Chile North to South: Visiting Universities in Santiago

Last August and September I visited Chile as part of a UW Study Abroad Exploration Seminar. It’s taken me awhile to get my experiences written up, but here’s a bit about the beginning of my trip.

I arrived at the Seattle airport at 3am, checked my bags, and made my way through security. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so nervous and also excited for anything in my life. Not only was this my first time traveling to another country, I was about to spend a month in a country with twenty-one strangers and a population whose language I barely speak. Despite my nerves, I was also very excited. An eternity of a plane ride later, I landed in Santiago and met up with the group in the airport, and the trip began!

Hotel Diego De Velazquez

Our hotel had very comfortable accommodations, with spacious rooms housing about 3-4 of our group in each room. I shared with two other girls, and we ended up staying up late often talking about the events of the day and attempting to journal all the things we wanted to remember.

Let me give you a basic overview of how each day went:

Morning: Departed the hotel to start the day’s activities, usually starting with more scholastic activities such as visiting universities, touring hospitals, and listening to short lectures from people working in healthcare

Afternoon: Each lunch somewhere as a group and get the chance to sample the local cuisine, then proceeding with the group on more “touristy” activities like visiting museums, landmarks, and shopping areas

Evenings: Return to the hotel, usually had individual free time to hangout in smaller groups, go get dinner where we’d like, or work on laundry or journaling or sleeping!

University Andres Bello (UNAB)

One of the simulation rooms inside UNAB


On the first full day in Santiago we started the morning at a university, where we learned about the basic structure of the healthcare system in Chile and also got to tour their “simulation hospital,” where they have situational setups of various departments of health. The instructors determine the disease, and students properly treat it, practicing their skills on a high-tech mannequins


The very top of the hill has a beautiful viewpoint where you can get a 360º view of the city

The group at Santa Lucia!

Following our tour at Andres Bello, we visited a Catholic university in the area, where we got to hear from a young doctor who has worked in the army and extensively in rural areas of Chile. After these informative destinations, we continued into the center of Santiago to climb Santa Lucia Hill. This small hill marks the spot where Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago in 1541. The lookout was landscaped into a public park in the late 19th century to memorialize the historical event.

We ended the day on a delicious note with a group dinner at a delightful restaurant near Santa Lucia hill. I tried eel for the first time, which was thankfully delicious and just tasted like fish!

We found out that Chileans tend to eat dinner much later than your average American when we arrived around 6:30 and found the restaurant nearly empty! It wasn’t until about 8pm or so that traffic started picking up, and Professor Olavarria confirmed that this is pretty standard. By the end of the trip we’d all become pretty accustomed to eating dinner much later!






Hospital Roosevelt Tour

Friday, August 10, 2018

Today the UW group toured the Hospital Roosevelt in Guatemala City. The group was subdivided into two, and each tour viewed a different area of the hospital. My visit was led by two of the hospital’s nurses, and we observed the emergency room, holding areas, operating rooms and the ICU. Some history facts, the Hospital Roosevelt was built in the 1940’s and is named after President Roosevelt, the healthcare facility serves people from the capital city and the entire country. Patients are referred to the hospital, and the care is free but items such as IV fluids, blood products, and medication are not free, and the patient or their family/friends need to purchase items required for the care which can be difficult for a poor, ill person.

The hospital tour felt like stepping back in time, in the general areas the equipment was very old looking, the holding areas were wards which did not allow privacy for the patients. When touring the ICU, I was pleasantly surprised to see updated equipment, the ICU monitors were modernized, they used the same feeding pumps as my ICU, and the ventilators appeared to be very new. During the hospital tour, there were no overly distressed patients, everyone appeared to be comfortable, the group of patients waiting for orthopedic surgery all seem to be tolerating their injuries well. I thought there would be a lot of moaning and distressed patients due to pain, as it is difficult for a patient to afford pain medications.


Baltimore Clinic (Coastal Village)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Today’s clinic was a bit surreal, we arrive at this coastal village via boat and disembark on the beach. The scenery was picturesque, the air was breezy warm, exotic birds fluttered close by skimming the water to retrieve small fish in their beaks, and children in the water, cheerily playing but very focused on the newcomers. The medical team is in high spirits, I cannot tell if this joyful mood is due to the beautiful surroundings or because this will be our last clinic for this trip? I am cheerful for both.

It was my teams turn today to complete a community windshield survey for a village, I am looking forward to this experience for everyone before has enjoyed their village tours. The village health promoter helping us today is Miguel. We started our journey from today’s clinic area and traveled by foot through the village and learning about what the community resources are. We learn of a couple of their income resources, they dry smelt fish caught at the beach and then dry the small fish on large black mats, and package them for sale, a second income comes from selling charcoal, the process for this is burning wood covered by soil which then produces the charcoal for sale.

The village includes two churches, one Catholic and one Evangelist, a large school with three classrooms, a large playfield for soccer, a small tienda (store) which holds food, household products, and some medicine. I am surprised to see antibiotics for sale at the tienda. The homes are all surrounded by fences constructed of barbwire, and the homes vary from traditional materials of wood and palm roofing to concrete structures. One house had a satellite dish which was uncommon. The transportation modes include, boats, walking, bicycle, motorcycle for the villages and the finca (estate) owners have vehicles. For employment many villagers need to leave for two-week periods, to work at finca’s to provide income for their families.

Today’s village tour indeed provided insight into the life of a Guatemala villager and understanding of the struggles they face. The community resources for income are not enough to sustain families, and family members needed to travel for additional income which takes them away from their loved ones for up to two-week periods. We learned that the local school teaches in Spanish and not the traditional language of Quiche, this method could potentially affect the customary native tongue, they could lose this unique language.

Chinachabilchoch Clinic

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Starting today is difficult for we stayed in the village overnight due to the length of time required to reach this area, yesterday we had a clinic for the Semanzana village people who travel to Chinachabilchoch to be seen. Today we will be seeing the Chinachabilchoch villagers and then going to our Paraiso Hotel. Staying in the village overnight was challenging due to the lack of comforts after working a long hot day. A makeshift shower system was placed in a building for the teams use, but very few used it due to lighting and privacy issues. The latrine was an outdoor facility used by 20 or more people which did not stay clean. We set-up our sleeping quarters in the same building as our clinic. We prepared for this overnight stay with air mattresses and mosquito nets which were arranged in three different areas of the building. Everyone was tired after our work day but falling to sleep was difficult due to the hot nighttime air and the rustling/noisiness of the other cohorts.

Everyone worked hard today and even though we woke this morning with little sleep and felt at our worst, no one showed any signs of frustration towards the patients or each other during the clinic. I was very proud of our group today and glad to see everyone overcoming the difficult challenge placed upon them with such professionalism. Everyone worked with a focus today as we process 90-100 patients, we were motivated to get back to the hotel for some comfort and relaxation.

Esperanza Tunico Clinic

Monday, July 30, 2018

Today our village clinic was in Esperanza Tunico, people were already waiting for as we arrived to get set up for the workday. In total for the day, we saw about sixty patients comprising mostly women and children, for the men are at work during our clinics which run from 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m. For this clinic I worked in the vital sign station, the station rapidly became chaotic as patients did not understand the flow process and the language barrier provided additional challenges. It did not take long to come up with an organized process which improved the patient flow, this is where I noticed my passed charge nursing experience came into action. Mostly the patient’s vital signs were stable, as this group of people are seen every six months by the GVH team and regularly by the local health promoter. The GVH records the data for each patient seen, and we noticed very few new clients at this clinic.

Today I was able to work on my Spanish skills to communicate greetings, my title and what my station was providing. It was easy to feel motivated to help this population for the patients were very pleasant, cooperative and eager to seek help. I noticed the patients were well dressed, I felt the people were in their best clothing to come to the clinic, they show pride in the cultural attire. During the chaotic day, I never once viewed a client who was angry, upset, or pushy, everyone displayed a pleasant disposition. I wondered if this clinic was really helping the people of Esperanza Tunico as it felt like we were band-aid healing. I learned that the local health promoters follow-up with patients care, which helped me think that we were making a difference.

The most difficult challenge for this clinic was dealing with the hot, humid weather and remembering to drink plenty of fluids. Drinking warm water was not refreshing but adding flavoring to the water, like a GU electrolyte helped me to take in needed fluids.

Adventures into the Amazon basin

If you’ve ever contemplated any kind of science career, you should participate in field research in the forests of Peru in the Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainability study abroad program in early fall with Dr. Ursula Valdez. My experience in this program this August through September reinforced my passion for field work and ignited a curiosity within me for wildlife biology. Some of my classmates went into this trip thinking they wanted to pursue the medical biological field yet completed the program with a desire to conduct field research instead. One main reason I chose this particular program over the other one I was accepted to in Rome was that I could never recreate the experience offered in Peru. We ventured through treacherous winding roads for a day and spent two days traveling by canoe to the Cocha Cashu biological station in Manu National Park. Tourists are not permitted to travel this deep into the park so this experience was truly an exceptional one. When else in my life would I be able to study monkeys in the Amazonian rainforest in South America? As an individual who loves animals, conservation and nature, this trip was spiritually and educationally stimulating at all times. Following is a snapshot of my journal entries for travel to and time spent in Cocha Cashu.

The beginning of our adventure started at 3,399 m from Cusco, Peru over the Andes

The Madre de Dios river in southeastern Peru

28 August 2018

Our adventure on the river begins! I awoke to the sounds of more birds and bugs than I have ever heard in my life! The forest dominates the land. A massive stretch of natural beauty. Here, we go into the unknown, down the Madre de Dios river. This is heaven compared to our sixteen hour bus ride from Cusco. Grasses taller than I’ve ever witnessed upwards of twenty feet tall!! They resemble palm trees at first until you see the gigantic spikelets shooting from the top that must have been half my height! Sweeping valleys enveloped in all levels of succession catch my eye. I wonder what secrets this forest holds. This immaculate treasure tucked away from society. You need not worry about the world beyond your own two feet and the community you have built. We have a hunger, a curiosity for the adventure ahead. I am blessed to literally be with those who like to stop and smell the orchids, poke the slimy ferns and ponder over fuzzy caterpillars.

Motorized dugout canoes took us to our destination–Cocha Cashu

This is a great start to the journey ahead. We ease our way down the river, flowing with gravity and venturing deep into the heart of darkness (Conrad 1899). The rich copper tones drape down into the river, kissing the pale water. I am alive!! More than I’ve ever been. Each sense awakens and becomes more tuned with our Mother Earth. Through all the pain and suffering in the world (socially, spiritually and environmentally), I feel a sense of relief in the presence of a vast expanse of rainforest.

Canoe views

29 August 2018

We have started our excursion on the river with a vertebrate survey. Most of the species observed have been birds with the exception of a few reptiles such as Caiman or the yellow spotted river turtle. I witnessed a biodiversity hotspot right along the Manu river. We saw well over 50 species in a few hours, including at least three to four monkey species!!

Having arrived at Cocha Cashu, I am overwhelmed by the richness of species within the region. There are many researchers partaking in fascinating work. From bird banding to those aiming to research the family of ten giant river otters.I look forward to working in this place over the next ten days. Seeing all the monkeys along the river has me extremely excited to start our primate behavior and ecology research project! The class is split into six different research groups: bird ecology, primate ecology, mammal and camera traps, insect ecology, plant/fungus ecology (ended up pertaining to butterflies instead) and a qualitative project (the group chose sustainability as a focus). I also got stung by a wasp square in the forehead during introductions. Awkward turtle! This is definitely part of the experience and I am sure I will be stung by many other creatures.

Cocha Cashu biological station

03 September 2018

Day one of Black spider monkey (Ateles chamek) research

Lizzy, Katerina, Nico and I left the station around 6:00 four minutes after leaving, we spotted one individual leaping through the canopy. It seemed we were off to a good start. The trails we ventured down made a big loop, all the way past Cocha Tortura and back around to Cocha Cashu. Along the way, we encountered two groups of primates on separate occasions; squirrel monkeys (Saimieri sciurius) and Saddleback Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis). We took note and observed the troops for a bit but did not record all data because our research is focused on Spider monkeys. The total distance we ventured was around 3.5 miles. Our plan is to go out again in the afternoon but we are definitely exhausted. However, I loved seeing all the different primates. The most interesting troop was that of the Saddleback Tamarin because of how stealthily they moved through the canopy. If you did not spot them you would never know they were there. This extremely contrasts with the Spider monkeys who crash wildly through the palms, not making an effort to be inconspicuous. I really hope I have time to do some observations of the Pygmy Marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea).

Forest canopy where primates are                                    observed

Nico and I went on a canoe adventure after lunch to see if we could spot “monkeys zappa” from the vantage of the lake but this resulted in no success other than paddling in circles, literally. The researchers make canoeing look much easier but it takes time to warm up. I was about to give up on collecting data for the day when, after I utilized the compost toilet I spotted a single Spider monkey slowly climbing through the canopy within a few hundred meters of the biological station. I ran to wash my hands and get my research team. Lizzy and I followed the adult female and one juvenile for over an hour. The female appeared to be pregnant. After awhile of feeding, ‘Preggo’ rested 25-30 meters up in an unidentified tree. When it comes to chasing primates through the Peruvian rainforest, there is never a dull moment.

Spider monkeys curious about human observers


Brown capuchin (Cebus apella) observed near Cocha Cashu

This snapshot of my time at Cocha Cashu reflects the mindfulness and presence one embodies when in the rainforest. The adventures of collecting research are never predictable but the process of creating a proposal and being flexible with your approach to data collection is a great educational experience that will provide one with a sense of accomplishment. This amazing experience can give one insight into the type of career to put energy into–work indoors or work outdoors. The value of experiencing biodiversity firsthand is priceless and I hope every aspiring environmentalist has the opportunity to extend their education into the field.

Early morning fog rolling off Cocha Cashu


The Training Center in Santiago

Saturday, July 28, 2018 Blog by Ronald Carrick, Guatemala

Today we traveled by bus from Guatemala City to the Santiago training center (2hrs) which is owned by Jennifer Hoock, our trip manager from the Guatemala Village Health (GVH) group. Jennifer does not live at the center, she has a local family living at the center which manages it. The center has a main house, which is in continuous improvements, we learned there were new kitchen cupboards placed and a new tile flooring in the last year. A new range stove and refrigerator arrived today at the center during our visit. The center had an example of a functional out-house toilet which is built in the rural villages. There were water purification systems (ECO system), which consists of a ceramic clay pot (clay is mixed with wood shavings and baked, this curing process turns the wood shavings into carbon, then the clay pot is painted with silver) housed by a plastic pale. Water is poured into the clay pot, and purified water is removed from the bottom via a spigot. There is also a carpenter training area too.

At the training center the UW group, the GVH group, and the Guatemalans unpacked the supplies that were transferred from Seattle, WA to Guatemala. The center houses medical supplies which are used during the clinic visits in the rural villages. The travel clinic supplies were stocked and sorted by systems, i.e., GI, Pulmonary, Cardiac by the three groups. This process allowed the groups to become acquainted with one another.

We then set up for a mock clinic which turned into a regular clinic, as locals turned up for medical treatments. The clinic visit started with registration, then vital signs, triage, group charlas, finally to see the doctor and/or pharmacy. It was great to treat the locals, about 43 patients were examined, this allowed a good practice for the planned village clinics. During this training session, I was a triage nurse, a Spanish interpreter was needed to complete the patient assessment, and data was entered into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and on a papelitos (little papers). The patient moved through the clinic with the help of a runner. During the day’s activities, I learned how important it is to have a system in place to run a clinic efficiently. It takes many hands to prepare for a mobile medical clinic. 

In the heart of Matsuyama!

On to the Study Abroad segment!

For the Sustainable Energy study abroad trip, I stayed in the mountain city of Matsuyama. Matsuyama is very much a country city, compared to Tokyo or Kyoto, but It is not like American country cities. Matsuyama still had a Livid Night life and a ton of attractions for young people. Our group was able to keep busy every single day of the trip.

Matsuyama Castle!

We stayed in a shared housing provided by the university. We each had our own rooms, with air conditioning. Thank goodness! The Humidity is a little dreadful!

Since this course focused on Sustainable Energy in Japan, most of the studies in this trip revolved around different energy and technological systems in Japan. Each day yielded either a field trip, lecture, or cultural outing. We worked together with students from Ehime University and got to share in each other’s culture. During the Shinto Festival, we all assisted in hoisting the 2 Ton Kami Shrine for the day, with the help of 100 others from around the prefecture.

Tea Ceremony!

Ehime Engineering Laboratory

On our field trip to Yusahara, we traveled to a terraced rice farm in the mountains. Here we got to learn about the architecture involvement of irrigation in the terraced fields and learned about the culture aspect of Japan’s problems. In Japan, there is negative population growth, meaning that the youth are leaving the smaller cities, leaving only the elderly to perform jobs such as rice farmer. In time, this will have significant problems for Japan.


Mountain Restaurant Cuisine!

When I began the study abroad, I expected to learn technology in Solar farms, hydro power, etc. While we did learn about that information, we learned a great deal of Japan’s own culture. It was surprising to see different solutions to similar problems. For example, In America we are looking to solar power to increase our green clean energy. For Japan, solar power is not that applicable, so they are looking to Hydrogen facilities to assist in long term clean energy.

Studies aside, the most valuable information I learned was engineering from an international standpoint. It really opened my eyes to how things can be completed. Learning the cultural aspect turned out to be even more important than the engineering.

During one of the weekends, each student stayed in a homestay with a local family. My family was an older couple in their 40’s with no kids. I was unsure of what to expect, but upon meeting them, I had a spectacular time. Although the husband couldn’t speak good English, his wife was able to translate for us, and we had a lot in common. Conversation proved to be very fruitful and we had to force ourselves to stop talking in order to go to bed. On our day out, we traveled to Kurusan Observatory up on one of the mountain Islands, yielding one of the best views I have ever seen. The Islands of Japan are very mountainous and numerous. Pudget sound Islands look like child’s play in comparison.

Staying with a local family and eating something other than at a restaurant or 7-11 goodies was a refreshment and a learning experience at how a Japanese household operates.

When the homestay was completed, every student had a positive experience with their homestay.

Hiroshima was another big highlight of the trip for me personally. Given the situation of WW2, it always amazed me how far Japan and America have come as allies and I was humbled by the memorial. Seeing ground zero in person was surreal.

Hiroshima Ground Zero

1,000 Cranes Memorial       

In summary, staying as part of the Japan study abroad taught me a lot about the international community. I learned about English teaching in Japan. Which I might consider if my current career plans fall through.

Advice that I would give for any students looking into a study abroad. I would say to experience as much as you can. Studying outside of America is a limited opportunity and you should take advantage of everything. If it is your first time traveling alone to another country, just remember that it is only a finite period of time. Soon you will return to your home and look back at your experiences. Make sure you fill your time with as many experiences as possible while traveling abroad.

Half Way Through!


Welcome Back!

It has been 1 week in Matsuyama and 2 weeks in Japan. I entered Japan a week early to do a little solo exploration.

Before starting the school study abroad program, I traveled to the busy city of Tokyo, Climbed Japans tallest Mountain of Fuji san, and explored the cultural heritage in the city of Kyoto.

Immediately after landing I traveled to my Air BnB. Air BnB is a website in which locals can submit their houses/ rooms for rent, resulting in an affordable and comfortable way to stay overnight in cities. Only costing me $15 US dollars per night, I stayed in a small room with 4 others, but there were private showers and the locals were very polite and helpful in guiding me to tourist sites. If you are traveling short period to multiple cities, I recommend this method. Most of the day I was out and about and only came to the room to crash in the evening.

The first item on the agenda was climbing Mt Fuji. I took the highway bus to Fuji, which was very easy to do. And then climbed and stayed over night halfway up the mountain. I woke at 3 am for the famous sunrise summit, and it was well worth it. The climb itself was very long, but not too difficult. A definite recommendation to any hikers out there.

Cold and tired after the Sunrise Summit!

Traveling back to Tokyo, I visited all the main attractions in the city, Shibuya, Ueno, Imperial Palace, Akihabara, and more. Tokyo is a bustling city of modern sophistication. The train system in Tokyo alone was mind-blowing. But to soon learn that the trains connect all of Japan together made me a little jealous that Seattle lacks a rail system. I was nervous that the language barrier would have resulted in large issue. But surprisingly, most of the signs have English translation and I was able to order food by simple pointing and proper greetings.

Shibuya Crossing!

20 meter Gundam at Diver City!

I quickly realized that 7-11 stores are your one stop shop for everything you need. They are everywhere. You cannot walk one block without seeing one of these stores. They carry a larger supply of food options compared to US counterparts. They also have ATM’s for when you run out of cash. Always keep cash on you, because not every store will accept American Debit or Credit.

Another Helpful Item is Google Translate and Google Maps. Google maps was able to get me to any location I needed to and was very accurate in which train and platform to take. There is a phone app called google translate with real time video translation that will translate foreign signs into English almost instantaneously!

Finishing with Tokyo, I traveled to Kyoto via the High Speed Bullet Train, called the Shikansen. From my seat I got to see much of Japan’s countryside which was spectacular. Japan is very mountainous with lots of rivers, making for a beautiful sight.

I found myself liking Kyoto a little bit better than Tokyo. Kyoto had an older cultural feel to the city with a lot more attractions to my liking. Whereas Tokyo was modern, technological, and fast paced. Kyoto was ancient, old, and a slower setting. There must have been a festival of some sort, because all the locals wore Kimono’s. I traveled throughout Kyoto via the city bus, which was also very easy to use. The temples of Japan hold a very serene and ancient feeling. I couldn’t help but stare in amazement at the architecture. It was more appealing to learn how advanced the buildings really are. They are constructed to be earthquake proof. Built without nails so that the wood beams can mingle together during a quake.


In summary, traveling solo in Japan was a great time, I was able to cover a lot of ground that wouldn’t have been possible in a group. I felt safe at all times and never felt lost because the locals are very polite and willing to help. Japan’s primary tourist attraction is food. There are a lot of items that have strange appearances, but you must try everything!