Interning in Santiago, Chile was a world of firsts for me.
Not all firsts are necessarily great. I cracked a phone screen less than two weeks into my time there, something that people find both weird and impressive that I hadn’t done before. I’ve obviously been late to things in the past, but I had never been as late to as many things as I was in Chile. Thankfully, Chileans are rather laid back about punctuality. I’d never been in a homestay before, and it didn’t turn out to be the utterly life-changing experience many people have with them.
While those firsts could be seen as negative, I undoubtedly learned from them.
I didn’t really learn anything from cracking my phone, but how it happened was pretty funny so I still consider it more of a good story than an unfortunate occurrence. Being late so much taught me how to give myself a break and not stress out. I learned a lot about patience and communications skills from my homestay.
And I only got to learn more from my completely positive experiences.
It wasn’t the first time I had traveled on my own, or studied abroad, or even visited a Spanish-speaking country. However, it was my first time in South America. And while that was something that worried my parents to no end, the only thing about Chile that made the news in the US was a sea lion stopping traffic in the middle of a city. A strange occurrence, but to say I was perfectly safe would be an understatement.
Was it my first time working at a job where I get along with my coworkers and my boss? No. But it was the first time I worked in an office, my first internship, and the first time that I really got to use skills I developed throughout my college classes. I may have a serving job at home, but dealing with strange customers isn’t the type of communications I’m getting a Communication Arts degree for.
It certainly wasn’t my first time putting my Spanish-speaking skills to the test, but it was my first go at Chilean Spanish; cutting off letters on every other word, adding “po” to random words, and using more slang than I could’ve imagined. It was a nightmare to pick up on, but quite fun to use once I started to get a hang of some of the quirks.
All of these first experiences didn’t end with these structural working and living components that make up an international education. I spent my time after work and my weekends with all sorts of adventures that were new to me.
Visiting a desert. Seeing shooting stars and the Milky Way. Sandboarding Swimming in a hot spring. Horseback riding. Snowboarding. Falling on my butt repeatedly while attempting to get the hang of snowboarding. Exploring the Andes. Seeing a double rainbow from end to end. Staying in an Airbnb. Watching a sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
When I knew I had to complete an internship this summer to graduate when I want to, I tried to think of any way that I could make that more exciting then spending my days working at some office not far from school and the same house I’ve lived in for more of my life. And choosing to do it abroad was the best decision I could’ve made.
Because without it my phone screen might look a little better, but I would’ve have missed out on an abundance of incredible firsts that I wouldn’t trade for anything.