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Wrapping it up

Time January 5th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, Chile, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I, of course, always knew this journey would come to an end. I tried, however, to ignore this reality and not really give it much thought. This worked fairly well, allowing me to spend my time not worrying about the end but rather truly enjoying the time that remained. When the end actually came, however, it hit hard. There’s nothing quite like ending a period in your life, a period in which you really can’t go back to. There’s always the knowledge that someday I will make it back to Chile, but it truly will never be the same. The people will be different, there would be no university, and I would be visiting the country instead of living in it. This realization was difficult to deal with, yet inevitable and just a fact of life. I am incredibly grateful for my experiences in Chile and all of the people I got to meet and spend an amount of time with that will forever be insufficient. I have many things to look forward to, and I hope I can integrate aspects of my experience abroad and what I learned in Chile into my daily life. Although I have left Chile, Chile hasn’t left me.


A Trip Back in Time to Rapa Nui

Time October 12th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Chile, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

There are few places that I never really imagined I would make it to in my lifetime, but Easter Island was one of them. Before deciding to go to Chile, I never fully knew where Easter Island even was, just that it was an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Little did I know that in a few short months I would be taking one of the most memorable trips of my life.

At only 13 miles, Easter Island is a tiny speck of land lost in the middle of the Pacific Island. Also known as Rapa Nui, the island was home to 20,000 Polynesian indigenous peoples until explorers reached the island. The current population is just above 3,000 people mostly of indigenous descent. The island’s economy is mostly based on tourism, although this hasn’t seemed to have changed much of the culture.

After a 5.5 hour flight from Santiago to the most remote airport in the world on one of the most remote islands in the world, I (with three friends) stepped out of the plane to a much-needed sunny day and a warm breeze. We stayed for five nights total, in a small hostel right on the water. The first day we took a tour that covered the highlights of the main island and offered a great background of the history and current state of Rapa Nui. The second day we went to Anakena Beach, one of the two sandy beaches on the island. The third day we hiked to a volcano crater from our hostel, in the rain, and visited a ceremonial village. The fourth, and final full day, we hiked the tallest volcano on the island (not that tall, at about 550M), and explored some banana caves.

All in all, the experience was so much more than I had hoped for. The many Moai statues scatter throughout the island were the main attraction, and they are truly something to marvel at, but there is so much more to do and see on the island as well. Maybe it was just the change of pace- from large, bustling city to a small, sleepy island- but Rapa Nui truly seemed like a magical place. Everything was simpler, more relaxed, and more fulfilling. Rapa Nui may be out of the way, but it couldn’t be more worth it.


When a 1.5 hour plane ride takes you to another world

Time September 22nd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Chile, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by


My family (well, really just my mom, brother, and girlfriend) came down to visit me last week. I got incredibly lucky that they could come down in early September, because that coincided with a week-long school break for Chile’s fiestas patrias, the 18th of September and surrounding days, which celebrates the start of the Chilean independence process. With this time, I decided to a make a trip to San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile with my family. After spending a few days in Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, we left early in the morning, making it to San Pedro in time for a late lunch. San Pedro is a small town, mostly focused on the tourism industry. We spent three nights there, and visited lagoons, salt flats, Valle de la Luna, hot springs, and even went sandboarding. San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world, was truly otherworldly. With sweeping landscapes and unusual formations in every direction, you truly feel like you left this planet. And I have pictures to prove it (thanks Eliza)!

That’s all for now, but get excited, because my next post will be about my upcoming visit to EASTER ISLAND!



Finally learned the steps

Time September 8th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, Chile, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Wow. How quickly time goes. I never thought I would be the one saying it, but since my arrival to Chile it has gone so quickly. The whole adjustment period is mostly over, and it has started to feel like I’m actually just living here. Not a tourist, not a newcomer, but just a person spending their time in a place you can (almost) start to call home. Since my last post there have been floods, we visited Isla Negra to see Pablo Neruda’s house, I went to Portillo, learned how to dance cueca, and was asked for directions (this is a big deal).

When it rains in Chile, it’s either a light sprinkle that everyone thinks is a downpour, or there is an actual downpour that shuts down the entire city. The latter is what happened over a few days in August. What started out as a cloudy day soon turned into a torrential rainstorm, with water quickly building up in the yard and threatening to make a very unwelcome entrance. Classes that day were cancelled due to the flooding, meaning I would then have a five-day weekend, for the class that was cancelled was Thursday and I do not have class Friday or Monday. Over the next few days the flooding got worse, and soon the ocean joined in. The entire coast line was damaged to varying degrees, ranging from flipped over cars to destroyed beachfront restaurants. The Metro system didn’t escape untouched either, and was out of service for the next three weeks.

Isla Negra, which really isn’t an island at all, is a small coastal town that’s really only known for Pablo Neruda’s house being there. Neruda’s house is a museum-like collection of everything that the poet was interested in, a true testament to the curiosity for and questioning of life that fueled the artist’s work. After Isla Negra, we visited Las Cruces to see a marine biology research station and marine conservation site. There, we got to full tour of the grounds and got to touch the many creatures the research station works hard to protect.

Skiing in Chile was everything one can imagine it to be. First, the concept of skiing is weird, as my mind still thinks it’s summer, but nonetheless I was more than ready to go. Portillo is a smaller ski resort right by the Chile-Argentina border, famous for being the oldest ski resort in Chile and the preferred training location for many world-famous athletes and Olympic teams. The weather was warm, and the sun was out for most of the day, leading to great conditions for the day. The view of the mountains themselves is reason enough to go, but the skiing too was fantastic in its own right.

This country seems to have a thing against my unwillingness to dance. When I arrived, I was forced to dance the cueca (national dance of Chile) and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), later at a small party I was chosen form the audience to dance the cueca twice, and when the IFSA program director Mark was rounding up people to take a class to learn the cueca he of course chose me, writing down my name as I protested against it. The class, which was only two sessions, actually turned out to be very enjoyable. I learned the cueca, as well as various regional versions. The cueca itself isn’t too difficult, and after a couple hours, I finally learned the steps to a dance that I have been unable to escape from. Just as I’ve learned the steps to my class, the steps to order coffee, the steps to get off a micro (go fast, the driver will start moving again before your foot touches the sidewalk), the steps to break larger bills, and the steps to take on a crowded sidewalk so you don’t end up on the road.

(However, I have yet to learn the steps to posting pictures on here. In the meantime, check out Eliza’s blog (who is also in Valparaiso), which has some wonderfully artsy pictures of dogs and people. And Eliza, if you read this, please help me with pictures.)


Dancing Without Knowing the Steps

Time August 3rd, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, (slightly over) two weeks have already passed since landing in Chile for the first time, and they couldn’t have any better. Classes and homestays have started, and I’m slowly discovering what my daily life here in Chile will be like. And it has got me pretty excited. So many things have happened since arrival, yet it has neither seemed overwhelming or boring. Read More »


Departures, goodbyes, new beginnings

Time July 15th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Hello! My name is Troy Sanders and I will be blogging from Valparaíso, Chile for the semester! I am currently a Junior at Davidson College majoring in Biology with a  minor in Hispanic Studies. I’m currently 20 years old, and from Enumclaw, Washington (about an hour outside of Seattle.)

After a few bitter goodbyes, I find myself sitting in the airport, trying to sorta figure out what all of this means. Moving to a different continent, exclusively speaking a different language, taking new classes, spending time with new people. When I was still figuring out my study abroad plans and future, I read through many of these blogs, so I hope that one day this blog can help others alleviate some confusion/anxiety and  make others excited. This entire experience can be looked at in many different ways, but throughout this blog I hope to address the questions that a student may have hoping to or going to study abroad, aspects of the first-generation college student experience abroad, and what it all means for the student and the world. Lofty goals.

As for now, I know that I have a host family with two dogs, and two cats. This almost has me as excited as going to Chile itself. Speaking of Chile, I am incredibly excited for the avocados, the ocean, and the many other great aspects. I just may have decided on going to Chile for the avocados though. Well, just after a few flights I’ll find myself in my new home for a while. I hope to update you all on how it goes soon!

Hasta luego.