Packing Tips for Abroad

Preparing for a long trip abroad, and need help packing?? I’ve been wanting to do a blog post regarding packing for quite some time, and even have friends requesting that I do one. Since Chile was my second time traveling abroad, I thought I would have the whole packing thing down. Turns out, that wasn’t the case. USAC always suggests that you pack your bag half full so you have room to buy things abroad and fit them in your suitcase on the way home. Especially if you are leaving for a summer session (4-9 weeks), you really don’t need much.

Last year before I left for Spain, I started packing my suitcases about a month beforehand. I wanted to get a head start because I wanted to be extra prepared and make sure I didn’t forget anything. I felt like I packed pretty well for Spain last year, but there were definitely things that I wish I brought more of, or left at home. It’s hard to say what you may need or may not need until you get there. By then, it’s too late. In short, I bought a lot of clothes in Spain because I brought too many shorts and not enough pants. In Bilbao it was cool and rainy most of the time. We had probably three days of complete sunshine the whole time I was there. Definitely check the weather before you leave!

Packing for Chile was a whole different story. I got a little cocky because I’ve done this before so I thought “oh, I’ll have time to pack!” I put off my packing until about a week before my trip and that was a mistake. I was rushing to put the right things in my suitcase and went to the store and bought way too many toiletries. This time around was actually harder for me because I knew the weather was going to be colder down South, so I had to pack sweaters which take up way more space than summer clothes. I also had trouble deciding which shoes to bring if it was going to be raining all the time. When I checked the weather in Santiago, it said sunny/partly cloudy most of the time and the temperature was in the 50’s and 60’s. I thought that wasn’t even too cold, so I brought a lot of t-shirts that I didn’t end up wearing. 50 degrees in Santiago feels like 40, so it was much colder than I expected.

For Santiago, I packed wayyyy too many clothes. I wanted to look “cute” everyday, but that honestly is just not realistic. I brought all the sweaters that I own, when I could have just brought 3 or 4. I even ended up buying 2 sweaters in Chile, and those had trouble fitting in my suitcase on the way home. I did not bring a scarf, but I did bring gloves and a beanie which worked well for me. I didn’t realize everybody wears scarves there, so I headed to an H&M to buy a nice scarf. I also brought too many toiletries. I brought big bottles of shampoo and conditioner and a lot of extra makeup, when I could have just brought travel size ones. Since I was staying with a host family, they provided everything I could need for shower purposes. I would say if you are staying with a host family, don’t worry about bringing the big shower items. They will have them for you. And if they don’t, you can always go to the store and buy some! The good thing is that if you do forget something, there are stores wherever you are going where you can buy those items. No need to stress!

For Spain, I brought a carry-on, a big suitcase, and a backpack that I took with me on the plane. I hated carrying around the backpack because my back always hurt and it was hard to reach in and pull one thing out without taking everything out, because I packed it so tight. This time for Chile, I decided to just pack my carry-on and my big suitcase. I checked the big suitcase and used my carry-on on the planes, as well as a small purse with my important documents for easy access. Turns out, most planes nowadays are too small and cannot fit carry-ons in the overhead bins, so they make you check them. This was not helpful at all and not what I was expecting. It was kind of nice not having to carry it around so my hands were free, but otherwise it just increased the chances of it getting lost. When we missed the international flight in Atlanta, they kept both of my bags overnight, when I had my important items and a change of clothes in my carry-on. That was the whole reason I brought the carry-on was for a situation like that. After that it didn’t matter anymore. I had no bags and just my purse. At that point, I wished I had brought my backpack. So on my way home from Chile, I used my backpack that way it didn’t matter if I had to check my carry-on. It was much more of a relief coming home. So in short, I would suggest traveling with a backpack, and checking the carry-on and big suitcase. Otherwise, your best bet is bringing just one big suitcase, and the backpack. That’s really all you need.

Some ways I keep my suitcase organized is by using packing cubes. One of my friends gave me packing cubes before I left for Spain and they worked miracles. I was able to separate all my clothes and toiletry items in cubes and they fit perfect in my suitcase. I would suggest investing in packing cubes because they make life a little easier. I would also suggest rolling up your clothes, instead of folding them like normal. It gives you a lot more space in your suitcase for shoes and other items that may not fit in a packing cube. You can check out the pictures below to see how the packing cubes keep things organized and not just stuffed in your suitcase.

In short, these few important tips can be a life saver when traveling abroad:

  • Pack light!! Even if you think you need that one pair of heels, you probably don’t.
  • Pack travel size toiletries and buy big things if you need them at a store abroad.
  • Bring a backpack on the plane and check all your other bags.
  • Pack a change of clothes and a small toiletry bag in your backpack in case you get stuck somewhere.
  • Check the weather before you leave, especially the humidity and precipitation.
  • Invest in packing cubes.
  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them or throwing them in your suitcase.
  • Pack two or three pairs of shoes. One pair of good walking shoes and an everyday pair of shoes (maybe an extra pair of good walking shoes in case your other ones get destroyed, it happens).
  • Bring a small day pack for day trips, that way you don’t have to carry your big backpack all day.
  • Use your USAC luggage tags so you can easily identify other people in your program and make friends.
  • Bring a weeks worth of underwear and socks, that’s all you need. Basically a weeks worth of everything.

Home Sweet Home, Again…

I have now been home in Reno for a week and it feels great! As I look back on my trip to Chile, I realize that it went by soooo fast. Four weeks really isn’t that long of a time and it almost feels like I never left.

Contrary to how I felt returning from Spain last summer, I was very excited to return home from Chile to relax and enjoy my summer with my family. I cherished every moment I spent in Chile, but I think the winter weather finally got to me and I began to wish for my warm summer in Reno. I was constantly checking the weather in Reno while I was gone just to see how much warmer it was than the 50 degree chilly weather in Chile (unintentional pun). It also didn’t help that I got very sick while I was there. At that point, all I wanted was to meet with my doctor and rest in the comfort of my own home and bathroom.

Regardless of that, I am so thankful for everything my host family did to accommodate me during my four week stay. I felt so comfortable living with them and it really became not only a second home for me, but also a second family. They reminded me so much of my family at home and I enjoyed every second of it. I lived in a pretty large two-story house with six other people…my host parents, their two sons, one of whom had a girlfriend and a 4 year old daughter that also lived in the house. They were the sweetest family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My last night in Santiago, my host mom put two flags on the table for dinner, one Chilean flag and one American flag. It represented bringing two cultures together under one roof and appreciating the time we spent together. They also got me a going away gift! A framed photo of my friend Emily and I from Dunas de Concón, and a Chile beanie. I almost burst into tears knowing how thoughtful it was for them to get me a gift when I was the one who should be thanking them for everything. I cried leaving my host mom that next day because the relationship I built with her was very strong. She became one of my best friends in Chile and I felt like I could talk to her about anything, much like my own mom in the States. I was sad to leave, but also happy because of all the great memories I built with them. One day I hope they can come visit Reno and I can show them all that my hometown has to offer. What really got me was when Valentina (my host parent’s granddaughter) told me she would miss me. She reminded me so much of my niece at home and I will definitely miss playing with her after dinner. To savor the moment, I took some pictures with my host family, as well as my host home which you can find below!

Upon returning to Reno, I was a little more aware of what reverse culture shock would bring which made the transition easier. This time around, I was so excited to be home and reunited with my family, friends and my dog of course. Summer is my favorite time of year in Reno because there are so many fun events going on and it really makes summer a memorable time of year for me. Knowing that I have two more months of vacation, I’m ready to savor every minute of it.

I am especially looking forward to taking some time to focus on myself and improving my health. Right now, I still cannot do all the things I really want to throughout the day without having to plan when I’m going to need to use the bathroom. I go through each day with caution but I’m trying not to let it get to me. My doctor actually told me that my anxiety level surrounding my disease has improved immensely since I was first diagnosed. He was proud of me for still going on my trip even though I wasn’t feeling 100% beforehand. I can’t let this set-back keep me from doing the things I love and I refuse to let it control my life. I will continue to fight against this for the rest of my life no matter the circumstances.

Once I start to improve, I will no longer have restrictions in my daily life and that is something I am definitely looking forward to. This time is for me and I really need to take advantage of it before I go back to school because school is one of the main aspects of my life that causes stress. I only have one semester left before I graduate in December, so I want to make this last one memorable and most importantly, stay healthy!

I realize that every time I leave Reno for a long time and come back, I always appreciate this city so much more. Reno may be small and some people don’t particularly admire that, but I love living in a city where I know I have people I can count on. Reno has so much to offer and I wish everybody could see that from the outside. There is so much room for growth and opportunity here and I am excited to see what Reno has in store for the coming years. Reno will forever be home to me no matter where I end up in the future.

Ultimately, I am so grateful for the opportunities that have been handed to me during my time at UNR, especially with USAC. I couldn’t thank them enough for all they have done for me and the support I have received from them. Being able to experience two different study abroad programs during my undergraduate career is something not many people get to say and I think it will set me apart from others when applying for jobs in the future. I am hoping that my cultural experience and improved Spanish skills will come in handy in my future career path and I am excited to put that knowledge to the test.

The End of Another Grand Adventure

Well, my last week here in Chile has not been exactly what I imagined it to be.

My weekend started out with a hike at La Campana National Park in Ocoa Valley, which was about two hours away from Santiago. This was another USAC organized field trip and definitely one to remember! In total we hiked about nine miles…which was quite grueling for someone who hasn’t worked out in some time and has been eating nothing but carbs. Our USAC on-site staff always tells us to have a partner on all of the field trips so nobody gets lost. Emily and I were partners, and at the beginning of the hike we stopped to take off our jackets since we were getting hot, and sure enough I turned around and the entire group was gone. We walked a little further up the trail and couldn’t find them, nor could we hear anybody talking. It was dead silent. We decided to just continue on the main trail and cross our fingers that we would find them in front of us. We started booking it up the mountain and did not run into anybody from our group. At that point, we took a breather and decided to wait a little bit to see if they were behind us.

Sure enough, we started to hear some voices in the distance. Emily and I looked like lost puppies halfway up the mountain when we saw our USAC group climbing towards us. They had apparently stopped off to the side to take pictures at a lookout, and found a stray dog along the way. When the dog saw me from afar, he ran so fast towards me and jumped into my arms. He started biting my arms and that’s when I called it quits. We had no idea where this dog had come from or if he even had a family. Nonetheless, we decided to name him Kevin and he stayed with us throughout the duration of our hike.

Once we reached the top, we got to see a small waterfall and some of the most beautiful trees, plants, and flowers. It was a view unlike any other. We stopped for a snack break and took lots of pictures. It took us about two hours to hike up and about an hour and a half to hike down. Trust me, going down the mountain was much easier than climbing up. I could feel how sore I was going to be the next day in my legs. Once we got down the mountain, we got empanadas at a restaurant for lunch and drove back to Santiago. It was a tiring day, but also a very cool experience (and a good workout)!

On Saturday, Emily and I went to visit the zoo at Cerro San Cristóbal and the planetarium at one of the universities here. The zoo started out a little sketchy when we didn’t see the tiger in his habitat, but it got a whole lot better. They had some pretty cool animals there. We saw elephants, giraffes, flamingos (Emily’s favorite), a zebra, and of course the llamas! I have determined that llamas are my spirit animal now. I also felt bad for the animals because it gets really cold here in Santiago in the winter time, and all of the animals have outdoor habitats.

We got to the planetarium about an hour before it closed and the line to buy tickets was EXTREMELY long. There was no way we were getting inside before closing time. Luckily for us, some lady came up to us and gave us her tickets because she apparently couldn’t go. The tickets included entry and a movie. We were so thankful for this woman. I let one of the workers know that we had tickets and she escorted us inside (past the long line of waiting people) and told us that the show would start soon. Little did we know, they were running late with their shows, so we had to wait about an hour to get inside the dome. But once we did, it was absolutely amazing. The movie was about the total solar eclipse that Chile will have on July 2nd. I am sad to be missing this event since I go home in a few days, but I got a pretty good idea of it at the planetarium.

Unfortunately, after our hiking trip I started showing symptoms of my ulcerative colitis. The symptoms have progressively gotten worse over the past couple of days, and I have been spending lots of time resting at my homestay and eating bland foods. My poor host mom is so worried about my condition and what to cook for me, but she has been doing a great job! I feel sad that this has to happen here in Chile, especially during my last week when I had last minute sight seeing I wanted to do. My only concern now is just staying healthy and finishing my Spanish class strong. I stayed home from class yesterday to rest and stay close to a bathroom, which was much needed. Each day is different and I feel abdominal pain at different parts of the day. It’s been a challenge to explain to my host family what’s going on in Spanish, but also a really good learning experience for me. Luckily the USAC staff here are fully aware of my condition. One of them even has UC and she gave me some great advice and suggestions on what to eat and drink to feel better. It’s nice having someone who understands what I’m going through.

The good news is that I have a great support system here and I feel comfortable telling my host family what is going on, mostly because it’s necessary that they are aware of my condition. I only have one more full day left in Chile, and I intend on spending it with my host family and thanking them for everything they have done for me. I know that I have a different situation than most students and they have been very welcoming and accommodating from the day I arrived. I am trying to get past the fact that I am very sick, and focus on getting back to the States safely and in one piece. I know I can recover from this and that I will rest as much as needed when I get home. I am a little frustrated that I have to deal with this AGAIN because I just recovered from a flare-up about a month ago. This time I was only in remission for about one month, which isn’t long enough. When I get home I’m gonna get down to the nitty gritty of this disease and get myself on the right track. What other choice do I have?

La Vida es Mejor en el Paraíso

For my second real weekend here in Chile, the USAC group took a field trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar which are located on the coast of Chile. It was about an hour and a half bus ride from Santiago through the mountains and vineyards. All of the students had the option to stay in Valparaíso or Viña del Mar for the weekend, so a couple of us stayed for just one night and others stayed for two nights. The group of students I was with decided to stay for only one night in Valparaíso.

Our first stop along the way was Dunas de Concón, which are sand dunes located on a cliff side right next to the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed stunning views of the ocean and then climbed up the mountain side to reach what we thought was the top of the sand dune. Turns out there was no actual end to the sand dune, it stretched for miles. Climbing in sand was quite the workout for all of us, but gave way to stunning views of the ocean and waves in the distance. I thought going down the sand dune would be harder, but it actually wasn’t too bad.

Our next stop was the beach of course in Viña del Mar. We got to take a walking tour along some of the beaches and we all ate some pretty delicious churros along the way. It was lunch time, so we got to go separate ways to find a restaurant of our choice. A couple others and I went to a Peruvian restaurant which was REALLY good! Probably the best cuisine I’ve had here in Chile. I got raviolis that were filled with quinoa, spinach, and cheese and covered in a spinach sauce. Our waiter was very patient with us since we are gringas and he decided to give us free shots of “pisco sour” which is a very famous alcoholic beverage here. The name of the drink explains it all…very sour. For dessert, I shared a tres leches cake with a friend of mine and it was so big that neither of us could even finish it. But also, one of the most rico desserts I’ve had here.

Our next stop on our bus ride was to downtown Valparaíso. We did a walking tour through the small city and got to see all the creative street art. Valparaíso is a small, tourist town where you will find lots of people speaking in English, but it is also a large party destination for those who enjoy nightlife. It is very expressive because of the freedom of the street art and has a relaxing, bohemian vibe (you will see gypsies trying to talk to you). There were small vendors everywhere selling handmade, artisan jewelry and paintings for really good prices. There was even a little outdoor market in the central Plaza going on all weekend. It was such a cute town and I wanted to stay by the water forever.

Once we were let loose, we all went to find our hostels for the night. Our hostel was super cute and easy to find. When we walked into our room, there was a man already sleeping in one of the beds and he woke up to introduce himself to us. He goes “Hi, I’m Josh!” I took one look at him and recognized the Australian accent from the weekend before when we got lost in the Andes at Cajón del Maipo. I said “Hey, I know you! Didn’t you go to Cajón del Maipo last weekend?” He looked at me with a confused look and then finally recognized me when I said my name. What are the odds that we were staying in the same hostel, in the same room, in a different city an hour and a half away from Santiago?? It was such a cool experience. He apparently had missed his flight in Santiago a couple days before and decided to go to Valparaíso for a couple days to wait it out and relax. At least we weren’t sharing the hostel with some unknown person! We got dinner at an amazing restaurant called Tenta, and I ate fettuccine covered in a yellow bell pepper sauce and chicken that was rolled and breaded. It was so delicious. I feel like I haven’t eaten much pasta here, so that dinner satisfied my Italian craving.

For our second day exploring Valparaíso, we got breakfast/lunch at a Panini cafe (great prices once again). There I got a chocolate chip muffin filled with nutella. I have become obsessed with the muffins here and my host mom buys me giant boxes of muffins for my desserts after dinner. We walked around the city a little bit more and took an elevator up to a higher point in the city so we had a good view of the ocean. Valparaíso was built on a hill so all of the streets are really steep and you have to take elevators to get to the top. It looks a lot like San Francisco. We stopped by the market and also took a 40 minute boat ride on the bay. It was a beautiful day with sun and no clouds! We got really lucky, because apparently it is always cloudy there and usually hard to see the ocean. When we finished our boat ride, we went to the beach to watch the sunset. We got there by bus, and let me tell you, the bus drivers here are crazy! Just like last weekend in the Andes, we felt very unsafe on the bus and some guy actually yelled at the bus driver to drive better around the turns. Once the sun set, we had to go back to the hostel to get our bags and head to the bus station to catch a bus back to Santiago.

We got to the bus station 10 minutes before the last bus left for the night, so we got really lucky. I definitely passed out on the bus ride because I was so tired from all the adventure during the day. I got back to my host home around 11pm that night and went straight to sleep. It was a wonderful weekend exploring a beautiful city. Valparaíso and Viña are definitely places I would come for vacation in the summer time (winter for the States) to enjoy the beach, the ocean, and the nightlife.

If You Didn’t Pee in the Wilderness, Did you Really Study Abroad?

My first weekend exploring Santiago was a whirlwind! I only have class Monday through Thursday, which means we get a three day weekend to do whatever we choose. On Friday, a couple friends and I decided to go to Cerro San Cristobal which is a hill in the middle of the city with a statue of the Virgin Mary at the top and a zoo! You take a funicular to the top of the mountain and then you have the option to climb the rest for amazing views of the city and to see the Virgin Mary. There is also a small church and an outdoor mass area built into the gardens. The statue of the Virgin Mary has a sanctuary inside of it reserved for silent prayer. It was beautiful. I wish we could have spent more time on the hill, but I will definitely be going back to get some souvenirs and enjoy the views once more before I leave.

After Cerro San Cristobal, we went to Sky Costañera which is the tallest building in Latin America, also attached to a giant mall. This building has a complete 360 view of Santiago. You take an elevator up 64 floors to the very top, which has two tiers. The first tier is the main floor and the second tier is called the sky deck. It has an open ceiling and glass windows. I could feel the cold air rushing in as well as some rain drops. The views were probably the best I have ever seen of any city. I didn’t realize how big of a city Santiago was until I saw it from above. The buildings stretch for miles and the Andes mountains envelop the city. Santiago houses more than 5 million people! A pretty big difference from Bilbao and Reno. We watched the sunset and once it got dark, a live musician started playing American songs on the sky deck and they were handing out free glasses of wine! It was such a cool experience. I didn’t want to leave that moment.

On Saturday, my friends and I decided to go to Cajón del Maipo, which is located in the Andes mountains and offers hiking trails, hot springs, horseback riding, river rafting, zip-lining and incredible views of the mountains. We were attempting to go to Embalse el Yeso which is a reservoir in the Andes mountains. We all took a bus that headed to Cajón del Maipo, but little did we know the bus ride would be about two hours. We paid the bus driver to take us to San Gabriel, which is where they told us Embalse el Yeso would be. When we arrived, the bus driver dropped us off in the middle of nowhere and said it was the last stop on the bus. We tried to ask him how to get to Embalse el Yeso, but he just took off without giving us a map or anything. So, at that point we were stuck in the mountains with no sense of direction and guess who had to pee. There was nothing in sight for miles so I just popped a squat behind a rock and hoped for the best. Another incident of me desperately having to pee in the middle of nowhere. I’m not shocked.

After my bathroom experience in the Andes, the Slovakian couple and Australian couple that were with us eventually pulled over a taxi driver and asked him how to get to Embalse el Yeso. The driver said it would take about four hours to drive there. We did not have that much time, considering it was already 1:30pm at the time. The driver gave us a map and we had to pull over the next taxi driver we saw to at least take us somewhere close that preferably had food.

Once we found a new taxi, he let us put all of our bags in the back of the car and he told us we could go to Baños Morales, which is a hot spring that was closest to us. He said it would be about a two hour drive to get there. Mind you, his car was a small five seater and there were seven of us. Of course, because I am so small I was the one laying on top of everyone in the back of the car up a sketchy road in the mountains. The driver stopped a couple of times so we could take photos of the waterfalls and wild horses which was nice (little did we know he would charge us extra for it at the end). The drive ended up being more like an hour than two hours which I was thankful for so my head was no longer smushed on the ceiling of his car. He dropped us off in a small dilapidated village and when we asked about where the hike started to get to Baños Morales, he said it would take at least another two hours to hike there. Every person we asked told us something different and by that time in the day, it just wasn’t going to be possible for us to see any attraction in the mountains.

Since we hadn’t eaten lunch yet, we stopped at the pizza place in the village. Luckily, it had a proper bathroom which I was so happy to see. The food was great and our waitress helped us with finding the bus to take us back to Santiago. She was a true lifesaver. The bus came at 4pm and of course we hopped on with all our stuff once again. I stopped paying the bus drivers because they were only taking advantage of the tourists and didn’t make some people pay. I could tell they just really did not care about anything. Our bus driver on the way home made a couple of “personal” stops to get things for himself. It took us another three hours to make it back home to Santiago and we were exhausted. We spent pretty much the whole day traveling and not getting to see much in Cajón del Maipo. But it sure was a cool experience!! I get to say that I got lost in the Andes mountains and peed in the wilderness once again. Seems to be a trend for me when traveling to foreign countries.

On Sunday, my friend Emily and I went to a famous museum here called Museo de Bellas Artes. I am not much of an art person, but I always love seeing museums and learning more about the Chilean culture. It was pretty fascinating and also free like many of the other museums here! Afterwards, we headed to Plaza de Armas and got to see a cueca dance competition going on in the Plaza. Cueca is the typical dance of Chile and basically everyone knows how to do it here. It was a very relaxing Sunday night considering the crazy Saturday we had just had. My first weekend in Chile was a success and I couldn’t ask for anything more. This weekend, USAC is traveling to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar which is on the coast of Chile. More photos and adventures to come!

One World, Different Cultures

Upon arriving in Chile, I had a certain expectation that I would not experience culture shock since I have already traveled to a Spanish speaking country in the past. My expectations were wrong. My first week here in Chile was rocky, as I am fighting off a nasty cold that I seemed to have contracted probably from the planes and the cold, rainy, fall weather here in Santiago. I have been going along with my day and silently complaining about minuscule things. It actually hit me like a brick yesterday after I was complaining to my mom on Face Time about how dirty the streets are and how people are always in your face trying to sell you something. This is culture shock – when you feel disoriented and almost angry about how things aren’t done like they would be at home. I have noticed that most people from the United States feel entitled and that is the stereotype that Chileans have about us. That we are all rich, entitled white people. I want to disrupt this stereotype while I am here, because I know that all Americans do not fall into this category. Americans will no longer feel entitled if they travel to a foreign country, especially Chile. It makes you take a step back and appreciate the things you do have and the opportunities that are presented to you. The world is so much bigger than ourselves and the material things we own.

With that being said, below I will outline some of the key cultural differences that I have noticed in Chile, and how they differ from Spain.

Santiago, Chile:

  • They do not throw toilet paper or other items in the toilet and flush. There are waste baskets next to all the toilets and basically you wipe, and throw your paper in the waste basket to avoid clogging the toilet.
  • Chileans place a large emphasis on greetings. When meeting with someone or saying goodbye, you kiss once on the right cheek.
  • There are stray dogs everywhere. There is no law to prevent the dogs from being in the streets.
  • Cigarette smoking is common. As is having red or purple hair.
  • “Onces” is what they call tea time right before eating dinner. The meal schedule here is pretty similar to that in Spain.
  • Chileans wear their shoes in the house at all times. My host mom laughed at me when I walked around the house in my socks.
  • There are people who sell items such as clothes, food, and stuffed animals that are usually knock-off brands in the streets. They are called callejeros and it is illegal in Chile. They are EVERYWHERE.
  • Streets are generally dirty and and a little smelly.
  • Abortion is illegal here and so is recreational marijuana. Although I did see a callejero a couple of days ago selling weed and chocolate?
  • Everybody has a very good sense of fashion and they all wear scarves. It is Fall right now, so the weather has been a bit nippy. We are right next to the Andes mountains, and yesterday it snowed up there!
  • Chileans beat around the bush. They won’t give you a straight answer or confront issues right away. They also tend to run late and will never be on time to an event.
  • People do not understand the concept of personal space. They will get very close to you even if they don’t have to.
  • On the metro, people will sing and sell candy bars to make extra cash. It is not allowed for people to give them money, but it happens anyway.
  • Machismo is a social norm here. This means that it is normal for the woman to perform all of the house duties and provide food and cleaning for the husbands.
  • It is common for children in their 20’s and 30’s to live at home with their parents. My host parents have three grown children and two of them live in the house. One is married and has a 4 year old daughter who also lives in the house. One big family!
  • The Chilean Spanish accent is extremely fast. Sometimes, I cannot understand a word they say. They also use different slang than Spain Spanish.
  • Grape juice is green.

Bilbao, Spain

  • Toilet paper is okay to put in the toilet and flush.
  • When greeting someone in Spain, you kiss on both cheeks. It is not necessary to do so when saying goodbye.
  • No stray dogs. There were a TON of dogs in Spain, but they were all domesticated.
  • Cigarette smoking was also very common in Spain.
  • Instead of “onces,” the Basque culture has pinxtos which translate to “appetizers.” Pinxtos were a common lunch menu item.
  • It was okay to not wear shoes in the house.
  • In Bilbao, callejeros were not as common. I remember seeing them on one specific street and the police was always there to catch them. It is illegal in Spain as well.
  • The streets in Bilbao were always impeccably clean. They had garbage trucks and street cleaners running three times a day.
  • Abortions in Spain are legal under some circumstances. Like Chile, recreational marijuana is also illegal in Spain.
  • Great sense of fashion! I think that’s just a European thing though.
  • Spaniards also tend to beat around the bush. They will not give you a distinct “yes” or “no.” Running late is also common.
  • My personal space was invaded a lot in Spain, but I got used to it.
  • There were never people on the metro asking for money in Bilbao. I think Santiago has a fairly poor population which is why these types of actions are common. Bilbao/Getxo was a wealthier area.
  • From what I saw in Spain, machismo did not exist. I noticed the male playing a larger role in helping care for the wife and kids. The male was always the one pushing the stroller and carrying the bags.
  • In Spain, it is also common for children to live at home during their 20’s.
  • Spain Spanish is pretty basic, but in Bilbao there was a large Basque population meaning the accent was slightly different. Chilean Spanish is a whole language in itself. Everyday I am learning new vocabulary and trying to blend in as a local. I think there are more people in Chile that speak English than in Spain. Most everyone I have encountered speaks some English.
  • In both Chile and Spain, breakfast is small and sometimes nonexistent. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and lasts from 1-3pm. Dinner is then served around 8-9pm. My host mom in Spain and here in Chile both stay up until about midnight and wake up very late in the morning. They do not have a set schedule.

While Spain and Chile have a ton of similarities, they also have some key differences that have taken some getting used to on my part. Each day I learn something new, whether it be a new Spanish word, or a new cultural norm. My routine for each day starts with me waking up at 9am and making my breakfast. I usually make two fried eggs, yogurt, toast with butter or cheese, fruit (apple, orange, avocado), and of course, tea. I get ready for school and head to the metro around 11:30am to meet with some friends for lunch near the school. My commute to school takes about 45 minutes, which isn’t too bad. Very similar to my commute in Spain. My Advanced Spanish class starts at 1:30pm and ends at 4:20pm. Afterwards, we either find a snack to eat before walking around for our next adventure, or like yesterday we go to dance class from 6-8pm. Yesterday, we learned salsa and bachata! Probably the highlight of my trip so far. The days are long, but each day brings something new and this weekend I will be doing much more exploring if the weather permits. Looking forward to sharing more experiences with you all! Ciao!

A Rocky Start to a Long Awaited Journey

Well, I made it to Santiago!

After more than 48 hours of traveling, I am finally settled into my homestay in Chile and getting to know the city. My friend and I left Reno on a flight to Salt Lake City on May 23rd and made it safely and on time. We found our gate in Salt Lake and boarded the plane. We ended up sitting on the plane for about an hour and a half without moving. There was a maintenance issue with the plane and by the time it was fixed, the flight crew had “expired” and it was illegal to fly. We all got off the plane and they told us the flight would be delayed by two hours. At this point, we knew we were going to miss our connection in Atlanta to Santiago. My friend and I met two other USAC students on the plane in Salt Lake so we came up with a game plan to see what other flights we could get. We were calling Delta employees and looking for help desks in a panic because we weren’t sure if we would have to spend the night in Salt Lake and how to go about that. Finally, one of the Delta employees said we should just take the delayed flight to Atlanta and stay the night there. He said once we get off the plane, they would offer us a voucher for a hotel.

We made it to Atlanta around 11pm that night (missing our flight to Santiago by an hour and a half) and immediately went to find a help desk. The lines were unbelievably long because we were not the only ones who missed connecting flights. I headed to baggage service because in Salt Lake they made me check my carry-on bag. At that point, I had no luggage and all of my medication and important documents were in my carry-on. I requested for my carry-on to be brought up to baggage claim, but they said it would take up to four hours. In the meantime, we waited in line to get a hotel voucher and figure out how to get to the hotel. We ended up staying at a Motel 6 nearby and didn’t get there until 3am. Luckily, they gave us all a small toiletry pouch to last the night, since none of us had baggage or a change of clean clothes.

We had to check out of the hotel at 11am, so we weren’t able to get as much sleep as we wanted. We got woken up by the sound of a lady banging on our door saying “Housekeeping!!” Not the most pleasant thing in the world. After we checked out, we got breakfast at a place called Waffle House which I guess is a typical fast food chain in Atlanta. We then got an Uber to Walmart so we could buy some clean underwear. Yes, this is a true story. After, we hung out at a bar until we had to head to the airport. That morning, I had received a call from Delta saying my luggage was in the baggage service office and ready to be picked up. We got to the airport at 3pm and when I went to the office to claim my carry-on, they had already sent it back out. I was livid. Every Delta employee I talked to did not seem to care that I had medication in that bag that I needed to take. The service I received was absolutely horrible. This was already a stressful situation for me and having my carry-on with me on my flight to Santiago would have relieved some of that stress.

We ate dinner at the airport because the lady who gave us the hotel the previous night also gave each of us $15 meal vouchers. Our flight wasn’t until 10:30pm so we had time to kill. Our flight to Santiago finally left around 11pm on May 24th and we arrived in Santiago at 8am on May 25th, about a nine hour flight. Once we landed, we all headed to baggage claim to get our luggage. Luckily, all of our bags showed up and none went missing! I was so happy to be reunited with my bags and I didn’t want to let them go. Ever. We somehow managed to get a van to take all 5 of us USAC students to the school in Santiago. We arrived in the middle of orientation with all of our luggage and it was slightly embarrassing, but I was glad we didn’t miss much.

After orientation, we did a walking tour of the city. We stopped at Plaza de Armas where the government building, La Moneda, is located. There was a parade going on for Día de Patrimonio which celebrates national heritages in the country. We also visited Cerro Santa Lucía which is a hill in the middle of the city that you can climb and get beautiful panoramas of Chile’s tall buildings. The USAC group ate lunch at Bar Cuento Corto and we attended a welcome BBQ put on by Chilean students who help international students get acquainted to life in Chile. I got to practice my Spanish with the local chileanos and made a few friends too!

After being in the same clothes for three days, without a proper shower and toothbrush, I am very excited to finally be settled into my life here in Chile and I look forward to what it will bring me. My host family is already very kind and are adamant on making any accommodations necessary for me. I have already seen an improvement in my Spanish and I hope to learn more about Chilean culture while I am here. I only have four weeks here, which now seems so short. The flight to get here seemed like it would never end, but now that I am here time is flying by. I feel as though I will not have enough time to do everything I want, but that just means I need to savor every moment. I know how this goes. I’ll get back home to Reno and immediately want to come back to Chile. Tomorrow is my first day of class. I am taking Advanced Spanish and also a Latin American dance class on Wednesday nights. Wish me luck! In my next post, I’ll go over some of the cultural differences I’ve noticed here so far and how they compare to Spain. Ciao!