It is now second semester of my junior year, which is crazy since it seems like just yesterday, my family and I were unloading my car to move into Houston Hall. But, here I am, a junior who now also lives off campus (which, btw, has been amazing, especially since I can now cook for myself whenever I want...#oatmeal for days).
But, despite the fact that I am now a junior who should be used to the transition that comes with returning to Tufts after winter break, this year was one of the hardest in terms of transitioning.
In past years, I have spent winter breaks relaxing at home, using the time to catch up on sleep, read books, watch movies, catch up with friends, and cuddle with my cats and family. The most adventurous winter break I had was when my family took a trip down to Orlando, stopping by Universal Studios, visiting Gasparilla island, and even hitting up the Kennedy Space Center (#wild!!!).
But, this year was completely different.
On December 29, my family and I took a 12-hour plane ride to Santiago, the city's capital, just a couple of days before the end of the year. The streets of "Plaza de Armas" were full of people, strolling along in the warm, summery air.
On December 31, for the first time in my life, I celebrated the arrival of 2017 alongside members of my extended family on my dad's side.
It was also the first time my parents celebrated New Year's back in their homeland in over 20 years.
But, this trip was about more than just celebrating in warm weather rather than snow or simply traveling to another country.
To some, Chile is the Spanish speaking country where people love bread, tea, and completos (a unique giant hot dog filled with diced tomatoes, avocado, and homemade mayonnaise). To others, it is a travel destination to reach the austral zone of Patagonia to see glaciers and take photos.
But to me, Chile is so much more than that.
Chile is my parent's homeland, the land of my grandparents, and their grandparents. And despite being born in New York, I see it is as my homeland too.
Each trip, I learn so much about my parents, my family, and inevitably, about myself.
It is a feeling like no other to look at the ocean views my mom grew up loving, to visit my dad's favorite panaderia, or bread shop, and to walk the streets where they met for the very first time.
I have the unique opportunity to gather around giant tables for Chilean tea time with my parents friends and hear their stories, visit Churches they grew up attending, and hug my grandparents and cousins who I do not see for most of the year (a weekend trip to grandma's house in New Jersey? Unheard of).
It is always hard to leave that behind, especially when I see how much joy our trips bring to my parents.
It is hard to leave and adjust back to the routine at Tufts (just ask my friends who are back from studying abroad in Chile).
But, I am grateful. So, so grateful to have had this experience, which gives me something beautiful to reflect on when I find myself struggling to finish stats homework.
Spending time in Chile makes me piece together who I am. I see my love for tea reflected in the endless cups served around 6 pm. I hear the fast-paced "Chilenismos" my family uses in conversations in grocery stores and malls. I see the vibrant Chilean culture all around me and I don't feel like a foreigner.
To me, Chile is home.
And for that, I am grateful.