My Pluscuamperfectos: Si Hubiera… “If I Had…”

So one of the tenses a Spanish student will learn is called the Pluscuamperfecto which is as complicated as it sounds. The structure of this tense usually requires that the user use the past perfect tense in the first clause (I would have…) followed by a conditional perfect tense in the second clause (If I would have…). In Spanish if one wanted to say that they would have gotten an A if they had studied it would be said like so: “Si hubiera estudiado yo habría sacado una A”. But why am I even writing about this? Well, sometimes this sentence structure is used with sentiments of regret, when reminiscing and thinking about other possible outcomes. As it has been the last few weeks for me in Santiago, Chile, I have been having many thoughts in this tense. Si hubiera sabido cuánto me costaría para vivir en Chile habría ahorrado bastante más dinero. Si hubiera tenido más tiempo… Yo habría recorrido más si… Pucha, también habría conocido más chilenos si… And my thoughts continue.

I’ll explain what I am thinking. So I have written down a list of things I wish I had known or done during my time here in Santiago. I also wrote this for those who are hoping to study abroad in the future so that they would not share my same regrets at the end of their program, so I have written some advice for each one.

  • Study hard but make sure you leave time to explore. Study abroad is what it sounds like. Yes, you will study. But you are also abroad, so take advantage of it! If I had focused a little less on my studies, I would have had more time to travel. Nonetheless, I am more than satisfied with the amount of traveling I was able to do.
  • Spend more time with people your age, get to know the youth culture, learn what is in, and find a group of friends that live and know the area. If I had taken more courses at the local university, I would have met more Chileans of my age. I would have been able to practice my Spanish with them more.
  • Be wise with your money but don’t hold on to it to the point you miss out on priceless experiences. If I had worried less about how much everything costed, I would have focused on what I truly wanted to see and do and go ahead and do it. Stretching your dollar abroad is taxing and stressful.
  • Spanish-majors, try to spend less time with your American peers, especially the ones who only speak English. If you are going to, hablar en español, really. It will not only help you but those around you who want to practice. Fortunately, I was able to meet a group of Paraguayan foreign exchange students that I am proud to call some of my closest friends during my time in Chile. I was not able to see them all the time but it was extremely invaluable to be able to spend time with people who spoke the language and talked about the same age group things. But at the same time, be balanced. I am also guilty of speaking in English with my American friends. Overall, if I had spent more time with Chileans and less with my American classmates, I would have improved my Spanish even more.
  • And on learning the language, I wish I had not put so much pressure on myself to become fluent. Any linguist will tell its student that it is impossible to become fluent during a study abroad semester even in language immersion for 5 consecutive months. Instead, I recommend focusing on your weaknesses, the technical errors that need to be addressed and learning a few words a day writing out their different applications. Take your time. Breath. Tranquilo.
  • Do what you are passionate about, what you would do at your hometown or university. If I had done more extracurriculars, I would have been more integrated into the community.
  • Journal. I wished I had journaled more. If I had, I would have documented more of the emotional journey I’ve had while being here. Write down the strong emotions that you experience during your time abroad. Sadness, excitement, inspiration, loneliness, everything. In the moment, you might be so joyous that you don’t even have the time or reason to stop and write it down or so depressed that you can’t even muster the energy to pick up a pencil, but let me tell you in hindsight those emotional moments teach you many things. For me, my excitement taught me how much I loved pediatrics and maternity when I shadowed at my local hospital. My loneliness also taught me how to entertain myself and develop my spiritual life. My frustrations taught me patience and control.
  • Ask questions. I wish I had done this more. Ask without shame and do not be satisfied with just one answer. Learn about everything you can. If you do not know about it, don’t just nod your way off until the topic goes away. Ask about it. Go on the internet and then go back and ask informed questions.

Though I have many pluscuamperfectos, “what if”s and “if only”s, I have many more “I’ve done”s.

So these are some of the many pluscuamperfectos that have been occurring in my mind. As the day of my flight back to the United States has been approaching, I have been tempted to do everything I haven’t done yet but I have not. I have decided that I would leave Chile, having done what I could, and what I couldn’t do or just didn’t do, I am confident, will be done in the future. The experiences that I was simply unaware of or refused to take advantage of I know will be available in other opportunities in the States, even in my hometown and college.

I have decided that I would leave Chile, having done what I could, and what I couldn’t do or just didn’t do, I am confident, will be done in the future.

Though I have many pluscuamperfectos, “what if”‘s, “if only”‘s, I have many more “I’ve done”‘s. I have been able to see almost all of Chile’s geography from its driest desert in the north to its beautiful marshes in the south. I have been able to co-write a public health article that is on its way to being published. I have made many strong friendships that I believe will last a lifetime even across borders. I have been able to improve my Spanish to point of functional fluency. I am making less errors and am more conscious of them when I make them. Though my phone was stolen in the beginning of my program, I have been able to film many short projects with borrowed equipment and will be submitting one for a film festival. And this only scratches the surface. I can continue to even list off more of my regrets, but I can say with confidence that I am truly satisfied with my time here in Chile.

Chile at Surface Level: Modismos

So after being here in Chile for so long, I though it would be appropriate that I write an article on some Chilean slang.


Some words in Chile do not exist in Spanish for other countries. Such words make what Chileans call modismos or chilenismos, in other words Chilean slang. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Cool bacán
  • Expensive restaurant – pirulo
  • You know? You understand? – ¿Cachai?
  • Snobby – cuico 
  • Baby – guagua
  • Belly/stomach – guata
  • How does that sound? Would you like to…? – ¿Te tinca? 
  • Boring – fome/ lata “Qué lata”
  • Party – carretear/ el carrete 
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend – pololo/polola
  • Dude – weon
  • 1000 pesos/money – luca
  • Traffic – taco
  • Right away – al tiro
  • Rock paper scissors – cachipún
  • For extra emphasis: + po 
  • “Chill” – tranqui


In Chile, some Chileans will conjugate some of their verbs differently when addressing someone who they are familiar with or is of the same age or younger, using the form.

Estar = to be        Querer = to want

Normal tú form: estas         Chilean tú form: estay

Normal tú form: quieres    Chilean tú form: queri

So that is what to expect when hearing Chilean Spanish. Even for those who speak Spanish as their first language find that there is a slight learning curve to understanding and even feeling comfortable using slang within everyday conversations. After a lot of TV shows and spending time with Chileans one will eventually cachar all of the slang that they use here. So if you want to visit Chile and are overwhelmed by the enormous amount of slang, tranqui. Don’t be worried; you will learn a lot of slang to the point you will feel like a local!


Chiloe Made Me Fall in Love with Nature

Before you begin reading, I invite you watch this video first. It better explains the title than what I have written below. I always say that a video speaks a million words. I must say that I have always appreciated nature but never was really enchanted as I was by it when I filmed this video. Enjoy.

So, it’s been about a few months since I was able to to visit one of Chile’s most scenic places, Chiloe Island. The farthest I have ever been from the hustle and bustle of Santiago where I am living. It doesn’t get any better than the tranquility of only being able to hear my breath in the silence of the shores of the island or even to appreciate the unhindered sun rays penetrating through the thickets of green on afternoon hikes on its moderate hills. Prolonged hours of walking and trekking forgiven by the scenery that it all provided. My filmer-self wanted to capture everything and was frustrated that even what I caught didn’t capture the fullness of what I experienced. But I had to try to film what I could up until I got overwhelmed by it all, put my camera away and just took it all in. Somethings, however, I had to film. Like watching waters by our hotel ripple right under the dock taking the breath away from my friends was a shot that I couldn’t miss.

My filmer-self wanted to capture everything..up until I got overwhelmed by it all, put my camera away and just took it all in. 

Or the wandering cat in the forest that became our ambivalent companion our trek. Or the horses on the plains that seemed overly indifferent to our presence than they were focused on their grassy lunch. Or even just the creativity that seven dandelions, a sandy cliff, and a still puddle of the Pacific’s water can inspire. What did we learn from running around Chiloe’s shores? That nature provides us with flowery diadems, earthy mattresses, and water playgrounds. But how could I have not seen this before? Has the life of a busy college student killed the childlike spirit within me that I have forgotten what it is like to be a child? To explore? To question? To play? Questions like these began flooding in my head as I experience this all and with another one being “Where can I go to experience this again?”

“Nature provides us with flowery diadems, earthy mattresses, and water playgrounds.”

I wanted more. It was certainly something that I would make sure that I would dedicate more of my time to in my stay in Santiago be it hiking the cordillera or exploring the areas most untouched by the metropolitan influence in the country. My next stop, I decided, was San Pedro de Atacama. With only 20 days left until I visit the world’s driest desert where the stars are so large and clear that they almost seem reachable. I only hope that when I visit that I take in the experience for what it is and not for what it could be like in my next Instagram post or documentary. But I admit, that will be difficult for me to do.

“Ser sólo con la tierra, vivir en consecuencia con la tierra solo como hermano” / “Be with the earth, live accordingly with her, like siblings”

Below are some small videobits and photos that were left out of the montage above. It will say each video is 0:00 but you will have to press play until the white bar goes all the way through and it will play.

It’s Hard to Immerse and Why It’s Okay

Finding a home away from home has a two month struggle with little success but, despite them, I have gained much more perspective. The thought of “a home away from home” is one that my classmate and I have been mulling over on one of our themes for the documentary we are producing for our program.

And if you are struggling to get there, it’s okay.

We have talked to many of our peer students that despite having improved their Spanish connecting with Chileans is still difficult, especially if one isn’t taking university courses with them, finding a niche, or just struggling to communicate with host families. With this is added another struggle of truly immersing one’s self into the culture and into what Chile has to offer.

What exactly does immersing oneself even mean anyways? Is it going on excursions enjoying the beautiful sceneries of the country? Studying with local university students? Staying up to date on local pop culture? All of these sound right, but how many times does one need to do this to arrive at “immersion”? To me, it sounds like an over-glorified, spiritual state that only a select few can reach, but what I have come to discover is that it does not come like a wave or as an epiphany would but in stages, like a lot of small epiphanies. These epiphanies, as beautiful as the word sounds, instead, have hit me when I have made mistakes, missed cultural cues, at my lowest hours, or the times I have thrown myself into social scenes being the only foreigner.

“He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly” – Pablo Neruda

And it’s not to say this is everyone’s immersion experience. But one common denominator of the ways to attain this, said Nirvana, is that one have patience. I arrived to Chile quickly wanting to find a community to fit in to fill longings for ones at home, but like starting college or moving to a new city, it takes time to find your niche. And if you are struggling to get there, it’s okay. You are not alone, it might even be that on the plane ride home you will reflect and discover just how immersed you were.

Recap: In the past few months, I have already experienced so much, already having had my first exam at my local university in theology, visiting Templo Ba’hai (the only one that stands in South America), witnessing my first birth in my clinical observation class and learning kickboxing for the first time. With all of it, more so my experience in my health studies and clinical observations, I have been beginning to discover passions that I never had before.

At Templo Bahai

Are You Alive?

Hello Hope College y Queridos Lectores,

Yes, I am alive. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to pretty much all of you, especially those close who have been awaiting updates from me. Undoubtedly, it has been a tumultuous and invigorating last 5 weeks since my arrival in late February. I arrived with doubts, fear, and much regret because I was leaving behind those who I truly loved. Luckily I was able to see some of my family and friends before I left but many of my goodbyes were rushed and left with many loose and some fallen ends. I would state that before I arrived to Chile, I told myself that I would never be hit by the pangs of FOMO, but as the week of my flight had arrived, I had already began regretting studying abroad. I say all this not to scare those who are planning on going, but this should be all the reason more why to. Reason being is that it made me uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable.

Personally, not because I was away from home in a culture unfamiliar to me, but that I was emotionally uncomfortable in that I had to recreate or find a community in another country. Detaching myself from my family and friends was something that I needed to do to truly take advantage of the first few weeks of my program. But the first few weeks were wondrous. I have definitely grown fond of my host family and the city. Luckily I had two weeks free of classes to explore and get accustomed to Santiago and was able to visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. The video below showcases a little bit of that experience and my beginning workings of my documentary in progress. Right now I am without a camera as my phone was recently stolen, but that is a story for another post! Please stay tuned, I will catch you up to speed!