Living in Arica, Chile has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Studying the public health system, the injustices and cosmovisions of the indigenous populations, meeting people from all walks of life, ad being able to converse with them in Spanish has inspired me in every aspect of my life.
Academically, I feel so much more educated about public health issues, history, and how policies directly affect the lives of individuals. The constant emersion into Chilean Spanish (which is distinct from classroom spanish) has made me fluent, more comfortable, and able to express myself in ways I never could before.
Socially, I fell in love with my host family and learned so much about Chilean food, culture, and history.
Here are some positives and negatives that I encountered during my time in Arica:
-The director of the program is SUPER knowledgable and you will really learn a lot from her. The program would not be the same without her.
-This program is CHALLENGING but in the most rewarding ways. At first, it is really difficult to communicate with people in Spanish. But after a few weeks, you really notice a change in your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Plus, most people I met were very patient with language barriers.
-TRAVEL is an awesome part of this program. 3 trips are built in to various parts of Chile and one in Peru. It really gives you a sense of the culture and history more. It also allows you to talk to many people such as individuals that identify with the Mapuche and Aymara populations that you otherwise may never have met.
-ISP (Independent Study Project). This was probably my favorite part of the program. You have freedom to study what interests you and travel in your free time. It's amazing!
-ARICA IS BEAUTIFUL!
-The classes are all American students which is good because you get to go your own pace with learning Spanish... but it's also frustrating because it doesn't really integrate you into the University.
-Punctuality rarely exists in informal settings, but it's a different lifestyle and it's fun to adjust to it.
- You have to be open-minded to have a blast on this program, but that can be said for anything you ever do in life. Go with the flow!