I'm currently studying abroad, and have (almost) just completed my first week in Santiago de Chile! I am in love with this city and a lot of things it has to offer, but I've defintely learned a lot of lessons this past week.
- I’m still adjusting to the pace of life
My orientation schedule has been HECTIC and I literally feel like I'm doing something every second of the day and night, so I'm still trying to figure out the flow of life here. I've also heard that these are the last few weeks of summer here, and a lot of people are out of town, so the craziness on public transportation, and around the city, will defintely increase. I guess I'll just have to wait and see!
2) I feel like I’m hungry all the time
I'm still adjusting to the meal schedules, and the fact that lunch is the biggest meal, and dinner is usually late and really light, but hopeflly this adjustment comes soon :)
3) Always know your surroundings
Everyone keeps telling me and the rest of the people in my program how cautious we have to be of ourselves, of our bags; everything. I've learned that I ALWAYS have to watch my bag and my phone, and to always make sure I know where I am and how I'm getting to where I'm going.
4) When you don’t know your surroundings, it’s ok to ask for help
I had my first real moment of panic set in this morning when I had to take a different route to my program center, and I got lost trying to find the correct metro station. I don't know how it took me this long to ask, but I had to ask for some serious help and look through maps for directions. I'm learning to take things a little more easily, and ask for help as soon and as often as I need it.
5) Always have a mode of communication
Only being able to use my phone with wifi has defintely been a struggle, and potentially made for some dangerous situations. Thankfully the program I am studying with has given us Chilean phones to text and call on, but it still doesn't do the full job of an iPhone, that can provide data that you can use to find directions, iMessage, and a host of other convienent things that you take for granted when you have service and data. I'm definetely going to look into buying a SIM card for my phone, but for now I always try to make sure I have both my iphone and Chilean phone to contact people when needed.
6) Be clear with what you want
Especially because I'm navigating a new country in a different langauge, I've had some difficulty expressing my needs and wants. I've learned to be as clear and direct as possible, and if that means explaining something in the most simple and basic way possible, I'll try to do it.
7) Keep an open mind
This seems obvious if you're studying abroad in the first place, but I've learned to keep an open mind about the little things. Whether it be the meal schedule, the public transportation, or the correct manner to interact with strangers, I've learned to be a lot more open to the little cultural differences that are going to shape my time in Santiago over the next few months.
8) Don’t take your host family for granted
I love my host family so much, and it's only been a few days. My host mom is so helpful, sweet, (and FUNNY) and I'm so lucky to have her. She has been so helpful to me in the past few days, and has been really integral in my adjusting to this new city and country. I've realized that she does A LOT for me, and not everyone has it as good as me, so I don't want to take her for granted. Whether it be chosing to eat at home instead of out with friends, and taking a few extra minutes to talk to her, I want to make sure I appreciate her as much as I can.
9) The language barrier can be extremely frustrating
I experienced my first truly frustrating experience with the language barrier the other night when I couldn't get my Uber app to work, and I couldn't find the right words in Spanish to explain to my host mom and host brother what the issue was. At one point I was almost on the verge of tears because I was not only frustrated by the situation because I was trying to go out with friends, but also because I felt too incompetent and wished I could just express myself in English. That situtation taught me that even though I've taken Spanish for about eight years now, I'm still nowhere near advanced in the language, and this is going to prove to be challenging from time to time. I'm going to try my best to learn as much as I can, and use the language skills that I do have to communicate to the best of my ability.10) Count your blessings
Despite the language frustration, the constant feeling of tiredness, and a lot of cultural adaption, I cannot get past the fact that I just feel so blessed to be here. Santiago de Chile is an amazing city filled with so much life, beauty, and culture that I had never known about before. This first week abroad has truly taught me to always just take a second and remember how blessed I am to be studying abroad here. The next few months are defintely going to be an adventure, and I can't wait to see what's next.