A Travellerspoint blog

I love you, Santiago

As I walked out of the Los Leones metro stop for the last time, my two friends and my girlfriend accompanied me up to the stairs to say goodbye. I held my girlfriend's hand tightly, knowing it would be the last time I would until we would reunite in Colombia in December. All of us promised each other we would stay friends, that Chile was only the beginning of our friendship and naturally, I was crying. I couldn't stop--in fact, I'm still crying. I don't understand how I'm supposed to go back home. I don't know how I'm going to handle waking up nearly six-thousand miles away from where my heart is. Why did I have to fall in love in a foreign country and with someone who isn't easily accessible? These were the thoughts running through my mind at eight that evening inside the Los Leones metro stop. I kissed my love goodbye, hugged my pals and then made my way out of the metro station as tears ran down my cheeks at the thought of this chapter of my life ending.
Studying abroad is weird. It's like a real-life dream. Your real life is put on hold and you are able to experience a lot of things in this short period of time, so you do. You get out of your comfort zone by trying new things and you meet new people and you get used to their company and create a new little life for yourself and you live like it's your real life--because it is, but then it just stops being your real life, and you have to go home. You cry and you promise everyone that this isn't the end, that you'll visit each other. And it's not fake, you genuinely mean it, but then when you get back home, you're submerged back into the reality that is constant. You are taken out of this dream that you've been in for four, or more, months, and that's it. You can never go back and try to continue the dream. You can't modify how it happened. It just is. It is how it happened and you have to accept it that way because it's all out of your control. You can never come back to the place you lived in and have it be the same. You just can't. The moments are forever encapsulated in this dream and everything feels weird.
I checked the time on my phone figure out about how much time I had left to pack my bags before heading to the airport. 8:07 p.m. I had about three hours. I put my phone in my pocket and looked around the Dos Providencias Shopping Center that I had walked through countless times during my time in Santiago. The signs read Smart Zone, Franca Zone, Paradiso. Down the stairs and to the right and the sights continued: Santander, Banco de Chile, Nastolic, Lapíz López. These are all places I had seen various times, but this time I wrote them all down to remember them and remember all the mornings, afternoons, and nights that I had walked past them and all the memories tied to those mornings, afternoons, and nights. I needed to do this to hold the memories close and for the future, to be able to remind myself of the love I have developed for Santiago.
I know it won't be the last time I'm here, but I wanted to make sure that I was appreciating every aspect of the city that I can. I think I've done well.

Posted by Jessicaramos 19:39 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Getting Robbed in Santiago

I went to the desert of San Pedro de Atacama three weeks ago. A bunch of my friend and I decided that we were going to get a rental car, drive around and get to know parts of the desert. We left on Thursday evening. My friend Grace and I were on our way to the airport. We had to take bus 518 from the corner of Francisco Bilbao and Los Leones in Providencia to metro stop Los Héroes in downtown Santiago. We planned to take a bus to the airport from near Los Héroes.
We were on our way to the bus that would take us to the airport and everything was going well. I had my backpack with the clothes I was planning on wearing for the weekend and I also had a sleeping bag that I had rented tied to the outside of my backpack because I didn’t actually have a backpacking pack. We reached Los Héroes and to get to our second bus, all we had to do was cross the street, so we began walking towards the end of the sidewalk and then when we felt a splash of something lightly splash on top of us.
“What was that?” I said out loud.
“Dude, did a bird just poop on us?” Grace asked, disgusted.
“Holy fuck, I think so,” I responded and just when I was about to help Grace clean the bird poop off of her hair, a short 40-year-old woman walked from behind us.
“Oh no! Oh no! Esta en todo su pelo!” She swore I had bird poop all over my hair, “ven! Ahorita le ayudo.” She said she was going to help me.
"Well, okay," I thought she was just trying to be nice to me; however, her exaggeration of the amount of bird poop in my hair threw me off a little bit. I knew that I hadn't been pooped on a lot because I had only felt a sprinkle of whatever the substance way fall on me, but I still let her help me because I was always taught to accept peoples' acts of kindness.
She pulled me off to the side on the sidewalk and Grace was confused as to why the lady was helping me so much more than she was helping her because Grace had gotten more "bird poop" on her hair, but we both went with it anyway. The lady told me to take my backpack off so she could reach the bird poop on my neck, so naively, I listened to her. I took my backpack off and she began to wipe my neck with a tissue she had handy.
"Take care of my backpack," I asked Grace. I am always hyperconscious of people potentially stealing my belongings because I know it happens in Santiago when you least expect it, so I made sure to keep an eye on my backpack. I kept glancing at my backpack on the ground, making sure it was still there while this random lady helped get the bird poop off of my neck, and in my eyes, my backpack didn't move an inch.
After about a minute of the lady wiping my neck, she said it was all gone, but before I could thank her, she ran away. Grace and I looked at each other, puzzled, but then it hit me that she might've not been trying to help me after all. I looked at my backpack, I picked it up and I realized it wasn't my backpack. It was a backpack that looked like the gray backpack I owned.
"Grace, this isn't my backpack. I think she took my backpack." I was freaking out at this point because my real backpack had my wallet that contained about 100 dollars in cash, my credit card, my debit card, my license, and all the clothes and materials I needed to go camping in San Pedro de Atacama. I didn't really know how to react. Grace suggested that I run after the lady, but when I looked in the direction she had walked away in, she was gone. I felt defeated and I didn't know what to do. I told Grace I wasn't going to the desert anymore, but she convinced me to go anyway and I'm glad that I did because the weekend turned out to be a blast regardless of me having been depleted of my resources to camp.
All of my friends lent me clothes and other things I needed to get through the weekend. I didn't let the fact that I got robbed get in the way of me being able to enjoy my time because, in the end, there was nothing I could do to change how things happened and I was surrounded by great people whom I have limited time with, so the only thing I could really do was enjoy my time. And that's exactly what I did.

Posted by Jessicaramos 11:38 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

How I Feel About the Concept of ~Study Abroad~

Sometimes people who have studied abroad aren't as "worldly" as they seem

sunny 26 °C

I don’t think most United State-ian people who study abroad do it to broaden their perspective on the world. I think it’s a bullshit answer everyone gives because it always works. Nobody is going to respond with something negative if you say you want to get to know the world, or “find yourself,” so we keep using it even if it’s not true. So what is the real reason and why don’t I think that it’s really the generic answers? From what I’ve observed, I think it’s to travel cheaply, have fun, or to get away from your problems back home. Sometimes all three.

Depending on where you go to study abroad, pricing for traveling will vary; however, as United State-ians we have an advantage in most places we go because our currency is valued very well in most places, so if we’re just living in a different country, paying the same amount of money for university, or sometimes less, we are usually able to take trips to locations around us that turn out to be cheap for us.

Having fun is a given. Going to a new place where you can start from zero and be able to experience new things that you wouldn’t be able to (or wouldn’t have the guts to do) back home is very enticing. Especially when you know that you don't have to work around your school schedule because more likely than not, your professors are going to be pretty lenient on you because most of them assume you’re there for the experience and not to married to schoolwork. Most people know this and it’s always something that attracts people to study abroad. This is also tied to my last assumption about why people study abroad.

Being in a constant state of happiness is always a good thought, and I have met people who have decided they wanted a break from their lives and study abroad can provide that for you while you’re still technically a part of the society back home. It’s great!

These are the reasons why I think people really study abroad, but despite me feeling like people don’t study abroad for the reasons they tend to express, I do believe those bullshit motives happen as a side effect of studying abroad. However, not as dramatically as people always make it seem.

I have observed all of my fellow study abroad mates become more knowledgeable. Like, learn about the Pinochet dictatorship for the first time because the U.S. school system failed to teach it to us along the way, or develop their Spanish and understanding of how Spanish-speakers use certain phrases or words that wouldn’t sound right in English or vice versa. I can see that they’re growing--we're all developing, and this is great. I am not trying to downplay the importance of these small developments, but every time someone talks about them, they stretch the truth, but the truth is people don't develop in super dramatic ways that we couldn’t do in the United States. This is because most study abroad programs make it so students are comfortable.

Most study abroad students tend to mingle only with the people from their program. I know this because I see it happening now, and every person who I talked to before coming here said the same thing, so we don’t experience what the people are really like. Also, as much as we would like to think that living with host families gives us the “cultural experience,” we have to acknowledge that these families are on the wealthier side of the spectrum and we’re not really experiencing what common people experience unless we form friendships with regular people and are able to experience that with their help, which is rarely the case for reasons I have stated before.

Overall, I have learned that studying abroad is something people do for fun, and for some reason end up feeling like they’ve learned a lot when in reality all of us have only scratched the surface of the culture we've attempted to submerge ourselves into, yet we still carry ourselves like we’re *woke. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing; however, I do think it’s a false reality that people who study abroad have created to seem more special than just being people who were genuinely just looking for a good time.

  • according to Urban Dictionary, a dictionary for slang terms, woke means “The act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue.

Posted by Jessicaramos 19:19 Archived in Chile Tagged abroad study Comments (0)

The Struggle Between My Past Self and My Present Self

I think I'm studying abroad wrong. I know what you’re thinking, how do you even do that? Well, before I came to Chile, I told myself I would make friends—Chilean friends, that is. I promised that I wouldn’t become too comfortable hanging out with my fellow American friends from the same study abroad program as me because the point of study abroad is to broaden your cultural relativism by getting to know the natives in the country, but guess what I’ve been stuck doing? Hanging out with my fellow Chinese friend from the same study abroad program as me. Well, he’s lives in the United States but is originally from China. I’m only highlighting the fact that he’s Chinese because it makes me feel a teensy bit better about not expanding my horizons too much. On one hand, I think I might be cheating myself, but on the other, I think it’s fine because I am truly developing my cultural relativism—just not in the way I had anticipated I would.

In the time that I’ve been hanging out with him, I have learned a lot about Chinese culture. He tells me a lot of stories about his upbringing—talks to me about how the education system functions, social norms, and how different the people there are from Americans—from their greetings to eating habits. He has also introduced me to mandarin and spiked my interest in picking it up as a third language. (Somewhere along the way, we jokingly decided we were going to get married eventually, so learning Mandarin would be critical for our relationship to thrive since I would eventually have to be able to communicate with his family). Anyway, the first word he introduced me to was tomorrow. It looks like this in kanji characters, or the written form in which Mandarin is written: 明天. If you take the first character and divide it in half, you get this: 日 and this:月. Individually, they mean the sun and moon. The entire word literally translates to “after the sun and the moon.” I think this is so lovely and I’m happy about having been taught this, along with an abundance of other words, because I think it bettered my language relativism by showing me depth that the language carries within each character or word. This is important to me even though I realize it is just a tiny bit and not in the language that I had planned it to be in.

I really am having a lovely time without having Chilean friends, but I know pre-Chile Jessica would not want this to be how I’m spending my time in Chile, but should I care about pre-Chile Jessica? She’s dead, but will she come back to haunt me after my program is over and I’m reflecting on my time here?! This is all I can think about before I go to bed at night. “Am I not studying abroad correctly?” is all that runs through my head, but as of now, I’m not sure. Am I worried I’ll regret not leaving Chile with an abundance of Chilean friends? Kind of, but I think I might still have time to satisfy pre-Chile Jessica’s goals…if I decide to keep it on the list at all. ;)

Posted by Jessicaramos 16:29 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

What I hope to Achieve from Studying Abroad

learning independence

Being alone has always been a scary thought to me. I fear that being alone will result in me feeling lonely. To play it safe, I've always been one to heavily rely on the comfort of family and friends' presence to feel "complete" and just overall stable. This dependency on others was the main reason why I decided to leave them all for five months.

I know you're probably thinking that this thought process doesn't make sense, but hear me out. For years, this has been my dream; I wished of being the quintessential "girl who got away" from the books, like Margo Roth Spiegelman from Paper Towns (embarrassing and dramatic, I know), but I knew I could never be that person because the fear of being alone was too strong that it wouldn't allow me to sail too far from the safe harbor. I was too weak, too reliant on my loved ones for my overall stability. When thinking about actually leaving all of my family and friends behind to try to find my independence and how it could make me grow, I felt like it was a pipedream. I remembered how much I cried when I didn't see my mom for a week (it was actually four days) after I moved into the college dorms and I thought to myself that I was clearly not meant to get far from my family for long periods. I was honestly just going to settle for living with my mom forever even though the thought of that didn't sound as good as exploring the world and becoming self-sufficient did, but I didn't settle.

Last year, I decided to force myself to apply to study abroad regardless of the fear trying to hold me back. I told myself I would force myself to be individualistic, free of all the dependency I had on everyone. I just wanted to be happy without everyone I knew by my side 24/7. I wanted to be enough for myself because I hated that I had to be surrounded by people to be emotionally stable. And so I forced myself to commit to growing.

Once I got approved and confirmed with my study abroad program that I was going to be going through with it, I became anxious because I knew I couldn't go back on my decision. It was like I had signed up for bungee jumping and gotten to the top platform only to realize I wasn't even sure I wanted to go through with it anymore. But I was already at the top, and the only thing left to do was jump, so after waiting for a while, I jumped.

The jump was boarding the plane. And now, here I am. Five thousand nine hundred forty-one miles away from my home, seeking for the independence and spontaneity that I have romanticized for years. And yeah, I'm still scared of feeling lonely eventually because all my advisors told me I would experience a low point where I would be homesick and sad, but I'm coming into this with the desire to grow and see what being away from everything I know can teach me. I'm hoping independence and self-sufficiency is part of those things, but I guess only time will tell.


Posted by Jessicaramos 18:55 Comments (0)

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