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The End of the Road

Time December 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These past five months have been truly incredible. The month of December has been particularly amazing without having school to worry about and I feel as though I really enjoyed the last weeks that I had in Chile. Below are some of the things I have been up to which includes the last program dinner, seeing Sinsajo (Mocking Jay) at the movies, shoveling poop for an animal humane society, traveling to Patagonia to see penguins, beautiful sights and animals, sand boarding at the dunes, a last beach day, visiting the botanic gardens, last visits to the elementary school I volunteered at throughout the semester, my last bible study and of course my last day with my host family. Although a lot has happened these past couple of weeks I want to take this last opportunity to reflect upon what this time abroad has meant to me as a whole.

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La empieza del fin // The Beginning of the End

Time December 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have officially ended classes and all ended super well! Getting into the swing of finals season was a bit of a struggle at first and I found myself ending up at the beach when I should have been studying but at the same time I felt like I really needed to enjoy the remainder of time that I had here and of course soak up some sun :)

And now that I am receiving my final grades I can honestly say that it was a good use of time ;D My English is depleting a bit and I find myself writing parts of this blog post in Spanish and then translating it into English so I have definitely been working full force in Spanish for quite some time.  I was most afraid of my final exams for psychology because it was the first time that I had to learn about a technical subject in another language. Normally when I take classes in Spanish it’s based on language or culture but psychology and theory was a bit more challenging. But I studied really hard and ended up getting the second best grade in the class yay! I ended religion and history with some final essays where I wrote about my personal reflection with God and about women in politics. For my Community & Culture class and Spanish class and we had to do video projects, which was super fun.  The Community and Culture class video is a song’s worth of comparisons between life of a college student in the U.S. and in Chile.  The Spanish video is about once, the dinnertime that Chileans have here.

La once: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsG0JMzYk80

La vida chilena: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSqML84FMj0

I have also been getting involved in the community a bit lately … One Saturday I went with a group of students to help paint a mural in a place that houses, educates and rehabilitates young girls and women affected by domestic violence. Although I am definitely no artist it was an honor to be able to interact with the girls and try and make the place that they live a little bit more beautiful. I also went to my Chilean brother’s first communion. My host mom cried a little bit because she was so moved by the ceremony so it was a very beautiful celebration to be able to watch.  I finally did get to work for a few days hanging out in my bed getting interrupted to play/watch the baby Leonor and when it got too noisy went to a cafe with Karrin to study and write.  One Saturday we also went to a plaza for a free Zumba event.  It was a sea of colorful people dancing around in front of the Armada Chile.  It was great exercise and I bet quite a sight to see so many people dancing around!

On Saturday it was the last event of the year with church and they surprised all of the international students with a beautiful dinner. The Chileans dressed up in black and white and served us turkey and mashed potatoes (in honor of Thanksgiving) and a classic Chilean dessert of crepes covered in manjar. After the dinner they showed a short slideshow of a few photos throughout the semester. They ended the night with giving us little bags full of bible versus, one for each day that remains in this year. After that we ended with a prayer circle and shared what we are thankful to God for. It was such a beautiful gesture that they did for us. It showed me how valuable it has been to have friends in Christ being so far away from home. For me my small group leader Claudia was such an important part of time here in Chile. On Wednesday we had a sleepover and just talked about all sorts of things meanwhile playing on the computer, listening to music and watching tv. The next day we ran around taking pictures near her house and then we had lunch where we had a mini Thanksgiving since I couldn’t have a meal at my own house with my family. Later that night I joined my abroad group and our host families for a farewell dinner. That was also very well planned where our final video projects for the culture class were shone, we ate dinner and then there was a short slideshow from the semester. Although the celebration was really nice I have to say that my favorite part was sitting with my host “sister-in-law” Cata and talking throughout the night. During dinner we talked about personable stuff about relationships and as the speeches started we laughed and whispered about when it was going to end.

Now I have two weeks left here and honestly it hasn’t hit me. My host family always jokes about how I’m going to cry like a baby and I just smile and say haha yeah probably … I’m really glad that I have two weeks left without classes so I can just relax and enjoy the time I have left with these people that I have grown to love very much.

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Sun and Work

Time November 13th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Since the last time that I wrote I’ve celebrated Halloween, had quite a few beach days and the baby Leonor has officially started to crawl!  Since the seasons are reversed here I spent a warm Halloween day at the beach with my host family.  They were excellent models for my love for taking pictures with my camera, Clarice, and I also had a great time reading under the sun.  That night we went around the neighborhood with Alfonso who was a monster and Leo who was Winnie the Pooh.  In just the past few years Chile has started to celebrate Halloween so it actually isn’t that popular and we had to go to several houses before there was anyone giving out candy.  One woman still wanted to participate and went out of her way to make us a plate of cookies so that was really nice!  The kids really didn’t seem to mind and it was a lot of fun seeing how excited they got when they saw candy.  Then after all the fun was over we had once (dinner) and then I went to my friend Karrin’s house and we watched Casper Meets Wendy since I don’t like scary movies hehe … The next day we just went to a cafe to do homework and on Sunday we went to the beach with my host brother Seba.  The weather is so nice outside but the semester is also coming near so it feels like such a battle between sun and work!

This past weekend I spent Friday with my host “sister-in-law” Cata and we went shopping and then I went to bible study afterwards.  On Saturday there was an excursion to learn about nature essentially.  We started the morning learning about marine biology–literally the entire country is coast so it was very useful to learn about the preservation of the natural ocean resources such as plants and animals.  After a talk we got to go outside with binoculars and study some of the birds and hear the sea lions bark at each other so I liked being able to see what we were learning about before up close and personal.  Then we spent the afternoon at a farm.  First we had lunch with a family and then went around the property on a little horse ride and afterwards they put us to work.  We hoed the weeds out from the crops and then cut ripe lettuce.  To be honest, I was pretty exhausted after just a couple of plants so I definitely have a newfound appreciation for the people that grow our food.  Then we ended the evening with some traditional tea and homemade jams for once and slept off the long day on the bus.

The past couple of weeks I haven’t been about to volunteer at the elementary school because there have been teacher strikes.  Today was my first day back and I am teaching the students a song in English and for the rest of the semester we’ll be working on a music video for their final project so stay tuned for lots of cuteness!  After I went to the Chilean congress building for a class field trip and it was super fascinating to see their senate and “House of Representatives.”  We listened to a bit of the discussion that was going on in each of the chambers which were bills about tourism and the other was about violence that occurs as a result of elections.  Afterwards we got to sit down and talk to someone from the commission for human rights.  A few months back we learned about the violations of human rights during the Golpe de Estado that started in the 70s and it’s quite relevant today in terms of identifying the people that “disappeared” during this period.  I asked him about how students are educated about the issues today and he said how there was access to information in things like the museum of memory in Santiago but that it’s really up to the teacher of history class if they want to discuss it and there’s no formal curriculum to teach about the issue.  Also during the marine biology talk the previous week I asked about how children are educated about the environment and that there was no formal part to the science classes either.  These are the kind of the things that are highly specific but then also very relevant to the future of societies–the preservation of the world and the rights of the people in it.  Given this, I hope that teachers do take the initiative to teach their students about specific topics and that personally I could teach students beyond the basic subjects of reading, writing and math and could really challenge their ways in thinking in terms of making the world a better place to live.

 

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Travel and Fun

Time October 31st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I feel like these past few weeks have been full of everything and nothing, business and pure bliss, productivity and procrastination. In between writing essays and doing presentations I’ve been learning about indigenous culture, hanging out with friends and teaching my family a little bit about my culture as well. A couple of weekends ago we explored the southern part of Chile, which was absolutely gorgeous. Now I love the beach but there’s something about the way freshly fallen rain makes the grass and trees look more vibrant than any shade of green I’ve ever seen. In addition to taking in the natural beauty of the south we also spent a lot of our time learning about the indigenous, Mapuche, culture. In Chile, like many parts of the world, was colonized and to this day the rights given to indigenous people is short from just. Particularly, a couple of points that stood out to me were the concepts of ownership, multiculturalism and identity. First, ownership is a very interesting topic because while it’s fair to say that the Mapuche people lived on the land first, they actually didn’t have any desire to have ownership of it. That is to say that they didn’t consider themselves as owners or conquerors of the land, rather inhabitants that have the privilege and honor to use its resources and use the space to spend their days and live their lives. This is very novel from a western perspective where we tend to dub things as our own. I thought this was a really cool way of looking at things and impressive how they built a system based on trust and respect for land rather than possessiveness and power. The second point is the concept of multiculturalism. Today the majority, if not all, Mapuche speak Spanish fluently and share their culture with tourists, such as us, and also interact with Chileans on a more social level through social media and also visit the cities quite often. However, multiculturalism also suggests that there is a relationship between where the two cultures learn from and about each other. However, it is important to note that while the Mapuche people learn Spanish and integrate themselves into Chilean culture that Chileans have little to no understanding of any aspect of the Mapuche culture. Which leads me to my last take away of identity. Now that Chile is considerably developed as a nation what exactly does it mean to be a Chilean? Does is mean you come from a piece of land because if that were the case then why do Mapuche not technically consider themselves Chileans? And even for the Mapuche people who have lost so much of their culture when it comes to language, practices and familial and political structures—what preserves the ability to consider oneself Maphuche? These are all very thought provoking questions that I think stem back to whom you come from and how it affects who you are today. Whether it be traditions or just the color of your skin, I think that it is remarkable how we each come from distinct histories and that each culture should be remembered and valued equally.

In addition to these heavier themed talks we also managed to have a lot of fun integrating ourselves into the culture and learned how to make wool blankets, hiked an island and a mountain, fed horses, danced to indigenous music and of course cooked and ate a ton of amazing food! We also did a few touristy things like going to hot springs, zip lining through a forest and rafting. I was so scared during zip lining through some of the lines because we had to climb up a lot of trees and although there were ladders I couldn’t help but feel queasy every time I looked down and realized how high we were. But of course it was completely worth it for the out of body sensation of feeling like a bird defying gravity and soaring above rivers and trees. Rafting is something that I’ve never done before and was unexpectedly scary because of the possibility of falling out especially as we crashed over rapids… I now officially understand what white water means.

After a few days in the south it was back to the old grind of classes, and lots of playing in between. My psychology class has been particularly interesting lately where we’ve been doing a lot of interactive analytical activities such as learning about communication styles through representing abstract ideas without using words a.k.a. advanced charades, and examining what makes us who were are by seeing different roles we have as children, friends and partners and where those beliefs and behaviors come from. The kids at the Escuela España have been amazing and the first graders in particular have been up to some shenanigans where we play outside the classroom before class and two of the boys stole my backpack and jacket to model and later the whole class asked me to sing an English song that they were learning in their book! Other than that my life consists of walking and reading for hours on the beach, sleepovers with Karrin, doing homework alongside Seba, watching the baby Leo when her mom is busy and catching up with Claudia, my friend from church, over ice cream every chance that I get :) There’s always also the lovely impromptu game nights even if they’re until 2am on a school night and spinning, singing and dancing with the babies at all hours as well!

One other last fun thing I did last weekend was “la noche Mexicana” complete with carne, pollo, salsa, guacamole, frijoles, arroz, tequila and horchata! It was so nice to finally eat a good burrito here and Chile and my host family was very appreciative to experience new food and a bit of my culture :) Now for the last month of school—things are about to get real serious real fast, wish me luck <3

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Community Ties

Time October 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week I was thinking a lot about what my role here is in the community. Last weekend I had the chance to meet up with my bible study leader here a couple of times as well as last night too and it has shown me what a great opportunity it is to get to know someone from the community. Her name is Claudia, she’s studying to be a dentist and although she’s only a couple of years older than me I feel like I learn so much for her. Her love for God and just willingness to listen and share her life with me is so inspiring.  I think it’s so remarkable how even though we may not have known each other for very long that because we have a common foundation and love in God that conversations of depth come so easily.
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Half-Way Point

Time October 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am now about half way through my time abroad and we have a pizza party tomorrow with IFSA to solidify it (yay!). These past few months have consisted of exploring new places, culture and experiences and now I’m looking to what is to come. By the looks of my homework load and wallet size I won’t be able to do anything too crazy but I still want to take advantage of the time that I have left here. My homework for my community and culture class was to come up with mid-semester goals. This concept was both foreign and a little unfamiliar to me but nevertheless thought provoking and interesting to think about. The professor also distinguished the difference between a goal and an expectation—what are the things we hope to gain from this experience opposed to what we expect from it? In other words, what are some tangible things to take away instead of a bucket list of things to be satisfied by. Also, on the same day the writing task was assigned, I received a letter from myself that I wrote before my abroad experience with hopes I had before I left for the summer vacation. It was actually a perfect preface to the assignment and I wanted to share my newly amended goal list (and a few things I’ve already started to work on from that list in just the past few days) with this new insight now that I am familiar with the culture a bit and target areas I can gain more from.

 

  1. Getting connected to a Christian community: Although I have been going to church, am in a bible study and read the bible each day I feel as though what I am missing is a more in depth reflection and accountability with what is happening abroad and connecting with other people. One way that I am going to be more reflective upon what I am learning about with my religion is to start compiling a list of take aways and applications to my life. Altogether, this will actually serve as my final essay for my religion course. The class is taught by an amazing professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica and his main goal is that we take something worthwhile away from the class. So when I proposed a comprehensive reflection he was nothing short of ecstatic to hear about my ideas and wasn’t too attached to the idea of a traditional essay. The second part of my amendment to this goal is making connections with people in the community. I have been going to church and have gone to bible study once but it I haven’t really been discussing much with the people around me. So kick off change, on Friday I got together with some of the Chileans from my bible study group and we made pancakes with manjar, strawberries, bananas, apples, tea and chocolate! The food was delectable, but more than that, it was a really great time for us to just sit down, outside of a structured environment of church or bible study, and really talk about how God is and isn’t working in our lives. I want to make more of an effort to meet with Chileans because I think that their perspectives are very unique and I love being able to hear about their lives in a general sense as well (actually continuing this goal tomorrow over lunch with one of the girls!)

 

  1. Relationships: One of my main goals of this semester was to make at least one good friend and to pour out my love on them as well as my host family. In terms of friends I have an amazing best friend from the program named Karrin and I feel like our relationship is an excellent mix of cultural engagement where we try to speak Spanish all the time and interact with lots of Chilean people in our spare time, but then also have times where we can just stay in and watch Chilean Netflix and stay up until 5am talking like this past Friday night. A way that I would like to push myself a bit more is to get closer to my Chilean friends; one way that I have already started this is with my friends from church and also through friends that I have already met on my own and with Karrin. In terms of time with my family I feel like the Independence Day holiday really helped with strengthening my relationship with them. I’m trying to spend more time with them by doing my homework along side my 11-year-old brother, Sebastian, staying longer at the dinner table to talk and watching my 9-month-old “niece” whenever her mom is busy. I also spend some evenings playing Just Dance with Sebastian and spinning around my two-year-old “nephew” in a game we made up called manos y abrazos where I hold him in my hands or arms and spin until we crash onto the couch! I also want to try and cook more to give my host grandma a break and I started on Sunday night by cooking once, which is a small dinner that normally consists of toast and tea, and upgraded it a bit by cooked French toast both savory with cheese, and sweet with cinnamon and powdered sugar to satisfy everyone’s taste bud preferences. Overall I just hope to enhance the relationships I’ve already formed especially so that I can connect with the culture as much as possible.

 

  1. School/Work: Originally I wrote about remaining a good student and also taking advantage of professional opportunities. In terms of school I feel like I have really been putting in a good effort into my classes even though they’re only pass/fail because I want to gain the most out of my abroad experience and I don’t want to develop any bad habits that continue when I return to the states. One thing that I didn’t anticipate before going abroad is just how time consuming it is to try and truly understand each of the texts in Spanish. Although I can read something and get the general idea of it, it’s very difficult to understand each of the words that make up an assignment. For this goal I want to continue talking to my professors, studying and completing my assignments on time, but I also want to add to be purposeful about understanding each word and concept in its entirety. The other part of this is “professional experience,” which I purposefully kept vague because I wasn’t sure about what kind of opportunities that I could take advantage of before I got here. So far I have accomplished this goal by volunteering as an aid to an English class at a local elementary school in a grade 5 and 1 class. My amendment to this goal now that I have a clearer idea of what I’m working with is to create personal connections with the students that I’m teaching and think of creative ways to teach them the language. Last week I got to practice this by leading the 5th graders in an activity where they practiced the vocabulary that they just learned by forming sentences about seasons, weather and activities associated with the seasons. I tried to make the exercise more interactive by bringing in beanies and sunglasses and based off of the item that they chose to wear they formed a sentence about it and afterwards the rest of the class practiced their pronunciation by repeating the sentence. At first the class was nervous about going up to the front and took turns shouting out different classmates’ names until someone went up. But by the end people were going up in pairs and asking to go up a second time to share! I think this is going to be a really important part of my time abroad because it allows me to not only integrate myself into the culture in a new way but to actually contribute to it as well.

 

  1. Adventures: I have now traveled to the north of Chile, the capital and to Argentina so I have met this goal pretty well so far! In a couple of weeks I’ll be traveling to the south with my program for an extended weekend and I’m hopefully going to be traveling for a bigger trip one more time in December. For this goal I just hope to continue to explore with all of the opportunities that I am given and to also take away cultural components of the experiences. In the culture and community class we discussed the difference between being an international student and a tourist and one of the primary differences seemed to be the profundity of the experiences. While you can visit a place for a day, a week or even a month there’s just something different about being immersed in a culture for a more extended period of time. Staying and studying in a different place gives you a sense of responsibility and I hope that in this responsibility that I will not only learn about things in the classroom but that I will also extend my findings to the actual places nearby as well.  For our trip to the south of Chile we have already begun to study about the indigenous population, the Mapuche, that live there through watching a documentary about their marginalization in Latin America and even got to talk to the directos afterwards for a question/answer and general discussion period.  Therefore in my last “adventures” I hope to take away lessons about the culture in order to gain a deeper understanding of Chile.

 

For all of you currently studying abroad or thinking about going abroad in the future I highly recommend a mid-semester goals list. So often we get preoccupied with expectations before traveling and can be left with regrets at the end with what you missed–especially the things that you can’t get from temporary visits.  However this is a great exercise to come up with comprehensive goals from a unique perspective where you are able to have some context with what you’re working with but also have time left to achieve new things.  And, if you’re writing about it on a public forum like I am, you have an audience to keep you accountable and I hope you readers will do just that :)

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Travel, Family and Love

Time September 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These past few weeks abroad have been so packed full of activities! September 17th is Independence Day in Chile, which is one of the biggest events of the year. We basically had the entire week off of school so last Thursday two friends and I took off to Argentina for the weekend! We spent the day in a bus maneuvering through the mountains and when I wasn’t sleeping it was a gorgeous view so the drive was pretty nice. When we arrived that afternoon in Mendoza we realized that we didn’t know exactly where we were going so between a few maps and strangers we managed to find the hostel that we were staying at. The hostel thankfully did not have bed bugs and although there were the occasional pet remnants in the hallway the people were really nice and there was free breakfast each morning! The first evening we explored the streets of Mendoza in search of a seafood restaurant and when we arrived at 7pm we were surprised to discover that they didn’t open until 9pm. So we went to a café as we waited for the restaurant to open and it was well worth the wait. We had two plates full of seafood, paella and wine. It was one of the most filling and probably one of the best meals of my life. The manager really liked us too and she gave us free dessert and even walked us outside to find a taxi once we were all done. The next day we hit the streets again first in search of food. We found an Italian restaurant and again the workers were so nice and let us try this drink that was actually incredibly sweet even though I normally don’t like alcohol very much. Then we went out for ice cream where I had manjar and dulce de leche—two of the sweetest and best Latin American flavors in my opinion so needless to say that was a very successful investment. Then we searched for a walking tour and since I was in charge I got us a little lost so we ended up exploring one of the plazas which thankfully was very beautiful and entertaining. Then we spent a couple of hours in bookstores since the books are cheaper in Argentina and I bought a couple of Spanish children books for my little brother Hayden. The next day we went to an art museum and an art fair. It was really interesting how the art is distinct in Argentina where they use precious gems that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. The people were really eager and kind enough to share stories about their art and experiences as well. Then we spent the evening having another amazing meal where I opted to have seafood and wine again while my friends Karrin and Nicole wanted to try the famous Argentinian meat. At the end of our meal Karrin tried to compliment the waiter on the excellent service and accidentally said he was the best shrimp we’ve ever had instead of best waiter— camarón, camarero—close enough right? Then on Sunday, our last day, we spent the day riding horses to get to a wine tour where we sampled wines and tried and race to see how fast we could go on the way back! The owner was so nice that he even invited us to an asado, or barbeque, complete with meat, salad and dessert. Overall, as your can tell, this was a trip of food but also of people who were so kind and welcoming. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to explore a little bit of another Latin American country while I was here abroad :)

 

I came back to Chile just in time for the Independence Day events and had an absolute blast with the asados and family bonding. I played soccer with my host brothers, read books to my little host cousin and was the “helicopter” to my host nephew holding his hands and lifting him up going around in circles as he said más, más! We also went out to a fair one day with just Nacho and Cata (my host brother and sister-in-law) and their kids and it was so much fun getting to see their babies’ faces light up with all of the colors and rides! Aside from the fair, almost all of the businesses were closed for a few days and I thought that was so great because it gives all of the Chileans time to focus on their families, which is such a prominent part of the culture.

 

Then I spent the weekend showing my friend Joel from my college back at home the city a little bit by walking through the cerros of Valparaiso. Overall I think that this was a great week off where I was able to spend a lot of quality time with friends abroad but also to integrate myself into the Latin American culture. Although I may not be blood related to anyone here, it’s really assuring to feel loved, welcomed and to share experiences with people of all different ages and walks of life <3

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Getting Comfortable

Time August 26th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Now that I’m getting to the end of August I feel like I’ve definitely developed some form of a routine and am feeling right at home here in Chile.  My typical week is filled a random plethora of activities ranging from typical things such as attending classes and going on runs along the beach to just going out to explore new places.  On Mondays I only have one class that’s the social psychology one and I although the walk to school is essentially a twenty minute hill I love that at the end seeing the beautiful view of the lagoon just as the sun is coming up in the morning.  On Tuesdays it’s my longer day where I have four out of my six classes back-to-back starting at 8am in the morning but it’s actually not as bad as I expected.  My more relaxed Mondays allow time for me to catch up on all of my homework and it’s helpful that the 8am class that there is always coffee and tea to generate some energy for the day.  Then I have my traditional dances class which is a great way to wake up as well and although it can be a little awkward sometimes dance class is always fun and I feel like I’ll be ready to practice some of the dances when the independence week events come up in September!  Then I have my sociopolitical history class, which is surprisingly really interesting despite it being a very lecture based course.  I think it’s really fascinating to see how societies come to be and I find it very impressive how Chile specifically came to be as a nation.  Then I have my Spanish class and although the readings are pretty time intensive—looking up half the text’s definitions—I feel like the professor is really fair and just overall wants us to develop a good sense of the language.  And then I have a course where we explore topics of community and culture and this past Wednesday we had our first presentation about different social practices that we observe.  I like that we took the time to take note of the cultural differences that we observe and I found it interesting how different people observed different things and even if they observed the same things that everyone had very specific perspectives of it.  For me some of the things that stood out most were that the culture of family and food were not only prominent but structured differently than in the United States.  In general everything is very centered around the family socially where people have friends but spend the majority of their free time with family and the friends that you do have are essentially considered family.  Another thing is that a lot of the gatherings are centered around food and that people linger around the table for quite a while just to talk even after the food is all gone.  Naturally I still feel the urge to get up once the food has all been served but I’m slowly adjusting to just sitting and taking the time to talk a bit with everyone about our days and really just about life.

I have a long weekend since I don’t have Friday classes so I normally only have the energy to go out once a week because when Chileans go out they stay out until, on average, 4am … This is a bit passed my bedtime but it’s fun trying to keep up with everyone.  On Thursday I went out with my Chilean sister and we went to a karaoke bar where she devoted a song to me since the title was about a Mexican girl so it was really fun to see her go all out singing!  Then we went to a hotel and danced with her friends until about 3:30am and it was really fun since it was just in a group and everyone was just dancing in whatever way they wanted.  They always play a bit of English songs in the bars so that always gets me excited when I actually recognize some lyrics!  And of course there are also lazy days like last weekend with my friend Karrin where we attempted to make cookies and this weekend where we spent the day rained in watching the “Los Juegos de Hambre” (Hunger Games) with my little brother Sebastian.  That night I felt my first big earthquake here in Chile that was about a 6.2 and it lasted for what seemed about 10 seconds.  I was sitting on the couch and grabbed the two-year-old baby near me to make sure he didn’t fall but besides that it wasn’t very scary and we just waited for it all to pass.  Overall it has been a pretty calm couple of weeks but I’m going to start traveling more in the upcoming weeks to get some different experiences of Latin America so I’m very excited for that!

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School Time!

Time August 11th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been in school for two weeks now and that in itself has been quite of a culture shock.  First off, since the Catholica is located in the city of Valparaiso many of the classes are not located on the main campus.  So my first class, Social Psychology Applied, was in Sausalito and let’s just say the journey to get there was a bit longer and more complicated than expected!  Once I got there I was a little intimidated by the class full of Chileans and the professor going through all of the expectations of the semester but the second class made me feel a lot more comfortable.  After brainstorming about the definitions of the fundamental terms for the semester individually we formed groups to create a visual representation of what this meant.  It felt like I was back in high school, which was a project based learning school—thinking of ways to develop my ideas in a more hands on manner.  The rest of my classes were with other international students so there wasn’t as much of a scary factor there.  My Introduction to the Bible class actually only has four people in it and we all turned out to be from the United States so the professor makes the class really personal—posing thought provoking questions and even offering us tea and cookies on one particularly cold morning!  In general there has not been a lot of homework, which is very different from what I’m used to; receiving emails from the professor even before the first class asking us to read the preliminary chapters and ready for discussion is not out of the norm.  I know I say this now and that I will probably be regretting it very soon but I’m just so anxious to start really delving into material and of course applying the Spanish language in a more practical way.

That being said I have been taking advantage of my free time a bit by exploring some of Chile.  Last weekend I went to the beach with some friends and we basked in the sun that has been hiding for what seems like the entire time I’ve been here!  On Sunday, I found a church that I really liked and afterwards the international students all went to the sand dunes, which was actually pretty close to my house and it had a breathtaking view of the city and we stayed there to watch the sunset.  This weekend I went out dancing the first time, which I don’t normally do at all in the U.S. but it turned out to be a lot of fun—although I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the night!  Friday my friend, Karrin, and I explored the cerros  of Valpo with no real agenda so that was fun to see all of the art around the city.  Saturday we spent the day exploring a region a couple hours south of here called Pomaire that is very different from the city life.  It’s a small town where pottery is a very big commodity and we even got to sculpt our own figurines.  Then we ended the day by touring the beautiful home of Pablo Neruda in Isla Negra and with some warm beverages :) Overall it feels as though the adjustment period is coming to an end and that school is about to get real and I hope that exploring will never stop!

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Orientation

Time July 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

IFSA does an incredible job at making sure that we are well prepared during our time here abroad … in fact maybe too good hehe … It’s officially been about a week since I left my home in California to explore this new country that I have never been to before and so far we’ve been receiving a lot of information.  I think it’s good because there’s tons of things that I never really considered or didn’t think too in depth about when it comes to living in a foreign country.  I think I’m familiar with the basics when it comes to safety and Spanish but there’s also a lot of things specific to Chile that were very good to know.  We ended the general orientation with a hike in the morning and finally got to meet our host families that night!  It was pretty shocking entering the city with all the lights and signs and when I met my family I honestly didn’t know what to say.  But they seemed very nice and after being here for a week I feel right at home :)

This week we spent the majority of our time at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso to learn about how classes and everything work and I’m feeling pretty excited about the courses that I’ll be taking.  Most of my courses are for college requirements like government and psychology courses for my major and a religious studies course for a general education requirement, but I’ll also compliment that with more “Chile specific” things such as an advanced written and oral Spanish course, a dance class and a class to explore the community!  Another fun part of this week was touring Valparaiso where we explored the neighborhoods and then the ocean! Overall this first week has been a great to ease our way into the culture and I can’t wait for courses to begin so I can be even more immersed into the Spanish language.

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Introduction and Initial Thoughts

Time July 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My name is Haley Alderete and I am from Chula Vista, CA and I am an incoming junior majoring in Government and Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.  I think that summarizes who I am on paper but I’m hopeful that through this blog that more of my personality will be revealed.  I have had some blog experience when I went abroad for my junior year of high school to Washington D.C. and also this past summer when I went to Singapore.  I love how blogs allow for a more intimate experience in journeying with someone—they provide an adequate depiction of what you’re feeling when you’re traveling around a new place and how those feelings contribute to the person you’re becoming.

So a little part about who I am right now—one thing is that I love to plan.  I love organizing everything, making lists and making appropriate actions in preparation for things.  However, going abroad is most definitely not like making a plan of attack to get through finals week.  Sure I could try and pack accordingly, make the appropriate arrangements and read up about Chile as much as I can but I find that exploring a new culture and really just creating a new life in a new place you can’t quite plan for everything.  While this may sound like a nightmare for the Type A personality I feel quite okay and in fact quite ecstatic with the uncertainty.  I love that I have the opportunity to go explore a new part of the world.  I love that I get to put my Spanish skills to the test.  And I love going in with a clean slate of expectations because really how can I really be able to prepare myself for this?  Can’t wait to get immersed in a new culture, to meet my host family and new friends, and the lessons that are to be learned in the next five months!

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