By my title I mean that this program and experience in Chile is one that if you allow it will challenge you to fully explore your sense of adventure and ability to truly sit and revel in the moments that make up the fullness of life. It allows you to, in the opposite sense of the phrase sit back, jump in and engage and let your mind and curiosity wander wherever they are drawn. SIT provides you with the the kind of rigor whose rewards are invaluable and everlasting. This program is structured in such a way that you very much make of your experience what you want. You have the ability to take your time abroad in whatever directions you feel. But the other incredible part of this program is it surrounds you with so many invaluable resources and such support that you can take leaps and bounds if you are driven to. It also is such that simply being in Chile, immersed in the beauty of the countryside, the rich history and the vibrant and incredible culture, provides you with such inspiration that the passion you enter with, if allowed to, will simply grow and multiply in ways you didn't know it could. Interpret it as you wish, but I came out of my abroad experience with more questions than I did answers to the questions I posed to myself when first entering into the experience.
As far as specifics:
Education happens outside of the classroom and that education is fantastic. The education that happens inside the classroom is, yes very much on interesting and relevant topics, but is the traditional lecture at students and in this way not as engaging and eventful as experiential and other types of education that nurtures more dialogue. Nonetheless constant classes in Spanish do very much help your language skills. Outside of the traditional classroom the learning experience is very much boundless. You are the decision maker in how much you want to challenge yourself to think and grow in new ways and how much you want to explore and come to understand. Through these lessons you learn an invaluable perspective and way of living.
On the Administration of the Program:
The administration, the director and people who make this happen that you see from day to day, are some of the most kind hearted and thoughtful people. They truly make your experience. They also understand you as an individual and a student. They recognize that the experience of being in Chile and exploring it is where the real learning is and for this they support you in those kinds of activities and don't expect you to spend 100% of your time sitting in a library studying.
Host family experience: I made such a strong connection with my host mom. She truly became a very special person to me. She also helped so much with making my experience a meaningful one. She gave value and depth to my time in Chile. You simply have to be upfront about any needs but also be flexible and understand that you will miss somethings and just have to wait till you return to enjoy them.
On the Food:
Nooot my favorite. In general Chilean food does not know what spicy natural flavor is. I missed the burritos and tacos from back home in Southern California and just in general a more balanced diet. Lots of carbs and not many vitamins and minerals through those leafy friends. So just get ready you might leave the country looking a little more like a pillow than when you came. Although empanadas are near and dear to my heart heart after living in Chile and the best news is you can't walk longer than a minute without finding one to buy.
On Social and Cultural Integration:
This program is incredible in the sense that you spend a significant portion of it traveling and living with different groups of Chileans. This within itself gives you so much cultural integration. You have to try a little harder to break through into social culture with Chilean youth though if that's what you are intending to do, since you aren't around them all the time in classes or anything like that. Make an effort to join clubs and do things that would draw the people you would like to get to know in Chile, but go to the locations and events where you would be able to talk and meet people. It for sure is possible, but it is also somewhat up to you.
Use your head and follow your gut and don't let anything else hold you back. That was my mentality throughout my time in Chile. I never had any problems safety wise. Listen to people who have experience on what areas are ok and which are not. There very much are areas where it is unsafe to go where you will most likely be robbed. But don't go there or leave everything of value in a safe place. I would say the administration is very aware of both your safety and your independence and desire for adventures and cares for you with all in mind. Keep your head on straight, while still dancing around in the clouds and discovering things you never knew you'd would and all will be well.