The Catholic University of America

Richard Hertzberg - IES Santiago

Top Three Reasons to Select the Program

  1. The people in Santiago really love you, even if you are bad at speaking their language.
  2. The culture is such that the people grow up interested in each other. This was a complete change from what I was used to in America where most of my peers don't give each other the time of day, especially if they don't know you.
  3. The empañadas de camaron queso from the empanada stand in San Joaquin Campus.


What I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Went

One thing I wish I prepared for better would be the weather. Because the weather is opposite, their winter months are our summer months. I didn't pack warm enough. I went in the first semester and therefore was there for the end of winter. I was cold for the first month...(this also might be a consequence of being born and raised in California. I am even prepared for DC winters after my 3rd year) But, if you want to go to Chile 1st semester...Bring layers...really.

A Story or Situation

Chile: My life unplugged

I went to Chile and left america behind, but I still had my habits. One habit I have is using technology like iPods and phones to pass time when I am walking or riding the metro somewhere. One day while I was riding the metro and listening to some Spanish tunes, a kid came up to me and asked me a question of how to get around the metro...First of all, I thought it was funny how a native was asking a gringo how to get around, and second, he asked me even though I was engaged in my own little world. I helped him and he then asked me if he wanted to come out and have dinner and go dancing with his girlfriend and his other two friends. I said yes and I realized something. In America, we go to great means to avoid strangers' lives. We see travelling as a time to distract ourselves from silence and forget reality. In Chile, it was an opportunity. From this day on I have never worn an iPod in my ears while walking around. The Chileans showed me how to be in front of reality during every moment of the day, to take out the ear plugs (headphones) that symbolize a certain inwardness in ourselves and to look at the people around me and engage with them or let myself be engaged with them. This has changed my life and I have met INCREDIBLE people that have become important to me understanding myself through this new method.

Some Words of Advice

It's important to have the right mentality in Chile. I talked to people whom I trusted and who also had studied abroad in the past. They warned me that the biggest danger and temptation is to stay in the group with the Americans. I was told that the most beautiful part of travelling is encountering another culture and encountering more of yourself through that encounter. If you stay with the Americans in the group (who will most likely do everything together) you won't be immersing yourself in Chile. Also, take as many classes in the local university (Catolica o Universidad Chile). Take the IES grammar class, but try to avoid filling your schedule with IES classes since they do not give you the best opportunity to integrate yourself with the community.

So in a sense, my entire first month was a bit uncomfortable because I made an effort not to speak English or hang out too much with the Americans, even though they were nice people. There will be an IES Center for you, and this is where you will amke your first friends in the country, but do not let this become your headquarters. Be uncomfortable. But be uncomfortable in front of Chile, and you will be rewarded 100-fold. You will see that the short time you spend being uncomfortable is well worth the way your Chilean friends invite you into their lives. For instance, my first day of class in Universidad Catolica, I put myself out there with a kid in class and just introduced myself as that was all I could do. He invited me to his birthday party that weekend and I went and met around 10 other of his friends who became my best friends of the entire trip. I did everything with them. I went hitch-hiking for a week down south with those guys and this was one of the best weeks of my technology, no money, just friendship and the road.

Eventually I learned Spanish due to my total immersion in the culture. I didn't watch English TV or read English books or news. I learned Spanish fast and my friendships became even more fun and beautiful. I left Chile with about 50 amazing Chilean friends. 

My advice is to be uncomfortable! Go to Chile and discover a beautiful language through the most beautiful culture I have found to date.

The Teacher From Whom I Learned the Most

Profesor Rivas. He taught Doctrina Social de La Iglesia Catolica at Catolica. He really cared about his students, and he was interested in what he taught. It was my favorite class there. We were taught the Rerum Novarum, Centissimus Anus, and Veritas in Caritate through a historical and religious perspective. I was so interested that I would usually stay after class and talk to him for hours. The class was fantastic.



The family was the most important part of the trip. It was the strong foundation that allowed for all my other amazing adventures and experiences to be possible. My host family house was my HQ. I ate with them every night and we would talk for hours about life. The two daughters were awesome. The mother was a saint and she loved me as if I were her own son. They invited me everywhere and fed me really well! We ate a lunch every Sunday with the entire family (extended) and this was really important to my experience.You need to live with a host family so you can immerse yourself in the Chilean community outside where you live. Do not live in an apartment. The host family will at least hopefully inspire you to see what Chile is about.


Student Profile:

Major: Philosophy

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Program: IES Santiago

Term Abroad: Fall 2012

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