“Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." -Ibn Buttata
For those of you who do not know me, my name is Matt Osche. I’m a sophomore attending Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. I’m a double major in both International Politics (with a specialization in International Relations) and Economics, and I’m also minoring in Spanish. I hail from a cumbersome suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by the name of Penn Township. During my junior year of high school, I decided to be an exchange student to Norway from August 2013 to June 2014 with the American Field Service (AFS). I still do not yet know what I plan to do with my degrees upon graduation (I suppose I had better get on that…), but my closest friends and family can undoubtedly attest that it has been my greatest dream ever since I was capable of reading to become a writer and publish books of my own. An avid bookworm, ardent music-head, and devout Star Wars fan, I spend hours on a weekly basis talking about these things that I love with anyone who likes a good conversation. And of course, above all, I’m a guy who just wants to see the world.
My year in Norway was the best year of my life. Life as an exchange student had a profound effect on my overall perspectives of the world, but also on the essence of who I am as a person, and perhaps the reason that my experiences in Norway had such a prolific effect on my identity was because they awoke within me a passion that I had sensed, but not known, that I had. They awoke within me an undying will to travel. I had been introduced to travel prior to my exchange through my annual family vacations, but I had never really gotten to know her. It wasn’t until I studied abroad that travel truly became a close friend of mine. She’s a curious and intense friend, but a very eccentric one as well. She’s got quite a bit of charisma, which she is very much so aware of, and she likes to use her charm to allure people out of their comfort zones and into her own brash lifestyle. Despite her manipulative personality, she’s a very kind and endearing friend who takes pleasure in surprising me with the unexpected if I’m ever feeling low. She has introduced me to some of the greatest individuals that I have ever met, but the most wonderful thing that she has done for me is shown me just how vast and magnificent the world truly is. She has become one of my closest friends, and if I’m being quite honest, I have missed her dearly since my year abroad. It is due to my will to see her again that I have chosen to study abroad this semester in Santiago.
As far as the logistics behind why Santiago, Chile, as opposed to Odense, Denmark, as a Spanish minor, I decided it would be in my best interests to study in a Spanish speaking nation. Spain is more often than not the most common choice of American students studying abroad, and who wants to follow the beaten path? The reason that I wanted to live in Chile specifically was, as so many things in my life are and as I’m sure you might’ve guessed, linked back to my time in Norway. Some of my fondest memories of Norway include the time that I spent with one of my all-time best friends, a young man from Santiago named Nicolás. As the only other exchange student with my organization to be placed in the same area of Norway as myself, Nicolás and I became fast friends. In the beginning of our year abroad as we found ourselves facing culture shock and an unwelcome new diet of Norwegian fish and potatoes, we stuck together as the two new guys in town, forming the unique bond that is only found between two exchange student friends. Throughout the course of the year, Nicolás and I would constantly overwhelm one another with talk of our home cultures, and as I listened to my friend describe life in his tropical home, I felt more and more intrigued by the concept of visiting Chile. So, motivated by the desire to see the land that Nicolás had so passionately described, as well as see Nicolás himself, I decided that Santiago was the most fitting place for me to spend my semester abroad.
It’s now less than two weeks until I depart for my next journey. I’ve got a fairly open mind with regards to what I want to do in Chile while I’m there, but I have decided that I will put forth every effort to see either Patagonia, Machu Picchu, or even both before returning home (and yes, I am aware that Machu Picchu is in Peru, not Chile). There is truly not one aspect of Chilean culture that I am excited about more than any other aspect except perhaps for the food. Just like any rational human being of course, I’m a sucker for some quality food, and if the mouth-watering empanadas that Nicolás made in Norway are anything like the actual empanadas of Chile, than I am in for a real treat. My packing is coming along fairly well. I’ve already packed all of the essentials; my harmonica, a copy of The Stand by Stephen King, and a full container of hair gel. Alongside these I have added a fair amount of shorts and t-shirts (it will be summer when I arrive in Chile as the country is in the Southern Hemisphere), jeans and hoodies for the Chilean Fall and Winter (Winters in Santiago don’t usually get below 48 degrees Fahrenheit), and my Columbia Winter/rain jacket as well as hiking pants and boots for any mountaineering in the Andes that I, hopefully, will do while in Chile. As you can gauge from this blog entry, I’ve waited a long time to embark on the journey that will be here in 12 days. All in all, I’m excited. I am honestly really excited to finally see what Chile has to offer, and if this experience is even remotely like my last study abroad, I will not be disappointed.