Chelsy A., Chile – Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Biopsychology/Chicano Studies)

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_LaCampana

1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

During my time abroad I took courses for my Chicano Studies major, the topics included: political science, anthropology and history. The courses I took abroad were extremely interesting. I learned a lot about the relationship among Latin American countries and their view on the US, specifically in regards to the current political climate. It also provided me with a different perspective on immigration. The classes were a lot smaller and more interactive, which made it easier to build relationships with the professors.  

2. What was your favorite class abroad?

My favorite class abroad was political corruption in Latin America. My professor was the best, he was the equivalent to my grandpa and he made the course extremely interesting. Not only did he cover the basics of corruption, but also, he delved into the specific types of corruption present in each country in Latin america. The final for the course was a presentation and research paper on a specific corruption case in a Latin America country, which gave me the opportunity to learn even more about countries in Latin america. The course gave me a different perspective on the way I had previously studied the forms of government and policy in Latin American countries.

3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

I did not.

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_ILP


4. How would you describe your host institution?

Phenomenal! The campus was beautiful. I especially loved the fact that the campus where I had all my classes had lots of open lawns, which I definitely took advantage of during lunch time. There were also dogs that belonged to the campus so it was dog therapy day, everyday! I also loved that there were food carts right outside campus, which were perfect for a cheap lunch. The locations of the 5 campuses were also ideal because they were right next to either a metro or bus stop.

5. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

I personally did not join any clubs because I lived far from campus, but I know various students in the program joined intramural sports teams or clubs that met on campus during lunch.


6. Describe your housing situation.

I stayed with a host mom for the first month of my program, but left after that because I wanted the experience of living on my own. I just happened to have an aunt living in Chile so I stayed with her for the rest of my program, but I wish I would have lived with locals and been more immersed in the Chilean culture.

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_EmbalseElYeso


7. Where did you eat most of your meals?

In the comfort of my home.

8. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

An average meal was about 6 USD. It was pretty much the standard price of a meal here in the US. I would advise students to not spend money on eating out because it is a lot cheaper to buy your own produce from the little farmers markets and cook your own meals. The produce is also a million times better than it is in the US and the fruits are delicious!

9. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

I was transitioning back to eating meat when I first arrived to Chile, but I ended up eating vegetarian meals for most of my time there. There were plenty of vegetarian options at most restaurants and a lot of vegetarian restaurants as well. Vegetarianism is extremely popular in Chile and veganism is also starting to become more popular.

10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining experience in Chile was on the island of Chiloe in the south at place called, “Las Empanadas más Ricas Ricas Pero Bien Ricas (The most delicious empanadas but very delicious).” After visiting a national park, one of the park rangers recommended this place to my friends and I and it ended up being on the edge of the island and it truly had the most delicious empanadas. My two friends and I ate 15 empanadas total, each had a different type of seafood or meat in it, so we also got to try the the amazing seafood that the Chileans always rave about.

11. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I miss their bread! Not once was I disappointed by any bread I tried in Chile. Chileans love their bread as well, which you will easily realize by going to the grocery store because the line to weigh your bread is always so long!

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_Valparaiso


12. Describe your host city.

Santiago was the epitome of a big city. There was always a lot of people out in the city. The metro is always busy and there are a lot of plazas throughout the city that are hangout spots for Chileans. It is also really easy to just walk everywhere if you live in a central area, which is extremely neat. You’ll also find there are a lot of street vendors for all sorts of things ranging from food to phone chargers to jackets. There is always something to do in the city, a new area to explore or restaurant to try.

13. Was it easy to get around?

Yes, it was extremely easy to get around once I figured out the metro system. It seems daunting at first but is super doable. The bus is also really great and with the help of google maps it’s very easy to find your way to wherever you need to go by simply using public transportation.

14. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

Yes, there was never a point where I felt that I was in danger. The main thing is to keep an eye on your valuables especially when you’re on the metro. It is crucial you keep your phones stored away when you’re in very busy and crowded areas like the metro because these are ideal spots for locals to steal your belongings.

15. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

I went to the pride parade in the city, which was extremely fun to be a part of. There was also a lot of cool karaoke spots in the city center. Surprisingly, there was also an amusement park in the city, which had awesome rides. The amusement park is located in a giant park, that also has a concert venue within it. I got to go to two concerts at this park, one was lollapalooza and the other was a reggaeton music festival.


16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

I didn’t experience much culture shock because my family is from Latin America so I had already been exposed to most of the components of their culture. I think the most surprising thing for me was the predominance of European-looking Chileans and the overall European influence on the country in general, especially in the city.

17. How did you handle culture shock?

I did not find it difficult at all to handle the culture shock.

18. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect was their interest in getting to know me and wanting to practice their English with me. A lot of the Chileans were also extremely friendly and welcoming.  

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_Atacama2


19. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

One of the weekend trips I did with other students from the program was to Chiloe, an island next to Chile. We had originally planned on camping, but after driving around to various campsites that were closed since it was winter and it gets very cold in the south of Chile in the winter, we trespassed into a campsite and knocked on random doors until we finally found the person who worked there. The man was kind enough to let us stay in the kitchen building of the campsite so we would not have to camp outside in the cold. However, the best part of the story was that while we were waiting to find someone from the campsite, a man selling apple empanadas showed up and they were the most delicious empanadas ever!

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_ConCon


20. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

Making friends. I was so worried that I would not be able to find a new group of friends while abroad that would embrace my personality, but I actually ended up making quite a few friends. The friendships you make abroad are completely different than the friendships you usually form because you’re doing and experiencing things with these people that you have never done before. More importantly, you are pushing yourself to try new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone and they’re there alongside you as you’re doing it all and they’re doing the same things themselves. Since being back from Chile I have kept in touch with all the friends I made abroad within my program and we continue to push ourselves to grow as people and experience new things.

21. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge abroad was managing my time, in the sense that there was so much I wanted to do and so little time. I really had to prioritize which places I wanted to travel to and make sure to plan around my school schedule.  

22. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

After going abroad I realized that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was. I feel more comfortable in my ability to overcome challenges and in navigating my way in things that are unknown to me. More importantly, my time abroad has encouraged me to put myself out there and take advantage of all the opportunities I am presented with.

23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

My advice to students would be to just go for it. No matter how daunting it might seem to be gone for so long in an unknown place without knowing what to expect, you’ll be surprised by how much you learn. It is important to put yourself in a different environment and learn to thrive outside of your comfort zone. It is a truly rewarding experience and you’ll get to know a lot more about yourself and won’t regret it.  

Alfaro, Chelsy_Chile_Atacama3

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