Lessons abroad: making the most of your studies in Chile

Four simple priorities to help you maximize your experience in the Andean nation, and take home a lesson you’ll never forget. 

Studying abroad in Chile offers you access to a world-class education with a gorgeous natural playground.
Thousands of foreign students visit local universities every year for exchange programs in Santiago, Concepción, La Serena, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso and other cities, drawn to the academic prestige of the universities and the chance to spend their weekends and vacations in some of the world’s greatest landscapes.
How to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? The most important thing for maximizing your study abroad experience depends on your priorities – so getting them in order is a good first step.
Here, we look at four priorities for study abroad students, and how to make the most of them in Chile: academic opportunities, language acquisition, travel opportunities and an expanded worldview.
Academics – studying with Latin America’s best and brightest
Chilean universities set the pace for research in Latin America according to the 2012 SCImago Institutions Rankings (SIR), and the country offers a wealth of academic opportunities.
Geologists have access to the perpetually-active Andes mountain range, with 270 hot springs and the world’s highest active volcano. History majors get first-hand access to the region’s fascinating recent history, through world-class museums and exhibits, and under the tutelage of leading scholars. Marine biologists can plunge into the natural laboratory along Chile’s endless and diverse coastline.
Language – cachando español en Chile (“getting Chilean Spanish”)
The unique accent and slang that characterize Chilean Spanish – born of the country’s historic geographic isolation and a liberal sprinkling of words from the indigenous language mapudungún – stumps many outsiders on their first visit to Chile. Don’t despair! Language Magazine, a leading language education periodical, named Chile one of the two best places to study Spanish in the world.
And for help with the tricky idioms of Chilean Spanish, try one of the innovative language exchange programs in the capital, or check out one – of the many – phrasebooks with some of Chile’s more colorful expressions.
Travel – weekend trips to the Andes, summer vacation in Patagonia
Living in Chile gives students the chance to see behind the veil of the country’s major tourist attractions – Torres del Paine, Santiago nightlife, Valparaíso, San Pedro de Atacama, skiing in the Andes – as well as explore Chile’s less-traveled roads, with cultural trips to Isla Negra, outdoor adventures in Pucón and beer festivities in Valdivia.
World View – gaining a personal connection to Chile
In our series of interviews with former study abroad students, we found that nearly everyone agreed – one of the best parts of their experience in Chile was connecting with local residents, whether they were classmates, host families, neighbors, or new friends.
“Try your best to meet and befriend Chileans,” Amanda Reynoso-Palley said, in an interview with This is Chile. “It can seem hard or intimidating at first, but it will really make all the difference in your study abroad experience.”
Read more of the interviews: