5 Differences Between the Midwest and Chile

Ryan Birdwell is a student at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is an ISA Featured Blogger. He is participating in service-learning abroad with ISA Service-Learning in Valparaiso, Chile.

Harbor view, Valparaiso, Chile

If you live anywhere near the center of a continent like I do, as a native Nebraskan (and Cornhusker!), moving to a city near the sea such as Valparaiso, Chile will come as quite a shock. Yet there’s much reason to make the jump and take such a trip. Accordingly, here are several key differences I immediately noticed since joining a service-learning program here in Chile:

1. The obvious one: the sea.

In Nebraska, the only water you see is in our lakes and flat, flat rivers.

2. The steep hills.

When you cruise into the city on the bus, you don’t see the sea until you’re nearly right next to it; the hills drop away dramatically to reveal the splendor of the port laid in front of you. This took me by surprise as a landlubber. The hills are divided into large neighborhoods, or cerros, each with its own history and name.

3. The fish markets.

Of course you can get fish in the Midwest, but nothing as fresh as in some of the markets you’ll find here in Viña and in the capital city of Santiago. We don’t have open air pescaria markets like this back home.

4. Beaches and Dunes.

Some of the best day trips you can take as a Midwesterner near the sea is to places with stretches of beach to stroll along and dunes to run in. Such a unique and fun experience!

5. Consistent temperatures.

In the Midwest, we are known for having crazy, ever-changing weather. You can have rain and sun at the same time at one moment, and the next, snow and sleet. Tornadoes. Thunder storms. (And we Nebraskans like to talk about it). Here near the shore the weather may vary a bit, but not dramatically. For example, right now during the winter, you’ll get weather in the 40s and 50s pretty much consistently all of the time. This is not normal for someone like me, but I love it!

My first reaction as a Nebraskan is wide-eyed amazement; at the views, the water, the people, the food. I love it! In my opinion, the best thing to do when traveling is to try and experience new things, and thus different shades of culture. Wherever you come from on the face of this great world, it is definitely worth traveling to see these things, and open your mind. For me, Valparaíso, Chile is at the top of that list.

The world awaits…discover it.

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