I’ve been back in the United States for about a week now. It didn’t really hit me that I was leaving Chile until a few days after I got home. I felt as if I was just going on another trip as part of my program. Even stranger though was the fact that I felt as though I had barely left the U.S. when I got back to Dallas. It didn’t feel as if I had been away for around four months. The time went by much quicker than I thought it would.
I still feel like I’m adjusting but it’s gotten easier. Probably one of the hardest things to adjust to at first was all the English I was hearing. I had been so used to having to focus on a conversation to really understand what was going on. I was so overwhelmed by being able to understand everything people were saying. I couldn’t tune out all the conversations going on around me for a few days. Also, I kept responding to questions asked in English in Spanish. This was especially apparent on my flight from Santiago to Dallas. The flight attendants would ask me something in English and I would almost always respond in Spanish. I am still saying ‘permiso‘ instead of excuse me and ‘gracias‘ instead of thank you. I often find myself not being able to think of the English word I want to use in conversations. I also have started using strangely translated English phrases. This means that when trying to say “a lack of something,” I have said “a fault of something” instead because in Spanish the phrase is falta de algo.
Other that this, I don’t feel like I’ve experienced a ton of reverse culture shock. One of the things I was not expecting was how my body would react to eating food that I was accustom to eating in the U.S. before leaving. After four months of almost only bread, meat, potatoes, and avocado, my stomach is not up to the task of processing spicier food or even large amounts of vegetables.
Also, it’s been interesting getting back into working and being on my feet for long hours. The last month and a half of my time in Chile I was inside talking to people or working on my paper. I had been doing a lot of work but it was mostly on my own time. Being on a strict schedule has been a change and I’m still getting used to that. Additionally, I have been used to spending almost all my time with the same 23 other people who have similar schedules to me. Most of my friends from Whitman College live in other areas of the country than I do and many of my friends from high school are spending the summer elsewhere or have since moved away. I keep thinking that I should text other students from my program before remembering that they are all around the world at the moment. I also keep thinking that I see people from my program when I’m out, even though I know that none of them are close to my town.
I am so thankful for all of the experiences that I had in Chile during my time there. I am even more thankful for the people that I met. My Putre and Arica host families were amazing and I am so lucky to still be in contact with them. I hope that I stay in contact with them for the rest of my life. I also hope to remain in contact with the people I met on my program. It was so amazing to talk to people with so many different perspectives. Almost all of my classes in college have very like-minded people and many are majoring in the same subject with similar career interests as me. On my program in Chile, there were anthropology majors, biology majors, chemistry majors, public health majors and sociology majors. There were people who also wanted to go to medical school, as well as people wanting to go to nursing school, work in public health or who wanted to pursue careers in anthropology. Overall, I think the people that I met, both Chileans and other study abroad students, were what really made my experience in Chile what it was and it has been the hardest to adjust to being away from these people after returning to the United States.