Immersive research in an unbeatable setting April 29, 2022

By (Environmental Studies, College of Saint Benedict and Saint Johns University) - abroad from 01/20/2022 to 04/19/2022 with

Round River Conservation Studies - Patagonia, Chile Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that field research is a challenging, yet charming endeavor. I gained a deep understanding of local plants and animals. I learned how to put myself outside of my comfort zone when faced with strong communication barriers. I learned how to cooperate with a small group of people for an extended period of time. I gained valuable skills for a career in conservation biology. Yes, very worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Round River's Patagonia program is perfect for any student interested in a career in conservation. An array of meaningful research projects forms the foundation of the program. The research projects we conducted contribute to continued conservation efforts in the region. One of the projects, for example, formed a baseline study of a Huemul deer population dynamics (an endangered and emblematic species) in a new sector of Patagonia National Park. Traditional classwork (readings, papers, assignments) makes up a comparatively small portion of the academic experience, as our energy is directed at doing research. If you are looking for an opportunity to gain research skills in a unique setting, this is the perfect program. If you are looking to be buried in books all day, learning the intricacies of evolutionary theory, this is the wrong program.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program instructors were amazing. Plenty of roadblocks to research presented themselves, due to the remote setting of the work, difficult weather, and working with local partners. The instructors navigated these problems with ease.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Be aware that you will be living in tents almost exclusively for 3 months. We slept in hostel beds for 5 nights in total.

* Food:

Despite living remotely, we ate quite well! At basecamp there is access to a town and markets. For the most part, we decided and cooked the meals we ate. Be prepared for a lot of bread, cheese, root vegetables, and eggs. We also ate a healthy share of goat and lamb.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Cultural integration was inconsistent, but overall a strong aspect of the program. Of course, cultural integration is weak when we are on a 7 day backpacking trip. However, one of the highlights of the trip was a week-long homestay with a family that lived on a rural ranch. It was an immersive experience of communicating across a strong language barrer (they spoke only Spanish) and being actively incorporated into a unique culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not personally have any health issues. Some friends did have some issues and I know they were addressed well.

* Safety:

The instructors were trained in wilderness first aid and made it clear that safety was a priority. The town we were based out of was small (3,000 people) and I never felt threatened. There were steep slopes, cliffs, and instances of poor weather while we were backpacking. There is some inherent danger in this, but as long as you use common sense, you'll be fine.

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

The program was built for students interested in conservation biology. It was a great combination of meaningful research, academic inspiration, cultural immersion, and personal growth.


* 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)

All food and expenses are paid for by the program. I spent $250 in total over the 3 months, mostly on snacks, alcohol, and souvenirs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $15 on average. Some weeks I spent nothing.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? For this trip in particular, bring a set amount of money in cash to use over the course of the trip. I started with $200 and took out an extra $50.


* 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

Foreign language was not a primary component of the program. some classmates had no Spanish experience and still had a great trip. The amount of Spanish you speak is a decision you make for yourself. Despite language not being a required component, there are great opportunities to learn if you make an effort. I learned more in my week-long homestay than in a semester of class.

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? 4 years of Spanish in high school
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Learning how to understand regional dialects. The biggest challenge I faced was gaining an ear for the accent.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* 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?
  • Being immersed in the landscape through research
  • Academics oriented around local issues
  • Cultural interactions
* What could be improved?
  • Pre-trip communication
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • More encouragement to use Spanish
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The program is not as remote as I had anticipated. When stationed at basecamp, we had electricity, a bathroom, a simple kitchen, a small cabin to eat an do research in, and access to a town with food and supplies. Backcountry living is still a strong aspect of the program, so be prepared to live in sometimes uncomfortable conditions when on research expeditions (no toilet, camp stoves, etc.).