Eric Mulligan

Pontificia Universidad Católica de

Valparaíso, Chile

Travel isn’t about picking the right place, it’s not about planning everything before your departure and it most definitely is not about setting expectations.

Travel is about putting yourself in a completely new place and experiencing everything that gets thrown at you.

It’s about learning and seeing things you never imagined possible, making connections with people and creating memories that your friends back home will never believe.

I flew into Santiago, Chile seven weeks ago. I spoke not a lick of Spanish and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My drive to the airport was incredibly stressful and I almost regretted going before I even left. I just kept telling myself “It’ll all be worth it, it’ll all be worth it.”

And it has been. Ever since that very next morning when I woke up in my Chilean bed I have had a blast.

I’m still not fluent, but now I know enough Spanish to hold conversations, ask for what I want and get through my day with ease.

Studying abroad is weird because you’re completely immersed in this foreign world with all these other people you’ve never met who are also studying abroad. Quickly, you’re drawn to these people; you begin to do everything with them and before you know it you have an incredibly close group of friends.

Studying abroad also allows you to hit a reset button, in a way. You get to reinvent yourself through studying abroad by traveling, meeting new people and having new experiences.

But enough about me and my opinion on travel. I have found many reasons why studying abroad in Chile is a great choice.

For one, the people here are incredibly nice. I can’t count how many times a random person has struck up a conversation with me just so they could practice their English.

This place is also incredibly beautiful. Whether it’s walking through the city of Valparaiso and checking out the street art or walking the beach that spans through three cities, the sights will blow your mind again and again.

There’s this one spot, Las Dunas (the dunes), which is the last remaining natural dune, and it’s along the coast in the area I live. It’s about 15 minutes north on a bus and when you arrive you’re greeted by a behemoth mound of sand that seems impossible to climb. After about 10 minutes of dodging the incoming sandboarders you start to see over the crest of the dune.

If you’re lucky, and you plan well, you’ll catch sun setting behind the sea, and I promise you this is the best spot to watch the sunset in the entire region.

If you’re not a beach person then you have problems, but Chile’s also got your back. I took a 10-hour bus ride south with a few friends to Chile’s lakes region to check out some volcanoes and national parks.

We rented an entire three-story house for $50 per night  (a little over $10 per person) in the middle of the woods outside of this traveler’s town, Pucon. There was a  massive and extremely active volcano that had recently erupted, which overlooks the town.

After booking a tour for later that day we decided to go shopping and shortly after we heard sirens bellowing throughout the entire town.

The volcano had been particularly active that day and we later found out they were just warning sirens. Still though, every shop, market and bar closed and people were running into their cars trying to leave the town.

For the rest of the four days of our trip we spent time in natural hot springs, hiked in the park, visited a lake surrounded by mountains and partied way too much for our own good.

We actually were offered to stay the rest of the week for free, but had to return because we all had class.

If you’re one who likes to get involved with people, then Chile’s got your back too.

There are many different projects, organizations and sports to get involved with.

I joined this one non-governmental organization called Valpo Surf Project. It’s a small organization started

Eric Mulligan / Contributing Photographer

Eric Mulligan / Contributing Photographer

by three Americans and one Chilean. With the organization, once a week I teach English to kids 8-18 and every Saturday morning we teach them how to surf. Now, I don’t know how to surf or teach, and I don’t speak much Spanish, but the head of the program had no problems with that at all. They taught me how to surf and I found out teaching English is more fun than it is challenging.

I also decided to join the exchange student indoor soccer team. The team of exchange students enters the universities tournament every year, but unfortunately they have never won said tournament. We had our first game today and beat a Chilean team 7-2, so maybe this is our year, who knows. After the game we all went out for a beer and lunch to celebrate — again, an example of how easy it is to make friends and meet new people.

All in all, my experience here in Chile has been so much better than what I could have hoped for.

Although I am trying to convince you to come here, I think travelling anywhere, and anytime, for any reason and with anybody  is more important.

Just make the decision on where to go, start saving money and buy the plane ticket.

At 21 years old, I’ve now been to four continents, at least 15 countries and countless cities.

You’ll be able to find an infinite amount of excuses and reasons why you can’t travel, but I promise you, if there’s a will there’s a way.

Share and Enjoy !