Qué Lindo: What I’ve Learned After 24 Hours in Chile

Kate Gutmann is a student at Ohio State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Kate is currently studying abroad and participating in service-learning in Valparaíso, Chile on a Summer Study + Service-Learning program.


Hi Readers! I thought that I would share a few things that I learned from 24 hours in my host family and all my first reactions.

1. This is like a vacation for me! My host mom doesn’t really want help with much (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc) which I am used to doing all on my own at my house. It’s nice but also difficult for me to ask for things when I need it because I don’t want to be a burden.

2. My host family understands that I don’t understand everything that they say but when they need to make sure that I am clear on what they are saying, they talk slower for me. They are very patient with my mixed up verb tenses and “spanglish” vocabulary. They love when I ask them for vocab words!

3. The transportation system can be tricky; that said even in the States I have NO sense of direction. There are so many different options to take and I am still learning. Thus far, I have taken the “micro”; a bus with definite stops but is not always that reliable and doesn’t have a time schedule, and a “collectivo”; a shared cab with a specific route and direction. I am more comfortable using the collectivo so far. Tomorrow, my host mom is going to show me how to use el metro; the train system.

4. Central heating is a luxury in the States. I learned that it is always much colder inside the buildings than it is outside. At night, I bundle up in sweat pants, long sleeve shirts, sweat shirts, and fuzzy socks under about four or five blankets to feel warm. The school in Valaparíso is mostly outside- there is a plaza in the middle and all of the doors to the indoor parts remain open. The classrooms are slightly warmer but I still keep my coat on! Even the receptionist in the ISA office wraps up in a blanket.

5. The fog and smog here are something else. I have never seen anything quite like it. There always seems to be some what of a blur out in the distance from the smog during the day, even on a sunny day. At night, the fog gets so heavy that I almost feel like it’s misting outside. It’s difficult to see more than just shapes or objects that are more than 20 feet in front of you. Nothing like the clear skies in Ohio.

6. All of the Chileans listen to American music. At dinner we have listened to everything from Adele to Elvis. Last night, my host brother was playing dubstep. I told my family I like country, but it didn’t seem too popular. The only time I’ve really heard Spanish music has been at bars or clubs where people dance.

7. Stray dogs are everywhere! My mom is a dog trainer and growing up I was always surrounded by dogs. All I want to do is pet the dogs, take them home, and feed them! They all look so precious and I just want to help- too bad they all have flees. There is always a dog that’s following our group and when we stop, it lays down in the middle of the group. I learned to get them to go away you can whistle or clap at them. They seem to be “trained” that it means go away. I have seen others “sh” at them or even yell “sale!”

Even after one day here in Viña del Mar, I feel like I learned a lot. It is a lot of information to take in and remember, I am thankful to have a caring mama chilena!

3 thoughts

  1. This is like a little blast from the past. I was a young study abroad student from Ohio, when I did the whole ISA Chile trip! I recommend that you take advantage of seeing the beautiful culture of Valpo! Hopefully Chile will stay in your heart forever like it has mine.


    a 2010 ISA-Valpo/Vina ISA Student

  2. Nicely written! You’re really gonna feel like you’re on vacation. I stayed with a host mom also who did everything for me. I gotta say, not having a job or any chores (+just traveling on free time) was the most free I’ve ever felt in my life! =)

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