Hi everyone; I’m getting into this blogging game a little late, so let’s get right to the story so far: I’m a second-year Russian and East European Studies major at OU, currently studying at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (or USACH) in order to finish Latin American Studies and Spanish minors.

I arrived in Santiago on March 11 (about two weeks after the earthquake), and quickly moved into El Punto, a residencia universitaria for international students. It’s essentially a big dorm with a shared kitchen, living room, and patio (though I have my own room — with a balcony!). I live with about sixty other exchange students from all over South America and Europe, principally from Brazil and Spain, and I love it.

As the only OU student in Santiago, I was extremely lucky to stumble upon such a great community of other international students to live with. I got luckier than I knew, actually, because about half of the people at El Punto are also students at USACH. This was (and is) incredibly helpful because one of the first things I discovered was that the Spanish I remember from high school is not nearly sufficient (yet, I hope) for me to be self-sufficient here. Combine that with the fact that living with other people is always more fun, and that these particular people are unbelievably welcoming and caring and helpful and have seemingly unlimited patience with my somewhat limited Spanish, and I couldn’t be happier.

After arriving all in a rush (I had to delay my flight out for a few days), I soon learned that the start of the semester had been pushed back until March 29 to accommodate students affected by the terremoto. What did I do with my two suddenly free weeks? Regrettably little. I’ve realized since then that I should have seized the opportunity to travel a bit before school started, and also before it got cold! I knew the seasons were flipped here, but I didn’t realize that it would get so chilly so fast! (“Just wait ‘til June and July,” my Chilean friends tell me. “Then it rains every day, too.”) The climate changed almost overnight, and it’s not going back — I’m no meteorologist, so don’t quote me on this, but something about being only thirty miles from the ocean (rather than hundreds, like in Oklahoma) makes the climate much less variable. On the one hand, it’s easier to plan according to the weather, but on the other there’s just no relief! Just lots of big blankets and gatherings in the living room. But I digress.

Anyhow, those two additional weeks free did give me time to explore the city with my new friends, visiting various museums (this city is full of museums), parks, markets, and one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses; we also went to Viña del Mar (where OU has another exchange program with the Universidad de Viña del Mar) and Valparaíso for a weekend. Viña is a resort town with beautiful beaches, and Valpo is a port town with beautiful houses and street art. Those two cities are just a two-hour bus ride away from Santiago; since we didn’t spend nearly enough time in Valparaíso, we’re planning a day trip back sometime soon.

This extended vacation of summer weather and no obligations past getting to know my housemates and the city had to come to an end though; I’ve been in classes for about three weeks now, taking Pre-Columbian Cultures, Latin American Literature II, History of Chile in the 20th Century, and The US and Central America (as well as Pilates and Ceramics, since all of the art and sports classes here are free and open to everyone!). Just functioning in Spanish can be difficult sometimes, not to mention learning in Spanish, but I’d like to think I’m up to the challenge. My first test is next week — I guess I’ll find out!


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