Being abroad is not going to be what you thought. You may fantasise about your upcoming journey and try to predict how your life is going to be. But trust me- it will not be that. This is not necessarily a bad thing; everyone’s experience is completely different. In my program for the year abroad in Chile, I came here with 4 other California girls. Though we all live in the same city and attend the same university, all of our experiences are completely different. How we have viewed our time here in Chile is completely different. Because each one has their own interests, hobbies, opinions, and goals for this journey.
My time abroad here in Chile is nothing as I had imagined it to be prior to getting on that plane. I had never been to Chile, nor really heard much about it- and that is exactly why I picked it. I wanted my experience to be unique.
And that is exactly how I feel. Unique and different. Moving to another country, whether it be for one semester or a year, allows you to live a life separate from your own. I don’t feel like my life here is a continuation of my life back in California; rather it feels more like a pause in my life, but a very long pause, where there is so much time on my hands to reflect on my life and my goals.
It is extremely important to set goals before your journey. Because if not, why are you going? To party in another country? To go meet some friends? Set real goals.
Personally, I had only 2 goals. The first was to travel. A lot. Which is something I’d never done before. The second was to become fluent in Spanish.
As my time here in Santiago, Chile is coming to an end, I do realise that this year was nothing like I thought it was going to be. I realise how crazy fast it’s gone by. I realise there are a lot of things I said I would do, but didn’t. I realise I don’t have as many friends as I thought I would. But I also realise that my only two goals I had set for myself have been reached. And I am SO happy. I traveled South America, I spoke with people from every country. I can walk out my door and not be embarrassed to try and speak the language with anyone. It is such a great feeling. There are good days, and there are bad days, but at the end of the day: I have accomplished SO MUCH.
I truly recommend a year abroad program for everyone. It takes a while to adjust, but once you do, the rest of the year is yours. You own it. You become part of this city and of this country and of this culture. You create new experiences outside of your comfort zone. You grow.
Good luck to all of you on your journey!