I’ve now crossed the halfway point of my time in Chile! While it’s hard to believe I’ve been here for nearly three months, it’s even more difficult to grasp that the days have already begun to dwindle. That statement might be a bit dramatic seeing as how I’m only halfway done, but if the second half of the semester is anything like the first the days will continue to fly by. The next few weeks also brings a lot of excitement: IFSA is taking us to San Pedro de Atacama, a desert in the north of Chile which may be the dryest in the world (as my parents said when I told them this fact, can one desert really be that much dryer than another?!) and a friend and I are planning a trip to Easter Island. Of course, classes will also continue with tests, papers, presentations, and final assessments. The seasons are also changing; while my Facebook timeline is filled with excitement over fall, we’re enjoying the allergies and increasing daylight of spring!As I’ve been doing a lot over the last few weeks, I want to take some time to reflect on my time in Chile so far. Now that I’m *officially* halfway through I’ve benefited from being able to create more or less of a routine. I have less homework than I normally would at Carleton, but having more free time has allowed me to be able to put more effort into the readings and assignments I do have, as well as pursue other interests. I’m participating in a program called Tandem at la Católica, where I was paired with a Chilean student in order to practice my conversational Spanish while helping my partner improve their English. I was also fortunate enough to find work as a monitor for la Católica’s Talk and Lunch program, where Chileans come to practice their conversational English in preparation for the English language test they must take. I unfortunately haven’t been able to do volunteer work yet but Isa, the head of our program, has continued to search for opportunities I’m interested in, which I really appreciate!
I’ve also found that I’m tired pretty much all of the time. I’m sleeping much more than I normally do, eating well, and exercising, but I think the strain of constantly listening to and speaking in Spanish might be catching up with me. There’s a general feeling of being a bit burnt out among some of us in the IFSA program, as classes that seemed interesting have gotten dull, assignments pile up, and the stresses of life in another language mount. It’s been valuable to see my Spanish improving, but it can be difficult to keep focused on homework filled with language and words you don’t quite grasp. This definitely depends on the subject; naturally reading for my literature and history classes doesn’t present too much of a strain, but some of the topics in my psychology class have presented more of a challenge.
The struggle with machismo, or the dominant status men have in Chilean culture, has also been an unfortunate reality. I don’t want to criticize this aspect of life, or look down on it, but it’s hard to grin and bear things sometimes. I can “understand” some of the reasons people make sexist and homophobic comments, like the blatantly chauvinistic examples and comments given by our Spanish grammar teacher in class, but it’s harder to ignore the laughter that comes from my program classmates at these “jokes”. The last thing I want to do is preach that my perspective is better than someone else’s, and I certainly don’t see Chilean culture as behind that of the USA; they’re just different, which make sense due to their distinctive histories and developments. Machismo is definitely a way of life here, and like it or not, a central part of my experience in Chile. Flama, a YouTube channel that creates fantastic videos about the Spanish-speaking world, just produced a video that does a good job of humorously explaining some of the intricacies of Chilean culture, linked here: click me! While we’re on the subject of YouTube videos that talk about Chile, Geography Now! also made a video about Chile, linked here: click me!
To end this post on a positive note, I’m still very happy to be here. When I was deciding on study abroad programs I chose a semester-length trip in order to be able to really adjust to life in another country, as opposed to one of the trimester-length programs offered by my school. I also wanted to be able to meet people outside of the “Carleton bubble” and have a more genuine study abroad experience where I would have a variety of new experiences with new people in a new place. Looking back on this decision I’m definitely glad I chose a semester abroad; if I was leaving in two weeks I wouldn’t feel nearly as confident that I could do everything I still want to do. While the last two and a half months have had their highs and lows, I’m optimistic for the next two and a half…and for all the sopaipillas I still have the opportunity to indulge in!