The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Mae McCreary

I am currently a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago studying film production and Spanish. Originally I'm from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and I love to travel, although I've never had the opportunity to leave the country, which is why I chose to study abroad. I am hoping to fully immerse myself in the culture and lifestyle in Chile, and significantly improve my Spanish speaking skills. Additionally, I am excited to travel South America and experience the breathtaking sights Chile has to offer.
“So you’re just on a vacation?”

“So you’re just on a vacation?”

It is 9:40 pm here in Santiago, Chile and I am sitting at my desk with my window wide open enjoying the summer breeze while the sun is setting.  Chile is currently in their hottest months of the year down here in the southern hemisphere which means it is the best time to explore!

So far my classmates and I have done some pretty cool things in and outside of the city, including hiking, walking through the public markets, exploring art museums and parks but one of the most interesting was visiting the house of Pablo Neruda on the coast of Isla Negra.

This trip took about a 2 hour bus ride where we drove through beautiful vineyards and mountains upon mountains upon mountains until we got to this charming town on the pacific coast of Chile.  Pablo Neruda had multiple homes in Chile, but the one in Isla Negra was absolutely breathtaking.  Unfortunately we were prohibited from taking photos inside the house, but it was covered with incredible statues of mermaids and other sea-like creatures coming out of the walls.  Additionally, Pablo Neruda had quite the extensive butterfly and insect collection on display in one of the many rooms of his home.  The insects that were incased were mostly indigenous to South America, and most of them I had never seen or heard of before but they were about as big as my hand!

But the inside of the home was not the only beautiful sight to be seen, as his home sits on beach of the”wild coast of La Isla Negra,” as Neruda once described it in a poem.


However, the best (although temporary) attraction that Santiago has had to offer yet is, THE POPE!

El papa Francisco, as he is referred to as in Chile, came for a short three day visit to Santiago, and many of us were fortunate enough to see him drive by!

I called my LUC roommate the other night to check in and tell her all about the fun I was having here in Chile, all the places I’ve been and everywhere that I plan to go. (Of course I omitted the fact that I actually am in class and I actually do have to study and do my homework, because it’s more exciting to hear about the travel and exploration portion of studying abroad)   and her response was, “so you’re just on vacation?”

“Losing Myself” in Immersion

“Losing Myself” in Immersion

Studying abroad this current semester is my first time ever leaving the United States. Before my departure I dreamt about the rolling vineyards in Chile and the extensive coastline, visiting Patagonia and having wild excursions up into Las Cordilleras. Although these daydreams are not at all impossible to experience, they have not necessarily been my reality thus far.  I have been in Santiago de Chile for exactly two weeks as of today, I have been lost, confused and bewildered beyond belief for 90% of the time, and I already know that this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I am living with a host family for my 6 and half months in Chile whom I adore, even though they barely speak any English.  When I first met my host mom at the airport I was hit with unimaginable culture shock that still has not gone away. The people of chile speak so fast and use their own “chileansims” as figures of speech that makes it extremely difficult to understand native speakers. Although I have gotten a little bit more used to the Chilean accent, I still find myself asking people to repeat themselves over and over again. However, this doesn’t seem to bother the people of chile in the slightest.  The Chileans that I have met in my home, on the street, or even in my university are the most welcoming and friendly people who are excited to share their vibrant culture and are more than happy to help someone (me) who is lost find their way to the bus stop.

One example of this, and probably my favorite experience thus far, happened about a week ago when I had to go to a meeting for Nexochile, which is the program that organizes homestays.  This meeting was held at a country club located not to far from my home; however, on a different train line.  My host mother was at work when I had to leave so she called me from her office and gave me directions, telling me to take a specific bus to this club.  My Spanish is still in the works so I had a bit of trouble understanding her directions but eventually made it on the bus where I asked the driver when my stop was (the buses in Santiago are a bit unorganized).  He responded in Spanish so fast that all I could do was stand there and think “oh my god I can’t do this.” I asked him to repeat himself about 4 times until I was too embarrassed to continue and just pretended to know what he was saying.

I walked away from the front of the bus and a man sitting in one of the seats recognized the worried look on my face.  He too tried to tell me where the stop was but my anxiety had taken over and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. At the next stop the man got off of the bus and patted me on the shoulder as to say “you got this kid.” I appreciated the sentiment but still had no idea where I was going. Then, out of nowhere a women walked up to me, gave me her cell phone and told me to answer it.  I was extremely confused but I didn’t know what else to do so I put the phone up to my ear and heard a women’s voice so clearly speaking in English saying “Hey sweetie just wanted to let you know you’re getting off at the next stop.” My face immediately lit up,  and I was covered in chills as I returned the phone to the lady and thanked her endlessly for her help.  Sure enough I got off at the next stop right in front of the country club and made it to the meeting.

Studying abroad introduces the incredible diversity in the world and I have been fortunate enough to experience the amazing people that Santiago has to offer. I would highly recommend this experience to any other students who are interested (even though I have only been here for 2 weeks).