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IFSA-Butler in Valparaiso, Chile
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IFSA-Butler in Valparaiso, Chile

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    10

Forming incredible relationships in Chile

Studying abroad in Valparaíso, Chile was the best experience of my life. My favorite part of my experience was forming relationships in my new community. I had the opportunity to live with an incredible host family that made me feel like a part of the family in the matter of 10 minutes. I enjoyed sharing meals with my family everyday for lunch and dinner, and going with them occasionally to the market to buy fresh vegetables from local venders, and frequently going on walks with my dad. I also formed an incredible friendship with a Chilean girl that allowed me to learn more about the Chilean culture and Chilean sayings while spending time and fun experiences together. One of my favorite parts of my time in Chile was working at a local school to teach English as a Second Language. The students made me tear up when they threw me a surprise going-away party. Saying goodbye to the people I got to know was the hardest part, but my memories and relationships will last forever. My time abroad challenged me in different ways and made me grow. Chile, you will always hold a place in my heart.
IFSA-Butler is extremely organized, has excellent workers, and provides extraordinary experiences for students to learn and grow. I believe the integration element is essential in studying abroad, and IFSA-Butler has a large focus on making that a reality for its students. While in Chile, the director and assistant director helped make Chile my home and addressed all of my concerns and questions. The small size of the program also allows the students to form great connections and partake in incredible experiences and trips together. I was impressed with IFSA-Butler since the beginning, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying abroad.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    7

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    10

Valpo - you're my new home

Studying abroad in Chile with IFSA-Butler was easily the best decision I have ever made. My program was phenomenal: the IFSA-Butler staff were well organized and supportive, the other American students were eager to travel and get to know each other, my host family was incredibly welcoming, supportive and became good friends to me, and my travels around Chile and South America were an eye opening, incredible experience.

I absolutely loved studying in Valparaíso, Chile. I loved exploring the hills and endless cafes. I liked going for runs along the ocean at sunset. I loved how close "Valpo" was to Santiago so it was easy to get to the airport to fly all over the country!

My three favorite trips were Patagonia, Easter Island, and San Pedro de Atacama. All three were so different and it was incredible to see that such different terrain was within one unique country. I had class Tuesday-Thursday, so I had so many opportunities to not only explore Valparaíso, but all of the country.

As a history major, I loved learning about Chile's past: its relationship to its indigenous population, its former dictator Pinochet. While it was fascinating to take classes in another country, the majority of my learning happened outside the classroom - my host family, family friends, IFSA-Butler excursions, conversations at coffee shops...

Studying abroad with IFSA-Butler was the perfect balance of freedom and support for me. I could go wherever I wanted to, but I also knew someone was always there for me. IFSA-Butler had great excursions, but also gave us so much free time and independence. I learned so much about myself, gained so much confidence, learned about the U.S. and its relationship to other countries and felt I really grew up. I highly recommend this program!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    10

Making a second home

My goal for study abroad was to feel like I was living in a new country for a semester and that's exactly what I got out of IFSA Butler in Valparaiso. They provide all the support that you could need to navigate the transition to living in Chile but don't require it, giving you the option to take it or figure out life on your own. The program administration, my host family and the other students on the program were all incredibility welcoming and friendly. It's challenging to encapsulate my semester's experience in few words, but this program provided me with exactly what I was looking for and the flexibility to make my six months abroad my own.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Community

    7

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Academics

    6

IFSA-Butler made my Valparaíso experience the best it could be

Though during my semester abroad I often questioned if I had made the right decisions in terms of when and where to go, or which classes to take, or what to do with my free time, I never regretted my choice to study abroad through IFSA-Butler. The IFSA staff were there with me from start to finish as advisors, mentors, and friends. Pame, the Assistant Director of the Valparaíso program, was an especially wonderful resource and friend. We ate lunch and hung out in her office all the time, and she helped us figure out details for a lot of our travel plans. IFSA also takes great care with matching us to our host families. My host family was a wonderful group of people and are easily the ones I miss the most now that I'm back. We had two students who changed families partway through the semester, and our program director was very helpful with making those changes and helping those students through them. They want to ensure that each student has the most fulfilling experience possible with their family.

The program excursions were also really rewarding experiences, as they gave us a chance to travel with an already structured plan and experience different aspects of Chilean history and culture that I don't think I would have been able to enjoy on my own. We visited the Human Rights Museum in Santiago and learned about Pinochet's dictatorship; we went to Isla Negra to tour Pablo Neruda's house and learn about the fishing industry and environmental conservation on the coast; and we spent five days in a southern region of Chile living with and learning about native Mapuche culture. Our trip to the south was especially great because we experienced a lot of the natural beauty of the region and learned about a culture that is often marginalized and ignored within Chilean society.

The most disappointing aspect of this program was that PUCV (the local university we enrolled at) was on a student strike when we arrived, so most classes started about a month later than they were originally scheduled to start. This really limited our course offerings because we could enroll in classes with Chilean students that would start and end later in the semester, or we could stick to the classes offered in the International Department which all started and ended on time. Since many of us already had flights planned for the end of the semester, we couldn't enroll in any classes with Chilean students, which limited our connections with locals. Of course, this was not IFSA's fault at all, and they handled the strike situation as best as they could, but it's something to keep in mind when planning to study in Valparaíso or Santiago. Strikes are not uncommon in Chile, whether in universities, companies, or workers' unions. For instance, all extracurricular activities were cancelled unexpectedly halfway through the semester because of a strike by the activity instructors. In Chile, you just never know what's going to happen.

All in all though, I had a really wonderful and rewarding semester. I typically felt safe in the city, and I always felt well supported and cared for by both my host family and the IFSA-Butler staff. Chile can be a crazy place to study abroad, but I couldn't imagine a better way to enjoy the ride than with IFSA-Butler.