Ciao, Chile

Goodbye is the worst part of hello.

As we reclined uncomfortably 30,000 feet above this big, wide world on our plane ride back to the U.S., we had ample time to reflect on our trip – on all of the places we’d been, lessons we’d learned, and wonderful people we’d met. Our time in Santiago, Viña del Mar, and Valparaíso provided us with so many amazing service, experiential, and integrated learning opportunities that were invaluable. But more importantly, we met so many people who would change us for the better. People who will not be easily forgotten. People who make saying goodbye, even for a little while, the hardest word in the dictionary.

Out group toured a FIFA soccer stadium in Vina. We're going to miss these wonderful people. Photo by soccer stadium tour guide

Out group toured a FIFA soccer stadium in Vina. We’re going to miss these wonderful people. Photo by soccer stadium tour guide

Claire, Tommy, and I spent most of the trip keeping an eye out for inequalities within Chilean culture for our final project. We focused in a lot on gender equality. As we toured different businesses in Santiago, we were sure to keep an eye out for females in high-ranking positions. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we noted who was working in low-wage jobs as well. We observed that most security guards were male, while more janitors were female. Our group talked to more professional women than men, but we also couldn’t help but wonder if that was because the men were in positions deemed too important to take time out for a student tour.

Because we focused on equality, our group paid extra attention to posters and signs in markets and other areas. Photo by Molly

Because we focused on equality, our group paid extra attention to posters and signs in markets and other areas. Photo by Molly

Throughout the course of the trip, our group also noticed a lot of class inequalities. After visiting the trash-littered, low-income neighborhood, and comparing that experience with our juxtaposing perceptions of the thriving business districts of Santiago, we saw the strong class division within this developing country first hand. Almost every professional we talked to noted the overwhelming socioeconomic division in the country. It made us sad to realize what a real impact this had on the Chilean citizens, and the more we toured the more we saw class differences everywhere we went – on the beaches in Viña del Mar and Playa Zapallar, in the orphanage, and on the colorful streets of Valparaíso.

We noted vast socioeconomic differences at the beaches on the coast. They were often segregated by class. Photo by Molly

We noted vast socioeconomic differences at the beaches on the coast. They were often segregated by class. Photo by Molly

Keeping an eye out for these inequalities made us much more aware and observant global citizens. We took the time to see things we may not have otherwise, such as posters on the subway about LGBTQ families and gender equality. We gained the cultural intelligence to think before we judged people asking for money by the metro. Our project, and our trip as a whole, made us better travelers, better people, and better friends.

We used our cultural understanding of the country to help us befriend international students at UANDES. Photo by Claire

We used our cultural understanding of the country to help us befriend international students at UANDES. Photo by Claire

We’re so very grateful we had the opportunity to say hello to Chile – and we know that this goodbye isn’t for good.



Sand and concrete

Valparaíso vs. Santiago; sand vs. concrete.

The sand on Playa Zapallar is blistering, even coarse, but we barely noticed today while we lounged on colorful beach towels, soaking up the radiant UV rays beating down on us like a snare drum. This happy hippie, beach bum lifestyle is one that our group quickly decided we could get used to – and appears to be the everlasting vibe in the twin cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

Beach Bumming at Playa Zapallar. Photo by Molly

Beach Bumming at Playa Zapallar. Photo by Molly

The cities are colorful, but calm – dynamic, but balmy. Music and art are prominent parts of the culture, and it’s hard to turn down one of the narrow streets without coming across a suave guitarist or vibrantly detailed mural. The people we’ve met are friendly, with chill, Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo-esque attitudes.

Art can be found around every corner in this beautiful city. Photo by Molly

Art can be found around every corner in this beautiful city. Photo by Molly

This low-key lifestyle made for a drastic change from Santiago, yet another city that never sleeps. There, we found a fast-paced world of metros, mutual funds, sidewalks, and skyscrapers. People took life more seriously, and many of their tense shoulders seemed to need a spoon full of Viña to recharge.

The bustling city of Santiago. Photo by Claire

The bustling city of Santiago. Photo by Claire

This is not to say that one city is better than the other; both areas have their drawbacks and advantages. Every individual city in the world has it’s own unique energy, and exploring those distinctive cultures and corners is what makes traveling such an amazing adventure.

Vida, old and new

La vida es corta – but it’s also long.

Marcela*, a down syndrome, elderly Chilean woman residing in the all-women assisted living home, Fundacion Las Rosas, is a prime example of this. As our group entered the yellow stucco building, we were surround by crosses and kind eyes full of knowledge and enlightenment about life. Some of the women were happy and talkative, while a few were pensive and quite. Marcela sat alone in the corner. She had trouble with words, and at times she would burst out in tears for no particular reason. Her small frame was propped up in a wheelchair, and she had dark eyes that seemed bright, though it was clear that the world she saw through her teary, chocolate pupils was a challenging one, to say the least.

It was clear when she took our hands, that her life had been long and full of struggle. She seemed calm and smiled when we sat with her, though we couldn’t communicate, save for a loving palm squeeze.

Soaking up nature in the park. Photo by Molly

Soaking up nature in the park. Photo by Molly

As we sang to these women who had grown up during the military regime, and seen so much life, it seemed that we were making their days. Towards the end of our visit, one woman said “mas feliz.” It was emotional. It was beautiful.

The Natural History Museum in the park. Photo by Molly

The Natural History Museum in the park. Photo by Molly

The day proved to be blossoming with varying, distinct perspectives of the world. At Parque Quinta Normal, we saw new life blooming in cotton candy-colored roses and fire orange carnations. We observed oak leaves floating on the glassy pond, spotted with lovers and friends paddle boating. Children played in the bubbling fountains, full of joy; their effervescing youth radically juxtaposed the vision of Marcela alone in her chair. It really made us think about life as a whole, and about how much change we see on this crazy, wonderful, long, short, beautiful ride called vida.

A spewing fountain, where care-free children played. Photo by Molly

A spewing fountain, where care-free children played. Photo by Molly

* indicates a name change to protect a source


Cutting Chilean Corners

When Channel 13, Chile’s most important TV station, shoots shows like Bienvenidos and Master Chef, they never show the corners of the room. This makes the area seem larger, more impressive. But while the camera cuts corners, the channel itself certainly does not.


Views from the main lobby of Channel 13, Chile’s most important news station.

The media outlet is a well-oiled machine, complete with switchboards, celebrity anchors, and 14 studios. Our group watched a live production of the channel’s morning show. As we watched, six TV personalities sat around a table discussing the daily horoscope. As the cameras panned from one host to the next, the offscreen players used their phones to check Facebook and Instagram. Commercial breaks were also spent looking down casually at an iPhone. This low-key, casual work environment is part of what makes the Chilean work culture so laid back.

Many of the workers make their own schedules, signing labor codes that state they are free to leave work at their leisure, as long as the work gets done. This despreocupada attitude is prevalent throughout Chilean culture, in and outside of the workplace.

Though the pressure of a mandatory schedule is seemingly low, there is really no such thing as a slow day when it comes to reporting the news. The journalists at the TV station were constantly on the move, working diligently to cover the many stories on the sidewalks of Santiago. The station is also persistently evaluating their ratings.  Unlike the U.S., where ratings are updated every 15 minutes, reflecting the percentage of viewers tuned into the show, Chile adds one point to a rating for every 80,000 people watching the Channel every minute.


look out Anderson Cooper, we’re coming for you.

Ratings affect what companies want to do advertising with the station. Advertising is the main source of revenue for a TV station, it is important to sell commercials at high prices. During the commercial breaks, a number of advertisements played for products – cream to erase stretch marks, beer, you name it. During the Bienvenidos’ commercial break, one of the main hosts read a live advertisement for a company. Our tour guide noted that this is the most expensive and most effective ad, because TV viewers will not change the channel when they see the main host speaking. We gained an even more informed perspective of that later in the day, when we toured Principal Financial.


The beautiful Costanera Center.

But before we crossed a moat to enter the lovely fiscal world, we had the opportunity to witness a few other sectors in Chile that don’t cut corners: We visited the Costanera Center, the largest building in all of South America. It’s 64 floors and the largest mall in Latin America on the first five floors. Unlike in the U.S., everything was organized. Home and sports were on the fourth floor, with women’s and men’s fashion on the floors below.  The fifth floor was mostly restaurants while the fourth floor was all sports and technology.

Comparing the Costanera Center to the Jordan Creek Town Center, the mall in West Des Moines, you can see a plethora of differences in organization and size. However, a mall is a mall. People drag their kids and shopping bags around, in hopes that Banana Republic will have a shoe sale. One major difference was the level of security in the mall. The front of most stores had a security guard on duty. This mall ran a tight ship – and it was easy to see that the last thing The Costanera would cut was a corner.


Adios, América

The week before going abroad is similar, in many ways, to the week before Christmas. There are so many lists to make and things to do, but the anticipation drives you. You have more energy than an elf in May after drinking the a few of world’s greatest cups of coffee, all because you know what’s to come will be a joyous, amazing, miraculous adventure.

If you can turn back the clock a few weeks, and try on the shoes of your pre-Christmas-self, you’ll understand perhaps half of what we’re feeling. In three short days, we’re embarking on the trip of a lifetime – we’re boarding a Santiago-bound plane, to spend the next few weeks immersing ourselves in the Chilean culture.

Whilst abroad, we’ll learn about some of the reasons corporations are interested in Chile, from advertising, journalism, and business standpoints. Through a partnership with the Universidad de los Andes, our group will work on special projects with businesses like Principal Financial Group, Santa Rita Vineyard, and the Santiago Stock Exchange and Treasury.

How exciting is this for us, you ask? Let me refer you back to the original analogy, but multiply that by a few million and then add the vigor and child-like reverie of a six-year-old to the equation. That’s us.

But wait – we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before you join us on our travels by way of the blogosphere, allow us to introduce ourselves:

Meet Molly!

Hola, mis amigos! I’m Molly; I’m a magazine journalism and 430522_518497118179058_586880498_ncreative writing dual major at Drake, with an affinity for storytelling, travel, biographies, and tea. I’ve had the opportunity to explore some pretty wonderful corners of the world through internship and study abroad opportunities in London and L.A., with side trips to countries like Ireland, Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Spain, Greece, Mexico, and Hungary. I’m looking forward to learning more about the corporate culture in a new, unique country. I can’t wait to broaden my view of the world, try new things, make more memories, and meet new, interesting people – all while escaping winter and getting a tan. Thanks so much for reading!

Meet Claire!

Hey there! My name is Claire, and I a junior at Drake University studying accounting and finance. Incorporating the opportunity to study abroad during college is important to me, because I truly believe in the value of learning about other people, places, and cultures. I studied in Turkey during the 2015 January Term, and gained incredible insight on Turkish culture and the country’s major religion, Islam. This year, I am excited to immerse myself in Chilean culture over the next couple weeks. I am looking forward to learning about the way of life in another country. Additionally, I am interested in learning more about the way businesses operate outside of the United States. My passion for finance and economics is crucial to my major at Drake, and I cannot wait to learn about the similarities and differences in Santiago’s global market. I hope to apply the cultural knowledge I gain in Chile to my understanding of the world. Likewise, I intend to apply the business knowledge I gain to my studies at Drake and to future professional opportunities after college.

Meet Tommy!

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Hello all, my name is Tommy and I am currently a Senior studying Accounting/Marketing at Drake University. This is my first time traveling to South America, so I am so excited to learn about and experience the unique culture in Chile. International studies seems to be a huge factor in business related endeavors within the past decade or so, which is why I believe it is so important for business majors to experience international societies. Through this study abroad experience, I hope to understand the business culture in Chile so that I may become more aware of differences within international business affairs when preparing for my career in the future. I am so excited to immerse myself in the Chilean culture with my classmates for the next few weeks and be able to gain life experiences as well as many incredible memories.