Once en Conce: Surrealism realized and the privilege to check my privilege Past Review

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 02/27/2019 to 07/15/2019 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Concepcion

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained an immense amount of respect for migrants and the things that they go through when making a new life in a foreign country - and if I can even say that what I experienced counted as xenophobia, my experience isn't even a fraction of what some immigrants deal with, but I have gained the tiniest amount of insight into those feelings of alienation and otherness. I also learned the ways of life of another country, some of the intricacies of their history and how those have contributed to the current state of affairs and molded the nation, both in the physical landscapes, infrastructure, and city layouts as well as the perspectives and perceptions of the people. That kind of mind-opening was more than worth the adjustment period and negative moments - truthfully, I recognize that those negative moments were the price to pay for that small bit of enlightenment, but I feel (even if only slightly) more knowledgeable and more empathetic towards those I don't know or don't agree with, and I feel like this experience has helped me continue to be open-minded toward others and learn from them.

Review Photos

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Concepcion Photo Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Concepcion Photo Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Concepcion Photo Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Concepcion 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.

The educational system in Chile is, evidently, much less structured than what I'm used to at my home university, and this made it disorienting and frustrating when it came to coursework. Additionally, the frequent student strikes and suspension of classes aren't something that gets communicated to international students (or, at least, not to me), and I was left very confused about one of my classes whose department was paralyzed for over a month and whose professor wasn't very motivated to work with me independently to try to make up the class time I was missing. In terms of the difficulty/rigor of the courses themselves, I found the majority of them sufficiently challenging and interesting. However, the classroom environment was not ideal, with a good number of students talking to each other or using their phones during practically the entirety of class, which was a significant disruption in one of my classes that the professor, despite his nagging and warning and outbursts, was unable to keep in check. This only added to the difficulty of being able to understand the professor when I had to try to hear him over a bunch of other conversations going on in the back half of the classroom. I found the students lacking in respect toward their professors, not even feigning paying attention or following the rules, and also lacking in motivation with regard to their schoolwork - this did end up negatively affecting me because most of the assignments given by professors were group reports and other projects, so I ended up having to carry the entire group in a few instances with no way of communicating this to the professor(s) because everyone else waited until the last second to "do their part." Despite the negativity, I regard this experience as valuable in that it opened my eyes to the positive aspects of my home university and has given me a newfound appreciation for the system that I am used to.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The Middlebury Program directors were extremely proactive and took concern in each student, which gave me a good support network during my time in an unfamiliar environment.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I really loved my host family and got along pretty well with them, and excluding some tensions with my host brother, I really enjoyed the experience. Living so far from the campus, however, could be inconvenient at times, since I predominantly traveled between the university and my home via public transport, but it was manageable.

* Food:

I'm vegan, and despite not having any dietary restrictions themselves, my host family did an amazing job accommodating my needs.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I didn't make a concerted effort to really engage with my Chilean classmates, so I didn't get to experience much of the Chilean university student life. I also frequently felt like my being from the United States and others knowing that kind of set me apart from people; in a few instances, I felt like they drew unreasonable attention to that fact, and in doing so made me feel very consciously like a foreigner.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had a bout of illness a week or so into the program but didn't seek medical treatment as it resolved on its own.

* Safety:

I didn't feel unsafe for a second - I'd gotten lost and ended up in unfamiliar parts of the city in the middle of the night a couple times, and I frequently found myself downtown once it had gotten dark, but I never feared for my safety or worried that someone would rob me or had any run-ins with suspicious people. I tried to stay relatively cautious about my valuables, but in general I always felt very safe.

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

I really got to love Concepcion, and the Middlebury Program was well-organized and -coordinated, so I would choose it again. However, I can't say I would choose to study at the Universidad de Concepcion again - but I hear it's among the best in the country, and it being centralized (i.e., having a campus where all the academic buildings are located together) really sets it apart from most of the other universities in Chile.


* 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 rent was the most difficult expense, but luckily I'd had enough saved up to be able to cover it for the duration of the semester. Apart from that, I'd say I spent about the same on a weekly/monthly basis as I do typically at my home university.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $15-20/week (on food beyond what the family provided for me and public transport)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Try to save up the best you can before you go abroad, and take into account public transportation costs, especially if you depend on a personal vehicle where you live.


* 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

The Middlebury Language Pledge is a promise to only speak the target language with other people while in the host country, except in case of emergency.

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? SPAN0380
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? Whatever content you most consume, try to find a way to consume it in the target language. If you like music, look up artists from the country where you want to study or listen to bands that sing in that language. If you like watching Netflix or YouTube, find movies or shows or content creators that use that language. If you like reading, search notable authors from the host country - the list is endless.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • I enjoyed being able to apply this knowledge that I've been building on for the past ten years (that is, learning Spanish) and being able to learn from real-life contexts and native speakers. (I even liked having my preconceived notions and previously-taught understanding challenged and flipped on its head through merely listening to people's conversations.)
  • I loved the city that I got to study in - if I had gone through another program, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to that particular city (or other smaller cities, likely), and I really fell in love with Concepcion.
* What could be improved?
  • I think there could be more support from the program for students during registration, since the host university somewhat lacks in that department, and also when strikes and paralizations occur.
  • I would say there should be more support options for students having a hard time with culture shock, but it's probably mostly on me for not reaching out to my program when I was struggling, so I don't know if this is necessarily a valid suggestion.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that they'd talked about public transport more and that students might need to rely heavily on it (and thus budget accordingly) - this is especially important for students who don't come from places that have good transport or who generally use personal vehicles to travel around.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Society & Environment & Environmental Conflicts

Course Department: Environmental Sciences
Instructor: Robinson Torres
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This class discussed different sociological theories around the environment and investigated relevant conflicts in the country between local peoples and exploitative industries. We did have the opportunity to go on a day trip to the proposed site of an incredibly invasive and destructive dam in the neighboring region and hear the stories of the people who were being forcibly evicted to enable the project. The professor was very passionate about the topic and, despite arriving a little late to class, dove right into the material; he was very knowledgeable and well-spoken on the subject, even if I sometimes had a hard time understanding him because of the Chilean accent. We didn't have very many assignments (one short report on our field trip and one partner presentation during the semester, then a longer final group paper), and the two exams were a little on the difficult side - I personally found them too specific, asking questions to see if we remembered particular details rather than important concepts. However, my main gripe with the class, which can't even be considered a fault of the class itself, was my classmates' disrespect and lack of interest in the material or in university responsibilities in general. Trying to learn in that kind of environment got to be a bit frustrating and disheartening, but overall I would say that the positive elements of the class outweighed the negative.
Credit Transfer Issues: