Last week was the actual beginning of my classes, and it’s been a long seven days. I haven’t had any classes since mid-December, and now I’ve had to readjust to the student grind–with the added difficulty of all my classes being in Spanish.
All my professors so far have been very welcoming, as well as understanding of the fact that I’m still learning the language since I’m an exchange student. My Chilean peers have been pretty friendly, too! There are a ton of foreign exchange students studying at the same university that I am, so most of the Chileans are accustomed to having a couple extranjeros (foreigners) in each class. The downside to this is that often the foreign exchange students all sit together and speak English, which isolates them from the rest of the class and makes the Chilean students much less likely to approach any of them. This has been something I’ve been trying to avoid, but naturally it’s scary to leave that safety blanket full of people speaking the language you already know.
Now that I’ve been here for a couple weeks, I’m feeling a little more comfortable with the language and falling back into my groove. Of course, the omnipresent Chilean slang is still tripping me up, but I’m getting there.
I’m also starting to bond a little more with my host family and feel out the family dynamic. I’ve stayed with host families before–my longest stay being for five weeks in Poland. The first week or so is always a little awkward since you’re in a new country, in a new house, with new people. Prior to my departure, I remember being a little nervous about living with a family again and just having to be conscientious of what I can and can’t do. After living on your own for two years, it’s a little bit of a throwback to high school to be living under someone else’s roof again. As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, I’m living in a small apartment in the center of Valparaíso–a prime location!
Thankfully, my host mom is incredibly relaxed and just lets me do my own thing. The only thing that’s been difficult to adjust to is abiding by their meal times. A big part of this is solely cultural; in Chile, the biggest meal of the day is lunch, and dinner is usually a little bit of bread and butter, with some tomatoes and cheese if you’re lucky. Obviously, as an American, I’m accustomed to eating a light lunch and having my big meal at the end of the day, so my eating schedule is still adjusting. I’m hoping that, in a couple of months, my constant hunger will slightly subside–but no promises. At least my Chilean mom is an amazing cook, so there’s always something I can snack on after dinner if I’m still a little hungry.
Chilean food is good, albeit not at all what I expected! Chileans eat an enormous amount of bread, and the bread is so, so good. I’ve been eating at least half a loaf a day. Also, none of the food is spicy–a detail that may come as a surprise to those who associate Latin American food with those strong, spicy flavors. I’ve mostly been eating mass amounts of avocados and tomatoes, two of Chile’s most popular foods, as well as a lot of potatoes, from mashed potatoes to French fries.
Both my host mom and I really enjoy cooking, so, in the coming weeks, I hope to cook a couple of meals with her and maybe even learn a couple new recipes out of it!