Indiana University Overseas Study

Marie Kalas - Valparaiso

That question is the most awkward way to break up the sentiment of saying goodbye to a best friend for five months, and that’s just what I decided to do on my last night in the states.

It honestly hasn’t hit me at all yet, so as my friends and aunts are crying that I’m leaving, I’m just wondering when all the hugging will be over. To me, leaving the country for five months isn’t much different than going from Chicago to Indiana University for fall semester. The only real holiday I’m missing is Thanksgiving, but other than that, I wouldn’t be seeing my friends or family between August and December. Granted, it is only July and I’m losing a month of summer, but it’s not like much else is different.

I think what’s so scary about this whole studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile thing is the fact that no one can make empty promises that they’re going to come visit me. Being four hours away from school, my friends, parents, and aunts can all tell me they’re going to come down to visit, but we all know they aren’t actually going to. Leaving for Chile, no one has said, “Oh well maybe if I have a weekend, I’ll come down and visit you!” Instead people are giving me tips on how to survive and not be robbed—which is just a bizarre thing to give advice about. I’m a 20-year-old girl, going to a foreign country alone, where I’m scared to death that I’m not going to understand anything anyone is saying. Telling me I need to sit where the bus driver can see me just in case someone tries to stab me is not going to help me calm down, Target cashier.

That’s what I’m most afraid of—not the being stabbed on a bus and dying alone in a foreign country scenario—but the language barrier I’ll have with everyone around me. Technically, I’ve taken Spanish since I was in third grade and am planning to have one of my majors be Spanish, however, I can barely speak enough to order a burrito at Chipotle. Give me a book to read, an essay to write, or a subject to be taught, and I’m golden. Then ask me to tell a story, and I can promise you that you’ll regret wasting an hour of your time as I Google Translate every word I don’t know.

I guess those are the things I’ll be updating people on the most—leaving a large, over-emotional family behind while trying to build a relationship with my new, Spanish-speaking family. I’d say I’m sad about leaving in 12 hours, but I really just don’t believe it’s actually happening.

So I think it’s emotionally appropriate to end on a joke my neighbor told me.

“Bring lots of oyster crackers!” “Why?” “Cause you’ll be in Chile!”

Marie Kalas - immersing herself in Chilean language and community

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