A Final “Chao” and the Last Sopaipilla


As I share this post with you, it has been just over a week that I have returned home from Santiago. My time abroad flew by, and I was sad to leave Chile, but I was looking forward to seeing my family back home.

During my final morning in Chile, I met my friend Julia at our favorite bakery—Lo Saldes—for a final sopaipilla. A sopaipilla is a delicious snack of fried dough. Many sopaipillas are made with a pumpkin purée, but some are not. Located between the metro stations Manquehue and Escuela Militar (my favorite station), Lo Saldes is a bakery and café that sells empanadas, fresh bread, and many postres (desserts). Julia and I would frequent Lo Saldes before class for our beloved sopaipillas. At a price of just 500 pesos/sopaipilla (about 50¢/sopaipilla), it is difficult to resist buying one (or ten) of the tasty snack.

Enjoying my last sopaipilla was the final thing I did before heading to the airport, meaning that indulging in the fried snack marked the end of my six weeks abroad in Santiago, Chile.

A final sopaipilla with Julia

Receiving the opportunity to immerse myself in a foreign culture and challenge myself with language was rewarding, to say the least. I would often find myself in situations where I would not know how to say a certain word that I needed to complete my sentence, so I would try to navigate around the word in order to express my thoughts. It was frustrating to not know how to say exactly what I wanted to say, but struggling with the language allowed me to improve my comprehension and my vocabulary. In just six weeks, my speaking abilities improved tremendously. During my final dinner with my host family, my host parents told me that they were proud of how much I had improved. By the end of the program, I felt much more confident in my speaking abilities than I had felt at the beginning of the program.

In addition to learning more about language, learning about culture was also fulfilling. To be able to learn about certain authors in the classroom, and then see where those authors lived during their lifetimes was exciting, and the relaxed, immersive learning that I was able to partake in was a sharp contrast to the rigorous, “lecture-driven” learning that is characteristic to Notre Dame. Similarly, learning about how nature influenced the way in which Chilean authors understood the world, and then being able to explore the beauty of said nature was absolutely amazing.

Santuario El Cañi

Would I recommend studying abroad? Absolutely, without a doubt. When studying abroad, it is important to make the most out of your experience. While I was abroad, I don’t think there was a single day that I wasn’t out exploring. Even when I had an essay to write, I would wander through the city until I found a new café or study-spot. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to study abroad, and I encourage every student to consider the opportunity, if they receive the chance to. I am returning home with a newfound confidence—a confidence not only related to my language abilities and cultural understandings, but a confidence also related to myself, as a person. Being in an unfamiliar country, 5000 miles away from my family and the way of living that I was used to forced me to challenge myself in many ways. Struggling to even order food at restaurants was humbling (who knew that ordering KFC could be so difficult?). However, at the end of the day, it is the struggle that allows us to grow. From setbacks and obstacles we are able to learn, and we subsequently gain the confidence to try again, and continue putting our best effort forth until we succeed.

El almuerzo de despedirse (“Good-bye lunch”)

Saying “Chao” (Good-bye) to Santiago and the people that made the program so wonderful was one of the most difficult good-byes I have ever said in my life. It is difficult to express in words just how much I learned while I was abroad. The friends I met and the memories I created will remain with me for my entire life. Saying “good-bye” is never easy, but every ending is a new beginning, and another opportunity to learn.

Chao, Chile. Gracias por todo.

Un abrazo,


La maternidad y aprender: Noticing Motherhood in the Absence of Mothers

The absence of my mother (and the distance between us) has caused me to notice motherhood in many places in my study abroad experience.

Throughout my life, I have been close with my mother, and I have always considered her to be one of my closest friends. I attribute this strong relationship in part to the fact that I am an only child, who was adopted into a very small family. Growing up, both of my parents worked many hours to support our family, but even when they came home from work, exhausted, they always set aside time to spend with me. Thus, family has always been an important part of my identity and life, in general.

Before going to Chile, I had never been away from my parents for longer than two weeks, let alone in a different country. Even during the academic semester at Notre Dame, I visit home at least once every other week (which, to be fair, is only 20 minutes away from campus). I was beyond excited for my trip, but I knew that me being away from home for so long would be difficult for my mother.

The first few days in Santiago were incredible—I was having the time of my life. I was getting to know the other students better, and I enjoyed exploring the city with them. I think that the excitement of being abroad distracted me from my homesickness. It wasn’t until the first night of staying with my host family that I finally realized that I was more than 5,000 miles away from home. My host family was so kind, and did everything they could to make me feel at home, but it still felt odd for me to be staying in a house that wasn’t mine. I felt even more homesick when I would see my host mother and her son together.

In the absence of my mother, I began to notice the presence of motherhood everywhere, including in my schoolwork. The Spanish course I was enrolled in was centered around a woman named Gabriela Mistral. Perhaps the greatest desire of Gabriela Mistral—Chilean poet and educator—was to be a mother. She raised her adoptive son, Yin-Yin (Juan Miguel Pablo Godoy Mendoza), until he took his own life during his teenage years. In 1950, she published a collection of poems known as “Poemas de las madres”, which reflected various themes regarding maternity and motherhood, including the emotions and attitudes (both positive and negative) felt by expectant and current mothers. Mistral published these poems to not only express her complex connection with motherhood, but also to create pieces that would be relatable and perhaps comforting to new or expectant mothers. Above all, Mistral desired to showcase the beauty of motherhood, and the beauty of the relationship developed between a mother and her children.

Mistral and Yin-Yin

Mothers are very special people. Without a doubt, my mother misses me, and I miss her. However, she is proud of me for choosing to study abroad. She is proud of my accomplishments. She is always there for me, even in my darkest times. She comforts me after my failures, and encourages me to stand back up and keep moving forward. I am grateful to have her in my life, not only as a mother, but as a friend. I can’t wait to tell her about my experiences abroad.

Un abrazo,


La sequía y la sostenibilidad: Chile’s Water Crisis

This year (2022) has marked the 13th year in a row that adequate precipitation has failed to fall on Chilean soil—the country’s worst drought in about 60 years.

Chile is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, marked by a rainy winter season and a dry summer season. Rainfall occurs during few events each year, with the total rainfall varying from year to year. Since rainfall in the country is so variable, irrigation is essential to agricultural practices, and water storage is important to not only provide water to crops during the growing season, but also to provide water for human consumption.

Water conservation is especially important in highly-populated regions, such as the capital city of Santiago, where nearly 6 million people reside. In response to the drought, Chile announced a four-stage system that would utilize the restriction of water pressure and rationing. The first stage emphasizes water conservation and prioritizes the use of groundwater. The second and third stages entail a reduction in water pressure, and the final stage is characterized by actual water rationing. If the final stage were to be reached, the water cuts would only take place in one sector of the city at a time, for a maximum of 24 hours.1 The sector would then rotate, if rationing was still needed.

When I first arrived in Chile, I was encouraged by my host family to limit water usage. While walking through plazas throughout Santiago, I also noticed that many of the fountains did not have any water in them. It is possible that these fountains were inactive because of the drought, but it is also possible that they were inactive because it was winter.

A researcher explaining the importance of marine ecosystems

On our excursion to La Serena, we visited la Universidad Católica del Norte, where we listened to a presentation regarding water conservation and how developing a better understanding of marine life and ecosystems could help slow the effects of the drought. As a complement to the presentation, we were able to tour the facilities used for aquatic research and the study of microorganisms. It was fascinating to learn about the importance of aquatic ecosystems, especially in relation to the current drought.

As the drought continues to impact the availability of water in Chile, it remains obvious that proposed solutions such as a rationing water can only help so much. Ultimately, combating the effects of the drought requires mitigating the effects of climate change, and caring for the health of aquatic ecosystems may prove to be helpful in the conservation of water.



  1. Partsch, Elizabeth. “Climate Chance Victim: Chile Faces Its Worst Drought in History.” Impakter, Apr. 2022, https://impakter.com/chile-12-year-drought-water-rationing/.

Foods: Some familiar, some foreign


I cannot express in words how excited I am to write this blog post. To begin, you should know that I am a big foodie—I love learning about and trying new foods. Before coming to Chile, I researched foods that were commonly eaten in the country, and drafted an extensive list of restaurants and cafes that had received stellar reviews from customers, to visit.

If there is one thing in Chile that I have accomplished more than getting lost on the public transportation system, it is eating delicious food. During my first day in the country, I asked the program coordinators, Felipe and Claudia, about foods that Chile is well-known for. However, I was told that the country did not really have a “signature dish”, and that the array of food found throughout Chile was influenced by many other cultures and cuisines.

I found it interesting that many recipes make use of pumpkin: sopaipillas, soups, and many rice dishes. I have never really eaten pumpkin in anything other than pumpkin pie, but I have fallen in love with the sweet, almost nutty flavor that it adds to certain dishes. Another interesting observation I have made is that pop (soda) is usually found in its calorie-free, sugar-free, “light” version—at least in the area of Santiago where I am living. The only places I have seen the standard flavors offered are at “fancier” restaurants. Again, this observation could likely be attributed to my location of residence, but I will certainly ask my host family about it.

I could go on and on about the delicious food I have eaten here, but I will let some pictures speak for me:

Writing this post has made me hungry, and coincidentally, it is time for me to go eat lunch with my host family!

Sending un abrazo (a hug) from Chile.



La primera semana en Chile: Coloquialismos y contexto

¡Hola! Este blog es mi primer blog de Santiago, Chile.

I cannot believe that I have already been here for a little over a week! In the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, I met up with eight of the eleven other Notre Dame students who are part of the Santiago Summer program. When we entered the airport in Santiago, my Spanish-speaking abilities were immediately tested. I certainly struggled, but was able to make it through. We had to “quarantine” in a hotel for three days, and on the final day (last Sunday), I was able to meet my host family. My host family consists of my host mother and father, María and Nico, and their son, Matías. María and Nico are relatively young, so they asked me to not call them Mom and Dad, since that would make them “feel old.”

My host family

My first week was filled with both academic and leisure activities, which I want to save for another post, so I will only mention them briefly. Each day I make sure to go somewhere new, even when we don’t have anything assigned on the itinerary. I have eaten at many restaurants, bakeries, and cafés throughout the city, and have tried many new dishes and snacks made by my host family. I took a city tour with the other students around Baquedano. I have traveled to Pomaire, where I made a pot out of clay. I even hiked up San Cristóbal Hill, where there was an amazing view of the city.

San Cristóbal Hill
Somewhere in Baquedano

Something that was surprising to me about Chile was the difference in colloquialisms. As expected, the Spanish used in Chile is slightly different than the Spanish used in other Spanish-speaking countries. At Notre Dame, we are taught to use “bebé” for “baby,” but in Chile, the word “guagua” is used. I was told that this word stems from an onomatopoeia, and that it is used by people of all ages. Another interesting use of language is the addition of “-po” to some words. One of the directors of the Santiago Summer program told us that often, Chileans add this “suffix” to the endings of certain words. However, there is no reasoning behind the addition, and there is no explanation to which words “-po” is added. I will certainly be asking around about this.

I am having the best time in Chile! I am learning so much from the people around me, eating delicious food, and making lifelong friends.

Hasta luego,


Patience in Santiago

¡Hola! I write to you just six days away from my departure from South Bend to Santiago, Chile (including a transfer in Atlanta, Georgia). I will spend six weeks in the city, where I will receive the opportunity to truly immerse myself into an unfamiliar culture. As a student studying Spanish at the University of Notre Dame, I am looking forward to learning about language and culture through different lenses, in an environment much different than that of the traditional Notre Dame Spanish classroom.

I am packing many necessities to take with me on my journey: my toothbrush, my favorite water bottle, and my lucky socks (just to name a few). However, I can’t leave home without one of the most important tools—patience. Patience has been useful to me throughout my growth as both a student and a person. I practice patience as I work to overcome life obstacles. I practice patience when working shifts at the Early Childhood Development Center and the campus bookstore. I practice patience when studying for exams. I practice patience because I understand that pursuing goals is not a one-step process; achievement is made by taking time and putting forth my best efforts.

I will practice patience during my time abroad because I know that none of my experiences will be perfect. I will struggle with navigation, the language, and cultural differences, but I will be patient with and challenge myself. Through challenging myself and taking time to reflect on my experiences, I will be able to grow, not just as a student, but also as a person.

I am excited to practice and improve my speaking skills. I am excited to meet new people and make new friends. I am especially excited to try new food. Above all, I am excited to be a part of a program where I can connect my academic interests to real life experiences.

Hasta luego,