I've put together a few tips that I thought would be helpful for homestay students that are visiting Chile. I've separated them into General, Learning and Exploring. Have fun reading and have fun in Chile!
- If you have any dietary requirements let every representative know. Let your university reps know before the trip, let your co-ordinators know before or when you reach Chile and let your homestay parents know. If they know then there's less chance you'll spend your trip feeling unwell.
- Write down important contact information in one place. Things like emergency services numbers, representative address and details, names of co-ordinators and numbers. It's a good idea to pick up a journal and put them in there.
- Write down important phrases. Like I said, a journal is really helpful place to put this info so you can have it on hand whenever.
- Don't pet the stray dogs. They look cute but sometimes bite.
- Pack warm clothing in winter. Chile can get seriously cold, remember to pack warm just in case.
- Always bring a friend. You're in a strange country, having a friend to back you up when visiting new areas or coming home in the dark is definitely a good idea.
- Don't flash expensive items in the street. I didn't encounter any problems with crime but Chilean guides will repeatedly remind you not to flash your cameras and phones out in public.
- Make friends with the locals. The locals know the place and will give you great tips on where to visit and how to get there.
- Make friends with everyone in your group. Your group will often have your back and be with you 99% of the time, so get to know everyone.
- Create a group chat on an instant messaging service. Creating a group chat will help to organise trips and help you to get to know everyone.
- Speak as much as you can in Spanish.
- Bring more money than you think you need. That is if you are able to, extra cash helps in case of emergencies and additional unexpected trips.
- Don't keep all your money in the same place. This goes for when you're carrying it outside and in your luggage. It's a good idea to have a little extra money in different pockets, in your wallet, in your bag just in case.
- Try the national dishes. There are a lot of interesting and delicious dishes in Chile, don't be afraid to try them.
- Always say yes to your homestay parents' invitations. You'll get the most authentic experiences of Chilean life with your homestay parents, so go shopping or to the parties that they invite you to.
- Be nice to your homestay parents. These people are allowing you to stay in their home and giving you a lot of trust, be kind to them and they'll be kind to you.
- Revise first. Being students we want to explore the city everyday, but if you're on an intensive language learning course remember to put aside time when you get back from university to study before going out.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You will make a lot of mistakes at the start and speak like a caveman, like 'Me now go university with friends'. Nobody I spoke to cared that I spoke in broken Spanish, just speak and you'll learn quicker.
- Use your homestay parents as teachers. The best way to learn is to talk to native speakers and the friendliest locals you'll meet will be your homestay parents. Talk to them a lot and ask them questions to learn faster.
- Learn key phrases. It helps to learn key phrases or have them written down somewhere for when you need them most.
- Learn key verbs. Even if you don't know the conjugations yet most speakers will understand what you mean when you string together a sentence with a verb.
- Learn the names of local landmarks and where they are in relation to other places. Nearby where we stayed was a flower clock known locally as 'reloj de flores', it was really easy to ask if buses passed by it on the way back to the homestay.
- Learn the general bus routes. You can usually tell where a bus is going by the final destination on the board at the front and which road it's on.
- Find out where to catch your nearest collectivo. Collectivos are a really helpful way to get around when you're in a rush but don't want to call a taxi, find out where they stop.
- Always ask how much a taxi or collectivo trip will be before you start your journey, don't assume. Fares aren't always the same and change depending on time of day as well.
- Ask your co-ordinators for trip ideas. The co-ordinators of your host university will most likely be locals and know all the best places, they may even take you there too.
- To get from somewhere like Vina del Mar to Santiago you will need to go to a bus terminal. Buy your ticket at the desk and then board your coach to the destination. If you're going from Vina to Santiago you're looking at around two hours to get there.