Hola! I’m Jennifer Diaz and as I’m writing this I’m still in Santiago, Chile during the spring 2023 semester! My major is Environment, Sustainability, Policy and Geography and I chose to study abroad during my second year at Syracuse University. I decided to study in Santiago because of the immense amount of geography courses that were offered and, of course, to immerse myself in Latin American culture while improving my Spanish.

As a first generation Bolivian-American student at Syracuse University, I practically jumped at the chance to study abroad in Chile as it is one of the very few programs that are offered and I am honestly so grateful to have put my fears aside to immerse myself in a Latin American culture different from my own.

I’ve always spoken Spanish but I really wanted to improve my Spanish in a more grammatical context as well as speaking more confidently and after more than 5 months, I’ve seen nothing but improvement. I really haven’t ever taken any language classes in high school or college so I have always struggled with reading and writing in Spanish (besides when I text my parents!) but this opportunity to go abroad was a huge learning experience and immensely improved my Spanish in so many ways.

About the program

Currently, we are approaching our finals season at the university that we attend in Chile called Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. My mom was so excited for me to start school here because this is easily one of the best universities in all of South America. One of my favorite classes is Rural Geography because of what I want to do in the future which is to someday give back to countries with poor, rural populations that suffer in an economic, societal, and environmental aspect. In class we went into depth about rural communities in South America which was so interesting and significant to my learning experience in Chile.  

Most classes are at Campus San Joaquin which is an enormous and beautiful campus with so many places just to hang out with friends but also great places to study! I have also found myself at Campus Oriente very often when I would have weekly meetings with one of our program advisors Paula to go over Spanish lessons and honestly just talk to Paula about my week!

One of my favorite things about Santiago is that the program advisors, Mauricio Paredes and Paula, are seriously so kind and very dependable on quite literally everything while studying abroad. They are super dependable and will never make you feel bad about asking for help on whatever it is! During my first month in Chile, I attended Dr. Paredes’ dictatorship class, offered by the program, based on Chilean’s history during Pinochet’s dictatorship which was very enlightening because I never really heard about this until I was in his class and it is a very important part of Chilean culture.

Program Travel

The Santiago program allowed us to visit beautiful places in Chile ranging from all the way in the Northern cities to the Southern tip of the country. With Paula and Mauricio, we have visited Puerto Natales and the Patagonia region, Valparaiso, and San Pedro de Atacama throughout the semester! I can definitely see myself visiting in the future. These are also the places where we spent the most time with the other students in our program and it was very fun sharing these moments together. In addition to this, there are so many places to visit in Chile such as Puerto Varas where my friends and I traveled together to see and walk on a volcano (Volcán Osorno) which is something I never would have seen myself doing. We did lots of hiking during our time in Chile and I also went rafting for the very first time. There are so many nature activities to do in all of the country, my love for nature sparked anywhere I visited in Chile from the infamous desert in San Pedro de Atacama and the waterfalls in Puerto Varas (Saltos de Petrohué).

Apart from traveling within the country, I’ve also enjoyed traveling outside of Chile. The beginning of our program, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and had a three-week signature seminar there and learned about Argentine history and culture which was very meaningful. At the same time, we had so much time to explore this unique city and taste their delicious food. I felt so grateful to have met people I’ll always keep in contact with even though I was only in Argentina for three weeks. During Holy week at U. Catolica, everybody in our program took advantage of traveling outside of the country since this would take longer than traveling within Chile.

At home in Santiago

In Chile, the program sets us up to live with host families and I think this experience also made my time abroad so much better. Since I’m latina, I really do enjoy eating dinner together and sharing with huge families along with discussing all the chismes (drama) with my host mom! Along with helping me navigate myself around the city, my host family truly showed they cared for me and wanted me to have the best time in Chile. They are always so excited to introduce me to anything within Chilean culture, living with my host family allowed me to truly immerse myself in their culture. I was invited to their grandchild’s first birthday party, I just know I will be in contact with them even after I go back home. They have always made me feel so welcomed into their home, and for that I will always appreciate their kindness during these five and a half months.

There is so much to say about my experience in Chile, so much has happened in the time I’ve been here. I’ve met so many wonderful Chilean people and even other international students at U. Catolica and have made memorable experiences with the people in my program from Syracuse whom I will see again in the fall.

Although I am still in Chile, I’ve already reached the point where I am feeling that I will genuinely miss this country so much and the life that I have lived for five and a half months. In two weeks when I step in the plane back home I will be excited to see my loved ones from the states, however I will also be eternally grateful to have studied and lived in this country. It is something I never expected I would do however I am sure it is one of the experiences that will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

Jennifer Diaz ’25

Environment, Sustainability, Policy and Geography

Santiago Center, Spring 2023