I’m not sure I’ll be able to give this all the justice it deserves in this post, but I want to share some of my concluding thoughts as tomorrow ends my time abroad in Chile.
Over the past four and a half months, I think I’ve learned more about myself and about others than I have in many, many years combined.
I never understood why a study abroad could be so powerful until this past week. What I went through was intense. There are no other words to describe it. I left the USA, knowing no one here in Santiago; I went in praying that I’d find some good friends and that I wouldn’t be completely alone in my journey.
I didn’t know where I’d be living, nor with whom I would live, until I arrived. I found out who my host family was two days before I moved in with them. Talk about scary. I didn’t know if we’d actually be compatible because I’d not had the opportunity to get to know them before I moved in.
I signed up for classes, even when I knew I would be the only exchange student in the room. Making friends in another country is hard. And not to mention, Chileans are very timid, so I was going to have to put forth a lot of effort in order to actually get to know the students in my classes.
I didn’t know what food I was ordering from restaurants for the first month, but I ordered option 1, 2, or 3 anyway knowing that I would be happy to try something new. Sure I thought I ordered salmon when in reality I ordered meatloaf, but I was grateful for every chilean food I tried.
There were times I had no idea how to express myself in spanish like I could in english. In fact, I felt like I was a new me here. I was more reserved simply because I didn’t know how to be an extrovert here. But I found a new sense of calm in just sitting back and listening.
I didn’t know my way around town without my citymaps2go application. I was literally removed from everything familiar in my life and dropped in the middle of a place that I knew nothing about.
But these moments of intensity and vulnerability are what helped me to grow so much. Every day I had to do at least one thing that was out of my comfort zone. I can only hope I will continue to push myself like I did here once I return to my life back in the U.S.A.
Just like I experienced all these new things when I arrived in Chile, I know I will be re-experiencing many of these things in the States. I’m going to have to make a conscious effort not to greet people with a kiss. I’m going to need to remember that personal space is valued in the U.S. I need to remember that people won’t want to hear every detail of my life here, even when I want to share it all.
I will need to have the confidence to get behind the wheel of a car again. I need to return to my life as an athlete. I need to sit behind the piano on my bench and tickle the ivories for a bit to re-discover my love of music.
There will be days when I’ll need to sit alone and absorb what I went through here in Chile and when I will need to call my friends who were here with me. Because no one will truly understand what happened here like they do.
To conclude this post, I would really and truly like to give the utmost appreciation to everyone who has made this semester possible and so great.
To my parents: Thank you for supporting me in my decision to pick up my life and move to South America for about 5 months. I will never be able to thank you enough for helping this dream to become a reality.
To my friends in the U.S.: Thank you for not forgetting me. Every time I got a message from one of you all, I felt the love I needed in order to realize that it was okay to leave for a few months and I found comfort in knowing that you would be here for me when I get home.
To my CIEE friends: Wow. Thank you for being there every last step of the way on this roller coaster of an adventure. We all came from such different backgrounds, but I know that you all are the reason that made this adjustment so much easier. I can’t wait to see the great things you do in your lives, because y’all are pretty bacán (;
A mis amigos chilenos: Gracias por aceptarme en su cultura y en sus vidas. Nuestras conversaciones me ayudaron entender que significa para ser chileno y más que significa para ser americano. Su paciencia era increíble. Entiendo que puede ser difícil para escuchar a una extranjera todos los días pero uds. son la razón por la que lo hace tan difícil para salir. Un día juntamos una vez más. Nos vemos amigos.
A mi familia chilena: Gracias por permitirme vivir como una hija en su familia. Nuestros días juntos eran todo que podría pedir. Gracias por la comida, mi ropa limpia, un dormitorio caliente, y todo de su amor. Le echo de menos.
Well Santiago, I guess this is goodbye. I hope to be back soon to see you. You will forever be on my mind and in my heart. I’ve left a part of myself in this city and you have left a part of your city in me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.