Cachai? Learning the Ins and Outs of the Gem of the Pacific Past Review

By (Anthropology/Sociology, International and Global Studies, Brandeis University) - abroad from 02/26/2013 to 06/10/2013 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that when things get hard, the best thing is to keep going and put yourself as deeply in the thick of things as possible. I realized that I could have observed Chile and my host family or I could jump in, make a lot of mistakes, but also get so much more out of it. This program was incredibly worthwhile and special. I feel so much more secure in my ability to succeed in all sorts of situations and challenges.

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 academic classes do not require a lot of intensive outside work, however, the last month of independent research is incredibly time consuming and rigorous.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff and directors of this program are incredible. They work hard to get to know each student, always check in to make sure everything is okay, and run the program smoothly and efficiently. The directors are always dependable and go above and beyond to help each student.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

This program is a host family experience, and SIT works hard to match you with the right family fit. I am so thrilled with my host family and love them like my own.

* Food:

Food in Chile is hit or miss. A lot of the food here is really bland and bread is available and eaten at every meal. However, I am a vegetarian and the program was incredibly accommodating with both of my home stay experiences and for every restaurant experience I've had with the group.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I feel very much a part of the family and a part of the culture here. Valparaiso feels like home.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare here has been tricky because the hours to see a doctor are not as simple and accessible as in the US. I have gone to the doctor here 3 times for various things and have received the help I needed, but with a lot of bureaucracy.

* Safety:

It is more or less very safe in Valparaiso. You have to be careful not to carry a lot of money or important things with you, as petty theft is a problem. Walking around alone at night isn't a good idea either, but it's the same type of precautions that a student would take in their home city.

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


* 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)

Three meals a day are provided for you by the host family and it is possible to only eat at home and be well taken care of. I spent money because I chose to eat out, get icecream, or sit at a cafe, but it is possible not to spend any money during the week. Bars and drinking are not very expensive either. All travel expenses are also taken care of by the program fee.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I probably spent around $30 a week, unless I left the city and travelled elsewhere in the country, then I spent much more.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Eat at home as much as possible.


* 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

We were encouraged to only speak Spanish for the entirety of our program, however, the students' desire to do this fluctuated throughout the semester.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
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? HISP 111
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? Continue to speak Spanish even when with your American friends. Also, whenever on the street or in public it's much safer and a great opportunity to speak only in Spanish. Making Chilean friends also really helps to practice.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
  • 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?
  • Host Family
  • Valparaíso as a city
  • ISP period
* What could be improved?
  • More Spanish classes
  • more cohesiveness between academic lectures
  • longer semester
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The best way to improve your Spanish is just to talk. Talk to everybody. They can see you're a gringo and they understand you will make mistakes. My biggest regret is that I was too quiet in the beginning because I was insecure about my Spanish. Just talk- you will see yourself improving much more rapidly this way.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'