An environmental science major's study abroad dream: Round River Patagonia Past Review

By (SUNY - Binghamton) - abroad from 01/22/2020 to 04/15/2020 with

Round River Conservation Studies - Patagonia, Chile Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so many things! From improving my Spanish to understanding the implications behind conservation management decisions, there really is so much to learn with Round River. Most importantly, I learned so much about the world at large and my place within it, as I would definitely consider my time worthwhile,

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.

Round River absolutely nailed the academics! All of the courses and curriculum are very discussion-oriented but still manage to convey very specific pieces of information that you may only learn in a lecture setting. The amount of curriculum is just perfect, as it certainly challenged me while also allowing me to learn from the other experiences of studying abroad (culture, travel, language, etc.).The instructors are excellent sources of knowledge and conversation while also being there to be your friend as well.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All of the instructors/program administrators I met and interacted with while on my program acted in the most professional, positive manner. Instructors ensured that we were learning at an adequate pace while also ensuring our mental and physical safety along the way. I happened to study abroad in the spring of 2020, which also happened to unfortunately overlap with the corona virus pandemic. I was unbelievably impressed by how our instructors handled themselves and our group before, during, and after the evacuation process. Not to mention that they have all become life long friends.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was very satisfied with the living arrangements! However, just because I was satisfied does not mean the average person will be. NOTE: students spend almost the entire program sleeping in tents on sleeping pads and sleeping bags with only a few nights over the three months duration of the program being spent in an actual bed. The program takes you to some unbelievably beautiful, powerful, and inspiring locations, and thus requires its participants to be comfortable with sleeping in tents. If you are seeking a really wild adventure that may push you outside of your comfort zone (in a positive way), then this program is for you! But if you've never slept a night in a tent prior to the program start date, then it may not be for you.

* Food:

Participants are given the responsibility of deciding what to eat and making the food, so the food is really as good as you want it to be! I personally really enjoyed the independence that came with the food system the program had established. Be aware that since many of the program's days are spent far in the field backpacking or camping, food options are often limited to what the group can carry in their backpacks (weight, volume, perishability).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

If there is any aspect about study abroad programs where Round River truly shines above all others, it is their integration of participants into local culture. I feel like half of the things I learned during my time with Round River was simply from our opportunities to interact with the locals of Patagonia.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I (fortunately) did not have any experiences with the healthcare in rural Chile while on my program. Round River definitely works very hard to ensure the full mental and physical safety of all of its participants. However, simply due to the nature of the activities that students participate in (backpacking, primitive camping) while on the program, it comes with its obvious risks. With also being in a very rural part of Chile, access to top notch health care is not as accessible as in other parts of the country or other countries in general. There is a very small hospital in town the program is based out of. Round River definitely makes all students aware of these risks prior to their participation and actively aims to manage/calculate risk while out in the field.

* Safety:

I feel completely safe at all points throughout the program. To reiterate, the nature of the program comes with its associated risks, but Round River works very hard to manage all of these risks and minimize them as much as possible.

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

As a smaller third party study abroad provider, Round River provided me with the intimate and powerful opportunities to engage and learn that I know larger providers could never do. Whether it be interaction with locals and their culture, learning so much more about conservation than I did before, or simply seeing some beautiful places, Round River just can't be beat.


* 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 to attend the program I would say is somewhere between middle-of-the road and on the higher end of most people's budgets. However, while you are on the program, there is very few opportunities to spend money as you spend most of your time in a rural town in Chilean Patagonian. Food and housing is included in your program costs, so really the only things you yourself are actually responsible for paying for while on the program is any extra food/drink you may want and souvenirs. Besides the cost of the program (which was still very manageable), I would consider this program fairly cheap!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $20
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? It can be tough to resist buying the whole grocery store when coming back from a 14 day backpacking and camping trip, but I promise you that if you limit yourself in even the littlest of way you will definitely save a dollar or two!


* 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

All of the courses are taught in English. However, future participants must realize that you will be spending a majority of your time in a small town in a foreign country where its inhabitants only speak Spanish and not a lick of English. Since all matters occurring within the program will be dealt with in English, students that only know English can definitely get by (me included), but it is definitely helpful and a little bit more educational to know some Spanish.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? High school Spanish
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? Although it is intimidating, full immersion seemed to be a really effective form of practice for me!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
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?
  • Interaction with the culture and people of Pataognia.
  • Active engagement in research with real-world implications.
  • Meeting amazing people that I know I'll keep in touch with for a long, long time.
* What could be improved?
  • The academics are very specialized towards environmental science/conservation majors and may be difficult if a participant does not have an educational background in these topics.
  • Having a couple more opportunities to sleep in a bed would have been nice!
  • This program comes with very little connection to the outside world. I enjoyed the lack of contact, but I just wish I was informed of its absence prior to participating.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program is not for creatures of comfort! It involved live research in more harsh, but believably rewarding natural environments. Definitely be aware that you will be sleeping 70+ nights in a tent, and some of those nights will be wet, cold, and windy. If you're looking for a life adventure where you also learn a whole lot about yourself and the greater world, this is the program for you.

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.