As fantastic as the study abroad experience is, there are times when one feels isolated from home. Technology can help assuage this, but only to an extent. This isolation leads to great insight and personal growth, but sometimes all you want is a connection to home. I was lucky enough to feel this connection when two Hoosiers visited me while stopping through Valparaíso.
The first visitor was Danielle Samek, the IU study abroad advisor. She was making a whirlwind trip through South America visiting various IU study abroad program sites. Walking through the cobblestone hills filled with colorful houses and impressive graffiti art, it felt a bit strange to discuss degree requirements and happenings on campus. But that is exactly what we did, and it made me feel refreshingly connected to Bloomington. Although our visit was brief, it was a comforting reminder of home.
The other visitor was my friend Michael Caldie, an IU junior studying abroad in Santiago, Chile. We walked through the handicraft market alongside the bustling port, rode an ascensor into the hills, and looked onto the Pacific Ocean and mountains. It was a very different setting from the streets of Bloomington, but it felt strangely familiar to see him there. We swapped stories of our study abroad experiences for a bit, but mostly we spoke of things back home—our mutual friends, living arrangements for our return in the spring semester, and the IU Oxfam Club (we are both members of the executive board). Although the scenery was far different, our friendship was the same.
An important part of studying abroad is feeling far from home. Going beyond one’s comfort zone leads to re-evaluation of priorities, relationships, goals, and beliefs. But every once in a while, these connections to home are a welcome change.