It has been an adjustment getting back into my normal routine at home! Though I was fortunate enough to not have to immediately return to work, adjusting to simply being at home was a challenge in itself for a day or two. The first time driving my car after over three weeks of subways, busses, airplanes, Ubers, etc. felt a little strange – I really had to think about what I was doing!
Now that I have settled in back home, I am especially missing the opportunity to freely practice my Spanish in classes at ECELA, around the city and with my host family. I arrived in Chile with a foundation in Spanish, but I must say that my Spanish improved more in those three weeks than it did after three years of Spanish classes in high school and five years of classes prior (eight years total!). I have learned that there is truly no better language practice than direct immersion. When we returned to the States, just like any other adjustment, it was certainly a tricky transition from Spanish back to English! I especially noticed this while in the Atlanta airport on our way back to Buffalo. I found myself naturally using basic Spanish words and expressions while ordering food, having a conversation, etc., even though the other person was clearly speaking English, and we were clearly not in Chile anymore. It took me a couple of days after arriving home to stop using phrases such as: “Permiso” (excuse me), “gracias” (thank you), “sí” (yes), “chau” (bye), “por favor” (please), and a few others. They were just natural responses that I continued to use subconsciously. Two weeks later, I find myself missing the challenge of full conversations in Spanish. My only worry as of now is that I will lose the progress I have made, but hopefully I will find some sort of program or class that will help me to continue to learn more of the language. Or… I’ll return to Chile. :)
Each of our experiences were further enhanced by the roles we chose to uphold during our time in Chile (Navigator, Social Butterfly, Mamá, Translator, etc.). I think we all felt a bit more at ease knowing there was someone specific that we could go to for certain questions. Although, I am sure, for example, our Translator does not miss hearing “Bryanna, how do I say…” and “What did this person just say to me?” (Jokes aside, I must note that I am proud of everyone and how far we each came with our Spanish. We all entered at different levels and the all-around growth was so evident.) Looking more closely at my role as the Social Butterfly, I loved reaching out to others studying at ECELA to help initiate connections between our group and people from various parts of the world. Throughout our three weeks, we met people from Australia, England, France, the U.S., and other countries – some of which we became great friends with.
I feel that I have returned from this experience as a stronger educator, traveler, Spanish speaker and person all around. I have undoubtedly gained a sense of empathy for what it is like to be a Language Learner in an unfamiliar environment, and I believe that because of this, I will be a better teacher for all of my future students.
Chile was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was enriching, exciting, challenging, draining yet rejuvenating, and filled with discoveries of all kinds. This has been a life-changing experience I will forever hold on to.
I leave you all with an enormous “thank you”. Thank you for following me throughout my journey in Chile. Thank you to all who supported me at any point, in any way – our entire cohort, parents, family, professors, scholarship donors, friends… this trip would have been quite difficult without any of you. Thank you, Katie, for being an awesome roommate in Chile, a supportive friend always and an incredible person with whom I can share this journey of becoming an educator.
Wishing we had another second to stare at these beautiful mountains: