Valparaiso to Santiago
My adventures with IFSA Butler began with an unusually odd start. In early February, I originally decided that I would choose Valparaiso as my destination. I didn’t put much thought into my decision because I didn’t want to deal with the pangs of choosing the ‘wrong’ location because I had been told so many times that any study abroad location would be great.
While preparing for Valparaiso and quick google searches about the area and what to expect- I became super anxious about staying in a beach town with a population of about 600,000. Originally, I’m from the suburbs of Washington, DC so I thought that I would be okay staying in a smaller town. However the more I thought about my decision that would impact my following five months abroad- I began to reconsider and second guess my impulsive choice.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to switch to Santiago (one of the final choices among a plethora of other opportunities offered that would allow me to stay in Valparaiso). I took it and jumped on it- advising my Chilean advisor of my decision (he might be coming to Santiago later on in the year- definitely an encouraging factor). He congratulated me along with Jennifer, who had been email corresponding with me about my growing fears and doubts.
Fast forward (like 3 days lol) and here I am on a plane headed to Houston, TX for my connecting flight to Santiago, Chile where I’ve been told I’ll be embarking on the journey of a lifetime. I’m actually typing this mid air, courtesy airplane mode and Apples Notes feature.
But even after reading about orientation, scrolling through the Study Abroad guide a couple hundred times and texting my alumni abroad friends, I’m not sure what to expect for myself. And it’s really scary. If it’s anything like my recent adventures to Haiti or Cuba or my fellowship last summer to Alabama, I know that they’ll be more good than difficult and I’ll look back in January- telling my friends and family stories about people and places they haven’t experienced and don’t care much about.
Maybe now is a good time to set goals for myself, both personal and academic. Academic to come later- not tryna think about books right now.
- Come to a loving embrace and acceptance of my blackness. Whatever that means for me.
- Be free as possible, just like when I was riding on the back of a tap tap going to Labadee.
- Feel hard. Don’t sell my self short of feeling any emotions, whether it’s crying out of hopelessness and frustration or laughing until my stomach hurts.
- Be nice and genuine. As an introvert, I struggle maintaining my best self when I spend extended periods of time with people. I think part of that comes from me not being open and honest about what I need, which is daily alone time. Part of it also comes from my selfishness, growing up as an only child has left me with a very self centered world view.
Anyway- to any future abroad students still in the difficult stage of picking a location and program, take your time! As one of my friends Jasmine told me “Being abroad is a perfect time to be ‘uncomfortable'”