the money to go on a trip and see the country on a long weekend with your friends.


* 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

Chilean spanish is unlike any spanish I'd ever heard in my life. It was daunting and seemed impossible at first, but I'm so glad I learned it! If you're comfortable with Chilean spanish, you'll be comfortable with any other spanish forever! English was not easily accessible, and so speaking spanish was extremely engouraged, and really necessary to getting by day to day. That made learning spanish that much easier.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
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? Spanish 401
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? Don't be afraid to speak the language. Many times, when another english speaker was around, I would get lazy and take a break from spanish. If I could do it all over again, I'd try to practice my spanish even more. I learned so much when I would speak with my host mom and my Chilean friends. It's scary, but the only way you learn is through actually talking with people and practicing! Also, watching my netflix shows in Spanish was a huge help and I learned a lot, even when I felt like I was just relaxing!

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

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • 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?
  • Host family experience
  • Internship
  • Resident director/API excursions
* What could be improved?
  • Integration with local students and community
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It won't be easy, but it will be 100% worth it. I had no idea how much I would learn about myself, others, and the world around me in one short semester. I learned so much about independence and dependence, and the importance of being able to handle things on your own and being able to have a shoulder to lean on when you need it. One of my professors at UAI explained being abroad as being in the eye of a storm: you are constantly being wrapped in the craziness of a new language and a new culture, and you constantly have to break out of your comfort zone...but you grow so much as a person through that. You become more compassionate, more understanding, more knowledgeable, and more open to challenges and trying new things.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'