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Coming Back Home

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

This might be the blog post I have dreaded the most. When hearing “final blog post,” one would think it should wrap up my whole semester abroad nice and neatly with a cute little bow, probably with some important moral of the story or reflection about how much I’ve grown this semester.

However, I can’t quite do that. Not only is it too much of a cliché, but I am also realizing that my experience abroad cannot all be summed up in a few hundred words, written about with a note of finality that could somehow mean I’m done living it.

A lot of my friends in my program have mentioned how much they’ve changed and discovered who they are. I am not sure I really had that experience. Sophomore year at Georgetown was an important, challenging and transformative experience—and I think I left it already knowing who I am and the person I want to be. So what do I take away from my experience? While they can’t really sum up my whole experience abroad, here are a few things that really impacted me:

  1. My host family: I’ve touched on this in past blog posts, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Living with a host family has helped me to improve my Spanish so much more than I believe I could have if I lived in a student residence with other international students. I can’t begin to explain how comforting it was to have a warm, home-cooked meal to come home to each day at the end of my classes. Having a “mom” abroad to hug, vent to, and share my day with is what really made me feel at home in Santiago.
  1. Improving my Spanish: This comes from living with a host family to taking all classes in Spanish with Chilean students. It was difficult at first—especially taking an economics class in Spanish with different symbols and formulas, but it was worth it. It was a learning curve—I didn’t feel like I started to notice myself significantly advancing until about two months in.
  1. My classes- Two classes I took were a couple of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken. I took a class called “Economic Development in Latin America” and “The Foreign Policy of Latin American Countries.” In the States, the only time we ever learn about Latin America is when we talk about the Mayas, Aztecs, or Incas, great empires, and important to study, yes. However, I’ve never really studied contemporary Latin America, especially from a non-U.S. perspective. While there are definitely aspects of my country that I am extremely proud of, I’ve learned just why so many non-Americans are angry about actions of our past. Learning of the not-so-stellar ways that the U.S. has involved itself in other elections has been humbling.
  1. Learning about the dictatorship: I don’t believe that I discussed this in any earlier blog posts, and perhaps I should have. Chile experienced a dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet from 1973-1990. I can’t even begin to describe how awful it was or the ways that it still permeates society today. Before I came to Chile, I knew nothing about it, so I’m glad that I am at least a little less ignorant about it now. While I don’t want to go into details for personal privacy’s sake, my host family was actively involved in the resistance. Unfortunately, many people, usually political opposition like socialists, were tortured, exiled, and executed. While it was sad to learn about, learning about it helped me to better understand Chile as a country.

I am back now at home in Boston. I miss Chile, especially my host family. But it is also really nice to be home. I don’t, however, feel like this is the end of my abroad experience. Maybe what I can take away is that I opened my mind more this past semester. And I plan on continuing doing that, traveling, and learning through the stories of more people I meet as time goes on.

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My Chilean Family

Time December 13th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

I am at the airport about to head back home to the States. I just wanted to give a shout out to my host family because they are what made this whole experience so special. I definitely recommend living with a host family for anyone who goes abroad!

 

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Volunteering with Domingo Savio

Time December 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

As my time is coming to a close here in Chile, I have been thinking about the experiences that have really come to shape my time abroad. Without a doubt, volunteering once a week at Doming Savio, an after-school boys and girls club, has been one of my most meaningful endeavors. Doming Savio is located in Santiago, but on the outskirts, far away from the upper-middle class areas of Providencia, Santiago-Centro and Las Condes. The children of Domingo Savio see it as their second home, a safe place to go so that their often single mothers can work grueling hours to make ends meet.

Silvana and Isa from IFSA-Butler really encouraged us to take part in some form of volunteering activity. I didn’t know much about the organization when I signed up, but I was eager to continue my work with kids, a big part of my life at Georgetown with the D.C. Schools Project.

Starting about mid-August, three other girls from my program and I headed to Domingo Savio to meet the runners of the organization and the kids. That first day I was amazed to discover that every child that walked through the door, upon seeing us, politely greeted us with a kiss upon the cheek and an, “Hola Tía” or “Hello Aunt.” What makes Domingo Savio so special is that Tío Jorge, Tía Olga, and the other volunteers/ teachers make it their mission to instill good values within the kids, from washing their dishes, to treating their elders with respect. Everyone is treated as family, and the organization provides as much as possible to the low-income families, such as supplies of toilet paper or breakfast kits.

Anyway, I began my role as Tía. Although I was treated with total respect, I felt completely useless. As we were new to volunteering, we were unfamiliar with the routine, and where materials were kept, so often the kids would be the ones directing us. Our main tasks consisted of helping out with homework, from math to English, then playing games and assisting with crafts or cooking workshops, and finally preparing “once, “or their 6pm snack. I’d say my awkwardness, at least, was in large part due to my lack of a good grasp on the language. Before arriving in Santiago, I thought my Spanish was pretty good. However, coming here, being forced to think in Spanish constantly, and having the kids speaking rapid-fire Spanish in the typical Chilean fashion, with Chilean slang thrown in, I was pretty lost. Consequently, I felt like I was more of a liability than an asset when I first began volunteering.

Slowly, that all began to change. While yes, I’m sure that as my Spanish improved, my usefulness increased; however, a huge part of how I began to feel more at ease and more a part of the Domingo Savio community is all due to the kids. They treated us tías with the expected respect, but they also joked with me in unexpected ways. One day, as I was helping some kids with homework, Felipe* asked me how to say “fat” in English. Rather naively, I told him, and he then proceeded to taunt his friend Nicolás: “You’re fat, you’re fat!” Nicolás, rather than be upset, turned to me with a grin and shrugged, “He’s calling me fat, but we are both obviously fat”. I couldn’t hold my laughter, and soon we were all laughing together. The great thing about Domingo Savio, like I said, is more like home to the kids than school. It’s supposed to be both a break from school and a safe space at the same time. While perhaps this interaction would be considered inappropriate in a U.S. school, it was just one of many jokes that were perfectly acceptable at Domingo Savio, and what makes it so fun for the kids.

Finally, we had a routine. I didn’t really feel like I was volunteering in the sense that it was an obligation. I looked forward to laughing with the kids, giving lessons in English, helping with multiplication tables, dancing Zumba together, and preparing cheese sandwiches each Thursday. But what really made this activity so impactful in my overall experience abroad is that I got to see and be a part of another Santiago. I learned about another Santiago that one cannot easily see in the la Universidad Católica or Costanera Center. Chile is considered one of the most advanced and developed countries in the region, but just like in any other city, we can’t forget that there are families struggling as well. It was inspiring to see families work so hard to provide their children with as much opportunity as possible. Domingo Savio has strict requirements for the families in order for their children to remain in the club: incentives such as working the hours that the children are cared for. Everyone, from the parents, to the Tíos and Tías, to the children, contribute to the sense of community. I felt more involved, like a part of the city, due to this experience with Domingo Savio.

Last week I said my goodbye to Domingo Savio and everyone who is a part of it. I am not sad because I know that the kids are in extremely capable and caring hands. I am mostly just thinking how cool it was that I got to be a part of it all.

 

*Names have been changed

 

 

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San Pedro de Atacama…More than Just a Desert

Time November 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

A few weeks ago, IFSA-Butler took us on the most amazing trip–to San Pedro de Atacama in the North of Chile–a desert. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. If you come to Chile, hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have this be the trip that IFSA takes you on. Otherwise, definitely go on your own. Here are some photos because words just don’t do it justice:

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Food Update: Chilean Must-Have’s

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

When you come to Chile, there are typical Chilean dishes that you absolutely have to try. While I haven’t covered all of the bases yet, here is a list of some of my favorites so far:

(We can skip empanadas because that’s pretty much a given!)

Pisco Sour- One of my favorite alcoholic beverages. (PSA: The drinking age is 18 in Chile but remember to drink responsibly). It’s considered the national drink and is made of pisco, a type of liquor, citrus, and sugar. If you love sweet tarts, you’ll love this.

Pastel de choclo- Think chicken pot pie, but way better! Inside there is beef, chicken, and vegetables, but the top is covered with a sweet and scrumptious corn paste.

Sopapillas- Little fried pillows of fried dough, these savory little treats are great for an afternoon pick me up while on the San Joaquin campus of U Católica. At only 150 pesos, they cost less than 25 cents! My friends love these ones. While I like them, I prefer those of my host family’s nanny. Homemade is almost always better.

Mote con huesillo- A light dessert, this dish is sold all around Plaza de Armas, but it is easy to find a little cart that sells them all over Chile. It is a sweet drink filled with wheat grains and rehydrated dried peaches.

Completos- One of my favorites! It’s like a hot dog, but way better. (See my previous blogs for more detail). My favorite is the Italiano, with green avocado, red tomato, and white mayonnaise. They call it Italiano because those colors are the same as the Italian flag. Clever, huh?

More to come!

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What’s It Like Living with a Host Family?

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

I’ve met a lot of foreign exchange students here in Santiago—from all over Europe, Latin American, and the United States.What I’ve come to notice is that my study abroad experience is totally different from theirs in one major respect: living with a host family. While all ten of us IFSA-Butler program students are staying with Chilean families, I’ve come to realize that we’re living an unique experience that most other students I’ve met do not get to enjoy. Living with a Chilean host family has come to shape my experience abroad, and I decided that it is an important aspect for me to share for any students who are considering studying abroad with IFSA-Butler.

As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, moving in with a new family was an adjustment for me. For the first couple of weeks I struggled with the loss of my newfound freedom and independence that I found in college. However, I have grown to love it more and more each day. Perhaps this is what inspired today’s blog post: last night I had a dream that I was going to be moving from my host family’s apartment into a student-housing residence for the rest of my duration in Chile. I found myself panicking. I didn’t want to move—I realized I would miss my Chilean host mom, home-cooked meals, and playing with our dog, Toldito. Most importantly I feared no longer having a family to come home to at the end of the day to talk to in Spanish. The next day, as I am writing this blog post, I now know that it was all a dream (or nightmare). But it made me really recognize the fact that I now truly feel at home here.

A few weeks ago, my mom (biological, not host mom) came to visit me in Santiago. I showed her all the touristy sights, the beautiful view at the top of Cerro San Cristobal; we ate amazing food, and even toured some wineries on a weekend getaway in Santa Cruz. At the end of the week, I asked my mom what her favorite part of Santiago was. I guess I should not have been so surprised to learn that it was meeting my host family. My host mom Pili was very excited to invite over my real mom for lunch, and as soon as my mom stepped through the door, Pili excitedly told her to “Make herself at home, my dear.” While Pili speaks some English, it was my job to translate between English and Spanish for my mother and host family. While it was definitely chaotic and confusing, it was also very fun and amusing. My host dad, Ivan, would explain a complicated history about Chilean exports in Spanish and then excitedly direct me to translate for my mother. There were plenty of us around the table sharing empanadas—six of us including my host parents, my host brother and his girlfriend, and my mom and I. Every single one of them was so kind to my mom, and the lunch that my host mom prepared, as usual, was delicious. Discussing it later, my mom and I compared my experience with my brother’s homestay in Spain. A few years ago, while visiting my brother in Grenada, my mom and I had lunch at his host mother’s house; the difference was, we concluded, that she was not as warm and friendly as my host mom is. Unfortunately, my brother’s host mother was not so interested in forming a relationship with the exchange students she hosted. I am so lucky then, to have a Chilean host mom that truly wanted to bond with my real mom. Later that week, my mother and Pili went out to lunch by themselves, though neither of them knows much of each other’s language. I found it adorable and I was so proud of the both of them. My positive home stay experience can be explained by many factors: the general warmth of Chilean culture, the great job that IFSA did in finding us host families, and the fact that I was just lucky enough to be placed with special people.

No matter what the explanation is, I have been showered with kindness and affection. Whether it’s my host brother packing me lunches when my host mom’s away, Ivan introducing me to his friends as his “hija gringa,” or my host mom giving me a hug when I come home from class, I have been accepted into a family that make me feel like their home is my home. I’ll admit that there are both pros and cons when deciding between doing a homestay and living with other students, but the choice I made is one of my favorite parts of studying in Chile.

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Beautiful Views in Santa Cruz

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

Two weeks ago, my mom came to visit me in Santiago! (More on that in the following blog post). She wanted to take a weekend trip to a different part of the Chile, and we ended up in wine country–Santa Cruz. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that’s pretty close  to Santiago (3 hours) and relatively inexpensive (about $14 both ways by bus!), I would definitely recommend Santa Cruz. The calm little town is a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Santiago. Exploring the town center and going on a couple of wine tours were the highlights of the trip, and it is an adorable placeo to relax. I 10/10 recommend. 

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Anticuchos, Terremotos y Cueca

Time September 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

Lively. That’s how I’d describe the vibes of Santiago this past week and a half. On Monday, September 18th, was Chile’s Fiestas Patrias, or day of independence. Even though I was out of the country for the official day of celebration, (I was in Lima, Peru to meet up with my dad who happened to be there on business) I definitely did not miss out. What I’ve learned is that unlike our July 4th, Chile’s celebration of independence lasts more than a couple of days. And I love this idea! The more days the merrier, right? You can always use an excuse to eat delicious food, spend time with family and friends, and fill the streets with festive music.

Last weekend, on the 10th of September, I went with a few friends from my IFSA-Butler program to a fonda. What’s a fonda? According to my host brother, it is essentially a type of old-style fair that dates back to the earliest celebrations of Chile’s independence in the early 1800’s. There was so much food there I couldn’t believe it. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit how much food I ate. I first bought myself an anticucho, which is basically a kabob: a skewer of beef, sausage, and vegetables. Later, my friends and I bought some cheese empanadas and terremotos. Chile is infamous for its terremotos. Literally meaning “earthquake,” it is an iconic alcoholic beverage made with pipeño, a sweet wine, and pineapple ice cream. The drinking age here is 18, by the way, so it is nice to be legal. (That being said, obviously drink responsibly). The funny part is that it’s called a terremoto because if you drink it too fast, you will get up and feel like there’s an earthquake due to the effect of the alcohol. Needless to say, we all drank responsibly. It was fun to take part in this Chilean tradition, laughing with friends and being surrounded by excited Chileans! Read More »

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A Foodie in Paradise

Time September 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

img_7532 Manjar Crepes

Manjar. Also known as Chile’s Nutella. You know how they call the food of the Greek gods “ambrosia’? Well I’m thinking that what they really meant by ambrosia was manjar. Some of you may know manjar as “dulce de leche”, but for those of you poor souls who’ve never been lucky enough to try it, it’s a caramel-like spread made of condensed milk and sugar.

I have no shame in admitting it; food brings me an abnormal amount of happiness. Especially sweets. My sweet tooth is out of control, and Santiago has been living up to its expectations. One of the reasons why I was so excited to come to Chile was to try a new type of cuisine that I’ve never had before. For whatever reason, despite all of the Argentinian, Peruvian, and Brazilian restaurants, I’ve never found a Chilean restaurant in Boston. Now that I’m here eating Chilean food every day, I can honestly say that my inner foodie is content. Before coming here, I had heard that Chile is not known for their food—nothing compared to renowned Peruvian cuisine. While Chileans eschew spiciness, the plethora of other flavors makes up for it. Read More »

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Lista para Esquiar: Skiing in Chile!

Time September 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

img_7463 Here I am, puffy like the Michelin Man, on top of Valle Nevado in Chile! img_7469 Surrounded by unbelievably beautiful mountains
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First Two Weeks in My New Home

Time August 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

I have been putting off this blog post for a couple of days now. I couldn’t decide if I should write about the tough transition and the homesickness or about some of the experiences that have been truly wonderful. And I guess I am deciding to write about both. Because while I am writing these blog posts for my family and friends I am also writing it for prospective study abroad students and I think it will be useful to read about both sides of my arrival. Read More »

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Saying Goodbye to Home

Time July 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

One day left. One day left until I leave for Santiago, my new home for the next five months. When I think about that fact, a flurry of emotions passes through my gut. I am, as I’ve repeated a thousand times to friends, family, and acquaintances, excited. I am curious to see what Chilean culture is like and I am exhilarated by the opportunity to speak Spanish every day. But I am also nervous. There is a part of my heart that seems to drop down to my stomach and I’ll be honest with you, it’s not the most comfortable feeling. Those of my friends and family who know me well know I am apt to overthink and reflect on my emotions a lot, for better or for worse.  Well, reflecting on why I feel so anxious to leave, I think it has more to do with what I am leaving behind than what I am about to endeavor on. I love my city of Boston, from the North End to Post Office Square Park. I love being able to see my parents every day and hang out with my high school friends. I am going to miss that New England autumn, where the leaves transform into a crescendo of bright oranges, reds, ambers and browns. I will miss being around people who don’t give it a second thought when I say “wicked.” I will miss the people I love. Read More »

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