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Hanging On

            Three weeks before my departure from Santiago and I managed to find a direct flight from Santiago to New York, JFK airport, for only $630! This was after spending a total of hours searching various websites and flight combinations to find the cheapest and most direct option available to get me back to Philadelphia. From JFK airport, I took public transportation to the Megabus stop in Manhattan. From there I boarded a Megabus to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, and finally I took a local train from 30th Street, home. It was quite a journey. I was hauling three heavy bags: my backpack on my back, a book bag on my chest, and my duffle bag in hand. Sure it was a little strenuous, but the $280 it saved me from purchasing tickets for a flight that touched down in Philly, just three weeks before my departure, made it worth it. The question you may be asking is, why did I wait until just three weeks before my departure to purchase my ticket in the first place?

            Soon after arriving to Chile, it became clear that two months would not be enough to satisfy my initial motivations for doing the trip. I wanted to stay longer. By the end of the first week, I recognized how much language immersion and practice I needed before I would reach a satisfying level of fluency. To accelerate progress towards my fluency goals, I spent many evenings and bus commutes studying conjugations and new vocabulary that I wrote on index cards. I listened closely to conversations happening around me, and tried to speak in Spanish even when conversing with the other native English speakers in the study abroad program.

            To my pleasant surprise, by the end of the trip, I recognized that I learned more than I had expected I would. Increasingly, I caught myself thinking in Spanish by default, rather than thinking in English and consciously translating it to Spanish when I had to communicate those thoughts. After landing at JFK and passing through security, I twice began speaking to American airport staff in Spanish. Despite this satisfying progress towards fluency, I still wanted more time to strengthen it.

             After two weeks or so of living abroad, I began feeling very confident navigating the city, shopping, planning day trips in the region: I was getting acclimated to living in a foreign country in general. I began to get accustomed to the lifestyle and my confidence was boosted as I recognized the similarities in the everyday routines of Chileans, to that of Americans’. I have long desired to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time: a year or two, or maybe even four or six. Living in Chile enabled me to embrace the unknown and reach the conclusion that I could make such a long term move, comfortably. For that reason I began looking into the potential of quickly acquiring a job and housing in Chile, to extend my study abroad stint into a full living abroad experience. I knew that if I could somehow coordinate all of the logistics, I would very much enjoy an additional several months to strengthen my Spanish fluency, explore the few areas of Santiago I hadn’t yet explored, and explore the many areas of Chile I had yet to visit. Living in Santiago for several more months would have also made for easier and cheaper traveling to explore places throughout South America.

            My hopes were high, as the possibilities were seemingly endless, that’s if I could have managed to arrange a long term situation living situation in Santiago. I was unable to coordinate these plans quickly enough and at 3 weeks away from my departure, I decided I could not afford to wait any longer to purchase my return flight. So that is why I waited until 3 weeks before the end of my program to buy my departure tickets. While I could not manage to extend my Santiago trip, my hopes to return in the future to live in South America for an extended period of time are still very much alive.