Mollie studied with us in Chile, and her professor gave her this advice at the beginning of her time there:
“Three things are likely to happen when you study abroad- you gain weight, you get sick, or you fall in love.”
“Personally, out of the three of them, I’d prefer to gain weight.”
What happened to Mollie? Read on.
I will now tell you how I managed to do all three of these things in the past three months abroad
1. Gain Weight
If you could see the food in this country you would understand. Not only do I eat an absurd number of completos (tomato, avocado, and (some might say) too much mayonnaise, all piled on top of a hot dog) on a weekly basis, but I also feel the need to try everything new that I lay my eyes on. Churros con manjar, chorillanas, empanadas de camarones… The food here is incredible. On top of that, carbs are served with every meal. Breakfast = toast and butter and yogurt. Lunch = pasta or potatoes. Dinner = toast with avocado and cheese. The bread is abundant, and I am not protesting one bit. I have a whole new appreciation for the bottom level of the food pyramid after this experience.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve gained weight. I haven’t looked at a scale in my time here, and I am perfectly happy with both that decision and the way I look. The weekly soccer matches with my fellow exchange students and sporadic attempts at learning yoga from youtube videos have kept me in line. I’d like to say that I spend a lot of time in the on-campus gym here at my university. I really would.
2. Get Sick
Getting sick in a foreign country is such a bummer. The medications that you’re used to, like Dayquil and Benadryl, are nowhere to be found and instead you have to translate active ingredients to figure out what you need. On top of that, you’re sick. Laying in bed all day because you feel like death is such a waste of time, especially when you live four blocks from one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
That has been one lesson I have learned abroad- there is no use worrying over things that are out of your control. The bus is late? You can’t do anything about that. It’s raining right now? Well you probably shouldn’t have wasted time straightening your hair, but still, you can’t do anything about that. You have an itchy allergy to who-knows-what? When you go back to the states, the allergen will probably stay in Chile. If not, you will have an easier time explaining what’s wrong to a dermatologist in your native language. Either way, right now, it’s not within your control. It is almost impossible to get stressed out in this amazingly beautiful and super laid-back country.
3. Fall in Love
This one is my favorite. My cynical professor didn’t like this one as much, but I adore it.
Chile. I have fallen in love with a country. The U.S. will always be my first love, of course, but now I’ve gotten the taste of another country, the taste of travel, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to stop exploring. Chile has everything- mountains, valleys, big cities, the beach, the desert; it’s an explorer’s dream. In my time here, I’m both sad and happy to say that I wasn’t able to explore everything. Sad because I missed out on the beautiful Patagonia and didn’t get to climb the mountain in Pucon. And happy because it is an excellent excuse to return to this country that I’ve fallen so hard for.
Chilean Culture. Besides the food, which I already raved about above (although I realized I left out sushi which has also been a very important part of my time here), I love so many things about this culture.
I love the language. Spanish is really hard for me; it’s one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted to learn. However, it’s been a blast to watch my progress. I also love hearing it spoken. It’s a beautiful language that, before my time here, was almost completely foreign to me. Now when I eavesdrop on the couple next to me, I can actually catch some of what they’re saying. The only downfall is that all of the Chilenismos that I’m learning here will only do me any good in this one country, cachai? Sad that I won’t be able to bring these slang words back to my Mexican and Salvadorian friends.
I love the people. My host family is full of saints. They are the greatest people that I’ve met here and I love spending time with them and having (broken) conversations in Spanish with them. I’ve also met some pretty amazing people outside of my home, both exchange students and locals. Everyone in Viña del Mar is on a whole other level of chill. Things move slower, nights last longer, and time is not a stressor but a gift.
I love the food. I know I already mentioned this but I just feel like I need to really cement it. Before I came here I was the pickiest person. The list of things I “didn’t like” (because I had never tried) included my now favorites of mayonnaise, salsa, guacamole, avocado, sushi, and tomatoes. This experience forced me to try everything. And I’m glad it did because I have a whole new appreciation for so many foods now.