As our plane descended over the Andes mountains, the sun rose over the their jagged peaks, painting the blue sky deep purple, red, orange and pink. I woke up the passenger next to me, and we spent the remainder of our descent gawking at the ever-changing silhouetted mountains. The picturesque view wasn’t something I wanted to experience alone.
After landing the thirteen other students in my program and I spent the next three days learning what it was like to live in Chile for a semester. We learned the ins and outs of living in Santiago, South America’s must industrialized city. By the end of the week were installed into homestays, the families with which we would live.
So far, living with a Chilean family has been the most enriching part of my study abroad experience. Learning a new culture, from my limited experience, is easiest with a family that is eager to invite you into their lives. My host-mom, Aly, has been an ambassador for Chilean culture, just by her caring nature. She not only prepares me three full (delicious) meals per day, but Aly also cleans my room, washes my clothes, and makes sure I’m as feeling as welcomed in her home as possible. Sergio, my host dad, compliments Aly perfectly. Simply, Sergio is a jolly guy. When I first entered his home, I saw a massive dry-roasted pig leg seated atop the fridge. When Sergio saw me eyeing it, his face lit up and he triumphantly told me, “es mia!” quickly pulling out a knife to slice me off some of his prized meat leg. One interesting custom I quickly learned is that the parents’ bedroom and bed functions as the family room and family sofa. It’s not rare to find me lying on the foot of the bed with Sergio and Aly watching TV.
The family has two kids, Cristobal, 22, who no longer lives in the house, and Javiera, 19, who is studying at a university in Santiago. Two eighteen year-old, twin cousins, Diego and Esteban, moved in last week, who live here during school semesters to study in local universities. With so many people my age around the house, there’s always someone to chat with, and of course, always something interesting happening.
A typical day in Santiago goes as such: I wake up around 7:20am to find breakfast laid out for me by Aly the night before. I eat my breakfast and hop on my bike around 7:50am to arrive at my first class by 8:30am- Fluid Dynamics at the Pontificial Universidad Cátolica de Chile, San Joaquin campus. My class usually ends around 9:30am, when I have to race downtown to make it to my history and culture of Chile class at 10am. At 12pm leisurely ride my bike back to my house and eat almuerzo with most my host family and usually my host dad’s worker, Claudio. The afternoons have been pretty clear for me thus far. Normally I read my book or meet up with my friends for coffee or a bike ride. Later, I usually work on some homework until once which happens between 8 and 10pm. Once is more or less a tea time that also includes some small sandwiches and pastries. By 12am I’m probably in bed getting ready to take on my next day.
So far I’ve been able to meet a few Chilean friends, but I am most grateful for the American friends I’ve made through my program. Being immersed in a culture can be a little overwhelming, so its been a blessing to have others around me who can share in the culture shock I’m experiencing. We’ve also had the opportunities to travel to some places around Santiago.
Overall things are going very well here in Chile, now five weeks into the program. Hopefully in the next blog posts I’ll have a few stories to tell, as my friends and I currently hatching plans to hit the road and see the sights of Chile. But next time, enjoy this picture I took last weekend hiking.