The GoGlobal Blog

“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).

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