Final Reflections

Hola a todos! 

First and foremost, thank you for all of your prayers and support throughout this past semester abroad in Chile. I arrived home last Sunday afternoon, safe and sound, after about 24 hours of traveling.

Prior to embarking on this journey,  I set some objectives for myself as goals and reflections to look at upon completion of this trip and see what I have learned.  These objectives focused on personal, academic, and  professional goals, as well as community engagement.  Upon reflection, I have found that I have completed or begun to accomplish the objectives I set for myself.

Personally, my objectives for the semester were:

  • To develop relational skills among people of another culture
  • To intentionally build interpersonal relationships with people of another culture
  • To grow as an individual
  • To grow in my relationship with God during the semester

Throughout my time abroad, I felt myself growing and stretching with each passing day.  Everyday I was introduced to new experiences and opportunities to interact with people in my city, as it made daily life much easier and more enjoyable.  I appreciated the opportunity to get to know local restaurant owners, fellow students, and my host family on deeper levels as I progressed in my capabilities to speak Chilean Spanish over the past four and a half months.  I also grew as an individual as I was making my own decisions in terms of travel and learning to live in a city environment, where I tended to explore.  My relationship with God also grew through attending a phenomenal church downtown, where I was able to worship God with my Chilean brothers and sisters in the style that they worship.

Professionally, my objectives were:

  • To further develop my Spanish language skills and fluency
  • To expand my knowledge of Economic Development by looking through the lens of Latin America
  • To transfer the above skills into transferable experiences for my future career

Thanks to living in a part of the world where English is not spoken very often, outside of my American friends, I was constantly immersed in the Spanish language.  From the beginning of the semester, where I had trouble understanding the littlest of phrases, to the end of the semester, where I was able to have full conversations, I noticed how much I was growing and learning the art of conversational language learning.  Now, I feel like I can have conversations with native speakers without any reservations.  I also learned about Economic Development on a more global scale, as through the semester we learned how unique it truly must be depending on location, because of the uniqueness of each country and even each community, and their needs.  I feel that this knowledge will help me as I prepare to graduate and find a career where I can apply my skills.


  • To establish fluency and proficiency in a Latin American dialect of Spanish
  • To grow in my time management skills
  • To understand Spanish and Economic Development in real-world contexts

I thoroughly enjoyed taking classes in Chile! I was able to learn from a diverse group of professors, each with their own plethora of knowledge and experience in their field.  Thanks to a Conversation class and a Grammar class, my fluency in Spanish has grown tremendously.  I also learned to adapt my time management skills based on particular classes and what was going on around me, such as when classes were cancelled due to protests.  Finally, learning about what makes Chilean culture unique and how Latin America in general is a melting pot of people and places helped me to see Spanish and Economic Development in real-world situations.

In terms of community engagement, my objectives were:

  • To learn how to network with Chileans in order to grow my understanding and interaction within the global community
  • To gain a new and different perspective within my local community through cultural immersion

By the end of the semester, I was finally feeling pretty comfortable and a part of the community I was living in during my semester abroad.  I met many Chileans who I hope to remain in contact with and be able to ask questions to in order to continue my learning though I am back in the States.  I also see my local community in a much different light, as I have reflected on the importance of diversity and understanding someone else’s culture, as you can learn from each other and create unique relationships among each other.

Overall, my semester abroad in Chile taught me a lot in personally, professional, and academic life, and in terms of community engagement.  My hope is that in the future I will be able to return to Chile to reunite with my host family and see parts of the country that I did not have the opportunity to experience. I also hope to be able to keep applying what I have learned to every day life and grow in my understanding of people who are different than me.

Thank you for following my adventures abroad!



Catching Up with One Week to Go!

Hola a mi familia y mis amigos!

It is crazy to reflect on how fast time has flown! The past several weeks have been very busy, but I am down to my FINAL WEEK here in Chile.

Over the past several weeks, I have done some traveling, wrapped up classes, and spent lots of time with my friends and host family. Recently, we visited a Mapuche Ruca, where we learned more about this indigenous group in Chile, their traditions, and some of their musical instruments! Afterward, we were treated to a delicious meal of fresh breads and sopaipillas, complete with marmalade and salsas. It was such an educational experience, especially as the fight for indigenous rights has been so prominent in Chilean history.

Most notably, my ‘Gringo Squad’ and I recently spent a long weekend in the Valle de Elqui, about 6 hours north of Valparaíso. We visited La Serena, Pisco Elqui, and the Pingüino de Humboldt National Reserve. Our first stop for the weekend was the Reserve.

We were picked up by a wonderful Ecotourismo group and began the two and a half hour drive north! Before we made our way to the islands of the Reserve, we stopped in the valley to check out some of the wildlife, including guanacos, zorros, and some huge cacti. Then, we made our way to the coast where we hoped in a boat and headed toward Isla Choros, where the penguins live! Unfortunately, due to the time of year, we only found one little penguin, but we also were able to see some pelicans and lobos marinos as we searched! After, we went to Isla Damas, where we were able to disembark and walk around the island! It was absolutely beautiful and the water was so clear! After we left the islands, we were treated to a delicious meal at a local restaurant where we had fresh empanadas and pastel de jaiba, with fresh foods from the sea. We also were able to visit Pisco Elqui, tucked far away in the Valle de Elqui. Here, we visited a pisco distillery of one of the most well-known pisco producers in Chile. We learned all about the process of making pisco and what makes this type of brandy so unique. We enjoyed learning more about Chile and its culture during this weekend away!

ISA wrapped up our time here with a Farewell Lunch celebration where we feasted on some of our Chilean favorites, empanadas and sopaipillas! We also played some games (My team won TWICE!) and danced to both Latin music and music from the US. It was a wonderful party to close out our semester with ISA! The Gringo Squad even made the ISA Chile’s Facebook page!


Last week, my host mom and grandmother left for Germany as mom’s daughter is having her first child! I am so excited for the time they get to spend there, but was very said when they left. My host family has been one of the most treasured parts of my time here in Chile. I cannot express how much they mean to me, and how much love they have shown me over the past four and a half months.


Going into my finals days, I am hoping to be able to spend as much time in my city as I can with the wonderful friends I have grown so close to over the past semester. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin to pack, finish my classes, and say my goodbyes before heading home next Saturday! I cannot wait to be home in the States, but Chile will definitely have a special place in my heart.



Buenos tardes! Good evening!

This past week has been quite the adventure here in Chile! Last Saturday, I experienced my first big earthquake in Chile. It registered as a 5.9 magnitude quake!  It was an incredibly amazing, yet terrifying experience! Thankfully, I was at home and my host mom was quick to make sure everything was alright. It was fascinating to watch as the earth literally moved up and down!

Two days later on Monday, Chile experienced another, much larger earthquake.  This one registered as a 6.9 magnitude; one of the biggest that has hit the country so far this year! Again, I was thankful to be home and safe with my Chilean family. The epicenter of the quake was right off the coast of Valparaíso, so the tsunami alert system was activated for preventative measures. Thankfully, there was no tsumani and minimal damage in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.  The most damage we had was a glass falling off the counter and shattering! In Chile, there are two words used for earthquakes; lesser earthquakes, usually below a 7 magnitude, are referred to a temblores and anything larger is a terremoto. According to my host family, this earthquake was just a temblor, even though to me it was huge!

For the next four days after the 6.9 magnitude quake, we were rocked with several tremors throughout the days and nights. For an American student who has never experienced an earthquake before, it was definitely a strange feeling! Over the course of the last week, we have experienced 70 earthquakes in Chile, with a majority of those centered around the epicenter of the big quake here in Valparaíso.  Friday was especially scary, as the shaking was almost continuous and got to the point where my university cancelled afternoon classes and ISA shut down for the rest of the day!

I am thankful that we remained safe and now I know what to expect in the case that another earthquake hits while I am here! However, I am hoping that the shaking will hold off until the end of June when I return home; I have had enough earthquakes to last me a lifetime! Thank you to all my friends and family for your prayers and concern through this crazy time.

55 more days!


Reflections on Easter, the Census, and Exploring Chile

Buenos tardes! Good afternoon!

Time sure is flying! As of today, I have exactly two more months left of my study abroad experience; and as of last week, we passed the halfway point of being in Chile and are quickly approaching our return to the States. I am definitely looking forward to going home and seeing my friends and family, but I am also enjoying every day here in my Latin American home!

April has been a busy month here in Chile and it is hard to believe that it is almost over already! To begin, I was able to experience Easter a little differently than what I am used to back in the States.  Like most Latin American countries, the primary religion of Chile is Catholicism; therefore, Semana Santa (Holy Week) holds extra significance throughout the culture. I attended a wonderful worship service at my church, Iglesia Unión Cristiana, on Thursday night and a communion service on Sunday morning. Though I was sad to be missing out on my home church’s Easter service, I loved both services and absolutely loved being able to worship with my Chilean brothers and sisters! On Saturday,  thanks to my absolutely wonderful host mom, I was able to host a little Easter get-together at our house in Viña del Mar! My gringo friends came over and we made some Kraft Mac and Cheese (thank you, Katie!), pigged out on junk food and Easter candy, and dyed eggs with my host brother. It was a blast! We really enjoyed being able to do something together that we normally do at home with our families in the States and sharing it with my Chilean family.


Another big event that happened last week was the Chilean Census! Almost everything in Chile was shut down and volunteers came door to door to get the information they need. The last census held in 2012 is said to have had issues due to inaccuracies in its methodology, and so the importance of this year’s census was highly emphasized by Chile. I am so excited, as I am officially included in this year’s census! As I am technically a resident of Chile and living with my host family full-time, I am part of the Guardia household!


As always, we also had the opportunity to attend some great excursions organized by ISA, our study abroad organization!  We visited the third and final house of Pablo Neruda in Isla Negra, which also happens to be the resting place of Neruda and his wife, Matilde Urrutia. The view here was absolutely incredible, as well as the house in which parts of the house are modeled after a boat and a train!  Following Isla Negra, we went to Pomaire, an artisan village, where we ate a kilo (2 lb.) empanada and checked out the artisan’s merchandise! The following week we got to tour the National Congress Building, which is located just a few blocks away from my school in Valparaíso. Here we saw several rooms of importance to the Chilean government and learned about the inner-workings of Congress.

I have also been enjoying exploring the area around where I am living this semester! Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go with Valparadise Experience to hike at Laguna La Luz! From a distance, we took in the views of Salto del Agua, a beautiful waterfall that we actually got the chance to go to the top of! It was absolutely incredible and worth all of the soreness I am feeling today.  My gringo friends and I have also been craving American foods a lot recently.  We have found the most amazing pizzeria in Valparaíso and tend to get ice cream more than once a week!

My classes continue to go well and I am learning more and more everyday! I have especially been excited as I am realizing just how far I have come since February in my ability to understand and speak conversational Spanish with Chileans. It has been quite an encouragement as I begin to wrap up this experience! It is also crazy to think that friends and family back home are almost finished with their school year, and I still have until the end of June! I am especially thinking of my Messiah friends as they are heading into finals next week. With 62 more days to go, I am looking forward to seeing what else Chile has in store for me!





Learning Beyond the Classroom

Hola a todos! Hello everyone!

Wow, how quickly time is flying here! It is hard to believe that it is already April and that I am approaching the halfway point of my time here in Chile.  That being said, I intend to continue enjoying every opportunity I have to learn and grow during my study abroad journey!

Over the past several weeks, I have been learning so much in and out of the classroom.  I am enjoying refreshing my grammar skills in Spanish, as I know they definitely are lacking in my conversation.  Conversationally, I have felt so challenged since I have been in Chile.  In my opinion, there is big disconnect between being able to speak formal Spanish in the classroom and being able to speak conversational, everyday Spanish, especially in a unique dialect with lots of slang! I am pushing myself every day to resist falling into the ‘English trap,’ where I jump on every opportunity to speak, listen to, or read English. In an attempt to avoid this, I have been watching a lot of Chilean TLC, reading Spanish out loud, and attending language exchanges through my study abroad program in order to keep developing my skills. I am also enjoying my economics refresher as my class prepares to continue learning about Economic Development in Latin America, including a project on a specific topic in Economic Development (for example, fair trade) in a Latin American country of our choosing. As I am very interested in fair trade in particular, I am excited to begin this project and see how I can use what I learn through it in the near future.

Outside of the classroom, I have been able to experience the rich Chilean culture and amazing sights and locations in this area.  Through my organization, I have been able to go to places such as Pablo Neruda’s Valparaíso home La Sebastiana, Museo Abierto (a ‘museum’ in the streets of Valpo home to several official murals painted throughout the streets), and most recently the Ex Ballenera (ex – whaling site) in Quintay.  These locations specifically carry lots of history and beauty in Chile. Through these excursions and my own personal time out and about, I have been learning to appreciate the beauty around me, despite my despise of living in a city (which you can read more about in my first ISA Featured Photo Blog post by clicking here!), from the artwork that is covering every blank surface in Valpo to the diversity of the people I am surrounding by every single day.

Though home is weighing heavy on my heart, I am so thankful for this opportunity to live and grow in a country and culture so vastly different from my own.  I am excited and anxious to see what is to come in the next 82 days!





EXTRA! EXTRA! A Weekend in Mendoza

I am so thankful to live in a country where I can easily travel to another; therefore, this past weekend, my friend Katie and I traveled to Mendoza, Argentina!

Here are a few snapshots of our mini-vacation:


In order to get to Mendoza, we took a bus from Valparaiso! The ride was supposed to be 8 hours, but turned into 13 hours as we got caught up at the border. However, the view was totally worth it! In order to get into Argentina, the bus had to drive through the Andes mountains, complete with a windy road up the side of the mountain!

On Saturday evening, we had the opportunity to go horseback riding through the hills in Argentina! Los Pingos was an amazing experience.  When we arrived, our guide, Carlos, situated each of us in the group with the proper horse and off we went! We rode for about 2 hours and learned about our surrounding area. Then we watched the sun go down over the Andes on our way back to Los Pingos.  The bottom right picture shows two volcanoes we saw on our ride. The one on the left (that is harder to see!) is active, while the one of the right is not. When we returned to Los Pingos, we feasted on an Argentinian asado, consisting of delicious steak, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes, and fantastic conversation! We had dinner with people from around the world who were also on the expedition with us; from Australia, England, France, Germany, and Argentina! Carlos wrapped up our evening with some amazing guitar skills. It was an experience that I will never forget!

Katie and I definitely enjoyed the foliage in Argentina, as there is little in terms of vegetation in our current home. We enjoyed walking to several parks and plazas within Mendoza, especially el Parque San Martin! We were able to capture some amazing shots of the few remaining roses at the park, walk around the lake, and take in a beautiful day, complete with a view of the Andes in the background. White roses are my favorite flower, so I was happy that there were a few left to enjoy!

Overall, this weekend was unforgettable and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to visit another country in South America!



One Month In!

It’s official! I have been living in Chile for an entire month!

Over the course of this past month, I have worked on relearning Spanish (and learning Chilean slang!), started classes, visited Argentina, spent hours at the beach, and have made lifelong friendships.  What a month it has been!  As much as I am loving Chile, some days are also very difficult.  It is hard being away from home, with a new language living in the city, but I am also so glad for how I have been able to grow so far in this time.

I have been adjusting to my new routine fairly well as classes are now in full swing.  I am lucky enough to not have classes on Mondays or Fridays! On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a long day of three classes: Poetry, Conversation, and Grammar; and on Wednesdays I begin early with three hours of Economic Development and end with Conversation in the afternoon.  So far, I am enjoying all of my classes, though poetry in Spanish is very difficult.


I am anxious to keep learning about Economic Development from a Latin American perspective! It is important in this field to be mindful of culture and context, therefore looking at Economic Development through the lens of Latin America provides answers that make sense for this area.  Chile especially is an interesting country to look at economically, as there is a great disparity between the rich and the poor, though it is largely more developed that other countries in Latin America.

I am also enjoying the excursions that my organization has organized for us! We have visited some interesting and important places around Santiago, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar. We recently spent a day on the beach in Zapallar, a beach to the north of where I am living! It was a beautiful and relaxing day.  I am so blessed to be living so close to the ocean this semester!

I am so glad to continue this journey for 3 and a half more months (102 more days!) as I pursue learning and exploration in this place. I definitely think there are some more beach days in my future before it starts to cool off down here!


P.S. Yes, those wild sea lions in the featured photo!



11 Days In!

Buenos tardes a todos!

It’s hard to believe I have already been in Chile for 11 days! Time is moving so fast, but I am enjoying every moment of it. This past week, we had orientation activities for school, which begins on Wednesday, and tours of some locations of interest in the Viña-Valpo area!  I also applied for and will receiving my official Chilean ID within the next few weeks! This week I really enjoyed being able to explore my home for the next four months and spending time with mi familia chilena.


In Viña, we visited the beach (where I set foot in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life!), the sand dunes of Concón, and a market downtown for a taste of tourism in this city.  In Valparaíso, we rode on ascensores (elevator-like machines that take you to the top of the steep hills) and witnessed some incredible views of the coast!  We also walked through the streets to take in all of the beautiful graffiti that Valpo is famous for, such as the “We are not hippies, we are happies” artwork! It was incredible to see this expression of art as something positive rather than the negative stigma that surrounds the graffiti that we tend to see in the United States. One of the highlights of our touring in Valpo was our boat ride in the ocean! We were able to see wild Sea Lions and gigantic cargo ships that export Chilean products, such as wine, avocados, and grapes.


I am also very excited to get stated as as student at PUCV! After a test to determine which level of Spanish classes are best suited for me, I chose classes for this semester, including a Spanish Communication and Chilean Culture class, Economic Development of Latin America, and 20th Century Chilean Poetry.  I am ready to start school and get into a routine.  I will not have class on Fridays, which is exciting as I will have the opportunity to attend almost all of the excursions that my organization, ISA, has to offer! Next Friday, for example, we will be visiting a cementerio and ex carcel in Valpo, with a trip to the playas del norte (northern beaches) following this excursion on Saturday!


I have been enjoying my time and conversations with my family. My head is still adjusting to Spanish, but I am finding myself to be understanding significantly more than what I was understanding 11 days ago! I am hoping that my conversation class will help me to be more proficient at responding in conversations with my family and friends.  I have been experiencing a little bit of culture shock, but not enough to bring down my spirits! It is different for someone who grew up in a small-town, rural part of Pennsylvania to adjust to living in the city.  Public transportation is a new experience, but I think I have the metro system pretty well figured out and have not had any problems…yet! Protests are also a consistent part of Chilean life. As I walked out of the metro station to meet my friend for a trip to the beach last night, I ran into an environmental protest! I was not expecting that at the top of the metro station’s stairs!  Time is also so laid back here. It was nice to take the time to walk along the boardwalk and the pier in Viña and just relax after a crazy week!  I even had sea shells braided into my hair!


Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin classes this coming week and that I will continue to enjoy my time here in Chile. I miss my family and friends with all of my heart, but feel very at peace in Viña! I am hoping that feeling will continue through the start of classes.



Adjusting & Settling In to my New Home!


Hola de Chile! Hello from Chile!

Today is my fifth day in this amazing country and I am so excited to share some of what I have been experiencing over the past few days!

I began my travels to Chile very early with my parents on Valentine’s Day as we made our way to the airport in Washington, D.C.  From D.C., I flew with my friend Katie to Panama and then Chile for a total of 11 hours and 40 minutes in the air. We touched down in Santiago around 12:30am Chilean time (10:30pm in Pennsylvania!) and made our way to our hotel for the next few days.

During our first couple days, we toured Chile’s capital city of Santiago.  We visited some important cerros (hills), including Cerro San Cristobol and Cerro Santa Lucia.  We also visited the Palacio de la Moneda, the Chilean equivalent of the White House, and the Plaza de Armas, which is home to Catedral de Santiago and other important (and old!) buildings in the capital.  We then visited the Mercado Central where I ate my first official Chilean empanada! Que delicioso!

Next, we went to one of the oldest vineyards in Chile, Vina Cousino Macul, where we learned how the vineyard began and saw where they used to make and store the wine. The vineyard stores one of each type of wine they produce per batch, with the oldest bottle dating back to 1927! It is also one of the last old vineyards in the country to still be run by the same family.  Then we toured La Chascona, one of three houses belonging to poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda.  We will be visiting the other two houses as well in the near future!



On Saturday afternoon, it was time to leave Santiago and go meet our families! After an hour and a half bus ride and lots of nerves, I met mi mama chilena Vivianna, mi hermano (brother) chileno Paulo, and mi tio (uncle) chileno, who helped me grab suitcases and head home to Vina del Mar! When we arrived home, I was also introduced to mi abuelita (grandmother) chilena Encarnacion! They are so wonderful and I am beyond lucky to have such an amazing family.

So far I am enjoying my time in Chile! Though I miss my family deeply, my greatest obstacle has been adjusting to how fast Chilean Spanish is! This week, we have orientation at my school as well as some touring of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. I am anxious to begin classes and start this semester!