Chile is home to a stunning variety of natural wonders, from the towering Andes Mountains to the penguin colonies of Patagonia, as well as the historic city of Santiago. A passion for the arts, especially literature, is shared by many across Chile’s diverse ethnic groups. Chile’s most famous writer, Nobel Prize Winner Pablo Neruda, called it “the country made for poets.”
An academic year or semester in Chile will give you an excellent opportunity to improve your Spanish in South America, while you attend a local high and live with a warm host family.
Your local chapter may organize get-togethers for AFS students or excursions to other cities or regions in Chile. Also, over the course of the program, AFS staff and volunteers will hold orientations to help you evaluate your progress, help with your cultural adjustment, and make sure things are running smoothly.
The official language of Chile is Spanish. Other languages commonly spoken are: English, German, and Mapudungun (the language of the Mapuche).
The ability to speak Spanish is not a prerequisite for the program, but we strongly suggest that you learn as much as possible prior to departure.
Host Family & Community
You may be placed anywhere in Chile, though host families in Chile are often located in or near urban areas. About 75% of placements are in urban areas. 20% are classified as suburban placements and the remaining 5% are rural.
Host families in Chile, like all AFS host families worldwide, are not paid. They open their homes to students in order to share their community and culture as well as to enrich their own family lives.
Like Latin Americans in general, Chileans are friendly. Chile is a vast mixture of races and nationalities such as Mapuches (the native Chileans), Aymara, Palestinians, Jews, Italians, Asians, Yugoslavians, Greeks and Germans. Because of this great ethnic diversity, Chileans are open to many different types of people.
Life in Chile is very family oriented and children are taught to have a strong respect for their parents. Most families are patriarchal, but mothers do have an equal hand in decision making. Sons and daughters are treated differently with the rules for girls being more stringent.
In their spare time, young Chileans like to get together at friends’ houses or go to movies. They also like to gather in the town square, go to parties and dance, or just hang out in the local café.
Your host school may offer some after school activities that you can get involved with. These may include sports, language or science clubs, or drama. Getting involved in these activities is a great way to learn more about the community and to make friends.
Lunch is the main meal of the day. The main course usually includes meat (beef, lamb, pork or chicken) or fish with rice or pasta and vegetables. Food is mostly steamed, fried in vegetable oil or barbecued.
Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. most people have a meal called onces where tea or coffee is served with bread and butter or marmalade and possibly cakes or some other kind of pastry. For some families, this is the evening meal, and they may add cold cuts, avocados or other foods to make it more substantial. Other families have dinner between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and serve basically the same types of food as lunch but in smaller portions.
Fruits are varied and abundant in Chile throughout the year.
It is considered inappropriate for individuals to request special foods, to prepare separate food for yourself or to raid the refrigerator. Chileans eat a lot of meat, so it is very difficult to place vegetarians.
Most students hosted in Chile attend private high schools. While you won’t be asked to pay tuition to the school, you will be required to purchase a school uniform.
Most school days begin around 8 a.m., have one hour for lunch, and end between 4 and 6pm. Classes usually take place Monday through Friday, but there are a few schools that have classes on Saturday mornings as well.
Orientations & Activities
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically, you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximise the AFS experience, reduce culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills and a global understanding.
In addition to the orientations, many local chapters organise activities for students and host families throughout the year. These will vary from chapter to chapter but may include parties or excursions to other cities or regions in Chile. Unlike the orientations, these activities are optional and are not included in the tuition/program fees.