Written by Tony Columbus
In the summer of 2019, I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in Santiago, Chile through the USAC program. Chile is one of the most unique countries in South America environmentally, with a wide array of climates that span throughout the country. The capitol city of Santiago and the central regions of Chile are Mediterranean climate. The entire country boarders the Pacific Ocean, while the northern regions of Chile are desert, and the southern regions are tundra areas with massive glaciers. While I was abroad in Chile, I was able to see the vast majority of the country, spending time in many coastal cities along with the desert and in the mountainous regions.
The city of Santiago is in a valley surrounded by mountains, allowing for relatively stable weather, but with absolutely breath-taking sunsets over the mountains. Public transport is the primary means of transportation in the area, which makes navigating the area very manageable. The transport system is also what has helped to reduce the cities emission levels, which is a mission that was enacted by the current president of Chile to make Santiago emission free by the year 2040. The natural mountain trails around the city allow for amazing hiking opportunities and views of the city.
Pichilemu, Chile was one of the most amazing coastal cities that I have ever visited. A quaint beach town that is world renowned for surfing. There are black sand beaches in the area, with some of the largest waves that are seen in the pacific during the summer months. This was a very unknown region and is still being developed, to the point where most of the professors that I had in Chile, knew of the region but had never been.
During our summer is Chiles winter months, which gave me the opportunity to go skiing in July and being from New Hampshire this was something I was looking forward to. I traveled to Valle Nevado for a skiing weekend, which was only about 40 minutes away from Santiago. The interesting thing about the climate there is that the City of Santiago rarely gets snow, but because of the altitude of the mountains that surround the city, great skiing was only a short trip away.
One of the greatest experiences that I had in Chile that gave me a great appreciation for the diversity of climate was while visiting the Atacama Desert. Previously I had never been to a desert and I did not realize how beautiful a desert can be. We had opportunities to go sandboarding, hike, ATV, and stargaze at a facility that is used by NASA. I had this experience towards the end of my stay in Chile and it was a perfect way to end my trip. It was incredible to realize the potential for exploration in this magnificent country. In 10 short weeks I was able to experience the tundra, beaches, and a desert, all for cheap, and it was the most rewarding experience I have had in my life. I will never forget my Chilean Sunsets, and the impact that the natural experiences in Chile had on me.