Everything that I have experienced in the past two weeks has shown me how much I can grow individually, and just how accepting and welcoming other SFS students can be.

Going into the SFS Chile program, I can admit to feeling nervous about what I would be experiencing in the next three months. I have never taken a course in Spanish, and while I enjoy hiking and backpacking, I do not have much experience with it. Everything that I have experienced in the past two weeks has shown me how much I can grow individually and just how accepting and welcoming other SFS students can be. I live in what we call the “room of eight,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It was an adjustment, but has turned out to be something I truly value. I also get to spend a lot of time with the other students living at the Center. We all like to play board games, go for walks, and play music for one another!

A rainbow over the roof of the Center. (Photo provided by Abigail Thrall).


A field lecture in Patagonian Ecology taught overlooking Laguna Honda in Torres del Paine National Park. (Photo provided by Abigail Thrall).

Getting close with everyone has been so surprising and welcoming. It makes our program activities much easier, as we are always able to find people to talk to while on our hikes. Our first hike, which was at Sierra Dorotea, was a complete surprise for me. It was presented as a “walk” – which explains a little bit about Chilean culture, as it was a steep uphill climb right from the beginning. The experience of learning in the field is something that I have grown to love and appreciate, especially because all the professors with SFS Chile are more than willing to answer specific questions while in the middle of a difficult hike.

The view from the top of Sierra Dorotea and the city of Puerto Natales visible below. (Photo provided by Abigail Thrall).

In terms of what I have learned so far in Chile, I feel so blessed to have been able to gain so much knowledge about the language and culture of my host country, as well as improve my understanding of the other topics taught at the Center. For the language, we have instituted the “Spanish table” at dinner, where we all sit to try and speak Spanish at our respective proficiencies. I have also been able to learn much from each of the three main courses here: Patagonian Ecology, Earth Systems and Climate Science, and Political and Social Dimensions of Conservation. These three courses are teaching me so much about the world around me and I really appreciate how the SFS professors bring their personal experiences into the classroom to give us a more solid understanding of the world around us.

The author completing a soil identification field lab for Earth Systems and Climate Science while at Estancia Lazo. (Photo provided by Abigail Thrall).

Choosing to study abroad with SFS in Puerto Natales, Chile, has already been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Even though this program is something that is so far out of my comfort zone, I already feel like it has changed my life for the better and I cannot wait to see what else I learn throughout the next three months.

Puerto Natales, as seen from high in the city. (Photo provided by Abigail Thrall).

Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Chile Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.