Patagonia? Yes, Please. November 20, 2022

By (Environmental Science and Sustainability, University of Montana-Missoula) - abroad from 01/25/2022 to 04/19/2022 with

Round River Conservation Studies - Patagonia, Chile Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Completely worthwhile! I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Some parts are tough, but you'll learn a lot about yourself and what you're capable of. I've arrived back to the traditional classroom feeling refreshed and with new appreciation for what aspects of learning really matter. I learned how to cook, live in a group, jump into completely foreign situations, conduct field work, and had the honor of creating a connection with a stunning landscape.

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.

The material was informative and useful to me as an Environmental Science and Sustainability major, yet accessible to those who might have less of a science background. The most valuable lesson I took away was a shift in how I think about school and learning. Everywhere is a classroom. You’re with instructors and classmates 24/7 and the divide between school and life fades. Dinner conversations, hikes, and long drives became opportunities to talk about the surrounding landscape, local issues, and relationship with the environment. This less formal setting was critical for me in letting go of needing the right answer to pass an exam and actually being interested and invested in the world around me.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our instructors did an incredible job handling the constantly evolving plans that are inherent in working with partner organizations. The program coordinator in the US remained in communication with us throughout our time. Round River also did a great job getting us prepared to depart for Chile amid COVID. There were so many forms and requirements that I would otherwise not have been able to navigate on my own.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I've been home for 7 months and have yet to take my comfortable bed for granted. That said, I learned to love how we lived. It may take a little adjusting, but your tent becomes your own oasis. I clearly remember crawling into my sleeping bag two months in, nestling my shoulder away from a familiar lump in the ground that I'd been sleeping next to for several weeks and realizing the familiarity of the ground and a comfort that came with it. Some days you'll wish for a warm house and solid walls, but comfortable experiences aren't known for making great stories. At basecamp we had a quincho (essentially a small cabin) with a sink, fireplace, stove, and tables. This space served as our classroom, kitchen, and living room. There are also flush toilets and showers at basecamp. Showers could be hit or miss with hot water, but still nice to have!

* Food:

Options are slightly limited because Cochrane is remote. However, I left Chile with new cooking skills and creativity. Our group decided to make our own breakfasts and lunches and then have dinner crews that rotated throughout the week. We made a lot of curry, rice, soups, lentils, and always had bread, eggs, and cheese on hand. There were less veggies than I normally have and I missed fresh greens the most. I would recommend bringing some recipes to share and be ready to improvise!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

As a group of Americans we stood out, but we had plenty of opportunities to integrate into local culture. Homestays were an amazing way to learn about traditional Patagonian life. Our instructors also coordinated a Patagonian embroidery workshop, as well as asados at basecamp. One of my favorite things was putting on several days of environmental education field trips for local 5th and 6th graders. This was an awesome way to meet local kids and their parents. If I were to change anything, I would do this earlier because it was a great way to get to know the people we had been seeing around town for the past several months.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have any health issues, but my classmates that did were able to have them handled right away. There is a hospital located 15 minutes away from basecamp.

* Safety:

All of our instructors had WFR training and did an excellent job with risk management. There is inherent danger in the backcountry, but I felt safer than I would on my own. Instructors had InReach devices and sent an "all ok" message to program coordinators everyday we were backpacking. We also had a sat. phone for emergencies.

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

The memories from Patagonia are some of my favorites. I learned so much, spent time with amazing people, and arrived home with new perspectives and confidence.


* 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)

I spent around 250-300 dollars over three months, mostly on snacks. Some weeks I spent nothing.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10-$15
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make a budget so you can enjoy spending money all the way up to the end. It's nice to have a little extra cash at the end for celebrating and buying souvenirs for family.


* 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

I think it would be awesome if Round River took time in the first few weeks to teach some functional Spanish lessons. Like how to properly order items and other basic communication. I knew a little bit of Spanish, but a quick crash course on basics in the context of Chilean culture would have been extremely beneficial.

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? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? College SPN202
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 the time to brush up on basic phrases and vocab. It goes a long way!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Host Family
  • 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 into the lanscape
  • The people
  • New experiences
* What could be improved?
  • Add in a small language component
  • A few more free/rest/recovery days
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? There are a lot of spikey plants in Patagonia! Bring clothes you won't mind getting a few holes in. Let friends and gamily know you'll pretty much be off the grid. Connection is spotty and this takes the pressure off of feeling like you need to connect with them and instead being able to enjoy the moment.

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.