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Things I Miss

A lot of people have asked me if I miss my family, or what I miss most while I'm living abroad.

Heads up this is a long post, and probably not going to be the lightest.

To be completely honest, for the first few months I was so busy exploring a new country and trying new things that I wasn't thinking too much about my life in VT. I had left a cold 12 degree snowy winter town to arrive in a Valparaiso summer where I was thrown into a new life doing things that seemed so exciting.

As time went on of course and as I had more down time I started thinking about how different my life is here and that's when I started missing things.

Although I miss things, it's really not as bad as I thought it would be. I've never been away from home (or my parents and sister) for more than a week and leaving for five months I was expecting myself to be a wreck.

I have yet to arrive at that stage of being a wreck, but I do miss some things.

Well what do I miss you ask? Well, mostly I miss my family, my friends and my dog.

Our dog Frankie, I miss how he snuggles up and sits on your lap, and how he is always so cute waiting for me to get home from school every day. I miss having him sleep with me and somehow him taking up the entire bed, although he's only 8 pounds.

My sister Erin and I, she's a year older than me. Although we're almost opposites of each other and like all siblings we argue a lot, having lived with her my entire life and having spent so much time together, it's just plain strange to not see her everyday. I miss complaining about everything to her, visiting her at work for maple creemees, borrowing her clothes and being the one to drive us around.

I miss my friends and just hanging out and talking to them. We speak the same language, (in the very literal sense) and I've known a lot of them for years. Skype and Facetime are great, but it's really not the same thing as telling your best friend a story face to face. I miss feeling like I 'belong' with my friends, understanding jokes, and being able to make jokes. Little things too, like watching the same TV shows and getting book/movie references.

My friends and I, at the party threw me as a surprise before I left

Hiking!!

I did a lot of hiking in VT, in the summer and fall we got out almost weekly, and in the winter we would snowshoe. As fun as living in a city is, I miss the little VT mountains and being able to go hike or run in the woods, as this was a big part of my life.

My dad and I, on Mount Mansfield, the trail head is exactly 15 minutes from our house

It sure never snows like this in Valparaiso

I miss drinking water and how common water bottles are in the US (I don't know this might be a Vermont thing). This might seem insignificant as clearly I can (and do) drink water here, but I feel like I'm in a constant state of dehydration because it's weird to carry around a water bottle!!!! It's kind of turned into a joke between all of my Chilean friends though, because they think I drink a lot of water. It also makes me laugh because whenever I go to any of their houses they always make a point to offer me water instead of soda or juice or something because they know I drink a lot of water.

Punctuality--- For example one day I was running really late, and left my house at the time I was supposed to meet a group of friends, arrived 25 minutes late and was still the first to arrive. Another time my host mom was driving me to a friends house (who lives about 40 minutes away) and I was supposed to arrive at 7. We left the house at 7:50.

As a person who likes to arrive exactly on time this has been really hard to get used to. It's not just the idea of being late, but also Chileans are a lot more relaxed about the whole time thing. Like if they are running late, they don't care, they will still make a full breakfast, sit down and have long conversations instead of hurrying and trying to make up a little bit of time so they don't arrive as late.

Dishwasher and dryer 

Two things I absolutely admit I took for granted in the US. Remembering we don't have a dryer and have to hang everything outside was strange at first. For example if I forget to put my school dress in the laundry* and need it for the next day, I can't expect it to be dry.

*To clarify I don't do my own laundry here, and my parents at home are probably laughing as they read this, but I believe it or not miss doing my own laundry and making my own bed.

We have a nana here; Senora Maria. She comes to our house every day, does laundry, cleans and cooks. When my host siblings were younger she was also like a nanny to them. This is probably on the top of my list of things that made me uncomfortable in Chile. To just leave my clothes in a bag and then a few days later they show up clean and folded on my bed feels really strange. I also make my bed every morning only to come home and see it's been remade (and remade much better). This sometimes also makes me feel like a little kid, because Senora Maria or my host mom will pack my lunch for school everyday and will make breakfast and dinner and when we eat together they will serve me food and then tell me not to worry about cleaning up afterwards or help with dishes. At first I wasn't sure how to feel about this and kept offering to help, but after observing both of my host siblings just leave after meals I've learned to just do my best helping until I'm told to stop.

I miss dancing, competing and teaching dance. I dance here with a group and it's really fun, but it's very different because I am the youngest one here, where as in VT I am one of the oldest, and even teach classes.

Celtic Company, our dance group at a Christmas show last year

Me dancing at nationals last year where I placed 2nd. This will be my first year I qualified for nationals but will not compete. 

I miss the kids I babysit and watch in the nursery every Sunday morning. Between helping at dance camps every summer, babysitting, helping in the nursery and teaching dance I was around kids a lot, but here the only interactions I've had with little kids have been with my friend's little host sister.

Heat. I'm from Vermont and in Vermont it gets quite cold (single digits and below zero...) and also snows a lot. Before I left I was looking at the average year-round weather in Valparaiso and thinking that it'd be a pretty nice. As a result of this I didn't pack a lot of warm clothes. I guess I just assumed that because I was from a cold place I would be fine in a 50 degree winter. 

I was definitely wrong and would recommend to anyone coming to Chile during the winter to bring plenty of layers. I think the main difference of why it seems so cold here is there are no heaters in schools or houses. Yes you read that right, there is no heat in my school or house, and that is perfectly normal. That means that during the night and early in the morning it is really COLD! The other day I saw my breath while I was in bed. 

It's also hard because we have a uniform here, so we can't wear whatever clothes or however many layers we want to school. I don't think in normal circumstances I would ever wear a dress outside in the morning when it's 45 degrees, but because that's part of the uniform every morning I'm a tad cold waiting for the bus. 

Protein Maybe this is a bit ridiculous, but I feel compelled to add this to the list, as eating bread, bread and more bread at every meal, everyday sometimes makes me feel crazy. 

Toilet paper in bathrooms My school bathroom has toilet paper about one day a week, and normally for only the first few hours of school. It's not weird for public bathrooms to also not have toilet paper. 

Driving I miss being able to drive, and how calm the roads are in VT.

Things being measured in miles, feet, inches and Fahrenheit

Being able to use my phone. I feel a little conflicted putting this on the list, because it's been really nice to use my phone less. I've had my phone with data turned off and it only works when I have wifi. I have wifi at my house of course, but because the wifi at school rarely works, and most weekends I go out, I'm not "as connected" as I was.

Not having to check every step for dog poop. There are so many street dogs here, and this in turn creates sidewalks and streets you have to be careful on. 

Bagels, Peanut butter, Clifbars, waffles, ice in drinks I assume this needs no explanation...

Blending in/Easy communication/English. It's still blatantly evident I'm learning Spanish and some days I go through the day struggling to pull out phrases or make sense of what is being said. I miss being able to say whatever I want to whoever, whenever, without having to think about each word and make sure I'm saying things right. Little things you probably don't think about, like being able to sing along to the radio, to music I understand.

As much as it feels like "home" here, I know that I came only with a suitcase (granted it was a pretty big suitcase), a backpack (which my classmates think is huge) and a plane ticket to return in a few months. I unfortunately can not continue living here for the rest of my life and have to get back to my normal life in the US. Part of the reason I think I originally wasn't missing anything from the US was because I knew I was coming back to it. In the back of my head I knew that I would see my family and all of my friends again and life would eventually be back to normal for my senior year. But I can't say that about my life here. Not to sound dramatic, but my life here will never be the same. There will be people here that I won't see again after July and even if I come back (when I come back!) everything will be different. I won't be in school seeing my classmates everyday or living long term with a host family who really feels just like family.

There's a lot of comfort in my life in Vermont as it's all I've ever known, but on the other side: I've built a life here and I am going to strongly miss it.

What I will miss

La micro-- This was actually so much fun for me to try and learn where the different buses go and having the freedom to go wherever is great. I've learned the best way to survive an overcrowded bus in the morning rush hour, as well as how to jump on and off moving buses (definitely not necessary and/or advised). It was also a source of amusement for my friends and host mom as for my entire first four months I was saying "el micro" as I assumed micro was masculine because it ended in an o. However a few weeks ago one of my friends saw I was texting my host mom "Estoy esperando el micro" and couldn't stop laughing when he realized how basically every single day I've been saying and writing "el micro" instead of "la micro". When I corrected the text to say la micro, my host mom responded immediately asking how I finally learned. Apparently she told me that it was la micro the first few times I said el micro, but I have no recollection of this. Now all of my friends like to tease me about this and every time we're on a micro together they ask me what it's called.

One day we took the micro from start to finish, through the entire route

El puerto/mar-- I don't live near the ocean in the US and the closest we have is a lake. While the lake is pretty, nothing can compare to the ocean. I have an amazing view to school every day watching the sunrise over the port with the mountains silhouetted (bonus on the days when you can see the andes with snow on them). I love watching the waves and the sound of the ocean is pretty cool. It was also nice to have such easy access to a ton of different beaches in the summer.

 Mi familia-- Mumi and Fran have really taken me in and I feel like a part of the family. They've showed me so much and taught me not only language and culture, but also through opening up their lives and home they've taught me a lot about kindness. They didn't know me before February and had no obligation to host a student, they just chose to. I feel really lucky and fortunate to have had such an amazing family who has taken me on little excursions outside of Valpo, and also allowed me to do my own thing and spend time with my friends and classmates.

Mis amigos y companeros -- I never expected to make such close relationships with my friends here. In school and out of school I've had so much fun with my friends, and just doing normal things like watching movies or going to the mall turns into an adventure. I can't explain how much they've taught me or how much they mean to me.

They've told me on multiple occasions they like hearing me talk, (because I haven't quite mastered the chilean accent) and imitating each others accents has caused so many laughs. In addition to this, they find it quite funny when I attempt to sing reggaeton, but then I get to laugh when they try and sing music in English.

The topic of English has also been super fun with my classmates. Not only do I help them with their school work, but I'm now the official song lyric translator and on occasion, meme translator. One of my friends invented a game where I would say a word or sentence in English and they'd have to guess what it means. Considering they don't know a lot of English the guesses were amusing.

I also find it cool that my friends are so interested in where I'm from and want to know all of about my school, family and life in the US (they were absolutely shocked the first time I told them I could drive).

They have all begged me not to leave and tried to come up with plans so I can stay even a little longer. I feel like part of segundo D and even though I don't know every single one of my classmates, it's a really cool vibe hearing them say that I'm the only gringa and no one can ever replace me. It is going to be really hard to say goodbye and with one week of school left, I'm already dreading the last day.

 

Mi uniforme-- It's super simple to get up every morning and not have to think about what clothes to wear. I also feel more Chilean when I'm in a uniform, because walking around in the streets although I look like a gringa people assume that because I'm in a uniform going to school here that I'm probably not.

Maritimo-- School is actually fun!! I'm also going to miss being the center of attention in school (only kind of joking). I have also learned to love recreos and having a longer break in between each class where we have to go outside is really nice. I'm also going to miss little things during school like trying to delay the bell everyday during recreo. There is a bell outside next to the patio that a teacher rings every day for us to leave class, or go back to the classrooms. Every day as he walks across the basketball court everyone tries to stop him. He is often delayed by students starting conversations with him, asking him random questions or sometimes just hugging him.

I will also miss trying to avoid the dress code profesora. There is a teacher that walks around and writes down whose dress is too short, whose hair is too long, and another things she feels are wrong. Any time we spot her, Paula and I basically sprint away so we don't get dress coded for our dresses. This felt like a game and was fun, until the day she finally caught us. I got out of a note being sent to my host mom by explaining that I was an exchange student and was only going to be here for a few more weeks. Now whenever that teacher sees me she shields her eyes and tells me she can't even look at a uniform like mine.

Exploring the city I did a lot of after school adventuring, and most of the time with the other exchange students living in Valparaiso. Together we could do touristy things that our Chilean friends would think is boring, or have seen already a hundred times. There is so much to look at, and just walking around to check out the cool art, or to go to different little cafes was super fun.

I was also surprised how close to the other exchange students I've gotten. We're all having completely different experiences here, but we're all in the same boat of being in a brand new place where everything seems different. I'm definitely going to miss them a lot.

Lighting a match for the shower-- having to do this to turn on the californ is super fun, and yeah it's going to be boring to go home and just turn on the water and *bam* hot water.

Asados-- Barbecues here have real meat, and if someone says asado it means, choripanes, chicken and a variety of other meat. Most often barbecues in the US consist of hot dogs and hamburgers.

My host mom's french CD-- Every single time I'm in the car with my host mom we listen to the same CD. Mostly french songs it's kind of calming to hear the same songs I heard my first week here.

How every time Alexis Sanchez puts something on his instagram story, the next day it's included with the morning news. 

La comida Empanadas, manjar, the amount of bread we consume on the daily. Te every morning and night with Mumi, avocado in everything, sopaipillas, cuchufli, ceviche (and all the other seafood), completos, and really everything.

Onces A meal dedicated to tea, bread and dessert?! Obviously this is a cultural thing I am going to try to bring back to the US.

How inexpensive everything is (compared to the US).

Using -ito/ita/illo with every word. Ex: pan becomes pancito, agua is aguita and chicos is chiquillos. Although this technically is like saying "little bread, little water or little boys" it's super common to hear words in their diminutive form, and I like it because it makes me feel like everything has character.

Chilean words I've spent a lot of time picking up slang from my classmates and the chilean expressions are so much fun. Learning the right way to stress the words and learning to say things to sound like my friends has been so fun. "yaaaapo, wennnaa, vamo paa lla, que fome, weon".

I've had a few days where I've been annoyed with the Chilean way of life, and thinking how certain situations would be so much different, easier or better at home, and part of me was aching to be back in the US.

But those days (like all days eventually do) passed. I have had so many more positive experiences and opportunities than negative ones here and the reminder of this is all of my amazing friends and family here.

That said I am not quite ready to leave, and am feeling really sad that I've got such little time left.

I was also feeling sad that I won't be there for the entire second semester of fun times. I will already be gone when my curso takes a trip to the jardin botanico and has to present our hip-hop dance. I also won't be there when my classmates have the dance celebration day, cook, decorate and put on their costumes for the big performance.

It's a little ironic, I'm going to be in Chile on the fourth of July, and in the US September 18th, Chile's independence day. I missed prom, my sister's graduation and the second half of junior year with my best friends I've known for years.

I missed a lot, and am going to miss a lot.

Not to try to sound all deep and philosophical, but asi es la vida. That's how life is. My friend who's studying abroad in Argentina right now wrote about how studying abroad comes with tradeoffs. It's all about balance and tradeoff, and you can't be in two places at once.

I think I'm starting to ramble on, so I'll just finish by saying this experience has led to so many amazing memories and eye-opening situations and my time here has flown by. I honestly don't feel ready to leave it all behind, no matter how excited I am to see everyone and everything I love in VT, but I also know I probably won't ever feel ready.

It's one of those things you can't really explain, this trip started out simple, but is goodbyes like always are going to make it end complicated.

Thanks for reading through all that,

Kat

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