Student Blogs/Rosalyn in Chile

I have now reached the 11 month mark of my year long exchange abroad. Within this period of time, I can admit that I have moved five times in this city. This may give you the impression that I don’t have an easy time settling down. I will confess that I do like a change of scenery, but for anyone who lives for a year abroad (and even in your home country), we must expect the unexpected. My experiences up to now have helped me realize what I value in my home environment and what to know about before moving into any home, no matter what the context may be outside your window.

Rosalyn riding a scooter down a bike path

Riding a scooter is one awesome way to get around a large city such as Santiago. Quick and fun!

As I have briefly mentioned in my first blog post, I attended a Spanish school called Ecela for the first 3 weeks when I first came to Santiago. I was living with a Chilean family, practicing my fluency as well as learning all about Chilean culture. After an incredible two week trip with my parents, I came back to Santiago to get settled into the first place I would call home. I booked my room through an organization called Santiago Exchange Network (SEN) which started my first semester off no better than I could have imagined! The home resided in an area called La Reina, which is a residential and calm area to live. I lived with nine other people, both from Chile, as well as from other countries around the world including: Colombia, Brasil, Turkey, and Germany. It was my first truly international experience, getting to know not only Chilean culture, but also others as well, as we were all very laid back and easy to talk to!

If you are planning to go on an exchange and have the opportunity to live with other international students, I definitely recommend it! You become open to not only to their different lifestyles, but can learn about other countries all in one place. I give SEN five stars for my experience, and if you come to Santiago, I would definitely check out their availability!

After spending my first semester in La Reina, I decided that I wanted to get an idea of what life was like in the downtown area of Santiago. So, I packed up my suitcase (along with my 1000s of other personal belongings) and took an Uber to one of the busiest areas in the capital of the country. I moved in with three other people; a boy from Chile, a girl from France, and a boy from Spain. As it was downtown and Universidad Adolfo Ibanez was in the mountains, I was already anticipating the hour long commute to the university for the rest of the semester. Back in Canada, I had never lived in a city quite as populous as Santiago. This was my first time truly living in the heart of a big city. I wanted to experience this environment to know what life could be like if I decided I wanted to live in one of the busiest neighbourhoods.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, living anywhere in the world you must expect the unexpected. It was Friday October 18 and I needed to make an appointment on time. This would typically would take 30 minutes by metro (subway). However, as I was about to walk onto the metro, the police were there not allowing anyone to enter. Everyone was either angry, or in my case, very confused. Shortly after learning I would not be able to use the metro, I was googling on my phone why this was the case. I finally learned that Chileans had been protesting for the past couple of weeks about the rise in transportation fares. To finish off my experience from this day, all Ubers were canceling my request, busses were full and the metro of course was not running. So, I started running and got to my appointment in two and a half hours. I arrived home safely after this long Friday.

As I said, there was a rise in the metro fares, and this had an impact on many Chileans financially. Metro expenses make up to a sixth of the income of a minimum wage earner in Santiago. This was, however, only the “tip of the iceberg”. Many other factors had led to a wide dissatisfaction that rippled throughout the whole country. Chileans had been protesting peacefully for a number of years about inequality, student loans, elderly poverty, and the general high cost of living. The metro fare hikes only served as the trigger and this led to vandalism and violence. Of course, as I was living in the downtown area, I was in the middle of it all. That same Friday night was when the government announced that Chile would be in a State of Emergency. They set curfews for the upcoming week and a half while the government would try to modify their social and political laws. They did lower the subway fare, although when looking at the big picture, this was not the key to remedying the dissatisfaction in the country.

While all of this was happening, I ultimately did not feel safe downtown and was grateful that I was able to move to a nicer neighbourhood. I reached out to the Chilean family I had originally stayed with at the start of the year and they let me live with them without hesitation. They treated me like family and it was going really well, even with this wave of sadness we were all experiencing from the protesting occurring in the city. After moving all my stuff in and finally being settled, I realized something just didn’t feel quite right. A week into staying there, we finally spoke about the cost of rent. Unfortunately, it was too much, so I moved once more to where I am now — back in La Reina with SEN.

This story of mine is one that I will never forget. I can’t believe I only have one month left here in Chile! Even though I have moved 5 times in Santiago, I see Chile as my home away from home. Home is where the heart is and I will be leaving a part of my heart here in Chile.

As I have said before, self growth is super important and living in Chile has helped me a lot on a personal level. Always expect the unexpected and stay true to yourself! Do what makes you comfortable and remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Rosalyn is a third-year Bachelor of International Business student spending her year abroad in Santiago, Chile. 

Monday, December 2, 2019 in , ,
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