Monday, October 14, 2013

Chile: Valparaíso

   View of Valparaíso from the Dunes in ConCon
 Alex Grinberg '14

What is your major?
I am a physics major!

Why did you decide to study abroad? 
Studying abroad was always a part of my plan no matter where I went to college. I think it is the best way to learn about a new city, country, culture, and it forces you completely out of your comfort zone. Being out of the US for months at a time gives you a whole new perspective on life and makes you realize what a small portion of the globe you inhabit. Also, I felt I was at a point with my Spanish where I could not improve until I really immersed myself in the language. 
Torres Del Paine

Why did you choose Chile: Valparaíso?
I chose to go to Chile because I had already done a summer program in Spain in high school and wanted to go to South America since I had never been before. I knew I wanted a program that was going to be language intensive and not only LC students. 

What was your living situation like?
I lived with a host family in the next city over from Valparaíso, in Viña del Mar. The family consisted of a single mom, a 21-year-old boy, 20-year-old girl, and 6(!) host animals. I had my own room and a half bathroom. 

Sunset in Viña

Highlights of the program:
I think what really sets this program apart from the other LC programs is that it is not a strictly LC program. It was great being able to meet students from other universities across the US. CIEE, who runs the program in Valpo, was an incredible resource, with a very hands-off approach, which was extremely important to me since I wanted a more independent abroad experience.  Another part of the program I was thankful for was that we didn't have to take classes with other Americans (except for 1). I was able to take classes in the Art, physics, and Geology departments with the Chilean students. 

 Overlooking Valparaíso

The university we were attending was on strike for the majority of our time there so we were able to learn about the student protests that are not so uncommon in Chile. Because of this time off, I had the opportunity to travel the majority of Chile as well as parts of Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. It was awesome to really get to know all of Chile and see glimpses of its surroundings countries. Chile has so much to offer in terms of the variety of climates, I saw glaciers and penguins in the very South as well as the driest desert on the planet that lies in   the very North. 

Challenges of the program:

 Backpacking an unmarked Volcano
Studying abroad is one of the most emotionally exhausting things you can do. There are moments of extreme joy and there are times when the 6,000 mile distance from anyone you really 'know' gets to you. There are times when the bus driver acts like he doesn't understand you even though you are speaking as clearly as possible and you just need to get to class. No matter how fluent in Spanish you consider yourself, everyday interactions will be 10x more exhausting and that can really get to people. Also while I enjoyed the host family experience, it was hard to adapt to a huge family and how they operated. 

In the end, the challenges were really what made the experience. When I talk about my time in Chile it seems that those are the best stories even though they may not have seemed so funny at the time. You have to remember that difficult experiences, like getting dropped off by a bus in the middle of nowhere Patagonia with only a backpack and a friend, are just a part of the experience. 

 Taking pictures with Guanacos in the South

Jumping at the Altiplano Lagunas in the North
Advice you wish you had been given before your program?

Chile is not cheap. In fact, a lot of things are going to be more expensive than in the US. That being said, girls should bring as many feminine products as they are going to need for the semester because they are extremely expensive. I would also say to travel as much as you can afford (both time-wise and financially) but also get to know Valparaíso and its beautiful Cerros. 

Additional comments?
It is really important to put yourself out there as much as possible. I think if being abroad taught me anything it was humility. You endure so many incredibly awkward experiences while you are abroad and the most important thing is learning to laugh at yourself.

If you have any questions for Alex or about the Chile programs in general, please follow this link to the Ask An Alum moodle page. 


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