Sadey Mirabile - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I wanted an experience outside of my regular classes that related to something I'm passionate about. It seemed like a great opportunity to visit a place on my "list."

Why did you choose Round River Conservation Studies program in Patagonia?

I chose Round River's Patagonia program because past environmental studies majors raved about it at the info sessions. I knew where I wanted to go before I looked into programs, and on top of taking place in my favorite place in the world, it also offered environmental classes; it was a no brainer.

Hiking in Villa OHiggins, Chile
Spring 2016 Patagonia group in Villa O'Higgins

What was your favorite part about Chile?

How everyone passionately cared about the future of their beautiful country. Not a single person I met wasn't environmentally conscious; everyone was educated about developmental threats to their country and assimilation efforts.

What made your experience abroad unique?

I had the chance to learn how to be self-sufficient with only things I needed. Being in the "backcountry" for three months away from technology and friends/family makes you realize that living in the present is important! My motto was, "Here's to now!"

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

We had local guides, cooks, friends, and hosts. Chileans and Argentinians are unbelievably friendly and caring.

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

I wish I had learned more Spanish before traveling to a Spanish speaking country. Round River doesn't require Spanish speaking skills or a comprehension prerequisite because the instructors act as translators the whole time, but I would have gotten a better cultural experience had I been more able to converse with local people directly.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Early wake up, cook breakfast, have class, hike all day, and make lunch when we got tired. Have class, cook dinner, set up tents, have group hang out time/homework or readings.

Baker River in Patagonia, Chile
Baker River

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Walking around town, going on runs around the city, reading by the river, swimming, and helping out our host family with outdoor chores.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

Most of the time I was living out of my single tent, but we did stay at hostels and with a host family when we were in basecamp in Cochrane, Chile. We cooked all of our own food, except at the beginning and end of our program. It was so minimalist that I learned to not depend on millions of options and to make the most of what I was offered and could easily obtain.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Build relationships quickly, let down your walls and allow yourself to be free, and do your best to live in the moment.

The world goes on around you, but you have the power to change how you feel and decide what you want to get out of your program.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad was not keeping in touch with my home life as much as I’d liked to (and then figuring out it’s better to live in the moment). With limited service and wifi, it was not remotely possible to talk to everyone I wanted to every single time I had wifi.

Mountains in Patagonia
Just your average mountains

What surprised you most about Chile?

I think that has to be how friendly and welcoming the locals are to Americans.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It was fairly difficult to exchange information at coffee shops and markets, but most of the time, we were with our translators. If I had been more proficient in Spanish, then I would have been more willing to step outside my comfort zone and approach people as a friend.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before traveling to Chile?

I wish I would have known that I should have brought some of my favorite foods from home because many aren’t available in the country. It would have been nice and comforting to share with people from Chile and with other students.

Any packing tips for people headed to Chile?

Food from home, less outfits, an underwater camera would be sweet because the water is so clear, good sunglasses, and lots of sun screen (even for your hands).

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

I am more outgoing, confident, and ready to put myself in situations where I'm not entirely comfortable. I'm better at conversing and getting to know strangers. I've realized that change is an integral part of my life, and I like it.

Group of hikers outside of Tortel, Chile
Group picture outside of Tortel

Would you recommend Round River to others? Why?

Of course I would recommend Round River! Patagonia is the most beautiful place to me, so it's incredibly important that their natural resources, wildlife, and pristine landscapes are conserved and cared for. It needs people like me to get out there and spread the word through their knowledge and individual resources.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would go to Mallorca, Spain!