Cata Tiene Dos Familias

By Katy McCollum

When I arrived here in Chile, one of the scariest parts of the first days was wondering how I would get along with my new family. It’s strange, leaving your own country and transplanting yourself into a brand-new family who doesn’t even speak your language. I had no idea what they’re expectations would be or if we would even like each other. At first it was a shock, the bio school had given me to tell me about the living situation wasn’t quite correct. I had been told I would be living with three adult women and one child, but upon my arrival I discovered that the reality was a little different. Not only do my two host sisters not live at home, but there is a host father who stays with us on the weekends who was NEVER mentioned at all. However, after I figured out how the family functioned, it was quite easy to assimilate into the family.

When I come home from school, I play with Bea, my host niece, until her mom finishes work and comes to take her home. She loves doing my hair and saying borderline creepy things, like “You’re going to die.” My host mom and I spend a lot of time together, because during the week it’s just the two of us. I call her Mamá, and she reminds me to wear my pantuflas when I’m downstairs, constantly in fear of me catching cold because I’m only wearing socks. She also calls me Cata instead of Katy, and laughs when I am mistaken for her real daughter when we go out shopping together, as I have red hair and the whitest of skin, while she has a typically Chilean appearance. My host dad only spends weekends in the house and he is a huge fan of quizzing me about myself and my family back in Iowa, most recently we talked about music and it ended with us listening to Fall Out Boy, and Panic at the Disco at the dinner table, and a request from my host dad to ask my real dad if he liked Cat Stevens or not. My other host sister lives in Chillan, and she comes to visit on the weekends sometimes. She loves shopping and always has some new article of clothing she found online that she’s swooning over.

My role in the family has recently taken another step, and for Mother’s Day, Bea and I (the “children” of the house) were sat down and given the news that my eldest host sister is going to be having another baby in 7 months. I think I was more excited than Bea. It’s crazy to think that at the beginning I was worried about how I would fit in with my Chilean family, and now it feels as though I’ve known them my entire life. I am so grateful that I have the family I do, and that they care for me and have helped me not to die while I figured out how to function in Chile.

En Busca del Español (In Search of Spanish)

By Michael Peterson

This past Wednesday was the exact mid-point in the semester abroad here in Chile. I think for all of us in the group, when we look back at when we first landed in Concepción and how we struggled to communicate with our host families, and our hesitance to go out alone or without any of our buddies, we can appreciate how much we have changed and grown more comfortable with living here, with speaking Spanish, and with communicating on our own.

We all arrived here in Concepción with different levels of Spanish proficiency, some of us with a few Spanish classes, some with maybe one or two, all at different places with the language. But, these past two and a half months have made all of us put English aside and give Spanish our best go, to learn a language through exposure and practice, through speaking with native Spanish speakers and with others still learning the language.

Photo courtesy of CosmoPolíglotas

This is the idea behind the group in Concepción known as CosmoPolíglotas, a group of people living in Concepción who want to practice their language skills with others doing the same. This group meets every Friday near the center of Concepción to just talk. A few hours every week, people who speak German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and English come to the bar CosmoPolíglotas has chosen for the week. We interact with each other, practice whatever language we want (for me I usually speak in Spanish while those I talk to speak in English) and we help each other.


Photo courtesy of Lihuén Bar

For me, aside from learning about a different culture and having an experience abroad that I would remember for the rest of my life, I came to Chile to improve my Spanish. Halfway in, I can say for sure that I have improved and become more confident speaking with others in Spanish. Less and less I have to ask someone to repeat themselves, and more and more I feel like I can have a conversation with a native Spanish speaker without having to think about my words. Spanish being more instinctual, building a vocabulary, and losing at least a little of my gringo accent have been some of my goals this semester.

One of the major steps I took to improve my Spanish was – of course – speaking with native speakers and being away from English as much as possible. Meeting friends through the University and through CosmoPolíglotas has helped me tremendously to become more confident in speaking Spanish.

Photo courtesy of Lihuén Bar

With the two and half months that I have left here in Chile, other than travelling and seeing all the amazing and beautiful places here, I hope to come back to the US feeling like I did everything I possibly could have done to improve my Spanish.

And as of right now, I feel like I am on track to do exactly that.

Experiencing a Different Culture

By Alex Millan

Okay, to start off, I am a Latina. I am Mexican-American, so I have an advantage here in Chile since I am semi-fluent in Spanish already. I grew up speaking Spanish to my parents and extended family members. I grew up singing Las Mañanitas whenever it was someone’s birthday, I considered tortas to be a sandwhich, ate elote, and would say “mande” every time I asked someone to repeat themselves or if they called my name.

However, my experiences here in Chile show that Latinos do not all have the same culture. Chileans here are super affectionate. Whenever you meet up with someone, it’s custom to kiss them on the cheek. I’ve only done that with family members, but here I’ve done it to friends, my host family, and people I’ve just met.

Being Mexican also captures the attention of Chileans. My host family thinks its super entertaining when I use Mexican slang such as güerito (pale person), mande (literal translation is ‘send for me’), or ahorita (right now), though it also grabs the attention of complete strangers when I’m just minding my business. I think it’s pretty funny since Concepción isn’t as touristy as Santiago so I’m constantly stopped and asked about my accent.

Chile, itself is completely different from my experience in the United States and Mexico. Chile is such a loooong country, so the weather in the north can be super-hot while down south it could be windy and rainy. That being said, Chileans think 50-60 degree weather is freezing. Once, my host mom and I went to a beach where it was warm and slightly windy. I wore shorts and a t-shirt. She went for hiking boots, jeans, and her trusty jacket.

May is also the time when winter begins here in Chile. So it has been getting slightly colder and windier. This past weekend, our group took an excursion down to Puerto Montt, Chile. There it was actually pretty cold but the views there were beautiful. In one of our trips, we hiked on Volcano Osorno and we saw the Petrohué waterfalls. It’s nothing like Iowa where it’s mainly flat and nothing like Mexico’s mountains (well, the ones I’ve been on) where it’s extremely hot. Chile is unique compared to the countries I’ve visited. Since it’s such a long country it has a very diverse geography and I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country.

Get Out of Your Room!

By: Sydney Samples

It is easy to want to sleep in on weekends, and to decide to not leave your room on days that you don’t have class. But, one of the most important things I have learned on this trip is that’s the last thing you should be doing. More than anything, you don’t want to return home and think about all the things you have missed because you didn’t leave your room. Even just getting out of your room to talk to your host family, staying for the entire sobremesa (after dinner conversation) which can last for up to an hour, or getting in the car when your host family says they are going somewhere without asking any questions, can teach you a lot about Chilean culture and expose you to cool, new things.

Some of my favorite things on this trip have been the things we decided to do last minute to explore Concepcion or one of the other cities we visited as a group. I have done everything from beach days with my host family, hiking with friends, visited museums, gone on multiple walks in different parks, picnicked next to one of Concepcion’s 7 lagoons, seen a movie in Spanish, taken too long to figure out how to take a group picture and still have everyone in it, stopped to eat at as many ice cream and dessert shops as I possibly could, and wandered around new cities with no destination in sight (the list could go on and on). I’ve seen new things and tried new foods. I’ve gone completely outside of my comfort zone and loved every minute of it.



These moments and experiences were the things that brought us closer together as a group. The things that make everything worth it when I look back on my days here. Most of them are little, and often cost little to no money, but have become some of my favorite memories and have helped turn strangers into my close friends. So, moral of the story is leave your room. Go outside! Live life to the fullest! No matter where you are in the world there is always something new to see, and I promise it is more exciting than sleeping in.

Survivor: MultiComm Edition

Survival of finals week is exactly what you make of it. Many students have their own ways of surviving this week full of stress and sleepless nights. Read below to learn how students from the Multimedia Communications department brave finals.

“I survive finals week by chilling on my couch watching Netflix and YouTube. Sometimes I tune out to music to focus on my assignments to get them done and out of the way. Then I can relax before graduation day!” -Jayde Vogelar, senior graphic design major 

“I survive finals by listening to classical music while I’m studying and eating ice cream when I’m not.”  -Maddie Travis, sophomore exercise science major

“Scheduling brain breaks. Whether it’s watching an episode of a show on Netflix, taking a nap or talking to my plants.” -Madison Behney, senior public relations major  
  “I usually take a lot of breaks that include me going outside with my friends and doing something like skating or playing basketball.” -Coby Berg, sophomore public relations major

Learning to Go with The Flow

By:  Chloe Landsverk

Today is our 45th day in Chile and we could not be having more fun. Time is going by so fast it almost seems like a semester isn’t enough time. We continue to learn new things every day, the biggest one being to go with the flow. Chileans run on a completely different time schedule than we do in the US, and we are still not used to it. To them, 8 am is an ungodly hour to be awake. When an event starts at a specified time, they show up whenever they want. I have been learning this as well as many other cultural differences with the help of my host family, who I am really enjoying living with. Here are some examples of the cultural differences that have really stuck out to us:

  1. When saying hello or goodbye to someone, whether you’ve met them once or a thousand times, you kiss each other on the cheek. If you forget to do this, they will make fun of you for it every time they see you. This form of greeting is just one example of how caring and affectionate Chileans are to everyone they know.
  2. Making fun of someone is a sign of love. Chileans like to joke around and sometimes you are the joke. This just means they love you.
  3. They eat A LOT. And they try to feed you whether or not you’re hungry. Just today, my host mom asked if I was still hungry, to which I said no, and then she proceeded to offer me a second piece of cake, a piece of bread, or some eggs. I definitely will not starve to death here.
  4. Shoes must be worn at all times, or you will get sick and die. A few of us have had colds so far on the trip, and our families were convinced that it was because we don’t wear shoes inside the house all the time.
  5. They do not always wear seat belts in this country. The day I arrived in Chile my host family laughed at me for trying to put on my seat belt in the car. Since then I have not worn one, and I’m worried I will forget it is a law when I return to the US.

Despite all of these differences, we are having a great time getting to know our host families and the city of Concepción, and everyone’s Spanish skills are improving greatly. We were told before our trip to be easygoing, but we are just now realizing how important that truly is when traveling abroad.

Morgan Frideres: Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church

What is your work environment like?

Both the environment and supervisor were very personable and kind, so it was a comfortable atmosphere to learn and grow in. They didn’t have me there just to do grunt work; they were very invested in helping me learn and gain skills as a future professional. I would highly recommend this internship site in the future.


Reflect on how your internship has impacted your plans for future work in this industry.

This internship has truly expanded my capabilities and given me real-life experience I couldn’t have gotten in the classroom. I’ve gained technical skills, like how to use design software, along with professional skills, like collaborating with co-workers. I will be more valuable to a future communications team because of my widened skill set and workplace experience.


Looking forward, set one goal which aligns your personal aspirations with the needs of society.  What steps will you take to achieve this goal?

Many non-profits don’t have the resources to have a large communications team – it’s usually one person trying to do the work of many. These non-profit organizations really need someone who can do it all. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do in the future, but if I don’t work full-time at a non-profit, I want to volunteer and help with communications at a non-profit. Whatever organizations I’m part of after college, whether is a church or advocacy group, I will be in contact with the administration and volunteer my time and skills to allow better communication for the organization.


Tell us about a task/project you completed during your internship which brought you pride.

The Iowa Conference of the UMC has their biggest event each June – the Annual Conference – which thousands of people across the state attend. The conference is trying to modernize its technology and wanted to use some type of app to organize the information for attendees. My boss found the website for the app, then asked me to figure it out. I researched on how to use it, created the app, then showed it to all my co-workers. We had a communications meeting with pastors and communications directors across the state, and I explained the app and how to use it to them, too. They are going to use the app for the event, and it brings me pride to know I helped create it.



Edited and Graphic Designed by Baillee Furst

My thoughts on spending a semester studying in Tahiti

By: Erin Magoffie

I absolutely LOVE Tahiti, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I could live here permanently. I think this is a cool place to study or to spend some time as a young adult, but I would never raise a family here. It’s FAR too isolated. I can see how natives here never leave the island and experience life outside of French Polynesia. It’s a little freaky, actually. 


Let’s see, where do I even begin….


The food here is super duper fresh–and that’s a change, haha! When we go to the market (at 5am on Sunday mornings, mind you) we can get produce that we know is grown right here on the island. Avocados the size of my forearm! Mangos that weigh 2 pounds! And bundles of 5 pineapples for $8! It’s insane! At the store, everything is rather pricey, but that’s to be expected because many products are imported. Most of the food here is kinda bland because traditional Tahitian food doesn’t call for many spices and I wish spicy foods were more readily available. People at the Foyer think we’re crazy because we put siracha sauce on just about everything! Oh, and they don’t really use potatoes here…We get weird looks for making hash browns as well, lol. 


School has been a ton of fun! I’m taking 9 classes right now, 7 of which are in French. My French comprehension skills have skyrocketed, because I’m busy trying to keep up with these professors. The schooling system is totally different here and I’m still trying to get used to that, but I don’t mind it. I’m taking a course in American Lit at the university and that is SO COOL! The texts we’re reading are simple (it’s their second language so who am I to judge?) but the perspective they bring to the table it completely unlike what I contribute. The class and prof are also super excited to have a REAL LIVE AMERICAN in an AMERICAN Lit class, haha so that’s fun. I’m constantly being asked to “pronounce this,” or “read this,” just because, “we wanna hear your accent” (most English speakers here have to choose between a British or Australian accent because most English profs come from those two areas, so an American accent is a rarity). I’m also volunteering in a few English pronunciation and communications classes and that’s really fun as well! The profs are super excited whenever I come in—especially if I bring the whole Simpson crew—because they know their students will actually be engaged the whole time. One day, we had a Prof come up to us a and say, “Wow! I’ve never had to tell my students to LEAVE class before! They had so much fun just talking to you guys!” And that’s amazing to me, haha.

The Foyer Des Jeunes Filles is rather lackluster. It doesn’t have WiFi, AC, or hot water, and it has a lot of bugs and is overall just dirty. Oh, and my ceiling leaks when it rains. So that isn’t so fun. BUT it is a good place to interact with other French-speakers, like at dinner time.


I also started an internship here at the US Consular Agency. It’s been amazing so far! I absolutely love it! It’s kinda a pain to get to (2 bus rides and about 3 hours of bus-wait time) but I don’t mind. 


I’m never bored here. And I have yet to be homesick. I’m really craving some coffee and Mexican food, but I think I’ll live! I’ really excited to come back home and see my family and friends, but I’ll never forget this experience of “studying in paradise”!


An Adventure Abroad

By: Sarah Dodrill

Today marks the 40th day that we have been in Chile, and I have loved every single minute of it. There have been so many new things that I have learned, so many delicious Chilean food that I have tried, and so many amazing places that I have visited.

There is an extremely long list of things I have learned so far ranging from Chilean culture to the various slang words. Starting with the culture, there have been 2 major differences that I have noticed. First off all, Chileans like to party. And when they party, they go hard. Now, I am not of age in the US so I have never experienced clubbing, but I do know that US bars and clubs close at 2am. This does not even scratch the surface of a Chilean party. In fact, to them, the party is just starting sometimes at 2am. Needless to say, this has been an extremely difficult adjustment to get used to, especially when my friends say, “let’s go out tonight,” they are really meaning, “let’s go out at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning.” But hey, if I’m going to be up at 4am, might as well be having fun at a Chilean carrete!

This brings me to the second thing that I have learned a lot about while down here – the Chilean slang. There are so many slang words. It is almost annoying how many there are. Not only am I trying to better improve my Spanish while I am down here, but now I also must decipher between what is Spanish that I don’t know, and what is Chilean Spanish. For example, one time someone asked me, “¿Tomaste caleta chela en el carrete de anoche, cachi?” Now, if you are reading this and you don’t speak Spanish, no worries, you are in about the same boat as every person who does speak Spanish (of course excluding Chileans) because it literally looks like gibberish. When in reality, this person was asking me “Did you drink a lot of beer at the party last night?” with cachi being a word they use to confirm that the person understands what was just said (clearly, I did not). So, while many of the slang words have been a rollercoaster ride for me, I figure I should share some of my favorites: bacán – this word means cool, like “oh, that’s so cool!” (not brrr, it’s cool in here); onda – this word means vibes (hoping for ondas buenas the rest of this trip); taco – my all-time favorite, this word means traffic jam (so if I say, “estoy en un taco” it means I’m stuck in a traffic jam, not that I am, or want, tacos – even though I always do); and lastly fome – this word means boring or lame. Funny story with the word fome, someone jokingly thought it meant Fear Of Missing Empanadas (like FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out), but I love this person’s mistake because I know when I return to the US, I will have major FOME.

Speaking of empanadas, they are absolutely amazing down here. I swear, it’s like biting into a warm, doughy piece of heaven. I love them so much, that I dedicated one of my homework assignment to finding the best one in Concepción. So far, I have found many contenders, but I still believe that there is an amazing empanada waiting for me somewhere within these next three months. I figured, since I cannot share an amazing empanada with you lovely readers who made it past my long rant about slang words, I’d share a picture of me biting into one of my favorites.

I now figured I shall conclude this blog post with one of my favorite locations near Concepción. The Desembocadura, is the location where the Pacific Ocean and the Bíobío River meet and it is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. Never have I seen such big waves from standing on a shore. All the exchange students at UCSC get to go visit the Desembocadura this Friday, and I cannot wait to see it again!

Never would I have imagined that I would be exploring a country so gorgeous with such an amazing group, but here I am, in Chile, knowing that it is by far the best decision that I have ever made. To anyone who has study abroad opportunities available, take them. You will not only learn so much about yourself, but also another culture, and you will gain a whole bunch of new friends from all over the world. Whether it be for 4 months or 4 weeks, the experiences gained will last a lifetime.