(A little over) a year later…

It has been a crazy year since I came home from Chile last July. I find that I miss Santiago most when the weather is hot, when a soft breeze makes me remember my first days in Hotel Bonaparte or learning to navigate the city. I have been hired for my dream job, a middle school Spanish teacher for 7th and 8th grade at a fairly small suburban school. I am eager to be the first contact these students have with the beautiful, expressive, and passionate Spanish language and culture. I hope that by sharing my experiences with the students and by introducing them to the many diverse and rich cultures that speak, shout, laugh, pray, tell jokes, argue, sing, and live in Spanish every day I can instill in some of them a lifetime appreciation of those who are different from themselves.

Chile will always have a special place in my heart, my Pachamama who welcomed me into the embrace of the cordillera, shared with me the otherworldly landscape of the Atacama desert and the bustling vibrancy of the seaside ports of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. I hope to return someday with my fiance and revisit the places and people that captured my heart and imagination.

I found this music video on YouTube, it’s in Spanish (sorry anglophones!) but there are so many familiar sights presented in the video. I think it did a great job of capturing the pride and energy of Chilean youth, even if you don’t understand the words.

 

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It’s the Circle of Study Abroad!

It’s the circle of study abroad / And it moves us all! / Through embassies and airports! / Through passports and visas! / Till we find our program / and the right host country / It’s the circle, the circle of study abroad!

I’ve gone full circle, from my own study abroad adventure to helping others to find theirs! I just got accepted into IFSA-Butler University’s Global Ambassadors Program. They invite students who are recommended by their overseas program directors and staff to apply. Those accepted into the program work on their home campuses to promote studying abroad (especially with IFSA-Butler of course). I will be asked to meet with and assist my region’s field director when she visits my campus, complete a reflection project that expresses my experience abroad, and to organize events on campus geared towards encouraging others to study abroad. If I complete all of these tasks I get a stipend of $150, plus there are funds available to help me with my events.

I am really excited to have this opportunity because I see helping others to go abroad as giving back for the amazing experience I had. I really hope that I can successfully persuade others to study abroad because it’s really much more do-able than people think and there are many more resources out there to help than people know about. For example, I’d like to reach out to those who also have large tuition scholarships at my university, because they may not know that their scholarships also cover tuition abroad in approved programs. Also I would like to link this into my upcoming student teaching, to encourage high school and middle school students to study foreign language and also to pursue college dreams!

As an update on my persona well-being, I am really happy that I have stayed in contact with my Chilean friends over the wonders of the internet! Also my brain still seems to be operating in Spanish: I just came back from a family vacation and my sister (whom I shared a room with) informed me that every night in my sleep I would half sit-up in bed and yell or grumble angrily at her in Spanish. She has no idea what I said, but one night I seemed to be complaining about a gato (cat). So…yeah. I will be keeping you all posted on my progress over the semester in this program but for now, ¡Hasta luego!

There and Back Again: An Abby’s Tale

Here I am, back in my hometown again. I landed at Logan airport yesterday around 2 after nearly 20 hours of travelling. My family was there to pick me up: my mom, my dad, my fiancée’s mom, and my fiancée Donny. Seeing them all again after so much time was unreal, I felt like I was in a dream. But that could have been the lack of sleep as well. Coming home was a whirl of emotions, but now that I’m settled back into my fiancée’s house with him it feels like I never left.

My journey home began Sunday at 4, when my host family (including Toutín the dog) and I all piled into the car to go to the airport. I checked my suitcase and we said a difficult goodbye. It was hard to leave them, they made my time there so wonderful and complete. They were always there to explain things to me, to be there for me in the good and the bad, always willing to listen and help. I hope I stay in contact with them all. They are all such wonderful smart people, and I hope the best for them all.

After navigating the airport and security successful, I was finally on board and ready for takeoff. It wasn’t until the plane began to taxi to the runway that I really cried. I had choked up saying goodbye to my family but at takeoff I finally cried, staring out of the window for one last look at this country that has been my home for five months, my pacha mama. I thought about my friends, the ones already flying away and those still on Chilean soil. I wondered if one of those little twinkling lights was my host family’s house, or Isa’s or Oscar’s or Macarena’s. I thought about the routines that I couldn’t pack into a suitcase, like buying an Inca Cola on the way home at the Big John or fajitas for lunch. I’ll miss family dinners and watching my host brothers play Call of Duty. I know they are going to grow up to be the best fathers ever from all the practice at explaining things! I’ll miss my host mom singing as she tidies, Toutin jumping up to meet me almost 4 feet up like a kangaroo. I’ll miss Saturdays with Oscar and Maca, I’ll miss being surrounded by Spanish. I have to come back, and I have to keep my Spanish up.

When we touched down on US soil in Atlanta, Georgia ten hours later I was smiling, smiling because I realized I was finally going to see my family and my fiancée after so much time away. They had supported me and been there for me for the whole experience, had sent advice and good wishes and sympathy and money when I needed it. I made it through customs and the second security check and then checked myself into the Delta Sky Lounge for some complementary snacks and tea and a nap, curled up in one of the big armchairs. The flight from Atlanta to Boston felt like it took two seconds, I read the Condorito comic that Oscar and Macarena got me on the way and was proud to understand most of the jokes.

The moment when I came out of the gate and saw my welcome committee waiting for me was unreal. There were kisses and hugs and tears but all very happy. Donny brought me roses!

We went for lunch in Boston, I had New England clam chowder in a bread bowl and it was divine. Finally after meeting up with many friends and family and neighbors I headed home with Donny to our house, were I took a much-needed nap and just allowed myself to feel at home. I never really appreciated how beautiful our little town is until now, and while everyone else complains I am glorying in the summer heat.

I still have much to share and I will keep posting, but for now Welcome Home to me!