Sunday, May 20, 2012

Adios, Chile

I am so sad to say that my adventures in Chile with Plus 3 are over. Sitting back home in West Chester, Pennsylvania reminds me of how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to travel abroad with a group of amazing new friends.

Friday morning I woke up and walked around Viña del Mar for the last time with Kirsten and Caryn. We went to a pastry shop and got breakfast and hot chocolate. Then we stopped at the little market to pick up a few last minute souvenirs. We returned to the hotel and I finished packing - I had to stand on top of my suitcase to get it all the way closed - before meeting the group for lunch at noon. We returned to Tiki Taco, the place we ate the first day, for our final meal. After eating we grabbed our luggage and boarded the tour bus to go to the airport for another day full of travel.

Our first flight was ten hours from Santiago to Dallas, Texas, and our second was three hours back up to Pittsburgh. My grandparents picked me up at the Pittsburgh airport and we made the drive back to my home in West Chester.

I have learned so much from my experiences in Chile! It was wonderful to be able to immerse myself in a different culture and branch out with my travel experience. I loved everything about the trip, and I hope I'll be able to study abroad again in the future.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Giddy-Up, Horsey!

Today was amazing!! I knew I would love it because I've always wanted to ride horses, but it was even better than I could have imagined. We woke up at 9am and went to a little ranch-type place with some animals, centering on the horses. After strapping on some chaps, I got a smaller white horse, which was awesome because I pretended it was a unicorn. I didn't know her actual name, but I called her Isabella.
I cannot even explain how wonderful the 3-hour long ride was. We trekked through all kinds of wilderness - sand dunes, the beach, rivers, and forests. Feeling my hair whip back as we trotted and galloped was exhilarating. Even swimming through water that came up past our feet while we were riding the horse was so much fun. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for even one minute. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. It was one of the best days of the trip by far, and I'm glad that we spent our last full day doing something so fantastic.

After we were done the actual ride, we returned to the main house and had a huge and delicious barbecue with all kinds of salads, red meat, pork, and roasted vegetables. It added to the day by being another great meal. We relaxed and played on some swings and hammocks before getting back on the tour bus to come back to Hotel America.

Now we're going to our last dinner with the Chilean students - pizza! I can't wait to have our last hoorah and celebrate the end of one of the most wonderful experiences of my entire life. We start our voyage home tomorrow afternoon, and I'm really sad that this is our last night together.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Today was a very relaxed day! It's nice to have this second week to slow down after our first week of nonstop activity. We started out with a free morning, so I went with Kirsten, Caryn, Christian, Abby, Kelli, and Allison to go get some fresh bread and pastries and a pasteleria. All of the bread was so delicious! I also had a craving for some chocolate cake, so I got a torta as well. Breakfast of champions.

After eating, we walked a little bit further to a little market. Even though it was obviously directed to tourists, I still couldn't help investing some pesos in a few more souvenirs to bring back home. We left the market to go to the beach since it was such a beautiful day. I wish that winter in Pennsylvania is like winter in Chile - I was out in a tank top and jeans in the warm sunshine!

The whole group met back up at the hotel at 1:45pm to go play paintball with the Chilean students. Chilean paintball is very similar to the paintball I've played back in the United States. We got decked out in full body overalls and vests with facemasks, bearing guns full of paint ammo. The course was all natural terrain - that's the one difference between how I played in the U.S. There were no man-made obstacles to hide behind. But I was on the winning team for all of the games that we played, and I had a lot of fun!

We returned to the hotel and washed all of the dirt off of our bodies before heading out for dinner. We were in the mood for some Chinese food, so we went to a restaurant that we have walked by a few times in the past two weeks. The waiter turned out to be American; he grew up in Arizona and moved to South America three years ago! It was cool to meet someone originally from the U.S., and I really enjoyed my meal. I'm so sad that it's our second to last night here in Chile. I'm going to miss all of the amazing friends that I've made here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Company Visits and Cueca

We started off the day with a visit to Hela, a company that sells paintbrushes and other work tools. This was the first time that Plus 3 has visited Hela, and their website wasn't very informative for the group that researched them, so we didn't really know much about the company beforehand. When we got there, it was basically a huge warehouse full of machines and tools. We got a tour of the factory but it was pretty hard to hear because all of the machinery was so loud. It was still interesting to see all that goes into making the different products, though!

After we finished our visit to Hela, we hopped on the bus and went straight to another company, Centauro. Centauro is a prepared foods and canned foods company. Their most popular product is tomatoes and tomato paste, but they also sell things like soup and canned peaches. We got to try a few samples of food, and it was pretty tasty! Our group was lucky because Centauro had just started producing a batch of pumpkin paste yesterday, for the first time ever, and we got to taste it! I like pumpkin flavored things, so I especially liked that taste test.

We were very hungry after leaving Centauro, so we decided to go to a place that the Chilean students told us has the best empanadas. I got an empanada with chicken, cheese, and corn, and I liked it! Everyone finished eating and we went to the University to learn how to dance cueca, which is Chile's national dance.

Cueca is a traditional dance where the men wear spurs on their boots and both the man and woman twirl scarves while dancing in a circular motion. It was interesting to learn, but I think I prefer salsa and reggaeton over cueca. I'm glad we got to experience a more traditional Chilean dance, though!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Today was our last morning at the University! Now we're used to waking up bright and early, eating a quick breakfast at the hotel, and taking a public bus to the University. Once we got there today, we got into our small groups and presented about the companies that we researched. I presented with Molly and Caryn on Nature's Farm, or Bosques del Mauco. The other presentations were on LAN, Hela, Viña Indomita, and Centauro. Jaime was with us again as an audience member, and he had a lot of great questions and comments on our presentations.

We ate lunch at the University for the last time, and we wanted to throw Abby and Allison (the birthday girls) into the pool as a celebration. Unfortunately they didn't really like the idea, and we didn't end up following through with the goal. We had a short break at the hotel before heading to a turf soccer field, where we played a girls game and a guys game of fútbol.
Tough girls after our game
After fútbol, we went to the mall again for a little bit. I bought a pair of shoes! While we were standing in a small group at the mall, a few other Americans found us. Four girls from a small school in Alabama were also studying abroad, but they were there for three months. We chatted for a while, and it was nice to speak with some other people from the U.S. We were pretty hungry, so we walked back to the hotel and stopped for empanadas on the way. Compared to last week, today was pretty low key! I'm still loving it here in Chile.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños a Abby y Feliz Día de Mama!

We were lucky enough to have two birthday girls this trip! In addition to Mother's Day, today was Abby's birthday, and it was also a day off for us. Since we could do anything we wanted, everyone slept in a bit and then went our separate ways. Some of the boys plus Allison went surfing with one of the Chilean students, and they said it was amazing! I spent the day with Abby, Kirsten, Christian, Caryn, and Kelli. First we went to lunch at Mango, which was a little coffee-type place. We ordered sandwiches and enjoyed talking before leaving to go to the mall. Before we got to the mall, we passed a few outdoor vendors that were selling handmade items. Naturally, they drew us in and I bought some gifts and souveniers for myself including a leather jacket that I love!

After wearing ourselves out at the vendors, we went into the actual mall to look around a few stores. But we noticed that most of the stores in the mall were international, and the prices were kind of expensive. Since we could buy a lot of equivalent things in the mall in the U.S., we decided to leave and head back to the hotel.

We got back to the hotel, dropped our stuff off, and went back out for ice cream before walking to the beach. The beach was beautiful although the water was very cold. We strolled for a while and took what seemed like hundreds of pictures, then looked through a few more vendors that were alongside the beach. It was almost time for our fancy group dinner, so we went back to the hotel to get ready.
Beautiful beach!
In our suits and dress pants, the entire group went to a fancy dinner at Tierra del Fuego. The three course meal was delicious, and we were all stuffed full by the end. It was the end of yet another wonderful day here in Viña del Mar, Chile!

P.S. - Here's a shout out to the best Mommy ever! Happy Mother's Day, Mama!

Rosa Agustina

I thought that it was going to be hard to beat yesterday, but today was also amazing! We left the hotel around 10:30am to go to what Jorge told us was a "spa". But beforehand, we got a disclaimer that it really wasn't a spa at all - we would be playing the Chilean students in a fútbol game and just relaxing before going to a barbecue. Man, was that an understatement!

We got to Rosa Agustina, and it turned out to be a luxurious resort that reminded me of some of the fancy hotels I've been to on vacation with my family. We were surrounded by palm trees, five different outdoor pools, foosball games, ping pong tables, music playing, free drinks, and an all-you-can-eat delicious buffet. Jorge told us that he wanted it to be a surprise, so that's why he downplayed the resort. As soon as we stopped gawking, we picked up some empanadas from the bar and went to the mini fútbol field that was part of the resort. I can't play soccer for my life, so I just cheered everyone on in what I expected was imminent loss. The Americans actually held their own in the games, and I was pleasantly surprised when they beat the Chilean students in one game. 

After everyone was too tired to play any more, we got lunch at a gigantic buffet. There were so many food choices, it would've been impossible to eat a little bit of everything, which was my original plan. We sat there for a while, making sure to finish everything that was on the table. We couldn't let anything go to waste! When we were finished eating, everyone went separate ways. There were several foosball and ping pong games, some people went swimming, and I laid out on a pool chair with a few other girls.

We left to eat a barbecue dinner at one of the Chilean professor's houses. It was so much fun - we spent hours talking and laughing together over more delicious food as the end to a extraordinary day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños, Allison!

Today was Allison's birthday, and it also turned out to be one of my favorite days of the trip thus far! It was an interesting start to the day. Although it was nice being able to sleep in a little later, the water in the hotel wasn't working. Nonetheless, we left unshowered at 9:30am in the tour bus headed for Viña Indomita. Viña Indomita is a vineyard and winery located about an hour an a half south of Viña del Mar. So far, it has been my favorite company visit in Chile. We got a tour of the building and learned about how different aromas are created by storing the wine in different ways. I thought that our tour guide did an excellent job answering our questions and giving us a basic knowledge of how wine is produced. The company visit ended with a wine tasting, so we got to taste a white wine and two red wines.
Barrels of wine at Indomita!
After sitting in the gorgeous sunshine for a little while and just relaxing, we took off for lunch at Pablo Neruda's house. Neruda is a famous Chilean poet, and his home is open as a museum for tours to pass through. Lunch was delicious – we were served an appetizer of clams, a main course of a white fish, and tiramasu for dessert. We also sat and had a great view of the ocean waves crashing in on some rocks, just adding to the already fantastic lunch.

We had about an hour to spend before our tour at 4pm, so we walked down to the beach and climbed on the rocks to take pictures. The view was incredible. The waves were huge, and a few people got splashed accidentally by getting too close to the water. But we all had a great time relaxing together.

The tour of Pablo Neruda's house was really interesting! Our tour was given in Spanish, but our guide talked slowly and had good pronunciation, so I could understand most of what she said. For what I didn't catch, Christian translated for us. We ended the tour by taking a look at Neruda's grave; he's buried at the beach near the house with his wife.

There were a few little places to buy Chilean souveneirs near the house, so we looked around and bought a few things before hopping back on the bus and driving back to Hotel America. It was a great day! Tomorrow we're going to the spa (that's not actually a spa) to play soccer with the Chilean students.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nature's Farm

Another day, another set of lecutres, another company visit, and another dance lesson! Our days continue to be filled with activities and nonstop action. Even though it's tiring, I'm enjoying every minute of it. I don't want to think about how we're leaving in almost a week!

José gave us two more lectures today on Chilean culture. My favorite part of today's lecture was the section on advertisements; we watched a few videos of Chilean commercials and talked about the aspects of their culture that influenced the messages of the ads. José explained that since Chileans are very family oriented, many commericals appeal to that aspect of their culture. For example, a drunk driving public service announcement got its message across by showing how a drunk driving accident can take a son away from his mother, a family tragedy.

Lunch today at the University was a little earlier than normal, so it wasn't as crowded and more of us were able to sit together in a bigger group. When we were finished eating we sat outside in the warm sunshine for a few minutes before the tour bus picked us up to drive to Nature's Farm.

Bosques del Mauco, or Nature's Farm, was the company that my small group researched and presented on before departure! It is a mushroom production company that grows and ships out mushrooms to many places, including the United States. We got a tour of the different buildings and saw the different processes that go into the distribution of the product. After adjusting to the horrible smell, steel toed boots, hard hats, and muddy ground, it turned out to be a great company visit ending with a look in the packaging center. In order to go into the packaging center, we had to put on hairnets and face masks. Everyone enjoyed taking pictures of our silly-looking get ups. We returned to the bus and drove back to the University.
Nature's Farm group! Caryn, me, and Molly  in the packaging center.
We got back to the University around 6pm, an hour before our dance lesson started, so we decided to grab something quick to eat. Today was our second reggaeton and last overall dance lesson! We enjoyed shaking our hips and waving our arms with David for the last time, took a group picture, and took the public bus back to the hotel at the end of the day. We're excited because we get to sleep in an extra hour tomorrow, with a visit to one company as well as Pablo Neruda's house on the agenda.

Flan and LAN

Today was another busy day filled with lectures, a company visit, and a dance lesson. We woke up and ate the usual breakfast at the hotel before leaving at 8:30am for the University. Today our lecturer was José, who has had a connection to the Plus 3 program for many years. Originally he was one of the Chilean university students escorting the American students, and now he lectures on Chilean culture. I really enjoyed the part of the lecture on natural disasters that have affected Chile; we saw a few pictures and videos of the devastation that earthquakes have caused in the past.

After two lectures on Chilean culture, we ate another lunch at the University. I was sitting with Abby and Kelli, and we saw a mystery item on our plates that Kelli proceeded to take a small test taste of. What we thought was maybe yogurt apparently had a very unpleasant consistency (thanks for taking one for the team, Kelli!), so we decided to leave that untouched. It turned out to be the cafeteria's version of flan. One of the things that we noticed when we got up to put our trays away was that a few Chilean students always are standing near the exit, seeing if there is any uneaten food left on trays. One student walked up to me and asked me if I was finished with my half-eaten empanada. When I told him I was done with it, he didn't hesitate to take it right off of my plate and eat it as he walked away. Jorge told us later that this is completely normal in Chile; food is food, and it doesn't matter that those students don't know us. They'll eat an unfinished empanada if they see one!
Kelli and the flan in the University cafeteria!
Next was our visit to LAN, which is Chile's big airline that is a part of the OneWorld group with American Airlines and other companies from different countries. We were greeted by Luis, an engineer who gave us a lecture on LAN's history and recent developments. After a round of questions and answers, we took a few pictures with the planes and got back on the tour bus to return to the University for our second salsa lesson.
 Kirsten and Abby with Luis at LAN
I love our dance lessons! We learned a few more salsa steps to do both alone and with partners, and we all had fun watching David, our teacher, pick up Carly and throw her around over his shoulder. The dance lessons are definitely a nice way to end the day with a lot of laughs and smiles. Since we dance in a small little courtyard, there are always Chilean students and university staff that end up watching us embarrass ourselves. Today, some Chileans ended up joining our class and dancing salsa with us! Even though they didn't speak much English, they were very friendly and seemed to be happy to be hosting foreigners on their campus. I've found that Chileans in general are polite and extremely patient with us, which I am so grateful for.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


After a long first day and very little sleep, we were not too excited to wake up and eat breakfast at 6:30am so we could leave the hotel at 7:30am. But we were able to sleep on the two hour long tour bus ride because our agenda for the day was a visit and tour of Santiago, Chile's capital city. Upon arriving in Santiago we went to La Bolsa de Comercio de Santiago, or the Santiago Stock Exchange. Even though I'm not a business major, learning about the stock exchange and visiting the trading floor was very interesting. We took a few pictures and then left, preparing for our tour of Santiago from Javier. 

Alli, Allison, and Carly at the Santiago Stock Exchange

The highlights of the tour of Santiago included visiting a beautiful cathedral, going to a Chilean history museum, and taking pictures of the Chilean white house, La Moneda. Javier explained the story of Salvador Allende's fall from power, before which he had been living in this white house. After the tour we ate lunch at a fish market. Even though the portion sizes were huge, the salmon I ordered was delicious, and we were serenaded by guitar players while we were eating.

After lunch we went to another incline which led to what felt like the hundredth set of steps we have climbed since arriving in Chile. At the top of the steps was an enormous statue of the Virgin Mary. Chile is about 90% Roman Catholic, and the remaining percent is almost entirely other Christian religions. Javier explained to us that there is weekly mass at this shrine for the Virgin Mary. We took a lot of pictures because there was a great view of the entire city from the top of the massive hill. I was surprised, however, at the amount of smog in Santiago. It was very obvious from such a high elevation, and it made it very difficult to pick out details from the city below and the mountains in the distance.

We love our group pictures! A slight chunk of the view of Santiago is on the right.

After we finished our tour of Santiago we hopped on the tour bus and slept again for the long ride back to Valparaíso. We went to the University for our second dance class - this time we learned the basics of reggaeton! Reggaeton is much more relaxed and involves less technique than the salsa that we learned yesterday, but it was just as much fun. We've all been exhausted from the nonstop moving and busy agenda, but I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity. I've loved getting to know everyone in our group; being together all day, every day has allowed us to bond constantly. During dinner we commented on how it feels like we've known each other for forever. I can't wait for new adventures every day; tomorrow we take on a few more lectures at the University, a visit to the Chilean company LAN, and another salsa dancing class!

La Universidad Téchnica de Santa María

Today was our first full day in Chile! Javier picked us up bright and early at 8:30am to take a public bus to La Universidad Téchnica de Santa María in the city of Valparaíso. Wow, that bus ride was interesting. It is very different from the Port Authority bus system back at home in Pittsburgh; the drivers are very aggressive, drive very quickly, and seem to speed up around the many turns in the road. Anyone who has to stand should hold on very tight, and even then you might fall into a stranger's lap! On the upside, public transportation in Chile is relatively cheap and affordable. We pay 400 Chilean pesos each to take the bus from a stop near our hotel to the university, which is equivalent to about 80 cents.

After the slightly overwhelming bus ride, we arrived at the University! The campus is absolutely beautiful and has an incredible location right on the water. We took a few pictures outside then headed inside to meet Camilo, another one of the Chilean students assigned to be our guides for these two weeks. Camilo and Javier gave us a tour of campus, after which we went to a classroom and received a lecture about Chilean culture from Jaime, a professor at the University. After lecture we got lunch in the University cafeteria, which was very crowded. This marks another cultural difference between the United States and Chile - in Chile, the main meal is lunch, whereas dinner is the bigger meal at home. Chileans typically have a large lunch and then a second breakfast called once around 5pm, followed by a late dinner around 9pm. One of the many awesome things I've learned about Chilean culture!

After lunch we took a bus tour of both Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with Valería and Daniela. I thought that I was used to hills from living in Oakland, but Valparaíso is even steeper! The houses are built so that you enter and take stairs down to the bedrooms rather than up like traditional houses, which accompanies the architecture of being on a hill. Along the tour we saw all of the highlights of both cities. Moments that stood out to me were going up an old incline, maneuvering around small streets in a huge tour bus, seeing a marathon runner from Australia pass by chance while looking at a monument for General Arturo Prat, and taking pictures of countless paintings covering the walls and stairs outside an entire hostel. The tour was really fun and informative but also very exhausting.

We made a friend! The marathon runner that we found in Valparaíso.
After losing loved ones to cancer, he seeks to raise funds for the Cancer Foundation by running over 3700 kilometers. Check out his website:
(Also, notice the stray dogs in the corner)

After the tour we went to a little restaurant for once and ate empanadas. Empanadas are a Chilean snack; it is almost like a pastry filled with queso and anything else you can think of. After eating we rushed back to the University for a salsa dancing class! This was so much fun - we learned the very basics of salsa, both partnering and alone. We were all exhausted after dance class, but we ended a great, long day by going out and singing karaoke together.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Our home for the next two weeks!

We arrived at our hotel around 11am this morning. I'm sharing a room with three lovely ladies: Alyssa, Caryn, and Kirsten. We quickly showered and met up with the rest of the group for a Mexican lunch at Tiki Taco. We were the only ones in the restaurant when we sat down, and we soon realized that American music videos were playing on the televisions! We suspected that this was because the staff picked us out easily as Americans, and sure enough, the music changed when other Chileans came to eat. With our tummys full we got excited for the highlight of the day, a Chilean fútbol game!

One of the interesting things that we noticed as we were walking to the fútbol stadium is the number of stray dogs roaming the streets. You can hardly travel one block without seeing a dog, and there's a good chance that it'll start to follow you if you give it any sort of attention. Javier told us that this is completely normal and does not even phase the Chileans! So far, it's one of the bigger differences that I've noticed between our countries.

Fútbol, or soccer as we call it in the United States, is a very big sport in Chile. I'm not a huge soccer fan, but thankfully Christian sat next to me and talked me through what was going on. I don't think that any of us could have predicted the amount of spirit that the crowd demonstrated for Everton, the home team from Viña. For the entire ninety minute game, the crowd was cheer-singing nonstop! With a drum and trumpet occasionally chiming in, I was very impressed with their support for their team. 

The enthusiastic Chilean fan section at the fútbol game.

After three red cards, numerous fouls, and a great game, Everton beat their competitors 3 to 2. A few of the boys bought team flags on our way out of the stadium, and we walked back towards our hotel. We quickly stopped at the supermarket and returned, exhausted, to get some rest before a big day at the University tomorrow.

Travel Day

One of the benefits of spending nearly twenty hours straight between airports and planes is that it was a group bonding experience! We arrived at the Pittsburgh airport around 1pm and got through security relatively quickly, so we had plenty of time before our scheduled boarding time at 5pm.

Laptops and lunch at the Pittsburgh airport.

We all grabbed a quick lunch and wasted some time on the internet before going to our gate. To our surprise, our plane was incredibly small. After hitting our heads and cramming our legs with limited space, we took off for our two and a half hour flight to Miami, Florida. We safely arrived in Miami around 7:30pm and went as a group to the TGIFriday's at the airport. After many laughs, a few brownie obsessions, and making a few friends at the restaurant, we went to our gate and waited to board our plane headed to Santiago, Chile. We boarded and took off around midnight, trying to get as much sleep as possible on the eight hour flight.

Our plane landed in Santiago, Chile around 7:30am. After going through immigration, baggage claim, and customs, we left the airport a few hours later. We then met Jorge, our trip adviser, and Javier, a student from the Federico Santa María Technical University. Having never traveled abroad by plane before, I didn't really know what to expect from the Santiago airport, but it was very similar to the American airports that I've seen! After going to the ATM and withdrawing some Chilean pesos, we hopped aboard a coach bus and made our voyage to the Hotel America in Viña del Mar.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

To the Airport, We Go!

Today's the day! We're in good ol' Pittsburgh for a few more hours and then we'll head off to the airport to catch our plane. After one layover in Miami, we'll land in Santiago, Chile! I'm so excited for everything I am going to learn, and I can't wait to immerse myself in the Chilean culture. This, for sure, is a once in a lifetime experience.

Yesterday, all of the students from the four different Plus 3 destinations met for a final pre-departure meeting. During this meeting we split into smaller groups and created skits about business faux pas in our specific countries. It was really fun to contrast the business etiquette in Germany, China, and Vietnam with that in Chile. For example, while Chileans commonly greet each other with a beso, or kiss on the cheek, German business people would consider such close physical contact to be inappropriate. Understanding our respective country's culture and business practices will be crucial for all of the Plus 3 students. By being respectful of these customs, we hope to be good representatives for both our country and the University of Pittsburgh.