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!
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!
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
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!