Being in Chile as the Pandemic Hits

Sammie Stagg
March 16, 2020

Due to everything rapidly changing with the Coronavirus, these posts will now be a little condensed into the next couple days. I know a lot of what we’re currently going through in Chile is very specific to this particular moment in history, but I think it’s worth it for future study abroad students to know the history of where they’re about to go. There are about a million reasons why this is an incredibly interesting time to be in Chile, but this is the most recent one. 

I keep hearing how all over the world, there’s a lot of panic about human contact -- people not touching each other, not going out in public, maintaining a meter’s distance and greeting by touching ankles or waving from afar. Hand sanitizer is out of stock, and in some places people walk around covered in masks and bags. But here in Chile, we still flood the parks and overcrowd the bars and gather en masse in plazas, we still grab the handrails on the metro and kiss each other hello and goodbye. Any day now this will change all at once -- we might wake up tomorrow to a new ghost town -- but as of right now we are still one physically connected whole. It’s hard to believe, but the social atmosphere when it comes to the virus is very different in Chile. The world’s cultural response is only just beginning to arrive here. 

I am settling into the idea that I don’t know what it’s going to be like tomorrow, or even in two hours. I’m sure by the time this post is published everything will be different. Even as I’m typing this, listening to the news, Chile is beginning to suspend all high school and elementary classes for two weeks. The fact that this decision has been made with only around 70 documented cases and no deaths in the country gives me a little hope for Chile -- because we are one of the later countries to see the virus, we have other models to go off of, countries like China, Italy, Spain, Japan and the US that are overwhelmed with the burden of being first to find out what COVID-19 can do. 

Some students have left the program very abruptly. One woke up in the morning not knowing they’d be leaving before dinnertime. The feeling here is tense, obviously because everything is so unknown, but also because no one wants to admit this might be ending. 

While we’ve only been here a little over three weeks, countless wonderful things have already happened, and we’ve lived enough life to feel very full. For this reason, there will be more posts to come that have nothing to do with the pandemic, and everything to do with what it’s like to make a home for yourself in Chile.


Sammie Stagg

<p>I'm from small-town Minnesota and in my third year at Grinnell College, where I'm independently majoring in Health Science Writing. I enjoy drinking tea, cooking, swing dancing and signing ASL. I also read a lot of books and entertain myself with little things like research projects and scavenger hunts. I chose to study abroad in Santiago, Chile -&nbsp;a city of over 5 million - because my top two priorities were (1) to live someplace I could speak Spanish all the time, and (2) to live in a way that's significantly different from what I already know.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Grinnell College
Carver, MN
Creative Writing
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