Winter break is finally over here in Santiago, and the streets are once again filled with students commuting to and from school. Between the courses I am taking at IES and La Católica (PUC), I will be spending this semester learning more about human rights in Latin America, the psychology of Latin American cultures and societies, interning at the Fundación de Salvador Allende, and (hopefully) improving my Spanish. Considering my last class of the week is Wednesday and my Fridays are basically free, if this past week is any indication of how the rest of my semester will go, I predict I am going to have a pretty sweet semestre en Santiago.
As hard as I may try sometimes, I struggle with punctuality. To say my first day of classes was no different is an understatement. Being the organized person that I am, the week before classes began, I entered my tentative schedule on Google Calendar and then proceeded to set my alarms based on this schedule. The only problem with this, however, was that because my computer was still set on Houston time and my phone was not, Google Calendar pushed everything I had entered an hour later.
On Monday morning I got out of bed at 11AM. As far as I was concerned I had an hour to get ready, 20 minutes to walk to IES and 10 minutes to spare before class. Around noon I got a text message from one of my classmates on my very stylish flip phone asking me where I was. I thought, “Weird, I still have 30 minutes before class starts.” Boy was I wrong. When I walked in an hour late and tried to explain to my professor my calendar situation, she didn’t find my story as cute as I did. Oops.
Thankfully, the rest of the week went by relatively smoothly. In Chile, because textbooks are very expensive, every department has a photocopy center where you can purchase photocopies of the required text for the class. After asking four different people for directions and helplessly wandering around campus for an hour looking for this magical place, I finally asked a guy in line at one of the computer labs if he could help me. He happily walked me over to the right building, told me he’d see me around, and walked away. The office was currently closed for lunch break so while I waited for them to reopen, I sat on a nearby bench jamming to Aventura. While I was waiting, a girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where she could find the physics department. I told her I didn’t know, and as she walked away, I felt pretty Chilean for the next 30 seconds. I guess I didn’t look gringa to her.
In an effort to better my Spanish and meet more Chileans, I signed up for a program through the university which pairs you up with a Chilean student so that you can help each other practice each other’s native language. From what I gather, my Tandem partner, Claudio, seems like a cool guy. He is a third year student studying Social Work at PUC. We spend a long time talking about the differences in the American and Chilean education systems, getting to know each other, and teaching each other “chilenismos” and “Americanisms.”
On Saturday, Diego, Javiera, and Macarena (from Amigos Chilenos) took us to Cerro San Cristobal. Despite the smog, I got a beautiful view of the city from the top of the hill. I finally tried a mote con huesillo which is a typical Chilean drink and was even stopped mid-hike by a family from Houston who saw me with my Rice Study Abroad T-shirt.
On Sunday, my host mom, Patty, invited me to play cards with them. Long after my host brother, Diego got tired of losing, and my host dad, Alvaro, went back to work, Patty and I continued teaching each other different card games.
Now that I have somewhat of a routine down, I am beginning to feel more at home in Chile. If I am hungry, I don’t feel as uncomfortable grabbing a fruit from the basket, there is more to talk about during dinner, and I am starting to feel less like a guest and more like part of the family.
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<div><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);">Monica is a junior at Rice University studying History, Latin American Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese. Although both her parents were born in Central America, Latin America is still very much undiscovered territory for her. Monica's current research interests include the re-democratization of the Southern Cone following the fall of authoritarian regimes in the mid-to-late 80s. Additionally, she is interested in the progression of human rights in Latin America and the political and social role income inequality has played within the development of Latin American societies. Upon graduating Rice, Monica is looking to pursue her Ph. D. in Latin American History. Aside from being a great opportunity for self-discovery, she looks forward to integrating herself into Chilean society and gathering research for her senior thesis.</span></div>