Today’s blog post comes to us from Texas A&M student & #APIabroad blogger Jane Turchi! She’s studying abroad with us in Valparaíso, Chile.
As I begin my third week studying abroad (the longest I’ve ever spent out of the country), I’ve learned that studying abroad can be emotionally and physically challenging in so many ways.
You are busy everyday; becoming accustomed to your new surroundings and culture; and adjusting to the fact that you are not just a tourist but living abroad. While my experience is only 10-weeks long, I don’t think my brain has yet realized that I will be staying here for another seven and a half weeks (so I don’t have to take pictures of everything).
After two weeks riding the micro, attending classes and watching the sunset at the pier, I have noticed that you get into a routine. I still feel like I stick out as a tourist every time I leave the house and every time I ask the micro driver to take me to Valparaíso in a poor attempt at a Chilean accent.
While it’s fun to learn and explore new things, I have found that it is important to call back home, watch an American movie or share about your hometown with friends to make sure you keep in touch with your own culture and help you feel more comfortable where you are.
It’s important to build relationships with people around you as a support system while you are abroad. It is amazing but the people you awkwardly met at the beginning of you trip could turn out to be some amazing friends as you experience new things together.
Here are some things I’m learning so far from my time in Chile!
I don’t think I really realized just how important language and communication was before I traveled to a country where I did not speak the language fluently. While I have taken many classes, this trip has been my first experience being completely immersed in the language. Even having conversations with fluent friends, it was already more relaxed as they knew English and could speak both languages.
My comprehension of the language has improved over my study abroad. I have been challenged over the past weeks by my ability to speak Spanish. Always aware of how slow and clumsy my Spanish is, I feel self-conscious every time I open my mouth, but it is so important and helpful to do so. You can only learn by trying and mist people are so kind and considerate as you practice with them. It is important to note that in Chile people speak very quickly and may finish your sentences for you. Don’t be offended, just know that all other Spanish will sound so much slower after your experience!
One thing that can make or break your experience studying abroad is food. Be aware of your likes and dislikes and (if possible) be prepared to try new things and expand your horizons. I’ve liked some foods I’ve tried here, but not all.
One thing I noticed here in Chile is a lack of processed foods. This is great for health, but also means meals take time to prepare and Chileans seldom have snack in-between meals. So try to eat big meals to get you through the day. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here as well. Try to enjoy lunch at home with your family or try new restaurants to fill you up during the middle of the day.
Classes while studying abroad are seldom as challenging as your college classes, but they can be much harder to make time for while in a new place exploring every day. It is important to make time for your studies. This can also help you establish a routine. P.s. just because your studying, doesn’t mean you can’t find new and interesting places to set up your laptop and try some coffee.
While free time can be really rare, it can be helpful to think of hobbies, books etc. to keep you busy during your time here. Depending on how long you are here, you might want to spend every second seeing new places and people, but it is important to remember to rest and relax.
It’s easy to burn out if you go too hard so don’t forget to bring some of your hobbies with you on your study abroad experience. For instance, I brought many (electronic books) my ukulele and a camera. As a challenge, I hope to get better at photography during my time here with so many new and interesting things to capture.