First Two Weeks in My New Home
It has been almost two weeks since I’ve arrived in Santiago, but it feels like it’s been at least a month. It’s crazy because classes haven’t even started yet, but I’ve visited so many sites with the IFSA-Butler Program and my host family. When I first arrived in Santiago, while I was excited to be there, I was exhausted. I was a little disappointed in myself for not having the energy or the desire to run around the city and explore every hidden corner. My brain felt fried from having to keep up with all the Spanish all day. Chileans also speak very quickly and tend to drop the end sounds of their words, which was a bit difficult at first. In short, it was frustrating. But I am also realizing that that is entirely normal. And the lethargy passed after about a week. By now I’ve been amazed by the breathtaking views of the snow-capped Andes (see photo!), tempted by the restaurants of Barrio Bellavista, and warmed by how quickly and easily my host family has adopted me as one of their own.
The homesickness is still with me, but less so every day. I miss my family, my friends, my boyfriend (pololo!), Georgetown cupcakes, my favorite restaurants in Boston,: everything. But I’ve also realized that I 100% agree with what my dad once said to me about homesickness. Homesickness is good. It means that one is fortunate. It means that I have a home, family, and friends to miss in the first place. It is a luxury that not everyone has and I am learning to appreciate it for what it is.
I also miss one thing in particular: my independence. This is a warning to anyone thinking about study abroad: if you want to be able to set your own schedule, do as you please, and only have to think about yourself, do not do a homestay. However, this is what I wanted and I would not do it differently if I could make the decision again. That being said, it is an adjustment. Especially after two years of living on my own at college, eating whenever and whatever I want, making my own plans on the weekend, and having alone time whenever I pleased, it is a bit of a transition. My host mother has made plans for me constantly—a tango class, the opera, a day trip to Viña del Mar, and up next: a three day trip to the south of Chile. I am learning to go with the flow. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it is very fun and I am getting to spend a lot of time with Pili, or as I already call my host mom, Mamá.
I realize that so far, I sound like I’m not having fun, so I need to change the tone. There are countless reasons why I already love Santiago. My host family, as I’ve already mentioned, is extremely welcoming and loving. My host mother gives lots of hugs, which as an avid hugger myself, I love. Isa and Silvana from the IFSA-Butler Program Office have been amazing and take care of us gringos extremely well. I like our group a lot. Just last Monday some of us climbed Cerro San Cristobal (which translates to hill but if you asks me it’s something in between a hill and a mountain). The hike was exhausting but beautiful and exhilarating, and at the top was a ginormous statue of La Virgen, Mother of Christ and a picturesque view (see photo of me with some of the others in the IFSA Group).
This city is perfect for dog lovers; the streets are full of strays. While it is heartbreaking to see them without homes, the dogs actually seem pretty happy to me. They are very friendly and calm, and many people pet them. Chileans take good care of the street dogs; it is quite common to see a little girl tossing un perrito a corner of her empanada. Seeing all of the strays is different from my experiences in the U.S., and it is very interesting to see.
One of my favorite experiences was two nights ago. My host mom taught me how to make gnocchi by hand! (See photo.) My friends back at school will laugh when they read this because I am notoriously bad at cooking. But I had fun rolling out the little potato dumplings, and as Pili says, “Ten confianza en la cocina!” (“Have confidence in the kitchen!”) I can’t wait to show my friends my #lit cooking skills when I return. That’s all for now!