A couple months later, and here I am, back in the United States. I can’t say I was excited to leave, but I had an absolutely lovely and meaningful last week, saying goodbye to all of the people and places that made my time in Santiago everything that it turned out to be. After days of half-full suitcases taking up my entire floor, I finally accepted that I was back and unpacked, which got me thinking about what I packed, what I wish I had packed, and the most useful packing advice I could give to next semester’s students headed off in just a couple weeks. Here are just a couple reflections and tips…
Apps downloaded and confirmed. Once you arrive in Chile and change your SIM card, it’s more complicated to access apps that require confirmation with your American number. I was unable to access Venmo during my time in Chile, which wasn’t the end of the world but required a lot of complicated cash exchanges. My essentials were WhatsApp, Uber, and Moovit (allows you to see transportation routes).
With WhatsApp, I’m able to stay in touch easily with the people I met in Chile—among them, my wonderful host mom who sends me updates on the weather and heartfelt wishes for me accompanied by many emojis, and Daniela, the student I met through La Católica’s Tandem language partner program. I highly recommend Tandem; with Daniela I explored the city, had my own private tour guide at museums, and sampled Chilean food. We chatted about discovering the world, environmental policies, guy advice, and everything in between. Of course, we each got to practice our respective languages, but she also became a close friend and actually came to see me off the morning I left for the U.S., sitting on Cerro Santa Lucía one last time and reflecting on how traveling reveals the best version of a ourselves.
A water bottle (the bigger the better). I made the mistake of swapping out the liter bottle I usually carry around for a smaller one and ended up jealous of my friends’ (often-talked-about) Hydroflasks. As in much of the rest of the world, free water is less available and although every time we sat down at a restaurant we asked for agua de la llave (tap water), we’d usually get incredulous looks and skeptical comments. In Torres del Paine, I had the amazing experience of scooping water directly from glacial runoff into my bottle—no purification needed! As you can see below, several bottles also make a nice improvised windshield if you happen to be cooking over camping stove…
Lined notebooks. For some reason, lined notebooks are incredibly difficult to find in Santiago, and I eventually accepted that I would have to take notes on graph paper. Of course, some classes are more hands on anyway—the final project for the IES Abroad class Social and Political Role of the Arts in Latin America involved stringing together objects collected off the street all semester for a performance piece regarding trash and the environment.
Hiking boots. For me, one of Santiago’s highlights is its many hills and mountains within the city and just outside of it. I truly felt at home up among the cacti, with five-foot condors circling overhead and city melting into mountains below me. Particularly when we arrived in the summer, paths were both incredibly steep and incredibly dry, resulting in more than a couple falls as we traversed our way up and down, dust and rocks sliding along with us. Hiking boots were an essential right up until my last weekend when I said goodbye to Santiago from on top of Cerro Manquehue and caught my first glimpse of snow. After seven years of use, my boots remain in Chile, now on their way to a child in Pucón. It felt only right that they return to some of the most breathtaking forests and mountains I’ve ever seen.
To the next semester of Santiago students—take it all in, every magical and mundane second! I promise you’re embarking on the best semester of your life.
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<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:.4pt; margin-right:20.75pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.5pt"><span style="line-height:103%">I'm a lover of adventure, whether that's climbing mountains or exploring a new city. This has taken me from my hometown in North Carolina to the arctic circle and beyond, and most recently to Chile! I'm majoring in Biology on a pre-medical track, and I am thrilled to be learning medical Spanish in Santiago this semester.</span></p>