It’s a few months into the abroad experience and—dare I even say it—the end is in sight. A month and a half from now, I’ll be packing bags to head out of Chile. There’s still a lot I want to do before I leave, but as I reflect on my time in South America, I’m realizing that I have accomplished a lot of things originally on my bucket list, as well as many things that weren’t on there, but should have been.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to compile your own checklist and while it may include skydiving or jetting off to the country next door, don’t miss out on some of the smaller things:
Go to a sports game.
Getting tickets to see a team that people are fanatic about is an awesome way to experience local life. It will also come in handy later as a conversation topic and likely lend you some street cred.
My university is right next to the city’s soccer stadium and on one of my first days here, I got the chance to see a game. Though I’ve yet to make it back for another one, I now have a better idea of what’s going on when normal life in town is suspended and people donning green flags and war paint emerge.
Take up a new hobby or activity.
Being abroad is an exciting time, and likely there will be opportunities to get involved in some new, exciting things. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf and heard through a friend about an amazing volunteer surfing job.
Since then, I’ve spent numerous of my weekends out in the water trying to catch some waves. The wave catching has only been semi-successful at best, but it’s been a blast to spend the time outside and I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way.
Search for the perfect bar.
This takes some trial and error, but it’s worth the effort and it’s a great way to get to know the city you’re living in.
Early on, my friends and I found some good ones, but often they were lacking one or two of some crucial criteria: interesting ambiance, tables for a big group, affordable drinks, potential local friends. Luckily, after a multiple-month pursuit, we stumbled upon el pajarito. Not only do they always seem to have a table for us in a pretty packed room, but the people are an interesting and funky mix (mostly Chileans, so it doesn’t feel like it’s catering to foreigners) and the pitchers of sangria usually set each person back only two or three dollars a night.
Find the best view in town.
It’s worth a bunch of walks and chats with people in your town or city to find this place, because it will give you entirely new perspective on where you’ve been, maybe become a new hangout place and will definitely be the perfect spot to show visiting friends and family.
Valparaíso is a town of rolling hills right off of the ocean, with tons of incredible lookouts, but I’ve learned nothing beats the view of the sun setting over the city from the massive sand dunes about an hour’s bus ride away.
Do something you would never do at home.
This doesn’t mean you have to go too crazy, but seize your opportunities to challenge yourself.
Valparaíso hosts a huge weekend festival called Mil Tambores each year, full of music and dancing. The catch is that naked people who have had their bodies painted by professional artists do the dancing. My host sister promptly signed up to be a canvas and invited me to do the same. While I was pretty hesitant for a little while, I finally gathered a group of friends and we decided to do it with swimsuits on (which is also accepted). We had our bodies painted down by the beach, and spend the rest of the day taking part in the festivities with thousands that had gathered for the event.
Cook your host family and new local friends a meal.
This can be a surprisingly successful icebreaker and a great way to connect with people from different backgrounds.
I brought maple syrup as a gift for my homestay family and one night, I asked them if I could make American-style pancakes. It quickly became an entire family affair, with all eight of them crammed in the kitchen watching me, asking questions and giving their input. Both the pancakes and the syrup were a huge hit and the topic of conversation for weeks after.Add this article to your reading list