Andrew Tarbox - 2015 Program Participant

San Pedro De Atacama, northeastern Chile

San Pedro De Atacama

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided to apply for an international program because I have known, without a doubt, that I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country during my college experience. I also wanted to have the chance to learn about public health abroad. Furthermore, I knew that as part of my study abroad experience, I wanted to live with a host family in order to be totally immersed in local culture and to be able to, by the end of the program, call the place I studied in home. Now, after being abroad and accomplishing these goals, I can easily say that Santiago has become my second home and that it is a place which I will always hope to return to.

Why did you chose to study with IES Abroad in Chile?

I chose my program because it offered a Health Studies Program, in which students could participate in observations or practicums as well as have the opportunity to take coursework related to learning Spanish health vocabulary. Furthermore, I loved IES Santiago's focus on learning about the abuses of human rights that occurred during the Chilean military dictatorship. I liked that the program let students learn about the dictatorship from a multitude of different perspectives. In addition, I liked the program's focus on experiential learning. I looked at the syllabi of the different course offerings and they all had many field trips attached to them. This was especially interesting in the Human Rights in Latin America course, where we went to a bunch of different detention centers across the city. Lastly, I loved how this program exclusively offered home stays because all the students had the same opportunity and could share feedback about the experience with each other.

What was your favorite part about living in Santiago, Chile?

Santiago is a wonderful city for learning, exploring, and relaxing. Santiago has many different museums that one can not find in many cities. For example, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights gives students the opportunity to reflect upon the military dictatorship that occurred in Chile. The Museum of Pre-Columbian art gives students a great glance at indigenous art before the introduction of colonialism, and allows students to learn about the many different indigenous cultures living in the country.

Aside from museums, the temperate climate allows students to explore the various parks around the city. My favorite park in Santiago was the Sculpture Park, which has sculptures from many Chilean artists. This park is a 15 minute walk from the IES Abroad Center and I would go there before class to read my books or catch up on work while enjoying the sun. Another really great park in Santiago is Cerro San Cristobal, which includes a nice hike up to the top of a hill with a panoramic view of the city. I would frequently take runs in this park and it is great spot to take friends or family that are visiting and provide them with an introduction to Santiago.

Also, Santiago is quite an active city. Every weekend, the street that my house was on would be closed-off for runners (of course, I would partake every weekend with my host mom and brothers!). Finally, Santiago's location in the central part of the country, the amount of buses, and a nearby airport allow students to take trips outside the city for a day or a weekend. A great day or overnight trip is Valparaiso. It’s located on Chile's cost, about 1.5 hours from Santiago. It is a funky bohemian city with steep hills and colorful houses. The buses leaving from Santiago's Central Station let students travel cheaply to further locations, such as Valle Del Elqui in the north, some six hours from Santiago.

View of Santiago from the top of Cerro San Cristobal

View on top of Cerro San Cristobal Santiago

How did IES Abroad offer a unique experience in Santiago?

There was a very strong health studies program that was in conjunction with the local university faculty and nursing school. This program has a lot of flexibility and the staff at the IES Abroad Center are more than willing to go out of their way to make sure you have a good experience in the program. For example, as one of the only students studying public health, I wanted my health studies program experience to be more focused on prevention and with contact with local community members. Therefore, instead of doing clinical observations, I volunteered at a local community health agency. The staff completely helped me out in organizing this wonderful, life-changing experience.

How did local staff support you throughout your time in Santiago?

As I mentioned before, the IES Abroad staff is extremely well-respected and connected within Santiago. The staff paired me with a local community health agency, where I volunteered and worked on a nutrition initiative. I will never forget this experience and it has influenced what I want to study and how I hope to maintain my connections in Chile. The central director is on the board of this organization and she (as well the academic affairs coordinator) coordinated transportation for us (which was included in the program's cost) every time we wanted needed it.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

If I could do one thing differently, it would be to spend even more time than I did with my family. Although I absolutely loved them and we are very close, I wish I attended even more family events than I did. Although I went to many, such as an asado (BBQ) at my grandma's house, I definitely wish I did even more. I think these experiences are just as valuable as taking classes. It was hard for me to balance how much school work I had to do while abroad versus wanting to get the best of the experience outside the classroom.

Describe your typical day at your study abroad program.

On the weekdays, I would usually wake up and take a nice walk to the IES Abroad Center in the morning. I lived in a neighborhood about a 30-minutes walk from the center, but it was nice to have the time for this. I would usually have two classes and a break. After my human rights course, I would eat the lunch my host mom packed for me or go to the local panini shop and  have a little picnic with my friends before my next class.

After native cultures, I would make my walk back to my host family's house. When I got home, I would listen to music or play with my brothers. At around 9PM, we would eat and then I would take time to talk with my host mom and one of my host brothers with whom I had an extremely close relationship.

On the weekends, I would take a nice run to and around one of the parks in Santiago. If I wanted something different, I would go to one of the museums in the city.

Valle del Elqui in the Coquimbo region of Chile

Valle del Elqui

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

My favorite activity would definitely be to explore the coffee shop scene in the city and also to try as many local empanada stores as I could find. I absolutely loved the freedom to just get lost and be constantly exposed to new places around the city. On the weekends, I would go with friends to try a different restaurant. The Peruvian food scene is quite good in Santiago. My friends and I also had a favorite crepe and ice cream place we would go to in Patio Bellavista.

How was your living situation in Santiago? What did you like the most about it?

I lived in a homestay with a family (a host mom and three host brothers), in a nice residential sector of Santiago. What I liked the most about it was just to learn about their lives and routines. For example, I talked a lot with my host mom about her career in alternative medicine and she was extremely interested in learning about what public health was and how alternative medicine fits into it. Furthermore, I had an especially close relationship with my oldest host brother and we would always have really long conversations. It was really interesting to learn about the education system from him. My family made sure to include me in many aspects of their life and family events. This experience was invaluable and I will maintain a close relationship with them forever.

To what degree has your study abroad experience followed you back home?

My program has impacted my life in so many ways. Not only was my interest in community health strengthened, but my interest in working with Spanish-speakers in a future job setting was reaffirmed. Furthermore, I am trying to integrate my interest in the Chilean military dictatorship into projects and independent studies I carry out at my home university. I also hope to always be in touch with my family in Chile and I know that they will always be there for me if I need help or if I want to come back.

For the first time, I learned how to live in a city and also how to get past a language barrier and to learn that there is always another way to express an idea. I definitely am going to do my best effort to maintain contacts in Chile and may end up working there in the future.