To begin, this column is designed to highlight a different country around the world every week, and with that, discuss the country’s economic and political standings, as well as some interesting current news events within the country. To gain a further perspective, I will chat with a student who studied abroad in each country to ask them a few questions, as I myself have had the opportunity to study abroad and find interest in hearing about students first-hand experiences living abroad.

This week’s spotlight is in Latin America, where I decided to specifically focus on Chile. Perhaps one of the most interesting happenings in Chile right now is associated with its economy. Last month, the economy was hurt by strikes over pay conditions, specifically with the BHP copper plant. This was harming copper exports, as strikers had not been working since the ninth of February of this year. To add to the economic downfall, consumption and investment were at a low in Chile in recent months, and this strike has caused the economy more harm, despite potential for growth in previous months. Recently, Chile also lowered its interest rates for the first time since 2014 due to a record low inflation rate. The benchmark rate was reduced a quarter-point to 3.25 percent. Economic activity has been declining on an annual basis since October of last year, the first time this occurred in seven years, and consumer prices have rose by about 2.7 percent recently.

Two prominent news stories caught my eye in Chile; one has to do with a recent natural disaster that has left millions of Chilean citizens without water. Recent heavy rainfall caused destruction to the country and left large amounts of flooding, with at least 3 people reported dead and at least 19 missing. One of Santiago’s largest sources of water, the Maipo River, has been contaminated by mudslides brought on by the rain. Aguas Andias, a water source in Santiago, had to delay water supply after the event, impacting about five million residents and 1.5 million customers. Luckily, Aguas Andias was able to supply water to one of its branches faster than expected. To make matters worse, another natural disaster struck Santiago soon before the mudslides, as large amounts of forest fires were occurring from prolonged dry weather. This dry weather also partly caused the mudslides. The rainfall and mudslides also caused problems to the roads, ruining the day of almost 400 tourists. About 200 people were rescued by emergency officials in Santiago and sent to safety shelters to stay.

Chile also has some current interesting actions occurring after the US’ resignation from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The remaining members of the TPP, as well as China, Columbia, and South Korea met in March of this year in Viña del Mar, Chile to ensure and discuss the trade relations between these nations. Though these nations have agreed to still conduct trade business with the US on their own, individual terms, the rest of the TPP members appear to be making larger steps towards further globalization. In terms of Chile, the rearrangement of this agreement has only helped the country in new and exciting economic ways. Chile has been able to prove tremendous growth as they improve their infrastructure, healthcare, and labor laws. Their economy is also boosting with an averaging four percent growth over these past ten years, and now poverty only lies at about 11.7 percent. Chile will also now be able to access new trading partners, allowing them to potentially cut costs and grow small businesses. Though the TPP has had to make new terms since the US left, Chile still benefits from its trading with the US as well, as Chilean exports to the US have rose to about $6.7 million. With their growing economy and new trade associations, Chile is proving to be a competitive force in Latin America as a strong leader.

To further understand the culture and events in Chile, I discussed the experience of studying abroad there with two of my good friends; one, my suitemate Francesca Moran, and the other, my friend and classmate Ty Martz.

HW: “Describe a normal day in Chile. What is the culture like? Cultural norms/routines?”

FM: “The earliest I had class in Chile was 11:00am, so I would sleep in, then leave half an hour before class to catch the bus up the hill to school, then go to class and eat the lunch my host mom packed me with other exchange students. Then we would take the bus back down and a group of us would decide it was time for an empanada or churro so we would walk to the beach, eat, and watch the sunset.”

TM: “A normal day for me on a weekday would be to wake up early to get ready to head to the university. My host mother was a fantastic cook, so I was lucky with my meals and I would usually eat a ham and cheese sandwich alongside a couple of scrambled eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast.  Then I would walk down the street to the bus stop where hopefully I would be able to make it onto one of the buses to the school. At school, I would go to a class or two and then hit the university gym where they had extremely strict trainers who wouldn’t let you break a single rule. I would eat lunch outside on the beautiful campus looking over the cities of Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, and the Pacific Ocean. After that, I’d catch the bus home and do any homework that needed to be done. Later in the day it was always fun to hang out at a new cafe and plan the next trip, grab a delicious empanada, or walk the beach during the beautiful sunsets. Nighttime was saved for diner, bars, and clubs where the real fun happened and you usually would not get back home until 4 in the morning, but I guess that is the start of the next day.”

HW: “What was your level of culture shock in Chile? What took time to adjust to?”

FM: “We were pretty culture shocked at first. Chileans are so laid back it took us time to just relax and go with the flow at all times. But by the end we really enjoyed the slow pace of life. In fact, I’d say I almost had worst reverse culture shock coming home to fast paced ‘real life’.”

TM: “To be honest, I did not feel a great deal of culture shock in comparison to some other students and their host families. One of the very important values in Chile is family first, but mine was really just a mother who worked all day and a brother who went to school and was constantly out with his “palola,” or Chilean girlfriend. Other people abroad had to eat three meals a day with their entire family, while I ate many of mine solo and usually only once a day with a family member. Another cultural adjustment was walking everywhere or taking the buses, also known as “micros.” They were cheap and fast, but slightly sketchy when it came to driving style and cleanliness.”

FM: “Tell me about your favorite part about studying abroad in Chile.”

FM: “I loved how we were able to travel all over Chile and South America. I also liked how we got to go early (beginning of July) and then I stayed for a month after classes ended to travel. I flew home on Christmas Eve, so I feel like I was there for a long time to the point where I felt like I wasn’t just visiting. Also, I was able to meet amazing people from all over the world and become close friends with people from Bryant I barely knew before. I obviously have a lot of favorites because it was the best experience of my life and I tell everyone I know to study abroad in Chile. You won’t regret it!”

TM: “My favorite part about studying in Chile was the ability to learn about life and culture in a new region firsthand. It is so interesting to me to see how people from other areas do everyday things differently and to see what causes and beliefs that they value the most. Along with that, I could not help but travel and visit all of the amazing places and sights that I wanted to see. From Machu Picchu, to Buenos Aires, and all the way down to Patagonia, these were some of the most amazing times of my life and I will always carry these memories with me.”