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Black Bear Abroad: Welcome to Chile

Studying abroad was something that I have wanted to do since I went to the new student open house and saw the study abroad table. The table was filled with information with all the places you could go and the things you could do there. As a Spanish major, there were many places to consider before settling on one country to study abroad in. After much consideration, I finally ended up choosing Santiago, Chile at la Universidad Andres Bello, officially starting my study abroad experience.

One crucial thing I did not realize about Chile until about a month before I left was that, because it is south of the equator, the seasons are reversed, which means when I departed on January 4, I left Maine’s winter wonderland — and on January 5, I landed in a tropical paradise. Like much of the United States, Santiago gets cooler at night, reaching it’s peak temperature around four or five in the afternoon, then cooling down overnight. There is also not as much humidity as in Maine, so even though it is 90 degrees during the day, you are not always coated in a layer of sweat.

Santiago is a city of about seven million people in the middle of Chile. The city is surrounded by mountains, creating a basin that houses Santiago. In the winter this creates issues with smog, but since it’s the summer right now, the worst of the smog is a distant concern.

If you were to travel for an hour or so you would be at the beach, the desert or the mountains, giving the city added appeal for people who want to experience a variety of climates. Most students have the opportunity to explore all three during their time here and I look forward to these opportunities.

As a metropolitan city, Santiago has super busy roads, which at rush hour are a scary sight. As a larger city, it is also home to an extensive public transportation system, including buses and metros.

Coming from Orono, Maine, where public transportation is available if needed, but for many, including myself, not usually a part of daily life, this was a bit of a surprise to me. Being from Connecticut, I am familiar with New York’s subway system and when I arrived in Santiago, I was terrified with the thought of having to figure out a system comparable to that. Lucky for me, Santiago’s metro system is the easiest system I have ever encountered. After only having been here for a week, I can navigate my way to the bus stop, get on the bus, get off at the right stop, go to the metro station, get on the right metro and get off at the right stop that gets me to school. The whole process takes around 45 minutes, which is significantly longer than my usual commute from Orchard Trails to the CCA parking lot, but is a nice time to listen to music and people watch.

Since I am living in the city, that was another adjustment in and of itself. The city is divided into smaller regions or “comunas,” most of which seem to be divided by economic status. The neighborhood that I live in is one of the more affluent ones, but you still have to be conscious of your surroundings. My house has a gate with a lock, a door with a lock and a security system, which is much different from my usually unlocked door back at home. Being in a city, I can hear traffic all through the night outside my window. At first this was so strange to have cars going by 24-7, but now it is just a normal sound that helps me fall asleep at night.

Finishing up my first week here in Santiago has been an adventure. Having to get used to a new language and a new culture all at once is a bit of an adjustment, but in a place like this, it is completely worth adjusting to.

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