Mi casa es su casa
Classes are in full swing and after three months of vacationing I am being painfully forced back into the schedule of a full time student, homework and all. I’m settling into my routine here in Valpo and that comes with feeling more comfortable in my new home. My host mother and I get along swimmingly and it feels more like we are roommates than mother and son (albeit a roommate who cooks all my meals). While I am overjoyed with my housing placement, it is not the same for all of my fellow gringos.
Our housing assignments play a huge role in our study abroad experience, and we have relatively little input. Before arriving in Valpo, we each received a form to fill out whether we smoke, the foods we don’t eat, if we like pets, if we want little kids in the house, which city we’d prefer, etc… And while IFSA did a great job of pairing us with like-minded families, not everything can be accommodated for.
The biggest difference is most likely the city assignment. Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are two cities directly next to one another, with half of us gringos in Valpo, and the other half in Viña. However, it can take half an hour to an hour to get from one end of Valpo to the other end of Viña. Add in the fact that all the best clubs and bars are in Valpo (friendly reminder that the drinking age is 18) means that more often than not the Viña gringos opt out of social events due to the long trek there and not wanting to trek back home late at night. For the most part, we were placed in clumps of two or three students which affect who we end up spending the most time with either walking to class or just relaxing in a cafe to do homework. My point is, many of the social dynamics of our semester were predetermined based on who was placed where.
Apart from simply location, the different housing assignments differ in several other ways. Some have fleas in the beds, and others take their gringo to Peru and Argentina for vacation. Some do not provide meals three times a day, and some have nannies that do all the cooking and cleaning. Some do not allow fellow gringos to spend the night, and others fully support significant others coming from the US and staying in their house. Bottom line is, the housing situation plays an enormously large role in one’s study abroad experience. However, I will reiterate that IFSA-Butler does an impressive job of matching students with families (and I’m not just saying that because I’m being paid to write this blog), but some families are better equipped to house students than others.
While you, my avid readers (hi mom), either know me quite well or are getting to know me through my writing, do not in fact know the faces of my fellow gringos or the Chileans I am meeting each day that compose a large part of my study abroad experience. So, in full HONY fashion, I will be interviewing and photographing one fellow gringo and one Chilean for each post. This time it’s the Texan rascal, Jennie (first quote), and my host mama Pamela. Photos to come once I figure out how to add photos within a post!
“I’ve always had a sense of wonderlust. I love being lost. I love meeting new people. I love the challenge of seeing something that I’m unfamiliar with and then engaging with it and learning about it, especially the people. And then slowly developing the sense of ownership over a place or a community. When I say sense of ownership I don’t mean like I own this place. But, like a sense of ‘I belong here.’ Think about when your mom comes to town and you want to show her this. It’s that sense of, ‘this is where I sit every night and this is where I put my shoes on in the morning,’ whatever it is. The places where you feel home, you know?”
“In the beginning I didn’t really know what to do. When I was a girl, I thought a lot about history and I liked history. After that when puppetry was presented to me I loved it and I knew what I wanted to do. Why do I like it? Because in the space of working with puppets, which is playing with plastic art, the action, the movement as well, the narration, there is also a search in dramatic art. You get the sense that you’re in a creative space within the art that combines many disciplines. They’re disciplines that I enjoy working with. For this reason it’s my favorite. For a bit I studied dance but it didn’t stick with me as much as puppetry did. But I believe that everything that you end up not studying acts as a tool to complete your objective, to develop more what you enjoy.”