Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Freije

Lauren Freije is a junior at Indiana University studying Human Biology. She plans to attend medical school to become a surgeon.

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Why did you choose this program?

I wanted a program where I could improve my capabilities in Spanish and gain medical experience. This program offered both of those as I was able to learn Spanish in the classroom and through immersion while gaining medical experience by shadowing doctors in local hospitals. This program is the perfect program for students who want to learn Spanish and plan on entering the medical field.

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

My program provider organized living arrangements and academics. We were all placed with host families in Santiago and lived fairly close to the IES Abroad Center. They also organized our academics by placing us at the correct level of Spanish and organizing our medical observations. They gave us plenty of safety tips and helped us to navigate the city by bus or subway. We were in charge of our own transportation to Santiago and had to book our own flights to arrive on the specified day.

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

Studying abroad will be both the most challenging and the most amazing experience of your life. Take advantage of all the amazing things that Chile has to offer and take advantage of all the resources that the IES Abroad Center and its staff have to offer.

Also, this program gives you the opportunity to observe medicine in a way that is not possible in the US until after medical school. Take advantage of that by asking tons of questions to discover what specialty of medicine you may want to enter in the future.

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

During a normal week, we would have a Spanish class two-three times a week and a seminar on the Chilean health system two times a week. We would also do our medical observations three times a week. Occasionally, there would be organized activities like a dance class, cooking class, or a cultural immersion activity.

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 was that my Spanish would not be sufficient enough to be able to communicate in Chile. Luckily, being immersed in a language boosts your learning of that language immensely and I quickly became more proficient in communicating in Spanish. Looking back, I realize that rough patch at the beginning was all part of the process and now I am nearly fluent in Spanish.

Any other tips for prospective travelers?

Santiago is such a diverse and unique city. It is a beautiful mix of North American, South American, and European architecture and design. Some parts of the city were so modern and beautiful, while others were antique and elegant. Santiago is also the best place to go for foodies, as you can experience so many different types of ethnic foods. Santiago and the entire country of Chile have so much to offer so you have to make sure to take full advantage of it!