The Chilean Education Experience

Putting six months of your life into one blog entry is a tough task to do. Although words don’t do justice to the feelings of being in the moment and experiencing everything first hand, I will try my best to describe certain experiences traveling, studying, and living abroad in the “organized chaos” that is Chile.

The school portion of my study abroad has been spread thin. Having class 3 days a week, hardly understanding professors for the first couple months, and having all classes cancelled for 3 weeks due to student strikes have all contributed to a strange learning environment. My sparse school schedule has allowed me to seek education by a different means. Education can come in many forms, and for me, the most valuable educational experiences have not occurred in classrooms.

By far the most educational and rewarding memories I have made in my time abroad have come from traveling. Hitchhiking around Patagonia for 2 months with the hordes of other travelers, rafting the class V Futaleaufú River, and road tripping with the roomies have been some of the most memorable experiences in my time here. Although all of these adventures required planning and traveling great distances from my current home, Concepcion, sometimes the best trips and memories come from impromptu Wednesday evening or Saturday morning explorations close to home.

To some (okay most), Concepcion wouldn’t be considered an attractive city. However, just minutes away from the center of the city lies some of the most pristine coastline that central Chile has to offer, free of trash and the ever-present “flaites” (Chilean teens that listen to reggaeton at obnoxiously loud levels and leave their empty beer cans/bottles behind when they are done). As this is my first time living in a large city, it is sometimes easy to feel trapped due to lack of car and bicycle. This is where those weekend excursions or spontaneous weekday getaways come in handy for me. Breaking the daily routine of school and “studying” is the key for me to keep that excitement factor up in living in such a strange and unfamiliar environment. Although I am technically here to study and go to school, I have learned substantially more outside of school, through conversing with locals in broken Chilean Spanish than I have in any classroom.

Upon arrival in Chile, I felt completely out of place in my new living situation. Finally, after six months, I consider Chile home, if only for another 5 months. Although inconvenient at times, I find comfort in the organized chaos of this unique country and the habits that its citizens practice. I shudder to think about returning to Missoula and having to change my internal clock from Chilean time (at least 30 minutes late to everything), to U.S. time.

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Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine, Patagonia

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Safety boat waiting below class V rapid “Throne Room” on the Futaleufú River in northern Patagonia.

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