Learning to Study Abroad: Why I’m in Chile for a Year

Mary Johnson is a student at Southern Illinois University and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with the International Studies department at SIU. Mary is currently studying in Valparaiso, Chile on an ISA Fall 1 program.

Exploring La Campana with friends

I’m going to be here for a year. A YEAR! I’m so happy that I made this decision. Don’t get me wrong; studying abroad for one semester is a big deal, too. But honestly, this wouldn’t have worked for me any other way. I’m here with a group of about 70 other ISA students. Almost all of them are freaking out because in a little over a month they will be back in the States. I can’t imagine. There is so much left here I want to do!  Here’s a list of some things I hope to accomplish during the rest of my time here:

  1. Chilean friends—So I know this had been easier for some of my peers, but I haven’t had the Spanish to make any strong connections with the locals here. I’m now feeling fluent enough to try to take only Spanish and courses with Chileans in the upcoming semester. I know this is going to help both my heart and my brain.
  2. “Summer”—I have a summer vacation from early December to late February. I’m going to have the opportunity to see much more of this continent in that time. I can wander down to Patagonia, up through the Atacama Desert, over to Argentina, up to Peru, or where ever else my heart desires. Plus, I can do it at a relaxing and absorbing pace. While I can learn a lot in my university here, I’m going to be learning just as much from my travels.
  3. Spanish—As I’ve mention before in my blogs, I’m a slow learner when it comes to Spanish. I don’t know what it is about language for me. It’s hard. I’m probably a little more self-conscious than I should be. I worry about not saying thing properly, especially after being here as long as I have been.  I hope these next months will help me greatly improve my Spanish speaking.
  4. Getting the hang of it—I’ve been here less than 4 months. I’m just getting the hang of everything. It’s no time for me to be leaving! I know how to take a micro (bus) from point A to point B. I just started to be able to understand what my family is saying when they’re talking to each other at dinner. I figured out where the calmer beaches are. 5000 pesos no longer means 10 USD to me; it just means 5000 pesos. I know these things now. I want to be able to use and explore them to their full potential.

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