The Study Abroad Newsletter

Viva Chile

Paul Fontenot

History major
Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Valparaiso, Chile

Student standing in fron of memorialI have spent the better part of a year studying here at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, Chile. My time here in Chile has been full of experiences that I’ll never forget. Over the year that I have spent here, I have seen so many wonderful things that I couldn’t ever have imagined back in the states. From the food to the people and the landscape, Chile has certainly turned into my second home. With all the things I’ve seen, it would be quite impossible to sufficiently describe each and every one in this short and humble accounting. However, probably my most memorable experience has been my trip to see the Atacama Desert. I had never actually seen a real desert before this, and I don’t think I could’ve picked a better first one! One place I took a tour of was called Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) because its surface is so baron, it resembles the surface of the moon. It became obvious when I first saw it.

Beyond the desert, I’ll always have fond memories of this country. The food has been amazing (seriously, there’s nothing in this world like a Chilean cheesecake) and the people have been extremely welcoming, while at the same time keeping it real, so I wasn’t always treated like a tourist. My thanks goes, of course, to my host family who have treated me like one of their own. The best part about being in this country is all of the historical sites I’ve seen. The museums have been fantastic of course (I am a history major after all), but better than that has been the rather ancient architecture and sites around the country that existed from colonial times. Chile seems so much older than the United States, and I have not squandered the opportunity to immerse myself in the history.

Photo of airid landscape

Photo of fancy building

Coming to Chile was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Not only have I traveled to a corner of the world that has always interested me, but now I speak Spanish quite well, which is something I never thought I’d be able to say. As the time to leave is soon approaching, I am finding it difficult to just up and leave the life I have built here. I guess that’s a good thing because it means that my immersion into Chilean life is pretty well complete. Needless to say, I hope I’ll get the opportunity to return someday. I’d without a doubt recommend studying abroad in Chile to any UH Hilo student interested.