Not only is Chile a great place to learn Spanish and to find out more about literature Nobel prize winners such as Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, but it’s also a great place to study other academic subjects including Astronomy, Business, Geology, Geography, History, Human Rights, Political Science, and Sustainable Development. Scientists flock to Chile which is rich in minerals and well-known for its earthquakes and volcanoes as well as its numerous astronomical observatories. Studying in Chile will give you an insight into how another education system functions, as well as a different perspective on life.
Although Chile had a military dictatorship from 1973-1990, today the country boasts a stable government and economy. The Andean nation has been a democratic state since 1990 and, in fact, Chile was recently ranked among the most stable countries in Latin America by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The report, Global Peace Index (GPI), places Chile 31st among 162 nations.
3. Spanish Language
Did you know that there are more native Spanish-speakers in the world than English-speakers? Spanish is the third most widely spoken language after Mandarin Chinese and Hindi by number of native speakers. Just think – if you learn Spanish, how many millions of people you would be able to communicate with? The ability to speak Spanish is definitely an asset to help you to participate in the globalized world we live in today. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and you will find that you won’t sound like Mike after his semester of Spanish. Suerte!
4. Friendly Locals
If your goal is to immerse yourself in the culture and/or learn and practice a language, it really helps if the locals are friendly and hospital. Chileans love it when foreigners study and get to know their culture and country and it’s easy to make friends. They will want to hear what you think about their country, which will give you plenty of opportunities to practice your Spanish.
5. Cost of Living
Although Chile is generally more expensive than most Latin American countries, it is still much less expensive than Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Therefore, on a shoestring student budget you can do many more cultural activities and enjoy your time abroad for an affordable price.
6. Unspoiled Nature
Diverse geography from the Atacama Desert in the north, the driest desert in the world, to the massive glaciers in the south, and let’s not forget the unspoiled trails of Patagonia. The list of outdoor activities in Chile is endless and the flora and fauna, spectacular. Think I’m exaggerating? Check it out for yourself here. And in Chile you can even observe penguins in their natural habitat.
7. Chilean Culture
Although Chile shares some similarities with neighboring countries, the combination of indigenous cultures, Spanish colonization, and European migration have created a uniquely Chilean culture, and language along with a way of life. For example, Chilean food is quite different to food you would find in Argentina, Bolivia, or Peru, and here we eat four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, onces (tea) and dinner.
8. Live with a Host Family
If you really want to ‘live like a local’ – as the saying goes, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans’ – then live with a host family. Why? Most Chileans live with their family until they are married and family plays a vital role in Chilean society. What better way to take advantage of your stay than by immersing yourself in the local culture and language and live with a host family.
9. Take the road less traveled
Do something different! Challenge yourself to live in a country that may not always have the modern conveniences you are used to but that will expose you to a different and perhaps simpler way of life. Although Santiago and other large Chilean cities are quite modern there are still plenty of areas off the beaten path where you won’t hear much English or any other languages spoken. Not only will you learn heaps about yourself and the country’s culture, you might also be surprised, when you return home, at how much you have learned about your own culture too.
10. Indigenous Mapuche Culture
Did you know that the Mapuche people defeated the Inca Empire in their attempt to expand south as well as resisted Spanish colonization by forging a treaty with Spain that gave them autonomous rule of their lands during the war? Well-known for their fierce resistance to foreign invaders, Mapuches believe that developing physical and spiritual maturity along with the concept of being a lifelong learner is a vital part of education. A common proverb in Mapudungun (the language of the Mapuches), is Piukeyen Ñuke Mapu, which means ‘you can’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you are from’.
By Jennifer Ramos, Virtual Assistant, Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción.