How My Average Day Looked Like as Study Abroad Student

My day started usually early morning, because I was living 20-30 minutes by bus from the school. When I woke up, my host mom prepared the breakfast. She put bowl and cereals on the table. Living with a host family is a lot about communicating what I wanted, so she always asked me what time I was waking up next day, so she can get ready. After the breakfast, I did my morning hygiene and went to a bus station. I was lucky to live only few seconds from a bus station. The best bus to take was either bus 513 or 403. Also I could take bus 514,505 or 508, but they took little bit different route, so they would make from 30 minute ride a 40 minute one, but I get me to the same place.

Then I had classes and based on a schedule I was taking my work out clothing, so many times I was going to the gym between classes. I ate my lunch either at school or at home. If I ate my lunch at school, my host mom packed into a plastic box and I microwaved it. We all did it like that and actually most of the Chileans do it too, so it felt like elementary school all over again. Many times there was a line for microwave. After the school, I went home or the first six weeks, I had an internship, so I was going home.

If I want went home, I did my homework or study for a test. After the diners, we meet up with friends and just hang out somewhere. If we would not have homework, we also hang out after the school. Since we had a school next day, we were not up all night, so I was in bed by 11 p.m. or midnight.

What I Call Home During My Stay in Santiago

Most students’ host families lived in little houses, but there were some who lived in an apartment buildings, including myself.  Most students, like 95% lived in these three neighborhoods: Providencia, Nunua or Las Condes. I lived in Nunoa, very close to Plaza de Nunua, which is the roughly the middle of Nunoa. Just so one can imagine, just Nunoa has over 100,000 people, so when I say neighborhood, I mean a neighborhood that takes 30-40 min to drive from south to north.

I was living in an apartment building that was really close Pizza Hut, which was great for orientation purposes. I just said, I live close to Pizza Hut at Nunua and most people knew where it is. My apartment building was 18 floors tall and it had swimming pool on the roof in 16th and 15th floor. Also, it had a barbeque area in 15 floor and small gym in the first floor. This was very unique and luxury that most students did not have. I was lucky to live in building like that.

The apartment itself was very small, but since only I and my host mom lived there, it does not need to be bigger.

That was our kitchen / dinning room.
That was our kitchen / dining room

Chilean Pastry

Chile has truly fabulous pastry! They have a lot different cakes, because people love to eat sweets. As, I wrote in the post about Manjar, they put Manjar to a lot of their pastries. Here are some typical Chilean desert.

Brazo de Reine

It is the traditional Chilean desert or roll. Some people would say that it is the cousin of Swiss or Czech roll, but it is really not. The main difference is that in Chile they use manjar and they caramelize it, which is very unique.

Brazo de Reine
Brazo de Reine

Leche asada

Leche asada
Leche asada

I personally tasted it and it has unique taste. Probably the closest thing is “flan”, however the taste is different and mainly the way it is prepared is completely different. Leche Asada is baked in the oven, not cooked like flan.

Mihojas Cake

Mihojas Cake
Mihojas Cake

This is originally French cake, but very “Chilenized”. They put a lot of manjar and dip it sugar. This cake is extremely popular. In Chile they sell it in almost every bakery or store. Some put chocolate on top.

Chirimoya

Chirimoya
Chirimoya

Chirimoya or custard apple is, in my opinion the most delicious fruit, but it is typical Chilean fruit. I do not think in Europe or United States, we have anything close. It is very sweet, rich and white inside. My host mom served with fresh orange juice and I could off eat it whole day.

Intensive Spanish for Business Students

Coming back to my classes, this class was the only one I did not take through FEN or University of Chile. It was provided by the organization that I managed the whole the semester abroad. Comparing it to my previous Spanish classes, it was very different. We had only one workbook. We did not have a textbook where the grammar was explained. They already expected that you know the basics of it. During the semester we had:

  1. Three tests
  2. Two presentations
  3. One Essay

In my opinion the class was less about learning the structure of Spanish, but more about practicing. We were going over some tenses and subjective, but the professor spent much less time on it, than in United States. Most of it was practicing it and speaking it.

The presentations were verbal as well. The first presentation was about a comparison of something from home country to Chile. The second one was favorite song. In both presentations, the professor graded mistakes that one made during presenting, which showed that the class was more based on speaking.

I just wished we got to learn more about business type of Spanish than we did. Otherwise, I liked that class a lot.

The Weather in Chile

The weather in Chile is amazing and weird at the same time. I am sure that everyone knows that in southern hemisphere the seasons are switched, so when in U.S. or Europe is winter, in Chile is summer. It is very weird for someone to walk in to a shopping mall and see a Christmas three, while being 95° F outside, but that is not why the weather is weird.

During the winter there are huge changes of temperatures during the day. So for example in the morning, there is 0°F – 10°F, which is cold. But in 4-5 hours, the temperature is changes to 60°F, which feels like 80°F because most people are frozen from the morning. There are couple ways to address it. First, dress in layers, but since it is so cold in the morning and so warm during the day, it is hard to store the extra layers. This is the best way and I think the only way if one wants to feel comfortable. There also another way, which I and a lot of other students tried, which is not so smart because we all got sick. Basically, you dress lightly,  be tough during the cold and hope it is going to warm as soon as possible. This does not work.

Otherwise, the weather in Chile is simply spectacular. Santiago gets 2462 hours of sunlight per year, which is a lot. The possible amount of sunlight is 4383 hours. January is the warmest month, quite the opposite of Michigan.

Bomberos

Bomberos are local firefighters and they are definitely worth of mentioning because the story behind them is amusing.

Bomberos were established in 1970 at Santiago, Chile, and they are all volunteers. In one of my classes, we had a presentation about Bomberos and the life style is very similar to fraternity house in colleges and universities in the United States, which is funny.

Bomberos are only men. There are few women, but vast majority (99%) are men. They do not recruit people. All their hires are men who came and said: “I want to be a bombero”. Usually those men are younger ranging from 20-35 years old. Their usual day is filled with hanging out and playing video games. They actually have a special room for that. They barbeque and sometimes they do special events for their families. I think that you can all see the funny connection to fraternity house. Obviously, if there is a fire, than they have a work to do, but most of the fires in Chile are wild fires, so Bomeberos in Santiago have less job than the once in Valparaiso. Which means more time with other bomberos and more video games. They do have some kind of training in the begging, but it is incomparable to the Fire fighter training in Europe or United States.

The symbol of Bomberos.
The symbol of Bomberos.

Lastly, most man who join are guys who have really nothing to do after college, men who did not go to college or drop out. It is common that they are working as bomber for few years and then they move to more serious job.

CIEE Center of Santiago

The center, in my case in Santiago, manages the whole program. The CIEE in Maine only selects candidates. The center picks home families, is in touch with the university, takes care of all the paper work, organizes trips (including the one to Patagonia) and solve problems.

They actually do a lot of things for you, so if you are perspective student and you are worried that you mean not like your experience, they will really make it better. Let me give some examples.

Quite a lot of students, including myself, had to change home stay families. The center always finds you a new host family to make the home stay experience better because truth is that you spend a lot of time with them, so it is important to have a good relationship with them.

Secondly, they assisted you with any type of problem. In my case it was dealing with a phone robbery, not delivered package or just helping to get gluten free food.  When my phone got stolen they helped me with the police and insurgence paper work. All students studying in Santiago have insurance, so I will get money for my phone and a doctor visit. The doctor visit was not related to the robbery, I had a flu. They do truly help and assist the students with any reasonable type of work.

San Pedro and Atacama Desert

Have you ever saw the pictures?

San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama
Valle de la Muerta ( Valley of the death) in San Pedro.
Valle de la Muerta ( Valley of the death) in San Pedro.

Let me tell you something about it. This San Pedro, but most people imagine Atacama desert.

This desert is the driest desert in the world. Atacama desert has not received a significant rain from 1570 to 1971. This is a good news because when you will be studying in Chile and you will visit it, you know you do not need raincoat.

Secondly, it is a death zone for any type of vegetation because Chilean Costal Range and Andes maintains block all the moistures and nutrition.

Atacama desert is the largest natural supply of sodium nitrate, which is used to produce explosives or fertilizers.

The samples from Atacama desert are very similar to ones from Mars. Because of this, Atacama has been practice ground for NASA and a lot of scene from Mars have been filmed here.

The extreme temperatures are another interesting fact. The temperature can rach up to 104°F and then drop to 41°F. The moon is absolutely astonishing from Atacama.

Valle de La Luna (Valley of Moon) in San Pedro.
Valle de La Luna (Valley of Moon) in San Pedro.

Lastly, the oldest artificially mummified humans remains were found in Atacama desert. To give you an idea, mummified humans from famous Egypt are from 3000 BC. The ones from Atacama are 7020 BC.

Public Transporation Musicians and Performers in Santiago

Similarly to the salesmen, the bus performers are on almost every bus ride, but they are much less annoying than the salesmen. There is whole range of the bus performers, from singers, poets, speakers or just something they would make bloopers on America’s Got Talent. They usually bring a microphone and a speaker on the bus.

Probably and that by far the best performers were these three people. The first one played Trump and he was really good. He actually had recorded a CD, which he was selling after he stopped playing in the bus. He brought a speaker and played only the melody, which he was following on Trump. He played a Titanic song from Celine Dion.

The other two people were playing together on guitar. They were some young men in their early 20s and they were really good. They played only Beatles and those two could not only play it on guitar but sing it as well.

Also, I saw perform a lot of Latino singers ranging from classical music to rap. The onces who were singing typical Latino songs were not bad, but the rappers were not so good. But in either way they make your day better.

Lastly, there was one older lady, which was actually very hilarious. You could tell that she was very happy and satisfied with herself and she could not sing. I mean, rats were hanging themselves from that, but she was great for one reason. She knew she could not sing. She just loved to sing and actually with that altitude she make more money than some rapper who came felling hot about himself. I thought that was really great and funny both times.

Chilean Transition to Real Life

If anything in Chile is completely different compare to United States or Europe, then it is how young people get or “try” to get independent from their parents. In Chile it is normal or even I would say it is a standard that the children lives with their parents until one is 28, 29 or 30 years old. We, students from United States and Europe, were pretty shocked when we heard that.

Actually, people in Chile are not embarrassed for that, but to the contrary. One of the staff members that works for CIEE Center of Santiago, happily said that she lived with her parents until she was 30 years old. In Chile, people look at it this way.

Why should they move out? It is their home. They have safe and supportive environment. Mom does the cooking and laundry. They have a comfort at home that they will never have in the future. They can hang out with their friends and have great much stress less relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend since they do not have to take care of themselves.

Young people do not have want of being independent after college or living their lives on their own and financially independently. They like the comfort and benefits of living with their parents and the parents do not mind. It is part of their culture.