Alumni Spotlight: Bianca Rose Garcia


A Chicana who makes sure her voice is heard and doesn’t back down in the face of doubt.

Why did you choose this program?

As funny and unbelievable as it sounds, I chose Chile because many of my favorite bands are from the country, specifically Valparaiso. I just grew a fascination with Chile and wanted to learn more about the culture and of course, study Spanish. I really needed (and still do) to build on my Spanish-speaking skills, and so traveling to a Spanish-speaking country was the perfect opportunity to do so. I knew that once in Chile I would have to communicate in Spanish so it was really a growing moment for me. A moment of truth if you will communicate in Spanish so it was really a growing moment for me. A moment of truth, of whether or not I could make it on my own, with a little help from my fellow trip-mates.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CIEE assisted with the cost of the trip by awarding me a scholarship that covered more than half of it. They also provided numerous of resources for extra funding for any other outstanding costs. The only things I had to organize were my flight plans, which lucky for me, I had a third party help with that. I didn’t know the first thing about arranging a flight, so I’m forever grateful for everyone’s help along the way. And the last thing I had to situate, was extra spending money for souvenirs and the like. I knew that shopping would be something on my mind because of course, I needed “proof” I went to Chile, so I made sure I had enough funds to do so comfortably.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Follow the packing list that CIEE provides. You will truly need everything on the list. And if you’re feeling unsure of bringing too much, just know you’re not. Also, there’s tons of physical activities involved on the trip such as biking, walking up hills, and swimming (if you get lucky enough with the weather). So when you’re choosing what clothes to bring, stay away from outfits that aren’t ideal for physical exercises. But remember to stay extra warm out there.

Whenever anyone ever shows interest of going overseas, I tell them to keep an open mind because you never know what a country will be like until you’re truly there. You can read as many travel websites as you like but their experiences won’t be the same as yours because you choose how your trip will turn out. It’s all about being positive and open to a new culture, language, and environment all together.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day in Valpo consists of having a quick, light breakfast with your host family, followed by morning classes of Spanish grammar and Chilean culture. Once time for lunch, participants return to their host homes and have a large lunch with their host families before returning back to the main CIEE building where the entire group meets. From the main building, the group breaks into smaller groups and goes on adventures called “into the community”. While in the community, participants put what they learned in class to the test by interacting with Chileans.

After the adventures have finished, participants return to their host homes for dinner or “once”. This is a light meal/snack that is usually had very late around 8 or 9 in the night. Following “once”, participants get ready for bed and wake up bright and early the next morning to the same routine. On the weekends, however, there are other excursions like visiting different cities in Chile. These excursions are definitely the best part of the program because you never really know what could happen until you’re there.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear about traveling abroad was the plane ride. I have a terrible fear of heights and getting on the plane in committing to the trip was the most difficult thing for me. I overcame this fear by realizing that an opportunity to travel to another country for a small cost comes not-so-often. So I buckled down, took a deep breath, and hoped for the best.

What is your most memorable experience?

What was your most memorable experience on the trip?

My most memorable experience in Chile was when we traveled to Valle del Elqui (the valley) and visited the observatory. It was unlike anything I could ever see in the city or museums. The night sky was filled with stars and planets alike. It was dream come true and to spend it with developing friends, was even better. That night in the valley, I fell in love with Chile and knew I had to return someday.