Hey guys! I just got back from being a foreign exchange student for 2 weeks in Chile and I wanted to share with you all my experience. It was very unique and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. I also vlogged parts of my trip and I will link all my videos here so you all can watch them. Throughout this blog post, I am going to be highlighting the key points of my trip and sharing with you what I have learned from this.
How I got involved in this experience:
You might be wondering how I got involved in this in the first place because not many people are foreign exchange students in Chile for 2 weeks. In January, a group of Chilean students stayed with host families from my school during their summer and our winter. We planned on traveling to Chile during their winter and our summer to complete the full exchange. This was the first time our school had ever done something like this so it was very eye opening to everyone. I did not host a student, but still was able to get involved after a few students that hosted did not end up coming on the trip. I had always been interested in this opportunity so when I heard about this I decided to come.
Our brief stop in Santiago:
First, we flew to Santiago, Chile from Houston, Texas because we wanted to explore the capitol before heading to Concepción for our exchange program. After our 10 hour plane ride we rested the first day besides going to the Costanera Center to shop and we ate lunch at an authentic Chilean restaurant. In my opinion, Santiago can be compared to New York or Los Angeles because it has the same vibe. We stayed in Providencia at the Hotel Le Reve. The hotel is absolutely gorgeous.
On Saturday, we went to the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral. We met a Chilean artist that my teacher purchased art from the previous year when she traveled to check out the school we would be attending this summer. I purchased 2 beautiful pieces of art and I am so excited to frame them and put them in my room.
After we bought some souvenirs at the Mercado Central, we walked to San Cristobal Hill, which gives you a view of the Andes Mountains and the whole city. We went on a cable car up the hill and then climbed a couple hundred stairs to the top. The view was definitely worth the hike to the top. Then, we took a gondola ride across the city and we were able to see the ski resorts and Andes on the right. It was one of the most incredible views to see.
On Sunday morning, we took a plane to Concepción to meet all of our host families. I am very grateful for the family I had and all of the other Chilean students and families that helped me to feel involved despite the fact that I did not host a student. When we arrived in Concepción, we went to the market and then ate lunch by the coast.
This is my host hermana Isi!
After a week of school and being immersed in the culture, we drove 3 hours to the mountains to swim in a hot spring. It was freezing outside, but the hot springs were very warm and great to relax in after a long school week. The mountains were absolutely stunning.
On Tuesday of the next week, we went to tour the University of Concepción. It is a beautiful campus and was actually built very similarly to UC Berkeley.
On one of our final days, we drove to Lota and went in the Chiflón del Diablo coal mine and Parque Lota. The coal mine was very interesting and it is actually located under the ocean. We walked about 120 meters down hill and then continued walking underground for about 500 meters. At some points we were nearly crawling because the wood ceiling was so low. It really put the life of the coal miners into perspective for me.
After, we walked through Parque Lota and saw the beautiful ocean and sailboats. It was amazing to see that we had traveled to one of the highest point of Chile, the mountains, the sea, and one of the lowest points in the mine. This trip brought countless adventures and memories to me.
After 2 and a half weeks of living in the Chilean culture, we had to head back home and it was a very sad goodbye. I learned so much from this trip. I gained so many unforgettable experiences and lessons including to have more patience with traveling, how to speak Spanish practically, to live independently, to adapt to new cultures and ideas, to try new and exotic foods, to go with the flow, to make new friends of different backgrounds, to appreciate my opportunities and resources, and too many more lessons to name haha. I am very thankful to have had this amazing opportunity and I hope to travel to more countries in Latin America. My advice to you is if you have the chance throughout your life to study abroad I would highly suggest it. This experience has taught me more than words can describe. I hope to keep in touch with my Chilean hermanos for life.