Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Week One Recap- Culture Shock is Really Real

Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

I have spent just a little over a week here in Chile, but it has felt like three months already. I came here not knowing much Spanish, and that has been my biggest, most stressful struggle to deal with. The school programs for learning Spanish are supposed to be great for all levels, but life outside of class is nearly impossible around here without adequate Spanish knowledge. Even my entire orientation week for international students was spoken in Spanish, and the speed at which everyone speaks here is almost unbelievable. I would not recommend coming here without an intermediate to advanced level of Spanish communication.
Transportation around here is also very much unlike the US. I have to use the metro or the bus to get anywhere I want to go. On the first two days of my orientation, my host sister showed me how to use the bus and the metro, so I now know the paths to get to my school, but that is all. My lack of Spanish knowledge also isolates me from finding my way to other parts of the town, so I have not done much exploring, like I'd like to. I have spent much of my time at my house, and when I do go out, it is with my host family. All but one member (who is never with us) speaks no English, so I am left to silently sit and listen to a language I do not know. I am treated almost equally to how they treat their family dogs, who know just about as much Spanish as I do.
Living situations are incredibly different than in the US. The school does not provide housing, so there is little to no student community. All of us international students live spread out throughout Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. The closest friend lives nearly a mile away, so walking is a must when visiting friends. Because of these living situations, meeting new people and making friends has been difficult for me. As of this point in my trip, I am left feeling incompetent, undereducated, and isolated.