Writing this last and final post has been overwhelming, there’s so much to touch on and I don’t want to leave out any useful information for anyone who’s deciding whether or not to study abroad. After my arrival my friends and family greeted me with millions of questions, but the most popular being “What did you learn while you were away?” It’s a fair question; I just spent a pretty penny on classes I could’ve taken at home for far less – so I better have come back with some amazing transformation or wisdom. Of course there was no radical transformation, I didn’t suddenly obtain all the knowledge on Chilean history or come out speaking fluent Portuguese but I certainly learned a lot about myself and the world around me. So here is my final list, my list on what studying abroad for a semester has taught me.
1. You know so much less than you think you know
I came to study abroad for the chance to develop a new perspective and appreciation for culture outside of my own. I didn’t realize that the cultural differences could be so vast. Everything from popular home appliances, the cuisine, and social norms were so amazing to compare to from everything back home because it’s the little details that reflect so much of the Carioca and Chilean culture. Understanding the world around you starts with leaving any preconceived notions or expectations and starting your adventure with an open mind and arms.
2. People will challenge you, Stand up for yourself
Some days you will be kicked out of your room, some days you’ll be the topic of conversation in some very unfavorable ways, some days you’ll be treated disrespectfully. These are the moments you have to show yourself who you are and what type of strength you carry inside yourself. I’ll admit, I had no clue how to handle many of the situations that were put in front of me and I’m still learning how to stand up and speak up for myself, but better to learn these things later than never. Never be afraid to voice your opinion, everyone is learning, including yourself.
3. Take the risk – who knows when you’ll have this chance again?
Eat that weird fruit! Conquer your fear of heights! And your fear of water... you didn’t travel to Brazil to drink Coca Cola instead of Guaraná! You didn’t fly out to Chile to spend your days trapped inside studying instead of venturing out to see the Andes Mountains and driest deserts in the world! And you certainly didn’t fly out to Argentina for a burger, you eat those empanadas! Find yourself lost in these cities and gain a greater appreciation for the unique culture of these countries and their people.
4. Finding a balance between home and abroad
Maybe you’ll go overboard and constantly check in with your friends and family through social media, or you’ll completely avoid the responsibilities you may have back home. Either way, you need to find a balance while you’re abroad. Of course check in with the people who are important to you back home, but remember to make new friends with the people you’re surrounded by. Also remember to check in with your home school, make sure your classes are on track and that you’re still involved, a lot can change in a semester!
5. Follow what you love and makes you happy
After you’re back home you may find that you’re done with traveling, or you may decide you’ve just begun! You’ll be abroad for a while and you’ll be exposed to many different topics and issues and who knows what you will find yourself passionate about. The important thing to remember is that if you decide to study abroad you will be enriching your life with new passions and new perspectives that will leave a positive impact in your life.
So there you have it, a list of what I took away from studying abroad. Of course I know this beautiful opportunity is not available to all, but I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity if you have the ability. Go somewhere far and great, a place you can imagine yourself falling in love with. Come to South America where the experience and the people are unforgettable, come and learn about the great diversity of every unique country!
I find myself searching for little pieces of you.
Wrapped up in a candy bar, or up in the mountains.
I have been convinced every home on a hill is a favela
and every beach to me is Ipanema.
Each busy seaport town is Valparaiso and all my favorite poets are Chilenos.
And although I still do not know the difference between
Alpacas vs. Llamas,
I know everywhere I go I carry little pieces of South America with me.
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<p>My name is Angie, I'm a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I'm majoring in Sociology and minoring in Linguistics. I love learning about people and cultures around the world through music, art and literature.</p>