Reflections – Caitlin

Tomorrow will officially mark 6 months since the day I left NZ to start my adventure here in Chile – and what an adventure it has been. Looking back on my time here, I can happily say that the exchange was everything I hoped it would be – I met amazing friends, learnt a new language, and most importantly experienced a markedly different culture.

There have been so many elements of this exchange that have been super awesome, but if I had to point to one in particular which stands out, it would have to be the people I have met. I have been so fortunate to be part of a really cool community of international students who come from almost all corners of the world. I have learnt a huge amount about other cultures and religion that I didn’t even know was lacking from my knowledge base! But on top of that they’ve just been a really great bunch of people to hang with, travel with and party with. When you’re all alone without family and friends in a new country, making good friends is super important and so I’ve been hugely lucky that I met such awesome people!

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My wonderful flatmates, who have been my Chilean family away from home

The city of Santiago, while it does not immediately give off the same vibe as its bright colourful neighbour city Valparaíso, has definitely grown on me throughout the passing months. Being placed at the foot of the snow-covered Andes definitely gives it a certain charm, especially during sunset when the mountains literally glow pink (I’m guilty of stopping on multiple occasions during this time of day to take pictures – I suppose I’m still a tourist). I for sure will miss my view of the snow-capped mountains from my bedroom window, although I won’t miss the cold which has also come with the winter season. My house was built in a beautiful old villa style, but unfortunately this also means it lacks any form of insulation. Therefore, my hot-water bottle has become a permanent extension of my body for the past 2 months.

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Santiago city with an Andes backdrop

While living abroad definitely has its perks, it also makes you appreciate the familiarity your own country. You realise how much you took for granted, and surprisingly its just the small things like knowing exactly which brand of food you need to buy in the supermarket, drinking coffee with fresh dairy milk, or even salt and vinegar flavoured chips. And of course there are the bigger things as well, like spending time with your family and being able to express yourself fluently in your first language. Therefore, although I absolutely have loved my exchange here and wish it could go on for longer, I definitely also have a list of things that I am going to eat/drink as soon as I get back to kiwi land! (I’m missing that whittakers chocolate like crazy, have to confess).

At the risk of sounding cliché, my exchange has been a super great experience in that not only have I had a blast but have also learnt some serious life skills in terms of organisation and surviving on my own. Although I’m of course looking forward to coming back home, I know I will miss this funky country and the awesome people I have met along the way.

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Ski trip to the Andes!

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