The littlest things about being back in the United States have made me miss Chile the most: the way that we use balsamic vinaigrette instead of just lemon juice and olive oil as salad dressing or how we don’t greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I’ve now been back home for almost three weeks, and although they say that re-entry is one of the hardest parts of study abroad, I guess I didn’t think it would feel like this.
I left for study abroad in a pivotal time in my college career, I had had a less than perfect sophomore year and my lifelong lust for travel had finally reached its boiling point. When I think about taking off in August I remember being terrified of the unknown but excited to temporarily leave all of my trivial issues behind.
Everyone back home asks about my experience out of courtesy but I almost don’t even know how to respond. No one here can ever know what I went through, what I learned or how I’ve grown. And that is both lonely and lovely. I now have this one precious thing that’s mine and mine only, but I can’t help but feel like I wish I had someone who could relate to my experience to be with me here at home right now.
I’m going to miss Florencia, Claudia, Diego, Gabriel, Ivan, Pablo, Cata, Javier, and Ro, the English students I tutored, and the intriguing people I met while traveling. I’m going to miss the fresh produce from the street markets, the bright green palm trees and the reggaeton music heard on practically every corner. I’m going to miss all of the new places I saw– from the arid north Chilean desert to the chic skyscrapers of Buenos Aires and the lush Peruvian jungle to the deep blue of the sea off Patagonia’s coastline.
But the thing perhaps I’ll miss more than any of that other stuff is the way I’ve changed. I’ve never been as confident in myself as I was when I was abroad, just figuring out how to communicate and travel and study in what seemed like virtually a different world completely on my own. I’ve now seen and lived through things that no one will understand but me, and although at some points in the past two and a half weeks it’s felt like I’m losing the part of myself I grew into in Chile, I know now that it’s something that will forever be a part of me. And that’s absolutely priceless.
A mi querido Chile, volveré por ti. Gracias por todo lo que me ha enseñado.