For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently studying abroad at the Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile. I can’t even put into words how amazing my trip has been so far, from the cute cafés on every street corner, to the hustle and bustle of city life, to the picture-perfect view of the Andes from just about anywhere. All breathtaking scenery aside, one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad is the opportunity to live with a Chilean host family.
My host mother’s name is Enriqueta and she is hands-down the sweetest little lady I have ever met. Each morning she calls us to the breakfast table where she’s set out cereal, assorted fruit, crackers with homemade strawberry jam, and tea. She always explains situations or events to us in terms that we can understand, but if we ever have a problem she readily whips out a dictionary to make sure that we are never at a loss for words.
While I have very little to complain about regarding my living situation in Chile, there are a few things that took some getting used to. The way Chileans live in general is very different than Americans for a variety of reasons, especially concerning the amount of people in one house. Right now there are eight people sharing one bathroom, so I think it’s safe to say that the quarters are pretty close. Also, you can’t just turn on hot water here. There is a big white box above the kitchen sink that we have to insert a match into in order to light an unidentified object on fire. Then we turn a knob for precisely fifteen seconds and this somehow brings about hot water. When in a foreign country, sometimes it’s better to just do things rather than to ask why.
I personally prefer living with a host family rather than in a hotel for a variety of reasons, but the most important of all is the fact that I have to use Spanish to communicate whether I like it or not. I’m very shy when it comes to speaking Spanish, so I think it’s beneficial to be forced into speaking the language in order to talk to my host family. Other than a few random English words here and there, my family speaks only Spanish, therefore I have no choice but to improve; that is why I am in Chile, after all.
For anyone who is on the fence about applying to study abroad, my advice to you is to go for it! Hey, it doesn’t hurt to be sitting outside in 85 degree weather while Newark is bracing itself against a massive snowstorm! Living in a foreign country for a month (or more) is an opportunity that you will probably never have again after college, so take advantage of it while it’s at your fingertips.