My name is Elaina, currently a sophomore double major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Zoology and Spanish (with an emphasis in Secondary Education) and I am going to be studying abroad in Santiago, Chile next academic year! I am a first generation college student, so university life is a big deal for me and studying abroad is something I never could have imagined doing in high school. I am super excited to go study in Chile, a place that I myself know is beautiful because I was fortunate enough to visit the country this past winter break. When I was in high school, an AFS (organization that facilitates studying abroad) exchange student from Chile attended my school for a year. Her name was Ingeborg but we all called her Inge (pronounced Ing-a). We immediately became best friends when I discovered what a spitfire and how sassy she was, and still remain in touch to this day. Inge visited me in college my freshman year when she returned to the U.S. and actually ended up living with me and my roommate, Michaela, in my dorm for a week. It was so much fun to show her my college experience and for her to be able to meet all my new friends. Here are some pictures of us from her visit:
So, in the summer after my freshman year I decided it was time to return the visit and go to Chile. I had never travelled alone, never left the country before, never been on an airplane, and never touched the ocean. I am sure you can imagine the anxieties I went through when deciding to actually go to this foreign place I knew almost nothing about, but I think it is very important to get out and see the world and I really wanted to see the place Inge called home. So, I booked a flight to Chile for Christmas Eve and began planning my adventure. The fall semester of school went by slow, knowing that once it was over I would be in a completely new environment, on a vacation of sorts. After a huge snowstorm my finals were finally done and I was ready to leave the U.S. for Chile…however my parents were not quite ready to see me go. Neither of them have ever left the country before so they were scared for me. I assured them I would travel safe and promised to watch the movie Taken while on the airplane. I finally arrived in Chile and had the vacation of a lifetime. I visited the south of Chile where Inge’s dad works, the biggest city I have ever seen, Santiago, and many beaches on the long coast of Chile, such as Zapallar and Maitencillo. I got to meet Inge’s family and friends and attempted to pick up all the slang, or “modismos” of the infamous Chilean Spanish. Here are a few pictures from my trip (I took about 1,000, but these are some of my favorite and most memorable):
When the vacation was done, I reflected on my time and realized I had caught the travel bug. I loved the airport, the people watching, the flying, the random conversations with strangers, and most importantly, the cultural differences. I needed to study abroad. The decision to study abroad in Chile was easy for me because I fell in love with the country, the kindness of the people, the spoken-too-fast, words-cut-short, full-of-modismos Spanish, and the people I had met. I applied and was accepted. This is where I am today. I am full of excitement and anticipation knowing that I will again be in Chile in about three months, but this time my duration of stay won’t be for 4 weeks, but instead whole 12 months.
Needless to say, I am nervous. The Spanish is so different from the Spanish I have learned in school for the past 6 years. The country is much more conservative than the U.S. But overall, I am excited to do this. I never thought this would be possible because of my financial situation, but I have been fortunate to have a large part of my study abroad covered by financial aid, a CIEE (the program I am studying through) scholarship, and the Pritzker Pucker scholarship. I am going to make the best of my time in Chile.
Yesterday, I met up with two of the three other girls who are also studying abroad in Chile. They made me even more excited to do this; I really like them and think that we will become good friends while abroad. I showed them pictures from my trip and they asked me a ton of questions. They were so happy I have already been there because I was able to ease their anxieties and also some of their parents’. One worry I have is that I will spend too much time with these other North Americans and not be able to meet Chilean friends. I have heard many stories about people not branching out enough and regretting it, so one goal I have is to become friends with as many Chileans as possible. I cannot wait to start this chapter in my life!
Enthusiastic and Enthralled,