I’ll admit it – once the initial excitement of being home passed (Mom! Dad! Brother! Snow!), I was in a bit of denial. My watch is still on Chilean time, I’m drinking tea I brought from Chile, listening to Latin music, and reading the newspaper El Mercurio from the day I left. I know this stage will pass though, and even when the tea bags are finished and the newspaper is out of date, Chile will still be a part of my life.
First of all, I made relationships I know will last. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to leave everyone, most of all my host family. Luckily, we have Facebook, email, and Skype to keep in touch. I know that whenever I manage to get myself down to Chile again, I will have friends waiting for me.
Most importantly, the experiences I had and the people I got to know in Chile have changed me in subtle but significant ways. They’ve changed the way I think of myself and the way I relate to the world. In this sense, Chile is never that far from my daily life.
Despite all this, I still sometimes fear that as time passes my experience will become compartamentalized, a stand-alone era of my life, just “that semester I studied abroad.” To combat this fear, and in my typical style of list-and-conquer, I developed an aggressive plan-of-attack…
1. Keep in touch with my friends and host family, as mentioned.
2. Seek out opportunities to speak Spanish and interact with the hispanic community next semester.
3. Continue to read book, read the news, and listen to music in Spanish.
4. Apply what I learned abroad to my life here – visit more of my own country (a ten hour bus ride was nothing to me in Chile), feed my growing interest in US society and politics (different than Chile, but also fascinating), and take advantage of every minute as if I only had a semester to live and study in the US.
5. Lastly, don’t give up looking for a way to be back again, whether just to visit, or to live and work for a while. It might not be this year or next, but it will happen.
Below are some photos I took during my travels after the IES program ended. I started in the very south of Chile, and worked my way up to Valparaíso, and finally Santiago for my last few days.
P.S. For those of you who are considering studying abroad in Chile, nervously awaiting their departure, or just want to get a feeling for what Chile is like, I highly recommend Mi País Inventado (My Invented Country), by Isabel Allende. I wish someone had recommended it to me before I left. I read it on long bus rides in Chile.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Maya is a senior majoring in Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to classes and laboratory research, she enjoys running, martial arts, and improvisational baking (with variable results). Having achieved comprehension of the Baltimore accent, she hopes to master Spanish as well, and is looking forward to many adventures in Chile!</span></p>