Traveling to Chile: A Reserved Independence

Rachael Wetzel is a student at Westminster College and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with the study abroad office at Westminster. Rachael is currently studying in Valpariso, Chile on an ISA Fall 1 program.

When I saw La Cordillera from the tiny plane window, I was so excited that I almost enjoyed the Delta provided breakfast sandwich.

Approaching Mt. Aconcagua, woven into the Andes Mountains

Just arriving in Santiago to the morning light was a treat but after the flight trouble, the satisfaction was certainly enhanced.  Weather delayed our Pittsburgh departure and our flight was rescheduled three times involving two airline changes and then a follow up delay at Atlanta with refusal of boarding because our tickets were not issued correctly. Alas, after many phone calls, we were on the plane.

My friend, Meghan, traveled with me because we separately selected the same Study Abroad location, Valparaiso, Chile.

Standing at our respectful future houses

On the plane we were seated between a sweet older woman who studied at a seminary school in New York and was flying back to her home country, and a Chilean business man who wrote the audio for Pablo Neruda´s La Sebastiana house tour.  My first experience with Chileans was so positive, welcoming and friendly (also including a toast on the plane as we approached landing). I can happily say being here a week, that mentality is woven through this country, in all aspects of la vida.

The many different levels of this sculpture represent the many different stages of life one will encounter in Chile.

Once I settled down with my host family, who were very accommodating and personable, I pulled out my computer to send a message to my parents only to find that my adapter drained my battery and denied me access to the wifi, causing my computer to make a nice cracking sound and has never turned on since.  I must say I have never been attached to my phone or computer but not having any contact with my family and close friends at home is a lonely feeling that I am still getting used to.  I will use the wonderful ISA provided computers to do my blogging, and by making new friends and practicing public transportation to visit them, I use their computers to check school email and such.

There is a sense of independence in Chile that is unlike the proud boastful nature of my home country or of neighboring Argentina, a silent strength that has developed from close family and friends and the need to survive in a country full of many different vibes of life. Because Chileans are so close, they thrive as independent citizens. Maybe the difficulties I have faced so far were Chile´s way of initiating me as an independent explorer of their world.

The beautiful landscape of Valparaiso makes it all worth it

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