Preparing to Go: Santiago

Page Contents


Syracuse Santiago Program Dates

Syracuse Santiago Pre-Departure Webinar PowerPoint (Spring 2020)

Syracuse Santiago Center Mailing Address

Universidad de Syracuse
Campus Oriente, Universidad Católica
Av. J. Guzmán 3300, Providencia
Santiago, Chile

Mail should always be sent to the center at the student’s attention (never to the host family address). Students will have a mail box at the Syracuse center and the staff will notify students when a package arrives.

Santiago Staff Contact Information

Dr. Mauricio Paredes, Director:
Paula Lopehandía Marticorena, Assistant Director and Housing Coordinator:

Syracuse University in Cuenca, Ecuador at Centers for Interamerican Studies (CEDEI)

CEDEI/Programas Internacionales
Gran Colombia 11-02 y General Torres Cuenca, ECUADOR
Tel:  (011) 593 7 283 9003

CEDEI Staff Contact Information:
Diana Rosales, Director of International Programs,

Cuenca, Ecuador


Although you will be studying at CEDEI in Cuenca, Ecuador, you will begin your semester abroad with a two-day orientation in Quito. You will fly in to Quito, where CEDEI staff will meet you.


While in Cuenca, you will be living with a host family (one student per family) within walking distance of CEDEI. You will be placed in a host family by completing the Santiago/Cuenca Housing Request Form. You will have all three meals with your host family. Your host family will also provide you with bed and bath linens and will do your laundry once a week.


Although Ecuador is located at the equator, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate year-round (average temperatures ranging from 50s-70s). Since Cuenca is situated high up in the Andes Mountains (8,400 feet above sea level), you may experience dizziness, shortness of breath, dehydration, nausea, and headaches. This should subside once you acclimate to the altitude change.

What to Pack

  • Layers, layers, layers! While generally mild, the weather can change throughout the day. Locals often joke that Cuenca experiences all four seasons in one day! It is a good idea to bring clothes that can be easily layered (t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, etc.)
  • Pants. Ecuadorians do not typically wear shorts (unless they are on the beach or playing sports).
  • Raincoat and/or poncho.
  • Hiking boots or good walking shoes—you will be walking to CEDEI every day, and many activities/excursions require walking through the countryside or through cities and towns.
  • At least one dressier outfit, even if you are not participating in an internship.
  • Sunscreen! The sun in the Andes Mountains is MUCH stronger than the sun you are used to. Sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or higher is recommended.
  • Insect repellent with a high DEET content (the bugs can be nasty in the hill towns/rainforest).
  • Small gift for host family. This can be an item that represents where you come from—something as small as a magnet can go a long way with your host family.


  • The U.S. dollar is the currency used in Ecuador, and CEDEI recommends budgeting about $10 a day for spending money. All of your meals and transportation (for group activities and excursions) are covered by your program fee, so this $10 per day is for any personal expenses. It is recommended to bring around $50 in smaller bills, $1, $5, & $10.
  • Men: Carry your wallets in your front pockets or use a money belt to avoid pick-pocketing.
  • Women: If you carry a purse, be sure that it has a zipper closure and one that is worn across the body; carry it close to you to avoid pick-pocketing. You should be aware of your purse and other belongings at all times.

Ecuadorian Culture

  • It is very important in Ecuadorian culture that you always greet each person when entering a room (even stores), and acknowledge each person upon leaving.
  • Men typically shake hands upon being introduced.
  • Between a man and a woman, and between two women, a “light kiss” on the person’s right cheek is customary when being introduced (as a greeting) and also when leaving.
  • Ecuadorians are very expressive and use many gestures and facial expressions to display feelings and to emphasize points. Ecuadorians also use a lot of eye contact and speak close in proximity to one another.
  • It is common for Ecuadorian families to eat all of their meals together (especially lunch, the largest and most important meal of the day) and they will often wait until all members of the household are home before beginning a meal. Because of this, it is important to arrive on time for every meal, or let your host family know that you will arrive late or will not be home at all for a specific meal.
  • In Ecuador, ‘usted’ is commonly used and the ‘Tu’ form is reserved for people your own age or younger, friends, and family. It’s better to first refer to someone as ‘usted’ and wait until someone asks you to use the ‘Tu’ form.

Safety and Security

  • When going out at night, we recommend you use a taxi as your mode of transportation. ALWAYS take an “official” taxi, which are yellow and bear the registration number and the name of the taxi company on the vehicle. Late at night, call a radio-dispatched taxi so that you are not waiting in the dark for a taxi to come along. Your CEDEI Student ID Card will have the name and phone number of a radio-taxi company recommended by CEDEI.
  • NEVER leave your belongings unattended. Even for a minute.
  • Do not walk around alone at night (women AND men).

Santiago, Chile

Before You Travel

Do not make concrete in-country travel plans until you arrive in Chile, as university and program dates are still tentative and subject to change. Also, you will spend much less on tickets, lodging, etc. if you make your plans in Chile rather than from the United States.

Remember that you will be arriving during the summer in the spring semester and winter during the fall semester. Pack clothes for two seasons and think layers—ranging from a winter coat, hat and gloves, to summer t-shirts and a rain jacket, etc. While it does not get as cold as Syracuse, Chilean homes, the universities, and public buildings often do not have central heating, which can make it seem much colder. It will not snow directly in the city, but it will in the mountains. Always a good idea to look at the weather before departing.

Signature Seminar and Orientation

Upon arrival in Santiago, our staff will pick you up from the airport and take you to the hotel where you will participate in a three-day orientation. During this orientation, you will learn more about academics, course registration, and housing. You will also learn about the wonderful city of Santiago—your home for the next five months!

You will then participate in the required Contemporary Issues in Chile and Latin America Signature Seminar. This seminar takes you to urban and rural areas in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, where you will be introduced to important political, sociological, and environmental issues in the Southern Cone of Latin America.

U.S. citizens will not need visas for travel to Uruguay or Argentina. Non-U.S. citizens, however, must check with the appropriate consulates and embassies to see if visas are needed to enter Ecuador, Uruguay, or Argentina.

You will only be able to take one suitcase with you on the seminar. Your other bag will be securely stored with your host family or in a storage room at the hotel. Remember that you are responsible for your own suitcase, so make sure the suitcase you bring is one you can move on your own.

Living in Santiago

Housing and Facilities

Syracuse Santiago is a homestay program, where all students live with a host family (one student per family).

Although we do everything we can to accommodate your individual requests, keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that every request will be met. Please remain flexible and keep an open mind. Many of you will not be placed with a “nuclear” family consisting of two parents and children. The traditional family structure is changing in Chile, and part of your cultural experience consists of learning about that reality (for example, host families might be single working mothers, divorced single adults, families with grown children in their 20s, etc.).

You will get your housing placement information as soon as you arrive in Chile. Our host families have been hosting our students for years, and continue to do so because of the rewarding experience for both them and the student. Our staff is there to ensure that you will be living in a clean, safe environment in which you will have your own room with a bed, dresser, and desk.

To avoid conflicts, be courteous and respectful and ask questions early on. Make sure you know what is expected of you, and communicate your needs clearly. During the on-site orientation we will talk more about the benefits and responsibilities of living with a Chilean host family.

Be aware that switching families is reserved for extreme situations only. If you have a problem or issue, contact the center director. Of course, if a switch is necessary to protect a student’s health or well being, it is carried out as quickly as possible.

Although not required, it is a nice gesture of thanks if you bring your host family a small gift when you arrive in Santiago. Something small and inexpensive but demonstrative of who you are and where you come from—such as a calendar with pictures, maple syrup, chocolates, or any product from your home region (except fruits or vegetables)—will be greatly appreciated by your Chilean host.

Important note: You may not host overnight guests during your semester abroad. Visiting friends and family should make hotel reservations.


Students will receive three meals per day provided by their host family. When students are at school for the day, their host family will provide them with a box lunch. Breakfast usually consists of bread, ham, cheese, and tea. Lunch in Chile is generally a hot meal. Teatime is around 6 p.m. and typically includes tea, cookies, pastries, bread, sandwiches, etc. Dinner is a hot meal between 8 and 9 p.m. Some families, however, are starting to change this, serving lunch in the mid-afternoon (around 3 p.m.) and then only “once” in the evening.

General Tips

  • Know that your Spanish will be rocky at first. Use it regardless, and avoid English! One important safety tip is to keep a low profile, and that includes not speaking English in public spaces.
  • If you want to make local friends, try to separate yourself from your U.S. friends and acquaintances, even if this means stepping outside your comfort zone.
  • Take things one step at a time. In the end, things tend to work out. You will get used to “Chilean time” and other cultural differences and will come to appreciate them.

Computer Information

There is WiFi available at the Syracuse Santiago Center, as well as throughout the various Chilean universities and university libraries.

If you plan to bring your own laptop, please note:

  • Ensure that your computer will work on 220/240-volt, 50-cycle current. Many computers will work on 100/240-volt, 50/60-cycle current, in which case there is no problem. If not, you will need a small converter to use it overseas. These are available from most electronics stores. We recommend purchasing one in the United States.

There are computer labs on the campus where the Syracuse Santiago Center is located. There are also several cyber cafés near the center and throughout Santiago, where students can access the Internet for a small fee.

Cell Phones

You will have the opportunity to purchase a cell phone during orientation in Santiago. If you choose to purchase a phone, it is recommended that you choose an inexpensive phone and pay for minutes as you need them throughout the semester. Phones can be purchased with Visa, MasterCard, or in cash (Chilean Pesos), in various locations throughout Santiago. You should not buy cell phones with a monthly plan (most require signing for at least one year), nor should you buy cell phones with a roaming system (it is activated several months after the purchase of the phone to avoid misuse of stolen phones). If you buy a cell phone in Cuenca, you may only need to purchase a SIM card in Santiago.

To call the United States, we recommend purchasing prepaid long-distance phone cards, going to a call center (locutorio/centro de llamado), or using Skype. International phone cards can be purchased at any street kiosk or supermarket. International calls cannot be placed from prepaid cell phones. However prepaid phones can receive calls from abroad.

While the use of a Chilean cell phone is strongly recommended for the duration of the program, we recommend that you also bring your U.S. cell phone for travel to and from the United States. In the event of a travel delay or flight change, it is helpful to have your cell phone in the airport so you can contact your family and Syracuse Abroad.

Financial Information

Syracuse Santiago Program Cost


Only Chilean citizens can open a checking account in Chile. The best way to access money is by withdrawing cash from an ATM or using a debit/credit card. Most local “Redbank” ATMs work well for students in Chile.

You may want to travel with a small amount of cash to change into pesos once you arrive. We recommend changing your money at an exchange office in the city, where you’ll get a better rate than at the airport.

Academic Information

Enrollment Policies

If you have completed fewer than four semesters of college-level Spanish, you are required to take an intensive 4-credit Spanish language course in Cuenca, Ecuador before the start of the semester program in Chile. Student language levels are confirmed by a placement exam abroad. Students must successfully complete SPA 280.2 in Cuenca in order to participate in semester study in Santiago. Students already fluent in Spanish, or who have an advanced proficiency in Spanish, may participate in the Cuenca program by taking a 3-credit language and culture or literature course.

In Chile, all students are required to register for a Spanish language course (unless placing out of SPA 480.54: Advanced Language Usage) and enroll in the Contemporary Issues Signature Seminar. The seminar is taught in Spanish with tutorials in English available unless the course is taken for Spanish credit. The Signature Seminar course may not be dropped.

Undergraduate students are required to enroll on a full-time basis and register for at least 12 credits, not including credits earned in Cuenca. Undergraduates may register for up to 19 total credits, including credits earned in Cuenca, at no additional charge. Some courses may not be audited. These include the Signature Seminar, required SPA language course, and affiliated Chilean university courses.

Chilean university grades: Most students will take courses at two or more institutions: CEDEI in Ecuador, Syracuse Santiago, Pontificia Universidad Católica, and University of Chile. Note that grades for courses taken at any of the affiliated local universities may not be received and posted to the Syracuse system until early February for fall semester and until early September for spring semester.

Grades at the Chilean universities are calculated on a scale of 1 to 7 and converted to letter grades in accordance with a conversion chart you will receive during orientation in Santiago. You will find that the general attitude toward grades differs significantly from the United States: 7s are almost never awarded. In other words, don’t expect perfect grades. It is also typical for professors to read everyone’s grades out loud in class or to post grades on the department bulletin board. They are considered public information.


Chilean universities’ course offerings, credit allocations, and schedules are not available until shortly before the semester begins. Therefore, you should not count on taking, or fulfilling specific degree requirements with, a particular Chilean university course, but are advised to have several alternative courses approved by your home college on your Student Advising Form. Actual course registration occurs in Santiago.


Internships and volunteer work are available in Santiago with advance submission of the internship request form and your résumé, plus an on-site interview.

Course Supplies and Equipment

If you plan to take a photography class, you should have your own high-definition camera. Other materials required for photography classes, as well as design and studio art classes, are not provided by the host university. You will be able to purchase materials in Santiago, but these may be more expensive than comparable equipment/materials in the United States.