Alumni Ambassador Mollie studied abroad in Chile and worked with her school to use that experience to return for an internship. Aside from the career benefits and the thrill of travel and adventure, she was most excited to reunite with her host family, a real testament to the meaningful connections you make when you go abroad. Read on to see how she got the internship, how her family has changed and why this homestay was so meaningful.
After one year, I finally returned to the country that has my heart, Chile.
When I returned to the States, I spoke with my professors about what kind of opportunities there would be for me to go back, whether to study or for an internship. We settled on pursuing an internship with a financial company that is based out of Des Moines, my hometown, but also has an office in Santiago. I got to work writing a cover letter, explaining my love of the country and my experience studying abroad there last year. Six months later, Chilean time is very laid back, I received a definite yes and I bought my plane tickets! I’m so lucky to be able to see all of my favorite Chileans again, as well as learn all about mutual funds abroad, and continue learning Spanish.
This weekend, I took the two hour bus ride from Santiago, where I’m living, to Viña del Mar, where my host family and friends still reside. I had lunch with my familia chilena, and it was incredible to see the changes that have taken place.
For example my Spanish; it has definitely improved since last year, which I noticed from the way I could actually have full conversations with my host sister and mother. But it definitely still needs work, which I noticed by the fact that I could only understand about 70% of their responses.
My family also had changed a bit. Both of my sisters now have pololos (the Chilean word for boyfriends), my brother is now enrolled in the Naval Academy (and has grown about 4 inches I think), and mi mama is thinking of moving. I told her this is unacceptable because I love that apartment. She made the very good point that it’s a little too small for the family, as there are 3 bedrooms and generally 5 people living there including their cycle of exchange students.
However, I have one million memories of that place and reminisced so hard during our short afternoon together: the bathroom where I took too many cold showers because I could never really understand how the hot water worked there; the kitchen where I made myself a breakfast of eggs and bacon almost every morning, and where the fridge was always stocked and open for me; my bedroom where I watched tv programs with Spanish subtitles while studying for my Latin American Economics class; and the patio, where I relaxed and read books, finding my happy place. This place was my home for 5 months. Which doesn’t seem like a long time but I had grown to love it so much. It gave me that feeling of relief to walk through the door after a long day at school and be able to nap or eat or relax. It gave me a family to talk to if I ever got homesick or I just wanted to practice my Spanish. It gave me a true home away from home.
I was blessed to have such an amazing family to connect with. Living with a host family was one of my favorite things about studying abroad in Chile. Being back, and living on my own, I’m experiencing something completely new. I have to do my own laundry (ugh), buy my own food (ugh x100), and clean up after myself (which is actually fine). It’s completely different, and I definitely miss the support I had from Maritza and the rest of my family. But this is something that will shape me as a person, just as my study abroad semester shaped me.
It was amazing to reconnect with my family, and they made me promise to come back. They said they would take me exploring in Valparaiso, which is something I am very excited about! Maritza, Andrea, Camila, and Victor treated me like I really was a part of their family, and continue to treat me that way. I am so lucky to be able to call them my Chilean family.