Through this program Santiago, Chile, I truly felt like I was home. The most scared I ever was about the trip was getting on the plane to first head over there. The idea of being away from home for a length of time that I never had spent before, to go to a country which spoke a language I barely managed, all while still going to school and trying to pass with decent grades seemed like an insurmountable challenge that I feared I lacked the capability to complete.
But then I landed. As soon as I got off of the plane with the group of 40-something other students, probably feeling the same way as I did, there was a smiling face who worked with USAC. Immediately I felt like I was in the company those who would not let me get too overwhelmed, and would do all they could to make sure I came out of the other side of the semester.
The city is marvelous, and the Santiaguinos are such a wonderful people. There was never a shortage of things to do on weekends, from hiking trails through the mountains, or taking an hour bus ride to the beach, or play a soccer match in a park with friends... But for me, the main reason I fell in love with Santiago and loved doing it through USAC was the Santiago USAC staff and my Chilean family I lived with who worked with them. They were guides who first showed me so many of the great things there were to do, they were support when I couldn't reach my bank or use my money so they let me use their phones to contact the States or made sure I had food and money for transportation, they let me cry on their shoulder when I felt overwhelmed and they would motivate me to see inner-strength I didn't even know I had. And if I cried to them, they would call me the next day to make sure I am getting by. The USAC staff in Santiago and my Chilean family made me feel welcome in Santiago, and thinking back I consider them family.
I left feeling not 100% of a United States citizen, but some percentage of Chilean too, which was my goal all along: to broaden my horizons and experience a great challenge. I can't say enough good about the city and the program, and as I finish writing this and reflecting over my time there my heart aches, missing those wonderful people, missing seeing mountains out of my window, missing taking the metro all over a city that has such a rich culture, missing my Santiaguino life. I will go back. 100%.