Chile: The Hidden Pearl of the Pacific Past Review

By (Political Science; Spanish, Wellesley College) for

SIT Study Abroad: Chile - Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience was definitely worth it, and I only wish I could've extended it to a full year.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload is fairly manageable. However, you are required to do a significant amount of writing in Spanish, but the professors allow for second drafts, and the grading is completely fair, if not incredibly understanding. You are taught by actual Chilean professors who work at the local universities, and they are absolutely spectacular. In my class (the group of 24 American university students were divided into 4 different levels of Spanish fluency) the professor directed discussion so that it was thought-provoking and deepened out understanding of Chilean culture and way of life. Because SIT is a very hands-on program, the excursions we took into Santiago and into Temuco also enhanced the overall academic value of the program (although the amount of follow-up discussion was frustrating).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Since the program's coordinators are Chilean, their knowledge and ability to navigate Chile's cultures and norms are excellent as natives. Overall, they are very efficient and dedicated to the students, making themselves available all the time. During orientation they give you a business card-sized list of all their phone numbers and information in case to contact them of an emergency. The only complaint that I would submit (and this is from my personal point of view) is concerning the academic director, who accompanied half the group on our 2-week excursion to Temuco, and was not very engaged in interacting with the students and did not know how to deal with students who had problems with their host families in a supportive way.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

The program is pretty good about placing students with families who are considerate of their dietary restrictions. Food is also pretty cheap, and there are street vegetable/fruit markets every day of the week that offers fresh produce. There are also supermarkets readily available as well.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We went to the Museum of Memory and a Memorial Park for the Disappeared (desparecidos) in Santiago. We also took a 2-week excursion to either Temuco (south) or Arica (north) depending on which trip you opted for.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Valparaíso is not a city where you can roam around alone at night. You do need friends with you, and you should always be aware of your surroundings, for thieves/pick pocketers always target foreigners. The program gives you an emergency whistle and all the emergency contact numbers during orientation and the staff makes themselves personally available to you.

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

Finances

* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent around $30 on food/personal expenses during the week (food - and alcohol - is very cheap).
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? During my time there, I had an allergic reaction to flea bites and it resulted in a good ~$200 worth of medical bills that I was not expecting. It was an unexpected skin allergy that I didn't know I had. The only thing I can recommend is come prepared with hydrocortisone cream and be prepared to be sick at one point or another but not to let it ruin your experience.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish Oral and Written Communication (the minimum in order to go abroad)
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

The program has made me casi fluida in Spanish! When you're completely immersed into the culture (the host family plays a huge part in this), you just absorb so much more than you would if you were among other American students living in a dorm. Some students even reported that they began dreaming in Spanish.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The staff
  • The men ;)
  • The culture
* What could be improved?
  • The food