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Back at NU – Final thoughts on my exchange

Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

I’ve been in classes for a week now and it’s  nice to see things haven’t changed much. Evanston is still freezing in the winter, the El is still really slow, and NU student groups still give out lots of free food. It feels like the polar opposite of PUC and to a certain extent, it is. In Chile, the weather was always above 45°F, the metro was blazingly quick by comparison, and you had to buy food from student groups. In addition, I haven’t spoken Spanish to anyone except my family since I’ve been back and I live a couple blocks from school. I’m left wondering how I adjusted so quickly to life in Santiago.

The effects of being abroad for four months on me are pretty easy to see. I didn’t bring much with me to my apartment since I got along fine with so little in Chile. I also eat a lot less and have become an ardent fan of SPAC (at PUC, you had to pay each week or month to use the gyms, whereas at NU you pay for the whole quarter) as well as the shuttles and libraries (the library at PUC would close at 8:45PM). Every time I am driven anywhere, I marvel at how smooth the roads are, since there aren’t speed bumps every 50 meters. Food is more expensive but I can cook on a proper stove again. My parents are an hour drive away instead of halfway across the globe. I feel I’ve become even more studious, since working in Spanish forced me to dedicate more time to my school work. All of this can be summed up this way: the most profound effect on me from study abroad has been how much more I appreciate the comforts of home.

While I knew life in Chile would be different, I didn’t realize how different it would be. I used to complain about a 9Am class. But after having an hour long commute to make my 8:30AM class for four months, spending 7 minutes walking to my 10AM class suddenly feels like I am wasting time! All of the other differences I noted above are also a profound reason why I think I appreciate home so much more now. While the US is certainly rife with problems of all sorts, I cannot help but love that I live here and have such a comfortable life. Chile is great in countless ways too, but there’s just no place like home. I have my memories of an incredible semester and am glad I went abroad, though I am even happier to be back.

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