I have known I am studying abroad for several months now, but it has only now begun to feel real sitting in this airport counting down the hours to this five hour layover. Aside from college visit trips which lasted three days tops, I have never really traveled alone, much less for such a long period of time and so far away from home. The few trips I have taken alone, I have always been one to over-pack—needless to say packing 5 months worth of clothes for two seasons was no easy task. Surprisingly, I managed to fit everything in two suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack with about 10 pounds to spare. I feel the best word to describe my current mood is sappy. Sad because I am leaving behind family, friends, and the comfort of my home. Happy because I know it is because of God’s blessings that I have been given this amazing opportunity. Last night when I was saying my final goodbyes to my family, my 3-year old nephew, Aiden, who associates Chile with the spicy pepper, looks at me and says, “¿Moni, vas a comer muchos chiles?” to which I tearfully responded, “Si, muchos muchos chiles.” While the thought of being in a foreign country thousands of miles away from home scares me, there are also lots of things I am looking forward to. Among the top things on my list are: total Spanish immersion, building a sense of direction (my siblings often call me “book smart and not street smart” because among many reasons, I have a horrible sense of direction), studying Chile’s political history from a Chilean perspective, having the opportunity to take classes at the local university, interning in the city, and witnessing current social and political issues in Chile that have their origins in the country’s authoritarian past. While I am not particularly looking forward to the 40 degree difference between Houston and Santiago (it is currently winter in Chile), I am excited to meet new people, try new things, and explore Chilean history and culture, meet my host parents and my little Chilean brother, and have an overall amazing time during my semester in Santiago once I survive this 10 hour flight. I miss you all already. Keep me in your prayers.
(Note to self: Drink an entire bottle of Nyquil before taking another ten hour flight.)
The customs line in Santiago was unbearably long. Luckily, I did not have to wait that long because an immigration officer opened up another line beginning with us, so we avoided a huge line. One of the men at security saw that I was struggling placing all my luggage in one of the machines and asked me if I was staying for an entire year. I smiled and told him I wanted to make sure I had everything I need. The students from Amigos Chilenos met us at the airport and took us to our homestays where I spend the remainder of the day meeting my family, getting to know the area, and resting. So far, everything seems to be within walking distance including the Chilean Walmart which is called Líder. Aside from the freezing cold, I think I am going to love it here. Patty and Alvaro have been very sweet to me, and Diego, their son, has already invited me to play Wii with him. Este semestre en Santiago será una experiencia bien memorable.
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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>