You can't always get it right the first time

Molly Cunningham
June 3, 2017

Hello from Santiago!

I am just starting my third week in Chile and I can’t believe it’s already been this long. Honestly, time does really fly by when you are studying abroad. Sometimes the days may individually feel really long, but overall, things zoom by.

This past week has been hard because I had a cold. Having to wake up early Monday through Thursday, work from 8:30-4:30, go to class, and try to be a functioning human while sick and tired has not been fun. Luckily, I’ve had the past two Fridays and the weekends free so I’ve been able to rest and recuperate. It also feels like the whole country has been sick too. Everyone is sneezing and coughing on the public transportation and out on the street so that’s not the greatest experience either. The smog and the constant cigarette smoke also doesn’t help things but like I told my host mom, “Puedo sobrevivir.” (“I can survive.”)

When you are sick, especially in Chile, people will ask you, “¿Estás resfriado/a?” which means, “Do you have a cold?” And you have to snuff back or cough back, “Sí.” Towards the end of the week, I lost my voice and was struggling with talking so that was fun. I already was trying really hard to communicate in Spanish and then that was taken away from me. Thank goodness gestures are mostly universal because that has really gotten me through this experience.

Since I was sick, I did have to make a trip to a farmacia or pharmacy and that was an interesting experience. I had to find tissue packs and that is definitely one word I don’t think I ever learned in any of my Spanish classes. For the record, they’re called pañuelos desechables.

Pharmacies are pretty similar to a CVS or a Walgreens. There are a couple differences as well. For example, all the medicine, even things like allergy and cold medicines, or anything that usually can be found in a Target/CVS/Walgreen’s aisle are all behind the counter. Also, unlike most stores, you have to take a number and wait your turn to be helped at the counter to get the medicine or pay. It’s just like going to Kroger and waiting at the deli counter.

I found my tissues quickly and then I grabbed a number and waited my turn. I was honestly nervous about the whole experience but I couldn’t continue rationing my tissues for the rest of the week, so I forced myself to do this all by myself and it was fine.

During the past three weeks, I’ve had to remind myself a few times that this is a new experience and Molly, gosh darn it, you aren’t going to handle it perfectly the first time. Just like when I started at Indiana University, things are going to be learning experiences and it’s going to be hard.

I have been working really hard with using and expressing myself in Spanish. There was one day in particular at my internship where I just felt defeated. I felt bad because my coworkers were talking to me during lunch and I literally had no idea what they were saying to me. I just ended up smiling and nodding and then I felt weird just smiling and nodding. I felt bad because they were trying to talk to me and I usually needed them to repeat themselves or even after they repeated themselves, I still had no clue what they were saying.

It’s frustrating in the moment, but I have to remind myself that I’ve NEVER been exposed to Spanish like this before.

Even though I’ve taken Spanish every school year since the fifth grade, I have never been thrusted into a Spanish dominant culture. In almost all my Spanish classes, where I did learn a lot of grammar and vocab that wasn’t entirely practical, the teacher would say, “Ok, after the first day, NO ENGLISH will be spoken and it will be Spanish all the time.” That was sadly untrue for most of my Spanish career and most side conversations I had in Spanish class were actually in English. Now, I regret any time that I didn’t force myself to speak or practice Spanish more. Thanks past Molly, thanks.

Like I said, this is all just a learning experience. I’ve had similar experiences here that I either will have or had in the US. For example, in Bloomington during one of my first weekends there, I took the wrong bus and ended up going the opposite direction that I needed to go but I stayed calm and learned my lesson. Here, I got a bus I knew would get me home but I couldn’t see where the bus was in relation to the stop that I needed to get off at, so I ended up getting off at the next stop past the one I needed. Now, I know where the 508 bus goes after my stop. It’s the little things, right?

In conclusion, there is definitely an adjustment period and you need to give yourself credit for the little things and experiences that you are having.

Sometimes you want to just stay in your apartment, binge watch season 3 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and just take a second to remind yourself where you are, that you are human, and you can’t be amazing at everything the first time.

And you know what, that is totally acceptable.

When you are studying abroad or just doing college life or life in general, take time to self-care. Take time to eat delicious food people just start handing you (perks of being sick) and relax. There are more amazing days to come and plenty of things to see. If you are forcing yourself to do too much and you’re miserable doing everything, then you aren’t going to savor the select experiences you have and you'll regret it. There are always going to be things you could be doing, but if you can’t get everything done the first time, you can always come back.

So remember: take time to self-care, eat food that you might not know 100% what’s in it (because it’s usually delicious), and remind yourself that wherever you are whether it’s Santiago, Chile, Bloomington, Indiana, or wherever life takes you, you aren’t going to be amazing at it at first.

There is plenty more for me to talk about but I wouldn’t have anything else to talk about later, so I’m going to stop here. Thanks for reading!





Molly Cunningham

<p>My name is Molly and I am studying and working in Santiago. I&#39;m a Journalism and Spanish majors from Brookfield, Illinois. Follow along during my experience in Santiago and hopefully you&#39;ll learn something!</p>

2017 Summer 1, 2017 Summer 2
Home University:
Indiana University
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