The past few days in/near Santiago have been exciting! Here’s what I’ve been up to since my last post:
- I went on a three-day retreat with my study abroad group to a beach town near Santiago
- learned more about Monica and Sergio’s family
- started to do some preliminary research on my honors thesis
- became friends with some really kool kats
- rode the micro and the metro for the first time
- felt super nervous to start real, legit university classes (and no, not because of the Spanish…)
- got to know Francisco, the director of our program
- talked about the reception of hispanohablantes in the U.S. and the different connotations of being an americano in S.A.
Anywho…on Wednesday our program went to Algarrobo for our second “welcome to Chile” orientation. Algarrobo is a small beach town 1.5 hours from Santiago. It wasn’t ideal beach-going weather (it had begun to drizzle that day), but it was wonderful despite the cloudiness because there weren’t a lot (any, in fact) people around. EAP (Education Abroad Program) had booked an entire motel just for our group, so we had the the whole thing to ourselves, which was amazing. It was there that we really got to know one another, and that was one of the reasons why this retreat was held in the first place. Francisco (the director) said that it was common to feel homesick, and at times “Americans” (in quotes; you’ll see why later on) find themselves targets for, well, a lot of different reasons. So it’s important to get to know each other, he said, to “have each other’s backs”. It’s funny when he says things like that since he’s in his mid-60s (but you wouldn’t think that if you were to chat with him; more on him later too (i.e., in another post)). Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend where we explored the town, wonderfully sleepy during the off-season (it’s winter, after all), played on the jankiest pool table in the world, ate some really good food (all non-spicy, unfortunately), and…oh, right…learned how to sign up for classes. Ha. That was a little craycray…
Some quick facts about the University of Chile (which is where I’m going):
- It was founded in 1842 and is one of the oldest universities in Latin America
- Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral (both Nobel laureates) are among the notable alumni; former president Salvador Allende is another
- “La U”, “U Chile”, “La Chile” and “Uch” are all nicknames for the university
- It has been the unofficial headquarters of the student/education protest movement for the past two years
La U has 13 different campuses scattered all over Santiago. Each campus houses 1-3 different departments. For example, Campus Andrés Bello (downtown Santiago) houses the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and the Faculty of Economics and Business, while the south campus holds of the Faculty of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Francisco suggested we try to take all our classes at one campus to limit unnecessary commutes between different campuses, so hopefully I can arrange that! My current academic plan is to take 2 classes (1 Spanish literature course and then a history or a political sciences course), do an internship in the city, and do research for my honors thesis. This should be enough to be useful (i.e., I can finish my Spanish major) and keep me busy, yet not be overwhelming. Of course I might have to make adjustments after I actually start doing any, or all, of those three things, and that’s totally cool; I just like making plansssss.
Despite these plansssss, I’m still a little nervous for starting classes at La U. Contrary to what I thought before coming here, it’s not because they’re going to be taught completely in (Chilean) Spanish, nor because I’ll be taking them with local Chilean students; I’m worried because I feel like I’m going to be missing a looooot of class this semester.
I won’t be doing it on purpose. Well, at least not all the time ;) (I promise Aai and Baba! Hehe). It’ll mostly be because of this: http://www.iol.co.za/news/world/chile-detains-472-in-student-protest-1.1331354#.T-_kuLXXHuE
As I mentioned earlier, La U has been where most of the student protesters in Chile/Santiago gather and reconnoiter. It’s one of the most left-wing schools, and the students are really really really invested in the education movement (Berkeley’s movement is nothing compared to this…they are seriously hardcore). So much so that we were recommended by Francisco and by our tutor (who goes to La U) to avoid talking to the students about the protests. Talking politics is okay, as long as you don’t get sucked into talking about the marches, sit-ins, and lock-outs. During protests (which often last for weeks), classes are canceled, so in the past professors have given make-up lectures, which foreign-exchange students are required to attend. Finals have also been delayed before; the semester has ended in mid-January a couple of times…hope that doesn’t happen! Francisco mentioned that the school has gotten better at dealing with possible class cancellations, so things may be totally fine.
I actually went past one of the campuses today, while out exploring downtown Santiago! A couple of us took the micro into El Centro and walked around for funsies. We headed to Plaza de Armas, the main square in Santiago, and once there we kept walking to el Mercado Central, a large semi-open seafood market! This whole area totes reminded me of San Francisco. It’s funny, we were told by a local who we stopped to ask for directions (tourist, much? -________- Hopefully we can blend in after 6 months) that Chile, especially the middle chunk, is known as “the South American California”, and I can totally see the resemblance!! Anyway, we stopped for lunch at el Mercado Central where I had a yummy seafood soup. It was perfect for the cold, cloudy weather! Afterwards we followed the river to Barrio Bellavista, another one of Santiago’s neighborhoods. Bellavista is known particularly for it’s bohemian vibe and lively nightclubs. Since we were there around 4-5 PM, it’s streets were still a little sleepy. But we stopped at an outdoor cafe and I had my first terremoto! Literally translating as “earthquake”, a terremoto is a like a root beer float, but minus the root beer and plus Pipeño, a sweet fermented wine. It’s usually served in a large jug and it’s in your best interest to share it with friends (the name comes from the shakiness you feel–especially in your legs–after drinking too much of it). You can also order a second round which is a mini-terremoto–it’s called a replica or “aftershock”. We decided to skip this since we wanted to walk around some more. After spending another hour or so in the neighborhood (which, by the way, reminded me of Berkeley), we decided to call it a night and took the metro home.
This is all for now, but expect more updates soon! Ciao! (<– yep, they say this all the time!)