“Hey, Rosalyn, are you ready to head off to Santiago?”, my mom excitedly asked me several times. In my mind I’m thinking, “What does ready even mean? Having all my clothes packed? Ready to leave the cold weather for the total opposite climate? Ready to speak Spanish for the next 12 months?” I’ll be honest; I don’t think anyone can ever be perfectly ready to live in a new city, country, or continent for a year.
Yes, my suitcase was packed, and yes, I was ready for a change in the weather. On the other hand, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for speaking a totally new language. The main goal I set for myself this year was to become fluent! Spanish in Chile (so far) is mostly smiling at the locals saying “si” after they didn’t even ask me a question. When they realize I’m not from Chile, they rebound to the question, “De dónde eres?” and I’m still smiling at them and I confidently remember to say, “Soy de Canadá.”
Don’t worry, I’ll get there! Being patient with yourself is the best thing to do when learning a language. To students traveling abroad, don’t be too hard on yourself at first with the language! Making mistakes (for instance when speaking with the locals) is part of the beauty of learning a new language.
When it came to the preparation process to travel here, one of the biggest, most fun responsibilities (insert sarcastic voice here) was to obtain my student VISA in Chile. I would suggest to other students traveling on exchange to hop on the ‘visa’ train ASAP. I’m sure countries vary with they’re requirements for a student VISA, but for anyone doing an exchange in Chile, I have three important things to mention.
One: Police Record Checks
- On the website, it says that an Apostille Record Check is required. I didn’t realize for a good half an hour this is the same as Police Record Check. Hope this will save you some time as well!
- The time constraints are important to consider since it usually takes at least three weeks to process. However, I was fortunate enough to receive mine in two days. But, fill out the form ASAP!
- Hepatitis A and B vaccines are highly recommended, as well as the Yellow Fever vaccination when spending a long time in Chile (or South America in general). When I went to see my travel doctor, I was told that Yellow Fever is not widely available across Canada. If the case remains for upcoming years, I would book an appointment with a travel doctor early in advance, not only because of the low availability, but (to my knowledge) you can only receive it from a travel doctor.
Three: Remember to enjoy the process
- I always hear people dreading the process of getting a VISA of any type to satisfy all the requirements. But, even after getting vaccinations, man does it ever feel so cool to have a visa stamped on my passport forever. What a surreal feeling!
Now to the fun stuff…
For the past two weeks I have been attending a Spanish school called Ecela that allows people from all over the world of all ages to come and either learn the language from scratch or practice their fluency. I am attending Ecela in Santiago, Chile, however there is another campus in Viña Del Mar, as well as others in Argentina and Perú.
I have met people that came for different reasons: to simply enjoy learning the language, for work purposes; or in my case, to refresh the language for school. Along the way, I have made some awesome friends too! I wish I could attend the school for a longer period of time, but I only have one week left. I believe that immersing yourself in other programs/clubs/gatherings for a language can better enhance your transition into a university level course if it will be taught in that language.
Last weekend, I headed to Valparaiso with my friend Jasmina from Switzerland that I met at Ecela and we stayed in Hostel Mariposa. In one day, we traveled to two other cities (by uber as their prices are quite reasonable here): Concón and Viña Del Mar.
In Concón, we went to the dunes where it resembled a desert. There were hills full of sand and it turned out we could sand board there. It was very cheap as we could rent a sand board for 1.500 Chilean pesos, which is equivalent to $3 CAD. The sand was so hot that I got a blister on my toe, but I’m okay with that in exchange for the experience, lol!
After a fun couple of hours in the dunes, we decided it was time to check out some new scenery. We headed to Viña Del Mar to experience the windy but refreshing coastline. While on the coast, we met up with Megan, a friend of mine from Canada who took an intensive Spanish course with me in second year. She showed us where to buy really cheap churros. Of course, this is one of my highlights of this weekend! Yet another great deal – six churro slices for ‘una luca’. Una luca is equivalent to 1.000 Chilean pesos (una luca is a term they use in Chile). So, if you did the math earlier (I’m sure you did, because math is fun) that is only $2 CAD. Why can’t the prices be like this in Canada?! We finished our travels in Viña Del Mar with a delicious dinner including ceviche, fries and a salad, and then returned to Valparaiso.
The main things I have learned so far living in another country is:
- Explore, explore and explore! What better way to adapt to a new environment and take in the culture.
- Always be open minded – you never know who you might meet abroad! Everyone has their own background and putting yourself out there by talking to them can make your international experience even more interesting and sometimes can involve a mini travel experience together!
Thanks for reading my first blog post! Chao!
Rosalyn is a third-year Bachelor of International Business student spending her year abroad in Santiago, Chile.
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