City Discovery: Finding Inspiration in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

Chile is made up of six “natural regions,” each with its own distinct plants, animals, climate, and landscape. Santiago, the country’s capital and location of the Bridging Cultures Program, is a fantastic jumping off point for students looking to discover all that Chile has to offer. From the Atacama desert in the north, the driest desert in the world, all the way to Patagonia located in the south, Chile has an unbelievable amount of diversity for students to explore in their free time. The ISA Valparaíso and Viña del Mar staff is happy to help students plan their travel and give recommendations that are sure to enhance students’ experience.

Valparaíso is one of the most prosperous cities in Chile. A stopping point for many, this old port city has charm, color and historical signficance in the economic development of the country. Declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in the early 2000’s, Valparaíso is guaranteed to inspire its students just as it has many notable creative minds in the past.



Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

ISA’s staff frequently organizes opportunities to participate in language exchanges around Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. Through these ‘intercambios,’ students are able to make personal connections and relationships with local Chileans, while perfecting their Spanish language skills. To further help assimilate and immerse themselves in the culture, students can experience the typical Chilean lifestyle by choosing to live in a homestay with a Chilean host family. Homestays provide students with their own room, breakfast, lunch and dinner and laundry service once a week. This often becomes students’ true home away from home.

During the Bridging Cultures program and excursion in Santiago, ISA students will visit Viña Cousiño Macul, a well-established winery in the Maipo region dating back to 1856. Students will uncover the grand importance the wealthy Causiño family played in the history of Santiago, as well as understand the process of creating one of Chile’s most desired products – wine. Students will have the opportunity to taste the product and savor the special hints of what makes these wines stand apart from the rest. A leading contributor to the wine industry in Chile, this vineyard is a perfect example of the significant role Chilean wine exportation has on the country’s economy.



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

The Mapuche civilization is Chile’s largest indigenous group and one of the most important cultures in South American history, although not much is known about the Mapuche history. A great way to get a better understanding of the history is to research and experience the culture itself. Students participating in the ISA programs at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso have the opportunity to do both! Students can take courses such as Ethnic Mapuche Identity or even Mapuche Games, a unique course that aims to help introduce students to the culture through an unorthodox approach; by focusing on the Mapuche’s traditional sports and games.  Additionally, students participating in the optional excursion to Pucón have the opportunity to visit the Ruca Mapuche village, enter a ruca (traditional Mapuche home) and learn about their culture, customs, and traditions.

Political legend and Nobel Prize winning Poet, Pablo Neruda, is remembered in Chile for his strong literary influence and love for his country. ISA students will visit all three of Pablo Neruda’s homes-turned-museums in Santiago (La Chascona), Valparaíso (La Sebastiana), and his final resting place in Isla Negra. Throughout the semester and summer programs, students will have excursions or cultural activities to each of these locations, allowing them to get a glimpse into the poet’s eccentric mind. These guided tours will provide students with historical context of Neruda’s days as a foreign ambassador and member of the communist party, as well as offer insight on the inspiration behind his works.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

During the excursion to Santiago, students will visit the Palace of La Moneda. La Moneda is where President Michelle Bachelet handles her political affairs and is also home to the country’s three cabinet ministers. Students will be taken on a guided tour around the stately 210 year old palace, witness its beautiful neoclassical architecture, and learn about La Moneda’s significant historical importance, particularly during the military coup in the early 70’s.

Academic semester and year students will return to Chile’s capital to discover captivating details of the country’s history before, during and after the 1973 Chilean coup d’état. Students will learn about the political trials that have left an important mark in the country’s identity. The impactful sites that students visit will afford them the opportunity to further understand the gravity of the military coup and its affects on Chile’s resilient people.



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

Education and Business majors rejoice! The Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso offers incredible internship opportunities during the semester and summer sessions.

Education majors have two options:

  • Student Teaching & Spanish Language: An academic experience that offers education majors the opportunity to student teach while abroad. The student will be exposed to the learning and development of teaching abilities and techniques, while having the opportunity to practice and continue learning Spanish.
  • Field Research in Education: This program provides students with theoretical and practical knowledge of Chile’s public school system. The program contains a theoretical component in which students complete course work related to the public school sector in Chile. This course work is complemented by a practical component during which students complete a project in the public school community in high need areas.

Business majors have several options, as well:

Through ISA Service-Learning students have the unique opportunity to step outside the classroom and work in a variety of different settings. ISA Service-Learning in Chile offers placements in medical clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, and municipal offices. Participants also have the opportunity to receive academic credit for their service-learning program through Carroll College or their home university. Service-Learning gives students the ability to experience a different aspect of their host culture, meet more locals and improve their language skills even further!



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

While on their included excursion to the Playas del Norte, students will have the opportunity to venture to nearby beach cities and experience the local cuisine, artisan shops and beautiful views. ISA staff will accompany students to the Roca Oceánica to observe the radical changes on the coastline’s shores. Their next adventure allows students to take in a scenic ride on horseback through the sand dunes of Concón. While visiting the nearby village of Horcón students will get to observe antique fishing methods that are still used to this day!

ISA offers an optional excursion to Pucón, located in the south of Chile. Pucón is the perfect location for students looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Chile. Nestled between a lake and volcano, this naturalist’s paradise gives students the opportunity to partake in activities such as river rafting, hiking a volcano, mountain biking, and much more!

Learn more about Valparaíso and Viña del Mar


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The 2015 City Discovery Series aims to showcase one of ISA’s program locations each week. Facts about each location and several Discovery Compass activity examples are given, however they are not a comprehensive list. These activities highlight the areas of Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental discovery. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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