Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad


The Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad feature 38 sites in 17 countries and are characterized by a focus on integration with the host culture, both linguistically and socially. In addition to taking academically rigorous courses, students are able to participate in internships, volunteer work or campus activities with local students, and at most of our sites students live with local families or peers. With the exception of our programs in Oxford, England and Delhi, India, all communication is in the target language under the Middlebury Language Pledge. By pledging to speak only the target language while abroad, students have the best chance of acquiring fluency and actively engaging in the local environment.


Sunderland Language Center
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
United States


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After having spent a semester studying in the bustling Chilean capital of Santiago, I was eager to experience a different part of the country for my second semester abroad. I ended up choosing to study at the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACH), located in the small southern city of Valdivia. I spent my time taking humanities courses at the university's Isla Teja campus, one of two campuses in the city. I was challenged academically by my professors and felt welcomed by peers. We were mutually curious to get to know each other and learn about our respective backgrounds.

If you're not a fan of the rain, Valdivia might not be the place for you. This is important to address in the beginning, because it rains a ton here. Rainy months are from about April to September, with the hardest and most constant rainfall typically taking place from May-July. Definitely show up to Valdivia with a quality rain jacket!

However, the rain may only prevent you from having a worthwhile experience if you let it. Because of the consistent rain, the city is surrounded by lush forests and nature reserves. Rivers run right through the middle of the city and out to the Pacific Ocean, which can be inexpensively accessed by bus in less than 40 minutes. Fans of the outdoors would love the abundance of greenery, coastline and hiking trails in surrounding parts of the area. The UACH, which has a strong emphasis in programs in the natural sciences, has its own arboretum and botanical garden located right on the Isla Teja campus. When the weather permitted, I spent meaningful time taking walks in between classes and enjoying the trees and scenery. It really is a beautiful place to study.

In my experience, the people of Valdivia tended to be welcoming, friendly, and loved to spend time conversing and sharing stories. Because of the rainfall, people have grown accustomed to spending long stretches of time talking. There is a downtown area with restaurants, shops, a few clubs, and a beautiful fish open market with sea lions that jump right up onto the sidewalk. There is a stretch of bars on the Isla Teja, within minutes walking from the university, that are frequented by students and locals alike with excellent brews of local craft beer.

Valdivia is a wonderful place to live and study if one is interested in a more relaxed pace of living. The culture, because of the size of and weather in Valdivia, is more open and easygoing than that of Santiago. The university is one of the best in Chile, though the students tend to be quite politically and socially active and are notorious for striking and therefore halting university courses. My department's students occupied our building for four weeks. In situations like these, however, Middlebury's Chilean program directors organize private classes for students enrolled in the program.

I highly recommend Valdivia for students who are interested in getting to know the south of Chile! It's a truly unique part of South America!

How can this program be improved?
As I mentioned before, students should be aware of the turbulent political nature of students at the UACH. Strikes are common, and can sometimes last weeks or up to months. The Chilean program directors have measures in place for when situations like these occur, but they still can affect a student's learning/living experience.

I also should mention that Valdivia tends to be a city with lighter-skinned people, and friends of mine of color have experienced racist comments in various forms. Though Haitian migrants are increasingly populating the city, they are sometimes met with discrimination by some local people. This, of course, is not an issue unique to Valdivia - it happens all over Chile and all over the world. However, I do feel that it is important for potential students to be aware of these tensions that may come up while studying in this program.
Yes, I recommend this program
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I spent from July - December of 2017 participating in the Human Rights Track, a collaborative program between Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad and the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago. The track, designed to offer students the opportunity to gain a holistic and multidimensional understanding of the history of human rights in Chile, includes two Chilean university courses, one Middlebury College Spanish writing and grammar course, an independent research project, and an internship.

The beauty of this program is in the flexibility that it gives to students to craft their academic and cultural experience. I chose to approach learning about human rights through the focus of music and social movements and was able to use Santiago as my classroom, traveling to different parts of the city to conduct interviews with musicologists and historians for my research project. I got to work directly with children in some of Santiago’s most marginalized communities through my internship, which I was paired with by Middlebury's Chilean program directors.

I am very satisfied with the balance the program struck by giving me the independence to tailor my own learning experience while also providing the structure and resources to keep me in the right direction. The Chilean program team inspired unwavering confidence in me as they made themselves available in every way to support me throughout my semester. Whether for academic, personal, or logistical reasons, I knew that I could always count on them to be responsive and empathetic.

Santiago, like any huge city, is what you make of it. Though parts of the city may seem gray and commercial, I adapted to the bustle of the big metropolis and appreciated wholeheartedly all of the culture and growing diversity. Not only was I surrounded by tons of live music events, festivals, theaters and cultural centers, and different restaurants, I was a short bus ride from breath-taking nature reserves, state parks, and other culturally-rich cities like Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. The airport is 40-minute drive from downtown Santiago, making other parts of the country accessible by plane.

I mentioned the city's growing diversity above. Santiago, over the past couple of decades, has been experiencing a significant influx in immigration from countries like Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti. Much of my internship work followed organizations that are helping integrate native-born Chileans with their migrant neighbors and building healthy and inclusive communities. While many Chileans are eager to welcome this growing diversity, there are also many who choose to meet migrants with discrimination. This is an evolving phenomenon in Chile, and is especially visible in Santiago.

For those students looking to improve their Spanish, this is an incredibly worthwhile program. Like all Middlebury College abroad programs, one must abide by a language pledge and commit them self to only speaking Spanish for the entirety of the semester. Though challenging at points, I found the pledge to be extremely effective. I began my semester fairly confident in my Spanish-speaking abilities, but felt like the language flowed naturally after five months of being immersed in the program.

Chileans’ form of speaking is quite unique as it is very quick and full of phrases that are only used in Chile, but with a positive and easygoing attitude one can adapt to this mode of speaking and make many friends with Chileans in the process (many people I met loved to teach me new phrases and were very patient).

I invite those undergraduate students excited by the idea of having a fully immersive cultural and academic experience in a vibrant and bustling city to consider this program. Overall, I had a extremely enriching and enjoyable semester and remain grateful for the support by the Chilean program directors.

How can this program be improved?
While I cannot relate to this personally as I had a non-traditional living situation compared to the program's host-family system, some of my peers had difficult experiences with their respective host families. However, the Chilean program directors were quick to listen to the issues that students were having and act quickly to accommodate their needs.
Yes, I recommend this program

This program was really challenging because I came in with a lower level of Arabic but they were able to create another MSA class to accommodate my level. However, because I was at a lower level, my other classes and the language pledge were really challenging because those were still at a higher level. My professors were able to help me overcome many of those initial challenges because of the small size of the program. I had a really great host family who helped me practice my speaking and listening and respected my space. The city of Rabat is big enough so you do not get bored but not too big that you are overwhelmed. I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking to really grow academically and personally through their study abroad experience. However it is not a program for someone looking for an easy semester.

How can this program be improved?
1. Better structured content courses
2. More pre departure materials
3. Better respect of students' time
Yes, I recommend this program
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I had the pleasure of studying at the Middlebury School in Rabat in the fall of 2018. Due to Middlebury’s language pledge you speak in Arabic all the time, which can be a challenge, but is an incredible opportunity for increasing language skills. My professors were phenomenal, some of the best I have had anywhere. Over the course of four months I was able to see exponential growth in my Arabic skills. The administrators are also terrific. They are very involved and willing to work with students to make sure their needs are being met. Rabat was also an excellent place to study. Quieter than many of the other cities in Morocco, Rabat is much less touristy, while still beautiful (especially along the coast), and gave a better sense of Moroccan life. Additionally, as the capital, Rabat has tremendous resources in the form of libraries, museums, and organizational headquarters.

How can this program be improved?
Host families can be somewhat hit or miss. There was a wide range in the quality of accomadations, but each year the program reviews its families so the set will only improve over time.
Yes, I recommend this program
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I really loved my experience abroad with Middlebury. Middlebury is a great program - the Director, the Resident Coordinator, and the professors were amazing, caring, and very passionate - the whole program felt like a family the whole time. There was definitely more work than at other programs in Rabat, but I thought it was helpful because we learned a lot. Middlebury has a language pledge which meant that we were only allowed to speak Arabic, and all 4 of my classes were in Arabic. When I was there I took Darija (dialect), Fusha, Moroccan
Media Culture, and Berber Society, all of which I liked a lot. Although the day from Monday through Thursday could be long, there was no class on Friday, so weekends were relaxing. My Arabic and Darija really improved because of the individualized focus and practice I was able to get while there.

When I wasn't in class or on program excursions, Rabat was an amazing city to hang out in! I spent a lot of time with my host family, who were very kind and fun. I also ended up making a lot of Moroccan friends - Moroccans are super friendly and will befriend you if you are out and about and talk to them, and there is a large college-aged community (go to Renaissance Cafe on Monday nights!). I liked that we weren't always with the program and that we had freedom in the evenings and most weekends to do activities that interested us - it never felt like we were being handheld by Middlebury, but Middlebury was always there to support us if we needed it.

I would 100% recommend this program for the academic opportunity and the chance to be a part of life in Rabat.

How can this program be improved?
We spent a lot of time in class which could sometimes mean the day was super long, but I think it was necessary for the language gains.
Yes, I recommend this program


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