After more than a year of planning and 5 incredible months in Chile, my study abroad experience has come to a close. It is sad, but at the same time, I am happy to be home. I didn’t realize how much I missed my family and friends, and just my life in the United States, until I came back. I feel like I have closed one chapter in my life and now am ready for the next one. Maybe that is why I am not as sad to leave Chile as my other friends who came back from studying abroad in different locations around the world. For me, this experience was not a vacation, in the sense that I did not join the Chile study abroad program to party (although it is hard to get used to the fact that Americans don’t stay out partying until 5am—but this is the only issue I have reverse culture shock with hahahah).
If it makes any sense, I basically lived my life in the United States, but, while studying in Chile, I lived with a family, I attended classes and spent time studying, I hung out with my friends, and I volunteered and traveled to nearby destinations on weekends. And I am happy with this experience because I felt like I was truly living like a Chilean. I would like to think that I did not perpetuate the American stereotype in Chile, that I just came to the country to party and travel to locations that are too expensive for most Chileans to visit. Unfortunately, due to the cost of the trips and the time needed to travel, I never made it to Easter Island, San Pedro de Atacama, or Tierra del Fuego like I had planned before coming to Chile. But I’m okay with that because I think there is a lot of value in staying in Santiago and getting to know your city and forming friends with the local people. And I really don’t feel like this is the absolute end of my study abroad experience. I am going to look at this as the beginning, and someday I plan to return to Chile to visit these places.
I am also determined to maintain my relative fluency in Spanish by continuing to practice speaking with people. Actually, while I was studying Spanish in Chile, I met a girl who is coming to study abroad at my university this coming semester. Small world, huh? I don’t know if it just because I just went there so now I am more aware of all things Chilean, but I feel like I am getting reminders of Chile everywhere I go. For example, the other day I went to the grocery store and they were selling wine from the Concha y Toro vineyard which I visited. And then when I went to my friend’s apartment warming party, someone was making a special Chilean drink that they saw on TV. It’s called a terremoto (which means ‘earthquake’), and it combines beer, wine, pisco, and pineapple ice cream. I know these are small things, but they all remind me of my time in Chile.
This experience has opened the door for me to travel, not just in South America but all around the world, and try new things and meet new people. I feel like I have finally stepped outside of my box, and that is something invaluable that I can take away from my time in Santiago.