I love learning about new cultures. They fascinate me. I loved having random discussions with international students on my campus, and so I knew I had to go see the world. I'm also a Spanish major, so there is practical value to studying in a Spanish-speaking culture.
Why did you choose the USAC CHILE: Santiago-Latin American & Anthropology Studies program?
I chose it for a few reasons. First, since I don't have a ton of money, I chose this program because it was fairly inexpensive. Second, it offered certain courses that fit in perfectly with my other major, international politics. Finally, and most importantly, I chose to go to Chile because it is the perfect country to encounter the diversity of South America. It is only about an hour and a half from the mountains to the sea, with a desert in the north and glaciers in the south. It is the perfect mix, and I knew that I would meet many different people.
What was your favorite part about Santiago?
Santiago is the perfect city for every type of person. The nightlife is very prominent and fairly inexpensive for those who enjoy clubbing. It is also filled with museums discussing Chilean history, art, and culture. I can go on my own (in most areas: it's pretty safe) and explore, or I can go with a group to get gelato. It is also very close to Valparaiso, which is also filled with culture and excitement. It is just a bus ride away to Argentina, and if you plan ahead, that trip is fairly inexpensive.
What made your experience abroad unique?
My experience is unique because Chile is unique. Its geography, slang, and people are unique in Latin America. Chileans have seen economic development mixed with native cultures unlike most in Latin America, and I love exploring Chile’s differences.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
Before I arrived, the staff was there to help answer my day-to-day questions about visas, what to pack, and basically everything else. When we arrived, we had an orientation meeting that told us more about the culture. Finally, they have been helping us set up volunteering programs, as well as plan weekend tours to different places in Chile.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have known how much to budget, and planned my longer trips ahead of time. I also wish I wouldn't have waited so long and procrastinated when I had things to do so that I could enjoy the time I had to go out and see the sights.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
I take the metro and micro to class, spend most of the afternoon in classes and studying, then return home. I spend a few hours relaxing or spending time with family chatting in Spanish before once, the evening meal. We talk a little after once before we go to our rooms, where I relax or talk with friends. It is a pretty relaxed day for me, but I know some who do a new thing every day (it is possible here).
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love reading, listening to videos in Spanish, talking politics, or talking with my family. I also like to walk leisurely around the neighborhood when it's warm. In the spring here (it's fall in the U.S.), it is normally pretty warm.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I lived with a pretty well-off Chilean family, and it was actually better than my house in the U.S. My favorite part is the nice sitting area in the jardin.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
You should know not to go to Chile for the food! The food is not what you should be here for. Those who come to this program should come instead for the hiking, the slang, and the beautiful views.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I haven't yet returned home, but I can imagine that I will miss Chile.
This program has made me realize exactly how independent and strong I am.
I have also learned valuable language skills, for already (after only one month) I can hold basic conversations in Chilean Spanish, a very fast-paced Spanish.
Would you recommend your the USAC CHILE: Santiago-Latin American & Anthropology Studies program to others? Why?
I would. It is a great program for the cost. It is also not the typical program, which makes it infinitely better than a program in, say, Argentina. It is close to many great and interesting places, and it has an interesting history. The Chilean people are very welcoming in general of us gringos (not an offensive term), and I would love for more people to experience this program.
Sophia Leddy is a junior international politics and Spanish double major. She attends Ashland University in Ohio. She has been to Spain to teach English to a family for one month. She works in an office for a nonprofit and for the Writing Studio, both at her university.