On starting a journey in a very foreign place

Avery Haugen
June 6, 2016

To whom it may concern, I have decided to compile a list of my preliminary observations about life in Santiago. I cannot begin without commenting on the heights here. I have to laugh a little because I have the great fortune of towering over the women and many of the men here. For those who do not know me personally, I stand tall at the above average American female height of 5’10”. For those that do know me personally, I ask you not to dispute that number because I will argue it until you pull out the tape measurer. Regardless, I think the overall height of the Chileans I have met adds even more to their likability. They aren’t intimidating or cold-hearted in the least bit, they have welcomed me into their country both literally and figuratively with open arms (and many kisses on the cheek) even though I have had to bend down more than once. 

Second, they drink so much tea here! Or more appropriately, un tecito/cafecito/aguita etc. But don’t be fooled, it’s not a small cup of tea. Adding -ito/ita to the end of a word in Spanish usually means a smaller version of it. I can already tell that my pre-existing tea addiction will be generously fueled in the coming weeks. 

Third, the people acá aren’t so different from the people I know back home. I understand that may sound strange or unnecessary to add but I think it’s something so many people take for granted. Sure, I have traveled in South America before; I have been to foreign countries on short visits and long ones and loved all my experiences. However this one differs in a way that I haven’t been able to relate to any of my other trips. These people, in this country that extends almost as far south as one can travel, are no different from my friends and family at home in Dallas. I don’t mean to sound shocked or surprised, but in a way I sort of am. 5000 miles away from the place I have lived for 20 years relates so closely to me that if ever there was proof that we are all connected in some way or another, this is it. I love watching families together here, the way moms dote on their sweet babies and how everyone gathers as a reminder of where they come from and who they belong to. I find it strikingly similar to when my mom, grandmother, and I all get together on Wednesday nights to have dinner when I am home. Of course, my surroundings are different, the food is different, the streets and towns and even crosswalk signs are all a little different. But the people? No, we are all the same. Maybe it is because I have never fully transplanted myself into a different country as opposed to staying in a hotel or house with other American students, but in any case, I think I am starting to fit in here. 

Fourth and final observation, thanks for sticking around this long, I hope it means you find these interesting and aren’t just finishing this to humor me. Fourth, living in a foreign country teaches you a lot about yourself, even if you don’t feel like there is anything new to discover. It means learning to fend for yourself on the crowded metro stations in the mornings, accumulating navigational skills rivaling those of a professional cartographer, opening your mind (and mouth) to new foods/cooking styles/eating schedules, realizing that just because you can speak someone’s language doesn’t mean you can communicate well with them, and also learning to take pride in the small victories each day. My host family invited a huge group of people over for dinner a few nights ago and after a few minutes of warming up to the conversation, I found myself fully engrossed in the chatter and laughter bouncing between seats at the table. It wasn’t until I heard Rihanna playing in the background that I remembered where I was, fully relocated into another home across the world with people I met a week ago who don’t speak a word of my native language. WOW. I truthfully cannot remember the last time I was so proud of myself as in that moment, where those years and years of class I mentioned in my last post were finally proving themselves worthy and successful. These are the reasons everyone praises studying abroad for the personal growth that happens over the weeks and months of being away from home. 




Avery Haugen

<p>Hi everyone! Welcome to the adventure of a lifetime with me in Santiago, Chile! I am a biochemistry and Spanish double major from Dallas, Texas who loves horseback riding and playing polo. I also love plane rides, spending time outside, cooking (or at least attempting to), reading, trying new teas, petting animals, and watching old movies. I have traveled a lot in Spanish-speaking countries and pretty much nowhere else, currently working on a travel bucket list to at least 3 more continents.</p>

2016 Summer 1, 2016 Summer 2
Home University:
Texas Christian University
Biological Chemistry
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