Viva la vida: Focus on what matters, friends, and family. <3 Past Review

By (Neurobiology and Neurosciences., Trinity University) - abroad from 02/24/2014 to 06/09/2014 with

SIT Study Abroad: Chile - Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to relax and value what is actually important in life. Chileans have a way of investing their time in things that are actually important, like food and family. I had the opportunity to make many close and wonderful chilean friends and to travel with them and visit their homes and families after the program, and from them I learned how to treat people well and express love for those you care about. As a society, Chileans are very impressive in their level of care for individuals. I wouldn't change my experience for the world, and I am aiming to visit later this year to catch up with Chilean friends made while abroad.

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 city of Arica is very relaxing and slower-paced and it is a nice break in academics. The program was intense in terms of experiences rather than information. The week-long travel trips can get intense because there are a lot of sites to view and long days. The resources were modest, yet sufficient. The overall educational experience was great and I appreciate having the opportunity to share and learn with my study abroad group. One difference is the classroom is very "the professor has the final say," so students who enjoy discussion and hearing many perspectives, may find themselves disengaged from classroom material.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Program well organized but often miscommunications because students were in process of learning Spanish and all matters were conducted in Spanish.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Chilean host family was great, probably the best part of the program. All students have a host family and the families were very welcoming and invested a lot of time in their guests. Chilean culture is very welcoming and I would recommend a home stay for anyone.

* Food:

Yummmmm! Chileans eat very little breakfast, a huuuuge lunch together then siesta for a few hours mid day, and "Once" which is a late dinner. Don't miss out on the food, it is delicious! (And not everything is processed, so its a very refreshing change of pace).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Chileans, especially in Arica, are very welcoming and curious about America culture because it is a small city with a lot of American influences on the radio and television. The cultural integration is a lot easier than in Europe in my opinion and I've come away with some amazing Chilean friends, possibly more easy going than my American friends. Chileans are easy to talk to about just about anything and it will be a joy if you just put yourself out there, I promise.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had an experience with Chilean emergency rooms and it was easily accessible but the waits are very long (4 hours+) for the Chilean medical visits. There are also at home nurses who come to your home, which is the same price as emergency room yet more convenient. I would choose this option. Program insurance reimburses for medical visits. I sent in reimbursement check and have yet to hear back (1 month ago). Socialized medicine is great and should be a human right, which we lack in America, yet there are always problems with every system. For Chile, it is lack of specialized doctors (esp, in Arica because most move to bigger cities with higher pay, like Santiago) as well as long wait times because everyone has access. Also, socialized medicine does not mean that medical visits are free. They are still expensive.

* Safety:

Safer than some US cities but lots of cat calls from men on the street. However, Chilean night life stays up until 7am, 8am, etc. sometimes so less dangerous late at night than some cities. There were times when people got iPhones stolen, etc. I had many things stolen... just don't be illogical about having expensive items out on the street or leaving valuable items in plain sight.

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)

Arica is pretty affordable. Not too many worries about finances. Plus, the program gives students cash for the Independent Study Period and cash for food at times. Otherwise, the host family fund provides food and housing for student for the term. It is possible to not spend anything, if desired.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $20-30 USD tops. (Weekends at nighclubs/bars/events/markets)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Pay for experiences, rather than objects, because your suitcase has finite space anyway.


* 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

Chileans do not generally speak English as a second language, so you should prepare to get by solely on your Spanish. However, you will progress over the 4 months and by the end, will be basically make-shiftly fluent in Spanish. Your host family will also be a huge help during your fluency process. Expect no English to be spoken, but you will be encouraged all the time to speak Spanish.

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Advanced (10 years of grammar and language classes)
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Speak it. Period. Use your language skills in context and your will develop more language skills as you go. Never speaking or being embarrassed about your speaking to natives is your biggest enemy when learning a language. Native speakers are an asset when learning a language. Speak to them!!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Location: Arica - wonderful place to spend 4 months
  • The people of Arica
  • Independent Study Project
* What could be improved?
  • Classroom dynamic established by professor to her students can be negative at times; students lack authority thus lack self-expression or correctness in eyes of administration
  • Communication sometimes lost between administrators and students when students are just learning Spanish
  • Students are sometimes talked down to and over-monitored (maybe a cultural difference)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Actually studying public health from a book can be very boring because it is the history of the establishment of a health program. Also, I wish I knew that you can purchase a flight to Lima, Peru on Lan Airlines then an in country flight to Tacna, Peru then a bus to Arica, Chile, which is on the border and very close to Tacna.... which all is a lot cheaper than a $2,000+ America Airline airplane ticket. Just make your google search in Spanish rather than English and much better deals will show up!