Goodbye is the worst part of hello.
As we reclined uncomfortably 30,000 feet above this big, wide world on our plane ride back to the U.S., we had ample time to reflect on our trip – on all of the places we’d been, lessons we’d learned, and wonderful people we’d met. Our time in Santiago, Viña del Mar, and Valparaíso provided us with so many amazing service, experiential, and integrated learning opportunities that were invaluable. But more importantly, we met so many people who would change us for the better. People who will not be easily forgotten. People who make saying goodbye, even for a little while, the hardest word in the dictionary.
Claire, Tommy, and I spent most of the trip keeping an eye out for inequalities within Chilean culture for our final project. We focused in a lot on gender equality. As we toured different businesses in Santiago, we were sure to keep an eye out for females in high-ranking positions. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we noted who was working in low-wage jobs as well. We observed that most security guards were male, while more janitors were female. Our group talked to more professional women than men, but we also couldn’t help but wonder if that was because the men were in positions deemed too important to take time out for a student tour.
Throughout the course of the trip, our group also noticed a lot of class inequalities. After visiting the trash-littered, low-income neighborhood, and comparing that experience with our juxtaposing perceptions of the thriving business districts of Santiago, we saw the strong class division within this developing country first hand. Almost every professional we talked to noted the overwhelming socioeconomic division in the country. It made us sad to realize what a real impact this had on the Chilean citizens, and the more we toured the more we saw class differences everywhere we went – on the beaches in Viña del Mar and Playa Zapallar, in the orphanage, and on the colorful streets of Valparaíso.
Keeping an eye out for these inequalities made us much more aware and observant global citizens. We took the time to see things we may not have otherwise, such as posters on the subway about LGBTQ families and gender equality. We gained the cultural intelligence to think before we judged people asking for money by the metro. Our project, and our trip as a whole, made us better travelers, better people, and better friends.
We’re so very grateful we had the opportunity to say hello to Chile – and we know that this goodbye isn’t for good.