The good news from last week is that my reading controls went fairly well! The bad news is that I now have another two tests this week for each of those classes (History of Universal Art and History of Chile), so the studying really hasn’t subsided. Although I’m definitely struggling a little bit in these classes, it’s worth the pain because I can already tell how much my Spanish is improving.
After being here in Chile for about a month and a half, I’m really starting to get comfortable here, and it feels a lot more like home. Although I miss my friends more than they will ever know, I’m making new friends here, and it’s a little less lonely. I feel extremely grateful for this opportunity, and a lot of this is due to how incredible my study abroad program is.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m studying abroad through an external program called IFSA-Butler. I think a lot of students are more hesitant to choose an external program for various reasons. They might be worried about the credits transferring, or getting everything approved, or even not knowing any other Temple students that are going. It all boils down to the fear of the unknown– something I completely understand. I went through a lot of the same worries myself, and, honestly, doing an external program has been more difficult for me than if I had done a semester at Temple’s campus in Oviedo, Spain–a program that many of my Spanish major friends have raved about. However, despite the extra paperwork and deadlines that accompany an external program, choosing this external program in Valparaíso has personally been the perfect fit for me.
For example, IFSA-Butler allows me to directly-enroll in classes with Chileans, something that is pretty unique to their program. With IFSA, I can take normal university classes with Chileans, program courses with the 22 students in my program, or classes with international students that are also studying abroad in Valpo. It’s the perfect fit for me because there’s a lot of flexibility within the program, something that can be hard to find in other study abroad programs.
Of course, a more set program might be good for someone who likes a little more structure, which is completely valid. My program has been great for me because I’m fairly independent, so it was nice to be able to create my own structure with my classes and everything. With how many study abroad programs there are out there, everyone should be able to find one that is a good fit!
Amidst reflecting on my study abroad experience so far, I had an exciting weekend experiencing more of Chilean culture. One highlight was a wine festival in Isla de Maipo, a small town about two hours away from Valparaíso in the central valley of Chile. Wine is one of Chile’s main exports (the others being lumber, salmon, and copper). Chile produces mass amounts of wine each year, and, as a result, wine is incredibly cheap here–a decent bottle costs the equivalent of 6 U.S. dollars. I also visited a vineyard there and got to see the whole wine-making process, something that I had never seen before. After visiting the vineyard, we went to the festival, where there were tons of food stands, handmade goods, and, of course, wine.
One of the highlights of the festival was trying choripan for the first time. The word choripan is a combination of chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread), so it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s basically a fat grilled sausage in a piece of crusty bread with a salsa of tomatoes and onions on top. It’s just as delicious as it sounds and is definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten in Chile so far. The festival itself was awesome with lots of handmade goods and wine galore.
While at the festival, we also went on a tour of the town Isla de Maipo, a small town whose claim to fame is the aforementioned wine festival. One of the most memorable parts of the tour was visiting the memorial for the fifteen men who disappeared after the coup d’état of 1973 that brought Chile into an era of fear and paranoia under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the U.S Operation Condor. The memorial is in memory of the men from that town that were taken away and murdered by the forces of Pinochet, a sad reminder both of what governments can do to their own people and also the United States’ role in Latin American history.
Apart from the solemn visit to the memorial in Isla de Maipo, I really enjoyed learning more about the wine-making process and getting to explore yet another region of Chile this weekend.