November 20, 2014
STUDENT BLOG: No Te Preocupes!
During high school and my freshman year of college, I was generally high-strung and judgmental. Endless AP classes, pressure to perform, and the competition to get into a high ranking university will do that to you! My first year at USC, I began to loosen up a bit, but was still too future-oriented. I made sure to have a spring semester internship at a political consulting term and took a practice LSAT over Christmas break. Who does that?
Not to say that I’m not still ambitious, but today I am much more laid back. My path to the future that I want and my image of what that future looks like have broadened and blurred. Present pressures and inhibition have relaxed. My priorities have changed. And I’m okay with that!
This transformation started in Chile, where I spent fall semester of my sophomore year studying abroad. My Chilean friends, family, and church helped me learn to go with the flow more. I became an expert at navigating “micros” (buses) and “colectivos” (shared taxis) to dead end mountain roads and finding unmarked hiking trails. Despite money-hungry tour guides’ warnings, a friend and I walked fifteen miles along an active railroad in Peru to reach Machu Picchu. I never would have thought that I would try hitchhiking, but with a bit of encouragement from my friends I was standing on the side of the road with my thumb up. Life is an adventure. If your head gets stuck in the present, you’ll miss the fun!
With a lighter course load, more free time, and frequent weekend adventures, I was able to enjoy life more. It wasn’t just the change in workload though; it was also the change in culture.
One of the first things my host-mom said to me was “Somos gente de la piel” (“We’re people of the skin”). Chileans show their affection in a much more physical way than we do in the US. Upon entering a room or meeting new people, you have to kiss each of the women on the cheek and shake the hands of the men. If I forgot to do this at home, my host-mom would yell, “Dónde está mi beso!” (“Where’s my kiss?!”). My host-family ate dinner every night together and had genuine conversations. Nobody had guitar or dance lessons that conflicted with dinner; nobody wanted to eat later on their own; nobody de-prioritized family relations.
Similarly, everybody at my church made their faith a priority. They didn’t mind three and a half hour church services; they didn’t mind the cold winter morning and night services in the unheated building; they didn’t mind giving their time and money even when they themselves were in difficult times. They made their faith a priority and seemed much more alive and joyful than the people at my home church.
I miss the low-stress and more family-oriented culture. I miss the “gente de la piel” and their devout worship services. I miss Chile! Although I certainly hope to return there soon, I know that I carry some Chile in me. I benefited and learned immensely from my host-family and the Chilean culture, all thanks to a USC study abroad program!
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