Halfway There, Living on a Prayer

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I can’t help but wonder where the year has gone. Has it really been more than a month since I’ve blogged? Am I really already halfway through my stay in Chile as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar? Why does it seem that the topic of time always comes to the forefront of conversations?

Enough with the questions. Here are the facts.

  • I’ve been outside of the United States for six months and living solo in Chile for five.
  • There was one point (…okay, maybe several points) during the semester when I thought I couldn’t handle my school load.
  • The arts kept me inspired throughout the end of the semester. I rocked out to Jennifer Lopez’s old and new hits, unashamedly sang along to Chile’s musical debut of The Sound of Music and studied for finals with Maroon 5’s new CD on repeat.
  • Time with fellow scholars and classmates, Chilean and foreign, kept me sane. I wish it didn’t take study cram sessions for me to get closer to my classmates, but I’m still glad I met them all the same. At this point, the majority of them have returned to their respective countries. I’m hoping I’ll be closer to my classmates next semester. I won’t be the new international student anymore! Well, I’ll still look like the foreigner, but at least I know how to print and where to eat!
  • As for recent Rotary activity, I attended Club Huelén’s “Change of Command” and welcomed in Jessica as the new president! I volunteered with Rotaract Santiago and Rotaract Vitacure and spent time with girls from an orphanage. Highlights include making silly faces during a photoshoot and creating a multiplication table for the girls to practice.
  • I passed my five classes! I struggled during my first oral exam in my life but dominated the others. Studying really does pay off. All my final exams brought up all my final grades!
  • I absolutely adore my fellow ambassadorial scholars. Tara just returned to the States last week to finish up her senior year at Marquette University after already being here a year. I’ve met many positive and outgoing people in my life, especially at Villanova, but Tara is truly a beautiful person, inside and out. I will sorely miss my fellow Communication major next semester! Thankfully, Elizabeth and Sam are sticking it out until December with me. Liz is my go-to culturally adventurous friend, and I’ve had such a great time getting to know her more. A few weeks ago, I went with her to the school she volunteers at, specifically to help out the week before July 4 to help teach about American culture  and independence. She made a beautiful American flag cake, and she even asked me to sing the National Anthem for the 7th and 8th graders! Liz left yesterday for the States and returns in 6 weeks to finish her thesis. Can’t wait to have more adventures with her when she gets back. And of course, I couldn’t forget Sam. He’s the only scholar who arrived in February like I did. We’ve been through the entire process together, and I feel so lucky to know someone so motivated and passionate about our world. Next post is about our mini-vacation to the North, so I won’t talk too much. But wow! My fellow scholars continue to amaze me. The friendships I have forged with them are ones I know that will last a lifetime.
  • My love for my alma mater, Villanova University, is endless. I caught up with Ana who just graduated from high school in Chile. After meeting her for the first time in March, she has decided to attend Villanova in the fall! And I also met up with Anna who was here with the Villanova summer program in Valparaíso! I love both of these girls! And there really is something special about our Villanova community…it persists even in other countries!
  • I have higher sights set for myself next semester. I want to do more with Rotary. I vow to volunteer more, whether that’s teaching English, attending more Rotaract meetings, or getting more involved with the community.

I’d be lying if I said I was in love with Chile. Perhaps I never may be. However, I’ve learned, especially being an ambassadorial scholar, that it’s not about having a perfect relationship between two parties. It’s about finding a compromise, sacrificing some stubbornness, and accepting that there’s always more to learn. Hmmm…that sounds like relationship advice too!

It’s about learning about another culture, living it, breathing it. And while you may not love it all the time, you learn to adapt. And perhaps adapting gracefully is one of the important skills and lessons I’ve learned thus far.

More than anything, I’ve grown fonder of my native country and more aware of its quirks. Living in Chile only solidifies the fact that I could never take certain US characteristics for granted, such as the diversity of food and people, the emphasis on customer service, the appreciation of peanut butter, the desire to be as efficient and productive as possible…and other customs that make the United States the country I know and love.

Last week, I took a three-day trip up North with Sam, fellow Rotary scholar and great friend, and  I absolutely loved it. There’s just something about exploring new territory and creating new adventures. And it was nice to get out of Santiago for a couple days! The trip honestly deserves its own post…so I hope I get to it in a reasonably amount of time.

But before that, just know that I’m alive and well. The challenges continue, and as with life, I’m carrying on and making the most out of my unique experience. I know I focused a lot of my attention on my academics my first few months here, and many people have been saying I’ve been hard on myself. What to do with my own high expectations?

Regardless, I want to thank many of you for your endless support and faith in me! I have a good feeling that the second half is going to be spectacular.

Actually…I have no doubt.

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