El Principio (The Beginning)

Posted by on July 28, 2013

Hola from Santiago, Chile!

I have only been here for a few days, but I am already LOVING IT. Before I get ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.

I didn’t really start packing until the night before I left (oopsies), which meant I was up until the wee hours of the night getting everything together. Consequently, I probably came across as one of those really jaded travelers because I fell asleep on the plane to Santiago before it even took off. Luckily I woke up just in time to see the sunrise over the magnificent Andes Mountains. As I looked out at the breathtaking view, I felt so blessed to have this opportunity, and I just knew I was in for a great semester.

 

Sunrise over the Andes

Because I love lists, I think the easiest way for me to summarize my first few days is by listing things I love about Santiago so far and things that I don’t like so much things that I need to get adjusted to.

Things I love:

  • My host family: I think the first thing I need to say about my experience so far is that I have the BEST host family. My host mom is laid back, hilarious, and very patient with me and my horrible Spanish grammar. Somehow she finds the perfect balance of being very attentive and talkative with me, yet also allowing me to have my own space and time when I want it. I also have three host siblings- a 23 year old brother and two sisters, ages 15 and 16. Having younger people in the house has definitely been a lot of fun. One sister had a sleepover party with some friends, and I had a blast watching Pitch Perfect with them. I was also very amused as they giggled and fawned over the boys of One Direction as we watched their music videos on YouTube.
  • My apartment: I absolutely love where I live. As I step out of my apartment, I get to see the snow-capped Andes towering ahead. There is a cute park right in front of the apartment, and there are tons of stores, restaurants, and supermarkets within walking distance. As if this wasn’t enough, I also live less than a mile from the IES center where classes are, and I love that I can walk to school everyday.
  • My fellow IES students: There are about 25 students from schools all over the U.S., and they really are a great group to share this semester with. We are all in this awesome, new, and sometimes uncomfortable situation together, so we have all gotten aquainted very quickly. And not to sound completely lame, but I’m pretty relieved to be making friends here because you definitely need people to share in the excitement and confusion during a time like this.

Things that will take a leeeetle bit of getting used to:

  • No indoor heating: It is the middle of winter right now in Santiago, and there is no central heating in most buildings (including my apartment). During the day, this really isn’t a big deal (temperatures are in the upper 50s/low 60s), but at night it is COLD. I’ll save myself the embarrassment and refrain from uploading a picture of my bedtime apparel, but I strongly resemble the Pillsbury Dough Boy or that weird Michelin Tires mascot with all the layers I have to wear.
  • Living in a big city: This adjustment has actually surprised me. I knew before I came here that it would be cold, and I had mentally prepared for that, but I completely underestimated how different it would be living in a big city. In my first days here, I’ve realized that Santiago is HUGE, and with 6 million people living here, by far the biggest city I’ve ever lived in. It has been difficult for me to get a handle on my commune of Providencia, let alone the 36 other communes that make up Santiago. I like to think that I have a good sense of direction, but here I usually feel like I really have no idea where I am in relation to anything else. I really hope I learn the layout of the city after a while so I can go out and explore without getting lost!

All in all, I am so happy to have this opportunity. Although it is difficult/awkward/embarrassing at times, I am enjoying getting to constantly practice my Spanish, whether it’s with my host family, the friendly security guard at the front gate of my apartment, or my IES friends.

Admittedly, there is so much more I want to talk about (including a trip to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso), but I’m worried that this post is starting to bore people and that attention spans are dwindling at this point, so I’ll save the rest for another post.

Until next time!

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