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Time July 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I left Chile about a week and a half ago, arriving in America early Monday morning. In my typical fashion, I’ve kept myself as busy as possible. I think it’s my way of dealing. If I keep moving, I don’t have to stop and think about what I left behind.

While I’m busy, I’m not as busy as normal. I decided not to pursue a job or internship upon my return to the States for two simple reasons. 1. It’s difficult to find a job for only 6 weeks. 2. I’m worn out. So, while I’ve been seeing friends and traveling to see loved ones, I’ve been sleeping in and taking naps, things I don’t normally let myself do. I think that’s how I’m dealing with coming back. I spent 10 months abroad in 2 different continents. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Taking a break was the best decision for me.

As I’ve already stated, everyone deals with re-entry differently. I cried waiting to board the plane, but was fine after take-off. One of my friends told me she bawled for the first hour on the plane and then was fine. Some haven’t cried, some are still crying. We’re all different people and will all deal with re-entering our country differently.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m dealing with it by seeing all my loved ones and doing the things I love doing (well and studying for the GRE). I’m reminding myself of what I love and have here. Of course, I do listen to latino music while I’m cleaning to remind me of the good times I had in Chile. It’s an adjustment process, but I think that coming back to the love and support of my family was what I needed to help readjust. There will be more adjustments, but this is a good start.

So far, there have been a few shocks to my system already. Firstly, I stepped off the plane and started sweating. It’s summer and it’s no joke! Next, there was customs. While leaving Chile, one of the customs officials flirted with me. Re-entering the US, I was shocked by how rude and suspicious our customs officers were. I was also amazed by how much a semester abroad had changed my view of the necessity of this suspicion. It was not the welcome-back I was hoping for.

Aside from that, I tried to speak to a woman in Spanish when my flight landed and tried to ask a waiter for a check. I’ve also had to ask my friends how much I’m supposed to tip in America because somehow I managed to forget that fact. Air conditioning and heating have been a bit of an adjustment for me as well. My family went to Northern Michigan for a weekend, and when the temperature dropped to 45, I became nervous as I didn’t have enough blankets or clothes. I was quickly reminded that we have heat. I’d managed to forget that too. While I was able to remember what the bigger adjustments would be like, I keep bumping into small cultural differences that I try to do the “Chilean” way. I know that in time, I’ll readjust and this will no longer be a problem for me. It will just take patience.

As for my experiences, those are something I hope to never lose.

Continuously arriving late is a habit I should probably work on breaking though.



The Last Week

Time July 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve been back in America for just over a week now, but during my last week in Santiago, I didn’t have the time or energy to blog. So I’m a bit behind!

The last week in Santiago was a whirlwind of emotions, “lasts,” and goodbyes. Within the group, we never knew if we were going to see each other again, so we never said goodbye, just “see ya later.” The last time I saw most of the group was at a goodbye/surprise birthday lunch that our IFSA program staff put together for us. It was so surreal. It definitely didn’t feel as if this would be my last time lunching and joking with this group of students. We had a memorable lunch and then hesitated to say goodbye. “I’ll see you later.” we said, making plans that never came to fruition. We decided it was better that way. None of us wanted to schedule a goodbye. None of us wanted to believe it was goodbye. It was better to draw it out, hoping to chance into each other again than go through multiple tearful goodbyes.

Other than that, we had to make sure we said proper goodbyes to everyone else we’d been lucky enough to meet and form friendships with throughout the semester. Everyone’s tactic differed, and that’s ok. Everyone says goodbye differently. As long as everyone managed their goodbye, that was good enough.

I personally tried to say goodbye to my friends and get most of my “lasts” out of the way during the week, leaving the weekend as family time. This worked out, mainly because most of my Chilean friends left for vacation by Wednesday, leaving me to deal with having said goodbye to them, do my exploring, and then spend some time with my family.

I didn’t get all of my lasts in, mainly because there was a strike that closed down all of the parks and museums the day that I tried to go to them, but I wasn’t upset about it. I spent a nice morning walking around with a friend and decided that I wasn’t meant to do the tourist things my last week in Santiago. If I hadn’t done them yet, it wasn’t worth stressing myself out about them. After that, I focused on revisiting parks and other places I’d frequented throughout the semester. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the life I’d built for myself that semester, but for me it was time to close the chapter and move on.

My host family and I said our goodbyes with smiles on our faces. I don’t know if my host mom and I cried after I left. I suspect she did, I know I did. I was glad that we smiled at each other as we left. It made leaving much easier.

It was time for me to go home, and we all knew it. My real family was waiting for me a continent away.


Machu Picchu!

Time July 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The decision to go to Machu Picchu struck me one day. I was walking to class and mulling over the end of my semester. I realized that I had not gone to Machu Picchu, one of the top stops of my bucket list, had some time, and while it was an expensive trip it would be much cheaper than if I were to attempt it from America. What was stopping me? A fear of being a bit poorer? During my musings, I made up my mind. One way or another, I was going to Machu Picchu.

It just so happens that I finished classes two weeks before our program end date and my plane ticket home. There was no need to extend my plane ticket or overcomplicate my life. I could split up my remaining time in South America. I consulted with one of my friends and we picked out some airline tickets and a hostel. Just like that, we were going to Machu Picchu!

We flew into Cuzco on July 4th, the day after our goodbye dinner. Our flight left at 6:30 AM which meant a 3:00 AM shuttle to the airport. With our goodbye dinner the night before, we realized we wouldn’t be sleeping much, if at all. Oh well, that was what the long flight was for.

Our flight connected from Lima to Cuzco and was about 7 hrs total. Although our layover was much too short, and we ended up sprinting to our second flight, we made it to Cuzco safely in one piece.

The altitude in Cuzco was a killer, and I started feeling it immediately. We had already been advised to take our first day slowly. We checked into our hostel, got something to eat, talked to a few tour agencies before settling on a tour for Machu Picchu, took rather long naps and just generally took the day really slowly.

The tour we picked left at 8:00 AM the next morning. We were doing a two day, one night tour to Machu Picchu by van. This option was significantly cheaper than the typical train tour and also included three meals and a hostel. We were sold.

Driving up the side of the mountains in a van was rather terrifying. We ripped around tight turns in ways I would never consider. After awhile, I just decided to trust the driver. This was his job. He knew the roads. He didn’t want to die as much as we didn’t. We would be fine.

We spent the first day in our van with the rest of our tour group until about 4 PM when we were dropped off at the beginning of the Machu Picchu nature reserve, a stop called Hidroelectrica, from there we were to hike to Aguas Calientes, or Machu Picchu town. We could also wait half an hour and take the train, but after all day in a van, who wanted to do that? We started out on the “2 hour hike” (which turned out to be about 3, the guides had an awful sense of time).

The hike was nice, but got a little tiring when our packs got heavy, it got dark, and we still weren’t there. I was pretty relieved to finally reach Aguas Calientes and be directed to our hostel.

The hostel was fine. It was better than I expected for the price we paid, but still pretty standard. We had a double with two beds, linens a tv, and an ensuite bathroom. I wasn’t sure if the sheets had been washed recently, but I had a decently comfortable bed and a decently clean bathroom, so I decided to not worry about it.

We got up at 4 AM the next day to head to Machu Picchu. There were two options; paying to take a shuttle up the mountain or climbing hundreds of steps to the summit. We got going a little late and decided that with the altitude, the dark, and other factors, we would rather take the shuttle and save our energy for Machu Picchu.

We got to Machu Picchu at about 6 AM. We met up with our tour guide and from there headed to the first stop on our tour, the overlook that results in the most well-known photos of Machu Picchu. We stopped there, took pictures, met some llamas, listened to our tour guides, and watched the sunrise over the mountains. It was spectacular.

From there, we had a tour of some of the ruins and then time to explore Machu Picchu before having to return to Aguas Calientes. There’s not much I can say. It was surreal, beautiful, astounding. I still don’t believe I was there. Getting away from the crowds, it was possible to appreciate the mountains and the nature peeking out of the rocks and crevices more. It became quiet, and you could enjoy the birds swooping through the air, the flowers on the sides of rocks, and the sheer enormity of Machu Picchu itself.

Once inside the ruins, things started to look the same (there’s a lot of rock structures), but it was still all gorgeous and astounding that man was able to build something this immense solely from rock so long ago.

I decided to descend on foot and started my descent at 11:20 in order to ensure I was back on time. The fact that the trail was only stairs took a toll on my knees after awhile and between the altitude and my backpack, I wore out after awhile, but I made it back with plenty of time for the train back to Hidroelectrica.

From Hidroelectrica, we piled in our van. There was a bit of disorganized drama (c’mon, we’re in South America. It’s to be expected), but we made it back to Cuzco by 10 PM. We checked back into our hostel, packed, showered, and crashed.

The next day, we headed back to Santiago. I would’ve liked some time in Cuzco as well, but time and funds simply didn’t allow for it. We had an uneventful return and once again crashed in our beds.

It’s now the last week. Time to enjoy every last bit of my time here!


Human Rights Tour

Time July 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last Saturday, we woke up bright and early for what turned out to be a very powerful day.

Saturday, we had our IFSA Human Rights tour scheduled, a tour that I had been looking forward to since I saw it on our calendar.

This tour covered a very sensitive topic in Chilean history: the dictatorship and human rights during the dictatorship. As many Chileans still remember the dictatorship and it still affects Chilean society today, this is a very touchy subject and is very hard to cover. Some Chileans (such as my family) still ardently support Pinochet, while others (such as one of my professors) believe supporting Pinochet is equivalent to supporting Hitler. As our director explained to us, we waited until the end of the semester for this tour, because she wanted us to have a better understanding of Chile before handling this topic.

The tour was led by our director (who studied History). She tried to give us both sides of the story while adding in her opinion when appropriate.

We started the day watching a video from the Pinochet Foundation. Although the Foundation has been closed since about 2008, the video still exists. This video is obviously heavily biased in favor of Pinochet, but still offers a historical perspective of the events leading up to the Coup d’etat in 1973. It also made it easier to understand why my host family still loves Pinochet. After the video, Isa explained what we’d just seen and we discussed the video a bit before moving on to our next stop.

Our next stop was the Cementario General. We toured graves of many political and military leaders, and at each stop, Isa told us about how each leader had contribute to Chilean history as well as a bit of the background surrounding their deaths. We also saw Salvador Allende’s memorial, which has since become his tomb and the tomb of Pinochet’s parents. Before leaving, we stopped at the memorial for those missing or killed during the dictatorship.

Our last stop was called Villa Grimaldi. This was once a villa-turned torture site that has since been turned into a memorial garden. We started out our tour (Isa is also qualified to give their tours) with an explanation of the site. Next, we went to the gate where the prisoners entered, a gate that now remains locked, and followed the prisoners’ path through Villa Grimaldi.

The really interesting thing about this camp is that every site had been beautified with symbolic mosaics and artwork to represent what happened there, but also to represent a cleansing. At the first site, there was a fountain of sorts with a beautiful mosaic. We were told that this was where the prisoners were tortured and dehumanized upon entering the site. The water from the fountain is now a symbol of cleansing as it washes the blood from the earth. Similarly, the place that was once cells has been turned into a grid, each block holding a birch tree. The grids represent cells, while the trees represent prisoners. Birches were chosen due to their skin, they stand tall but show scars. At this site, we were also able to all fit into a replica of a cell. There were two types of cells, one that measured 2×1 meters and another that measured 1×1 meters. Up to eight prisoners could fit into a cell. They were taken out multiple times a day for electric shocks or to be hung from trees in uncomfortable positions. The rest of the day, except for their one meal, was spent in the cell. I was horrified.

Similarly, each site left me with a new sense of horror. We learned about the prisoners, the torture techniques used, and the varying rumors still surrounding the camp. We saw replicas, drawings, and things that had once belonged to the prisoners. However, the last stop hit me the hardest. We entered a room with one glass-covered table filled with oxidized objects. These objects, we were told, had been excavated from the ocean and were further evidence of the awful things that had transpired here. These pieces were pieces of railroad that had been tied to people. These people were then placed in bags and dropped out of helicopters into the ocean. No one knows if the people within the bags were dead or alive.

I had been trying to spend the day seeing both sides of the argument, but that did it for me. There is no justifiable reason to go to such lengths to torture and dispose of people. I was moved, but also horrified at how awful this story actually is. I was especially shocked, because while there are still remnants of this discussion today, the Chile I know is worlds away from the Chile that existed 30 years ago. This became especially clear during the tour.

While I can understand logically why people supported this movement (it did result in more structure within Chile), I am not able to comprehend how, after hearing about these camps and seeing the evidence, this kind of behavior could still be accepted.

There are things about humanity no one will ever understand. This day proved that to me even more.

My host family doesn’t know what I did that Saturday. I’ll probably never tell them.


Finals and Reality

Time July 1st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past week was quite a hectic week for most of the Santiago IFSA students! Why? Finals started. It seemed a little bit sacrilegious to have finals at the end of June, but hey at least it’s winter here so I wasn’t distracted by sun and heat. Suddenly, our classes were ending and we were all learning the reality of group projects and finals in another culture and language.

My soccer class ending was probably the saddest part of all of this. I’ve gotten rather attached to my soccer class and always looked forward to going as a break and a chance to see my Chilean friends. Luckily, we have numerous good-byes planned together, so that won’t be the last time I see them.

Aside from that, we’ve gone through various phases of classes ending. Some classes ending have been cause for celebration, others have been a bit more difficult, others haven’t seemed real. We finished our last Spanish class with a party and then the professor said goodbye and we headed out. It was hard to believe that was the last.

We all end our classes at different times, but I finish on Monday, and I think that it’ll begin to seem a bit more real how little time I have left when my academic portion of the semester is finished. I’m looking forward to having some time to explore Santiago, but not to the end of the semester that the end of finals is signaling. There’s still so much more that I want to make sure to do before I head out, luckily, I have a bit of time.

Today, my host mom and I spent the day baking. While I was enjoying the quality time (and large amount of sugar we produced), it hit me that this is one of my last weekends in Santiago, one of my last chances to do things like this with my host family.

This isn’t the end, it’s time to enjoy my remaining time here instead of counting down the days.


We Tripantu

Time June 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last weekend, we went to an indigenous New Year’s celebration called We Tripantu. This celebration happens at the winter solstice (what is our summer solstice) as the indigenous people believe that this is the time of rebirth. One of our professors told us that in her childhood, they woke up at 5 am, bathed in cold water to help renew themselves, ate a fresh-cooked Mapuche breakfast, and then celebrated the New Year together.

We arrived while they were still setting up, and while Isa had explained some of the history of the celebration, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

The celebration was located at the base of a cerro which is considered to be sacred due to its history with the indigenous peoples.

The first thing we did after descending from the van was to climb said cerro. While we were still in Santiago, we were in the very south, and the zone appeared to be much more agricultural. It was hard to believe we were still within the city limits. The hike up the cerro was decently easy, and the view (as it always seems to be) was fantastic. After enjoying the terrific view, we headed down to watch the celebrations.

While what we were going to see is traditionally a Mapuche New Year’s celebration, there were two other indigenous groups celebrating with the Mapuche; the Rapa Nui who hail from Easter Island, and a group from the North of Chile. The ceremony started with a blessing of the earth and the people. While I couldn’t see what was happening (I am short and was in the back), I know that the ceremony involved a drum, incense, and canela. A Mapuche leader asked everyone to gather around in a half circle and refrain from taking pictures so that they could truly participate in the ceremony. I ended up standing on a table so that I could try to see what was happening, and what I was able to see was really different from any ceremony I’ve ever seen.

Next, the various tribes gathered and performed dances and songs. The group from the North was clad in bright orange and purple with huge feathered hats, while the Rapa Nui were barely wearing clothing. They looked like a stereotypical tropical tribe, but they were real people demonstrating their culture. As our director remarked, “Look how strong their culture is that they’re wearing that when it’s this cold outside.” The Rapa Nui were also my personal favorites to watch dance. I was absolutely fascinated with their dances and music, and the care and passion they demonstrated through their dances.

After the dances, we gathered to eat traditional Mapuche food! There was a huge crowd around the tables, and the people with the food took what seemed like ages (when there’s food involved, everything seems to take longer), I ended up trying sopaipilla, pan amasado, a cake made out of squash and banana, and a strawberry drink. It was all very good!

After filling up our tummies and contenting our hearts, we headed back to Santiago centro, where we ran into a Pride Parade. It seems like it was just a day to celebrate!


Hiking in the Snow

Time June 24th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Two weekends ago, our Chilean History and Society class took a trip to the Cajón de Maipo to see the “El Morado” Glaciar. As this is an IFSA class, the rest of our group was invited and most of the group took advantage of this opportunity.

Cajón de Maipo is located about two hours South of Santiago, and is well-known for good hiking near Santiago. We met at 8:30 in the morning and were back in Santiago by 7 at night. It was a great day of trekking, not too strenuous, but beautiful and relaxing.

After napping through the majority of our drive there, we pulled up to a beautiful vista of mountains capped in snow. We piled out of the van and got ourselves together while our environmental professor went to the office to get us set up. The best part? The bathrooms at the base were free AND had toilet paper.

Thus commenced our hike. We were given bastons (which were actually surprisingly helpful) and started off up the mountain. After hiking Manquhue (an extinct and very steep volcano) the weekend before, nothing could compare, and the uphill was decently easygoing, although we were sweating by the end. At some point, we hit snow and then the fun began. With almost every step, we’d fall up to our knees in snow and had the new challenge of trying to jump into each other’s tracks, find stable snow, and just generally not fall over. Having not seen snow in awhile, it was fun, though difficult to navigate. By the time we stopped for lunch, our feet were soaked, but we were still warm.

We stopped at a dry point to lunch, and then our professor began his teaching again. From our lunch spot, he pointed out the glaciar and how far it has retroceded recently. (Who says global warming isn’t real?)

Due to the time of year and our limited hiking gear and skills, we weren’t able to climb all the way to the glaciar, but we did get to a point where we could kind of see it!

After lunch, our glaciar lesson, and a snowball fight, we headed back down. The hike down took no time. We returned to Santiago, made an emapanda pit stop, and as far as I know all crashed in our Chilean beds as soon as we could.

Something this trip reinforced is that I really should’ve brought more hiking gear. Just a helpful tip for anyone going to Chile!


Sin rumbo

Time June 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Saludos a todos!

I’m currently sitting in my bed waiting for the Chile vs. Bolivia game to get started. I don’t know how much more Chilean I can get.

Unlike most of my previous posts, I haven’t really conceptualized a theme for this post. I guess I’ll just start writing and see where I go.

I’m definitely a lot more settled into Chile now than I was in the past. Taking a sports class was a great decision, as I’ve made some friends who I’m definitely going to miss through that class. I’ve found myself picking out foreigners on the metro and understanding conversations composed almost entirely of Chilenismos. The other week, at my volunteer opportunity, I was able to tell a 7-year-old to stop using curse words (ones that he obviously thought I wouldn’t know). I’ve found my comfort zones here, but have also started exploring more.

Regardless, I still have my ups and downs. I’ve been studying abroad, in two different countries, for ten months now and the transition was kind of difficult for me. Sometimes I don’t even realize when I get in a homesick slump. I generally have an emotional moment, pull myself together, and remind myself what a fantastic opportunity I’ve been granted. After a good night’s sleep, the next day is always rosy.

The study abroad staff wasn’t joking when they talked about the “study abroad rollercoaster.” It’s a real thing. There’s good days and bad days. Some days, everything will be rosy, others, things that never bother you will seem like the biggest problems in the world, you’ll be moody and irritable and not be able to explain why. This difference is the most exaggerated at first, but after the first couple of weeks, the roller coaster will continue, just not as frequently or as intensely. The important thing is to recognize when it’s happening and stop yourself before a homesick slump spirals out of control.

Yeah, I’ve struggled with transitioning between countries, cultures and languages, but I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve been having here for anything. I love Chile. Yeah, the country has its problems. The people will be some of the first to tell you that, and they’ll give you varying versions of what Chile’s problems are, be it a patriarchal society, obesity, consumerism, or racism, Chileans are more than willing to talk about their experiences within their society to a willing student. Not only that, but they’re willing to share. Chileans may be shy, but once a Chilean invites you to do something with them, you’ve been invited into their world. They’ll share drinks, friends, study time, laughs; essentially whatever needs to be shared without a second thought.

Not only that, but the country itself is beautiful. Our group went hiking last weekend, and as we climbed above the smog, I was reminded just how beautiful this place is. In a relatively small country, they literally have everything, and the celebrate this uniqueness. Within the layers of smog of Santiago, it’s easy to forget how spectacular Chile’s mountain ranges really are, but they’re splendid, a sight that needs to be taken advantage of.

So, as I head into finals, a time when a slump is almost inevitable, this is what I’m going to try to remember: how spectacular this country is. I stumbled into Chile without really knowing much about it and found a gem. So, when I’m sleep-deprived and stressed, this is what I’ll be remembering, how many incredible experiences I’ve had and how many more I can still have.



The Final Countdown

Time June 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s crazy. We only have 6 weeks left here. Six weeks into the program, we were just settling in. We had our families, most of us had our class schedules, we were still getting lost whenever we tried to go somewhere new (what do I know, some of us may still be doing that). Now, we’re settled in. We’ve made some Chilean friends, we speak using “Chilenismos,” we’re starting to know the people and the places. We’re beginning to understand Chile.

When I think about leaving, I become very torn. I’ve been abroad for a year, and while I did get to spend 20 days at home in between my programs, those 20 days flew by. I miss my loved ones, I miss being able to do everything for myself, I miss salads. At the same time, I don’t want to leave. I’ve become comfortable here. Sometimes, I don’t realize I’m speaking Spanish instead of English. I’ve started doing things with my Chilean friends outside of class. I’ve adjusted to not having central heating. I want to see my loved ones, but I’m starting to establish my own life here. This is what I was warned about happening. A semester abroad gives you enough time to adjust, become proficient in the language, and start to form some roots, and then you go home.

Not only does going home mean taking me away from the new friendships I’m beginning to form, but it also means that my year-long adventure will be over.

Going back to my routine in America is no longer appetizing. I don’t want my adventure to end.

Sure, I’ll be able to have adventures after this experience, but it will no longer be acceptable to take off for some foreign place for the weekend. When you’re a student abroad, you’re expected to see all there is to see. Do your homework, do well in school, but the experience is more than just your schoolwork. Get out there and enjoy the culture. We know American culture, we’re not supposed to take off for the weekend to see the famous city we’ve never seen, and probably will never see.

But why can’t I do that in America too? Of course I need to get my work done, but why can’t I take off to explore America when I get back? What’s stopping me other than the feeling that I’ll eventually see “that” one day? It’s hitting me how much of not only the world, but of my own country, I still have to see.

Leaving Chile does not mean my adventure has to end here. In fact, I know my adventure won’t end here. I’ll get home, work hard like I always do, and find new adventures in my spare time. If anything my experience abroad is teaching my to seize opportunities and make the most of them.

This experience abroad is not over yet, and I still have so much to do. School has picked up, I’ve made Chilean friends, and I still have things I want to see. I need to make the most of my remaining time here, and find a way to share these experiences when I return.

I don’t think this will be my only time in Chile.

I know that this will not be my last adventure.

Chao for now!


Traveling to the South

Time May 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Surprise, surprise, I’m a bit behind on my blog. I’ve had a ton of adventures and, as it always seems to happen, a ton of homework recently. Consequently, I got a bit behind and am now playing catch up!

My last huge adventure was a trip to a town in the south of Chile called Pucón. A friend from the program and I left on an overnight bus Thursday the 16th arriving the morning of the 17th (my birthday). We spent an extended weekend, due to a holiday weekend, and left Pucón on another overnight bus on Monday the 20th.

Pucón is a pretty touristy little town in the south of Chile, known for its volcano, lakes, and nature. Most people come to Pucón to summit one of the volcanoes in the region. Luckily, that was not on our list, as the weather turned too bad to summit after our first day there. As we went in the off-season, it was becoming too cold or wet to do many of the summer activities offered, and the winter activities were not yet open. We still managed to make the most of our time and have a blast.

We arrived on my birthday and what turned out to be the most beautiful day of our trip. We dropped our stuff out at the hostel and then decided to treat ourselves to breakfast. We had coffees and delicious muffins at an extremely overpriced cafe and then set out exploring the town.

We ended up at an outlook of one of the inlets of the lake. The water was so clear and blue it was unbelievable. The volcano overlooked the inlet and was absolutely picturesque. I also happen to really like lakes and greenspaces, so I was absolutely in heaven.

After our wanderings, we headed back to our hostel to see if our room was ready yet. We got a quick tour and then the run down of the plethora of activities we could still do in the off-season. We settled on horseback riding for the day.

Horseback riding turned out to be much more of an adventure than either of us anticipated. My friend had never been on a horse and this was only my second time, so we were already really excited. We pulled up to the site and were informed that we were on a Mapuche reservation and would receive our tour from a Mapuche guide. We’re both taking a Mapuche culture and language class and the Mapuche conflict in Chile is an issue that really fascinates me, so we were both thrilled with this unanticipated setting.

Our guide was really interesting. He told us a lot about his worldview and beliefs, some of which were addressed in our class today, and taught me some new words. My horse, on the other hand, was not so great. We were riding the horses up a small mountain, and my horse wanted no part of it. At the beginning of the ride, I was given a branch and quickly discovered why. We began our ride by crossing a small river. Well, most of us. My horse and I stopped in the middle of the river to hydrate. We also made later stops to snack, rest, peruse, etc. I didn’t tell the horse to make any of these stops, and couldn’t get him to move after. We spent most of the ride being followed by one of our guide’s sons who would hit the horse’s flanks when he wasn’t moving fast enough, which would encourage him to take off galloping. We eventually did make it to the top of the mountain. It just took awhile and quite a bit of encouragement.

The stubborn horse was absolutely justified by the view from the mountain. We were able to see the entire valley and the lakes. It was breathtaking.  We spent some time appreciating the view and then our guide talked to us about some of his experiences before we retrieved our horses and headed back down the mountain.

At the end of our ride, we were greeted by our guide’s mother and a traditional Mapuche meal. We had sopaipillas, bread, cheese and meat empanadas, some sort of fried bean and meat concoction, and a cold wheat bread. It was absolutely delicious and an incredible way to end the experience.

When we got back, we went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. We found a restaurant with a great deal on their tourist menu and I had my first legal drink. After dinner, we bought a cake and headed back to the hostel to eat cake and chat with other people in our hostel before heading to bed.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to go hiking in Parque Nacional Huerquehue. It was so cold when we got there, but we heated up quickly. The trail was a switchback trail up a mountain, but our goal was to see some of the famous lakes of the region and we (at least I) weren’t leaving until we’d seen them. We’re both from Indiana, which is extremely flat, so we weren’t entirely prepared for what we were up against, but it was an incredible hike. I honestly couldn’t believe how beautiful the area was, and was really reminded of Nothern Michigan or Washington state for most of the hike. We met our goal and arrived at the lakes for lunch. There were three lakes; Lago Chico, Lago Toro, and Lago Verde. We saw all three, ate our lunch, and then started our descent. When we got back to our hostel, we made dinner and curled up next to the wood burning stove, content to heat up after a long day in the cold.

The next day, it started drizzling, so we decided to postpone our outdoor plans for the day in hopes of better weather. We spent the day exploring Pucón. We took more pictures at the outlook, wandered the town, found numerous artesian markets, and stopped for some of the pastries the region is famous for. It was a nice, relaxed day.

That evening, we went on a hot springs tour. Aside from having a volcano, the region also has numerous hot springs, created by guess what? magma. My friend wanted to go on a night tour so we could see the stars, but as it had been drizzling, that really didn’t happen. I get cold really easily and was really worried about spending my night freezing outside, but it was a great night. I spent the entire time in one pool and just relaxed completely. When it was time to go, I hopped out and changed before my body could realize it was cold. It was a really relaxing way to spend the evening.

Our last day in Pucón, I’m surprised my friend didn’t kill me. I had wanted to go on a bike ride to see the Ojos de Caburga, a series of waterfalls, since we arrived. There was a prediction of rain in the afternoon, so we decided to head out in the morning and hopefully beat the rain. That most definitely didn’t happen. About half an hour into our bike ride, it started raining and didn’t let up. On the way to the waterfall it wasn’t awful, because we were taking a back road which, while hilly, was rather scenic. We got a bit muddy, but the road was decently shaded. We showed up at the waterfall soaking and cold, but determined to see what we’d biked through the rain and mud to get to.

The Ojos were gorgeous. The water was a blue that I have rarely before seen, and they were tucked into a forest in a way that was rather difficult to reach. They were secluded and wild, and absolutely astounding. We marveled for as long as our wet, cold bodies could stand before heading back.

The ride back to Pucón was absolutely miserable. Our route sent us on a scenic “ida” and used the highway to return. We had no idea how far we’d gone, and when we turned onto the highway, we saw the sign that said “Pucón 19 km.” Then the rain picked up. At one point, I was biking with the rain blowing directly in my face and looked down to notice my pants foaming at the knees. That’s right. My pants were so wet and the motion of cycling was irritating them enough that the detergent still in them was foaming. I was effectively washing my pants on my bike.

We arrived in Pucón safely but drenched. We dropped our bikes off, went back to our hostel, changed, and then calculated our ride.

We biked just over 40 km. in the pouring rain. A marathon is 42 km.

I was pretty pleased with our effort.

After that ride, we got dinner, dried our clothes as best as we could, and crashed until our bus came.

All in all, it was a full, exhausting, and ridiculously fun weekend. I’d highly recommend Pucón, except maybe not in the rain.


San Pedro de Atacama

Time May 15th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend we went to San Pedro de Atacama with IFSA-Butler Santiago. San Pedro de Atacama is one of the three top tourist destinations in Chile and is located in the most arid desert in the world. It’s overlooked by a gorgeous mountain range, something that can be counted on in Chile, as well as a volcano. The volcano’s name comes from the Atacameña name for their god, as they believed that the mountains were a god as they provided water. The town is honestly sustained by tourism, but after visiting it wasn’t hard to see why. The region is filled with spectacular and unique sites. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for people who don’t want to read a long post, I got sick at the beginning of this trip and am still recovering. I saw about half of what the whole group got to see. Regardless, it was an absolutely stunning time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the activities I was able to participate in.

Here is the itinerary:

Thursday May 9:

Trip to San Pedro de Atacama

Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte and Asado (Cook-out)

Friday May 10:

Lagunas Altiplanicas, Pueblos de Toconao y Socaire, Salar de Atacama, Laguna Chaxa

Saturday May 11:

Titio Geysers and Machuca Pueblos and Pre-Colombian Museum

Sunday May 12:

Cejar Laguna, Ojos del Salar, Salar de Tebinquiche

Return to Santiago

I was able to make it to Thursday’s activities, the museum, and Sunday’s activities. I was told that the rest of the places were not only beautiful, but also incredibly unique experiences.

Thursday, after our arrival, we headed to Valle de la Muerte. The majority of the group hiked to the top of the dunes, in order to get a view of the valley from above, while I stayed in the valley with our director and a few other students. As I learned later, Valle de la Muerte was actually supposed to be called Valle de Marte (Mars Valley instead of Death Valley), but gained its name due to a bad translation from French.  (Mort vs. Mars) After walking through the Valley (and watching the majority of the group slide down a sand dune), we headed to Valle de la Luna to watch the sunset.


Valle de la Luna was named rather aptly, due to its moon-like shape. The Valley also somewhat resembles the surface of a planet and is supposedly sometimes used as a Nasa test site for rovers and other machinery. We climbed to the top of a peak and then sat to watch the sunset. As the sun set, the colors of the rocks changed, due to the minerals they contained. Upon sunset, the temperature immediately dropped. We took our last pictures and headed back to the hostel for our asado.


The next day I spent in the hostel and then at the doctor’s, but it was supposedly really gorgeous.

Saturday, I wasn’t allowed to go to the geysers, due to the altitude, but that was also supposedly a fantastic experience. That afternoon, I was able to get out of the hostel to see the Pre-Colombian Museum and then some of the town. The museum was small, but interesting, and I learned a lot about the culture in the area. We also saw a church, which was gorgeous. Its ceiling was created using cactus wood, which was very interesting to see.

Sunday, we headed to the Cejar Laguna. This Laguna is pure salt water, created by melted snow. It was really cold and really salty. After touching the water with my hand, I decided not to swim, but the majority of our group hopped in. The water was salty enough that they all floated without any problem. The best part of this excursion was probably watching their faces as they got into the freezing water and then began floating.


After the Cejar Laguna, we went to the Ojos de Salar. This was another Laguna, but was much less salty, although colder. The best way to handle this Laguna is to jump straight in, and then swim to the edge and hop out as soon as possible. I got up the nerves and jumped into this one. It was an absolute blast.


Our last stop was the Salar de Tebinquiche. This is so salty that you can walk for awhile in just the salt water and look like you’re walking on water. The mountains reflect in the salar, which is almost white, and are absolutely spectacular. We spent our time appreciating the beauty and taking hundreds of pictures before taking off.


Next, we headed back to our hostel, packed up, had some free time, and then started our long journey back to Santiago. Despite my sickness, it was still a wonderful long weekend.

That’s all for now!




Voluntariado y Despedidas

Time May 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last Friday, I went to my weekly volunteer opportunity and was greeted by a very touching day. I’d completely forgotten that it was a couple of the volunteers’ last day, and was told that I would not be teaching my running class that day. Instead, all of the kids were playing in the patio.

When I went out to the patio, most of the kids were crowded around the volunteers who were painting their faces. I later was chased by a few very impressive zombies and vampires. In the meantime, some of the permanent workers were setting up a Goodbye party for these two volunteers.

When it was time for once, the kids were ushered inside to wash their hands and then sat around a huge table. We served them all completos (Chilean hotdogs complete with avocado, tomatoes, and mayonnaise) and tea and then the two volunteers were brought in.

When the volunteers walked in, all of the kids clapped. They were presented with their completos and huge hand-made cards. Each of the kids had signed these cards, and the kids these volunteers worked with primarily had spent time designing these their cards. The kids wrote stories, memories, or signed things like “I’ll never forget you, thank you.” We sat, ate our snack and talked. Then it was time for the touching part (as if the handmade cards and special meal weren’t touching enough).

Tío Jorge, one of the head workers, addressed the two volunteers and thanked them for their time and commitment to the program. When he was done, some of the other permanent workers thanked them for their hard work before turning it over to the kids. Each of the kids had to opportunity to say something to the volunteers and their responses ranged from the standard “Thanks, I’ll miss you!” to “I want to thank you so much for what you’ve done for me. Our time has been special and I’ll never forget it, safe travels.” It was moving, and so great to hear how these volunteers had touched these kids hearts.

Then came time for the volunteers to speak. It’s often said that volunteers get more out of their experience than the people they’re helping and, in this moment, I found this to be true. One volunteer choked up, thanking the kids and the organization for the time they’d had, saying that she’d had a great time working with them, and that she hoped to one day return. The other volunteer remained more stoic, but still thanked the organization for this opportunity from the bottom of his heart. It was a really touching moment.

The evening was emotional and full of goodbyes, but soon there’ll be more volunteers to share this experience. The goodbyes are hard, but I’m sure these volunteers are going to carry these experiences with them and spread their stories to those who will listen. It’s amazing what can happen just from the goodness of other people’s hearts.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, these kids aren’t going to forget their volunteers anytime soon.

That’s all for now!




Time May 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Saludos a todos!

I may have spoken too soon in my last post when I said that there was less work here than in the US. It seems that instead of gradually building the workload up, as we do in the US, workloads stay small until about halfway through the semester here. Last week, I realized that I had much more reading than originally anticipated and, consequently, have not done much of interest.

However, Wednesday was a holiday (International Workers Day) and I spent the morning and early afternoon cooking with my host mom.

I’ve found that cooking is the best way to bond with a Chilean housewife. My host mom is a fantastic cook and spreads her love through food. She also seems to enjoy teaching me her recipes. Cooking together is a lot of fun, and I’ve been learning a ton of tricks!

I’d requested to learn how to make empanadas and, because the process is a bit complex, we spent the holiday doing just that.

Here are the steps as I remember them:

1. Make the filling. The traditional filling consists of ground beef, onions, raisins, and spices. We also had a vegetarian filling. My host mom prepared the filling the night before, so I honestly can’t tell you how this works.

2. Make the masa. The masa starts as a dry mix. One egg, white wine, and olive oil is added to a bowl of flour and salt, but the mix should still have a dry consistency. After this is done, add milk and butter that have been heated over the stove to the masa. This is an extremely important step, and should be done quickly, as the dough needs to stay warm while it is being worked with.

3. Knead the dough. I mean clump your mess together and take any pent-up aggression out on it until you have a nice smooth dough.

4. Form dough balls. Remember to do this quickly as the dough needs to stay warm.

5. Roll dough balls out into circles.

6. Fill. Each empanada should receive the filling as well as a quarter of a hard-boiled egg and an olive.

7. Fold. This is actually an art form. Start by putting some water on the edge of one half of your dough circle. Next, fold the dough in half and press the edges tightly together, starting where the filling ends. Next, fold up the sides, leaving the top for last. After all of the sides are folded, pinch each corner.

8. Brush the empanadas with olive oil and poke a hole in the top of each one using a toothpick.

9. Bake. I missed the actual instructions, but they should bake for about half an hour until golden brown.

10. Enjoy!

Here’s an actual recipe :)

Chao! Read More »


Chile: A Day in the Life

Time April 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


Well, it is finally starting to get colder here. In most places in Chile there is not central heating, as it is extremely expensive here, and it’s not cold enough to use the little stoves they use to keep the houses warm. Instead, I’m learning how to keep warm Chilean style. This involves a lot of layers, blankets, and curling up in bed after dinner in order to keep warm. It’s definitely making me question how necessary so many of our “necessities” are. Although I hate the cold, I’m determined to make it through my Chilean Fall and Winter with minimal complaints because they do so yearly. Central heating is a luxury here and I’m definitely realizing how lucky I am to be able to take it forgranted.

Other than that, things haven’t been too exciting around here. As classes in the US finish, I’m hitting the middle of my semester and my classes are starting to pick up. A few people from back home have asked me about the workload here. Here’s my answer: compared to my university in the states, I receive much less volume of material to read per night. However, this material is in Spanish, which takes longer for me to complete. We also spend awhile covering the material, so while we aren’t reading the same amount as I would read in the States, I think we’re having more in-depth conversations regarding the material. My tests are also comparable to what my tests would be in the US, but are in Spanish. I’d say that while there isn’t the same amount in sheer volume, the detail and language barrier make up for it.

My volunteer opportunity here is also going well. I’m working with a group in the south of the city that works with kids who are more or less not in the best familial situations. The kids go everyday after school and get to do homework, take fun classes, and spend time with the other kids and volunteers there. I go on Fridays, which is Sports Day, and am teaching a group of kids how to run. It’s a bit more challenging than I was originally anticipating, but I think they’re starting to enjoy it and warm up to me. I’m thinking about creating a competition for them before I leave, just to give them a bit more motivation!

I’ve also realized that I am much more comfortable here. I now know what times of the day the metro will be packed and if I should leave earlier or later at that time of the day. I feel comfortable shoving my way onto and off of the metro, asking a bus driver if they’re going where I need to go, and walking around the city. I can converse comfortably with Chileans, and my host mom has commented a few times on how much my language has improved so far. We’re only halfway there too! However, last week I was struck by the realization that Santiago is such a large city that I will spend my entire semester here and still not see the whole city. I make mental notes of areas to explore and try to get out and see a part of the city each week. It’s an amazing city filled with so many opportunities.

When I’m not out exploring or doing homework, I love spending time with my host family. My host mom has started cooking with me, and I’ve decided to devote Sundays as family days. We spent last Sunday cooking and it was a blast. We’ve made gnocchi, and American breakfast, and oreo truffles and she’s promised to teach me how to make Falafel and Empanadas soon. I’m really excited for our next culinary adventure.

Things are going well. I’m slowly getting better at soccer, classes are getting better, and I’ve discovered my classmates are starting to warm up to me. It takes time to form friendships abroad, but I think it’s finally starting to happen. It just takes patience, friendliness, and openness on the part of the foreigner.

We’ll see if next week promises any grand adventures. As for now, I can’t promise much, but I hope to keep exploring this wonderful city.




Time April 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last weekend, IFSA-Butler took us to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on a day trip. Valparaiso is a port town, and is the other option for IFSA study-abroad in Chile. It was very beautiful, but after visiting, I was really glad that I chose Santiago over Valparaiso. I’ve found that different cities have very different “personalities” if you will, and while I liked Valparaiso, I couldn’t see myself spending a semester there.

We arrived at Valparaiso in the morning and started our tour with a tour of Pablo Neruda’s house “La Sebastiana.” I have now been to all of Neruda’s houses in Chile and have to say that this house was my least favorite. It was built vertically, due to the many hills in Valparaiso, and offered an audio-tour. However, as the house went up, you didn’t move from room-to-room with your guide, but rather around a room. The guide offered interesting information, and there were beautiful views from the house, but I didn’t think it was as quirky as his other houses.

After the tour of the house, we went on a walking tour of the city. The city is beautiful, mainly because it is so colorful. Valparaiso is absolutely covered in street art, and the houses are painted all shades of bright colors. This practice actually started with captains. Captains used to paint their houses the same color as their boats. This way they were able to distinguish which was theirs. The city was so bright and colorful, and also filled with tourists. Our guide explained that after the neighborhood we were touring was declared as an area to preserve, it started filling up with tourists. Valparaiso now has quite the tourist industry, attracting people due to the famous personality of this city.

Aside from taking hundreds of pictures of street art, we also stopped by two churches on the tour. One was an Evangelical church built before non-Catholic churches were legally allowed in Chile. This being the case, it was a large, unmarked structure that our guide told us had withstood numerous earthquakes. The other was a Lutheran church, built much later. This structure was very obviously a church, and I found it interesting to see how religion had manifested itself in Valparaiso over the years.

I also loved how people used street art to express themselves. There were political and social statements, along with simply beautiful murals on the walls, streets, really any surface people could find to decorate. I was blown away by the amount of amazing art people had created in this city.

After our tour, we stopped for a quick lunch before a boat ride along the harbor.

Before I say anymore, I feel like people should know this about me: I love boats.

This being said, I was so excited to get on a boat and cruise around the harbor. We just putted around, I don’t even think we made a wake, but it was so relaxing. We saw sea lions and even penguins in the harbor before we turned around. Our guide told us that was her first time seeing penguins in the harbor, so I felt really lucky to be able to see some outside of a zoo!

After our super exciting boat ride, we piled in our bus to head to Vina del Mar. Vina del Mar is another sea town and is connected to Valparaiso via a metro system. Many people who work in Valparaiso actually live in Vina, as they say that Valparaiso is too dangerous. In fact, IFSA students who study in Valparaiso live in Vina and commute everyday. This being said, the two are extremely close and have moderately different “personalities.”

We stopped for a coffee and hung out on the beach before we headed back to Santiago. Our director pretty accurately judged the group mood, and decided that we were too tired to pursue the rest of the tour in Vina. Instead, we relaxed and headed back. I was really glad we did. We were able to enjoy the beach (I even got my feet wet) and a good cup of coffee before headed back to Santiago.

All in all, it was a really fun day. I’m also now really glad that I chose Santiago over Valparaiso, however I’m sure that some of the Valparaiso students have had the same reaction upon visiting Santiago.


So many adventures, so little time!

Time April 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Saludos a todos!

Here in Chile, everything is going super bien! I got my first quiz back and did pretty well, have settled into my routine, and set up a volunteer opportunity today. I’m finally settled into this country and am starting to learn about the good and the bad. I am learning so much about their rich culture and history and also learning more about myself everyday.

As I settle in, I continue adventuring Chile. This past weekend was jam-packed with adventures and family time and I loved every second of it.

Last Friday, I went to Isla Negra with another girl from our program. The thing to see in Isla Negra is Pablo Neruda’s favorite, and possibly most famous house, along with his gravesite. Neruda, like many artists, had his quirks. He loved the ocean and was fascinated by boats, although he hated being on them. He also collected tons of novelty items, including many parts of ships. His houses are often created to resemble ships and have all sorts of unique features, including his collections.

Isla Negra has also recently been in the news, due to postulations that Neruda did not actually die from cancer, rather from a lethal injection. Recently, a committee was granted permission to exhume to body to study it for traces of this injection. Monday, his body was exhumed. This means that I was one of the last people to see Neruda’s grave intact until his body is restored. And it was all por casualidad.

Friday evening, when I got home from Isla Negra, there were two strange young adults in my house. I greeted them as they headed to a supermarket and then my host mom explained to me that they were a grandkid and his friend, in town for Lollapalooza. When they returned, they invited me to hang out with them on the patio, and we spent a really great evening chatting and getting to know each other.

Saturday, I went to Quinta Normal with another girl in my program to explore. Quinta Normal is a park in what used to be a super fashionable area of town. There are museums all around, and we wound up in a Contemporary Art Museum. I don’t have much to say about it, except that try as I might, I don’t think I will ever understand Contemporary Art.

That night, I went to another host family’s house to watch movies. We ended up watching two heavily political movies about Pinochet and then they talked to us about their experiences. It was really interesting to see these movies and then hear first hand accounts. Here, that topic is often such a closed topic that it was very touching that they made the effort to open up and honestly tell us their stories. It was a moving night.

Sunday, I came home from a run to find an asado (grillout) in my backyard. As I told a friend, Chileans like to plan things without any warning. These things are always fun, but obviously having an asado takes some amount of foresight and I was completely unaware. My host mom told me to have a small breakfast, and while I was getting ready, they majority of my family showed up. We spent a large part of the day in the yard grilling and chatting. It was a great atmosphere, and I loved the quality family time. It’s definitely something that I wish we had more of in the US.

This Saturday, we’re going to Valparaiso with IFSA. I can’t wait to see what adventures lie in store for me!



Paciencia y Mendoza

Time April 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


This past week got a little hectic, so here I am, catching up on everything I’ve been neglecting, including my blog!

For starters, I finally have my schedule finalized! I may have alluded to this in earlier posts, but registering for courses here is a bit different than it is in the States. I thought I had my classes completely finalized two weeks ago. Last Monday, I learned that this was no longer the case when my Pilates class was cancelled last minute. So, I ran to the San Joaquin campus and camped out in front of the sports secretary’s office until I was able to add soccer to my schedule. It was a quick fix, but required a bit of flexibility (something I am quickly learning here). I now have my set schedule, which was such a relief.

Last week was also a short week because of Semana Santa. Classes at my campus were released at 1 pm on Thursday (at many other campuses they were cancelled due to student strikes), and the rest of the weekend was ours.

Thursday night, I left for Mendoza, Argentina with a group of my friends. Here was the plan: meet in the metro for the bus station early, leave Santiago at midnight, arrive in Mendoza at 8 am on Friday, have all of Friday and Saturday to explore the city, return to Santiago on Sunday. Once again, we learned the importance of flexibility in South America.

Thursday night, there were strikes in honor of the Dia del Joven Combatiente which was technically the next day. Since Friday was a holy day, they held the strikes Thursday night instead. This meant that we had to do a little extra planning to make sure we got to the bus station in plenty of time, our director told us to take the metro instead of buses, as buses would be delayed, and we planned on getting to the station early just in case anything happened. As it turns out, we didn’t need to be there early at all. Our bus was delayed 3 hours. No explanation was given, but I’m assuming that a combination of strikes and vacation traffic severely delayed the buses in Santiago. We also spent 4 hours at immigration, causing us to lose many of our precious hours in Mendoza.

Oh well, things can’t always go as anticipated. Now we know to give the buses a bit more time when we use them.

We arrived in Mendoza at 3:30 and headed for our hostel. From there, we found a much needed meal and then set out exploring. We stumbled upon an artesian fair in one of the main plazas and spent most of the rest of our evening poking through the fair. There were so many different interesting goods ranging from handcrafted jewelry to ceramic pieces, maté cups for the typical Argentinian drink, and leather goods. It was a great place to lose yourself and talk with Argentinians.

The next day, we spent most of our day on a Bike and Wine tour. Mendoza is known for its production of wine, olives, and chocolate and a tour seemed like the perfect way to spend our day. We paid the company a cover price which covered our taxis and bikes and were given a map along with discounts to three bodegas and sent to explore Mendoza.

We ended up going the the three recommended sites. One produced chocolates and olive oil while the other two were wineries. We spent the day biking around, stopped for a picnic lunch, took one winery tour, sat down for one tasting, and bought olive oil and chocolates for our friends and families. It was a relaxing and fun way to spend the day in Mendoza.

After our tour, we wanted a real meal, and sat down in a restaurant when suddenly it started hailing! The many Midwesterners in our group were trying to stick it out, but the restaurant staff eventually called us inside and reseated us. It was quite an adventure. We ended the day with gelato and walked back as the first rain I have experienced in South America started.

The next morning, we walked around the city in the rain for a bit before stopping for coffee. We caught our bus on time, and then were stalled for an hour in the parking lot. The bus that was supposed to arrive home at 8 pm didn’t get home until 11. Once again, we’re learning about patience and flexibility here. The upside of getting back so late was that I got to learn how to use the micro to get home from downtown. We also learned to schedule earlier buses. I’m just going to call the bus experience a learning experience. After all, we got back in one piece, just a bit late, which as I’m learning is not the end of the world.




Time March 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


This past week, I finally started to get into the swing of things! Monday, my Pilates class was cancelled forever, so I had to run to the U Catolica San Joaquin campus to register for a half credit class last minute. I ended up taking soccer, and I think the change was for the best! I’m starting to make friends in that class, and I’ve been settling in much better with a set schedule.

I also had my first test. It went pretty well for what I was expecting and I now know how to prepare for his future tests. So, all in all, I’m still feeling pretty positive about everything.

Saturday, we went to Curicó, a town about 3 hours to the south of Santiago, to a Vendimia. A vendimia is a blessing of the start of the harvest season and of the grapes. There’s a princess, a festival, a grape squishing contest, wine tastings, asados, a market, etc. It’s a giant grape festival, and is a ton of fun. We have festivals in America, but for some reason, I liked this one more. I’m not really sure how, maybe it was just because I’m in Chile.

We got to the festival and then had breakfast as a group. After breakfast, we had an opportunity to wander through the markets while they were still setting up. They started blessing the festival, the grapes, and from what I gathered, whatever they felt the need to bless, then moved onto the traditional weighing of the princess.  They sit the princess of the Vendimia on a giant balance and then find her weight in bottles of wine. I felt like it was a bit public, but tradition is tradition. After the weighing and the blessings, the grape squishing contest began. There were 6 teams who competed to see who could create the most juice in a set amount of time. It was definitely a lot of fun to watch. After the contest, the stage cleared the way for bands who played the rest of the day.

Attendants to the festival were able to buy wineglasses and tickets. The tickets functioned to buy food and beverages. There were wine, food, and juice vendors spread out on one side, and then a whole section of vendors grilling meat in another section of the festival. The rest of the festival had different vendors selling homemade jewelry, clothes, art, jams, cheeses, chocolates, and basically whatever you could think of. It was a lot of fun. We just wandered around taking in the festival and chatting with different vendors about the merchandise.

Here’s the other thing: Chileans are also really nice. The vendors, while they were trying to sell us things, were genuinely interested in talking to us. They were fun and cracked me up. I like how easy it is to just strike up a conversation here.

After the festival, we headed to a tour of a winery. I’ve been on tours of wineries before, but what was great about this one was that we actually got to see the vineyards. We started in the vineyards, and they encouraged us to walk around and try their grapes. While we were trying the grapes, the guide explained the different grapes and growing methods and how they affected the wine. It was really interesting. After the vineyard, we got to tour the wine cellar and learn about how the wine is processed and stored before heading back to Santiago.

All in all, it was a fun day, and it was great to get out of Santiago and see another part of Chile!



Registering and all that nonsense

Time March 18th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Alright, news flash! There is a spider here called “la arana de rincon”, in English it’s called the Chilean Recluse Spider.” It lives in corners, is attracted to damp dark places, and is very poisonous. My host family basically told me that it was inevitable that I would see one at some point this semester. Today, I had the opportunity to interact with the not so elusive arana de rincon.

I stepped out of my shower and was toweling off, when a spider jumped out of my towel and onto my arm. I immediately screamed and shook it off. The spider scuttled straight for the corner and I ran out of the bathroom in my towel to inform my host brother that there was a spider in the bathroom. Granted, I do this every time I see a spider, so he wasn’t too concerned. However, this time I had a reason to freak out. He kindly killed it for me, and now two members of my family have reminded me to always shake my towel out (and laughed at me for screaming). There’s my exciting and slightly dramatic story to start my blog post!

Anyway, this last week hasn’t been too terribly exciting, just more stressful than anything. It was supposedly one of the most stressful we will have while we are here, and I’m really hoping that that is true!

Why was this past week so stressful?

We had to register for our classes. We really aren’t in America anymore.

Registering for classes in Chile is very different depending on where you are. I chose to take classes from two different Chilean universities and IFSA. The Universidad Catolica follows more of a Western approach, so I felt more comfortable with their system, while the Universidad de Chile is known for being more disorganized and “Chilean.” They also have campuses spread all over the city, creating an added challenge. Starting Monday, the only two classes I was guaranteed were the two classes I was taking through IFSA. It was time to get to work.

Monday morning, I had to show up bright and early to the Facultad de Letras at the Universidad de Chile to ask for class schedule, locations, and information from a professor. Classes started Monday and not all of this information was readily available for students. Like I said, this is a very different system. Conveniently, I got lost on my way to the university, but that’s how I learn, right?

I got my information, and then learned that I would have to go to the campus in the center of downtown approximately 40 minutes away to get information for the last class on my list.

A classmate and I got to the downtown campus without a hitch, handed in our passes allowing us to take the class, and were informed that we had class at 2:30 pm. Hoy. Wonderful. I now had a timeframe to pick up my laptop and get back to the campus where I just was.

When I arrived on campus, I was about half an hour early and had no idea where I was going. When I asked for directions, I was pointed to the art school, and had no problem knowing when I’d arrived. Everyone was camped out on the ground snacking and talking and the walls were covered in graffiti. I approached a group of girls and asked them for help getting to class. To my surprise, they stood up and went with me. No one seemed to know where my class was. They took me all around the building asking various secretaries until we located my class 5 minutes before it started. Guess what? The only two people in the class were my friend and me. Apparently Chileans at this university don’t show up to class the first week of school, our professor wasn’t even expecting to teach, but managed to come up with something until the class ended. Welcome to culture shock 101.

The rest of the week was much of the same. Tuesday, I showed up to the Universidad Catolica before the office even opened to guarantee myself a spot in my class. When I got there, the secretary informed me that regardless of what my book said, extranjero registration would be the next day. I had about an hour and a half until my class, so I wandered around, found the campus Starbucks, drank some coffee and read. I felt like I deserved some relaxing. The next day, I lucked into my class. There were only 5 spots available for foreign students, and the professor reserved them for students who had registered with him after class on Tuesday. I had done that, got to the office early, and got my spot. Two classes registered, one to go.

My last class was at the Universidad de Chile in another faculty. No information had been posted about this class, and I was unable to register online. When I told our director that I had been instructed to email the head of the university regarding this class, she raised an eyebrow and got on the phone. She then sent some emails. By Thursday, I was registered in the course.

I was lucky though, some students got to the office after their classes were full and had to register for harder classes that less students wanted to take, other students’ schedules are still up in the air. However, as disorganized as this system may seem to our hyper-efficient American selves, it functions. Everyone ends up in classes, and everyone ends up fulfilling requirements. It just takes a bit more effort than it does in the states.

Friday, I went to the zoo with some friends. It was a discount day, so we got in for about $3.00. It was great to get out, blow off some steam, and just relax. Also, the Chilean zoo has a lot more native species, and it was great to be able to see and learn about these animals! I’m definitely adjusting to life here and starting to really like it!

That’s all for this week!




Time March 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My computer is in the shop right now and I´m typing on an American computer with Spanish keyboard settings, so please forgive any typos, because I really don´t know what I´m doing.

This last week was exhausting. We have decided that our ¨honeymoon phase¨ has officially ended. This past week, we got to start navigating the city and public transport on our own, which makes for a pretty quick end to any residual honeymoon phase feelings.

For starters, there are two forms of public transport: micros (busses) and the metro. I have been instructed by any Chilean I´ve met to closely watch my things on both. I´ve not yet braved the micros on my own, but I´m becoming pretty adept at using the metro. The first thing to know about the metro is that it´s always going to be crowded. Always. Every morning, I cram onto it with everyone else at my stop feeling like I´m in a can of sardines, and at the next stop more people find a way to fit. It´s nuts. By the time we get to the final stop, hundreds of people are spilling out of the train to get to their connection.

We also had to get a lot more places on our own. My host family went with me the first day to make sure I could use the metro, but since then I´ve been on my own.

Luckily, everyone here is super nice. Every time I´ve been lost, I´ve been able to stop literally anyone on the street and ask for directions. Anyone and everyone has been willing to help me so far. For example, this morning my 40 min. run turned into an 80 min. run. I stopped probably 5 people to ask for directions. Every single person stopped, asked me to repeat my question, and then helped point me in the right direction. That´s unheard of in America.

Anyway, this week.

We get to pick classes from 4 different universities. We went to orientations at 3 different universities, spent a day trekking (hiking), had to do the beginning steps to get our Chilean credentials, and had class planning meetings. I also attended a class I´m considering taking, and had to take my mac in for repairs. It was a long and exhausting week. Detailing it would be a little bit boring.

However, hiking was fantastic. Yesterday, I went back to the same park with my host brother, his friends, and my friend Tiffany. We hiked for 6 hours! When we were done, we went back and hung out at my house. My host family is related to another host family, and they were all over for lunch when we got back. We ended up just hanging out and chatting until 7 pm. When my host brother´s friends left, they congratulated Tiffany and me on being so fit and told us to keep it up. Alright, I´ll take it. After that, I went over to Austin´s house (we´re related) with my host brother and we all just hung out until about 11. This culture truly focuses on family and social interaction and I really like it (until I´m falling asleep in my chair and just want to go to bed).

Classes start next week, so here comes the next adventure. We´ll see how it goes!

Hasta luego!


Orientation and Relearning Spanish

Time March 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I haven’t even been in Chile for a week and I already feel like I’ve been here for forever, except for the minor detail where I get lost every time I try to go somewhere! That will of course come with time. Paciencia is the word of the semester as I’m learning.

Most of our group arrived in Santiago on Sunday. We were picked up at the airport by our director and assistant director and then headed immediately for a hotel for orientation. The hotel was fantastic. We were definitely living in the lap of luxury. We had coffee (very much needed after an overnight flight) dropped our bags in the room and started orientation.

Orientation consisted of sessions about the culture, universities, families, safety, etc. held in a conference room in the hotel. As informative as they were, sitting in a conference room for hours on end was painful. Two days into orientation, we spent a day touring the city, which provided a much needed break from the conference room. It was also a really great first look at the city. We started at Palacio de la Moneda, which is where the president works, and saw the changing of the guards before taking a tour. Next, we toured an artisanal shop and learned about the techniques used in various pieces brought in from the north, from there we headed all over the city center seeing museums, theaters, etc. and finally finding the IFSA office. It was a full day.

Santiago is very westernized. My host mom told me that there has been a lot of French influence in Chile, which I can definitely see when walking around. There’s also a lot of American influence. I live a few blocks from the Chilean WalMart chain, Lider. Santiago also houses what is, or what will be, the tallest building in South America. It’s also a decently safe city. During orientation, we learned that the majority of crime in Santiago is petty theft. Moral of the story; watch your stuff and you should be ok.

Santiago is also huge. I’ve managed to get lost every time I’ve gone out running. This last time, I ran in a straight line and around a plaza, figuring that when I turned around I’d be back on the same street. Somehow I managed to not make a full rectangle and return to my original street. However, I did end up a few blocks from my house and have no idea how I got there. I’m hoping this luck continues.

Our last night of orientation, we went to our “Cena de Bienvenidas.” A van picked us up, and we headed for the Parque Municipal. At the top of the park is a restaurant that offers a fantastic view of the Apoquindo and Sierra de Ramon mountains ranges.

The next day, we got our families. I was super nervous, but my family has so far been nothing but fantastic. My host mom is a vegetarian and wonderful cook, my host brother is super nice and cracks me up, and my host dad is really sweet although I can’t really understand him and I don’t think he can understand me. This brings me to my next story.

I am currently relearning Spanish.

The Spanish spoken in Chile is much different than the Spanish spoken in other countries. Let’s start with the accent. Chileans “swallow” consonants. I’ve had to ask to have multiple words that I know repeated because I simply can’t understand what my host family is saying to me. Next, vocabulary. Spanish spoken in Latin and South America is very different from Castellano spoken in Spain, and many countries reflect an influence from the indigenous people. in their language. Things keep being said, and I have no idea what’s going on. I already have a story.

My host mom’s daughter also hosts for IFSA, so last night (our first night with families) we went to her house for dinner. Her student and I were just barely following the conversation, but the word “gallo” (rooster) kept popping up in all of their stories. There was a gallo at the office, a gallo out the window, a gallo in the forest, etc. We were doing the oblivious polite laughter at appropriate moments thing when eventually my host dad leaned over and asked if I understood. “Kind of, but where are all of these roosters coming from?” They all cracked up. “Gallo” can also be used to say guy. They were talking about people. Life makes a bit more sense.

I’ve started making a list of all the Spanish I’m relearning.

Here it is so far:

Novio: Castellano=boyfriend, Chileno=fiance


carretear= to party

copete=a drink



mechón=lock of hair

mechoneo=essentially hazing

mechones=1st year students (who have been hazed)

torniquete-turnstyle, tourniquet

pila=battery, pile, water fountain




nana=nanny (puertas adentro=live-in, puertas afuera=live out)

lonko=chief, head

a pata=on foot

al tiro=immediate




italiano=hot dog with tomatoes, avocado, and mayonnaise

ave=chicken or turkey



tuna=prickly pear


Hasta luego!



Culture Shock: The Reverse Kind

Time February 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For those of you who don’t know, I chose to spend my Junior year abroad. I returned from Angers, France February 3, and will be leaving for Santiago, Chile February 23. This left me exactly 20 days in between my trips to unpack, get a visa, repack, adjust to the time difference, and spend time with my friends and family. It’s been quite an adventure.

My first order of business was to get my Chilean visa. Each consulate functions differently, and while the French consulate let me pick my visa appointment time, the Chilean consulate assigns times. My first appointment was scheduled for January 10, while I was still in France. The next was scheduled for February 4 at 9:30 AM. While this was plausible, driving to Chicago immediately after arriving in Indianapolis or waking up at 5 AM to go to Chicago on the 4 did not appeal to me. (Although I did learn that with my jetlag, 5 AM wouldn’t have been a problem). Luckily, I was able to reschedule one more time for the 5th. My jetlagged trip to Chicago isn’t necessarily something I want to try to remember, but the visa appointment was super easy, and I was able to cross one of the biggest things off of my to-do list!

Jetlag was another adventure in and of itself. Chile is 2 hours behind Indiana, while France is 6 hours behind. Theoretically, I should adjust much better to Chile than I managed to to France. My first day in the US, I woke up at 3, fell asleep until 4, gave up and started my day. I was asleep by 7:30 PM Chicago time (8:30 in Indianapolis) that night. Each day, I managed to sleep another hour, and set goals for how late I had to stay up. My first workout was pathetic. I ran two miles on a treadmill, barely managed to bike for 15 min. and then fell asleep doing abs. It’s gotten much better since.

Aside from jetlag, I’ve managed to settle back into life in America relatively well. I’ve been spending my time preparing to leave and with my friends and family and feel almost no culture shock. The most poignant moment has been my refusal to go into any public place in workout clothes. That’s a definite change.

Someone asked me the other day if my head was wrapped around the idea that I’m leaving again. I don’t really think it is. I just got home, don’t really know what to expect, and to top it off, I REALLY can’t stand the thought of getting on another airplane. However, I’m super excited to see what Chile has in store for me! I was just in another developed Western culture, and have settled back into our developed Western culture extremely well. I’m about to leave my comfort zone for one of the most developed South American countries, which is still significantly behind by our standards. I know significantly less about this culture than I do about Europe, and think it will push me to expand my horizons and see the world in a different way. I’m excited to see what new things I will learn and see, and what similarities I will also find in Chile.

I hope to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle while I’m there, which I’ve been told is nearly impossible. I’m determined!

I’m excited, nervous, and can’t really believe this is about to happen!

More to come!