Schoenbeck at lagoon 13,400 feet into the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places in the world. (image credit: Sarah Schoenbeck)

Sarah Schoenbeck, class of 2019, cut her summer short to study abroad at the Universidad Viña del Mar (UVM), Chile, on July 29. She is the second SNHU student to study at UVM since the partnership was established in 2013 and she hopes to bring awareness to the program.

UVM sits in Viña del Mar, a beach city in the middle of the largely coastal country. According to Schoenbeck, classes are largely discussion based and the sizes are small, ranging between four and eight students per class. “UVM is a wonderful, very friendly and close-knit community that really looks out for its students,” Schoenbeck said. She is taking three courses and one service learning class this semester.

Adjusting to life in Chile took some time. Schoenbeck stems from a small town in Northern New Hampshire, so moving to a city and learning how to navigate it was an initial challenge for her. “I’ve never had to take public transportation very often and by myself, and here I take a bus or metro a few times a week.”

Learning the language has also been a challenge for Schoenbeck. “The Spanish here is the fastest Spanish spoken anywhere, and is very different from other versions of Spanish,” she said. “But I learn new words every day from my host family. Some of my friends are very good with the language, coming from bilingual homes or having Spanish as a minor, and I do have some friends that are in the same boat as me.” Growing up, Schoenbeck studied French and has found similarities between the two Latin languages.

Schoenbeck enjoys Chilean sunsets with her new friends. (image credit: Sarah Schoenbeck)

Through her program, Schoenbeck has made friends with students from Germany, Austria, France, Finland, Canada and even the U.S. “We have made an awesome group of friends and love to travel together on the weekends, and we try to watch the sunset a couple times a week together,” Schoenbeck said.

The International Club she joined helped her meet Chilean students. “The club also sets us up with big brothers and big sisters so we meet up with them once a week, along with language partners where we can teach them English and we learn Spanish and we help each other with homework,” Schoenbeck said. The club also plans events and trips on a weekly basis and hosts an asado, or barbecue, monthly.

She lives in a homestay in an apartment beside her university with a host mom, a 30-year-old host brother and their miniature poodle. While it’s been an adjustment for her to live in a family setting again, it’s helped her with her Spanish. “I bond with my host brother over TV shows and my host mom has been teaching me how to cook, dance and helps me with homework which has been fantastic,” Schoenbeck said. So far, her favorite Chilean meal is charquican, which her host mom taught her how to cook, and she claims Chile is home to the world’s best tomatoes.

Schoenbeck realizes that adjusting to a new country can be difficult, but says that it becomes easier after becoming acquainted with the culture and making friends. “My favorite part about this change is being very immersed in the culture and finding so many things in Chilean daily life so beautiful and genuine,” she said. “Everyone here is so nice, helpful and proud of their country.”

To follow Schoenbeck’s journey, check out her blog,

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