9 days and counting till I return home to the United States. I guess time really does fly by when you’re having fun. But to be honest, saying goodbye to Santiago is bittersweet.
Things I will miss:
-Host family—I just used the word ‘host’ for clarification, but I truly feel that Monica (mother) and Antonia (sister) are my family. They have treated me like a daughter and sister, respectively, since day one and we have only grown closer with time. When I am sad, they are there to comfort me. When I am sick, they are there to nurse me back to health. We have learned a lot from each other as well. Telling them about my Indian culture has opened their eyes to the diversity of the world, and they have taught me a lot about the dynamics of Chilean families and the overall culture of this country.
-Friends—The 16 students in my study abroad Chile program are now some of my best friends, and this experience would not have been as incredible without them. We are all characters, with our own little quirks that define us, and when I had to say goodbye to some of them last Thursday, I ended up crying almost the whole evening… it was pathetic, I know. I am also going to miss my Chilean friends. Without them, I would only have experienced Santiago as a gringa, rather than a Chilean. They taught me all the chilenismos, and they showed me the nightlife of the city, and to them I will be forever grateful.
-Chilean culture— For example, I went to a club last night for my friend’s party, and when I left the place at 5am, it was still packed. That would never happen in Chicago! People here stay out sooo late, and in turn, they often wake up late the next morning. Shops will be closed on Sundays, and if they are open, they won’ t open until later in the day. It is a very relaxed lifestyle, and this is something that I will miss when I go back to the “hustle and bustle” of the United States.
-Speaking Spanish— There is no way my Spanish could not have improved when I was living with a host family that doesn’t speak English. I am afraid that I will lose my speaking skills when I am out of this environment, but I am determined to practice Spanish in the United States. Maybe I can make friends with exchange students and show them my culture!
But I am still happy to go back. I have missed my family and friends very much, and I am looking forward to seeing them. I am also looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life. Going into my senior year, I need to seriously start thinking about my future after college, and I am excited to explore my options. I will also be happy to take a shower for more than 10 minutes, to watch American television, to drive, to eat healthy, home-cooked food, and to have central heating. It’s not that I am complaining about these relatively insignificant things, but the last two are especially important. In general, I feel that Chilean food is not the healthiest. A lot of the food is fried (i.e. most of the empanadas) or contains large quantities of salt and/or mayonnaise. Chile is also the second biggest consumer of bread in the world, as “pancito” is eaten at almost every meal. Additionally, it is now winter in Chile, and there is no central heating in the majority of places. That said, even though it is nowhere near as cold as Chicago, it feels just as cold because you can never really get warm, even when you are inside.
Not everyone gets to study spanish in Chile, and for that I am more than appreciative. Santiago is a very complex city. There are just as many supporters of Pinochet as there are of Allende. And in going from one comuna to the next, the different in economic status of the residents is unbelievable. Needless to say there is a high rate of crime— several of my friends have gotten mugged or had valuable items stealthily stolen from them. Basically, I have now seen both sides of Santiago, from the beautiful Andes mountains in the distance to the homeless people protesting along the banks of the Rio Mapocho. In conclusion, this experience has taught me more than I could have ever learned from any book, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had this opportunity to live in Santiago.