Mike Infante - 2014 Program Participant

Mike enjoying Reñaca Beach in Viña del Mar, Chile with friends.
Mike enjoying Reñaca Beach in Viña del Mar, Chile with friends.

Why did you choose to pursue an internship abroad in Viña del Mar?

Many years ago, I chose to live in Latin America because I wanted to learn Spanish. I think its great to learn any language, but I also think Americans should be pickier about which languages they are choosing to invest their time in. French and Italian are beautiful languages, but less useful where I live. Spanish is the second language of the country I live in, so I think it’s important to keep that in mind. Chile is 2,600 miles of mountains, beaches, and vineyards, and it is home to some of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met.

I chose Viña because I wanted to be by the beach, in a beautiful and navigable city within hours of all the country’s major urban centers. Candidates should be aware that Santiago, though not without its own charms, is landlocked, incredibly large (this from a New Yorker) and very congested along public transit lines. If you live in Viña you can still go to Santiago (it’s 90 minutes away with a 6 dollar bus ticket) and enjoy a much higher quality of life at home.

Why did you select Adelante Abroad as your internship provider?

My initial reasons for choosing Adelante were purely functional. Adelante offers legal internships to pre-law students (surprisingly difficult to find these days), and more importantly they offer internships in Viña. Ninety percent of internships in Chile, much like 90 percent of everything else in the country, is based in Santiago. To find an opportunity like this outside the capital is indeed a rare find. Throughout the course of my internship I found out that there were many more reasons to choose Adelante. They are supportive and knowledgeable, responsive and invested, approachable and accessible. I am truly glad that I chose Adelante, I don’t think I could have had the same experience without them.

What advice can you give to other students going abroad to Chile? 

Immerse yourself in the country, try to find Chilean friends. Chileans love foreigners and will be eager to meet you if you make the effort. Break away from the comfort of your American friend group and most importantly don’t be afraid to try out your Spanish. If you’re starting from scratch, Spanish can be very tricky but you’re in the best place to learn it. Chilean Spanish is spoken very quickly (this from a New Yorker) and slangily but don’t let this intimidate you. Chileans will be more than happy to help you and they will appreciate your effort. Things are very different in Chile and if you have an open mind it can be very exciting (young people don’t even THINK of going out until 11 p.m. and are often out until after 4 a.m.). Unfortunately many Americans who go to Chile continue living their same American lives. The Chilean experience will be what you make of it, so don’t be afraid to dive in!

How have your experiences in Chile changed your life?

I’m really not sure if this is something that I could possibly express in words, much less to someone who has never been there, but I can give it a try. The first time I went to Chile, I knew after just a few days that it was the place for me. Since then I’ve returned six times (usually for  five to seven months at a time) and have been actively making plans to live there. The people I met there are amongst my best friends to this day.

I was born in the United States to American born parents (with no connection to Chile whatsoever), but the more time I spend in Chile the more I consider that my true home. Of course I’ll always appreciate the advantages of my upbringing in a country as special as the United States, but at this point in my life I find that I’m happiest in Chile. It may surprise some of you to read this, but when you go to Chile you’ll find that I’m not the only one who feels this way. More and more Americans (and foreigners in general) are going to Chile and never leaving. I would (and do) suggest Chile to absolutely anyone. For me it was truly a life changing experience.

Would you recommend Adelante to others as an internship provider?

I would absolutely recommend Adelante to anyone considering an intern abroad experience. The people at Adelante are patient and professional, attentive and hard working, caring and well connected. It was their effort that made my intern abroad experience possible. From helping me to prepare my application, to supporting me throughout the process, to even now after I have left the program continuing to assist me with references and job placement in the region, I simply can’t say enough about the kind of support that Adelante goes out of their way to provide. I would strongly encourage all prospective international interns to think twice before opting for any other program. 

Would you have changed anything about your internship experience given the chance?

I would have stayed longer! I think the best time to go to Chile is from November to March. Chilean summer (December - March) is almost too beautiful to be believed, and the mood of the country changes with the weather, everyone is relaxed and looking to enjoy themselves (especially if you are lucky enough to be in Viña). At the end of this period and towards June (the beginning of summer back home), it’s tempting to get back and double down on good weather, but winter in Chile can be just as enjoyable! Chile has a bit of everything and one of its most notable features is access to world class skiing via the Andes Mountains. I really think that if you’re going to Chile, you’d want at least some part of your trip to coincide with Chilean summer, but I think there’s something to be said about each part of the year there. In late September Chile has it’s Festias Patrias, or Independence Day celebrations. This is a three day celebration not to be missed. No matter what time of year you leave Chile, you’re going to miss out on something, so stay as long as you can!

If you could intern abroad again, where would you go and why?

Whenever I think of international travel it’s hard not to immediately think of returning to Chile! Chile has become my second home and since my first trip there I have done very little traveling anywhere else. I have however often thought about Uruguay. Uruguay like Chile is safe, stable, developed, and from what my friends who have been there tell me, absolutely beautiful. Fortunately, Adelante does have a program in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Like of all Adelante’s satellite locations, it has a number of well articulated program sectors with a variety of options for all levels of Spanish. For interns looking for a different kind of international experience, I think they could not go wrong in choosing Uruguay. They might even see me there! For a long time Uruguay has been on the top of my list.