The last three months have been some of the most chaotic of my life.
I was supposed to study abroad in Ecuador this semester, leave in late August or early September and go with a group of about 10 other Linfield students. But instead, here I sit in my bed in central Chile eating yet another empanada that I probably don’t need.
Three of us got an email from Profesora Sandra Elena Terra in May asking if we wanted to embark on the first ever Linfield study abroad program to Chile, and Melvin “Mel” van Huck and myself accepted without hesitation. After a summer of scrambling to apply for my visa and then flying to San Francisco to pick it up in person, I said goodbye to my family and just left.
People kept asking me: “How do you feel? Are you ready? Aren’t you so excited?” And honestly, the day I left home was one of the most emotionally draining days of my life. I was worried about all my legal documents, insecure about my Spanish and dreading saying goodbye to my family. I almost felt guilty for not being completely excited.
But now I’m here in this beautiful house with a lovely family and I can say with complete confidence that I’m eager for the opportunity to learn Spanish in this gorgeous country.
So far, Mel and I have been getting accustomed to our host families, spending a little time with our tutors and trying to become experts in the public transportation systems here. And through all of that, through coming over 6,000 miles away from everything I know and constantly listening to a language that is not my native one, I feel at home. And it’s because of the people.
The first person I met here was Florencia, an English professor and mine and Mel’s advisor at the Universidad del Bío-Bío. She picked us up in Santiago the day we flew in and drove us four hours south to our host families’ houses here in Chillán. She has such a huge heart, and is always telling us that she’ll take us out for coffee if we ever get overwhelmed or homesick. The way she physically lights up when we discuss the classes we’ll be taking and the places we’ll be exploring makes me excited for this journey.
Claudia is my host mother, and she and I have had a great time together so far. She’s taken me to the mall, out to coffee and to the university a few times, and she’s taught me more about Chilean culture in the first week than she probably realizes. She’s caring and empathetic about my situation as a foreign student, and she makes homemade food for us every day– she’s all I could ask for in a host mom!
These first seven days have been everything from hectic to relaxed all at the same time. But I’ve realized that as much as I was worried about this experience and doubtful that I would be able to communicate at all, let alone form relationships with people here, those concerns are slowly fading away. My host family is great, my advisor and my tutors are sweethearts, and my brain is already starting to understand more Spanish; the next part is now just actually speaking it.
I can’t wait to start classes and explore more of Chile and South America these next few months. ¡Nos vemos!