Valparaiso Vina del Mar, Chile
About the Cities
Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are sister cities that lie on the coast of Chile, right on the Pacific Ocean. Although both cities sit next to each other on the coast, each city has its own special personality. Valparaíso is one of the country's most important seaports, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the great cultural centers the country has to offer. The bohemian charm of the Valparaíso (commonly abbreviated to "Valpo") is one of a kind, and the city is full of fun activities to make the most of, be it visiting the National Congress, going to cafés with friends, or visiting the artisan markets filled with handmade crafts. Viña del Mar, on the other hand, is considered more of a tourist spot, but don't let that fool you—the city also has a distinct charm all its own. Viña is host to beautiful beaches, a botanical garden, and a main street, Calle Valparaíso, which is full of its own artisan markets and boutique shops to visit. There are also several parks in the city and the unique reloj de flores ("flower clock") which is characteristic of the city.
About the University
Founded in 1928, the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso (Pontificia Universidad
Católica de Valparaíso) is one of the oldest universities in Chile. It has 9 different schools and
53 different academic programs. Students who attend the university through Messiah are eligible
to take courses with international students as well as courses with Chilean students.
Rather than a adopting the central campus layout, the Pontifical Catholic University of
Valparaíso (or PUCV for short) has one central building (Casa Central) in Valparaíso, but the
rest of its academic buildings are spread all over Viña del Mar and Valpo. Fortunately, the
public transportation between the two cities is stellar, and students can either ride the metro or
take a bus to get from class to class. Classes are offered in many different disciplines, including
History, Literature, Politics and Science. Classes are given in Spanish.
Having never been abroad before, I remember being very nervous before my trip to Chile. What would it be like to live in a foreign country? What would it be like to live with a host family that only speaks Spanish, a language that is not my first? How would my social circumstances change—would I be able to make good Chilean friends?
Fortunately, I found out almost immediately upon arrival that most Chileans are friendly and were willing to help me, the sometimes clueless foreigner, out with some of my struggles. I ended up becoming great friends with my host brother and sister, and loved staying with my host family despite the language barrier. They really helped me hone my language skills, and getting involved with the church they attend also helped me to make more Chileans friends that I could spend time with when I wasn't studying or traveling.
Although I had had some reservations about how difficult the classes would be, taking all of my classes in Spanish required quite a bit of work, but ultimately was very possible and extremely rewarding. Being constantly immersed in the language really helped me to better my Spanish;skills in a way that simply can't be done in the classroom. Overall, studying in Chile was a truly awesome experience!
Christian Gonze, Spanish w/ Teaching Certification, Class of '11