Hi everyone! I’ve now been in Santiago, Chile since February 18th and with my host family whom I will be staying with for the rest of my time here since February 26th. My host parents live in a large apartment in the Las Condes neighborhood. I live with them and their dog, Lola, who is very friendly and playful. Right now my host mother’s mother is staying with us and later the couple’s daughter and son-in-law will stay for a few days. I have a room to myself, which has room to spare for my clothes and books. The family and I eat all meals together except when I’m out. We will usually sit at the table for around an hour after finishing the meal and talk about everything from Chilean history and politics to how other members of our respective families are doing. I’m also grateful that they are teaching me Chilean colloquialisms. These conversations have so far been some of the highlights of my stay. I learn so much and love spending time with my host parents.
The Middlebury study abroad program arranged my accommodations. They work with a number of families in Santiago and other cities who regularly act as host parents. To find a host family that was a good fit for me, Middlebury had me fill out a detailed survey describing myself and explaining the kind of experience I wanted. For example, they let me choose how much interaction I wanted to have with my host family – which in my case was a lot -, and asked whether the presence of things such as pets or smoking were an issue for me and if there were any aspects of my identity the host family needed to be sensitive too.
There are many things I love about Santiago. The public transportation is excellent, the city is very walkable, the Mediterranean climate is one I really like being in, the food and architecture are fantastic, there are many great museums which I’ve only just started on, there is an important film and theater scene, and the people I’ve interacted with have almost all been very friendly.
If I had to pick one thing that annoys me it is that the city’s streets aren’t really equipped to handle the volume of traffic that goes through them. They’re alright on weekends but during the week traffic gets quite congested. I don’t drive but I’ve traveled quite a bit by car with my host parents so it does affect me. It bothers them as well.
For me, one of the biggest challenges of living in Santiago and specifically of studying here is the distance between my university campus and where I live. At Pitt I could get out of bed and be in class in 10 minutes. Here I will have a 45-50 minute commute. This is characteristic of Chilean universities. Dorms are not a widespread phenomenon, and most students commute longer distances to class. For me this will take some getting used to. I will need to be disciplined about getting up early enough in the morning to prepare and eat my breakfast, before leaving by metro.