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Una semana en los Estados Unidos…

Time August 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Originally written the day before my flight from Chile to the United States on August 6th, 2012

“Leaving is a strange experience. I left Michigan to come to Chile 6 months ago, I left Chile a month ago to travel to Peru and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and tomorrow I leave Chile yet again to return to Michigan. It is the repeated abandoning of familiarity that I think is interesting, and in some regards very strange. It somewhat resembles a cycle–leaving your comfort space and arriving in an unknown place, only for that unknown place to later become your new comfort space—your reality for the last six months, and leaving again for a place that is now somewhat unknown. Six months may not always appear to be a lot of time, and surely does not always feel like a lot of time, especially as you are on your way to reboard your plane home after a semester abroad, but a lot can happen in six months—a lot of challenges, a lot of experiences, a lot of growth, a lot of change, and a lot of fun.

So as I sit here and look back on this experience it is overwhelming to even try to understand where I should start debriefing. Should I start with my Chilean family, who opened the doors to their home, welcomed me with open arms, but more than that, opened their hearts and family to me and genuinely made me feel as though I was another hija, hermana, or prima? Or should I start with all the trips I went on, in an attempt to discover the “real” Chile and experience its surrounding countries? Should I reveal the breath taking heights of the Andes, the incredible views from the trails of Torres del Paine, the culture of Chiloe, or the stunning reflections in the lagunas of the driest desert in the north of Chile? Should I detail the mind blowing knowledge of the Incas within the 16th century in Peru or talk about the obvious Italian influence in Buenos Aires? Should I talk about the challenges  I experienced speaking a second language from dusk til dawn and the accomplishment I finally felt by the end of it all when I could hold a conversation fairly well in castellano? or should I try to even start to explain the slang of the region of Chile I live in? Cachai weon? como estai? donde vai? sip, ya p’oh, fue la raja, piola, puta la wea, no me wei, BAKAN. Should I talk about the delicious food I ate and new culinary adventures I experienced? Maybe I should talk about the friendships I made, from Chile, Peru, Argentina, the States, Australia, New Zealand, France, Brazil, England, Ireland…people who impacted my life in my travels and probably have no idea they did so? Perhaps I should mention what I learned about the culture within Chile? or the incredible culture of Peru? Should I try to explain how I deeply I miss my family in the States but not necessarily a lot else about the States?

But maybe, maybe I shouldn’t try to explain anything. Maybe I’ve explained enough already, and the rest can only be explained by first-hand experience or through my memories. However, even though my strongest of memories I could never fully convey the experiences I have had. I could never shove everything I’ve lived in the past six months in a quick summary, there’s too much to it.

For me, leaving Chile and South America will be an incredibly bittersweet thing. I am leaving behind my Chilean family and many treasured friendships only to return to the states where I also have my family and many treasured friendships that I have missed, awaiting my return. I am unbelievably thankful for all that Chile is and all I have experienced here, but I am also unbelievably excited to see my family yet again. I know I am young with a lot of time left to explore other parts of the world, and I also know that leaving Chile behind is only an “hasta luego” [until later] or as my group took to saying “hasta siempre” [until always]. I have more time to meet different people, experience new cultures, and many more new things. My heart with always be filled with these memories, and I will never forget these six months of my life.”

I have now been home for a week. Unlike the majority of my group, I traveled an additional 5 weeks after our program ended, so I didn’t arrive at home in the States until last week. I was home one day, then thrust into the full swing weekend party my family was hosting for my grandpa’s 90th birthday. In someways, I feel it was better to be thrust into the love of family back in the States, after leaving the love of a family in Chile, rather then being thrust immediately back into school and homework. Tomorrow I am starting up working again, and in a week from tomorrow, fall classes will start. My adjustment thus far, has not been as brutal as expected but I have had a few sad, “missing Chile” days–and that’s allowed. I know I will always have my memories, and many friends in Chile to communicate with and remind me of all my time spent there. So until I can return, my dear Chile,

 cuídate mucho, no me olvides, y espérame,

porque sin duda voy a volver y verte algún día.

Besito y chau chau pa’ ahora <3


The Driest Place on Earth– the Atacama Desert

Time June 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well this past weekend was yet another adventure. This time, I headed north, to the driest place in the world: the Atacama Desert. We left Wednesday night and slept yet another night in the Santiago airport (that place is starting to feel like home) and had a flight early Thursday morning to Calama. From Calama we took a bus and arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, and were greeted with a lot of sunshine and warmth. While planning this trip and investigating things to do we really wanted to try and do a Jeep tour across the desert to Bolivia, however, once arriving we realized we really didn’t have enough time and that it’d be better to stay in San Pedro and explore what it had to offer—Bolivia would have to wait.

Since we had taken such an early flight, we arrived at our hostel at about mid-day which gave us the whole afternoon to either nap or take our first tour. We opted for the tour! To a laguna where we could swim—well float actually! We signed up for a tour to Laguna Cejar. I’ve never been in water salty enough to float but it is an incredibly interesting feeling. The water was 4x the salinity of ocean water! We watched the sunset over the desert and headed back to our hostel for the night.

The next day we decided to rent bikes and head to a nearby canyon! What a fun day! We spent the day exploring the canyon, finding a tunnel, and swimming in the rivers! Well worth the heat we experienced and the $6.000 it was to rent the bikes.

We decided that instead of spending a ton of money on a tour to the salt flats, we would head to the nearby National Flamingo Park and another laguna, called Laguna altiplanicas. This tour started out really early in the morning—6 am! Especially after the night-before’s asado (Chilean BBQ, but way better!). The sunrise over the mountains with the flamingoes and salt field was incredible! We were surrounded by volcanoes which was awesome and I learned that Chile has nearly 1,500 throughout the country.

The following day we lounged around for the day and visited with our new friends in our hostel. Decided to do an afternoon tour to la valle de la muerte (Valley of the dead..happy place 😉 ) and Valle de la luna… a location that bears resemblance with photos of the Moon’s craters. Lucky for us we were a small group and got to explore a cavern at valle de la muerte and timed the tour perfectly that while we were watching the sunset over valle de la luna we could turn around and watch la luna llena (full moon) rise behind us. What a sight!

We headed back and I have spent the week getting slammed with homework! Chileans do it like there is no homework until the last month of classes. The last month of classes–that alone is crazy! Time to start planning the next trip (Peru…Bolivia…Argentina…anyone?). Anyways, San Pedro was awesome. I was at first hesitant because I wasn’t sure how attractive the desert was as compared to the south but it was incredible to see the variety in Chile and just another type of beauty. The Chileans say Chile is the country where God just plopped everything when he finished the rest of the world!



If Walls Could Speak…

Time May 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

While describing graffiti in NYC Lorraine Wechsler stated, “Graffiti – the term comes from both the Greek term “Graphein” meaning ‘to write’ and the word ‘graffiti’ is plural of the Italian word “Graffito” meaning ‘scratch’ and its history can be dated back to prehistoric cave man wall drawings, it can be seen as a human ‘need’ for communication – “Graffiti represents man’s desire to communicate” []

Man’s desire to communicate is loud and clear from the walls of Valparaiso. I am continually impressed with the natural beauty of this country in all of its parts that I have visited. One thing I have yet to share is some of the beauty I see nearly everyday in Valparaiso. Enjoy!



Chiloe–the island of traditions

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well the fifth weekend of traveling is all done and gone. Lollapalooza, Torres del Paine, La Serena, Mendoza, and the latest, Chiloé and Puerto Varas in the South of Chile yet again, from which I returned this past Wednesday the 2nd of May. It has been a fantastic time, and I have made some great memories that I will never forget! More to come of course—I have decided that studying abroad does a great job of misconstruing your concept of a “real life”—but I guess I can deal with that!

If you were not aware, last Monday was the International Day of Workers (El dia de los trabajadores). Here in Chile, this means we don’t have class and workers don’t work—similar to Labor Day I guess. Once we learned we had an extra day off, my friends Naomi and Emily and I all agreed we’d have to use it to make another trip, this time to the south of Chile yet again, to an island called Chiloé. ( and Because we’re here during Chile’s fall and upcoming winter, the weather in the south is very temperamental, for this reason if you want to go south you have to go soon or you’ll be stuck in a lot of rain and snow. We bought tickets for a flight to Puerto Montt on Friday morning, and because we wanted to save money and our flight was pretty early, we found ourselves sleeping in the Santiago airport Thursday night (I’m becoming quite acquainted with this routine). Once we got to Puerto Montt, we bought a few grocery things for the 5 days we’d be traveling and caught a bus to Castro, a town on the island of Chiloé. Our bus travelled to Chiloe in about 2 hours, including a 20 minute ferry ride that was pretty cool. We got to our hostal in Castro in enough time to walk around and explore the city and the church in Castro before night time. An interesting thing about Chiloé is not only the palafitos (stilt-houses, see photos) but also the many Jesuit churches that had been built years ago on the island. Many of them are actually recognized as UNESCO heritage sites.

The next day we dedicated to exploring the National Park on the island (yet another short bus ride) and walked around exploring the country side. We met some other US students from Santiago, who we hung out with a bit also since they were doing some of the same things. We explored a few “ferrías” (craft markets) which were overflowing with homemade wool scarfs, sweaters, or hats—take your pick! The following, and third day we had decided to make our way the city of Dalcahue and onto the island of Quinchao for the day to visit the other towns Curaco de Velez and Achao. These towns were actually quite deserted when we visited, due to the fact we were there during the off season, and also it was a Sunday which is when the majority of things close in Chile.  The next day, Monday, we decided we would head to visit the final city of Ancud and eat curanto—a local island tradition! Que rico! (  We walked around and enjoyed the ocean views and even some sun for the afternoon! We caught a bus at 5 to head back to land to a city called Puerto Varas, to explore for a day. In Puerto Varas, we stayed at an awesome hostel called La Margouya and met some pretty cool people as well. We visited a local park in a city called Petrohue and hiked around to explore some of the landscape and different water bodies in the surrounding region. There is also a few fairly large volcanoes in the area, however we didn’t have enough time to visit those! It was a pretty rainy day for the most part, but some of the time was scattered with a lot of sun. I saw probably the brightest rainbow of my life! We headed back into town to eat some pizza and relax for the night!

This morning we woke up early to catch a taxi and our flight back to Santiago, then a bus back to Viña del Mar. It was sunny and hot here when we arrived, much different than the rain and 40-50 degree temps of the south. However, I must say I love the south of Chile with all its rain and unpredictability…it is a true magnificent place and one that everyone should add to their bucket lists. I am comfy and dry in my bed trying to get some homework done, but at this point homework is the furthest thing from my mind. Life is good.




When your parents visit you in Chile…

Time April 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So for the past 10 days my parents have been in Chile—prepare for the worlds to clash!! Well, tectonic plates clashed the second day they were here (minor earthquake) but other than that, we had a great time together here!

My parents are big travelers, and that is probably partially where I learned it from, so when they learned I was going to study abroad they were all about coming to visit me.  A month ago, I was kind of nervous about them coming here—I was still getting in a groove and was not 100% confident with my Spanish skills but all the same figured it would work out. It was a great week and a half! My host family here has been more than amazing, so I was somewhat excited for their meeting to see how they intereacted and as expected it was great. Two great families together = no language barrier. My parents are lacking in the Spanish language area—my mom knows known and my dad learned during this week that he remembered way more than expected from his high school classes! I did a lot of translating, which originally I was nervous about but turned out to be great. You really recognize how much you have learned when you are forced to translate! We did a lot of exploring in the Valparaíso and Viña del Mar area, and I showed them all my favorite spots which was also fun. Overall, I think they had a great time seeing how I live here and how well I am getting along here.

Over the weekend, we did a mini international bus trip just to put some more stamps in their passports—we went to Mendoza, Argentina! The bus trip to Mendoza was through the Andes and only about 6-7 hours long. Typically, a lot of people go through the night so they can wake up and save some travel time for activities, however we heard that the bus trip is worth seeing since you have to travel through the Andes Mountains to get there—and we definitely heard right! Due to Chile’s awesome bus system, you can pretty much travel anywhere easily in bus and thankfully, with my schedule this semester; I have no classes on Monday OR Friday—traveling is very easy! We headed out on Friday morning and came back Monday morning. The views out the window were gorgeous!

Once we got to Mendoza I was thrown for a bit of a loop with the Argentine accent. People tell me that Chilean spanish is more difficult to learn because of the modismos and the fact they blend a lot of words together, however when you’re used to it, it becomes a lot easier than the slurrying of the Argentine accent. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both unique in their own sense just definitely hard to get used to!

We did a lot of fun things in Mendoza, visited two vineyards and an olive oil fabrica and also visited the huge Parque San Martín that is in Mendoza which has a great zoo! Funny thing about their zoo, is that you can get a lot closer to the animals than you can in the states which is awesome! We ate at some amazing restaurants and visited all the plazas in the city. If you visit this city at all, the plazas and streets are lined with trees and it is gorgeous! I especially appreciated the fall temperatures and the colors of the trees. Another fun thing was we saw the tallest mountain in all of South America, which is located in Mendoza. I am already planning to go back with some friends and go hiking and paragliding and hopefully skiing later this winter.

My parents left yesterday and although it was bittersweet, they know I am doing well adjusting to life here and will be home (eventually 😉 )


Adjusting to Life Abroad..

Time March 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, it has been a while—but I’m alive and well with Viña del Mar as my new home! I realized that Saturday was a month exactly since I came here—time flies! The past month has been jam-packed with lots of exploring, cultural adjusting, and Spanish learning. It’s been a lot, but fun all the same.

We are now on our second week of classes and the school experience has been unique all in its own. When we went to our university, la Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaíso to register for classes we had to have 15 CLASS options to write down, different from the typical 15-17 credit hours [approx.. 4-5 classes] of my university in Michigan. The goal of this process was so that we had options if any classes fell through or we didn’t like any of them. Different from the US we registered for all of our options on paper—by hand—and through a process to visit all the different departments and have our names wrote down on the class roster! Different for sure! So, after all this we visited the 15 classes we wrote down to decide which we like best—it honestly sounds more complicated than it was! On the second week of classes, I finally have my schedule set up for the most part and miraculously, I do have classes on neither Monday nor Friday. I also have decided to do a pretty interesting internship with a Chilean organization called Teletón. I will be able to tell you more about that as it develops!

Last weekend Saturday was my birthday! Talk about a different, but incredibly memorable way to celebrate your 21st birthday than in Chile! What a great day it was too!  At midnight I was serenaded in my room by my Chilean family and given gifts! Breakfast was served in bed and after lounging around for a while Jorge, my host dad, and I went on another adventure! This time we visited Parque Quinta Vergara which is a park a few blocks from our house that has an old palace and an ampitheatre for outdoor events like the Vina del Mar International Song Festival ( that was at the end of February. The park is gorgeous with all different types of trees! Then we returned home for lunch and I ate one of the best meals since I’ve been here—which is hard to determine because all of the foods been great! We had an “asado” which is a BBQ but ours was on an indoor grill, but you never would have guessed by the flavors swirling around. It was an awesome combination of food! After a short siesta, Andrea and I headed over to visit with her friend Michelle, who is a past student who stayed with them and later moved back to Chile for good and for the past 7 years. We visited and shared a few birthday cervezas and then all headed back home for once.


When we arrived is when things got a little suspicious. Obviously, when the door is being blocked, you may begin to suspect something. Our group had been planning on going to a night club to celebrate later on and I had sent out a few text messages without reply but figured people were just eating dinner. When the door finally opened, I was greeted by 5 of my close friends from the trip and my Chilean family all singing Feliz Cumpleaños a mi with a cake and 21 candles. What a great surprise! We visited, drank some wine, and ate some delicious food for the next few hours. It was so great when you are so far from home, to feel surrounded by so many people who appreciate you and want to celebrate with you! We were meeting the rest of our group at a nearby club, so we headed out around 11 to meet up with them and had a great night dancing and toasting to my birthday and to Chile!

That’s a short update about life in the last month since I’ve been here! Stayed tuned for more from Chile!


The bottom of the world..

Time March 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well I suppose after being here for a little over a week I should update this. I really had to think about when I actually got here, time has been passing by slowly, but quickly all the same. I arrived in Chile on February 18th somewhat before our group’s 22nd arrival. I have a friend who has been in Viña since January so I was coming to hang out with her for a little bit. We explored the city and just relaxed which was really nice.

On the 22nd, I went to meet our program director, Vivi, and we went to meet the rest of the group in Santiago at the airport and headed to our Orientation location in Olmué. Olmué is a pretty small town about an hour away from Viña and two hours from Santiago. While there, we stayed at somewhat of a mountain resort compound. We had a lot of necessary information sessions and learned more about our classes we get to take while here (you know, that whole “school” thing). We took a placement test and lots of other fun things. We also got to take salsa and merengue classes while in Olmué, which let me tell you, are somewhat difficult but so much fun if you have a sense of humor. We returned on Saturday, but in the morning , instead of another information session we went to el Parque Nacional  la Campana  and it was a gorgeous day!! Sun and blue sky as you can see below…It obviously was a rough day… (hope all you Michiganders are enjoying the snow 😉

After our hike, we were off to Viña to meet our families. I had moved in with my family a day early, so we had already met a little bit, but everyone was so nervous to meet theirs—as I was too! It’s an interesting thing meeting complete strangers who you will be living with for the next 5 or 6 months.

Since Saturday, it’s been fun settling into a little bit of a routine with my family as far as meals go. I’ve had some free time to go to the beach and explore but it’s nice to build a relationship with the family too. The past two nights, I’ve been able to go walking with my Chileno Padre, Jorge, and that’s been really awesome to see the city at night with all the lights.

We are in the midst of our orientation at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, and it is kind of confusing  at times but pretty interesting to see all the programs where people come from to study here in Chile. It’s an interesting comparison with IFSA and the other groups because our group is much smaller than the others—only about 16 people. But I like it much more from what I’ve seen. We all get along so far, thank heavens, and I think the smaller group avoids cliques and allows you to form closer friendships. I’m sure the majority of people have a great time, but I just think we all click pretty well.

Tomorrow is our tour of the campus which is bound to be interesting—as is every day here in the beautiful Vina del Mar and Valparaiso :)


The countdown…

Time January 31st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all! I’m Patra Zambetis and am currently a junior at Grand Valley State University. I am studying Allied Health Sciences and Spanish. I am very excited to be writing this blog, and telling you all about my adventures in Chile for the next six months!!

It is a little crazy that in exactly 18 days I will be living, studying, and exploring the area of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Chile! It seems like it is this big event I have been planning for over the last 7 months or so, and it is hard to fathom that it is actually going to happen! I can’t wait! Two weeks ago I finally purchased a ticket and with that had a set departure date. Last week, I had all of the documents needed to send in my visa application to the Chilean Consulate in Chicago. If any of you are looking at studying abroad, visa application has been by far the most daunting thing after deciding on a program. It requires a federal background check (don’t ask me why!) which has to be requested from the FBI and takes 8-10 weeks to process. I was initially pretty stressed about receiving those in time , but thankfully got them back within 9 weeks and should hopefully be able to pick up my visa next week.

To add even more to my excitement, I also received my housing information last week! My host family looks great, and I can’t wait to meet them! My host sister is 32 years old and lives with her 2 parents in the heart of Viña! And they have a dog! 😀 I have emailed them a few times, and as kind and welcoming as they sound via email, I can’t wait to meet them in person!

At this point I’m just ready to GO. There’s a mix combination of feelings and it’s weird to try and express in words. Mainly it’s the excitement for the adventure and the unknown and the fun I know I’m going to have while in Chile. Then there’s also that sliver of anxiety when I think of the fact that I won’t be home until August (AND I have to pack clothes for six months!) I have been abroad for a month on my own so far, and didn’t get very homesick, however I think a lot can happen in six months while I’m away. One of my best friends is getting married, my brother is graduating college, and who knows what else will occur. Then I stop and remind myself that not only will a lot happen back at home but a lot will happen to me personally while in Chile. I hope this trip will bring a new sense of excitement to college and break-up the every-semester mundane routine of classes. I hope this trip once again opens my eyes to the possibilities and vastness of the world that are so easily forgotten in the everyday routine. That’s a lot of expectations for a country to live up to… but somehow I have faith that Chile won’t let me down!  :)