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What I wish I would have known: Part two

Greetings from my last week in Santiago! I can’t believe that we are getting towards the end of my experience here. It feels like just yesterday I was living in three worlds: a world in Bloomington, IN where I go to school, Chicago where my family is, and then a suitcase filled with all the things I wanted to bring to Santiago. I was honestly a mess. I didn’t know what to expect once I arrived and I was extremely anxious about the whole trip. Now, with more than 50 days in Santiago completed, I think I’m ready to pass on some of the things that I’ve learned and things I wish I would have known when I was trying to keep it together eight weeks ago.

This is the second post in this series. In the first post, I talked about words I wish I would have known and now, I want to talk about packing! I always over-pack and I will always be that person who is traveling for a week and I will bring 12 years’ worth of clothes. When I go back and forth to Indiana University, we have to rent a different car because my parents have small cars and I have a lot of containers. For this trip, I was able to shove everything in a suitcase that weighed 48 pounds thank you very much, a small duffle bag, and a backpack.

Anyway, going to Chile where it was going to be winter and I would have to wear work clothes, I had no idea what to bring. So, here are some helpful things I wish I would have known.

Disclaimer: When going abroad, everyone has their own experiences and the things they wish they would have done, brought, bought, etc. So, these are the things I wish I knew for my trip.

I’m glad I brought the following things:

  • My old iPhone: I was worried about how I would communicate or what phone I should use in Chile. Should I buy a Chilean phone? Should I bring an American phone and buy a Chilean SIM card? Should I just try smoke signals or use the nasty pigeons on the streets of the center of Santiago and send pigeons to the U.S.? I did a combination of things. I brought my old iPhone 5 without a SIM card and before I made the last minute decision (literally the day before I left for Santiago, I was updating my old phone to see if it would work), my dad bought an Android smartphone that I could also put a SIM card in. So, I had options once I got here. When I came here, I bought a Chilean SIM card from a street vendor with other IES students and then put it in my host sister’s old phone that she let me borrow and she set it up for me. However, the plan was only for a month and I didn’t realize it at first so make sure you have a plan for your whole stay here. I would just make sure that you have some way to have data while you’re here. I’ve been lucky enough to have consistent Wi-Fi while at home, IES, and work but being at a metro station and trying to find Wi-Fi because you’re meeting people to go to Cerro San Cristóbal and you want to confirm the meeting place and time and you don’t have Wi-Fi, it’s not a fun experience. So, spend the money and get the international plan or get a plan here just for WhatsApp. That’s also an option I wish I knew about. There are some plans for unlimited WhatsApp and because not a lot of people text, you can call people through WhatsApp, and IES will set up a WhatsApp group, it’s just easier to do that.
  • Toms: I was able to wear them around the house as slippers because my host family always wanted me to wear shoes in the house because they didn’t want my feet to be cold. I threw an old pair of Toms in my suitcase at the last possible second and I was glad I did.
  • Bags other than my backpack: I brought a laptop bag and a tote bag with me and a big backpack that I used as my carry on. I knew that I wouldn’t want to bring my huge backpack with me every day and since I didn’t bring my laptop to work with me, I didn’t want to have my lunch and stuff for my IES classes in the huge backpack. So, I used the laptop bag until I broke the zipper and I’m now using the tote bag that has a zipper. I’m glad I had options.
  • Two coats: I know you’re thinking, Molly, two coats? What? I’m glad I had two options. I brought one coat that has a hood and it a good in-between seasons coat and then a lightweight down coat I found on clearance in May a week before I left. Now, since it’s officially winter, I’m glad I have the down coat because it’s very chilly in the morning because the Sun isn’t fully up when I leave for work in the morning. If you don’t feel like bringing two coats with you and want to take your chances, there are plenty of places here where you can buy a coat once you get here.
  • Clothes that I can leave behind: I brought with some old clothes like socks and older winter clothes that I can leave behind at the end of the trip. Bring things that are almost on their last legs so you can then have more room in your suitcase for souvenirs!
  • Chilean money and American money: Through my bank in the U.S., I was able to order Chilean pesos before I left and I’ve been able to avoid going to an ATM for my whole trip. I’ve been able to not spend so much money because I don’t usually eat out because my host mom makes me a lunch every day and because I was sick for so many weekends, I didn’t travel as much as other people in my group. I wish I would have traveled more but I was miserable for a while. Also, I did have some American money with me as well and I went to a currency exchange near IES and I was able to painlessly exchange money. If you’re worried about the money thing like I was, so many places take credit and debit cards so you shouldn’t run into any problems.

Things I wish I didn’t bring:

  • I brought some dressier clothes like a dress and dressy flats and I wore the dress once and I never wore the flats. I brought a pair of ankle boots, black shoes, and a pair of Sperry’s and I was set for work shoes.
  • Four books: I shoved four books into my suitcase and that was a huge mistake. One weekend, I was bored, sick, and didn’t want to look for anything on Chilean Netflix (WHICH IS AMAZING BY THE WAY), so I read three books in three days and that was probably my second or third week here. So, now I have three books that I want to bring back the U.S. with me that are clogging up my suitcase. I would stick to one long book, an e-reader, or just watch Netflix.

I was nervous about the weather and what I should wear to work as well. As for the weather, it’s hard to explain because my definition of cold and a Chilean’s definition of cold are two different things. Growing up near Chicago, I’m used to Chiberia and blizzards during the winter so no snow during the winter is a new concept for me. The only thing I’ve struggled with weather wise is that because they don’t have central heating in the buildings, I go from being cold outside to still cold inside. I feel like in the U.S. that it’s considered rude to leave your coat on when you’re inside. In Chile, however, most people will wear their winter coats all day. For example, there are only a handful of times that I’ve actually seen the shirt my supervisor has worn because she usually just keeps her coat on. It all just depends on how you handle the cold. So, try to remember how you dress for late fall and you’ll be fine. Just note that it rains, smog sometimes blocks the Sun, and mornings are chilly.

Finally, I was also thrown off for what to wear to work. Was it going to be power suits and heels? Jeans? Whatever I could throw on in the morning? I also heard that Chileans really don’t wear a lot of color so would my dark patterned shirts I found on clearance at JC Penney’s burn the eyes of my Chilean coworkers? It all depends on your internship. I’ve been fine leaving the blazer at home and wearing my patterned shirts. I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing jeans at work but at some people’s internships, they can. You just have to check with your supervisor or wait and see once you get here and see what everyone else is wearing.

So, I hope that helps a little bit with what to pack when you come to Chile! For my final post in this series, I will wrap up things with a post about what I learned. Stay tuned! Thanks for reading.

Un saludo from Chile!