“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
As I get closer and closer to the day when I will have to leave Chile and return to the United States, this quote resonates with me. I am trying to enjoy my remaining days here without obsessing over my imminent departure, but it’s hard not to feel like my days are like sand in a hourglass, rapidly slipping away. There is much to look forward to when I return to the United States, such as East Carolina barbecue, being able to drive my little blue car anywhere and anytime I want, 6 weeks of summer vacation, and most importantly, my friends and family. However, I will be very sad to leave.
My study abroad program officially ends on Friday, but fortunately, my mom is coming to visit me, so I won’t be leaving for another week! I am beyond excited to see her and show her a small piece of this beautiful country. A week isn’t nearly enough time to show her everything that Chile has to offer, but I hope she can experience at least some of what I have encountered. These are the things that I have grown to love during my time here and will sorely miss when I leave :
- The little things
There are a million small details that contribute to my overall love of Chile. I don’t always notice them, but I know that there so many random things I will miss experiencing when I return. I will miss the fact that you can find an empanada or a completo on every corner, how young Chileans often help elderly women up and down stairs without being asked, that they refer to everything as little by putting “-ito / -ita” on the ends of words (Juanito, chiquita, tecito), the musicians who perform on the metro, the view of the city from my window, how you can hear yells all over the city when there is a partido (soccer game) happening, the fact that Chileans are more prepared for earthquakes than rain, how street dogs seem to know when the lights changes and wait at crosswalks with the humans, the children playing in the plazas, and a thousand other little things that I could go on forever describing.
- The places
There are many beautiful places in Chile, and I have been lucky enough to visit a few of them, such as Chiloé, San Pedro de Atacama, Isla Negra, and Cajón del Maipo. However, what I will miss the most is Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, the two cities that have become my second home over these past few months. I will miss the nearness of the sea, the ability to find a new mural around every street corner, the spectacular sunsets, the quirky little cafes, the cramped bars with live music, the street performers, the beautiful churches, the restaurants tucked in alleyways, and more. I only hope that I can come back to see these cities again soon.
- The language
Another thing that I will miss is the constant presence of the Spanish language here. I was talking with a friend today about how one thing that will be strange about returning to the United States is that we won’t be surrounded by Spanish speakers anymore. While I can’t deny that it will be nice to be around more people who speak my native tongue, I really have grown to love and appreciate the Spanish language during my time here. I will miss hearing it on the streets and using it in my daily conversations. I will even miss Chilean Spanish, confusing as it was for me initially, with its rapid pace, constant dropping of syllables at the end of words, and endless slang. I plan to continue using Spanish as much as possible when I get back to the United States, but there is no way better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in it, and so I am grateful that this experience has given me the opportunity to take my Spanish-speaking abilities to a whole other level.
- The people
Lately, friends and family have begun asking me what I am going to miss most about Chile. “La gente” is always my answer. Although I obviously can’t speak for the entire population of this country, overall I have really enjoyed the company of the majority of the Chileans I have come across. I have interacted with countless individuals who are warm, gracious, and open, and always make me happy to be in this country. However, there are certain people in Chile who have gained a special place in my heart. First of all, I am really going to miss my host family, especially my host mom Andrea and my host sister Camille. I have spoken before about my host family, but there really aren’t enough words to express how much I appreciate them. I am grateful that they were generous enough to open their home to me, cook me meals, spend their free time with me, and include me in conversations during my time here. But beyond that, I am just happy that I had the opportunity to spend these past few months living with such wonderful people. Secondly, I am definitely going to miss my fellow gringos, also known as the people I befriended in my study abroad program. I am grateful that I had people who could understand what it was like to be a foreigner in a strange land, and I am grateful for all of the adventures I had with them, particularly my friends Octavia and Alyson. Lastly, I am very sad to leave the PUCV pastoral (the Catholic campus ministry group at my university. The members of this group who I became friends with have made my time in Chile infinitely more wonderful. I am grateful for all the moments that we spent laughing together (even when you were laughing at me), discovering the similarities and differences between our cultures, sharing our faith, and so much more. They truly gave me friendships and community while I was in Chile, and this is something I cannot thank them enough for and which will never forget.Like all good things, my time in Chile will come to an end. I am truly sad to see it go. But I will carry these beautiful experiences, people and places with me in my heart for the rest of my life. And to quote Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. As I prepare to go, I prefer not to say “adiós”, because that’s the kind of goodbye that Chileans only use when they will probably never see someone again. I don’t know when I will come back to Chile right now, but I am determined that these will not be the last moments I spend in this amazing country. So I leave not by saying “Adiós ” but with the classic phrase “¡Chau y que te vaya bien!”