Oftentimes when you tell people that you’re going to volunteer in an orphanage for several months their immediate response is to tell you what a good thing it is you’re doing, how lucky the kids are to have you there, how more people should do the same and devote their time to helping those in need. I have to say this has always bothered me, mostly because in all situations where I have volunteered with underprivileged children, including during my two months at the Hogar, I found that I was the lucky one. I feel so fortunate to have been able to spend so much time with such wonderful, beautiful children, and also with the amazing staff who have dedicated themselves to raising them. During my two months in Chile I have learned so much: how to change a diaper, all of the charming intricacies of Chilean Spanish, how to cook pollo al jugo (thanks to my host brother Cristian), the fastest way to walk to the centro, and so many more little things I will never forget. But most importantly that no matter where you go in the world, you will find people that—no matter what language they speak, no matter how they take their tea—are kind and loving and whose presence in your life, even in a fleeting moment of it, will inevitably and indelibly change it for the better. Gladys and her family were FANTASTIC! I felt at home with them right away. They are incredibly warm, kind, accommodating, and most importantly, present, people. I got the amazing opportunity to see Los Andes, Santiago, and Andacollo with them during my stay when they went to visit extended family in those locations. I always felt that I was treated not as a temporary house-guest, but really as part of the family. Cristian, Gladys’ 19-year-old son and I referred to each other as brother and sister. Coming from a close family at home with two younger brothers, having Gladys and Cristian really helped me feel comfortable during my three months in Chile. One of my favorite parts of Chilean culture is that when you integrate yourself into a family, you don’t only get the nuclear family, but all of the members of the extended family as well. Throughout my stay I was able to meet countless relatives and really feel like I was a part of this large, loving, wonderful family. The only suggestion I have for future housing of volunteers that that two volunteers with the same first language (especially if the proficiency in the second differs significantly) not be placed in the same house (without their explicit request or consent). One of the main reasons I had for coming to Chile was to improve my Spanish, and it is far more difficult to do that when you are living with another volunteer who not only keeps speaking in English to you while in the presence of the non-English-speaking host family members, but is unable to communicate with them in Spanish, therefore leaving you to have to translate for her at almost every interval. It is detrimental to the quality of the immersion of the volunteer with the greater proficiency in the host language, and does not force the volunteer with less proficiency to have to learn anything or improve language skills—basically, a lose-lose situation. In general, I think that the most important relationship a volunteer will have during his or her stay is with the host family, and having two volunteers in the same house at the same time really hinders that bond and dilutes the power of the immersion experience. The Hogar was wonderful. The women working at the project who I was with on a daily basis were kind, helpful, and enjoyable to be around. Angela, the woman who worked in the nursery I was in the mornings, was instructive, kind, and really great to talk to. I came to work in the orphanage to be able to spend time with children, but I got the added bonus of substantial relationships with the “teachers” in each classroom. at a project this size, it was nice to know everyone else’s name and have everyone know your name, something that would not be possible at a project of greater size. Having this sense of familiarity with the staff and with the children really augmented not only my comfort at the site but also the richness of my experience on the whole. It is key to remember that if you’re coming during the winter months (what would be summer in the Northern hemisphere) that you bring warm clothes to sleep in, because there is no central heating in the houses. Get used to wearing jackets inside. As for donations to the volunteer site, it is better to bring money with you and purchase things at the end for the project after you've seen what they need most throughout your time volunteering. Travel as much as you can, even if it’s just going along with your family on day trips to visit relatives. I got to see a lot more of Chile that way than I would have if I hadn't taken advantage of those opportunities. But my most important piece of advice relates to the best lesson I learned during my experience: try to live your time away without fear. Say yes to things, try new foods, go whenever your family offers to take you anywhere, spend as much time integrating yourself into your family as possible. You can walk away from this experience having spent time holed up your room at home and going through the motions at the volunteer site, or you can walk away with meaningful relationships, a deeper understanding of the host culture and a greater capacity for the language. It’s up to you, you just have to go out and get it. My favorite memory was not one particular moment necessarily, but having the privilege over the course of several months to watch the children in the orphanage grow. I worked with infants in the morning, ranging from a few days old to six months old, and being able to visibly see the developmental changes taking place in their lives was astonishing and moving. One of the babies, Vicente, did nothing but cry for his pacifier when I arrived, was not responsive to interaction, and did not yet possess any significant motor skills. I remember the unique and startling joy I experienced one day after a month and a half or so when I went to feed him in the morning—he smiled and gurgled as I greeted him, wrapped his tiny little hands around my fingers as I held the bottle to his mouth, and laughed with vigor when I tickled him after being changed. Getting to witness this distinct moment in a person’s life, where each day and each week brings about significant physical and mental growth, where each moment a personality is gradually beginning to form, was a breathtaking experience I’ll never forget.