Hi everyone! My name is Thompson Barr and I am a junior; I’m spending this semester in Valparaíso, Chile! I’m so excited to share my experiences abroad with y’all back at home, hope y’all enjoy it!
I’ve been here in Chile for about 30 days now. Among orientation with my exchange organization, CIEE, meeting new people, and getting acclimated to the country, things have been pretty busy. First things first, if you don’t know where Chile is, look it up. It’s a downright weird-looking country. Starting next to Peru and Bolivia, it continues all the way down the west coast of South America but, at it’s widest point, its only about 200 miles wide at its widest point. Another interesting fact: Chile is a country on 3 continents: South America (duh) but it also has territorial rights over about an eight or a tenth of Antarctica and Easter Island, part of Oceania. Bring that one out next trivia night.
Anyway, if you put your finger about halfway down the country, on the coast, that’s where I am! Valparaiso (or, specifically for me, it’s suburb called Viña del Mar). Valpo and Viña, as we call them, are both beautiful cities. Valparaíso is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its beautiful cerros (hills) and a tradition of painting houses all sorts of colors. Viña is beautiful in a different way. More of a beach town, it’s geared towards tourism, with high buildings beautiful flowers all over the place.
The first thing you notice when walking through the city is the dogs. They’re EVERYwhere. It’s wonderful though; they’re very nice and well behaved, very few of them are strays, most have owners and are well fed, if a little mangy from napping on sidewalks wherever they want.
The second thing you notice, though, is that it’s dang hard to talk to people. I thought I was ok at Spanish before I came, but being abroad has been humbling. Chileans are some of the fastest Spanish speakers in the world, for some reason, as a culture, decided not to pronounce the letter “s,” and have a slang word for just about everything I thought I had a handle on.
Last week, I started classes here! I’m a student this semester at PUCV, or la Pontifica Universidad Catholica de Valparaíso, quite a mouthful. I’ve been really impressed with the professors, the class sizes (capped at around 20-25), and the beautiful buildings; my history building is built like a Renaissance castle and looks down impressively on the two cities.
Hope y’all enjoyed hearing about a little taste of Chile! I, of course, will go into more detail about everything in subsequent posts-life here, classes, food, travel, and, this being Chile, the wine. Chao!