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A Black Bear Abroad: My final days in Santiago

Studying abroad is full of ups and downs. There are days when you wish you were leaving tomorrow and other days where you wish you could live here forever. My experience was no different from this; I’ve had good days and bad days. Now that it is time to actually leave this city that has become my home over the past four months, my feelings are still mixed. There are definitely some things I will miss, but there are also things I can’t wait for back in the United States.

The biggest thing that I will miss about Santiago, something that is available in almost any place that you study abroad, is how you are constantly learning. Whether it is the commute to school, actual classes or just hanging out with people. There are limitless opportunities to learn, without having to put in a lot of effort. Especially here, where the dominant language is not English and the Spanish has a very unique dialect. Everytime I do something as simple as buy toothpaste at the store or put money on my metro card, I get to practice my Spanish skills.

Another big thing that I will miss here is living in a city. While there are definitely times I wish that I could just be alone in my car, drive somewhere and not have to sit in traffic for half an hour, being in the city means there is always something to do. In Santiago specifically, there are tons of parks —which I love, because these are the best place to go to people watch, workout or meet with your friends.

There is also always somewhere to go that you haven’t been before. There are so many little barrios (neighborhoods) in Santiago; my four months here, I wasn’t able to see them all. Since there are so many people here, there are tons of events happening every day, with many of them being free of charge. This past weekend, I ran a race with my friend and a few weeks ago, I went to a food festival that featured popular food from around the country. There is always something new — and often exciting — to do.

One aspect of Santiago that I definitely will not miss is the weather. When we first got here in January, it was summer and it was pretty warm, which was very nice coming right from winter. It isn’t as humid as it is in Maine, but it wasn’t uncommon to be sitting somewhere just dripping sweat. Now it is fall here and the weather has done a complete 360. Now in the mornings it is pretty cold and — while it warms up a little during the day — it cools down again in the afternoon. When you can see everyone on social media talking about how it is starting to warm up back home, it is hard to be excited about the temperatures cooling down here. It also never rains here and as someone who loves splashing in puddles and playing outside in the rain, it is weird to not experience rain for four months.

Studying abroad anywhere has highs and lows, but for me there have been many more highs than lows. Coming to Santiago, I had no idea what exactly I was getting myself into, but I had an amazing experience here. A huge part of studying abroad is trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. Whether it was having a complicated conversation with someone in Spanish (where neither of you knows exactly what you are talking about) or going somewhere new for the weekend, my experience was heightened by all the times I did things I wasn’t completely comfortable with. No matter where you go or what you do there, after having this experience, I believe that everyone who has a chance to study abroad should take advantage of that opportunity.

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