I started packing 9 days before my trip for two reasons: a) I knew I was taking night shift the next week and b) I hate procrastinating. I submitted all my papers to international programs way ahead of time and I had filled out of most of my application to this program before Interim ended. It is critical to note here that Wofford doesn’t begin to accept applications until the middle of February, but that was irrelevant to me. The real reason I am telling you this is so you can fully appreciate my emotional turmoil when, 10 days prior to my departure, the visa office informs me that they do not have my visa application or any paperwork that they confirmed receipt of 5 weeks prior. Being on night shift, I was sleeping during the exact hours that the visa office is open so I pulled my first all-nighter of college to call the visa office (over and over). Great story, I know. After sending them ALL my documents again, I managed to have my visa and passport in my hand 6 days prior to my departure.
Oddly enough after receiving my visa, most of my major stressors went away. I have traveled abroad extensively in my life (some of you may have heard of my weekend getaway to Beijing, China last summer) and have no fear of flying. I usually sleep on planes so I’m not usually jet lagged and there is no time change. I’m going down a few days early with my mom. I know I can pack everything I need and flying with my mom gets me a free 70lb weight limit instead of a 50lb. My biggest fear was the language and as my brother so nicely pointed out to me “at this point, its sink or swim.” He was right and I don’t think my professors would have allowed me to come down here if I was going to sink.
It really wasn’t until the morning we left that I panicked. I woke up at 9 that morning and started putting the rest of my clothes in my suitcase and the fear sunk in. I hate being late, more than anything in the world. What if my host family is not prompt? I emailed my host mom that day and she responded in 2 hours and 48 minutes. What are their greetings like? What if I can’t speak? What about linguistic breakdown? What if I don’t even make it through customs? What if the visa office forgot to do something? What if I get sick of the food there? You get the picture and the more I stressed about leaving, the more irrational my questions became.
To remedy my horrendously stressful, panicked day, I decided I would play with my dog. I should probably tell you that I am super allergic to him but have been taking shots for 2 years to develop immunity to those allergens. Sometimes I still react. That afternoon, I reacted, and because I don’t learn from my mistakes and love my dog, I continued reacting throughout the afternoon. A dose of Benadryl, another antihistamine and a shower later I was much calmer. I got dressed and went to dinner with my family who then dropped me, and my mom, off at the airport.
From there, we walked through the Delta priority line (thanks, Mom) to the incredibly short TSA precheck line (thanks, Naval Academy), to the gate. From there, we boarded our direct flight to Santiago and I slept the entire way there (until my mom woke me up for breakfast). Most of my Spanish came back to me as we cleared immigration and my visa went through without a problem. Six incredibly cute, but non-pet-able dogs made a of couple ecstatic laps around our bags and we cleared customs. We got in a taxi and made our way to the hotel. Since our room wasn’t ready they offered to hold our bags while we wandered around the town.
In our adventuring in Chile today I learned:
- I am practically the only blonde in all of Chile and stand out distinctly
- The stores here are almost exactly the same as the US- Lacoste, American Eagle, Clarks, Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Laura Ashley and many more
- Finding an authentic local restaurant at a mall is very difficult unless you consider P.F.Chang’s, TGI Friday’s, Tony Roma’s, Starbucks or McDonald’s one
- You can’t buy a SIM card for use for multiple months without a Chilean ID, which I will get in a week
- The rules for where your pet can go to the bathroom are just as strict
- The rush hour here is like that of Atlanta except motorcyclists are a little bit crazier
- Santiago is so much like an American city that it is nicknamed Sanhattan after New York’s Manhattan