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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

    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.