I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain last summer and it was absolutely everything I could’ve hoped for. I didn’t want to leave, and if it wasn’t for the $250 change fee I would’ve been hit with, I can guarantee I would’ve pushed my flight home back another week.
When I landed in Santiago, Chile this summer I wasn’t expecting to have even a similar experience. I knew I’d been facing Chile’s winter instead of Spain’s summer. I knew I’d be working an internship placement from nine in the morning until six in the evening instead of getting out of classes at one everyday. I knew I’d be tackling the struggles of a homestay as opposed to living independently out of a dorm. I knew Santiago wasn’t going to be the same city as Madrid. And I knew that even after two months of living in Santiago, I could still want to run away to Madrid after graduation, but simultaneously love Chile for the experience that it was.
Then my first week in Santiago left me beyond frustrated.
As much as I loved my job, even in just the first few days, things overall were getting to me. Not because I was homesick, but because it wasn’t Spain. It would already be dark when I got out of work and I basically had an 11pm curfew due to the closing Metro system. I felt like I’d barely gotten to see the city, and longed for the opportunity to explore it further.
Then my second weekend came around and it was an adventure.
I walked miles worth of the city, admiring graffiti covered buildings and strolling through the greenery of several parks. And I stayed out past 11 twice; both times leading to lengthy and interesting commutes home as I’m too stubborn to use Uber or a taxi.
Starting my second week of work, I was able to feel content. I’d finally gotten to see some of the city that I had been desperate to. It allowed me to enjoy my job more, happy to pass my weekdays there instead of itching to be out wandering the streets.
One woman who had belonged to the office for two years had her last night in Santiago that week before returning to England. So many of us stayed long after work, having an asado (barbeque) of sorts seventeen floors above the ground. Between the food, the music, the view, and people of all different backgrounds talking about all different places, it truly felt as though we were on top of the world.
Despite working in a space more or less made up of expats, I finally felt like I was genuinely getting to experience Santiago without having to physically reach as much of the city as possible.
The world awaits…discover it.