Tatum S., Chile- University of Chile (Environmental Studies)

Mt. Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Argentina
Durante el sendero de Cerro Castillo en Patagonia


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

I took an UD Environmental Studies course (conservacion y biodiversidad), a UD Spanish course (teoria de la novela), a GE course (historia del arte). I tried to ensure that the courses I took would transfer over and count for my major and minor back at UCSB.

2. What was your favorite class abroad? 

My favorite class I took abroad was teoria de la noevela (Theory of the novel). The professor was very passionate about the material, and since he lectured freely and wrote nothing on the board it tested my Spanish skills while I was taking notes. This class also gave me a chance to read a lot more texts from Chilean authors, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

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

While abroad, I had an amazing internship. I interned at Caleta Sur, an organization in Lo Espejo, a low income community in Santiago. Here I split my time between the second opportunity middle school teaching environmental education workshops to the students, and the organization’s preschool working as a teacher’s assistant. Both sides of the internship let me work with kids, which is my passion, as well as better my Spanish skills. It was also interesting to work in a low income community because I got to see a side of Santiago I had not been introduced to before.


4. How would you describe your host institution?

Studying at University of Chile gave me a very unique experience I would not have had studying elsewhere. UC is Santiago’s public university, where the students are known for being activists and being very vocal for what they do support and don’t support. UC is known for having ‘paros’ or strikes as a method to make their opinions known to an institutional level. The academics are top-tier and the professors are very passionate about their fields of study.

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

While attending U de Chile I did not join any clubs but yes there are! My friends joined a social soccer club where they played with other students once a week.


6. Describe your housing situation.

The first month abroad I lived with a host family. I lived with a single woman in her 40’s. We talked and ate dinner together sometimes, but most of the time she was not home. After the first month I used the facebook page: room mate and flat finder (Chile). This page was so helpful with dozens of open rooms in different neighborhoods. Within days I had secured a room in an international type house. I lived with 1 Chilean, 2 Italians, 3 French, 1 Venezuelan, 1 Dutch, and 1 American. There were 10 people total all relatively young either working or studying in Santiago. I loved living in this house. Not only did all my housemates speak Spanish, but I also got to learn about so many different cultures along with the Chilean culture. The house was located in Barrio Italia (Providencia) which is  filled with restaurants, bars, and beautiful parks, and is also very close to 2 metro stations.


7. Where did you eat most of your meals?

Most of my meals I made at home. Fortunately, the grocery prices in Chile are cheaper than those in California. Although there is no Trader Joe’s I got creative and took advantage of the Chilean foods such as very fresh fruits and vegetables from the local produce stand as well as fresh, cheap fish in the markets.

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

When going out to restaurants an average meal was about $8-12 with a cocktail or beer being about $4-6. At a coffee shop a cappuccino is about $3 with a pastry being $1-2. Budgeting tips I have is eat at the universities! The universities have food carts all through out the lunch hours where they sell anything from ‘completos’ the Chilean hotdog, empanadas, vegetarian/vegan sandwiches and wraps, and more. Most of the food items cost $2-3 max!

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

Santiago is becoming more vegetarian/vegan friendly I think. I had a friend who was vegan and 3 friends who were vegetarian and they found many alternatives when going out to eat. It definitely depended on what type of restaurant we went to but vegetarian options were available. Vegan options were harder to find for sure, and some traditional restaurants might be confused what veganism is, but asking for alternative options is always possible.

10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

On one of our last nights in Santiago, a group of friends an I went to a fancy restaurant in Vitacura (a high-class barrio) to a restaurant named Lorenza’s. The food was some of the best food I had in Santiago, the cocktails were so elaborate, and to celebrate the end of the semester we splurged and bought a $30 dessert platter where the server came to our table and made the entire dessert right in front of us. There was music and lights playing, and although it seemed ‘extra’ it was something so extravagant!

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

Maqui beer by the cervezeria D’olbeck I miss so much. I encountered this beer while in Patagonia after a 16 mile hike. This beer is known for being brewed in the Patagonia region using a local berry and “fresh glacial water.” The food overall in Chile wasn’t incredible so I don’t miss it overall.


12. Describe your host city.

Santiago seemed like a dream. I am from a small town of 7,000 people, so I was nervous that this big metropolitan area of almost 7 million people would be too overwhelming, but it was the opposite. I loved exploring the city and seeing barrios I had never been to before, but at the same time becoming so comfortable and knowledgable in the barrio where I lived. The parks everywhere are another plus. Chileans utilize their public parks so much more. Wherever you live there will be a local grocery store, food and produce stands, convenience stores, restaurants, and bars so everything is walking distance.

13. Was it easy to get around?

Public transportation is very reliable, especially the metro system. The metro costs $1 per ride, but I recommend to register for the student discount card, where the price will decrease to $0.30. Also when going out at night Ubers are very cheap and easy to use. I metroed to school which took about 30 minutes. I also metroed and bussed to my internship which was outside of the city and took about an hour.

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

Overall, I felt very safe in Santiago. Much safer than I anticipated before arriving. Although it is still important to always look around you and never go into an unknown barrio especially at night. Petty theft is common so always keep your backpack in front of you on the bus/metro, and have your purse crossed over your body and always be closed. Never keep your cell phone in your back pocket (which is something I am so used to). Also, if you feel like you’re in a bad situation or feel uncomfortable, follow your intuition and leave!

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

Santiago is full of fun things to do! Some fun things I did include: picnics in the park, having a dessert tour around the city, exploring new neighborhoods, going on hikes, going to the Costanera Center (6 story mall), going to La Vega- which is one of the biggest open markets in the world, and going to historical sites as well such as La Moneda (Chiles version of the White House), La Plaza de Armas, museums, etc.


16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

Chilean culture is more touchy. This is something that was very different for me and hard to adapt to just because I’m not a touchy person, especially with people I had just met. When Chileans greet each other they hug and kiss on the cheek, whereas for me in America I usually throw up a peace sign and just say ‘Hi’. That was something I easily got used to with time. Another difference is the partying. Chileans will start partying around 10-11 and party until 3-5 in the morning. For me I felt like a grandma every time I was ready to go home by 1! U of Chile also brought many cultural differences with the paros and the strikes on campus, as well as how people dressed- they are very expressive. A crazy thing about UC was that students can smoke and drink on campus which blew my mind, because I never associated that with a University campus.

17. How did you handle culture shock?

Fortunately for me I didn’t have a lot of culture shock, but I think the reason was because I tried to go into all situations with an open perspective and a positive mentality. I knew there would be differences and instead of comparing them to America, by having an open perspective it was easier to accept these cultural changes.

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

The expressiveness and freedom of expression Chileans have and use to their advantage.


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

Spending 17 amazing days in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina. We traveled very far south to the Southeast land point of South America called Tierra del Fuego. Along the way we say many glaciers, guanacos, penguins, lakes, hiked different trails, and Mt. Fitz Roy which are the mountains the Patagonia clothing brand logo is based off of. I went with 6 other people I had just met 3 weeks earlier and turns out they are some of the closest friends I made while being abroad.


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

Not making any friends, yet having been back for 3+ months I talk to some of the friends I have made almost every day! It’s so cool to have friends from different UCs let alone different states let alone DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. With the memories we all share I assume these will be long friendships.

21. What was your biggest challenge abroad?


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

I have grown as a person (I know thats cliché) but my confidence has increased and I have insight in who I want to be as a person.

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

GO. ABROAD. DO. IT. and do it for a year!!!! I wish I had time to increase my stay.

Mate, una bebida muy importante a la cultura del sur de Chile
Algunos de mis amigos y yo en Tierra del Fuego con los pingüinos!

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