Arica Siempre Arica Past Review

By (Neurobiology and Neurosciences., Mount Holyoke College) - abroad from 08/26/2014 to 12/08/2014 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience abroad was incredible. I completely fell in love with Chile and with learning in Chile. I learned so much about what I was interested and how to interact and be independent in a completely new culture.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

While this program is not academically rigorous in the sense that you're doing a ton of work and always studying, we were always in the process of learning about new topics on health care, challenging our thought processes and thinking in Spanish. I learned a ton about how different health care systems are structured and was able to learn more by asking questions of our professors and interacting as actively as possible. There is an incredible amount to learn on this program. The excursions to other areas of Chile and health center visits keep you thinking and engaged with new material all the time. The independent study period is unmatched in what it has to offer!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

We had some weird interactions with our program coordinator and there were some misunderstandings that escalated, but the homestay coordinator and assistant director were always helpful and supportive.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living with a host family is hard, especially if you're not used to being in other people's spaces but I loved my host family and got along really well with them. They were incredibly welcoming and always made space for me in their home and activities. I had my own room and bathroom. For the most part, everyone on our program was happy with their host families.

* Food:

Chilean food is not very exciting, be prepared to eat a lot of meat and rice and potatoes without too much seasoning. There is also a lot of fried/fast food. I can't eat gluten and I didn't have too hard of a time finding food to eat. The program coordinators are great about food restrictions on excursions and always had a ton of snacks everyone could eat. My host family was well prepared by the program about what things I could or could not eat. My host mom even made me gluten free pizza one night when the rest of the family was eating pizza!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Being integrated is all up to how much you put into your experience. I spent a lot of time with my host family and interacting with people in stores and in the centro so I felt very Chilean by the end of my time there. If you make an effort to speak in Spanish and listen to people you'll feel a lot less like an outsider. Talk to taxi drivers, go to local events (Arica is small but there are definitely things to do) and don't spend all your time in large groups with the other Americans on your program.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have any experiences with healthcare, but Chile is generally one of the safer Latin American country when it comes to food or water born illnesses. You just have to be careful with where and what you eat and give your stomach some time to adjust to new environments! Chile has a pretty comprehensive public health care system but the wait of care can be long. Students always have access to the private care and someone from the program accompanies you to help you navigate it.

* Safety:

Arica is a small city so it's pretty safe. The neighborhoods the students are housed in are near la Universidad de Tarapaca so they are safer than other neighborhoods further away from the centro. There is a lot of catcalling from men, especially if you're a woman walking in a group with other women but I still felt safe walking at night with other students. I never had anything stolen, but there were some thefts that happened to other students, during an independence day party down near the port, mostly when students were drinking and not paying attention to their belongings. Be smart and you'll be fine.

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)

The program gives you money for food during excursions as well as a stipend for housing/food during the independent study project. All your meals during your homestay are taken care of so it's easy to live very cheaply if you spend a lot of money on eating out. Chile isn't as cheap as other Latin American countries but it is cheaper than Europe and you won't have a lot of weekly costs because everything is taken care of by the program.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 20 USD?
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Put your money into experiences and travel! The less you spend on going out at night or eating out a lot the more you can spend on having adventures!


* 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

All classes and program interactions are in 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? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate
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 SPANISH. A lot of people on our program were really stubborn about speaking in english and never practicing Spanish when we were all together. The only way your language skills are going to improve are if you use them a lot. Watch movies and listen to music in Spanish, have conversations with other Chileans and practice.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
* 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?
  • Learning experiences
  • Traveling
  • independent research period
* What could be improved?
  • More interactions with Chilean Students
  • Program administration
  • some lecturers
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had been less afraid of making my fellow program students speak in Spanish when we were all together, it's hard to improve if you're always speaking english.

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.