Sophie, studying abroad at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago.
Since there’s already been a blog post about Santiago, I thought I’d talk about the advantages that come with studying in South America in general. For me, the biggest one was the 3 month break I got over Christmas at the end of semester 1 (i.e. the Southern Hemisphere version of the summer holidays)!
Being based in Santiago itself is a huge advantage for travel. Despite being such an enormous country (if you put a map of Chile over a map of Europe it stretches from the most northern tip of Sweden to the top of Libya!), transport across the country is pretty great. This has allowed me to visit a bunch of places in Chile during term time, one of the most interesting of which was the trip to see the ‘desierto florido’ – the phenomenon that happens in the north of Chile during September and October when loads of flowers spring up in the middle of the desert!
Having just come back from the three-month vacation for the beginning of the new term, I could rave about the beauty of this continent for ever. Even within a single country you can go from glaciers to cities to jungles to mountains to deserts – it’s incredible. Your concept of long-distance also completely changes. Despite having once complained about a three-hour drive in England, my 24-hour bus through the north of Argentina (with 40-degree heat and broken air-con!) has made me appreciative of any journey under 12 hours for life!
Although I love being in Chile, being able to travel to the neighbouring countries really opened my eyes to the other cultures here. Bolivia and Peru have a way higher indigenous population, and I was lucky to travel through both countries during carnival, where I saw the amazing clothes, music and food that these cultures have.
Starting back a new term after three months off is a bit of a challenge – in two days I went from climbing a mountain at Machu Picchu to sitting in a classroom trying to figure out advanced calculus in Spanish! However, it’s always great to be back in a place you know, and the advantage of studying somewhere for a year means it really starts to feel like home.
Studying in another language can be tough, but I appreciate how much I’ve improved in such little time. I couldn’t recommend studying abroad more; it’s allowed me to see and experience so many different things, and there really isn’t any better way to get to grips with a language than total immersion.
If anyone has any questions about studying abroad in Santiago/South America, feel free to get in touch at email@example.com. I’m also attempting to keep up a travel blog at http://www.acrosstheglobeblog.co.uk if you fancy having a read, although I have a load to catch up on so bear with me!