As hard as it is to wrap my mind around it, in exactly two weeks I will be in Santiago, Chile. I’m a little nervous, but I am mostly SO excited to start this adventure.
Before I continue, I’ll introduce myself a little just in case anyone besides my family and close friends end up reading this. My name is Alana (pronounced Uh-lawn-uh… some people have trouble with this) and I am a senior Biology and Spanish major at Wofford College (wait- did I say SENIOR?!) . This coming semester will actually not be my first time in Chile. My freshman year at Wofford, I got the wonderful opportunity to spend a month in the beautiful beach town of Viña del Mar, Chile, where instead of getting bitten by the travel bug, I think I was completely consumed by it. Since then, I’ve gotten to go to many other places through Wofford (my school is the BEST), but the time I spent in Viña is probably still my favorite abroad experience and one of my best college memories.
Although I have been to Chile before, I know that living in Santiago will be a totally new experience- new city, new challenges, and new adventures. One of the things I’m really excited about (and a key factor in choosing this program) is getting the opportunity to participate in a Clinical Observation internship where I get to shadow doctors in different hospitals and clinics. As a hopeful future Physician Assistant, I can’t wait to combine my love for medicine, my love for the Spanish language, and my love for traveling.
With only two weeks separating me and an awesome semester abroad, I’ve had a continuous check list going of things I need to do before I leave. Thankfully, many things on my to-do list have been checked off! I’ve gotten my visa (FINALLY), shopped for gifts for my new host family (which is a difficult task when you don’t know anything about them- not even how many people you’re shopping for), applied to PA schools (okay, this is actually still in the works, but the bulk of the work for this is already done!), and made trips to the doctor and dentist. I still have things left to do (like that little task of packing…), but I’m so excited that things are falling into place as I gear up to leave!
I may not have left yet, but I have already learned a thing or two about going abroad. So for anyone who is thinking about going abroad in the future (especially to Chile) this is for you:
- Be sure to talk to ALL advisors/department heads of your major(s) when making a decision about which program to chose. You really want to do this so that you know exactly what each department will give you credit for while abroad. Unfortunately, I didn’t talk to my biology advisors until after I had already made a program decision, so when I found out I wasn’t getting biology credit for a particular course that I thought I would, it was already too late to do anything about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am so happy that I chose IES Santiago, and knowing that I wouldn’t get any biology credit may not have changed my final decision, but it is always best to be completely informed when making a big decision like that, so please learn from my mistake!
- Getting a visa is no joke- start early and stay on top of it. I can’t speak for other visas, but there are several annoying hoops to jump through to get a Chilean Visa. I started the process in late February by getting my passport renewed, and I only just got to pick up my visa two days ago! Aside from the expected paperwork, Chile also asks you to get an FBI background check (which was probably the longest part of the process- mine took almost 2 months to go through) and an HIV test (this wasn’t so bad, but it did force me to make a slightly awkward trip to the always-lovely Greenwood County Health Dept.). That being said, I know that all of the time and stress involved with getting my visa will be completely worth it!
- If you’re ever confused about abroad stuff (and I promise you will be) talk to the people in the Office of International Programs first. Wofford has, in my humble opinion, the best and most helpful abroad office on the planet, and they will usually be able to give you the quickest help. In my preparation, I have had countless questions about what was going on and what I was supposed to be doing. Although I was originally a little hesitant to bug the abroad office with my silly questions about visas, forms, etc., I quickly realized how willing they are to help, and it really made things a lot easier.
Well, I’m off to go check a few more things off the old to-do list! Up next, a trip to the DMV to renew my license (yuck).