Although I had a few health issues, my time overall in Chile was amazing. I grew so much as a student, woman, global citizen, and social worker.
For future study abroad students or travelers, Chile offers a wide range of adventures. Across the country are numerous natural wonders: the Atacama Desert, National Parks, Andes Mountain and the Island of Rapa Nui. Within the city of Santiago, there is the shopping center and tallest building in Latin America, Sky Costanera ( 984 ft).
It is easy to navigate with the metro and micros (buses) running 7 days a week. Although I’m not a city girl, I enjoyed the convenience of living in the central area. As for the food, local bakeries sell the best fresh baked bread early in the morning, but if your looking for a kick of spice in your food it will be difficult to find it here. In addition to the beautiful scenery and rich diversity, Chileans are welcoming. The Chilean slang and accent may take time to understand, but I found most locals to be patient and kind.
I was highly impressed with the IES Santiago program. The first week they had an all encompassing orientation that covered safety, personal care, cultural transition, living in a new environment, academic expectations, and navigating the city. The director and staff were extremely welcoming and accommodating. The professor highly intelligent and respected. I enjoyed interacting with all staff on a professional and personal level. Throughout the semester they created interactive lessons trips to help us learn and experience Chile. As well, the program provided the opportunity to travel and uniquely experience Chile.
When I had difficulty keeping up with the class schedule due to illness, my professors were understanding and graceful. The staff was always open to feedback and good at communication. Another plus for students worried about the commute to school, the IES building is within one street of the main metro stop.
When I began my study abroad semester a few months later, I was ignorant to the social, political, and economic climate of Chile. I was prepared for a study abroad experience that taught me about Chilean culture. Although that was true, I was furthermore inspired to be globally conscious and informed. Similar to what I learned in my blog, It’s More Than Me… I have been challenged to think critically about society and my place in it.
Now that I am back in Holland, Michigan, I cherish my time in Chile and will continue to explore my new passions. I have set up goals to keep my Spanish fluency. First, my daily devotionals are in Spanish. Secondly, I fell in love with worshiping and praying in Spanish and now attend a Spanish church. Third, I have found sources to stay updated on international news.
I am grateful to have accomplished my goals: dancing the Cueca, making empanadas, and hiking. Plus I had the opportunity to advocate for myself and learn Spanish in challenging contexts. I highly recommend the IES Abroad Santiago program to students looking for an adventure. My experience with IES challenged my character and Spanish proficiency.