Oh, We're Halfway There! Frazzled Confidence in Santiago, Chile

View from Costanera Center, Gran Torre in Santiago, Chile. In the photo, you can see the Andes Mountains. 

Hello from Santiago!

Since I’ve been busy working, taking classes, and having one of the worst colds of my whole entire life, I have not been able to blog as much as I hoped. Alas, here we are now and here’s what has been going on with me in Chile!

First, Santiago is great. Besides the “contaminación” or pollution, the fear that someone is going to be talking to me and I will have no idea what they’re saying, and the fear of being smashed on the metro, Santiago is amazing. For the past two weeks or so, I have had one of the worst colds I have ever had in my life. At IU, I was battling sinus infections all winter. But for my Chilean “winter,” which means it’s between 50 and 60 degrees and cooler at night, I have been battling a nasty cold that just won’t stop. By the end of the first week, I powered through all of my cold medicine and tissues I brought (oops) and so now, I’ve had to take two trips to a farmacia (pharmacy) for tissues.

Pharmacies are different in Chile because at some of them, you can find most things (other than medicines) in the aisles and you can browse as you like. Others, however, are behind the counter at a little store that’s probably half the size of my former Ashton single. When I first needed tissues, I had no idea how to say the word "tissues" and I don’t think the word "Kleenex" translates correctly. So, I knew I needed to find a farmacia that I would be able to grab what I needed and only have minimal human interaction. Luckily, I found a farmacia near my internship that was open early so I bought my tissues there. Oh, and the word for tissues is “pañuelos.” The more you know!

Anyway, other than battling this cold with natural remedies of honey, lemon, and ginger, I have had my internship. My internship is interesting and I feel like in the long run, I am going to learn a lot. I work at Asexma A.G. and they are an organization that helps exporters and merchants with their business needs. So, they conduct programs, create alliances with other organizations that do similar work, and more. My job is to update their Facebook and Twitter pages with information and news about Asexma but also economic news in general. If you visit Asexma’s social media pages from around 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, it’s me programming the posts! Also, if you check out some of the newer galleries coming up in the next couple of weeks, those will be my pictures as well.

It’s definitely different than any job that I have had in the past. This is actually my first internship and I haven’t worked in a real office setting before. My previous jobs include: being a food server at a retirement home, a student worker with Disability Services for Students at IU, and Culture of Care and Arbutus (IU’s yearbook). Those "jobs" (I’m going to use that term loosely) kept me really busy. So, a job where I have to sit, read, and sometimes go to meetings and take pictures is a different experience for me.

 My job is the exact task I would give an intern. It’s just hard sometimes for me, however, to just sit and not have what feels like 47 emails to reply to, homework to do because I decided to take 18 credit hours, and meetings to attend. The American-structured, task-oriented side of me comes out and I’ve had to adjust to a slower working pace.

Now, this is just my experience. In my program, people have completely different experiences than me. Some people have had to do copious amounts of research, attend meetings, and do presentations. It just depends on where you are working.

I have learned a lot about how social media sites work. I have also learned how to understand social media analytics and now I try to post things at certain times or post certain types of news articles that I think that Asexma’s followers would want to read. So, if you want to catch up on some light readings in Spanish about how the South American economy is doing, how copper is doing, and more, check out Asexma’s Facebook and Twitter pages!

In my first post, I wrote about how I was slightly disappointed that I have to take a Spanish class in addition to everything else that’s going on, but I actually really enjoy it. We have activities and “homework” but we mostly spend the class talking in Spanish about things we’re seeing in Santiago and in the world. It’s super helpful to just have a time to speak in Spanish. We also have field trips planned for that class and for the internship seminar as well. Soon, we’re going to tour La Moneda, which I mentioned in my second post. For the internship seminar, which is an additional required class, we’re going to a vineyard. Fancy, I know!

One of my favorite moments in Santiago, other than traveling to Valparaíso, which I talked about in my last post, has been a recent lunch that I had with my co-workers. I’m going to be honest and say that sometimes, being abroad in a place where you can’t speak your native language, there’s a lot of things going on at the same time. You really just want to curl up in bed and eat soup that people bring you (it’s great when people just start bringing you food to be honest; it happened to me).  It's really, really hard. 

Recently, I was feeling defeated. It’s hard to have to get up every morning in the dark (thanks Southern Hemisphere and your winter), go to work for hours, go to class, take a packed bus home, and just collapse until it’s time to eat once (eleven in Spanish; basically a meal of tea and delicious bread). My dumb cold was making me mad, I was longing for my routine that I had in Bloomington (and really I just wanted some Baked!), and I was frustrated at work because I was just sitting and I didn’t have anything to do yet. I was also upset because I just couldn’t understand my co-workers. I would try to understand and have a conversation but I would just end up smiling and nodding and then I felt weird for just smiling and nodding.

So, after getting an email from the IES Abroad Internship Coordinator in Santiago wanting to know how our first week went, I emailed her back expressing how I felt and I said I wanted my co-workers to know that I am trying. I don’t know if there was an interaction between my supervisor and the other people at my work or what; but, I don’t feel so alone anymore because people talk slowly to me and are patient and we can have conversations during lunch. There was one lunch where I left the kitchen feeling confident and I was so happy. We talked about basketball in the US, what different words are in Spanish and English and we turned it into a language class. It was amazing. I talked about Chicago and Indiana (“The Bulls! The Pacers!”) and I felt truly welcomed.

I’ve had a lot of small moments that mean a lot but that one lunch turned my experience around completely. So, if you are struggling while abroad or even in Bloomington or life in general, speak up and hopefully things will change.

So, as we approach the second half my trip, I hope to continue improving my relationship with my co-workers, speak Spanish more and not try to fall into my English comfort zone (that includes watching Netflix. Now I’m watching a show in Spanish with Spanish subtitles and although the third season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was amazing, I need to submerge myself in Spanish more), and finally, DESTROY THIS COLD! Just kidding, I need to continue this experience being optimistic and “frazzled confident.”

“Frazzled confident” is a term I coined in O’Hare International Airport after my dad dropped me off. “Frazzled confidence” is when you are super nervous about something like traveling 5,000 miles away from your family, friends, and comfort zone but you just keep going and pretend like you know what you’re doing; also see: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

Anyway, I hope you can be “frazzled confident” in your daily lives and you’re enjoying the summer weather y’all are having up in the Northern Hemisphere. I’ll take my view of the mountains and 60-degree weather over melting any day!

Thanks for reading this lengthy post and I hope to write once again before I leave Santiago! 

¡Ciao!

Other posts about my experience in Santiago, Chile:

First Impressions of Santiago, Chile 

Thoughts Before Studying Abroad: Santiago, Chile 

About The Author
Molly CunninghamJournalism and Spanish major, class of 2019, Director of Mental Health for Culture of Care

Hello! My name is Molly Cunningham and I am a current sophomore studying journalism (Public Relations) and Spanish. I am involved with Culture of Care and Arbutus (yearbook) and have been involved with both organizations since last year. I came to IU in order to have a Big 10 experience and in order to take advantage of all the opportunities this school and this community has to offer. There are so many things to highlight about IU and I want to be able to inspire the next generations of Hoosiers. We Are IU helped me when I was deciding on IU and I want help more current and potential Hoosiers. At IU, we strive to create a culture of care and I want to be able to encourage more people to come here and have the best experience they can have.